Auto-Ordnance M1 Carbine

Some of you may notice that this post is not filed under “firearms” or “reviews” or even “tests”. It’s filed under “Lies, Errors, and Omissions.”

Why is that, you ask? Well, this firearm is an error. The company that made it is an error. I might even go so far as to say that the ancestors of the people who founded the company were also errors.

But first, the firearm. It looks just like this. Yes, I stole Auto-Ordnance’s photo.

I had a pretty hard time finding .30 carbine ammo locally – I was very lucky that two boxes of S&B .30 Carbine had fallen behind some Winchester 5.56 at my local Sportsman’s Warehouse. I paid 50 cents a round for 100 rounds. Expensive, but not really all that horrible compared to brass cased 5.56mm ammunition.

So, with my new carbine and ammunition in hand, I headed for the range. I have to say, it was nice to be taking something other than an AR to the range for once. Don’t get me wrong, I love ARs, but variety is the spice of life, as they say.

I encountered problems before I even chambered a round. Seating a magazine was very difficult and required a firm smack on the baseplate of a loaded 15 round magazine to accomplish. With that task complete, though, I figured it was smooth sailing from there on out.

I was wrong. The next problem I encountered, after pulling the operating rod handle to the rear and releasing it, was that the bolt didn’t fully lock into battery. It went all the way forward, but it didn’t rotate into place. It could be forced into battery, but I was not comfortable with shooting the weapon in that condition – especially with thoughts of a kB encountered by a friend with his own AO M1 Carbine floating around in my head.

So I went to remove the round, but that’s when I found that the operating handle wouldn’t budge to the rear without a fight. I “mortared” the weapon and the handle came back nicely. The spent round flew out onto the shooting bench. I set it aside for later inspection and attempted to chamber another round. Miraculously, this time, the bolt rotated into position. I fired at a 3″ Shoot-N-C target placed at 25 yards and hit right at 9 o’clock. Unfortunately, the weapon had stopped working again. This time, it seemed to be magazine related – the round hadn’t fed straight towards the feed ramp, rather, it had veered off to the left side. I cleared this malfunction and attempted to fire again. This time I managed to shoot twice before encountering another round that wouldn’t go into battery.

At this point, I sat back and tried to think about what was going wrong. It was then that I realized the condition of the weapon – it was essentially dry. Cursing myself for making such a basic mistake, I found some oil and generously lubricated the appropriate areas. After a few more magazine malfunctions, I was able to shoot 3 or 4 times before the weapon wouldn’t go into battery again. I tried a different magazine – I had 3 – and encountered no more magazine related malfunctions. I did, however, continue to regularly encounter the aforementioned failure to go into battery.

Hoping that it was some sort of break in issue, I fired a total of 45 rounds – yes, a smaller amount than one would expect to call a “break-in period” – but this had no effect.

Several days later, after what California would call a “mandatory cooling-off period”, I grabbed the carbine out of its case and inspected it thoroughly. I noticed that there were several minor cosmetic issues, as well as issues that affected function. I categorized the functional issues as follows:

1. Loose upper handguard was rotating to the left and having a minor binding effect on the operating slide handle.

2. One of the magazines, the magazine original to the weapon, had feed lips that were approximately 1/10″ longer than the other two magazines’ feed lips, and very rough to boot. Incidentally, this was the magazine that did not work.

3. The action itself was simply a collection of rough surfaces that were already showing very rapid finish wear considering the low round count.

I could also not rule out the possibility that ammunition was to blame – that certain rounds were loaded long or that the cases themselves were too long. However, all cases were consistently 1.285″, within the maximum OAL for .30 Carbine cases.

The first item was easily corrected by tightening the screw that holds tension on the barrel band. I didn’t do this too much – just enough that the upper handguard couldn’t rotate too far to the right and rub the operating slide.

The second item was also easily corrected by discarding the junk magazine into my junk magazine bucket.

The third item would prove to be the most difficult to correct.

