Semi converted to full auto on Discovery Channel?


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Monkeyleg
February 23, 2011, 11:58 PM
My wife was channel-surfing tonight, and we caught part of a Discovery Channel series, "Sons of Guns". In the episode, the gunsmiths were taking an old semi-auto Thompson and converting it to full-auto.

From what I could tell, it was the town's sheriff who brought the gun in, although I couldn't tell from the bit of the show I saw whether the Thompson was a department gun or a personal gun. Nevertheless, I had to question whether what they were doing was legal.

Did anybody see this, and was what they were doing legal?

One thing they did that should be illegal was to remove the wooden fore grip from the beautiful Thompson and install a quad rail over the barrel. That is a true crime against humanity.

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oerllikon
February 24, 2011, 12:01 AM
Yeah, Im not a huge fan of the show personally, and not too terribly impressed with what they do, its still pretty cool.
I would assume they were legal in some way if it was plastered all over the discovery channel.

Kinda too bad that they tacticool-ized a thompson though :banghead:

Blackbeard
February 24, 2011, 12:02 AM
It's legal because he's a licensed manufacturer. He didn't sell it to a private individual, so Hughes is not an issue. And it was a replica Thompson, so no works of art were destroyed.

Birdmang
February 24, 2011, 12:02 AM
It wasn't an original thompson, they just messed with a repro one.

AWorthyOpponent
February 24, 2011, 12:04 AM
http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/sons-of-guns-tommy-gun-videos/

For anyone who wants to see it....

However, I assume because it is for LEO use, that it is legal...

crazy-mp
February 24, 2011, 12:05 AM
Class III items can be built for Law enforcement use only. If the Sheriff's dept gets tired of it they can sell it to another LE agency police, sheriff, FBI etc..

If you wanted to build class 3 items you can do it legally, all you need to do is apply for the license and pay the $3,000.00 dollar fee.

At the end they guy from Red Jacket told the sheriff he was going to get the paper work started and he could come pick his gun up in 10 weeks (I think I saw this episode last week).

Jesse Heywood
February 24, 2011, 01:09 AM
They took a semi-auto of recent manufacture that was a personal weapon of the sheriff. Conversion to full auto involves either making or building the parts, which is legal with a FFL for manufacture of full auto weapons. To do it legally, Red Jacket had to transfer ownership to the shop before conversion. The sell of the full auto is restricted and would have been transferred to the law enforcement agency. And that is where the 6 week wait comes in.

There is no room for error on the legality. Do it wrong and you will end up a guest of the federal justice system. And since it's on tv, the microscope gets even more powerful.

nalioth
February 24, 2011, 01:33 AM
You find this alarming, but apparently have missed all the "You can't watch any more of this" comments from Will when they're about to get into NFA gunsmithing . .

Discovery has got LOTS of lawyers advising the editors/production crew/Red Jacket staff about what can and can't be shown on the air.

Monkeyleg
February 24, 2011, 01:42 AM
Thanks for the replies. As I said, I saw just a portion of the show (my wife continued through the channels), and I was trying to figure out how it might be legal. If the gunsmith has a manufacturer's license, then I understand.

Replica or not, though, putting a quad rail on a Thompson is a sin. It's like putting a spoiler on a '65 GTO or side scoops on a Jaguar E-Type.

pikid89
February 24, 2011, 02:00 AM
i like how even in the slo mo, the sheriff starts to lose a bit of control....the gun starts climbing, and climbing, and climbing lol

i feel like in a civilian based urban area where this swat team might be working, a gun with that kind of cyclic rate would be a hindrance more than a help...

if that was a 30 round magazine and it was firing at a 13 rounds a second, thats an empty mag in a fraction over 2 seconds....bout as useful as a mac 10, and we all know how popular those are with swat teams lol

jerkface11
February 24, 2011, 02:23 AM
But it weighs 3 times as much as a mac10 lol

Shadow 7D
February 24, 2011, 02:48 AM
You forget it's nickname
IT was the Trench Broom, so, being able to knock a gnat off a bulls, um, posterior at 100M was/isn't much of a consideration, dumping .45 at 600+ RPM was.

kyletx1911
February 24, 2011, 07:57 AM
man ya"ll ease up on my tommy yeah i saw it and it broke my heart(the tacticool) it is a little heavy but i love the dang gun

Screendmon
February 24, 2011, 08:16 AM
You guys missed the most important issue with his comment.
Why did you not have the remote control?
That remote is mine at my house.

