Thompson Submachine Gun


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Balrog
July 28, 2013, 04:52 PM
I am trying to figure out what I want my first NFA purchase to be, as was discussed in another thread. I would probably only shoot the gun intermittently. I don't plan on needing one I can accessorize with red dots or other add ons.

So I am now wondering about the Thompson. I think it would be very cool to have a WWII Thompson for the historical value, in addition to being able to shoot it full auto when I wanted.

But I know little about them. What is a good source of info on them? What are the upsides and downsides of ownership? Can they be repaired if a part fails?

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Sam1911
July 28, 2013, 05:20 PM
The first thing to know is that there is CONSIDERABLE historical value in Military Thompsons. As in $30,000-$40,000 worth for one with provenance.

The earlier models used the very interesting Blish lock (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blish_lock) but the later M1 variants did not. Don't know if any Blish guns saw service.

Balrog
July 28, 2013, 05:24 PM
he first thing to know is that there is CONSIDERABLE historical value in Military Thompsons. As in $30,000-$40,000 worth for one with provenance.

I have seen some for sale in the 25-30K range. I would rather be on the 25K end than the 40K end. What kind of provenance are you talking about that adds 15K?

Telekinesis
July 28, 2013, 05:28 PM
I don't know too much about thompsons specifically, but I'm sure someone will be along shortly who can elaborate more on the specifics of the gun itself. However, you can replace any part of the weapon except the receiver itself, and that holds true for just about any machine gun with the exception of registered sears and the like.

The downsides of owning a Thompson would probably be the lack of modularity (which I see you mentioned was a non-factor) and the cost of .45 ACP ammo. If I was looking for more of a shooter and less of a historical piece, I wouldn't go for a C&R (WW2) Thompson just because I wouldn't want to possibly damage a historical piece or have to pay the premium for the WW2 gun when I could get a newer one that worked just as well. (keep in mind that when I say "newer" you're still looking at a 25+ year old gun...)

Honestly for a first NFA weapon, I would go with a suppressor or maybe a MAC if you wanted to stay in the machine gun world (for a MAC you can get different bolts for different rates of fire), but I will agree that a Thompson would be a lot of fun :D

What kind of provenance are you talking about that adds 15K?

The older guns that are original Thompsons (not reproductions) are C&R and command a higher price not only due to their historical significance, but also because they can be shipped directly to someone with a C&R FFL (after the form 4 has been approved) without having to go through a SOT. That means you can cut as much as 3 months off of the wait by skipping the form 3 (assuming you purchase the gun from someone out of state, which would typically necessitate a form 3 to your SOT then a form 4 to you).

Sam1911
July 28, 2013, 05:49 PM
Provenance? Well, you did say you wanted a WWII Thompson. Any gun that can be legitimately traced to a certain unit, location, battle, etc, would add quite a bit. There will be paperwork to support such claims.

Balrog
July 28, 2013, 05:50 PM
Could someone look at this ad and tell me what I am looking at?
How could a Thompson C&R be "NIB", and why would there even be a cardboard box?
http://www.subguns.com/classifieds/index.cgi?db=nfafirearms&website=&language=&session_key=&search_and_display_db_button=on&results_format=long&db_id=22529&query=retrieval

Sam1911
July 28, 2013, 06:07 PM
Ad? Link?

Balrog
July 28, 2013, 06:09 PM
Link added

http://www.subguns.com/classifieds/index.cgi?db=nfafirearms&website=&language=&session_key=&search_and_display_db_button=on&results_format=long&db_id=22529&query=retrieval

Sam1911
July 28, 2013, 06:13 PM
Looks like an Auto-Ordnance made Thompson in the M1 or M1A1 pattern like the military used most commonly. (Smooth barrel, no Blish lock, side charging handle, straight horizontal forearm, no compensator, etc.) Comes in a cardboard box. It's a C&R, so it was made over 50 years ago. It takes the stick magazines, but not the drums.

In the 1950s, Numrich owned A-O and assembled some various pattern Thompsons for sale to law enforcement agencies.

Balrog
July 28, 2013, 06:19 PM
Looks like an Auto-Ordnance made Thompson in the M1 pattern like the military used most commonly. (

So this would have been made for the civilian market? In other words, not a GI gun?

Sam1911
July 28, 2013, 06:31 PM
Well, I don't know for sure. Most of the time if there's a military stamp on the gun anywhere the seller REALLY makes sure folks know that. If I had to guess -- and it's just a guess -- that might be one of the new-old-stock receivers that Numrich bought up and assembled into police guns in the 1950s.

Nothing wrong with that at all, of course.

Call the seller and ask!

