On the Side of Law and Order: The Story of Thompson Gun SN 9468

By Tom Davis, Jr.

The Thompson submachine gun is known by countless names around the world, such as the Tommy Gun, the Chopper and the Chicago Piano. Approximately two million of these weapons have been manufactured, the great majority between 1940 and 1943. The first ones, manufactured by Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company in 1921 and 1922, form an exclusive family of 15,000 different members—and stories.

Serial Number 9468 is a member of that special family. Manufactured in early 1922, it was promptly placed in storage at the Colt factory in Hartford, Connecticut, for the Auto-Ordnance Corporation (AOC). As previously documented by authors such as Frederic A. Willis, James F. Bannan, Roger A. Cox, Tracie L. Hill, Douglas W. Richardson, Gordon Herigstad and Frank Iannamico, General Thompson’s dream of a hand-held automatic weapon was not an immediate financial success. Given today’s popularity and prices for original Colt Thompsons, it is almost inconceivable that the last Colt guns were finally sold by AOC in 1940. What makes SN 9468 unique is that it lived at Colt’s on two separate occasions. But let’s not get ahead of the story.

Like all of the 15,000 Colt guns, SN 9468 was originally manufactured as a standard Model 1921 Thompson gun—without a compensator. The option for a Cutts Compensator did not arise until 1927, when AOC signed a contract for the exclusive license of the Cutts Compensator in the United States with inventor Richard Cutts. What immediately followed was the introduction of the Model 1921AC Thompson gun—with a compensator. The nomenclature of the standard Thompson gun was changed to Model 1921A. The AC nomenclature change was only noted on the AOC paperwork and not marked on the guns.

SN 9468 was removed from storage at Colt’s in 1933 and sold to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office in Port Clinton, Ohio, under the leadership of Sheriff D.L. Cullenen. In a letter dated March 12, 1929, a new AOC salesman named E.E. Richardson told of a business trip to the Port Clinton area to meet with local police and sheriff departments: “While this trip did not net so many sales, yet I did much advertising for the Thompson Sub-Machine guns, and it is indeed a pleasure to sell something that makes such a tremendous “hit” with the trade. It would be almost impossible to tell you how many people witnessed the demonstrations I gave in the different towns where I stopped. I shot 700 rounds of ammunition in various demonstrations at Port Clinton, Sandusky, Elyria and Lorain, but believe me I had a mob at each demonstration, and not mere curiosity seekers, but the “powers that be.” And everyone was thrilled to the utmost over the wonderful gun. Everybody on the Police forces and in the Sheriff’s Departments wanted to buy, and I have great hopes that I will get much business yet, out of Port Clinton, Lorain and Elyria.” While Richardson’s actual involvement in the sale of SN 9468 several years later is unknown, it has been documented Richardson was engaged in the sale of Thompson guns in Ohio during this time period.

The original “Registration of Firearms” document was submitted to the Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service, on or about December 27, 1934, about five months after the passage of the National Firearms Act (NFA) on July 26, 1934. The “date of acquisition” for SN 9468 is shown as May 1933. The place where the now federally registered firearm is normally kept was listed as the County Jail in Port Clinton, Ohio. SN 9468 was listed as a Model 1921 but there is little doubt it was originally sold by AOC to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office equipped with—what is referred to by collectors as—a Type 1 or earliest compensator. This was a popular $25 option.

Little is known about SN 9468 while in use by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office. Like so many other police firearms, just having it accessible for those unexpected problems was reason enough to have it in inventory. One interesting moment for SN 9468 occurred during the government amnesty registration period for machine guns in 1968. Apparently, no one at the Sheriff’s Office during that time was aware of the original registration. An Internal Revenue Service Form 4467, Registration of Certain Firearms During November 1968, was submitted to the IRS in the name of then Ottawa County Sheriff Myron Hetrick. This resulted in SN 9468 being registered to both the Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Hetrick.

Fast forward to 1998 and the Ottawa County Sheriff Office is in need of modern weaponry for their Special Response Team (SRT). Then Sheriff Craig Emahiser decided it may be time to trade Colt SN 9468 for better equipment. The response from Class Three dealers interested in SN 9468 was predictable. Of course, everyone wanted to know about SN 9468’s transferability status. Knowing that a deal could be made, Sheriff Emahiser and his staff decided that the Colt M16A2 “Commando” rifle with an 11.5-inch barrel, flat-top receiver and three-round burst capability was the preferred option of the SRT Team. H&K MP5s, short-barrel shotguns and other ancillary equipment would also merit some consideration—but the preferred option was a Colt, like SN 9468!

