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Restoring an M1 Carbine: Part 3

Part 3: Restoring and evaluating a late-­production Rock-­Ola M1 Carbine.

Restoring an M1 Carbine: Part 3

(Photo by Mark Fingar)

To illustrate the thought process for making decisions and determining what parts should be on an M1 Carbine, we will examine the process for getting a late-production Rock-­Ola M1 Carbine restored with probable parts used per its production in 1944. This three-­part article series has already described the part types for each prime manufacturer, so it is time to apply that information and make Guns & Ammo’s sample M1 Carbine look right and function as it did when it left Rock-­Ola’s 250,000 square-­foot North Kedzie plant in Chicago.

Around 1934, “Rockola” Manufacturing Corporation became “Rock-­Ola.” Though the company produced coin-­operated products including its jukeboxes, the hyphen was inserted into the name because — it is believed — David C. Rockola wanted people to pronounce his last name correctly. Some 228,500 M1 Carbines were produced by Rock-­Ola from November 1942 to May 1944. G&A’s Rock-­Ola M1 Carbine is an example of some of the head-scratching that can occur when restoring an M1 Carbine and determining what parts should be on it. The only Carbines that give relative certainty as to what types of parts should be on them were made before Summer 1943 and after Fall 1944. If you intend to undertake a similar project, I urge you to do a lot of research and be very careful about what parts are replaced. If your Carbine seems to have the parts from the correct era but the parts may not have been made by what you think is the appropriate manufacturer, be cautious! In fact, it may take years to complete a project. Replacing parts may ruin an otherwise original gun. The M1 Carbine restoration process requires patience, research, a careful inspection of parts, and close attention to the wear and finish. There are few absolutes when it comes to part types and manufacturers for these rifles.

An early “Type B” milled adjustable sight marked “PI” is rare on Rock-Ola M1 Carbines, and it was left on for this restoration. Made by Saginaw S.G., it was used on very late production guns. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Enter Ron Norton, Inland Mfg.

I enlisted the help of Ron Norton, owner of Inland Manufacturing in Dayton, Ohio, for help in the restoration of G&A’s Rock-­Ola M1 Carbine. Inland Mfg. has a custom shop that can perform simple parts replacement or completely refinish wood and metal parts to original specifications, if desired. Inland Mfg. has also built a network of resources, obtaining original parts to complete M1 Carbine restorations such as this. Inland Mfg. can build a gun that is correct for any era — World War II, Korea, or Vietnam — and it can build a new-­manufacture M1 Carbine replica for any era you prefer. Another cautionary note, however: Early 1942-­made M1 Carbines and parts are hard to find — and expensive! The smaller the number of guns produced by primes, the more expensive the parts will be — if you can find them. With that said, let’s consider the Rock-­Ola M1 Carbine and determine what parts it likely should have come with.

Barrel markings are important indicators to a Carbine’s likely production date. This Underwood barrel was made May 1944. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The Sum of its Parts

Our example Rock-­Ola M1 Carbine has a receiver serial number of “4,629,517”. This puts the receiver production date in Rock-­Ola’s late second-­production block spanning November 1943 to March 1944. Here is where the details get interesting: The barrel is marked “UNDERWOOD” and “5-­44”, which indicates that the barrel on this gun was made by Underwood in May 1944. The date on the barrel puts this Carbine as being assembled at the very end of the contracts for the eight smaller primes, a time when production was chaotic, and parts were sent throughout the industry to complete production contracts. The finish wear on the barrel looks identical to the receiver, so it is hard to argue that the barrel isn’t original. This evidence suggests that the assembly of this M1 Carbine occurred in May or June 1944. This example is probably one of the receivers that sat around awhile waiting for a barrel, or perhaps it was at the bottom of the stack.