Prince Yamato
July 28, 2013, 07:52 PM
To me, all Thompsons "look the same" and the only differences are the ones that "take the drum" and the "ones that don't take the drum". To a collector, there are all sorts of subtle differences like a "Navy Thompson" vs an "Army Thompson", etc. These little differences, some cosmetic, add thousands of dollars to a gun, sometimes, justifiably- like in the instances of "Army Thompsons" which are rarer than "Navy Thompsons". Sometimes, not justifiably, "Well, you can't get this one is a 'Collector's Home Edition' with gold engraving'... and a bunch of other crap that actually devalues the gun.

You can probably get a shooter-grade in the $20-22k range. So you know, this is NOT the time to be buying full autos. The market is demanding ridiculous prices at the moment.

AlexanderA
July 28, 2013, 08:08 PM
First of all, the indispensible resource for all things Thompson is http://www.machinegunboards.com/forums/. All your questions are likely to be answered there.

All FA Thompsons are C&R. The ones that are less than 50 years old ("West Hurleys") have been specifically ruled C&R by the ATF.

IMO, the Thompson is the classic collectible machine gun. A WWII Thompson was the first FA that I ever owned (it cost me all of $750, plus the transfer tax, back in 1975). I foolishly sold it around the time the Hughes Amendment freeze went into effect. It would probably be worth around $20,000 today.

That being said, the Thompson is not a practical choice if you primarily want something to shoot. For one thing, it's way too heavy for what it is. There's a good reason the military declared it obsolete in favor of the M3 Greasegun. If you want a shooter, the best choice is probably an M16.

leadcounsel
July 28, 2013, 08:13 PM
Congrats to the guy that can spend a small fortune on a single gun. Might be a good investment, or maybe not, who knows. But from a purely "you spent what on that?" aspect, I can't imagine dropping that kind of coin unless your salary is in the high 6 or even the low 7 digits area.

Having fired full auto many times myself, it IS fun but I was never paying for the ammo (thank you Uncle Sam). If I were paying .40 cents a round for .45 ACP, I think the 'fun' of full auto would wear off after a few trips to the range.

So if this is just a 'bug' you have, I'd recommend renting some full autos first to see whether this is a real desire or just a 'popping your cherry...' aspect.

medalguy
July 29, 2013, 01:16 AM
The gun you linked is NOT a military gun. Serial number is just wrong. And the box? Where did that come from? No military gun here. However Reuben is a reputable dealer and the gun is certainly worth what he is asking for it.

If you want a first gun and want to shoot it, look into a Sten in 9mm. Not too expensive and they were used in WWII. You can get a WWII gun for big bucks

http://www.sturmgewehr.com/webBBS/nfa4sale.cgi?read=160082

but there are a lot of commercial guns in the $5K range. Also MAC 10 is a good choice for a first gun, again not WW II but somewhat inexpensive.

http://www.sturmgewehr.com/webBBS/nfa4sale.cgi?read=160020

Check here also, an excellent board:

http://www.sturmgewehr.com/webBBS/nfa4sale.cgi

BSA1
July 29, 2013, 10:25 AM
FYI.

I had the pleasure of seeing a Tommy Gun fired full auto once.

Several shooters were taking turns shooting it. They were firing three round the bursts. They would aim low for the first shot then then try to keep shots two and three on a B-27target as the muzzle rose towards the ceiling.

Very, very cool sound of that Tommy Gun shooting in auto mode. However it also convinced me that shooting more than three rounds in full auto mode was next to impossible to keep all the rounds on target and a waste of ammo.

AlexanderA
July 29, 2013, 10:28 AM
Yes, the gun in the link is a "West Hurley" gun, probably made in the early 1980's. Certainly not a WWII GI gun. In my experience, these were poorly made and have a host of problems "out of the box." (At the time these were made, Numrich had run out of original GI parts and was using poorly cast substitutes, etc.) Yet, there are specialists that can bring West Hurley guns up to snuff, basically by replacing all the parts except the receiver with parts from kits more recently imported from Russia, and then, if necessary, remachining the receiver. The best people doing this work have long waiting lists and are rather pricey. But in the post-1986 world, any registered FA is worth a lot of money. Basically, you are buying the registration and not the gun itself. The gun can always be reworked.

medalguy
July 29, 2013, 11:57 AM
I would respectfully disagree with BSA1's assessment that a TSMG can't be held on target in full auto. I own several Thompsons and my favorite is a 1921/8 Navy overstamp that I shoot pretty regularly. I usually use a 50 round drum and in FA mode I don't have any trouble holding it on target (military kneeling silhouette at 25 yards) for long bursts. It's all about being familiar with the gun and leaning into it when firing. If you stand straight upright when you pull the trigger, the recoil will tend to push back and it's easy to let the muzzle climb, but anyone familiar with the gun can learn to keep it on target. YMMV.