As news of Sheriff Emahiser’s decision to trade SN 9468 circulated around the Class Three community, many dealers and some individuals expressed interest in acquiring this iconic machine gun. Deals in the Class Three community take time. Often, a lot of time. While the Sheriff’s Office was in agreement that SN 9468 should be traded, no one took the initiative to negotiate trade. SN 9468 had been a part of the Sheriff’s Office for a long time.

This changed in 2001 when Detective Steve Levorchick became the SRT Commander. The need for modern weapons in 1998 had grown more urgent over the following three years. Detective Levorchick, with the approval of Sheriff Emahiser, took on the task of finalizing a trade. The first assignment was determining the registration status of SN 9468. Of course, this involved the U.S. Treasury Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (BATF).

This is when the duplicate registration surfaced. BATF provided copies of the 1934 and 1968 Amnesty registration forms to Detective Levorchick. Fortunately, SN 9468 remained at the Sheriff’s Office after the duplicate registration, so this did not influence its transferability. However, the M16 and AR-15 equipment being offered for trade by dealers was not manufactured by Colt. Bushmaster products were being offered instead. The story being told to Sheriff Office officials during that time by numerous dealers was that Colt had recently signed a contract for 46,000 M4 carbines with the U.S. Marine Corps and all assembly lines were producing this variant. The favored M16A2 Colt “Commando” model was not projected to be available for two years.

Enter John Keosayian from Colt Manufacturing Company. It is unknown how Mr. Keosayian found out about SN 9468 and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, but he approached Detective Levorchick with a solution to his obsolete equipment problem. Mr. Keosayian told how a past president of Colt Manufacturing Company had disbanded the Colt museum by donating many of the weapons to the State of Connecticut. The new president was of a differing opinion and wanted to open a new museum. To this end, a Colt Thompson submachine was needed, and Ottawa County owned a beautiful example!

Mr. Keosayian agreed to provide 12 M16A2 “Commando” rifles in the configuration specified by the Ottaway County Sheriff’s Office. In addition, Colt would supply a spare flat-top upper receiver and rebuild two of Ottawa County’s M16A2 rifles into the M4 configuration with select-fire capabilities. Sixty 30-round magazines, twelve three-point tactical slings and 1,600 rounds of .223 ammunition would also be provided. When asked how Colt could supply these rifles to Ottawa County when none were available on the commercial market, Mr. Keosayian stated Colt would shut down one of the M4 production lines to build the requested rifles. Colt was serious in wanting to acquire a Thompson submachine gun they manufactured years ago.

A letter dated September 7, 2001, setting forth the terms of the agreement, was drafted by the Sheriff’s Office and sent to Colt. Aside from SN 9468, an original canvas carrying case, one 50-round drum and an assortment of box magazines were to be included.

The deal was completed. Colt received a very beautiful Thompson submachine gun. And the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office received some much-needed modern law enforcement equipment.

In September 2010, (now) Captain Levorchick retired from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office. His retirement was short lived. One year later, the Sheriff of Ottawa County unexpectedly resigned and retired Captain Levorchick was appointed Sheriff by Ottawa county officials on September 23, 2011. He completed the unexpired term and was elected by the citizens of Ottawa County for a full term in November 2012. Sheriff Levorchick never inquired about the display of SN 9468 at the Colt plant or the opening of a new museum.

In September 2015, Sheriff Levorchick received a telephone call from a very well-known Thompson enthusiast and collector, Mr. Jack Meador. The topic concerned SN 9468. He had recently acquired SN 9468 from Chester County Armory in Pennsylvania and wanted to know if it had at one time belonged to Ottawa County. Mr. Meador had added this beautiful Colt to his ever-growing collection of Thompson guns and was trying to establish the history. That very long conversation and the documentation saved by Sheriff Levorchick for many years is the basis of this story.

The transfer of SN 9468 to Colt’s occurred shortly after the September 7, 2001, letter finalizing the deal, most likely in late September 2001. Subsequent research has revealed that SN 9468 did not remain at Colt’s very long. On October 26, 2001, the ATF approved transfer of SN 9468 from Colt’s to the same Keosayian that negotiated the original deal. SN 9468 stayed with Keosayian until obtained by Chester County Armory, above. The quick transfer from Colt’s to John Keosayian suggests there is undoubtedly another chapter to this story.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N1 (January 2018)
and was posted online on November 17, 2017


Comments have not been generated for this article.