Your Class III Wishbook for the May Rock Island Premiere Auction

You want one. Admit it. With the slipping of the Hughes Amendment into law on a questionable voice vote in 1986 — no Congressman, apart from Hughes (D-NJ), put his name to it — all of the explosion in Class III weapons quantities on the registry has been in short-barreled weapons and suppressors. With quantities of machine guns frozen in perpetuity, values have exploded. That means that for most of us, these gorgeous pictures are as close as we will get to some of  these wonderful collector pieces.

Fortunately, Rock Island photographs them so well that we can truly enjoy the pictures. These photos are part of a much larger set they’re using to tease Premier Auction #70 in two months (5-7 May, 2017). We’ll just show you some of the machine gunny stuff.

To start with, here’s the model of Johnson we have not got. Yet.

Fun fact about the Johnson LMG: the receiver’s pretty much exactly the same as the less rare rifle. While the rifles were famously used by the Marine Raiders and Paramarines in the early years of World War II, the LMGs were used mostly by the First Special Service Force and to a lesser extent by the OSS, which was a catch-all for oddball weapons that the major services didn’t want. The magazine is a very unusual, long, single-stack curved mag. It works okay, but the LMG is strangely unbalanced laterally, i.e. around the longitudinal axis. It wants to bank left on you, although we’re told with experience you can learn to judge when it’s about time to change the mag by the decreasing left wing-heaviness.

Possibly the ugliest LMG ever was the Danish Madsen. It was very reliable, and was pressed into second-line service by the Third Reich. One of those is in the sale, and will sell for far less than this, possibly the most atrractive LMG ever (well, rifle/LMG/all-purpose bullet propulsion device), the German Fallschirmjägergewehr 42. Two variations of FG-42s were made; this is the first second (thanks to Max Popenker and John McGill in comments, and Josey Wales by email). It was packed with innovations, and American postwar ordnance officers were obsessed with it and copied many of its features into the M60 general purpose machine gun — including its operating rod and bolt design, which itself was copied from the Lewis gun, haughtily rejected 40 years earlier by the ordnance officers’ predecessors.

This will be bid to a very high number, assuming that it is a transferable firearm.  Many of us may have less equity in our homes than the price this will go to. Still, we can dream, no?

And if you already have your Johnson and FG-42? Bet you haven’t got one of these:

Paparazzi would definitely change their plans for taking drone pictures of your sunbathing daughter if you gave her this for her Sweet 16 party. 20mm Oerlikon.

(For those who may be diffident about a poolside 20mm AA mount, they also have a .50, or dual .30s).

By the way, all these pictures do embiggen with a click.

More pictures and captions after the jump. And all these fine firearms are for sale in the May Premiere Auction, the catalog for which has not been posted (nor the paper shipped to subscribers). We will surely tell you when that day comes.

Sometimes timing is what it takes for a weapon to be consequential. Anything the Nazis fielded in the war was bound to get lots of attention. But the French Army’s brief resistance still, to this day, diminishes respect for French arms, like this MAS Model 1938 submachine gun.

This compact firearm was full of clever ideas, like the two-leaf sight (inset left) and the magwell dust cover. The most interesting design features include the buffer tube inside the straightline stock, reminiscent of an early AR, and the use of a bolt at an angle to the barrel as a means of retarding blowback and reducing bolt velocity and rate of fire. That particular feature has never been copied (which might be because it’s not very effective).

If the MAS 1938 was one of the last of the first-generation SMGs (characterized by traditional firearms manufacturing methods: machined receivers and wooden stocks), the US Submachine Gun M3 and M3A1 were typical of second-gen SMGs (characterized by use of automotive manufacturing methods: stampings and screw-machine produced parts). This M3A1, produced like the vast majority of them during WWII by the Guide Lamp Division of GM (Ithaca produced ~33k of them in the mid-50s), is in stunning condition. Most of these are beat within an inch of their lives; don’t know how this one came to survive in such condition, but there may be a story in it.

The M3 and M3A1 differed in their charging arrangement. The original M3 had a sort of crank attached to the mechanism cover (sorry, forget the actual terminology) forward of the trigger. Rotating the crank used a mechanical advantage to lever the bolt to the rear. (All M3/M3A1 SMGs fired from the open bolt, in full-automatic only; the cyclic rate is slow enough that single shots are easy). The A1 went simpler still by deleting that crank and instead, the “bolt handle” is a hole of about 3/4″ diameter drilled in the bolt. Open the dust cover, stick in a finger, and pull back!

