INSURANCE BY SAVAGE
After reading Keith White's recent article regarding Thompson Submachine Gun problems including a broken Colt 1921 actuator, and seeing a mint Colt 1928 actuator break at a previous All Thompson Show and Shoot, I thought it was time for this unnecessary carnage to stop. There is no need to risk rare original Colt parts in order to shoot a Colt TSMG.
Thompson Submachine Gun parts sets are currently available from: Sarco, Inc. Phone (908) 647-3800, International Military Antiques, Inc. Phone (908) 903-1200, and Ohio Ordnance Works, Inc. Phone (440) 285-3481. These parts sets contain every part in the TSMG except the upper receiver. I have parts sets from Sarco and IMA, both of these came with finned barrels & nickel steel bolts. The IMA kit also had a knurled actuator. Both parts sets are from Savage 1928A1 Thompsons. Stocks in both sets were British Lend-Lease type, but Sarco also included a new unfinished set of wood with the later style reinforcing crossbolt. Condition of both sets was good to very good depending on which part you are talking about, but all parts were fully functional. Most of the small parts in the sets can be distinguished from Colt parts by a small "S" stamp somewhere on the part. The parts typically come coated with Cosmoline or thick grease.
Finish was typical military, but both of the parts sets I received were blued, not parkerized. All parts interchanged readily with my Colt 1928 Navy upper receiver. Some parts of the grip frame look and fit better after some gentle stoning of tooling marks with a hard Arkansas stone - Brownells, Inc. Phone (515) 623-5401. Bolts, actuators, recoil springs, and buffer pilots seem completely interchangeable. As these are surplus replacement parts, I touch up worn and stoned areas of the finish with a cold bluing solution (Oxpho-Blue; Brownells). The results are good and the solution is easy to use. Chrome bolts clean up well with Flitz polish - Brownells, Inc. & Never Dull wadding. Flitz polish can also be used on blued parts prior to cold bluing to improve the finish luster and remove light rust.
Functionally, these parts sets are a boon. I shoot routinely without risk to my expensive original Colt parts. Using only the original Colt upper receiver and barrel with all other parts being surplus Savage, the gun runs flawlessly (I plan to change out the barrel as well). At the 1996 All Thompson Show and Shoot, over 1000 rounds of ball and tracer were fired from stick, 50 round drum, and 100 round drum magazines without a single failure of any kind.
Key to good functioning is to completely disassemble the parts set, and thoroughly clean off all of the Cosmoline / grease. I use a parts washer -Harbor Freight Tools Phone (800)-423-2567 -filled with kerosene and Gunk S-C Degreaser (I found it at NAPA Auto Parts). An electric parts washer really helps when cleaning firearms, especially a machine gun that has had hundreds of rounds put through it. Parts washers from Harbor Freight Tools are functional and adequate, but are not industrial quality; however, they have models starting at $60 putting them within the reach of home / hobby users. For reliable full-auto ignition, really clean the nooks and crannies around the hammer & firing pin thoroughly. I have been able to do this without disassembling the bolts by using the parts washer and an old toothbrush. After cleaning, polish off any burrs, rough spots, etc. with a hard Arkansas stone. The original wood was dark and dirty upon arrival. I cleaned the grease and any remaining old finish from the wood with Parks Furniture Refinisher, and then applied an oil gunstock finish. The improvement in appearance was fairly dramatic.
The parts interchange quickly and easily. I use the original Colt parts for display; and by simply exchanging the grip frame, bolt, actuator, buffer pilot & recoil spring can have the gun converted for s hooting in less than minutes. I also use the wood furniture from the parts sets when shooting. Prices for the parts sets range from $300 up; a Colt actuator, if you can find one for sale, will be at least $250. It is easy to see the logic of not shooting original Colt parts.