Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 597: Detective Agency Colt Model 1921 Thompson Submachine Gun

Auction Date: December 3, 2021

Colt Model 1921 Thompson Submachine Gun, Class III/NFA C&R Fully Transferable Machine Gun, Documented to the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, with Accessories

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $45,000 - $65,000

Colt Model 1921 Thompson Submachine Gun, Class III/NFA C&R Fully Transferable Machine Gun, Documented to the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, with Accessories

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1921 Thompson
Type: Machine gun
Gauge: 45 ACP
Barrel: 10 1/2 inch finned
Finish: blue
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 2775
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 358
Class: Class III

One of the most famous sub-machine guns in the world, the Thompson SMG rates as one of the truly signature American weapons. While advancements in manufacturing techniques and materials would allow later designs to match or exceed the Thompson's performance, none of them have managed to do the job with the same level of style and craftsmanship. The Thompson, a product of old-school hand craftsmanship, is virtually synonymous with the Roaring 20s and the Great Depression, being found on both sides of the law during the "gangland" era of American history, and also serving on all Allied fronts of World War II, where it stood tall among its more cost-effective stamped steel substitutes. Per the records in Herigstad's "Colt Thompson Submachine Gun" (page 198), this Thompson was originally part of a 10-gun shipment (an installment of a 29-gun order) on September 1, 1921 to Thomas Felts, General Manager of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, with a listed destination of Bluefield, West Virginia. Originally a lawyer by trade, Felts became a partner in what was then the Baldwin Detective Agency in 1900, adding his name to the shingle in 1910. Originally chiefly employed by railroads in foiling train robberies, the Agency also had prominent government contacts. The Agency achieved national fame after being called in to hunt down Floyd Allen, a Virginia man who inadvertently revealed a flaw in Virginia law when his family shot up a courthouse in response to him being convicted of a felony; on paper, murder investigations were to be the sole purview of the Sheriff, no mechanism was in place to appoint a temporary Sheriff, and deputy power extended directly from the Sheriff, leaving Carroll County in a pickle when the Allen family gunned down the Sheriff. The Agency successfully brought the family to justice, with Thomas Felts personally apprehending the patriarch. Later, the Agency would branch out into providing security for coal mining operations, which involved heavy union busting and strike breaking action. Baldwin-Felts earned a reputation for having a very heavy hand while participating in the Colorado Coal War (where they operated an armored car armed with a Colt Model 1895 "Potato Digger" machine gun dubbed the Death Special) and strikes in West Virginia. Their actions in West Virginia included the "Battle of Matewan", where a confrontation between a local police chief and detectives from the agency resulted in 10 deaths, including the mayor of the town and two of Felts' brothers, and later Baldwin-Felts agents would ambush and kill the same police chief on the stairs of a courthouse while he was responding to an unrelated accusation; this retaliation would be a major factor in provoking the Battle of Blair Mountain, and the shipment date of this batch of Thompsons corresponds to the deployment of Federal troops in the region to end the conflict. The firm would remain open until 1937, when Thomas Felts closed up shop a few months before his own death. Later, this Thompson is recorded in the inventory of the Virginia State Police in Richmond, Joe Miller of Miller's Guns c.1980, and the collection of Alan Cors c.2003. A blade front sight is installed on the finned barrel, with a folding Lyman rear sight on the receiver. The left side of the receiver bears the model, serial number, and 5-line Colt address, with the Auto-Ordnance "bullet" logo on top and the Auto-Ordnance address and 5-line patent dates on the left. The bolt assembly is the 1921 pattern, with broad recoil spring, padded oiler and brass Blish Lock assembly. The trigger housing is numbered to match the receiver, with knurled magazine catch and control switches. Fitted with a set of grooved pistol grips and a quick-detachable stock with smooth steel buttplate. Included with the lot is a black leatherette "FBI" style case with purple interior lining, a brass cleaning rod, a Seymore Products "Type L" 50-round drum, and four stick magazines. Provenance: The Allan Cors Collection

Rating Definition:

Very fine, with 85% plus original blue finish, showing areas of brown patina, bright wear on the high edges, and mild handling marks. The right side of the receiver, trigger housing and rear grip show a number of light scratches, concentrated around the spring assembly. The furniture is fine, with some scattered light scratches and dents. The case is also very fine and shows some cracking of the leather on the handle and mild scuffs and dings overall. Mechanically excellent. NOTE: This weapon is a National Firearms Act (NFA), fully transferable Class 3, which is registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, (BATFE) that is classified as a "Curios or Relic" as defined in 27 CFR, 478.11. These weapons are still subject to the provisions of 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44 and 27 CFR part 478.

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