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Mythological Actuator


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#1 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 10:27 AM

There is an ebay auction currently running regarding a commonly encountered British stamped Thompson actuator that poll vaults over the line of credulity. Swedish seller "lottalover" describes item #2185518629 as follows: "This is the first type M/1921 actuator, there are two types of M/1921 actuators. This is the very rare first type of which I have heard only 600 were ever made and delivered with the first 600 Colt M/1921 Thompson’s. Those parts are probably just tested once......"

I emailed the seller seeking new information I had not been privy to: I was curious as to what resource he cited to determine that this actuator is the golden fleece of TSMG actuators. All information I know of suggests all Colt 1921 actuators were nickel, as was the original riveted 2-piece Colt Navy actuator. The combination of British proof marks and bluing of actuator and buffer/pilot/spring suggest a modified Colt actuator, or a reproduction, made/converted in England sometime around 1940. I have seen examples of Colt Thompson's with two-digit serial numbers and none have blued actuators or buffers/pilots/springs. If you could direct me to the resource stating the existence of this "very rare first type of which I have heard only 600 were ever made and delivered with the first 600 Colt M/1921 Thompson’s," I would be more inclined to bid.

No word from "lottalover".

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#2 full auto 45

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 11:00 AM

This seller has had several of these for sale in the past months! As soon as one sales, he posts another. Does this "lottalover" have a unlimited supply of these? If they are original, he must have found the mother load. If they are original, I hope the buyers are getting them. After all they are coming from another country.
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#3 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 11:32 AM

Mike,
That's a good point about shipping to U.S. auction "winners". This Swedish Meatball gets more creative with each successive advertising of this endless supply of scarce "600" only produced actuators.

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#4 The1930sRust

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 01:01 PM

Arthur:

I've seen these too. In fact, I recall seeing that same auction at least as far back as last winter. What's his feedback like? I'd hope if they are not up to par someone with a background [in Colts] such as yours would have caught on and slammed him. Definitely caveat emptor I guess.
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#5 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 02:58 PM

Chris,
There are many sellers on ebay who do not know exactly what it is they have up for auction, and may innocently misrepresent the item. But these sellers, when contacted by readers with corroborated information identifying the item, immediately revise their auction copy. I don't think "lottalover" falls into this category seller, as evidanced by his indifference to my email query as an interested potential bidder.

His 100% ebay rating may be the ultimate example of caveat emptor. Oddly enough, two American bidders, "Chicago-Piano" and "Antonia2", both ubiquitous Thompson item collectors on ebay, seem satisfied with "lottalover's" description.

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#6 gijive

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 03:19 PM

Arthur,

The same individual has also advertised the same parts in the Thompson Collector's Newsletter in the classified ads. Does this lend credibility to his claims on the items, I'm not suggesting that it necssarily does, but he is apparently well informed enough to be aware of the Newsletter.

Prior to selling these actuators on Ebay he listed several Thompson parts from stripped guns. Actuators, butt stocks, miscellaneous spare parts, etc. I emailed him with a question a year or two ago and he responded. Maybe the time difference would create a slight delay in his response, depending on when you emailed him.

The British Broad Arrow mark appears on several British miltary items from the period. Maybe they were manufactured early on for British Thompsons ordered from Colt's. Who knows? They appear identical and pretty well made except for the blued finish.

Let us know if he responds and provides more information.
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#7 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 03:52 PM

Gi Jive,
Well, the auction ends in 2 days, and I emailed the seller on Monday. My sister lives in Australia. She takes more than 24 hours to follow up on an email from me only when she is ignoring me. Which is most of the time. The fact that "lottalover" advertises in TCN merely suggests that he knows where the TSMG market goes. But if nobody who read his ad in that periodical ever contacted him for further explanation on this voodoo actuator, I can only guess that they ignored the ad. Perhaps that is why he found greener pastures on ebay.

When anyone includes in their ebay ad the cop out phrase, "I was told", as a way to guild the lily, one can usually surmise that the person knows better but doesn't care. I mean an endless repository of these “ultra rare Colt original first 600 serial number TSMG actuators” sold by the same individual should sound an alarm bell to most buyers.

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#8 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 04:37 PM

Ask and ye shall receive.

The gentlemen in Sweden just sent me an email. It turns out that he is the former, not the latter type of ebay seller. When I emailed him initially, I neglected to specify that the cocking knob on the actuator remained blue on Colt 1921, 1921AC, and original contract Nacy 28, while the actuator below the knob is nickel. He is confused about what constitutes the two types of Colt actuators, and what models they originally appeared on. One of his "revised" guesses that what he sells is a BSA manufactured spare parts actuator for British Lend Lease 1921 Colt's, seems to be the best explanation. His English is actually better than most who populate the United States. Here is his verbatim response:

"I like the English language very much but please forgive me, because I am not an expert. I have only seen blued M/1921 and M/1928 actuators. Never a nickel one as I can remember, but I have only seen thousends of them all over Europe for the last 15 years. I will be more them happy if I ever see one of the nickel type you are talking about. Imagin the look of a blued Colt M/1921 TSMG with a nickel type actuator knob...

