by Steve Reed

You will often hear Thompson collectors refer to "that gun is 95%" or "it’s a 97% beauty." What does that ‘really’ mean? What should I be looking for when examining a Thompson? Why are some guns priced higher or lower than others?

Unfortunately, there is no single answer to these questions, but there are some basic guidelines that you should take into account when grading a Thompson. Appearance and Originality are the two main areas that reflect the overall condition of the gun. Appearance is what you see on the outside of the gun; the exposed wood and metal surface and also include metal surfaces that are visible upon disassembly of the weapon. Originality describes the correctness of the internal parts, wood, and blued finish. Appearance and Originality combine to yield the Overall Grading of the gun. While not meant to be all-encompassing, this article covers the most important issues to consider while grading a Colt Thompson.



Overall Grading:

As we mentioned earlier, the overall grade of a Thompson is expressed as a percentage of the gun’s original condition. This percentage varies depending upon the person grading the weapon and is not an exact science. The N.R.A. "standard" for grading firearms is not being used by Thompson collectors; instead they continue to use the percentage grading system.

A good rule of thumb is to calculate Appearance and Originality as separate percentages, then average them together to get an Overall Grading percentage. For example, the Appearance is 90% and the Originality is 93%; the gun would be approximately 92% overall. This calculation is a good guideline but does not necessarily designate an exact percentage rating.

Experience is the best teacher when it comes to grading and collecting Thompsons. The best way to enhance your grading skill is to examine as many guns as you can. Gun shows are a place to start, but the one of best ways is to attend Tracie Hill’s Thompson Show in August. Keep an eye open for upcoming Thompson shows and events in you area. Reading TCN is a great way to stay informed of upcoming events. Networking with your fellow Thompson collectors is a great way to learn and enjoy the fascinating world of Thompsons even more.

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