How to Identify a Real M1A1 Carbine vs a Fake

Looking for a light and compact weapon to equip its new Airborne units, the US military adopted the M1A1 Carbine in May of 1942. This was mechanically identical to the existing M1 Carbine but with a wire-frame side folding stock in place of the standard wooden stock. This allowed the M1A1 to fit into a very handy leg bag for paratroops.
Deliveries began in October 1942, with all of the guns being manufactured by the Inland company. A total of 140,591 were made in two batches (71,000 between October 1942 and October 1943 and another 69,000 between April and December 1944). This is a very small fraction of the more than 6 million M1 Carbines made during the war, and the M1A1 has become quite notable and desirable for its association with elite Airborne units. As a result, reproduction and fake stocks abound, and are quite difficult to tell from original ones.
Today we are going to look at some of the specific features that can help you authenticate an M1A1 stock.


  1. My father has one of those since at least the 1960’s to my certain knowledge and again to my knowledge it is probably original but it’s in one of his safes so I can’t check it. Maybe I can convince him to watch this with me.

    • You probably don’t want to know what I’ve seen for sale at some local gun shows, over the years…

      Guy tried selling me a “tanker Garand” one time, supposedly with WWII provenance from his “…uncle was issued it with his Pershing, and he took it to D-Day…”. I swear to God, the damn letter was done on a freakin’ Selectric typewriter or daisy-wheel printer, and was so far off of what would have been used by some clerk doing the souvenir letters as to be laughable, in and of itself.

      There are some really bad forgers out there, and a bunch of credulous people they victimize. I would break your heart, telling you what I’ve been shown by folks who are sure they’ve got something super-special–One guy proudly showed me his Krag-Jorgensen that was “…at Little Big Horn…”.

      The forgers world is nuts… You’ve got stuff like that Luger Ian showed us the other day, where you really, really have to know your stuff, and then… There’s the other end of it, where guys are selling and buying stuff that’s not even remotely credible.

      I’ve wound up gnawing a fist, more than a few times, trying not to laugh out loud at what some folks have brought home, in all innocence.

      • People wind up buying things in good faith only to find out that they’d been tricked into buying phony goods. I would be tempted to press charges against the person selling fake vintage guns for antiquities fraud!! But then more problems would rise in the courtroom…

        • H. Beam Piper wrote a mystery novel, Murder in the Gunroom, that was largely about gun faking;

          Back then, the favorite fake was “converting” an M1842 Aston military percussion pistol to the rarer Palmetto Arsenal (Southern) version. Mostly by taking a worn Aston and stamping it with phony Palmetto markings. It got to the point that the supply of actual “unfaked” M1842s was substantially reduced, and there were more phony Palmettos floating around than were ever produced between 1842 and 1851.

          The U.S. North & Cheney M1799 flintlock pistol was another popular “fake”, made from a French Charleville 1777 pistol by replacing the barrel with a longer one;

          There were plenty of dragoon carbines and etc. around as “decorators” at the time that sacrificed their barrels, or at least the last nine inches or so, to pull off this scam. And like Arnold Rivers in Piper’s story, a faker confronted with this would be “dug in behind (his) innocent-purchase-and-sale-in-good-faith Maginot Line” of “caveat emptor”.

          Every field of collecting attracts fakers, forgers, and crooks. The reason is simple; as Willie Sutton said when he was asked why he robbed banks,”Because that’s where the money is”.



          • Thanks for the pointer to the H. Beam Piper story. Already downloaded and started reading it. Looks to be a good ‘un.

  2. Almost bought one of these at an auction, here or at the other house. It was documented as being carried by an engineer light bird from D+3. The letter said he’d picked it up behind Utah Beach and carried it home after the war. It was priced around $5000, but I don’t remember if it sold. Interesting piece of memorabilia, though.

  3. The first center fire rifle I fired was one of these.
    I was 13 years old…hooked on shooting since.
    Light and handy, but the folding stock sucks.

    • “Light and handy, but the folding stock sucks.”
      Does somebody in U.S. made other folding stock – either by reworking existing M1 Carbines or as kit?

      • I don’t know much about that, but folding stocks of the time were not designed for user comfort when in use. And I doubt anyone makes folding stocks for the M1 Carbine now, since there hasn’t been a resurgence in production or demand for it. I could be wrong.

        • I don’t if replica folding stock are still made but they are still available.
          But to be honest the folding has only its look for it now! The pistol grip is short and bulky, I can’t imagine what kind of hands it is good for. And there is no positive locking of the flimsy steel wire frame: it opens and closes when you don’t want.

  4. re: the part number on the butt plate, the last digit (4) may be a mold cavity number.

    They would have a pattern that would make something like a 20-30 cavity sand mold and the pattern would have each cavity numbered to back track problem parts.

    Changeable numbers is not done that often with castings.

    • The “wheel” mentioned may be a rotating movable (manually) “clock” to indicate time, date, lot, or mould number. They are still in use today. There would typically be a mark inside one of the segments to indicate which value is current. The markings in this case however are so indistinct that it is probably impossible to read them.

      You would probably have to have a copy of the original drawings or other production documents to know what the indicator was used for in this case.

  5. People don’t realise that virtually all of these guns, when refurbished were COMPLETLY dissasembled and all the parts were dumped in bins for sorting, tolerancing, and inspection for damage, ect. Then compatible parts brought together for completion. Like the Garands the parts were not serial numbered, but used “drawing” numbers.
    CMP Garands will often have a receiver with mismatched trigger group assemblies, especially when your receiver is dated to 1943 (milled trigger guard) with a 1945 (stamped trigger guard). And even though you can only see a few original stock markins, She still shoots beatifully with it’s 1951 barrel! So WHAT IS ORIGINAL?

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