By Tom Davis, Jr.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of researching and writing about guns is getting to add additional information to a published story. This is an update to the story of the Colt manufactured Thompson submachine guns purchased by the Swedish government in 1940 that appeared in Small Arms Review in May 2009.
The original story featured information on a new style horizontal fore grip for the Colt Thompson. Finding a Colt Thompson with an original horizontal fore grip can be very difficult. A vertical fore grip was originally installed on all 15,000 Colt guns during the time of manufacture and appeared to be well-liked. A horizontal fore grip was introduced briefly with the very short lived Model of 1923 Military Model. It later became standard with one of the most popular Thompson models, the Model 1928AC U.S. Navy Model. (As per the Auto-Ordnance “1928 Dealers Net Price List” of “Thompson Guns and Accessories,” the Model of 1927 Thompson Semi-Automatic Carbine could also be equipped with an optional horizontal fore grip – AOC model listing: 1927SCDS.) Also included with the horizontal fore grip were sling swivels.
The First Generation
There is a distinctive look to the early Colt era horizontal fore grips. The front end has rounded shape and the horizontal finger grove slots are deep and pronounced; it is also equipped with offset Enfield sling swivels. The look is much different from the standard World War II (WWII) horizontal fore grip found on hundreds of thousands of 1928A1 and M1 Thompson guns.
The Second Generation
As referenced in the original story, Auto-Ordnance Corporation made a change in the design of the horizontal fore grip in 1935. An Auto-Ordnance drawing titled, “FORE GRIP (HORIZONTAL), U.S. NAVY MODEL OF 1928 THOMPSON SUBMACHINE GUN” dated February 20, 1935, reveals a new fore grip design for the Thompson gun. The use of fore grips modeled after the 1935 drawing for the 500 Swedish Thompsons establishes Auto-Ordnance placed into production the new fore grip while Colt guns were still in inventory. This “new” or second generation fore grip would be the basis for all the future mass produced WWII fore grips.
It was not possible to obtain close-up pictures of this new Colt era fore grip during the research for the original story. As so often happens when a story is first published, new sources of information appear that add a new dimension. Such was the case at hand. Mr. Ludvig Rylander, a civilian employee with the Swedish Army, saw my original story and reached out to one of my contacts in Sweden. Mr. Rylander informed me that kpist m/40 No. 14555 was located at the Försvarsmaktens tekniska skola or Swedish Armed Forces Technical School in Halmstad, Sweden. Mr. Rylander agreed to examine and take pictures of the second generation horizontal fore grip on No. 14555.
The combination of pictures that follow show how easily this fore grip could be mistaken for one of the many thousands manufactured during WWII for the models 1928 and M1 Thompson guns. What sets this Colt era fore grip apart from all those thousands is the lack of a manufacturer mark or letters on the rear end of the grip. According to Frank Iannamico’s excellent book, American Thunder II, WWII fore grips will have the following letters stamped at the back end or rear of the grip: S (Savage Arms), M (Strombeck-Becker), and D (Dittenborn).
Comparison of the first and second generation Colt era fore grips show how the rounded front end and finger grooves are much less pronounced in second generation grip. Note the standard sling swivels in the second generation grip. The base of the swivel in the second generation fore grip is larger than the base of the offset Enfield sling swivel; the swivels will not interchange.
It would be interesting to know how many second generation horizontal fore grips found primarily on late numbered Colt Thompsons have been changed by collectors because the fore grip was not correct to that day’s standards. The only thing worse would be the assumption the second generation unmarked Colt era fore grip was of WWII manufacture and selling it for almost nothing. It may be time to take a close look at those horizontal fore grips in your spare parts bin!
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