Bubbles
July 29, 2013, 01:40 PM
So if this is just a 'bug' you have, I'd recommend renting some full autos first to see whether this is a real desire or just a 'popping your cherry...' aspect.

I'm going to repeat this. We have a ton of post-samples in the safe that are for rent, usually to groups like bachelor parties and family get-togethers at the range. We'll bring out half a dozen subguns, including the Tommy, but it's usually one of the first to be put down in favor of the full-size Uzi or the MP5SD.

I don't care what machine gun you buy, due to our laws and political climate it's going to be 1) expensive to purchase, and 2) expensive to shoot. So, at least make sure you try before you buy, so when you do take that gun to the range you leave with a big smile on your face.

Jim K
July 29, 2013, 02:55 PM
One thing that distinguishes a GI or Lend Lease gun is that it will have the Army inspector's mark. If it went to England, it will also have both the British military proof (crossed pennants) and the commercial proofs applied when it was sold. But IIRC, all M1928A1 guns were military guns, most made by Savage (S- serial number).

The M1921 and M1928 take drum magazines (50 or 100 rounds) and stick (20 or 30 rounds. The M1 and M1A1 take only the stick magazines.

The semi-autos sold by Numrich during the AWB were altered to 10 rounds and the GI magazines won't fit those guns.

(FWIW, the letters used on TSMG mags (XX, XXX, L, C) are the Roman numbers for the capacity. The only magazines originally supplied were 20 round sticks and the 100 round drum; the 30 round stick and 50 round drum were made at the request of the military.)


Jim

smkummer
July 29, 2013, 07:05 PM
It appears that the Numrich (address of West Hurley or short for WH) 1928 top cocking Thompson's have the most shootabilty issues IF they have issues, not all guns do. They can be fixed and one of the solutions is to replace the bolt, lock and actuator with original GI parts that are for now available on the market due to the influx of some Russian owned guns a few years ago. The West Hurley model shown in the box is a M1 Thompson and of a simpler design and generally less issues than the 1928. Again, this applies to the west Hurley guns and not the original military guns of both the 1928A1 and M1 made up to 1944. The dealer is respectable but IMHO has prices that often set new "highs" on the market. About 2 weeks ago, an original military M1 Thompson was on the boards for about 2 days at 13K. if I didn't already have a military savage 1928A1, I would have jumped on that deal.

The Thompson was I believe my 8th full auto purchase as I always found other guns more practical for much less in price. Another poster hit the nail on the head when he rents out full autos, that people put the gun down and shoot others. The first time someone picks up a Thompson for the first time, they always comment on the weight. Its heavy. Good luck with your trials.

When we get back to normal on ammo prices, its at least 50% more to shoot 45 as it is with 9mm. I have several 45 full autos but I also and a reloader and bullet caster.

Tommygunn
July 29, 2013, 07:28 PM
The first thing to know is that there is CONSIDERABLE historical value in Military Thompsons. As in $30,000-$40,000 worth for one with provenance.

The earlier models used the very interesting Blish lock but the later M1 variants did not. Don't know if any Blish guns saw service.


Service? Blish lock Thompsons were all that was available when WW2 started and yes indeed they saw service in WW2. As long as they were in the inventory they saw service. The M1 version dropped the Blish device, which was always controversial.
It theoretically used a effect called "coefficient of friction" to slow down the rate of fire and make the weapon more controllable. A recent Military Arms magazine included an article in which some engineers tested this theory by altering the Blish by removing the "ears" which extend past the side of the bolt and ride in slots machined into the interior of the receiver. The altered Blish must be used to keep the actuator attached to the bolt. This altered Blish (the military called it the "H" device since it is roughly that shape) allowed a rate of fire about 1000 RPM. Standard was 800 RPM.
I unfortunatly forget how the engineers came to this conclusion but the thing did not work by friction. It worked and slowed the rate of fire down as stated, but the principle used was levearge. The angle the device moves up and down inside the bolt is a different angle than the grooves cut in the receiver. Thus, leverage.
The M1 lost the Blish as stated, and the M1A1 lost the hammer and firing pin and that gun operated by "slam fire" -- a milled "nub" in the face of the bolt acted as a firing pin.

Jim K
July 29, 2013, 07:39 PM
When the M1 was being designed, Savage engineers deactivated the H block, accepting the common idea that it did nothing. They found that without it, the bolt recoiled so hard that it broke out the back of the receiver. So they beefed up the buffer and receiver and the M1 worked OK.

Even with the changes, the Thompson was still a very expensive gun to make; the much derided M3 worked pretty well and was a quarter the price. The M3A1 was a very good gun, incorporating a lot of smart ideas (its clamshell construction inspired a handgun design by a fellow named Bill Ruger).

