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About Military Model of 1923

Thompson M1923

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#21 reconbob

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Posted 22 May 2020 - 05:02 PM

Hello All - I just had a long talk with Doug Richardson, who as many of us know was very interested

in the M1923 Thompson (as well as other models) and on one or his trips to Europe devoted a lot of

time attempting to track down the M1923.

 

First of all, it seems that there are two separate guns here being described as the M1923. The M1923

gun is the gun pictured in the M1923 catalog with a Hotchkiss bipod mounted about 3" behind the muzzle,

and an "in line" buttstock.. 

 

The other gun, which Doug refers to as the M1922 has a Colt R75 bipod mounted to the barrel right 

at the muzzle, and has a standard M1928 buttstock. 

 

Clearly the two guns are different so i can see why he chose the give them different model numbers.

 

After extensive research Doug determined that no M1923 Thompsons were ever made and that the

gun in the photo is a mock-up. There are no photos of the gun being fired. He also concluded that only

two guns were ever actually chambered for the .45 Remington cartridge - both of the M1922 configuration.

He tracked these guns down, one being in Florida and one in Illinois. Only two "in-line" stocks are known

to exist -one found in Denmark, one lost in Texas. The M1923 shown in the catalog was broken down and

sold as parts. It is unlikely that this would have been done if it was a working gun.

 

He says the M1923 model was made up for the catalog but was not a term actually used by Auto-Ordnance.

Auto-Ordnance started referring to various "military" models - military model, heavy barrel, extra heavy barrel,

etc.

 

Doug has in his possession, and for sale, an original Thompson M1922/23 barrel with the trunnion to mount

the bipod because back in the day he was thinking of making the barrels. He did not say what the price was.

 

So, that's the report from Doug/Belize.

 

Bob


Edited by reconbob, 22 May 2020 - 05:03 PM.

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#22 TD.

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Posted 22 May 2020 - 06:27 PM

Hello All.Clearly the two guns are different so i can see why he chose the give them different model numbers.

 

Bob,

I am glad Doug is doing well in Belize. We do miss him in the USA. 

 

The problem I have with Doug's designation of the "Model of 1922" is it is Doug's designation; not a designation from anyone at Auto-Ordnance Corporation in the 1920's. Those new to the Thompson community can easily misconstrue this Model of 1922 designation as a real Thompson variation. It is not. When Gordon started using Doug's nomenclature in his books, the problem was compounded.

 

For the record, there was no real standardization of the Model of 1923 Thompson Gun or the Military Model or the Thompson Gun with Bipod or whatever you wish to call these experimental guns. Most importantly, those three names can be found in known Auto-Ordnance literature. Only a few of these guns were produced (from existing Model of 1921s) and most are different in one or more respects. Auto-Ordnance was looking for a configuration and caliber that would sell. This did not happen and the program was abandoned according to George Goll. Creating a new model designation out of a few experimental guns that garnered no support in the marketplace and is not supported by known documentation is very misleading.     


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#23 reconbob

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Posted 22 May 2020 - 08:01 PM

Hey Tom -

 

               Yes, I am only the messenger. I think Doug used the "M1922" designation because - according to his research -

the first long/heavy barrel/bipod gun was assembled in 1922. Doug has in his possession (in California, not Belize) a great

deal of original Auto-Ordnance documents. To what extent these documents have influenced his conclusions I cannot say.

 

   Also to consider is that Doug's research is, by now, 30+ years old. Now, does this make it "better" because he was closer

in time to events? Certainly new discoveries can alter what has always been considered "the facts" which makes the whole

thing more interesting.

 

Bob


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#24 TD.

