The Top 10 Machine Guns With Sale Prices
By Joel Kolander
Ever since we published (and recently updated) our post on the Top 10 M1 Garand rifles sold by Rock Island Auction Company, people have asked, “What about the Top 10 machine guns?” Given their fun factor, fixed availability, and resultant high prices, this is a pretty natural question to have. Some of the models on this list will be found in our upcoming December 2018 Premiere Firearms Auction, meaning a list update in the near future. Some of these models populate several spots in the Top 10, so instead of showing you multiple instances of the same model, we’ll show the top example, list the others, but move on to others for the sake of variety. So without further ado, here are the Top 10 Machine Guns ever auctioned by Rock Island Auction Company.
10. German MP43/1
Details on the Mp43/1 are mixed even in serious books on the topic. Some sources state that after the MP43 project had been cancelled a second time by Hitler, it continued secretly as the MP43/1. Others state that the MP43/I was a transitional model from the Mk.B.42 to the MP43, using leftover parts from the Mk.B.42 until they were no longer available. The least plausible ones state that it was produced simply as a variant of the MP43. Whatever its genesis, it differs only slightly from the MP43 by utilizing a different threading at the muzzle, a stepped barrel, and a different front sight. The threads allowed it to use a specialized “Rifle Grenade Device 43” as opposed to the rifle grenade devices already in use on the Kar 98K (which required a different barrel diameter). For a secret device, the MP43/1 was truly a poorly kept secret. 1,500 had been manufactured by September 1943 and their production continued to grow: 5,000 in February 1944 and even 9,000 by that April, when the weapons began to be stamped MP44. By that summer the weapon had Hitler’s blessing and a desperate order was given to ramp up production.
9. German StG-44 with Krummlauf Device
Translating as “curved muzzle,” the Krummlauf device was another one of Germany’s late war “wonder weapons” which along with much of their self-glorifying luxuries, ultimately took valuable time and materiel away from the war effort. Essentially a periscope mounted on a curved barrel, the Krummlauf was manufactured in three varying degrees of angle, and purportedly originated so troops in armored vehicles could defend their rides from enemy infantry. These vehicle mounted versions were angled at 90° and could be poked out of special ports or were mounted inside the vehicle using a turret-like port. Those given to German infantry were bent at 30°.
These devices suffered from several set-backs, most notably a short life-span. The bullets traveling the curved barrel put an enormous amount of stress on the metal and the 30° version is said to only have had a 300 round lifespan before bullets began blowing out the side of the barrel. Sharper angles resulted in even fewer rounds required for this catastrophic failure. Another shortcoming of the device was that the bullets fired from it tended to tumble and/or fragment badly. At short range, this may not render the device completely ineffective, but it would greatly shorten the effective range for infantry troops.
20,000 of the units were ordered, but approximately 500 were ever delivered. Krummlauf barrels are a rare treat for a military collector as is the late-war StG-44 marked machine gun it accompanied.
8. Johnson M1941 Light Machine Gun
With the presence of the Thompson submachine gun and the BAR, one might not think the United States was looking for another full-auto option upon entering World War II. In fact, they weren’t, but there were several groups of fighting men who were. The Army troops were prioritized to receive the newly issued M1 Garand rifles, which left many other non-Army fighting units with the grim prospect of fighting in the Pacific Theater using surplus M1903 and M1917 rifles. Thankfully for groups such as the USMC Raiders, Paramarines, and the joint Canadian/American 1st Special Services Force, they were able to put these “also-ran” weapons to good use.
Using many of the same parts as the not-adopted Johnson semi-automatic rifle, the Johnson LMG could fire 900 rounds per minute from its 20-round, side-mounted box magazine. While both Johnson’s semi-automatic rifle and LMG were not adopted by the United States, the Netherlands ordered 30,000 of the rifles to potentially defend their troops in the East Dutch Indies (now Indonesia) from Japanese invasion.
Long story short, Pearl Harbor was bombed and the orders of Johnson rifles and LMGs could no longer be delivered through Japanese captured territory. Marines in the Pacific, looking anywhere for additional firepower, found it in the undelivered Johnson arms. The weapons were extremely well-received and reports from the field were mostly glowing, but once they could be replaced with more standard small arms, they were. Out of the estimated 9,500 made, existing stock after World War II was eventually sold to other countries or unfortunately destroyed.