Carl N. Brown
February 24, 2011, 08:27 AM
With the level of machine tool work required to open a semi-auto Thompson receiver up to accept a full auto parts set, that shop probably could have built a receiver from scratch.

Red Jacket is a Class III (OK Class 03) dealer, Title II FFL Special Occupational Taxpayer, machinegun and silencer, SBS and SBR manufacturer. A lot of the tech details end up on the editting room floor to make the TV show entertainment.

That said, I am with the guy in the shop who said the gun was a classic repro, leave it alone, leave it roaring 20s style.

However, if building a Thompson clone from scratch as a police weapon for the sheriff, I would not only have gone with a quadail forearm, I would have gone with the Model 1923 Thompson squad auto buttstock: straight line no drop.

Added: I keep fergetting: it's Title I and Title II firearms; it takes a Class 03 license to deal in Title II firearms. There is a Class 03 license not a Class triple-I. I may write that on my palm 'til I get it memorised.

Sam1911
February 24, 2011, 08:39 AM
A few points:

Class III items can be built for Law enforcement use only. If the Sheriff's dept gets tired of it they can sell it to another LE agency police, sheriff, FBI etc..

There are NO "Class III" weapons. That is not a distinction that exists.

Full-auto guns, short-barreled rifles, sort barreled-shotguns, silencers, destructive devices, and "AOWs" are "National Firearms Act, Title II Regulated Firearms."

"Class III" comes from the fact that a Federal Firearms License holding DEALER who wants to sell machine guns and these other items must apply for and pay a "Special Occupational Tax, Class 03." So, there are "Class 03 Dealers," but they don't sell "Class III" guns.

This company would not necessarily be a Class 03 dealer. They would have to pay the "Special Occupational Tax, Class 02" to manufacture Title II regulated items like machine guns, silencers, etc.

A Class 02 manufacturer can build machine guns for testing, product development, demonstration, and sale to a law enforcement or government agency, to other Class 02s or Class 03s (on "demonstration letters"), or the military -- or for legal export. Since the closing of the NFA machine gun registry with the Hughes amendment to FOPA in 1986, newly manufactured machine guns can't be sold to anyone who is not a Class 02 manufacturer, Class 03 dealer or a government, etc.

However, a Class 02 manufacturer and Class 03 dealer can sell all the other kinds of NFA Title II items to private citizens so long as the paperwork is filed correctly and the buyer's state laws allow.

If you wanted to build class 3 items you can do it legally, all you need to do is apply for the license and pay the $3,000.00 dollar fee.
It is quite a bit more complicated than this. There are several threads going on right now to explain it, but the jist is that you must first hold your Federal Firearms License, type 07 or type 10 as a firearms manufacturer. That includes having your business license, zoning worked out, insurance, etc, paying your license fees, then paying the SOT fees ($500), then paying the ITAR tax ($2250 a year), and religiously following all the paperwork and procedural rules required under each of those licenses.

And, you must be "in the business of" making guns. This is not intended, and will not be allowed, to simply build up a personal collection.

It is NOT a simple way to get cool guns. It is a business and lifestyle decision and requires a great deal of investment and dedication. If you are not a very diligent and organized person, it also brings some extremely heavy risks.

At the end they guy from Red Jacket told the sheriff he was going to get the paper work started and he could come pick his gun up in 10 weeks Probably the current wait period on the ATF Form 5320.10 to transfer a Title II weapon to a government entity.

Carl N. Brown
February 24, 2011, 08:39 AM
if that was a 30 round magazine and it was firing at a 13 rounds a second, thats an empty mag in a fraction over 2 seconds

But they did have a selector switch. When the local police had Thompsons, I was told the selectors were more likely to be left on single and used as semi-auto carbines; actually they were used more for the impressive looks than actually fired. You have a twelve pound weapon firing .45 ACP you have about the felt recoil of a .22 semi-auto rifle with the punch of a .45 carbine and less over penetration than a centerfire rifle.