Based on the evidence, the “round” bolt in G&A’s Rock-Ola was deemed appropriate and retained for the final configuration. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The rear sight is an early adjustable Type B milled sight marked “PI”. “PI” denotes a division of Inland Manufacturing that is known to have made adjustable rear sights. At this point in production, Inland was making a lot of the adjustable rear sights for M1 Carbines. It first began delivery of PI-­marked Type B sights around May 1944, so the timing is within the window of production for this Carbine. This is not a sight manufacturer normally associated with Rock-­Ola Carbines, but the finish wear on the sight also appears identical to the receiver’s and barrel’s finish wear. Rock-­Ola’s subcontractor rear sights were usually marked with an “H” inside of a shield or “I.R. CO.” The sight on this Carbine only has one peen mark at the sight base rather than the later post-­war retrofitted sights, which have two peen marks. Therefore, it is certainly possible that some rear sights were obtained from Inland by Rock-­Ola to finish production during the chaos near the end of Rock-­Ola’s production, especially as late as this gun was likely assembled. Being that the single sight detent mark is undisturbed, and that it is an early Type B milled sight, there is a high likelihood that this sight is the gun’s original rather than a replacement. Though Norton had an “H”-­in-­a-­shield rear sight on hand, correct for a Rock-­Ola M1 Carbine, we decided against using it after this analysis.

The Type B barrel band has four weld scars. Most Rock-Ola Type B bands are unmarked or marked “/”. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Given the upgraded rear sight and the Summer 1944 assembly period of this gun, it becomes more likely that it would have other upgraded parts, too. It is more probable that this gun features a round bolt, four-­rivet handguard, and a Type B slide, for example. These types of considerations are why I urge you to note that a lot of decisions about replacing parts on an M1 Carbine come down to examining probabilities. Norton was always willing to discuss these topics during this process, and he was extremely helpful throughout this project.

High-wood stocks obscured half of the charging slide bar. This low-wood stock replicates a late-production Rock-Ola Carbine. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The stock on G&A’s M1 Carbine was a post-­war “potbelly” M2 stock. It was obviously wrong for this gun. Having a production date between May and June 1944, this Rock-­Ola most likely left the factory with a “low wood” stock. The stock cartouche would have read “RMC” in a rectangle on the right side of the buttstock, and “RMC” would have appeared on the left side of the sling slot. Finding an original “RMC”-­marked low-­wood stock will be difficult and expensive, so we opted to have Inland Mfg. install a new-­production low-­wood stock with “RMC” stamped in the sling slot, but no cartouche on the right side of the buttstock; there is no question that this stock is not original, but it is the correct design for this gun. Finding an original stock may be a project down the road, but it could take years to procure one.

Inland Mfg. produced a low-­wood stock with “oval-­cut” oiler slot that replicates the original, minus Rock-­Ola’s “RMC” cartouche. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The wood finish Inland Mfg. applied is very similar to original pieces I have examined. It is obvious to anyone that G&A’s Rock-­Ola does not have its original stock though; it’s good to ensure honesty regarding the part’s originality. I do not encourage anyone to attempt to transfer the markings from an original stock to a reproduction; such an effort is fraud.

The front band on G&A’s Rock-­Ola was a Type C with bayonet lug. Given the production date, this gun should have a Type B wide band, which lacks a bayonet lug. The Carbine also has a four-­rivet handguard; the four-­rivet handguard is more likely than a two-­rivet, so the four-­rivet handguard was retained. It also came with a round bolt, which we decided was more likely than a flat bolt, again due to the assembly timeline and presence of the upgraded rear sight, which is likely original.

A Type B barrel band and khaki C-tip sling was installed to honor the World War II configuration of a late Rock-Ola M1 Carbine. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The front sight was a rather abused “RIA”-­marked example, which is a post-­war replacement. “RIA” stands for “Rock Island Arsenal,” a manufacturing arsenal located on an island on the Mississippi River between Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island, Illinois. Among its manufacturing efforts, it made replacement parts for, rebuilt and retrofitted M1 Carbines after World War II. Therefore, Norton replaced the front sight on our M1 Carbine with an original “R”-­marked front sight, denoting an early Rudy Furnace Co., Dowagiac, Michigan, front-­sight type.