I do not know who made this actuator set, but I belive that it is either British Small Arms B.S.A. or Colt.

This spring is not blued.

Regarding those words: "very rare first type of which I have heard only 600 were ever made and delivered with the first 600 Colt M/1921 Thompsons,"

As you probably know, there were two types of M/1921 actuators. This is the rare first type.
I am sorry (and this will unfortuantly make me look like an amature), but I have not the time to search for those facts now. But I guess that it were Gordon Herigstad or Tracie Hill who told me, or I may have read it in a document that only around 600 pieces were made for the first Colt M/1921 Thompsons.
I am saying that this is the first type, but I can not say for sure who manufactured those parts. The future will show that.

Your questions were very interesting, thank you. And if it is anything I can help you with please let me know.

All the best

Richard Karlson / Sweden


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#9 gijive

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 05:01 PM

Arthur,

As I'm sure you are aware, BSA made several prototype Thompsons, under Auto-Ordnance license for European sales. I always thought the the parts may be made by BSA. I understand that Tracie Hill bought one of these actuators from Mr. Karlson and Tracie Hill's book examines quite a bit of the BSA Thompsons. So they must have sparked his interest.

Obviously, he's been in contact with Tracie or Gordon which is probably how he discovered the Newsletter. At any rate, they appear to be some sort of original British part for 1921 Model Thompsons.

It's nice that he answered you and provided the information you were seeking.
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#10 TSMG28

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Posted 01 August 2003 - 11:30 AM

Tracie and I both purchased one of these actuator sets from Richard. Tracie's comment to me was that at the price being asked, it was worth buying one no matter what the pedigree. When I last discussed this with Tracie in late April, he had not had the time to compare these against his collection to help identify them. Perhaps Tracie has since done his analysis and fed information back to Richard, resulting in the information he put on eBay.

The "early" reference probably refers to the angle of the front face of the actuator and whether or not it has a vertical groove machined in the face. The actuators that Richard is selling have this groove and I think also have the profile of the earliest Colt-manufactured actuators. That is probably what Richard is referring to in his eBay description, though I must admit it could have been clearer. To his credit, he does not say they are Colt-manufactured. My guess is that he has a lot of money invested in these when he purchased them from a guy in the U.K. (30 total), and he is frustrated that they have not been selling better either via TCN or eBay. Who knows.

Though I will let Tracie give the final word when I see him in three weeks, I suspect that these actuators were manufactured by BSA to original Colt specifications. The blueing on my set is very well done, but there are rows of what appear to be buffing marks running longitudinally on the top of the actuator. They are not bold, but they are there. I personally doubt that Colt would have left those marks visible. Just my two cents worth...

Tracie spoke highly of Richard and indicated that he has helped do a great deal of TSMG research in Europe. Richard is a long-time member of TCA and in my opinion a credible seller.

Roger
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#11 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 01 August 2003 - 01:48 PM

Roger,
I think the problem I had with his ad was the red highlighted portion that definitely leads the bidder to conclude that these are indeed Colt manufactured actuators. Richard did not indicate the B.S.A. manufacture until after I emailed him. I can't imagine Hill prompted Richard to suspect that these were Colt products. I don't think this is subterfuge on Richard's behalf, but as you pointed out, his frustration with trying to find homes for these parts may have influenced his better judgement when wrting the auction description. And the lighter actuator that produces a higher cyclic rate reduces the accuracy/control of the TSMG. It does not increase it. Is there anyone knowledgeable in here who can verify the legality of Richard exporting these parts into the U.S. under current law?


"This is a rare early type M/1921 Thompson submachine gun actuator set. Those parts will increase the rate of fire in any M/1921 – M/1928A1 TSMG, if you now have the “navy” type bolt in your TSMG. Your TSMG will be easier to control with this original type actuator, and it will deliver a higher rate of fire. This is the first type M/1921 actuator, there are two types of M/1921 actuators. This is the very rare first type of which I have heard only 600 were ever made and delivered with the first 600 Colt M/1921 Thompsons. Those parts are probably just tested once, there are no rust on those fine parts. They have been stored in England since the war and the bluing is 99%. The actuator together with its recoil spring, the buffer (including all fibre discs) and the buffer pilot. Those parts are ready to go, it is a complete set, very easy to install. The parts have no other markings then the British army “Broad Arrow” stamp. There are NO problems to send those spare parts by post to U.S.A. or any other country."
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#12 TSMG28

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Posted 01 August 2003 - 02:31 PM

Arthur,

I am certainly not an expert in importation law, but because these parts are not of U.S. manufacture, they are not covered under the Lend-Lease Act which is the source of must restrictions on TSMG parts being imported. Hopefully another member of the board can provide a more definitive statement.