I do notice on Sons of Guns the full autos go dry after 30 rounds, whereas on other TV shows a full auto with a cyclic rate of fire of 728 rounds per minute will fire 728 rounds in a minute (sometimes with commercial break) without reloading.

pikid89
February 24, 2011, 12:47 PM
T was the Trench Broom, so, being able to knock a gnat off a bulls, um, posterior at 100M was/isn't much of a consideration, dumping .45 at 600+ RPM was.

do remember though, the marine corps issue thompsons had a weighted bolt for a slower cyclic rate than this one

Shadow 7D
February 24, 2011, 03:03 PM
Yeah, and the FAST action was 1200 rpm, the M1,M1A had a slower cyclic, and even with the SLOW bolt it was between 400-600, and the 400 was not factory.

ForumSurfer
February 24, 2011, 03:36 PM
Since the closing of the NFA machine gun registry with the Hughes amendment to FOPA in 1986, newly manufactured machine guns can't be sold to anyone who is not a Class 02 manufacturer, Class 03 dealer or a government, etc.i feel like in a civilian based urban area where this swat team might be working, a gun with that kind of cyclic rate would be a hindrance more than a help...So if the good ol sheriff isn't going to actually use this for swat, training or demonstration (serious demonstrations for something constructive, not some typical "hey ya'll watch me burn up 100 rounds of tax payer bought 45 ACP real fast" stuff)...he should be made to follow proper guidelines like the rest of us common folk. If he can't get the necessary permits...well no full auto thompson for him!

I'm just saying that this full auto thompson seems like the sheriff abusing his position at first glance. If he's using personal money to do it and making it legal under departmental guise, he should be fired and treated like the rest of us if we convert something to full auto illegally. If he's just doing so he and his buddies can go out and shoot it full auto using tax payer bought rounds for no real reason, he should be kicked in the butt and then fired. If he is buying the ammo himself and shooting it, then he clearly knows it isn't for departmental (government) use and it's illegal.

I'm sorry, but it is a thompson...not an ar 15, mp5 or something of the like that would actually be useful. To me it just seems like the local sherriff building a toy for himself or his buddies and justifying it through his political position. Maybe I'm off base and it actually serves a purpose to behoove the taxpayers in order to justify it's purchase, expensive diet and existence. Maybe it isn't just an exercise in elitism.

Don't get me wrong, I want a full auto thompson just as much as the next guy.

//end rant

Tommygunn
February 24, 2011, 07:39 PM
do remember though, the marine corps issue thompsons had a weighted bolt for a slower cyclic rate than this one.....
Yeah, and the FAST action was 1200 rpm, the M1,M1A had a slower cyclic, and even with the SLOW bolt it was between 400-600, and the 400 was not factory.