If it’s crude but it works, is it really crude?

The last of the 2nd Generation SMGs actually has one 3rd-Gen feature. This Beretta PM12S has a bolt that largely wraps around the barrel, reducing the length of the firearm. But unlike a true third-gen design like the Czechoslovak Sa. vz. 48 models 23/25 and 24/26, or the more famous Uzi, the magazine is not in the pistol grip, but just forward of the trigger, allowing the excellent ergonomics of a pair of Thompson-like vertical grips.

Open-bolt SMG safety is a real problem. The mechanical safety of the PM12S locks the bolt, and there is also a grip safety. Without such a feature, if the bolt is forward on an empty chamber, anything that snags the bolt and pulls it back can potentially fire the gun.

The PM12S would do better in the market, perhaps, if it was associated with more combat operations, but it did serve in at least one: the Italian rescue of US Army Brigadier General William Dozier in 1981. The Brigati Rossi terrorist assigned to kill Dozier in the event of a raid was clubbed over the head with one of these things, by one of the largest men in the employ of the Italian nation. The bad guy woke up in the back of a prison van, with a splitting headache that lasted for days. It’s an open-bolt submachine gun made of pressed steel, but you’d be surprised how solid it is. That Red Brigades terrorist sure was! It’s actually finished to Beretta standards, a personal favorite from among the world’s lesser-known subguns.

And finally, at the smallest end of SMG world, there’s an American 180, a .22 LR submachine gun that used the design language of the Thompson and a 177-round pan magazine reminiscent of a Lewis (but usually made of injection-molded plastic) to offer police a strange and intimidating item. It was also often furnished with a red laser, specifically for intimidating criminals into surrendering peacefully; it flopped in the cop market, but people bought them as range toys. The early laser was an enormous accessory and is seldom seen today. Despite the “American” name, the ones we’ve seen were all made in Austria, and there was (briefly) a semi-auto version.

Moving up a little in the scale of things, here’s a Japanese 6.5 mm Type 11 light machine gun. American ordnance officers had a towering contempt for this, and other, Japanese LMGs. American combat soldiers were much more respectful. This particular one comes with its provenance screwed right to it.

Another historic LMG, and one likely to sell for nosebleed numbers thanks to its SEAL history, is this 5.56 mm Stoner 63 System in the LMG configuration (which is how the VN-era frogs usually ran ’em). This one clearly did not get dragged around MR I by a bunch of swamp-loving amphibians, but looks as if it was set aside the day it was made.

The Stoner 63 evolved from the AR-18 in the direction of a truly modular weapons system that could be used as everything from short-barrelled SMG to tripod-mounted MG with a T&E mechanism, to solenoid-fired fixed aircraft gun, and any other permutation that could be imagined. Gene Stoner hired on with Cadillac Gage Corp. to develop this weapon, yet despite a brilliant concept, Stoner’s talent, and CG’s skill with promotion and lobbying, it didn’t catch on. Perhaps it was too far ahead of its time, but a few SEALs still remember it vividly in their well-earned retirements.

Finally, there are very, very few transferable AKs on the NFRTR, and this one appears to be an even rarer Chinese Type 56-1, probably separated from its Vietnam story. (There may be some provenance with it; so far, Rock Island Auctions has only posted the photos).  Again, the fine condition of this select-fire rifle stands out. (Chinese guns have a remarkably rich and deep blue, but it’s very vulnerable to rust in field conditions).

And that’ll be all for today.

Oh, ohhhh-kay, we’ll show you one more. Actually, we’re not sure this should be a Class III / NFA weapon at all; we’re under the impression it’s just a Title I firearm. Regardless, here’s one of the true White Rhinocerosi of the big-firearm-game hunter: an original Pedersen Device. Complete wth the not-terribly-rare correct modified (“Mark I”) Springfield ’03, the ultra-rare pouches for bolt and ammo, a box or rare ammo, and some other accessories. Yes, this will sell for big money.

“But Hognose,” you say. “I cannot afford rare Class III weapons that cost more than some people’s houses. My wife would throw me out and my Pedersen Device and I would be living in a Kelvinator box on a traffic island.” Yes, of course. But you did enjoy looking, didn’t you?

And, for normal mortals, don’t feel too left out. This Premiere Auction is for the high rollers, in May. But on 23 March, there’s an online auction, where the Johnsons are all Iver Johnsons, and there are classic Smiths, Colts and other firearms, but nothing where you’ll be bidding against the New York Museum of Modern Art.