Initially, I figured that simply working the action would help “break in” the weapon – just like at the CZ factory, where a machine racks the slides of CZ pistols hundreds of times before the weapon leaves the factory. So I sat down in front of the TV and watched Fox News’ Red Eye while quickly working the action of the weapon. I did this hundreds of times before I attempted to chamber a live round (while the muzzle was pointed at my sand bucket). No change, the bolt wouldn’t go into battery. I also found that the weapon would regularly not go into battery even when a round was not present, which led me to believe that ammunition might not be a factor.

So my next step was to field strip the weapon, a task which is accomplished quickly and easily – especially if you get to do it a few times, as I did over the course of that day.

I started with lubrication again, thinking that I’d missed a critical area. No, that didn’t work. After a few more failed ideas, I simply took a very close look at the action under magnification as I slowly let the operating handle forward. I noticed several areas where the head of the bolt was binding against the slide as it rotated into place.

Thinking “This is the last chance you have to contact Kahr customer service about this rifle”, I took one of my polishing stones and carefully smoothed out the area on the inside of the op-rod where the finish had been worn away the most. I figured that if I messed anything up, it would make a nice wall hanging.

As it turns out, though, I don’t think I messed anything up. After reassembly, I noticed that the action was much smoother and never failed to go into battery, even if allowed to go forward slowly. I was also able to hand-cycle dozens of rounds without any problems.

At the range, I was also able to make it through a significant amount of ammunition (having ordered more via the internet since my first outing) without any failures of any kind.

At this point, I was able to appreciate the concept of the M1 carbine. It is light, handy, simple to operate, quite accurate, and has little more recoil than a 5.56mm AR-15. I have about $375 invested in it, not counting ammunition, and I’d say it’s a decent weapon for that price. I see this model on the wall in local gun stores, though, for $700. I wouldn’t pay $700 for one of these. If I wanted to pay $700 for an M1 Carbine, I’d get a USGI version from the CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) and have some money left over for ammo.

I have to wonder, though – did they actually test fire the weapon before allowing it to leave the factory? How could so many problems with the weapon have slipped by even the most inexperienced of QC inspectors? Does this company even employ QC inspectors? I could understand if one issue went by unnoticed, but a loose handguard that rubbed against the op-rod (AO’s manual calls it the “operating slide”, and I’m not educated on M1 carbines enough to call it either way), a faulty magazine, and an action so full of rough surfaces and sharp edges that it would hardly go into battery without a round being in the rifle?

That’s why this is in the “errors” section of the blog.



Filed under Lies, Errors, and Omissions

9 responses to “Auto-Ordnance M1 Carbine

  1. Mike W

    Auto-Ordnance = Auto Junk

  2. Carlos U.

    How did you get one for $375? I like the idea of owning one, but 700 bucks is steep.

  3. throw an ultimak and a T1 aimpoint on that sucker and go to town. they’re great little rifles.

  4. Auto Ord was famous for making POS 1911s. I would be surprised if they could make an M1 Carbine that worked.

  5. James

    I love M1 carbines, in fact have 8 of them (all US GI). $700 is too much to pay for this AO model, when you can still find good GI guns for around the same price. They knew how to make ’em back then!

  6. DLaw

    87GN do you have pics of the problem areas that you polished up?

  7. Postal0311

    I owned an AO Thompson, it was complete junk. Sent it back to AO and they sent it back with a half-assed fix that didn’t work. Sold it at a heavy loss.

    I have seen other AO Thompsons on the range choke up and have all sorts of problems.

    I think Auto Ord. is crap and should be avoided.

  8. I am afraid I too bought An AO ordance.
    I am afraid to shoot it because I don’t want to be dissapointed. My bolt does not stay open on an empty clip.
    Forunatley I ordered one from Fulton which will be here tomorrow, I heard that AO finally got their act togather.
    Does anyone know what serial numbers are Bad and Visa Versa.
    Thanks a lot,


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