The early "civilian" (1921) Thompsons fired at a rate of about 1,000RPM. Some were a little below that and very few were higher. The civie Thompsons had a "Blish Device". a bronze "H" shaped device that kept the actuator locked to the bolt, but had two "ears" that slide inside slots that were cut into the interior of the receiver. This was intended to slow down the rate of fire through something refered to as a "differential of friction." This device was complicated, as well as controversial, as many people thought it was useless, or didn't perform as advertised, or even made the weapon unreliable. Not too long ago this was tested and it was found through a rather obvious type of experiment that the device actually did work, just not as John Tafaglio Thompson had thought. There was no "friction" involved, it was a simple principle of leverage owing to the fact the Blish device slid at an angle in the bolt/actuator assembly different than the angle that was cut into the receiver.
The difference it made was @ 200 rounds per minute. That is to say if a Blish equiped Thompson ran at 800 rounds per minute (which was the nominal rate the army prefered) removing the Blish device while maintaining the functionality of the actuator/receiver would allow a rate of 1,000 RPM.
The 1928A1 was the version pikid 89 refered to, and at was equiped with a heavier actuator and a heftier recoil spring which slowed the rate of fire down from the civilian versions.
During the war it was the 1928 that was what was in the inventory, and these were used throughout the war. Production of ALL guns was now mandatory, and along with cranking up production of Garands and M-1 Carbines we also needed more Thompsons.
The Thompson was expensive and complicated to make, so it was revised, first into the "M-1" version and then into the M1A1. The first eliminated the Blish device and achieved a low rate of fire (a little faster than the 1928 but still acceptable) by a different recoil spring. The Cutts compensator, complex rear sight, the cooling fins on the barrel and the detachable shoulder stock were eliminated. The M1A1 version further simplified the weapon by eliminating the firing pin and the hammer, and the bolt had a little "nib" machined onto the face and it was now a "slamfire" weapon like the British Sten & German MP-40. This was the last iteration of the Thompson. Even this was expensive and the M3 Greasegun was introduced. This was very cheap and a successful gun for what it was intended for, but it never completly replaced the Thompson.
Had the Thompson production continued it would have likely been made in a stainless steel version with an actuator on both sides of the receiver, and been switched from .45ACP to .30 Carbine, a better penetrating round. Experimental versions may have been made but these final revisions never saw any service in wartime.
Just FYI.

Monkeyleg
February 24, 2011, 07:48 PM
Thanks for that really informative post.

My Thompson had the Blish device. It always seemed to me that the gun took longer than four or so seconds to empty the drum. I never timed it, but I'd be willing to bet it was twice that long.

Tommygunn
February 24, 2011, 11:30 PM
Was it a military version or civilian?
The military requested a fire rate of 800 RPM because they wanted a controllable weapon and really didn't think they needed the high rate of fire the 1921 had, which by military thinking was wasteful. That isn't to say they got "800" rounds per minute; there seems to be some reason to believe that some guns might have run faster or slower than others, though frankly I do not buy the "400" RPM that was mentioned earlier.
As stated the military M1 and M1A1 versions tended to run a little faster.
The fact that they got the military versions to run slower than the civies was proof (to some in the military and production facilities atleast) that the Blish device was unnecessarily complicated. The military Tommies had a reputation for better reliability as well.
I think there may also be a degree of subjectivity involved as well. Timing out a four second interval may seem longer or shorter than a digital timer may gauge due to emotional states, how awake or sleepy we are, and other factors. We're all apparantly used to the "bottomless magazine" phenomenon from movies, where we see people firing machine guns that never empty -- I myself saw this just this past Sunday on C.S.I. Miami where two thugs were firing on Horatio in a bedroom, each with an AK-47 that must have expended 500 rounds each atleast before emptying.
I strongly suspect that the average person, if given the oppotunity to open fire with a real FA gun with a 30 round (or even 50 rnd drum) would be disappointed how quickly they wound up expending their ammo!

7.62 Nato
February 25, 2011, 12:46 AM
I like the Thompsons/clones but I'll take a greasegun F/A or S/A anyday.

Skinsanity
February 25, 2011, 12:06 PM
Watching sons of guns is kinda like shaving my head with a cheesegrater, its slightly amusing, but mostly painful...I have come to think of it as kind of Porn for Mall ninjas...

52grain
February 25, 2011, 10:10 PM
So if the good ol sheriff isn't going to actually use this for swat, training or demonstration (serious demonstrations for something constructive, not some typical "hey ya'll watch me burn up 100 rounds of tax payer bought 45 ACP real fast" stuff)...he should be made to follow proper guidelines like the rest of us common folk. If he can't get the necessary permits...well no full auto thompson for him!

I'm just saying that this full auto thompson seems like the sheriff abusing his position at first glance. If he's using personal money to do it and making it legal under departmental guise, he should be fired and treated like the rest of us if we convert something to full auto illegally. If he's just doing so he and his buddies can go out and shoot it full auto using tax payer bought rounds for no real reason, he should be kicked in the butt and then fired. If he is buying the ammo himself and shooting it, then he clearly knows it isn't for departmental (government) use and it's illegal.

