You want one. Admit it. With the slipping of the Hughes Amendment into law on a questionable voice vote in 1986 — no Congressman, apart from Hughes (D-NJ), put his name to it — all of the explosion in Class III weapons quantities on the registry has been in short-barreled weapons and suppressors. With quantities of machine guns frozen in perpetuity, values have exploded. That means that for most of us, these gorgeous pictures are as close as we will get to some of these wonderful collector pieces.
Fortunately, Rock Island photographs them so well that we can truly enjoy the pictures. These photos are part of a much larger set they’re using to tease Premier Auction #70 in two months (5-7 May, 2017). We’ll just show you some of the machine gunny stuff.
To start with, here’s the model of Johnson we have not got. Yet.
Fun fact about the Johnson LMG: the receiver’s pretty much exactly the same as the less rare rifle. While the rifles were famously used by the Marine Raiders and Paramarines in the early years of World War II, the LMGs were used mostly by the First Special Service Force and to a lesser extent by the OSS, which was a catch-all for oddball weapons that the major services didn’t want. The magazine is a very unusual, long, single-stack curved mag. It works okay, but the LMG is strangely unbalanced laterally, i.e. around the longitudinal axis. It wants to bank left on you, although we’re told with experience you can learn to judge when it’s about time to change the mag by the decreasing left wing-heaviness.
Possibly the ugliest LMG ever was the Danish Madsen. It was very reliable, and was pressed into second-line service by the Third Reich. One of those is in the sale, and will sell for far less than this, possibly the most atrractive LMG ever (well, rifle/LMG/all-purpose bullet propulsion device), the German Fallschirmjägergewehr 42. Two variations of FG-42s were made; this is the
first second (thanks to Max Popenker and John McGill in comments, and Josey Wales by email). It was packed with innovations, and American postwar ordnance officers were obsessed with it and copied many of its features into the M60 general purpose machine gun — including its operating rod and bolt design, which itself was copied from the Lewis gun, haughtily rejected 40 years earlier by the ordnance officers’ predecessors.
And if you already have your Johnson and FG-42? Bet you haven’t got one of these:
By the way, all these pictures do embiggen with a click.
More pictures and captions after the jump. And all these fine firearms are for sale in the May Premiere Auction, the catalog for which has not been posted (nor the paper shipped to subscribers). We will surely tell you when that day comes.
Sometimes timing is what it takes for a weapon to be consequential. Anything the Nazis fielded in the war was bound to get lots of attention. But the French Army’s brief resistance still, to this day, diminishes respect for French arms, like this MAS Model 1938 submachine gun.
This compact firearm was full of clever ideas, like the two-leaf sight (inset left) and the magwell dust cover. The most interesting design features include the buffer tube inside the straightline stock, reminiscent of an early AR, and the use of a bolt at an angle to the barrel as a means of retarding blowback and reducing bolt velocity and rate of fire. That particular feature has never been copied (which might be because it’s not very effective).
If the MAS 1938 was one of the last of the first-generation SMGs (characterized by traditional firearms manufacturing methods: machined receivers and wooden stocks), the US Submachine Gun M3 and M3A1 were typical of second-gen SMGs (characterized by use of automotive manufacturing methods: stampings and screw-machine produced parts). This M3A1, produced like the vast majority of them during WWII by the Guide Lamp Division of GM (Ithaca produced ~33k of them in the mid-50s), is in stunning condition. Most of these are beat within an inch of their lives; don’t know how this one came to survive in such condition, but there may be a story in it.
The M3 and M3A1 differed in their charging arrangement. The original M3 had a sort of crank attached to the mechanism cover (sorry, forget the actual terminology) forward of the trigger. Rotating the crank used a mechanical advantage to lever the bolt to the rear. (All M3/M3A1 SMGs fired from the open bolt, in full-automatic only; the cyclic rate is slow enough that single shots are easy). The A1 went simpler still by deleting that crank and instead, the “bolt handle” is a hole of about 3/4″ diameter drilled in the bolt. Open the dust cover, stick in a finger, and pull back!
If it’s crude but it works, is it really crude?