Underneath the gun, the trigger housing was a milled type of Winchester manufacture. The original trigger housing could have been milled, but it was more likely stamped and brazed. It would not have been made by Winchester, either, according to our research. Hence, the Winchester-­milled trigger housing was replaced with an original stamped-and-brazed part.

Trigger mechanisms can be hard to discern. Shown is an Inland Type III straight hammer and safety, Type IV housing and mag catch. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The safety on our M1 Carbine was the lever-­type rotary safety, so this safety was replaced with the correct plain, push-­button safety. “Plain” means “without serrations,” which is also correct for this era of M1 Carbine.


The magazine release is a later style marked “M”. Since the transition to the upgraded “M”-­marked magazine release began in mid-­1943, we decided to keep this part on the Rock-­Ola Carbine.

Still needing replacement is the buttplate. This replica stock features a commercially available vesrion made by Auto Ordnance. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The operating slide is a Type B with an undercut, curved bolt interface boss. This was another detail that comes with uncertainty, but considering the assembly time — and the likely original upgraded rear sight — we decided that this was likely correct, too. We kept the Type B slide as-­is.

The gun, after being reworked by Norton and Inland Manufacturing, turned out to be a very satisfying project, both for its era-­correct configuration and functionality. Historically, it is a fine example that represents an important transition period in M1 Carbine production history made by a contractor that is rarely seen today.

An original “R”-marked front sight replaced the post-war Rock Island Arsenal (RIA) sight. “R” represented “Rudy Furnace Co.” (Photo by Mark Fingar)

At the Range

I test-fired G&A’s M1 Carbine using 1972-­vintage ammunition made by Lake City, Winchester’s current-­production 110-­grain full-­metal-­jacket (FMJ) ball round, and a handload featuring 140 grains of WC296 behind Hornady’s 110-­grain FMJ projectiles. The gun was test-fired at 100 yards.

Though the M1 Carbine was effective to 300 yards, its group sizes typically clustered around 5 inches at 100 yards. Exceptional groups can measure 3½ inches. The 5-­44/Underwood barrel on this Rock-­Ola Carbine produced better-­than-­average results, and would do well to compete in the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s (CMP) M1 Carbine Match.

A plain Type III safety lacking checkering is correct for M1 Carbines made in 1944 through the end of production. Type IV magazine catches feature an “M” mark, used mid-to-late 1944. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Returning to the National Matches in 2006, the CMP M1 Carbine Match features examples of the M1 and M1A1 Carbines with .30-­caliber chambers as issued. It is fired entirely at 100 yards and features 10 shots, each from prone, prone from standing, sitting and kneeling from standing, and from the standing off-­hand position. A sighting time of 10 minutes is permitted with a maximum of 10 shots offered before record fire begins. You don’t have to have an original Carbine to compete. In fact, commercial Carbines, such as Norton’s Inland Manufacturing M1 and M1A1 Carbines, are permitted. Those who use Commercial Carbines compete in a class of their own, separate from the as-­issued participants. The M1 Carbine Match is not only fired at the National Matches in Ohio, but also at other CMP games throughout the U.S.

The Type IV slide was retained, which features an angled cam and a wide arm joint. It was first used by Inland in November 1943. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Parting Shots

Researching the correct configuration of an M1 Carbine is an interesting and engaging adventure. Searching for parts provides hours of fun and makes for a good reason to shop at a gun show. Again, be careful before replacing parts on an M1 Carbine and go slow. It is easy to mess up a largely original gun without realizing it. Remember that, with M1 Carbines, and for every rule that someone asserts should apply to a correct example, there is likely an exception.

Hopefully, this article series has provided you with a starting point and enough information to encourage your own M1 Carbine project. We hope to see you at an upcoming CMP M1 Carbine Match.


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