7. German MP-44 Sturmgewehr
We’ll talk about this history and origin of this model in #2 of this list. However, we can discuss the name changes a bit. The MP-43, MP43/I, MP-44, and StG-44 are a nearly identical gun which was occasionally renamed to hide the gun’s development from Hitler, who halted the project on more than one occasion. In 1944, he allegedly ordered it be given priority in production in an attempt to turn the tide of the war back in Germany’s favor, also renaming it from the maschinenpistole 44 (machine pistol) to sturmgewehr 44 (assault rifle).
The MP43 for unknown reasons was redubbed the MP-44 on April 25, 1944 and rechristened again as the StG-44 on October 22, 1944. However, the changes didn’t make it to the assembly lines as quickly as the names themselves changed. The MP43 was produced from December 1943 until 1945, the MP44 was made from 1944 through the war’s end, and the StG44 was only made in 1945.
This is one of the best, all-original, matching late war MP44 assault rifles we have ever offered.
6. Stoner 63A
You may not see another one of these. This is the Knight Armaments Company 63A, a recreation of Eugene Stoner’s 63 weapon system. Less than 100 were manufactured and even fewer were released for sale. Stoner, the same man who developed the original M16/AR15 rifle, proposed a firearm that possessed a “base” receiver that could be reconfigured into different weapons based on needs or theater. Using only 15 different parts that armorers could easily switch out, such as the barrel, feed tray, stock, handguard, top cover, etc, the Stoner 63 could be converted into a rifle, carbine, LMG, or fixed position machine gun. His weapons system saw use until 1982 when it was eventually replaced by the M249 SAW.
This particular gun was created when KAC obtained original Cadillac-Gage parts and recreated the 63 sometime in the late 1970s/early 1980s. KAC is an apt manufacturer to recreate such a rifle as they were one of, if not the, Army’s leading design companies in the 1980s.
5. Colt Model 1921/28 Navy Overstamp Thompson Machine Gun
This is where things begin to get repetitive on the Top 10 list. There are two 1921/28 U.S. Navy Overstamp Thompson submachine guns, offered in two consecutive auctions, that each sold for $74,750. The other was sold in December of 2017. For brevity’s sake we will just list them once here, and in the interest of full disclosure there is also a 1928 Navy Thompson (no overstamp markings nor Navy affiliation) that sold for $63,250 in April 2015.
This variation of the Model 1921 occurred when Colt was awarded a contract to provide Thompson machine guns to the U.S. Navy (and in turn the Marine Corps). For 500 gun contract the Navy requested several changes to the firearms. They wanted a lower rate of fire to aid controlability and to conserve ammunition. This was achieved by adding weight to the actuator. Also desired was the Cutts compensator as seen on the M1921AC. It may have been a small contract, but it kept the company alive. According to firearms author Bruce Canfield, “…the guns needed to fill the Navy order were from the original batch of 15,000 guns made by Colt in 1921.” Thus all Colt had to do to provide the Navy new guns was make the Navy’s changes, stamp the Navy’s name on it, and slap an ‘8’ over the ‘1’ in the model year. Viola!
4. Colt Model 1921 Thompson Machine Gun
This particular Thompson came with an original 1934 registration from the Dayton Ohio Police Department stating that it had been “confiscated from bank robber,” and whispers that bank robber had been none other than John Dillinger himself. Some hefty research into that claim of provenance resulted in a lengthy, two-part article (part 1 here, part 2 here) digging deep into its history. We discovered that while it was not confiscated from Dillinger, it was definitely involved in aspects of his life and is extremely likely to have been used to escort him from Dayton to neighboring Lima. Collectors and historians appreciated the effort and forthright coverage of the Thompson and its time at RIAC ended with an $80,500 realized price – far beyond the price of a standard Model 1921.
Model 1921 Thompsons regularly draw high prices at RIAC and several are not detailed here to avoid duplication. However, we will list them for accuracy:
- Model 1921AC: sold in April 2015 for $63,250. No accessories with it, but arguably the highest condition.
- Model 1921 early production: sold in September 2017 for $63,250.
- Model 1921 issued to the Columbus, Georgia PD: sold in September 2018 for $63,250.
