By Dean Roxby
A Comprehensive Study of German Machine Gun Models
German Universal Machineguns, Volume II From the MG08 to the MG3
- By Folke Myrvang
- Published by Collector Grade Publications, Inc.
- ISBN 0-88935-542-8
- Copyright 2012
- 487 pages,
- 986 illustrations, many in color
- 8.5” x 11”, hardcover
I had planned to review this book along with an earlier book by the same author, together in one review. However, this was not to be, as the first book,
MG34–MG42 German Universal Machineguns, is now out of print.
With most multivolume books, the material is divided up between volumes so that each volume is a separate work and stands on its own; not in this case, however. There was a 10-year interval between the first and second volumes, in which the author collected many more photos and details on the various guns and accessories from many museums around Europe and collectors around world. Rather than re-issue a revised book, a second book was added. Consequently, the second volume often refers back to the first volume. All good if you have the first book when Vol. II states “See Chapter 3 for full details.” Not so fine if you do not have the earlier book. I hate to start a review on a negative note, especially when it is a quality book, but this does need to be addressed.
With that out of the way, let’s examine Vol. II. It continues the Part, Chapter and page numbering of Vol. I in sequence. Specifically, Vol. II begins at Part VIII, Chapter 28 and page 471.
Part VIII is titled, “Before the MG34,” and Chapter 28 is titled, “More on the MG08.” These sections look at various upgrades made to the MG08 between the two World Wars. Chapters 29 and 30 study the MG08/15 and MG13, while Chapter 31 examines (and is titled) “Two Early MG34 Forerunners.”
“Part IX: The Pre-Adoption Years” examines early prototypes, feed drums and optical sights, etc.
“Part X: The MG34 at War” is the real heart of the book, at almost 150 pages. This section studies all manner of accessories, mounts, variants, gunsmith (“Waffenmeister”) support tools and production at the different factories that produced the MG34.
“Part XI: Later Wartime Machineguns” examines the MG42 naturally, as well as lesser known experimental and prototype models such as the MG39Rh and the MG45.
“Part XII: Post-War Countdown to the MG3,” and “Part XIII: The MG3 Era” are a detailed study (106 pages) of the introduction and adoption of the MG3, an upgraded and modernized version of the MG42. It also includes an all-new chapter (Part XII, Chapter 49) on “The German Contribution to Russian Assault Rifle Development.” This seems a bit out of place here, but it is interesting reading. While the Russian version of the story is that Mikhail Kalashnikov designed the AK-47 single-handedly, the author feels that German engineers taken back to the USSR at the end of the War contributed to the design. These designers included Dr. Werner Gruner, the inventor of the MG42, Hugo Schmeisser, inventor of the WWI-era MP18 I, and six other weapons designers. These men, along with their families, were taken to Izhevsk, to work at Plant #74, Izhmash, along side Kalashnikov. This chapter is 22 pages long, and it is complete. It fortunately does not need to refer to passages in Vol. I.
Part XII, Chapter 50, “A Chronology of MG34 and MG42 Use after WWII” explores how the vast numbers of captured German weapons ended up in service around the world. “Part XIII: The MG3 Era,” covers the modern day use of the MG3, a direct copy of the MG42 chambered in 7.62×51 NATO. Many countries currently still use this updated gun, meaning that the basic design has been in service for 77 years. The progression from MG42, MG42/59, MG1, MG2 and finally the MG3 is well documented.
It ends with “Part XIV: Finale,” with Chapter 53 covering the MG34 and MG42 in civilian ownership, as full-auto, semi-auto and as DEWAT. Chapter 54 explains their use by Norway’s military. As the author is Norwegian, a good deal of this book is told from a Norwegian point of view.
An Appendix provides the best estimated production numbers, based on seen serial numbers from each of the German factories in WWII.
While the author’s references back to Vol. I is a bit distracting, it is not a deal-breaker. This volume still has much to offer, primarily information about rare equipment and accessories, along with many never before seen photos. It features the typical high quality Collector Grade printing, hardcover binding and solid research. At times, it does have a short, choppy writing style. This creates a sort of scrapbook effect, due to the paragraph-length sections of text on various items or subjects.
There are no immediate plans to re-release Vol. I. Perhaps one day both volumes could be totally revised into one large volume, but again, there are no current plans to do so.
An Informed Guide for the Thompson Buyer
An Amateur’s Guide for the Colt’s Thompson Submachine Gun (Or How to be an Informed Buyer in a Very Expensive Market)
- By Tom Davis, Jr.
- Copyright 2019
- ISBN 1794453814
- 193 pages
- Color photographs
- 8.5”x 11”, Softcover
- List price: $48.11
- Available on Amazon
There is little doubt that the Thompson submachine gun is a very popular NFA firearm and has a large following of dedicated enthusiasts.
