I recently acquired a M1, took it to the range and found that it’s a single shot. It would fire one round and the action wouldn’t operate. I had to pull on the bolt handle very hard to get it to move and eject the empty.
There are a couple of options:
Does the action work smoothly with no cartridges loaded? If not, then the problem is with the bolt lugs or track, the operating slide or tracks, or the bolt locking lugs. Inspect for burrs, dents, carbon buildup, bends, etc. and repair or replace as required.
If the action works smoothly when empty, load a cartridge (use a dummy cartridge if you have one…if you have to use a live cartridge, do this at the range with the rifle pointed downrange at all times) and see if the unfired cartridge extracts and ejects smoothly. If it works smoothly with an unfired cartridge, the problem could be the gas system. I’m going to go over removal of the gas piston in the next M1 Carbine post, but it’s not too difficult to do on your own. Remove the gas piston and clean it. Check the gas port and make sure it isn’t fouled with carbon. Clean well and reassemble. Before reinstalling the operating slide, tip the rifle barrel down and the gas piston should slide freely into the gas tube. Then tip it barrel up and it should slide freely back to the extended position. If it doesn’t move freely, you’ve got a defect in the gas tube or the piston, piston nut, or both need to be replaced.
If the gas system is clean and working smoothly, but a fired cartridge still won’t extract, the problem is probably a defect in the chamber. First, use a chamber brush and solvent (a large caliber pistol brush will do if you don’t have a chamber brush) to clean the chamber thoroughly.
My favorite trick is to use a cleaning rod section with a properly sized bronze brush on the end, chuck it into an electric drill and run it at low to medium speed to clean the chamber quickly and thoroughly. This is often enough to eliminate any minor defects in the chamber as well as cleaning it.
The problem with the M1 Carbine is that the receiver configuration precludes doing this from the chamber end.
Here’s my solution. First, you MUST use a cleaning rod guide to prevent damage to the muzzle or bore.
Use a long cleaning rod…preferably a one piece, bronze rod, not a sectional and for Gosh’s sakes, don’t use steel…a one piece has less chance of getting cockajimmied in the bore and damaging it and bronze is softer than the bore steel. Aluminum will work, but I prefer bronze.
Remove the handle by whatever method works…most of them you have to cut off…but hey, if you work with surplus rifles much, you’re probably going to need it over and over again.
Place the guide on the muzzle and run the rod down the barrel until the end is sticking out the chamber. Screw your brush into the end, pull the rod back out until the brush enters the chamber, attach the drill to the rod at the muzzle end and clean when ready, gridley.
Be very careful to keep the rod guide in place so that the rod stays centered in the bore and keep the speed down so that if it does accidentally contact the bore, it doesn’t damage it.
After cleaning in this way, use a borescope or a mirror and light to inspect the chamber. Look for any burrs, pits, corrosion or other defects that could be causing the cartridges to hang up. You can work small defects out of the chamber using very fine emory cloth sandpaper, steel wool or if you are properly ingenious, you can use your modified cleaning rod with a modified dremel tool buffing wheel and polishing or lapping compound.
Because of the way the receiver is set up on the M1 Carbine, the chamber isn’t exactly easy to get to so working in there is accomplished with some difficulty, but it can be done. No one said this hobby was supposed to be easy.
If you try that and clean up/can’t find any chamber defects, are sure the chamber is clean and it still hangs up…it’s time to take it to a pro.
Someday I hope to have the proper machine tools and knowledge to do headspacing, chamber reaming, bolt refacing etc etc…but as of now, I’m still just a hobbyist.
I hope that helped.