- Model 1921 early production: sold in September 2014 for $57,500.
One of the most feared weapons on the Word War II, the MG-42 earned the nickname “Hitler’s Buzzsaw” for troops’ inability to distinguish individual rounds being fired. Its cyclic rate of around 1,200 rounds per minute made this possible, and the gun’s easy and inexpensive manufacture made it an instant success. Advanced features such as quick change barrels and the new delayed roller-block locking system influenced arms design for decades to come. Over 400,000 were produced and were an integral part of the German war machine.
Coming from the esteemed Allan Cors Collection, this MG-42 LMG came ready for the range with its mount and drum mag. The gun itself was correct and extremely high condition with 98% of its finish.
2. World War II German MKb.42(H)
Grandfather of the German assault rifles, which in turn gave rise to all other assault rifles, the M.Kb.42 holds a special place in the history of firearms development. Every nation in the world that currently uses a carbine length rifle with an intermediate cartridge owes it their thanks. With development beginning as far back as 1935, it was the German Army’s answer for a gun with higher capacity than their standard bolt actions, a longer range than pistol-caliber carbines such as the MP-40, but without the unnecessary long range capability as the full power 7.92x57mm rifle round. Few battles were fought beyond 300 yards, thus the 8mm Mauser rounds, so necessary in the trench warfare of the Great War, were now not as practical, adding extra weight and reducing weapon controllability. Enter the maschinenkarabiner 1942. Firing the newly developed 7.92×33 Kurz round it was too short for bayonet fighting, lacked the required accuracy for sniping, and was too weak to fire a rifle grenade. However, it excelled at accurate, controllable fully-automatic fire for the distances most commonly found in firefights, could provide covering fire like a machine gun, and could outreach the Russian submachine guns, and thus became a favorite for front line troops to whom it was issued. Only 10,700 were made with many being lost on the Eastern front. It would go on to see further developments as the MP-43, MP-44, and eventually the StG-44.
The M.Kb.42(H) shown above sold for almost $150K back in 2014. It was in 98% condition and was in all original condition including the scope, mount, sling, and even the magazine. To show the growing market for these guns, another excellent condition (95%) M.Kb.42(H) with only its sling, sold in April 2016 for $161,000. Should the higher priced one be shown here? Probably, but then you wouldn’t get to see the early ZF41/1 scope or its super rare “sheet metal” scope mounts.
1. German FG-42
The FG-42 (fallschirmjaegergewehr 42) is almost early enough to take the title as the “Grandfather of the Assault Rifle” away from the M.Kb.42, but its development began just several years after the legendary arm. Taking its name from the German Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers), the rifle was specially designed for the requirements of the Luftwaffe’s airborne infantry. Much like the BAR, it combined the firepower of a machine gun into a rifle to be wielded by a single man. However, unlike the BAR it did so in a form shorter and no heavier than the standard rifle in use at the time, the Kar 98k.
It is truly an accomplishment of design and engineering, however it was never intended for an infantry role/mass production as the M.KB.42 was. In fact, it suffered from several flaws that became apparent through use. It was too light to controllably fire the full power 7.92×57 mm Mauser rounds and the magazine purportedly left the rifle unbalanced. However, those things might have been forgiven had the FG-42 been less complicated, cheaper and faster to produce, and not fighting for the same lightweight metals used in critical airplane production. All of these things combined to shorten the life of the FG-42, limiting its production, and making it even more appealing to future generations of collectors.
Rock Island Auction Company has had the privilidge to offer THREE FG-42 rifles in recent years. The highest priced example is shown above, selling for $322,000 in September 2015. Runner-up was a fantastic example wearing a ZF4 scope (shown below) that sold for $299,000 in September 2014, and the third FG-42 was sold in March 2017 for $241,5000.
There you have it, collector friends: the Top 10 Machine Guns ever sold by Rock Island Auction Company. We’ll be sure to update this list from time to time and we shouldn’t have to wait long. Rising values in this genre almost assure a new crop of machine guns to stake their own claim to this list. Will they be the same models? New ones? Will they overthrow the FG-42? We’ll just have to wait and see. While you’re waiting read our other article on the value of Class III firearms and machine guns, for some insight on what makes them so valuable to collectors and a very secure place to invest.
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