It can be said that no firearms collection is complete without at least one Thompson submachine gun. However, not all Thompsons were created equal. Variations include the original Colt-made guns of the 1920s, the 1939– 1944 World War II Thompsons and the commercial West Hurley, NY, select-fire Thompsons made during the 1970s–1980s. It’s a rather long list and confusing to a person interested in purchasing a Thompson. There is also a rather large difference in the value of each particular Thompson, though none of them are “cheap,” and all are in the five-figure price range.
The Crown Jewels in the world of Thompsons are the Colt-made guns manufactured in the 1920s. While all Thompsons can be considered expensive, the Colt Thompsons are VERY expensive. A mint, well-documented Colt Thompson can have a value as high as six-figures.
There have been more books written about the Thompson than any other submachine gun. However, most concentrate on the history and different models. Mr. Davis’ book differs from most related publications as it is a very detailed buyer’s guide. The use of the words Amateur’s Guide are slightly misleading, as even the most seasoned Thompson enthusiasts can learn something new from this book.
During the time that the last Colt Thompson left the factory, nearly 100 years ago, many of the guns have been through several generations of owners and dealers. From the 1920s up to the 1980s, Colt-made Thompsons were not considered overly valuable, and many served simply as shooters. Those that were purchased, and remained, in police armories were simply tools for law enforcement. During this period, it is possible that parts were replaced, barrels bulged and worse. Often valuable original components were replaced by comparatively cheap and plentiful surplus parts from GI Thompsons made during World War II.
The book has 20 chapters.
Chapter 1: Books
This chapter provides an extensive list of the many books published about the Thompson. Such publications are valuable sources for learning about the Thompson.
Chapter 2: What to look for with a Colts [sic]
This section covers important points to look for when considering a purchase: original finish, replacement or damaged barrel, mismatched frame and receiver; and non-original Colt parts, pointing out that spare parts are rare and expensive (a buttstock can cost upwards of $2000.00, actuators $1000.00 to $2000.00). Any parts that are not original Colt manufacture will seriously devalue a Colt-made Thompson submachine gun.
Chapter 3: Freedom of Information Act
This chapter serves as a guide on how to trace the history of a particular Thompson through the FOIA, including a sample letter.
Chapter 4: Model of 1921
All Thompsons manufactured by Colt were made in the Model of 1921 configuration, lacking a Cutts muzzle compensator. All of the original production was basically the same except for some minor manufacturing changes and markings. An in-depth, detailed study of an early production Thompson serial number 133 is presented in text and photographs.
Chapter 5: Model of 1923
This chapter covers the Model of 1923, of which very few were made, in several configurations chambered for the Remington-Thompson .45 cartridge that was longer and more
powerful than the .45 ACP round. Like many variations of the Colt Thompsons, they were originally made as Model of 1921s.
Chapter 6: Model of 1921AC
The Model of 1921AC is simply a Model of 1921 fitted with a Cutts compensator, which was a $25.00 factory option, an upgrade introduced during 1927 to increase sales. To differentiate between the guns with or without the compensator the Thompsons with compensators were designated as the “Model of 1921AC” in sales literature. The receiver markings were not changed. The Cutts compensator proved to be a very popular option. A detailed study and history of Colt Thompson serial number 9468 is presented.
Chapter 7: Model of 1927AC
With lagging sales, Auto-Ordnance came up with a plan to offer a semiautomatic-only Thompson for customers who did not want their employees armed with a submachine gun.
Again, using guns that were originally manufactured as 1921 Models, Auto-Ordnance converted them to semiautomatic by redesigning a few internal components. To complete the conversion, markings of the receivers and frames were milled out and re-marked to reflect its Model of 1927 and semiautomatic status. An in-depth study of an unaltered Model of 1927, serial number 4953, is presented.
Chapter 8: Model of 1927A
A 1927A Model is the same as the 1927 semiautomatic carbine but without a Cutts compensator. Most 1927 carbines were fitted with compensators; an example without a compensator is unique. Model of 1927A serial number 5177 is featured; this Thompson was seized by the St. Louis Police Department. The original serial number was ground off the receiver. A crime lab was able to raise the original number, and it was subsequently hand-stamped onto the receiver. This chapter includes a detailed photo array comparing the original Colt 1927 Model semiautomatic components with components for a 1921 Model submachine gun.