37 thoughts on “Your Class III Wishbook for the May Rock Island Premiere Auction


    It would be undignified if I was to make jokes about your obsession with Johnsons, Hognose, so I wouldn’t dream of suggesting, for example, that most men are satified with but one Johnson. Or anything like that. :-)

    1. Mike_C

      Snerk. Actually “Pedersen device” sounds vaguely euphemistic as well. Speaking of which:
      >”My wife would throw me out and my Pedersen Device and I would be living in a Kelvinator box on a traffic island.”
      You had a refrigerator! [said in tones of wonderment and bone-deep envy]
      Anyway, I don’t need a Pedersen device because Herself bought me a shoelace recently. Yes, *a* shoelace. The drawstring of my sweat pants came out in the laundry one day, and I’ve been holding them up with a binder clip. This eminently practical solution apparently offends Herself’s sensibilities so she suggested a clever way to thread a bootlace through the “tunnel” for the drawstring. So now I am the proud possessor of a single black bootlace, though it is not 14″. It is 54″ (and without any loops, much less a loop at each end).
      Brief conversation in Aisle 8, local Market Basket (for you furriners: MB = a New England grocery chain noted for low prices and internecine family conflict worthy of a Greek tragedy, which it sort of is).
      Me: 54″! Don’t they have any shorter ones? This thing could go around my waist twice.
      HH6: [rolling eyes] You wish.

      1. John M.

        Those of us of a certain age still think of Mahket Basket as “Demoulas.”

        -John M.

  2. John McGill

    I’m way out of my league here, but I think that’s the second type FG42. The first type had its pistol grip set at a much more acute angle to the longitudinal axis of the gun. At least that’s the way that it looked to me when I was building 1/35 scale fallschirmjager model figures during my gloriously misspent youth.
    Thanks for everything,


  3. Max Popenker

    “Two variations of FG-42s were made; this is the first”
    actually this is a 2nd model of FG-42 shown on your photo; 1st had steel pistol grip with more steep angle

    1. Sommerbiwak

      Came to say this. But got desantniked by Max’s air assault. ;-)

      The silly steep angle was intended for use during descent. Yeah right. shooting while hanging under the canopy…

      Many of the FG42 have been produced by known hunting rifle and shotgun manufacturer Krieghoff actually.

    2. Hognose Post author

      You’re correct, Max. I got in my head that the 2nd Model was first because SMC guns made their replica of the 2nd Model first, and will be making a replica of the 1st Model next.

  4. Kirk

    RE: Statement about the MAS 38 never having had its mechanism copied… That would be inaccurate.

    Finns built themselves a sweet little SMG back in the late 1980s-early 1990s: the JATI. It is an obscure one, but it did copy the inclined bolt path.

  5. John M.

    Incomplete sentence/paragraph/article alert:

    “And, for normal mortals,”

    -John M.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Thanks, correction made. I had meant to include a reference to the online auction, which takes place this month.

  6. John M.

    ‘“But Hognose,” you say. “I cannot afford rare Class III weapons that cost more than some people’s houses. My wife would throw me out and my Pedersen Device and I would be living in a Kelvinator box on a traffic island.”’

    Sure. Kelvinator box on a traffic island. But nobody would mess with you in your Kelvinator box on your traffic island. As Aesop would say, “Let me sing you the song of my people.” Make no mistake: that would be YOUR Kelvinator box and YOUR traffic island.

    -John M.

  7. 10x25mm

    Think the Pedersen Device .30 Automatic Pistol of 1918 ammunition is interoperable with the 7.65×21.5mm Longue ammunition used by the Model 1938 MAS SMG. Did the Frenchies buy all the surplus U.S. .30 Automatic Pistol of 1918 ammunition when they were developing the SACM Model 1935 in the late 1920’s?

  8. Keith

    All in all lots of fine rich man’s toys there. The hope is due the stamped nature of the M3 SMG and the MP-40 maybe HMG will do an appropriate ‘lessons learned’ from the StG-44 and can bring both back in .45 ACP and 9X19 single fire only for a reasonable price point.

    Keep your powder dry and your faith in God.

  9. DSM

    Weren’t there a few of the PM-12 guns in use at the US Embassy in Vietnam during Tet? I seem to remember seeing one in a photo once.

  10. Sommerbiwak

    The PM12 sub-machine gun has seen plenty of combat. Mostly by polizia, gendarmeria and guardia di finanza against maciosi. Also the gendarms have taken them with them overseas to Afghanistan and Iraq etc. Also PM12 showed up in numbers in the 1990ies in the various wars following the breakup of yugoslavia. There have been more probably.