Jim

Sam1911
July 29, 2013, 08:30 PM
Blish lock Thompsons were all that was available when WW2 started and yes indeed they saw service in WW2.Good point!

Jim Watson
July 29, 2013, 08:47 PM
Lots of Thompsons at the bottom of the Atlantic, courtesy of unrestrained U boat warfare.
The STEN is cheaper and lighter anyhow.

A friend has one of those Auto Ordnance/Numrich Thompsons, bought in 1987 when prices had only doubled. It was not a good shooter ex Numrich. He bought a kit of upgrade parts. Turned out that all that was needed was the stouter recoil spring to make it shoot.

Another friend got one of those $250 M1a1s through his agency. He paid for it but it was bought on the official letterhead. Issued back to him for duty and training. Sweet deal.

Jim K
July 29, 2013, 09:25 PM
The semi-auto WH guns have a big disadvantage. Without advance primer ignition, it takes two men and three small boys to cock them for the first shot.

Jim

Jim Watson
July 29, 2013, 09:34 PM
It is not possible for me to hold to the high road and express myself fully about the emasculated semiautomatic toys sold to repressed subjects whose masters do not trust them with serious weapons.

Tommygunn
July 29, 2013, 11:19 PM
It is not possible for me to hold to the high road and express myself fully about the emasculated semiautomatic toys sold to repressed subjects whose masters do not trust them with serious weapons.

A feeling that has run through my heart & mind too.

AlexanderA
July 30, 2013, 12:25 AM
Actually, in most situations, semiautomatic fire is more effective than full-automatic fire. Therefore, in terms of civilian ownership, the "toy" appellation is more properly applied to the full-automatic guns than to their semiautomatic counterparts.

It's a little-known fact that in the 1920's, after the Army's experience with the BAR in WWI, there was a serious proposal within the Army to convert the inventory of BARs to fire semiautomatic only. (On the ground of effectiveness, ammunition consumption, etc.) This was sidetracked mainly because of the development of lighter semiautomatic rifles, eventually leading up to the Garand.

I would guess that if we didn't have the restrictions of the National Firearms Act, there wouldn't be nearly as much interest in fully-automatic weapons among civilians as there is now. Call it the "forbidden fruit" factor.

Jim Watson
July 30, 2013, 12:35 AM
Strange, considering that what the Army actually did was to eliminate semiauto altogether and set the BAR 1918A2 up for "slow" and "fast" full auto. A light touch on the trigger would deliver single shots in slow mode. But read 'Ordnance Went Up Front' to see what gunsmith Roy Dunlap and the outfits he maintained guns for thought about that gimmick.

leadcounsel
August 1, 2013, 02:25 AM
Having had ample experience in both full and semi-auto, here's my thoughts:
1. As a free nation and free men, we 'should' be able to own both with very little restriction.
2. For practical applications, full auto is only useful for either suppressive fire or mowing down a lot of people or perhaps against moving targets, like aircraft or vehicles. Neither are of much use to civilians.
3. I agree that for the serious civilian use, semi-auto is where it's at, and full auto is the 'toy.' Given the massive ammo consumption, most civilians can't feed full auto for very long.

NavyEngineer
August 4, 2013, 05:00 PM
I am trying to figure out what I want my first NFA purchase to be, as was discussed in another thread. I would probably only shoot the gun intermittently. I don't plan on needing one I can accessorize with red dots or other add ons.

So I am now wondering about the Thompson. I think it would be very cool to have a WWII Thompson for the historical value, in addition to being able to shoot it full auto when I wanted.

But I know little about them. What is a good source of info on them? What are the upsides and downsides of ownership? Can they be repaired if a part fails?
The best reference on the military Thompsons is American Thunder II by Frank Iannamico. Unfortunately, it is now out of print, but sometimes available at gun shows, etc. As already mentioned, you can learn a lot on the Thompson forum at machinegunboards.com I own and frequently shoot a Savage-built former USGI M1 Thompson. I enjoy shooting historical military firearms, and the Thompson is a lot of fun. Due to it's weight (over 10 pounds), it is very controllable in full auto when short bursts (3 rounds or so) are fired. I purchased a complete spare parts kit (except for the receiver), but would be surprised to ever need it. During military trials, they fired 10,000 rounds through test specimens without breaking any parts. I reload for mine, and would say that it's almost required if you plan to shoot it regularly, unless you are wealthy. .22 conversion kits are available and function relatively well, with the right ammo. I would pass on the West Hurley manufactured models, unless you have the opportunity to shoot it to verify it functions properly. I have seen USGI M1 and M1A1 Thompsons for sale for around $16-17,000 within the past few months.
Best of luck with your quest for a Thompson!

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