Chapter 9: Model of 1928—U.S. Navy
The Model of 1928 was the “slowed down” version of the Thompson. The Model of 1928 featured a slower cyclic rate than the Model of 1921. This was accomplished by the use of a heavier actuator, a new spring, buffer pilot and buffer. Built using off-the-shelf 1921 Models, with the number 1 over-stamped with a number 8. Many were stamped “U.S. Navy,” and despite the markings, many were sold to commercial customers. The 1928 Model was available with a vertical or horizontal foregrip and the optional Cutts compensator. Featured is a detailed examination of a 1928 Navy Model, serial number 4328. Also in this chapter is a detailed look at the 1928 actuators and the different types of Cutts compensators fitted on Thompsons. Serial number 7805 is shown fitted with a horizontal foregrip.
Chapter 10: The Navy A
The Cutts compensator option is common on the Model of 1928 Navy Thompsons, making one without a compensator rare. Featured are two U.S. Navy Models of 1928, serial numbers 7620 and 5824, both lacking compensators and fitted with horizontal foregrips with sling swivels. Both Thompsons were purchased from Auto-Ordnance by the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Chapter 11: The Swedish 1928A
During 1940, the Swedish government ordered 500 Model of 1928 Thompson submachine guns without Cutts compensators. Unique to the Swedish Thompsons was the addition of a letter “A” after the model number. Featured is serial number 14555.
Chapter 12: U.S. Model of 1928 A1
Prior to World War II, the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army submachine guns were procured in odd, small lots. One large order for 951 Model of 1928 Thompsons was received. It is likely that those Thompsons were marked as “U.S. Model of 1928 A1.” An extremely small number of Colt Thompsons are known to exist with such markings. Pictured with the U.S. and A1 markings are serial numbers 14975, 11410, 11551, 14322 and 14184. Serial number 14975 was owned by Ellis Props and Graphics of Hollywood, California, and appeared in a number of television programs and movies.
Chapter 13: Those 1928 Navy Actuators
As noted earlier, one of the changes made to the Model of 1921 to the slower firing 1928 Model was the actuator. This chapter covers the three different styled actuators found in the 1928 “Navy” Thompsons. Actuators from several different Thompsons are discussed.
Chapter 14: 1922 Patent Dates
On the right side of Colt Thompsons is a list of patent dates and on most guns the “JHB” inspection mark. Generally, most interest is focused on the serial number, and the patent dates are often overlooked other than a cursory glance. This chapter reveals the minor differences in the dates and alignment on different serial number ranges.
Chapter 15: The Last Colts
There were 15,000 Thompson submachine guns manufactured by Colt. The serial numbers of the production guns began with number 41 made in March 1921 and ended with 15040 manufactured in July 1922. Detailed photographs of serial number 15025 are presented. This Thompson, a 1928 Navy Model, is the highest known serial number in the U.S.
Chapter 16: The St. Louis Police Department Thompson Guns
Starting sometime during the 1920s and 1930s, the St. Louis, Missouri, Police Department began to procure Thompson submachine guns, 29 in all. The inventory included 1921A, 1921AC Thompson submachine guns and several Model of 1927 Thompson semiautomatic carbines.
Four of the Thompsons in possession of the St. Louis PD were seized from gangsters operating in St. Louis PD’s jurisdiction. There are numerous detailed photographs and documents on the St. Louis PD and other Thompsons that were used by criminals.
Chapter 17: Thompson Gun Spare Part Kit Container
This chapter covers several accessories, one of which is the spare parts kit container, a rare and very expensive item that is often missing from hardcases. Since there were many collectors who had hardcases for displaying their Thompsons but were missing the coveted spare parts containers, reproductions were introduced to fill a void. Unfortunately, the reproduction kits were not marked to identify them as reproductions. The kits are described in detail as well as how to identify a genuine original parts kit container from a reproduction.
Chapter 18: Should I Shoot My Colts?
Colt-made Thompsons have increased in value to the point that for many, they have become “too valuable to shoot.” There is a good reason for this line of thinking, because if an original actuator ear breaks off, or a barrel bulges, replacement parts are rare and if found, expensive. This chapter offers some tips and suggestions for those desiring to shoot their Thompsons.
Chapter 19: Cleaning and Staining of Gunstocks
This section offers some tips on cleaning and restoring of old stocks and foregrips.
Chapter 20: The Last Advice…
This chapter provides detailed photos and advice on what to look for when considering purchasing an expensive Colt Thompson submachine gun and how to identify original Colt parts from GI issue and reproduction parts.
This is a very detailed, well-researched book. It is highly recommended for anyone considering the purchase of a Thompson or an individual who owns one or more. The text is well-written, and there are excellent color photographs. Spend a few dollars for this book before spending thousands on a Thompson.
• • •
Other works by Tom Davis, Jr.
Great Britain – The Tommy Gun Story, available on Amazon.com. List price: $29.99. Copyright 2014