Text and Photos By Dan Shea
"The press is too powerful and important to be neglected by the arms makers. Hence, none of the great arms merchants are without their press connections."- H.C. Engelbrecht, "Merchants of Death"
"Of course, you may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be more than happy to test your weapons of minor destruction. If you supply the test ammo, we might even kick in for lunch." - Raffica- Message to Merchants of Death.
Questions this month seem to revolve around the values of items in the current marketplace. This information is pretty subjective, and good deals are just as common as when someone grossly overpays for an item. Space is a bit short this month, so- right to the questions.
Q- I was at the SAR Show in Phoenix last December, and there was a guy who had a Stoner 63 bipod, new in the wrap. I paid him a hundred dollars for it, thinking it had to be worth more just because of how much Stoners are worth. After I got it, when I tried to sell it I couldn't identify whether it was for the Stoner 63 or the Stoner 63A. I looked in an old MGN and there is only one picture of a Stoner Light Machine Gun bipod. Is there a difference between the 63 and 63A bipod?
A- "The Stoner Chronicles" was supposed to be the prelude to a book I was working on about the designs, work and life of Eugene Stoner. I still have the research but haven't decided on the right venue to do this in. Due to size constraints, we had to leave some things out of the MGN series, and many times the photos were smaller than we wanted and didn't really give the info to the reader that we wanted to share. Most of the research was done in 1995 with the help of Reed Knight and the KAC Working Reference Collection when it was in Vero Beach. A number of Knight employees helped out, but specifically design engineer and RKI Number 001 Doug Olson did much of the technical detail with me. Gene Stoner was occasionally in the background filtering helpful information in through Reed. It was quite an endeavor. I had brought in photographer Jim Bonis to do the photography since I was doing disassembly and analysis. The ensuing work was phenomenal and groundbreaking, and it was great to work with so many knowledgeable and talented people.
That being said, the pictures we had in that article were not the final say in all Stoner 63/63A accessories. I think that the Stoner 63 series, for the short lifespan it had, was one of the most accessorized firearms of modern times, with many variations and non interchangeable parts. Only the HK21/21A1/21E series of guns would probably beat the Stoner in parts variants from an original manufacture.
What you were looking at was part of the series I did called "The Stoner Chronicles" and it was Part IV, in Machine Gun News Volume 9 Number 11, May 1996. The picture you were looking at actually showed two bipods; one was a representative example of the US made Stoner 63/63A style bipod, the other was a very different Dutch variant that was apparently made during the time that Henk Visser, Gene Stoner, and Reed's group were working up towards the final Thailand contracts. I am not certain of the exact production on those.
That's the background of the photo, little help on your question but clears up why there was one example of the US made bipod. There are, in fact, two basic variations of the Stoner 63 series Light Machine Gun bipods. One of the changes between the Stoner 63 and the Stoner 63A was a larger diameter gas tube. Since these detachable bipods mount on the forward end of the gas tube, the diameter of the clamp area had to be increased significantly. This means that the Stoner 63 LMG bipod will awkwardly clamp onto a Stoner 63A gas tube (It won't spread to full support angle but will work) but the Stoner 63A LMG bipod will close around the 63 gas tube and be completely floating, rattling, and a terrible mount.
The fastest way to tell which bipod you have, is that one major problem with the Stoner 63 LMG bipod was fixed for the 63A- that is the addition of a locking button to lock the bipod into a closed position when the bipod is off of the firearm. The original Stoner 63 LMG bipods were awkward and the addition of the locking position made it more reasonable to carry.
All other parts in the bipods appear identical, and that locking button is the mark of a 63A. Now to the value; you paid the full retail value. The bipods are one of the most common Stoner 63 series accessories to be found, and several crates of them have been unleashed for gun show sales. I think you won't have any trouble getting your money back for it if you go to a gun show where there are machine gun collectors around, but this is not the Holy Grail of Stonerdom; that would be the 250 round drum.
Q- I followed your comments on the value of high capacity magazines after the sunset happened in September, and have been buying original magazines to resell. You mentioned on Bowers Board that New York Thompson drums would hold their value. I bought a New York marked fifty round drum at Knob Creek for $500 and have been trying to sell it at the going rate for New York drums, but no one even gives it a second glance and they say "I can get a new Kahr drum for less than $300." I think you are wrong about the values of these.
A- Collectable items are worth whatever someone is willing to pay for them, not just what someone wants in order to part with it. Very subjective difference there. I have gone through liquid and illiquid markets as applied to machine gun values in previous issues of SAR. The same basic principles apply to accessories. Since the sunsetting of the Assault Weapons Ban, there has been a major influx of new products. Hallelujah! Of course, the Democrats and the anti gun fanatics are planning the next ban, and they will try to be more inclusive and precise in it after the stupidity of their last one, but, for now we are home free and can make new rifles without considering that a bayonet lug might mean a jail sentence. Since the high capacity magazine ban sunsetted as well, there has been a lot of talk about how all magazine prices would drop to reasonable levels.
I have been commenting all along that truly rare or superb specimens would hold their values. As examples of magazines, I said that original pieces like New York, NY Thompson Drums, FG42 magazines etc, would still command the same premiums.
From looking out into the marketplace and what I just had to pay to get another Japanese Type 100 magazine ($900 as a bargain), I stand by my comments. Try and buy a Japanese Type 99 magazine. Here's where the problem is for you. In your description, you stated the markings were "Auto-Ordnance Corp." on line one, and "New York" on line 2. This is what is referred to as a "Numrich drum", made in the 1980s by or for Numrich Arms Corporation. This drum is considered an after market drum, and $500 was about the right price when the ban was on. Most people consider these drums to be worth about what the new Kahr Arms drums are worth, right around $300 or so.
What I am referring to are "New York, NY" drums, which are the original Thompson drums. I have included pictures of the three basic markings of the drums that have "New York" on them. There are many subvariants, prototypes, etc, so this is in no way inclusive. There are also "Crosby" drums, "Bridgeport", "Seymour" drums etc that are original and they hold a premium as well, but generally not as much as those original Thompson New York NY drums do. I suggest that you get the book "Thompson: The American Legend" by Tracie Hill, any of Doug Richardson's manuals, Gordon Herigstad's "Colt Thompson Serial Numbers", and Frank Iannamico's "American Thunder II". These resources will help you see what is original and what is not in the collector market. There are many subvariations of the original drums, and the collectors pay close attention to a "Face plate drain hole New York NY" or a "Click marked body." There are Thompson collecting groups around the US, and if you want to get involved more deeply, you should join them.
My point is that the originals are worth a lot of money and you can't really "Speculate" in buying and selling these drums without gaining the full knowledge of what they are. You will be lucky to get your money back out of that drum.
For what it's worth, today's values on these appear to be as follows: Original, pristine condition New York NY numbered Thompson L drum with matching cover- $1500-1800. Original, pristine condition New York, NY non-numbered Thompson L Drum with correct cover- $1200-1500. Original, pristine condition Auto Ordnance Bridgeport Connecticut L drum with correct cover- $900-1100. Original, pristine condition New York aftermarket L drum- $300-500. C drums (100 round) are a completely different subject with much higher values. -Dan
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