I'm sorry, but it is a thompson...not an ar 15, mp5 or something of the like that would actually be useful. To me it just seems like the local sherriff building a toy for himself or his buddies and justifying it through his political position. Maybe I'm off base and it actually serves a purpose to behoove the taxpayers in order to justify it's purchase, expensive diet and existence. Maybe it isn't just an exercise in elitism.

Didn't see the episode in question, but based on the description provided here, I would tend to agree. Also, if this was something that the department had a legitimate need for, they wouldn't be ordering one, they would be ordering multiple and the sheriff wouldn't be taking such an interest. Can't figure out what a police officer would need that rate of fire for. The only thing that I can think of is putting down prison riots, but a good shotgun seems more practical.

Monkeyleg
February 25, 2011, 11:14 PM
I think there may also be a degree of subjectivity involved as well. Timing out a four second interval may seem longer or shorter than a digital timer may gauge due to emotional states...

If you're asking about my Thompson, Tommygunner, it was an Auto Ordnance 1986 model, one of the last full-auto's off the line.

I don't think I'm wrong about the length of time required to empty the drum, if for no other reason than a episode I had with a newbie. This guy had never fired a gun before, and I made the ridiculous mistake of handing him the Thompson with a full drum and in full auto mode.

He started firing and, when I saw splinters of wood coming from the ceiling of the range, I kept yelling at him to take his finger off the trigger. I don't think all of that could have taken place in four seconds. ;)

Tommygunn
February 25, 2011, 11:33 PM
I don't think I'm wrong about the length of time required to empty the drum, if for no other reason than a episode I had with a newbie. This guy had never fired a gun before, and I made the ridiculous mistake of handing him the Thompson with a full drum and in full auto mode.

He started firing and, when I saw splinters of wood coming from the ceiling of the range, I kept yelling at him to take his finger off the trigger

:what: Ouch!
Frankly I have no idea how fast a 1986 Auto Ordnance 1986 Thompson fired.

If you know the rate of fire and magazine capacity simple math will give you the answer ... but you are in a far better position to know what your individual gun did than I.

GarandOwner
March 1, 2011, 06:52 AM
It amazes me that any competent gunsmith wouldn't know, or even check for that matter, that the recoil spring of the repro is significantly stiffer than the original full auto (part of their problem for it going full auto uncontrollably) Keep these novices away from my guns! Even if they did treat firearms with respect and follow proper safety precautions, their demeaning manner towards anyone who ISNT buying 10+ guns from them makes me turn off their lame show. Hopefully this show won't give ammo to the anti's

Tommygunn
March 1, 2011, 11:23 AM
Garandowner, I'm sure there are plenty of gunsmiths who have never had any experience with original FA Thompsons and would have little idea what their recoil springs are like, given how rare these guns are now.
In the case of converting a semi to a FA then I think you have a point. A gunsmith certainly ought to be able to diagnose a problem with a malfunctioning weapon.

nalioth
March 1, 2011, 01:03 PM
Before a lot of you get your panties in a wad, remember that it's a televsion show, with a director (in tv and movies, the director tells everyone where to stand, how to act, etc).

I do not for one minute believe that this is how Will and Co. act when not in the camera's eye.

DammitBoy
March 1, 2011, 01:15 PM
Perception is reflected from the camera's eye. I will not buy from Redjacket because of this show.

AlexanderA
March 1, 2011, 01:26 PM
The early "civilian" (1921) Thompsons fired at a rate of about 1,000RPM. Some were a little below that and very few were higher. The civie Thompsons had a "Blish Device". a bronze "H" shaped device that kept the actuator locked to the bolt, but had two "ears" that slide inside slots that were cut into the interior of the receiver. This was intended to slow down the rate of fire through something refered to as a "differential of friction." This device was complicated, as well as controversial, as many people thought it was useless, or didn't perform as advertised, or even made the weapon unreliable.

I've read in several places that "the British in the desert found that the Thompsons worked better without the Blish locks, so they took them out and pitched them at the Jerries." This is just silly. As you point out, the Blish lock (bronze H piece) is necessary to connect the actuator (cocking handle) to the bolt. The gun won't work without it, unless its completely redesigned, as was done with the M1 Thompson.

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