Auto Ordnance M1 Carbines: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:
A Review of the Auto-Ordnance M1 Carbine
A while back I really, really, really wanted an M1 carbine. I flip-flopped back and forth between wanting to buy a surplus GI carbine and an Auto-Ordnance carbine. I also toyed with the idea of an Inland M1 carbine, but they were fairly new on the market, and while they looked more authentic, they had receivers made by Auto-Ordnance and cost more than the Auto-Ordnance; and cost nearly as much as a very good authentic WWII model. In the end, I decided to buy the Auto-Ordnance due to the price of quality GI carbines vs Auto-Ordnance and the existence of a warranty on the Auto-Ordnance. This is my story.
I found my new Auto-Ordnance M1 Carbine online for $657. I thought it was an AOM-130. Turns out my eyes weren't all that good, and it was actually an AOM-180; same gun but with an 18.6 inch barrel instead of an 18 inch barrel. Apparently, this model has an extra .6 inches on the barrel to make it legal in Canada. Anyway, after tax and transfer fee (because I didn't want to spend the time and gas money to drive to get it) came to just over $700.
When I first opened the box at my local gun shop, I noticed a little wiggle in the hand guard, but I assumed the barrel band was just not tight, and boxed it back up and took it home. After getting home with it, and being in a hurry to shoot it, I took it straight from my truck to my back yard to run a few rounds through it. There were three magazines that I tried: the factory 5 round, factory 15 round, and a Promag 15 round. The factory 5 round magazine ran perfectly, so I decided to try the factory 15 rounder. It seemed to fit a little loose, and I had several feed problems with the factory 15 round magazine, so I tried the Promag magazine. It was worse than the factory 15 round magazine. On the bright side, it was very accurate; holding right on 2 inches at 50 yards. I'm sure it was probably better than that, but I'm not that great a shot.
Being a little distraught, and with the sun fading, I decided to go in for the night. Later that night upon closer inspection, I discovered that my factory 15 round magazine had a bent feed lip; not bad, but enough to cause failures to feed properly.
The next day it ran a lot better, but still not perfect, and I started having failures to eject the longer I shot. Now completely distraught I went back inside to clean and inspect. That's when I noticed a small crack in the stock behind the recoil plate and a loose piston nut. I decided that since it was new, I'd just send it back and let Kahr fix it. I filled out the RMA form online, and dropped it off to be shipped back to the factory. 8 days later it was back at my door with a new stock and hand guard, and a tightened piston nut.
Over the next few days I shot about a bunch of rounds through it. Starting off, it still had a few failures to feed, but after about 75-100 more rounds that cleared up and it has ran pretty much flawlessly ever since. It still had the wiggle in the magazine well so I ordered a GI M2 magazine catch; and since I kept hitting the magazine release instead of the push button safety, I ordered a GI rotary safety switch. Both went in smoothly in about 10 minutes. I also ordered a piston nut wrench in case it ever backed off again, but it hasn't so far. I ordered three GI 15 round magazines, and a GI 30 round magazine from Numrich, which (despite some surface rust from storage) run perfectly.
After those initial issues, I've run about 1000 rounds through it with very few issues; and all of those were in the first 200-300 rounds through the gun. I'd heard stories that the Auto-Ordnance M1 carbines needed a break-in period to run properly, and I can attest to the truthfulness of that statement. After those first few problems, I feel that this is now a perfectly reliable gun.
It is my opinion that the barreled receivers of the Kahr/Auto-Ordnance M1 carbines are indeed well built. The stocks, though, are sometimes a little off; and the Kahr factory magazines and magazine catches aren't the best. A good portion of the bad reviews of the gun, that I have read anyway, stem from these things. But if you are one of the unlucky ones that get a bad stock or magazine catch, based on my experience, Kahr will replace the defective parts and fix any issues quickly.
Now, to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...
The Good: The Auto Ordnance offers a good quality, affordable replica of the venerable M1 Carbine. It features the early flip style rear sight, and a Type 1 barrel band. After an initial break-in period they seem to be an effective and reliable shooter. You can use, abuse, and modify to your heart's content without fear of ruining a 70+ year old piece of history.
The Bad: The Kahr/Auto Ordnance M1 carbine seems to suffer a little from quality control; not in the manufacture department, but in assembly. The parts themselves seem to be quality items, but it seems that sometimes they are slapped together and shipped out without thought for things like poorly fitting stocks and hand guards and "wiggle-and-jiggle" where there shouldn't be any. Kahr/Auto Ordnance M1 carbines need about a 200 round "break-in" period in order to feed properly as well. Also, GI magazines function better in this gun than the factory magazines do. There are some other reproduction magazines out there that work too, but (in my experience) stay away from the Promags.
The Ugly: While the Auto Ordnance M1 carbine looks (for the most part) like a GI model M1 carbine, there are differences. First of all, the gun claims to be an early model replica, but it sports a "potbelly" stock. This is not really a big deal if you want the gun for a shooter, but if you want more authenticity you're going to have to go with the Inland model at nearly double the price. While most internal parts will interchange with GI parts, the receiver has slightly different contours than the original GI carbine, and some (minor) woodwork must be done if you intend to swap out the Kahr stock for a GI stock. As such, the Kahr/Auto Ordnance receivers and stocks are not true Mil-Spec parts. Also, the magazine catches from Kahr/Auto Ordnance are a little thin, and results in a little magazine wiggle. I would recommend buying a mil-spec M2 style catch (about $15) as a replacement.
Summary: Auto Ordnance M1 carbines can be had for around $700 and have a 1-year warranty. They are cranky to start, but after break-in, they function pretty well, and make good shooters. They sometimes suffer from fit and finish issues, but customer support seems willing to make good on problems within the warranty period. They do take GI issue parts, but the stock is non-mil-spec, and GI stocks have to be modified to fit. By comparison, Inland M1 carbines usually run about $300+ more than the Auto Ordnance, and a quality rearsenaled GI M1 carbine runs about $1200+ although cheaper ones can occasionally be found. If you just want a good shooter quality gun, don't mind the break-in period, and don't mind having to send in for warranty work, the Auto Ordnance might be a good choice.