By Frank Iannamico
Nearly twenty years have passed since former President Ronald Reagan signed the infamous McClure-Volkmer Act into law. Although this piece of legislation had a few pro-gun clauses, a last minute amendment was added that banned all future manufacture of machine guns for private ownership. The law took effect on May 19, 1986.
This piece of legislation forever fixed the number of transferable machine guns in the system. Since that day prices have steadily increased as the supply of transferable guns has steadily decreased. Today the cost of a transferable machine gun can exceed the cost of a new well-equipped automobile.
Many Class 2 manufactures were well aware of the impending restrictions a few weeks prior to the enactment of the ban. Most of the manufacturers worked night and day to make and register as many machine gun receivers as possible. It was not necessary to assemble complete working guns, but the receivers had to meet a minimum stage of construction as set forth by the BATF. At midnight May 18th it was all over.
The firearm-collecting world is always full of unexpected surprises; often parts or part sets that are unavailable for years suddenly show up in the warehouses of surplus dealers. One example is the parts and part sets for military issue Thompson submachine guns. These parts that were once in a seemingly inexhaustible abundance were gone and the prices of the few remaining parts were increasing daily. Then, recently, hundreds of mint to like new M1, M1A1 and M1928 Thompson part sets were found. Who would have ever thought this would ever occur – sixty year old Thompsons in new condition!
Every now and then a small quantity of new, unused registered receiver tubes would emerge. Most of the remaining tubes were originally produced to be assembled into Sten submachine guns, but then just a few years ago most of the Sten part sets disappeared, shelving the plans to assemble the tubes into working guns.
More recently, Class 2 manufactures got creative and have submitted plans to the BATF Technology Branch to use the remaining registered receiver tubes for assembly into guns other then the Sten. Although many of the new applications for the receiver tubes were approved, there were restrictions placed on modifications allowed to the receiver tube itself. To date, the BATF has approved the Sten tubes to be made into Sterling’s, Lanchesters and most recently clones of the Smith & Wesson Model 76. Yes, the Model 76.
The original 9mm Smith & Wesson Model 76 submachine gun was first manufactured in 1968 with production ending in 1974. 6,000 production guns were built during that period. There were other earlier clones of the S&W 76 made. One was the MK Arms Company model called the MK 760 and another was the Global Arms/Southern Tool’s M76A1. Production of these weapons were just starting up as the machine gun ban was being enacted, limiting production of these submachine guns.
Lack of magazines was always a problem with the Model 76, with originals being scarce and proportionately expensive. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the easily adaptable Suomi M31 magazines appeared at bargain basement prices. Not only were the magazines cheap, most of them were in brand new condition. The magazines could be altered in seconds with a Dremel Tool to fit in the Smith Model 76 by simply removing a few thousands of metal from the front guide plate. Accordingly, with the magazine problem solved, the asking prices for the Model 76 began to increase.
The newest submachine gun on the market is the product of Ohio Class 2 manufacturer, and no stranger to the Class 3 world, Jim Burgess. Jim was a once a retail dealer for John Stemple’s original line of submachine guns, and also manufactured suppressors for them.
Jim’s new creation has been designated as the SW 76 (without the “&”). The SW 76 guns are manufactured from virgin tubes that were originally registered by John Stemple in 1986. Jim has enough parts and receiver tubes to assemble 100 guns. Jim said that he personally test fires each gun that he builds to insure proper functioning before shipping it off to the customer. All of the parts of the SW 76 will interchange with an original Smith & Wesson M76 except for the bolt. The bolt is not interchangeable due to the reorientation of the extractor and the Stemple receiver tubes have an inside diameter that is slightly larger than that of an original S&W M76, requiring two sleeves that act as bearing surfaces to be placed on the bolt to take up the extra space inside the receiver.
A big question is; where in the world would you find the part sets from the Smith & Wesson Model 76? Original spare parts for the gun just don’t exist. The answer; from semiautomatic copies of the Model ’76.
During 2001 the Tactical Weapons Company of Arizona was engaged to manufacture the parts and receivers for a weapon that would be marketed as the Omega 760 carbine, a semiautomatic-only copy of the Smith & Wesson Model 76. Initial sales of the Omega 760 were brisk but quickly dropped off. The disappointing sales of the Omega ultimately drove the decision to cease production and the decision left a number of parts that were never assembled into guns. Jim was able to purchase 100 of the surplus Omega 760 kits and convinced Special Weapons to produce the full auto bolts and the other parts he needed. The company agreed, and the 9mm SW M76 was born. Special Weapons still have a limited number of new Omega 760 semiautomatic carbines as well as part sets available for purchase.
One of the weakest areas of the original Smith & Wesson Model 76 design was its extractor, which will often fail after several thousand rounds. One substantial improvement that was implemented into the design of the SW 76 is the relocation of the extractor from the original 12 o’clock position to a 2 o’clock position on the bolt. Relocating the extractor substantially reduces lateral stress on the extractor effectively extending its service life. The extractor was also beefed-up for additional durability. The trigger, magazine catch and sear are easily serviced on SW 76, pivoting on removable pins that are secured with E-clips. While the sear on the original M76 is easily removable, the trigger and magazine catch are semi-permanently riveted in place.
The SW 76 uses the same magazines as the original Model 76 and, like the original, the plentiful Suomi magazine will fit and function in the gun with some minor fitting. The new SW 76 comes with instructions on altering the Suomi magazines.
Jim also has designed a suppressor specifically for his new SW 76. The powder coated suppressor uses standard 9mm ammunition and is designed to reduce its velocity to subsonic speeds. The suppressor will also fit and function on the Smith & Wesson M76, the MK Arms MK760 and the Southern Tool M76A1 guns.
I was able to get a first hand look and an opportunity to test fire the SW 76 at a recent shoot in Ohio. The SW 76 is indeed a dead ringer for the original M76. Jim brought along several of his SW 76 submachine guns to the shoot and all worked perfectly. He also brought along his new suppressor. It, too, was quite impressive and quiet even when firing standard super-sonic 9mm ammunition.
As mentioned earlier, the availability of these guns is limited to 100 pieces, and this is probably one of the last opportunities for buyers to purchase a brand new design and newly manufactured machine gun. Jim has a CD available that has close-up views of the SW 76 submachine gun, plus live-fire demonstrations both with and without Jim’s new suppressor. The CD even includes complete assembly and disassembly procedures. The cost of the CD is $10.00 and is free to dealers that send in a copy of their SOT. Dealer prices for the SW 76 and suppressors are available upon request.
For more information, visit Jim’s website at; wwww.jmbdistribution.com. Email; firstname.lastname@example.org
4291 Valley Quail S.
Westerville, Ohio 43081
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V9N5 (February 2006)|