Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1409: Colt - Thompson 1923 semi-automatic rifle

Auction Date: September 8, 2018

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

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $45,000 - $70,000

Rare Colt Manufactured Auto-Ordnance Model 1923 Thompson Semi-Automatic Test/Prototype 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: 8248
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 202
Class: Curio & Relic Long Gun

This is an exceedingly rare example of one of the 1922 era test/prototype rifles that was considered as one of the candidate semi-automatic service rifles by the U.S. Government. These early test trials held by the U.S. Army in 1921 ended in late 1922/23, and a second series of tests were held again in 1928. Several companies submitted test samples; however, the final Service Rifle Boards Recommendation, issued/published in late 1929, recommendation to pursue only two competitors; the T1 Pedersen and the T3 Garand rifle with all other competitors dropped from testing. This specific rifle we have for sale is a very rare Model 1923 Auto-Rifle designed by Auto-Ordnance and manufactured by Colt. Colt and Auto-Ordnance had a working relationship during the development/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 and submitted their "Auto-Rifle" in the follow-on, 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 approximately 20-25 of the Auto-Rifles in April 1922 from Auto-Ordnance chambered in 30-06. However, due to manufacturing delays, these rifles were not delivered until 1925. An 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 one of the later Model 1923 rifles purchased by the Chief of the Ordnance Dept. in 1923 in 30-06. A similar rifle is pictured and discussed in "The Book of the Garand" by Hatcher on page 70. The top of the receiver is marked: "Trade Mark/Thompson (inside their Bullet logo)/THOMPSON AUTORIFLE/CAL. 30 MODEL 1923/NO. 25/ 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. The bolt is returned into the forward/locked position via a heavy internal coil spring, concealed inside the receiver. 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 and 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 checkered 1903 Springfield type buttplate, that contains a 1905 cleaning kit inside the butt trap.

Rating Definition:

Very fine with 80% plus of the original blue finish overall showing even honest blue wear on the exposed metal parts from use and handing in the filed. The stock and handguards are both in very fine condition with a nice dark brown matching color overall showing only minor handling marks and light scratches on eh sides from use and handling. Mechanically excellent. A very scarce example of an Auto-Ordnance Model 1923 test/prototype semi-automatic service rifle.

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