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Colt 21 Restore - Suggestions?

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I am sorry to hear about the fire that destroyed your home. I also hate to hear about the damage to your 21 Colt Thompson. I don’t know too much about fire damaged firearms but it is a fact that guns and fires do not go well together. It would seem to me that if the fire was hot enough to burn away the stocks, this Thompson was in a pretty hot fire. Aside from the springs being damaged, was the bronze Blish lock melted or deformed in any manner. How about the rear Lyman sight? Or the actuator? What damage, if any, did these parts suffer? I would think these three fairly weak parts would give you some type of indication of how hot the fire was that consumed your home and Thompson. The barrel may also give some indication. Did it bend in any manner?


I have never heard of any test that will allow someone to tell with any degree of accuracy if the heat treatment of a firearm that has been in a fire is unaffected. Perhaps someone on this board knows something about this or where to go for professional help. I have read older stories from time to time about receivers being re-heat treated, but it seems most of these treatments involve a lot of guess work. I would certainly get with a gunsmith and obtain all the information possible about how to tell if a weapon has been structurally damaged by fire and, if so, what repairs can be done to correct the problem. I suggest speaking not to just a gunsmith, but a gunsmith with a strong background in metallurgy.


I have no doubt your Thompson can be restored cosmetically and would make a fine display piece. It also has some value. However, I would have reservations about putting a Thompson (or any firearm) up to my face and pulling the trigger knowing it has been involved in a fire – unless there is an industry standard method of detecting and, if necessary, repairing any damage. The real danger is not injuring yourself if the gun should come apart during a drum dump, but injuring a bystander.


Good luck with your efforts to repair this Colt Thompson. I know everyone would like to see pictures. Based on a little limited research, I am guessing your 21 Colt Thompson is NO 5112. If I am right, I will gladly share with you how I figured it out http://www.machinegunbooks.com/forums/invboard1_1_2/upload/html/emoticons/biggrin.gif Please keep us informed of the progress and thanks for the post.

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Elementary, my dear Watson. #5112 is the only Union Correctional Institution TSMG that was subsequently purchased by Cox in 1974.


As to the degree tlturbo's weapon was damaged in the fire, it would seem prudent to assume that this TSMG should live out the remainder of its life as a display piece. Should it be "rebuilt and refinished," and even sold, the perspective buyer would have to be informed of the fire damage. Otherwise, One can only imagine the harm that might come to the unsuspecting owner who would no doubt think of this piece as a "shooter" since there wouldn't be any harm to the condition of the firearm with all of its aftermarket parts.

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it would seem prudent to assume that this TSMG should live out the remainder of its life as a display piece.


I have a better idea. Torch cut your gun into 20 pieces. Since you had a fire and your gun burned up, you have no right to every try to restore it and shoot it. No TSMG that was ever in a fire has ever been restored before anyway (not!). Certainly you should not and could not restore this and ever sell it. Please dont. You might hurt the colt market if you did. Please don't restore it for anything but a display gun. What were you thinking even posting a how to restore a colt burnt up in a fire post anyway. Whats WRONG with you tlturbo? Did you actually think you could restore a colt TSMG and not be placed on the "REGISTRY OF SCREWED UP COLT TSMGS?" OPPS!!! You posted here and they figured out your SN and now your gun is forever tainted with a stigma.


(not a personal attack, but the colt freaks like AF are going to attack you on this board)



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One of the first things we look for is the condition of the springs; if they have gone soft, then the rest of the gun likely has as well. This is a problem in some parts that require a degree of hardening, but not in others. Colt Thompson receivers are hardened but WH are not- the gun will not explode if fired. That said, the receiver (and other parts) can be re hardened. There are standard tests employed to determine the hardness of all materials and the parts can be checked and re treated if necessary; this is done all the time, no mystery.


If the parts got hot enough to ‘bend the barrel’ or ‘melt the lock’, carbon would have been burned out of the surface of the steel. The biggest difficulty here is that the out side surfaces will have scaled and it’s a big mess, the actual physical size of the parts being changed by the conversion of the outer surfaces to oxides. I would hope this is not he case; a gun in that condition would not be a good candidate for full restoration, only as a shooter, and perhaps not even then.


One of the ugliest results of a fire is the formation of highly corrosive compounds created by the combustion of various materials and when this ‘smoke’ gets on the metal, it can deeply pit it very quickly, especially if humidity is introduced to the mix. If you ever have guns in a house that burns (but are not consumed by the flames), you must thoroughly clean them very quickly (I’m taking minutes here) to prevent this ugly smoke from working its ways.


The gun in question will have to be examined by a competent authority and tested to determine what degree of restoration is possible. It would make no sense to sink excessive amounts of money into the project unless the damage was minimal, but it is likely it could continue to serve as shooter.


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I spent a half hour posting a reply then went back and deleted it. One or two posts ticked me off the wrong way but I decided to let it ride. And John Jr, I appreciated you comments - I understood them as meant and I had come to that conclusion about a few people already. But thanks to everyone on this board who has tried to help me out.


The gun isn't in that bad a shape. To answer TD - the block, barrel, Lyman sight and actuator were fine (although I banged up the actuator freeing up the bolt. BUT just to be safe, I have talked to a Class 2 guy with metalurgy experience who will test the receiver and if necessary, have it reheat treated. I found out this past week that the guy that has had it for so long has been accumulating the parts that were needed and got Colt parts where required. The only outstanding issue after the gun is restored is that of it not having an original finish. I can live with that. I will have a 21, I paid $2500 for it, got a LOT more on insurance settlement than that and don't plan on selling it.


So again, thanks to everyone that has offered suggestions, contacts, ideas, etc.


And to those who are SOOOOOO concerned that I will attempt to pass this off under the table as an original Colt 21, here is what you have been waiting for - YES - it is # 5112. There, now you can tell the world.



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It interesting how each point of view was given to the owner of the fire exposed 21 - In spite of all the comments and labeling of the gun - its still a Colt 1921.


After he restores the gun it will not be without value. If described as restored I am sure he will find buyers standing in line to purchase it.. If he even wants to sell the gun.


How many times have we seen Colt 21 described as "mint or 95%" when they are restored guns and buyers still pay a price for the 21 because it is a 21.



Some what like Chev Vets - even restored they bring a fair amount of money. There are only so many 21's out there... and you have one!


My advice - restore the gun - enjoy the gun - if you sell - be up front and buyers will be standing in line.

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