The last of the 2nd Generation SMGs actually has one 3rd-Gen feature. This Beretta PM12S has a bolt that largely wraps around the barrel, reducing the length of the firearm. But unlike a true third-gen design like the Czechoslovak Sa. vz. 48 models 23/25 and 24/26, or the more famous Uzi, the magazine is not in the pistol grip, but just forward of the trigger, allowing the excellent ergonomics of a pair of Thompson-like vertical grips.
Open-bolt SMG safety is a real problem. The mechanical safety of the PM12S locks the bolt, and there is also a grip safety. Without such a feature, if the bolt is forward on an empty chamber, anything that snags the bolt and pulls it back can potentially fire the gun.
The PM12S would do better in the market, perhaps, if it was associated with more combat operations, but it did serve in at least one: the Italian rescue of US Army Brigadier General William Dozier in 1981. The Brigati Rossi terrorist assigned to kill Dozier in the event of a raid was clubbed over the head with one of these things, by one of the largest men in the employ of the Italian nation. The bad guy woke up in the back of a prison van, with a splitting headache that lasted for days. It’s an open-bolt submachine gun made of pressed steel, but you’d be surprised how solid it is. That Red Brigades terrorist sure was! It’s actually finished to Beretta standards, a personal favorite from among the world’s lesser-known subguns.
And finally, at the smallest end of SMG world, there’s an American 180, a .22 LR submachine gun that used the design language of the Thompson and a 177-round pan magazine reminiscent of a Lewis (but usually made of injection-molded plastic) to offer police a strange and intimidating item. It was also often furnished with a red laser, specifically for intimidating criminals into surrendering peacefully; it flopped in the cop market, but people bought them as range toys. The early laser was an enormous accessory and is seldom seen today. Despite the “American” name, the ones we’ve seen were all made in Austria, and there was (briefly) a semi-auto version.
Moving up a little in the scale of things, here’s a Japanese 6.5 mm Type 11 light machine gun. American ordnance officers had a towering contempt for this, and other, Japanese LMGs. American combat soldiers were much more respectful. This particular one comes with its provenance screwed right to it.
Another historic LMG, and one likely to sell for nosebleed numbers thanks to its SEAL history, is this 5.56 mm Stoner 63 System in the LMG configuration (which is how the VN-era frogs usually ran ’em). This one clearly did not get dragged around MR I by a bunch of swamp-loving amphibians, but looks as if it was set aside the day it was made.
The Stoner 63 evolved from the AR-18 in the direction of a truly modular weapons system that could be used as everything from short-barrelled SMG to tripod-mounted MG with a T&E mechanism, to solenoid-fired fixed aircraft gun, and any other permutation that could be imagined. Gene Stoner hired on with Cadillac Gage Corp. to develop this weapon, yet despite a brilliant concept, Stoner’s talent, and CG’s skill with promotion and lobbying, it didn’t catch on. Perhaps it was too far ahead of its time, but a few SEALs still remember it vividly in their well-earned retirements.
Finally, there are very, very few transferable AKs on the NFRTR, and this one appears to be an even rarer Chinese Type 56-1, probably separated from its Vietnam story. (There may be some provenance with it; so far, Rock Island Auctions has only posted the photos). Again, the fine condition of this select-fire rifle stands out. (Chinese guns have a remarkably rich and deep blue, but it’s very vulnerable to rust in field conditions).
And that’ll be all for today.
Oh, ohhhh-kay, we’ll show you one more. Actually, we’re not sure this should be a Class III / NFA weapon at all; we’re under the impression it’s just a Title I firearm. Regardless, here’s one of the true White Rhinocerosi of the big-firearm-game hunter: an original Pedersen Device. Complete wth the not-terribly-rare correct modified (“Mark I”) Springfield ’03, the ultra-rare pouches for bolt and ammo, a box or rare ammo, and some other accessories. Yes, this will sell for big money.
“But Hognose,” you say. “I cannot afford rare Class III weapons that cost more than some people’s houses. My wife would throw me out and my Pedersen Device and I would be living in a Kelvinator box on a traffic island.” Yes, of course. But you did enjoy looking, didn’t you?
And, for normal mortals, don’t feel too left out. This Premiere Auction is for the high rollers, in May. But on 23 March, there’s an online auction, where the Johnsons are all Iver Johnsons, and there are classic Smiths, Colts and other firearms, but nothing where you’ll be bidding against the New York Museum of Modern Art.