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Posted 23 May 2020 - 10:36 AM

Bob,

I applaud Doug's research efforts. This is a subject where there is very little information. If not for Bill Helmer's interview with George Goll in the 1960's, there would be a lot less information. Helmer referred to this Thompson variation as the Model 1923 several times in his now classic book, The Gun That Made The Twenties Roar. Obviously, Helmer repeated the term used by the many people he interviewed. My only issue is when Doug created a new Thompson model designation that is not supported by known documentation - something Doug's admits in his story. I agree with Doug about the differences between the few surviving variations. Auto-Ordnance was trying to make a salable product from a warehouse full of thousands of unsold guns. They obviously overestimated the market in 1921. This effort failed. To that end, I would like to know more about Doug's research that indicated or showed the first of these variations were created in 1922. Doug never cites any documentation or self-authenticates this statement in his story. If Doug will show the Thompson community or cite any documentation involving the construction of this model in the year 1922, he will go along way to convincing me there is merit to his theory.   

 

I would guess (not state as fact) that the failure of this program by Auto-Ordnance is why none of the original nomenclature markings were changed on the altered guns. It is noteworthy the nomenclature markings were changed on the future Model of 1927 Semi-Automatic Carbine, a somewhat successful modification of the still many thousands of unsold guns at Hartford. But I do enjoy the discussion. Many of my stories are the result of information posted on this great forum!  


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#25 allweaponsww2

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Posted 23 May 2020 - 04:20 PM

Hello everyone! Until I was not in the Museum of Artillery in St. Petersburg. I will post the report of the Soviet general - Blagonravov. In 1940-45, he published several books on small arms, which are popular and have historical interest in Russia (probably like Hatcher's Notebook in the USA).
 
The book published in 1945 contains 850 pages describing various weapons. So there is a detailed description of the Model of 1923.
I can assume that this model is located in the Museum.
 
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Edited by allweaponsww2, 23 May 2020 - 04:24 PM.

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#26 reconbob

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Posted 23 May 2020 - 08:17 PM

Your references are most interesting and I appreciate you taking
the time to,post them
There must be a website that can translate the Russian text.
The American version of this book would be The Machine Gun by George
M. Chinn. He wrote a lengthy and comprehensive history of machine guns.
One of the volumes dealt with Soviet weapons and was classified for many
years. The actual Chinn books are rare and expensive - especially the one
on Soviet weapons but now all these years later it can be found on line.

Bob
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#27 rpbcps

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Posted 24 May 2020 - 05:16 AM

Indeed, thanks for posting General Blagonravov's report.

 

With the translator app on my smart phone, I can take photos of downloaded scans and I thought it gave a reasonable translation, but the more I have tried to use it on the report, the less sense the translations have made.  :wacko:

 

Stay safe

Richard 


Edited by rpbcps, 24 May 2020 - 06:17 AM.

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#28 reconbob

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Posted 25 May 2020 - 07:06 PM

I have been talking to Doug about the posts pertaining to the "M1923" Thompson.
 
For those of you newer guys who may not know, Doug is one the notable Thompson enthusiasts and researchers
from what is, I guess, becoming the previous era. He has written and self published a number of Thompson books
and manuals (I guess the most recent being the "Workshop Manual") as well as manufactured a variety of Thompson
receivers and products which have become famous. (Barreling tools, Ultimax receivers, etc.)When he was younger
back in the 1980's he would travel to Europe every summer and a good bit of his time there was spent tracking down
and researching Thompsons and some of this is alluded to below. He sent me this response to post for him. 
 
Bob
 
By Douglas W. Richardson
 
The Thompson Submachine Gun Military Models seem to be the most misunderstood guns Auto-Ordnance
Corporation made.  I studied the guns that still exist and researched original documentation to draw my
conclusions. Today it seems that the procedure is to resurrect a faulty narrative and then spend endless hours
trying to find evidence to prove it.The result is that  every strange Thompson gets labeled a 1923.
 
I believe I have spent as much - or likely more - time researching the Thompson  Military Models as anyone,
having devoted over 30 years to this effort. Here are the results of that research....
 
