In about 2000, I advertised in The Thompson Collector's News to purchase an original Lyman rear sight for a Thompson. I got a response from a man in Colorado who allowed as how he had an extra one and would sell it. "It came as a spare part with my Thompson which came from the Ft. Smith, Arkansas Police Department." I bought the sight and am keeping it as a connection to the Tommy Gun I never got to see that day in 1967. The Ft. Smith TSMG is still in Colorado and I hope to get to visit it someday.

I next got interested in a Thompson in about 1983 or 84 when I was stationed at Bergstrom AFB in Austin, Texas. I heard that Auto-Ordinance was making them again and that a dealer near my house sold them. I went over and got a look at one (the first time I had ever actually handled one) and we talked money. It was $750.00 plus the $200 Transfer Tax. Still a lot of money for a USAF Captain, but it was doable. I thought about the situation and figured that since I still had at least 10 more years before I could retire from the USAF and settle down someplace and God only knew which remote and Godless places the USAF would send me to in the meantime (Korea? Turkey? California?) and that owning a Class III weapon and being moved all over the country or overseas could only cause problems, I decided to wait a few years and buy one later. After all, there was no hurry to buy one. They were in production again and there was no threat to them from the gun grabbers was there? Crime with registered Class III weapons was almost unknown, why would anyone want to screw with them?

In 1985 I pinned on Major's gold oak leaves and was moved to Shaw AFB outside Sumter, South Carolina. I was finally able to start adding to the gun collection and South Carolina was good hunting territory. In 1986 I was tapped for an assignment to HQ USAF in Europe at Ramstein AB, Germany and the road to Lieutenant Colonel was looking very smooth. Life was good. Congress was even getting ready to loosen up on the Gun Control Act of 1968 with the McClure-Volkmer Firearms Owners Protection Act.

As we all know, in what was probably the most mean-spirited act of legislation in the 20th Century, Congressman Hughes of New Jersey slipped in an amendment to McClure-Volkmer that stopped the registration (and hence the manufacture and sale) of any newly manufactured machineguns. I was totally blindsided like everyone else.  I called Mr. Hughes office in Washington to voice my complaint. A very polite staffer explained to me that Congressman Hughes was simply alarmed at the number of bank robberies that had occurred with machineguns lately and she allowed as how 'maybe someday we can pass a law to let collectors own these types of guns but we have to outlaw them now.  I didn't swear at her or bang the phone down like I wanted to.  I did calmly explain to her that that was EXACTLY what Mr. Hughes had just UNDONE and that the bank robbers were using contraband weapons anyway and that all Mr. Hughes had done was harm solid citizen gun collectors like me.  She honestly seemed a bit taken aback at that. Oh well, the rest is history. The NRA rolled over to get some relief from GCA 68 and let McClure-Volkmer get signed into law with the Hughes Amendment and the whole Class III world was screwed!

Not being very bright, which was obvious when I stated that I didn't see a threat to machineguns from the gun grabbers simply because they weren't being abused, even I could figure out what was going to happen to the price of the now fixed supply of machineguns. I figured that if I was EVER going to own a Thompson, now was the time.  I grabbed Shotgun News and started calling around and finally found a guy named Roger Small who owned "Automatic Weaponry" in Tennessee.  Roger and I talked on the phone and I found out that he had a small supply of NIB West Hurley 1928s and Mls and we negotiated a deal on a '28. 

One minor problem was that in 1987, South Carolina had a state law prohibiting ownership of machineguns.  Roger and I discussed this. Since I had kept my residency in Texas (no state income tax) we felt I could buy the gun, register it to the address of a secure storage facility in Austin, and complete the transfer.  Sounded good to me and I sent Roger a check and West Hurley Model 1928 TSMG was now mine. Roger sent me the ATF Form 4 and the fingerprint cards etc. to start the process.