As I said before, I haven't spoken with Tracie since April. Based on my conversation with him about these actuators, I agree with you that he probably did not tell Richard that these are Colt parts. My guess is he identified them as being manufactured by someone else (probably BSA) to Colt/Auto-Ordnance specs. I will know for sure in three weeks.

Roger
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#13 PK.

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Posted 01 August 2003 - 03:58 PM

These parts have been around for a whole and although I have not paid particular attention to them, I don’t recall them being advertised as Colt but rather as BSA.

As far as ‘21’s being more accurate in auto fire than 28’s due to their higher cyclic rate; this seems to be the common perception. It just so happens that this very morning I had both guns out and put them on target at 25 yards. Indeed the perception would seem true that the ’21 is more easily kept on target and I would have to say the groups reflect this some what. As long as the ‘28 is kept to two shot bursts and the ‘21 three, they seem to be capable of producing like patterns. If the ‘28 goes into three or four shots or the ‘21 five or six, then things start to open up, but the ’21 seems capable of adding additional shots to the burst with a smaller effect on the target group. Just one man’s observations of one mornings shooting.

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#14 rkr

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Posted 01 August 2003 - 05:56 PM

I too bought one of these sets from Richard. He was very nice to deal with and never led me to believe these were Colt. He had about 30 sets got them in England. The quality is great even if a repo. Mine has the board arrow and the buffer marks. Funny my buffer and pilot do not have any marks. I thought the British marked everything. He suspects these were made by BSA during the war. Anyway I was very happy with my purchase. Rob
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#15 Kevin

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Posted 01 August 2003 - 06:08 PM

I have to agree with PK about the lighter 21 parts being easier to keep on target. Even though the 21 bolt/actuator is moving faster, the amount of weight moved over time is less than that of a 28 bolt/actuator. I believe this makes it easier to stay on target. I have tried both 21 and 28 internals in my WH and I prefer the 21.
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#16 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 01 August 2003 - 07:57 PM

It is strange that the FBI ordered only 28N Colt's from Auto-Ord if accuracy with the 21A's or 21AC's was superior. Surely ammo supply was not a factor outside of military applications, so a higher rate of fire would not prohibit police and government agencies from ordering more 21's if they exibited greater accuracy. Most police even sent their 21A's/AC's back to Auto-Ord for the 28 upgrade. I'm not familiar with the firing characteristics of full auto West Hurley's. If they perform better with the lighter actuator then that's excellent. It has been my experience that the heavier actuator actually helps in controllability of Colt's. Perhaps I was unduly influenced by Roger Cox's impressions from his book:

"The 28N is slightly more accurate then the 21, and a bit more pleasant to shoot with the lower rate of fire. Accuracy at practical battle ranges for a submachine gun is almost the same, however."

PK,
The two Tommy's you tested where they Colt 21A's or AC's and Colt 28N or Savage etc?


It is strange that Richard departed from the descritpion of these B.S.A. parts when you guys bought them. But there is no mistaking the intent of the current auction ad.
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#17 PK.

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Posted 01 August 2003 - 08:08 PM

A Thompson of any make or production (models 21 & 28) that is made to specification dimensionally can be assumed to function the same for all practical purposes, within the constraints of the particular model, of course.

I was shooting a Colt 21AC and a WH 28, both had been blueprinted.

This is all subjective; there is no right or wrong.

It could be the LE orders were influenced by the governments acceptance of the 28 as standard; it certainly wouldn’t be the first case of the public following federal lead.
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#18 John Jr

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Posted 01 August 2003 - 10:34 PM

I thought it was illegal to import machine gun parts from other countries.

Guess not.

Jr

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#19 Murray

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 11:13 AM

If it is of any help, I own three 1921 Colt Thompsons, serial numbers 389,
586 and 708. They are all "G.G. Rorke" guns and all were on the "Eastside"
shipment to Ireland.
They are all in original condition. In each, the Buffer assembly are blued ,
the bolt is nickle and the actuators are blued all over and do have a concave vertical slot in the front to allow for the hammer.
Seeing that more than half of the first 1000 Colt guns went to Ireland it does make a joke of the suggestion that Colt made 600 spare actuators for the "Poms" in 1921.
I also understand that while at least 2000 guns first shipped to England in 1939 were made from Colt parts from the first 15,000, they were 1928A1's.

Murray.
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#20 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 02:30 PM

Murray,
Thank you for your invaluable input (and email) considering you actually (incredibly!) own several of these early Colt 1921A's. There are three versions of the 1921 Colt actuators: the machined slotted front face ones, the non-slotted ones, and the non slotted ones used to make the riveted-two-piece original Navy actuators. Only the Navy actuator is nickel below the blued bolt handle. Your appraisal of the origin of the British proofed actuators is fascinating when one considers the fate of most of the low serial numbered Colts back in 1921/22.

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