Monday, February 22, 2016

It's ALIVE!! Thompson 1928 finally works!

Those of you who have been following this particular Class 3 hot mess know that I acquired a West Hurley 1928 Thompson nearly a year ago, only to have nothing but problems with it from day 1.

The gun is a West Hurley-produced Auto Ordnance. These guns were rushed out in the mid-1980's before the law took effect banning the addition of any new or old unregistered machine guns to the registry. AO was making these guns but didn't have access to enough GI surplus Thompson parts so they farmed production out to several local manufacturers, many of which just did a craptastic job.

The comprehensive article on this can be found here.


This article tells which parts specifically were farmed out and what problems they were known to have.

I expected teething problems, as my gun had been a safe queen and allegedly never fired. And I've been in the gun game long enough to know that when a seller says that he's never fired a used gun, it's often because he wants to plausibly deny the problems that he knows or suspects that it has. So I expected a bit, and factored that into my decision to buy this one at the listed price.

Of course I also took the seller--a dealer with a good reputation--at his word when he told me that all of the internal parts had been replaced with USGI parts. I found this not to be the case, and he wound up replacing most of them with real USGI parts when the gun went back for warranty repair twice. Or was it three times? After a while, I lost count. But he was paying shipping both ways each time and paying for a lot of new parts and finish work.

After the last time it came back, I took it out and again it was malfunctioning. Rounds would be stripped off of the magazine and rammed into the chamber but not fired. The primer would have a light dent, but wasn't being hit hard enough to set the round off. Again I contacted the seller--he did warrant that all guns that he sold would work reliably--and all I got back was a rude e-mail that he had forwarded from the alleged "gunsmith" that had been working on the gun. That jerk basically accused me of causing the problems by limp-wristing the if that's even possible with a ten pound firearm. He also told the seller that, in his opinion, they'd done enough work on this gun and given me more than enough USGI parts already. The seller seemed to agree, so I just gave up dealing with them and bought a new used USGI trigger frame for it. I then stripped down the West Hurley commercial frame and rebuilt the new frame using the few confirmed USGI parts that were in the old frame along with replacement parts that I bought to swap out every non-USGI part in there, down to the tiniest spring. I dura-coated the new frame and almost got it to match the receiver, and then put it all back together. I noticed right off that the magazines fit snugly on the new frame, whereas in the old one, they rattled like a maraca. Cause of the problems? Bet.

Yesterday I took it out to the range for a quick test.

It fired every round run through it with the exception of some Fiocci FMJ that it just did not like. This is apparently not uncommon though, as other Thompson owners report problems with their guns and Fiocci, too. Something to do with their cases. (And before you bomb me with comments about how your pistols work fine with Fiocci, so do mine. Flawlessly, every one. It's just this subgun that hates it.) And when it's running, this big heavy beast is smooth and quite controllable so long as I have a solid stance and a firm grasp on it.

I did have one magazine out of the bunch I was using that would not stay locked in the gun. That mag is getting tossed. Aside from that, it was a great runner in both semi and full auto, and finally I was able to walk off the range with this gun without having to cover my face in shame. Yeah...I'm happy. A few hundred more rounds without any hiccups and I'll pronounce this one my new "Go to" tool for emergencies.
Next thing: Get real USGI wood on this gun and ditch the glossy "presentation" wood that AO put on it.

As for the seller, supposedly a reputable Thompson dealer...I'll be charitable and not name him, but you can bet for damned sure that he won't be getting repeat business or any referrals from me.


  1. Thank you for sharing this story.

    When I joined my first ship in '73, the armory was still stocked with Thompsons, and M1 Garands. Unfortunately I never got a chance to fire the Thompson.

  2. I have a friend that has a case of NOS stocks, he would probably sell you one.

  3. That's just TOO freakin' cool!

    A friend of mine back in Illinois had one in 22LR, but I don't know who made it. All I remember was that a lot of the parts on it were chrome plated, and it looked like a toy.

  4. Good luck with it. Hope you still have it this fall, Brendan and I will bring lots of 45ACP, just no Fiochi.

  5. FInally!!! Yea!!!

  6. Oh, THAT was what was different yesterday. No blue language floating over the range.

    1. Don't you have a ladder to climb?

  7. One of my fantasy guns (never owned or could afford).
    No Eliot Ness dreams for me.


  8. Limp wristing a shoulder-fired weapon? Or did you put a Sig arm brace on it when testing? *lol*

  9. Anonymous12:10 PM

    How is it possible to limp wrist a Thompson?

    1. Exactly. And that's when I decided to quit expecting him to make it right and just rebuild it myself with all spec parts.

  10. Since it is not a collectors gun, I would think it would make the perfect house gun!

  11. I love a happy ending!