The failure of the Thompson gun to generate substantial sales in 1921 and 1922 left the Auto-Ordnance
Corporation wondering what to do. There really was no market for the Thompson.  if it had been
available during WW1, it might have found its place in history.  WW1 identified the need for a light
auto-rifle like the BAR.  Perhaps a long barrel version of the Thompson with a bipod would have had appeal.
Such guns would have to be modifications of existing Thompsons  because it would not be cost effective to
develop of a new gun.  All the guns were marked “Thompson Submachine Gun”/“Model of 1921", there
would be confusion as to how to refer to a new model built from an exiting model.  The solution was to call
the envisioned long barrel guns “Military Models”. To my knowledge Auto-Ordnance never used the term
"1922" or "1923". The only official listing of the Military Models was the entry in the 1923 Catalog.
 A-O referred to the catalog gun as the “Extra Heavy Barrel Military Model.  The gun shown is referred
to by most of us as the Model of 1923.  The M1923 has the heavy pattern non-finned barrel with a Hotchkiss
Model 1922 Light Machine Gun bipod mounted several inches behind the front sight, provision, to mount
a bayonet, and an in-line buttstock.  This is where the fun begins.
 
There are two 1923 guns shown in the catalog.  There are two versions of the M1923 shown - one with an "L" drum,
and one fitted with a .45 Remington-Thompson box magazine  The guns shown are the same serial number gun
set up differently.  Therefore, the gun is either chambered for .45 ACP or .45 Remington-Thompson. It can't be both.
It is also possible that the barrel has no chamber at all.   The gun could be is a mock-up!  I say this because the
trigger frame from this gun was sold to the U.S. Army as a spare part, the barrel assembly has never been found
and in over 40 years of world wide searching, I have not found a single actual 1923 gun. I did find a buttstock and
a forearm.  At that time A-O required a minimum order of ten guns.  If any one had ordered ten guns, it is
inconceivable that not one can be found today.  If the 1923 Catalog gun was a working gun, why would A-O
have required a ten gun minimum order? They could have sold the one they had, if they had one?  And if they
had actually manufactured one, it would have been easy to make more. Did they need the ten gun minimum
order to cover the tooling costs before they would commit to making the first gun?    
 
What my research discovered was a totally different long barrel gun.  This one had a finned heavy barrel
(but not as heavy as the 1923 barrel), a Colt R-75 bipod mounted in front of the front sight, no bayonet
lug, and a standard 1921 buttstock with a Springfield swivel.  I found three examples of this gun in France,
Denmark and Russia.  There is also a fourth - but not intact - gun in the West Point Museum.  Another long
barrel gun is reported to be in China but I do not believe that it is an original A-O gun.  The West Point gun has been
modified, the most notable reworks being a new pattern buttstock and an attempt to locate the bipod further to
the rear.  My belief is that these four guns would have been referred to by A-O as the “Heavy Barrel Military
Model”, or as I named it, the Model of 1922 ,in keeping with the chronological years of introduction.  The
1923 Catalog refers to the  1923 gun as the "Extra Heavy Barrel", therefore referring to the earlier gun as
the "Heavy Barrel" makes sense. A-O does not use the term “variance”.  A-O calls the guns  “models”. 
Saying that the Finned Heavy Barrel/ColtR75 bipod/standard stock  and the Smooth Extra Heavy barrel/Hotchkiss Bipod/in-line
stock guns and examining the catalog wording and concluding that the two are the same gun is beyond me. 
 
Consider what probably happened.  A-O wanted a long barrel gun to compete with the BAR.  They came up
with the 1922 and went around the world trying to get orders. They demonstrated the gun (there is a photo of
George Goll demonstrating the gun.) and sold at least three of them.  Why did the 1922 fail to get orders?
Two critical reasons: 1) There was no provision to mount a bayonet at a time when all long guns took bayonets,
and 2), the .45ACP cartridge was too under powered. 
 