  11. Sommerbiwak

    I just realized:
    Is the japanese Type 11 ban state compliant with that stock? ;-)

  12. Aesop

    “But honey, we got the Oerlikon already.
    And Fred down at the VFW hall has three pallets of brass shell casings for it.
    So we have to build the PT boat on which to put it. I already know a guy who knows a guy in Olongapo, who’s got one that’s been mothballed in storage just waiting for a freighter ride back to the States, and the engines were crated in grease since 1945. I’ve seen the videos!
    We can put it on the card, skip next summer’s vacation, and Suzie can go to the local j.c. for the first two years of college. Besides, we’ll be working on the boat all winter anyways, and we’ll need the extra help to get her in the water by 4th of July.”

      1. Aesop

        It’s not the buying them, it’s the finding an old half-sunken hulk to test them on, and then being gone before the Coasties come sniffing around afterwards.

        I’ve heard.

    1. Mike_C

      Speaking of PT boats, anyone going to the PT-305 launch in New Orleans later this month?

  13. Kirk

    I dunno that the Madsen was quite the ugliest MG ever made. For that, I think we’d have to go with either the Japanese or the Italians, although the Austrian Swarzlose is a contender.

    The Madsen is, if nothing else, a mechanical wonder: Somehow, the managed to take a falling-block action like the Martini-Henry, and then automate it sufficiently well that it served as a fully-automatic light machine gun for over a century. The Brazilian police are still using theirs, or were up until recently. That record militates for a certain honest appraisal as being functionally beautiful.

    The various iterations of Italian and Japanese MG dysfunction, however? Sheesh… Don’t even get me started…

  14. Alan Ward

    Love me some PI2S. I first saw one in the heist film The Biggest Bundle of Them All. Thought it was the coolest SMG I had ever seen. Too bad such works of art are banned north of the 49th.

  15. Docduracoat

    and a Tommy Gun, a full auto M 14, a Browning .50 cal, and an under barell grenade launcher

  16. Slow Joe Crow

    Slightly off topic but was the ZB vz 26 machine gun ever converted to 7.62 NATO by any users? It seems like something Israel might have done using Bren gun parts.
    Should I ever have the money and patience to buy a machine gun I think it would be neat to have a “wrong caliber” set of Czech lmgs with a Chinese contract Bren in 7.92 and one of the earlier guns in 7.62.

      1. LSWCHP

        Yep. I have schlepped and shot that gun, and can confirm that it is a sweet piece of kit.

  17. staghounds

    I wouldn’t want to be holding any “investment” machine guns right now. There’s a more than no chance that the registry will be reopened, or a new amnesty which allows registry. Who knows what would come out of the woodwork then?

    1. Hognose Post author

      I think that things like FGs and 1921 Thompsons exist in the sight of such a thirst of demand, that no foreseeable change to the present desert of supply will alter their value. Commodity guns and post-86 samples would all flow to a single level. Things like ARs would be hit pretty hard.

  18. archy

    ***Think the Pedersen Device .30 Automatic Pistol of 1918 ammunition is interoperable with the 7.65×21.5mm Longue ammunition used by the Model 1938 MAS SMG. Did the Frenchies buy all the surplus U.S. .30 Automatic Pistol of 1918 ammunition when they were developing the SACM Model 1935 in the late 1920’s?***

    It is, or at least it’s close enough that the French MAS 35A and MAC 35S handguns in the same caliber worked okay with the Pedersen Device ammo. In the very early 1960s when I was in high school my dad’s American Legion post got two cases of the ammo, along with some .30 US Gov’t rimmed [.30-40 Krag] along with the M1909 crimped blanks with the red paper wad for their M1903 drill/salute/Honor Guard rifles. After a little creative negotiating I managed to trade for the stuff, which I knew via George Nonte could be used in the French handguns. At that time the French pistols were going for $35 or so from Ye Olde Hunter, then were often sold off for $15-$25 once the box of ammo that came with them was exhausted.
    The last factory box of GI Pedersen Device ammo I saw 5 years or so back at the Indy 1500 gun show had a $400 price tag on it. If the ammo collectors knew what I’d done with boxes and boxes of the stuff those 50 years back, they’d have tarred and feathered me.

    BTW: the story goes that Mussolini and his mistress were executed with multiple bursts from a French PM Mle38 MAS SMG after the Italian Communist Partisan group”s commander at the scene had his Sten Gun jam on him.

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