Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3631: Colt Thompson 1923 Rifle 30-06

Auction Date: May 1, 2016

Rare Colt Manufactured Auto-Ordnance Model 1923 Thompson Semi-Automatic Rifle in 30-06 Caliber

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $40,000 - $60,000

Rare Colt Manufactured Auto-Ordnance Model 1923 Thompson Semi-Automatic Rifle in 30-06 Caliber

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Thompson 1923
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 30-06
Barrel: 24 inch round
Finish: blue
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 8101
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 250
Class: Curio & Relic Long Gun

This is an exceedingly rare example of one of the 1922 era test/prototype rifle that was considered as semi-automatic service rifle of the U.S. Government. These early test trials held by the U.S. Army starting in 1921 that ended in 1922/23, with the second series of tests in 1928. This culminated with the final Service Rifle Boards Recommendation in the fall of 1929, which stated that only two candidates worth perusing additional testing on were the T1 Pedersen and the T3 Garand rifle with all other competitors having been eliminated. This example we have for sale is one of the earlier competitors namely the Model 1923 Auto-Rifle as designed by the Auto-Ordnance Company and manufactured by Colt Firearms Company. The Colt Firearms Company and the Auto-Ordnance Company had a working relationship in the development and manufacturing of the 1921 Thompson Submachine Guns. So this rifle was an outgrowth of that partnership. The first Colt P.C. and V model rifles were submitted in the 1920/21 time frame for testing but failed so they teamed with Auto-Ordnance Company and submitted their "Auto-Rifle" in the 1921 Comparative Test trials, however the board determined that unless further improvements were made, no further testing should be undertaken on these rifles. However the Chief of the Ordnance Dept., based on his own authority, purchased "20" of the Auto-Rifles in April 1922, from the Auto-Ordnance Company in caliber .30-06 (the same as the model 1903 Springfield rifle). However due to manufacturing delays these rifles were not delivered until 1925. A very similar (almost identical) rifle design was also submitted to the Service Rifle Board for testing and evaluation in 1929 in caliber .276, however, it was ruled unacceptable. This rifle is 1 of the 20 rifles actually purchased by the Chief of the Ordnance Dept in 1923 in 30-06. The top of the receiver is marked: "Trade Mark/Thompson (inside their Bullet logo)/THOMPSON AUTORIFLE/CAL. 30 MODEL 1923/NO. 12/ MANUFACTURED BY/COLTS' Pat. F.A. MFG. Co. /HARTFORD CONN./FOR/AUTO-ORDNANCE CORP./NEW YORK, N.Y., U.S.A.". It appears to actually be a bolt action design with a very long action and corresponding bolt body with a short bolt handle on the right side. When you lift the bolt handle it follows a large slot in the top of the receiver that cams the rear of the bolt to unlock the two rows of six opposing locking lugs found on the rear of the bolt body. It has a heavy tension coil spring concealed inside the bolt body which drives the bolt forward into the locked position. It looks like a combination of several period rifles; the front half is patterned after the 1903 Springfield with a pistol grip stock. It has a long one-piece trigger guard/floor plate similar to the 1917 pattern rifle with a unique two-piece receiver/action, joined in the center of the receiver. It has a single blade front sight like the 1903 rifles with a Lyman model 48 target rear sight mounted on the left rear side or the receiver. This example is a later version that holds 5-6 rounds of 30-06 ammunition in a conventional box magazine, again similar to the 1903/1917 rifles. It is fitted with a full length walnut stock with small, short finger grooves on each side of the forend. The buttstock is fitted with a smooth 1903 Springfield buttplate.

Rating Definition:

Very fine with 75% plus of its original blue finish overall with a deliberately polished area on top receiver near clip guide, a blackened anodized finish on the trigger guard/floorplate. The stock and handguard are both in very fine condition with only very minor handling marks. Mechanically fine. An exceptional example of an extremely rare Colt Model 1923 Thompson Semi-Auto Rifle in 30-06 caliber. When have you ever seen one of these, let alone be able to obtain one!

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