To solve the bayonet problem, the bipod had to be removed from the muzzle where the bayonet attaches.
The West Point 1922 clearly shows that the bipod was being relocated rearward, and the muzzle diameter
was reduced to accept a standard U.S. Army 1896 bayonet.  The Hotchkiss bipod trunnion was redesigned
to fit the smaller Thompson barrel and a bayonet lug was added. I was given access to the French gun for
a whole day which enabled me to make engineering drawings. I also aquired R-75 bipods in hopes of putting
this model into production..
 
At least two 1922 barrels were re-chambered to .45 Remington-Thompson and installed on standard 1921
guns to be used to develop the cartridge. The barrel on one of those guns was destroyed by a “gunsmith” trying
to convert it back to .45 ACP.  The other is in excellent condition and is in a collection. It is believed to be the
only gun in existence chambered for the .45 Remington-Thompson cartridge.
 
I have no idea why the 1923 was not a success. The 1923 was a good design and looked it. It could have been
the result of a lack of interest at A-O after the failure of the 1922.  In a post-war world perhaps there was not
much interest in new guns. I acquired 1922 Hotchkiss bipods, M1896 bayonets, and made buttstocks and forends
with the intent to make M1923 guns but I ran out of time to complete the project.  
 
My book, Thompson Submachine Gun - Models, addresses every model of Thompson gun that A-O sold
or hoped to sell.  You might find it interesting.
 
On a personal note, I am locked down in Belize since December.  I am still hoping to finish up a quantity
of Ultimax Thompson receivers that have been in work for a long time.  I am trying to put together a list of
all the remaining Thompson parts that I have because I need to sell everything that is left and close down.
If you wish to contact me, please use the telephone.  310-457-6400 9-4 Texas time. Thank you.


Edited by reconbob, 26 May 2020 - 09:40 AM.

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#29 rpbcps

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Posted 31 May 2020 - 09:21 AM

This morning I was looking through some old handbooks etc. and note that in the 1926 dated Model of 1921 handbook, and in the 1929 dated Models of 1921,1927 & 1928 Handbook, there is a reference to a modification. On the bottom of page 22 & continued on page 23, in both handbooks it reads:

"It is also to be noted that the Thompson Submachine Gun mechanism can be made up in quantities on special order for higher powered and pressured ammunition than indicated here."

It goes on to state, it is talking about military service ammunition, with heavier guns being provided with bipods.

 

When I looked at my 1930 AOC handbook, I noted that this paragraph has been removed and there is no reference to the heavier guns  with bipods.

 

Attached File  Heavier Gun with Bipod.JPG   167.51K   12 downloads

 

Inside my 'Pacific Arms Corporation' catalog, mentioned in earlier post, there is also an order form and a Price list. The price for the Military Model shown in the catalog, is given as $200.

 

Stay safe

Richard 


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#30 allweaponsww2

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Posted 25 June 2020 - 08:32 AM

Hello everybody! How about the fact that the Thompson M1923 was also tested for Germany in the 1920s. This is in the book "Sturmgever!" by R. Blake Stevens 2004. I did not know before that ...

 

 

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Reichswehr tested three types of weapons from the AOC in 1924!

 

1. Thompson Semi-Auto M1923

 

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2. Thompson M1921

 

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3. Thompson M1923

 

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#31 TD.

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Posted 25 June 2020 - 09:18 AM

allweaponsww2,

Great reserach. This is very interesting information. I would like to see the actual files regarding the testing to see if the serial numbers of the three guns were listed. If that information is available, I am surprised it is not referenced in the book. The serial numbers of the Military Model and Auto-Rifle would be noteworthy. 

 

It is not surprising Germany was testing the Thompson gun in the 1920's. Auto-Ordnance Corporation filed Affidavits of Export on at least 615 Thompson guns with a destination of Hamburg, Germany.

 

15 guns on 9/23/1923

50 guns including or in addition to 3 military guns 11/22/1923

50 guns on 11/8/24

500 guns on 12/11/1924

 

The dispostion of these 615 or 618 Thompson guns is unknown. This information is from the Thompson Reference Collection. 

 


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