St. Louis Police Department to Sell 27 Tommy Guns

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The collection is valued at more than $770,000. (Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

The St. Louis Police Department has decided to sell 27 of its historic and valuable Thompson submachine guns in an effort to raise the funds necessary to purchase new duty firearms for its officers, according to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

More commonly known as “Tommy guns,” Thompson submachine guns were chambered in 45 ACP and used by both gangsters and law enforcement in the early twentieth century. The St. Louis PD used their arsenal to fight organized crime and bootlegging operations during the Prohibition era, but the guns have been in storage since the 1960s.

Kentucky-based Midwest Distributors has agreed to pay $22,000 for each of the iconic rifles, but they will likely sell the old police arsenal to private parties for much, much more.

A local dealer valued the entire collection in 2014 at $770,000, and two 1920s Colt-made models are worth $31,000 apiece. The cheapest gun in the collection, an Auto-Ordnance/Savage M1 from 1942, was appraised at a mere $14,000.

St. Louis police considered auctioning the submachine guns themselves in 2014, and they could have raised considerably more money selling directly to collectors. But finding nearly 30 collectors willing to acquire the necessary federal permissions turned out to be too difficult, which forced the department to pursue an alternative course of action.

The NFA requirements severely limit the market, SLPD’s purchasing manager, Carol Shepard, told the Post-Dispatch.

Still, the department is happy to be able to pay for new handguns without dipping into taxpayer funds. The Tommy gun sale combined with the sale of the department’s old handguns will pay for 1,525 new 9 mm Beretta handguns as well as $350,000 worth of new AR-15s.

“The original reason to sell the weapons was to purchase new duty weapons, and we did so well on the sale, we will be able to purchase rifles as well, by our own actions without using any budget money,” Shepard said. “That was the most important thing for us. We made our own money to take care of our own problem.”

“It’s a part of history. I’m going to miss the weapon simply because it is a part of our history,” Christopher “Blake” Tucker, the department’s sergeant of the firearms division, told the Post-Dispatch. “There’s a side of me that I hate to see them go, but if it’s going to benefit the officers in the future, then I’ll have to live with that.”

{ 45 comments… add one }
  • Robert D> June 7, 2017, 11:14 pm

    Probably ended up in japan. For a country you CAN NOT get a handgun the pro baddies always find them

  • JOHN T. FOX June 7, 2017, 6:58 pm

    I TAKE IT THEY NEVER HEARD OF ONLINE GUN AUCTIONS! EBAY EVEN SELLS GUNS NOW. IDIOTS!

  • Richie June 5, 2017, 4:50 pm

    At least the Chicago typewriters will go to law abiding citizens”

  • Keith June 3, 2017, 9:55 am

    Hopefully the Police Department decides on getting AR-15s that shoot a heavier caliber than 5.56 x 45. .300 Blackout or 6.8 x 43 Special Purpose Cartridge would be a good choice.

  • derwurst June 2, 2017, 9:29 pm

    In 1977 I was offered the City of Port Angles Wa Police Departments 1921 Thompson machine gun from a Whidbey Island class three gun dealer for $750.00 plus the gun dealer would pay the $200.00 federal tax stamp fee. We went to the local firing range and fired the Thompson .45 from the round magazine and what a thrill. Our firing was uneventful until an old beat up 1969 Oldsmobile full of guys dressed in civilian clothes pulled up and pulled out two M-60 full auto machine guns and started firing these firearms right next to us. With all of that noise we decided to pack up and leave the range. Getting into the dealers car he said he noticed that I wasn’t interested in the Thompson and offered some more round drum magazines and the stick magazine all loaded with .45 ACP ammo plus some spare parts for the Thompson. I told him I would have to think about that deal and call him. Well I kick myself now for not calling him.

  • Scotty Gunn June 2, 2017, 9:21 pm

    I used to hang with a dealer that had a Colt Thompson. Fun gun to shoot. Never could afford one (without selling my cars, bikes,etc and walking to work), but a fond memory of shooting it. Pleasant and surprisingly accurate at 100 yards. My dad was on Okinawa, and he told me how he tried to beg and trade for one, but was stuck with the Garand for the duration.No one wanted to give up a Thompson. He thought he wanted a carbine,then, instead, but his buddies coming back from the front lines told him to forget that idea as they couldn’t knock the Japs down with one or two rounds from the carbine. He stuck with the garand knowing that it could do the job. He did maintenance, towing stuff in from the battlefields, and always was leery of wounded Japs that wanted to take some one with them….

  • Al Drinkard June 2, 2017, 9:12 pm

    I have a legal beautiful 1921 Colt TSMG with many accessories including the correct Police case made by someone in Colorado using original nickel hardware. I’m retired and want to sell it, but don’t know how to go about it. It’s listed in Roger Cox’s book as sold to a Midwest county police department in 1921. It has the correct county nicely engraved on the receiver. I would appreciate advice and guidance.

    • DIYinSTL June 5, 2017, 9:24 am

      For your greatest dollar you should probably contact Rock Island Auction Company (www.rockislandauction.com 309-797-1500.) To sell locally, find your nearest seller of suppressors; as a class III dealer they can also handle automatic firearms and would likely do so on commission. Ruben Mendiola (www.dealernfa.com 866-632-9268) always runs a big advertisement in Gun Digest and other gun magazines. Most importantly, don’t transport out of state without BATFE written permission and make sure you go through an experienced dealer. If an “i” goes un-dotted or a “t’ not crossed, BATFE will confiscate your treasure or require it be donated to the police or a museum while taking it off of the legal to be sold again list.

  • Doug June 2, 2017, 4:47 pm

    how many “disappeared” before they counted them, oops, I forgot, cops would never lie about this !!!

  • Mark June 2, 2017, 1:17 pm

    Really Doc. you have so little to add the Conversation that you focused on Tomato or tomato there’s nothing like going to the doctor & paying every time you come back for the same sickness,that’s either misdiagnosed ,or been given Antibiotics based on a guess ? This isn’t a discussion about grammar ,it’s about our Tommy gun loving 2A sole & the value we put on a American Icon ! Have a great day,& be careful where you stick your examination gloves !

  • Jacqueline R Golda June 2, 2017, 12:31 pm

    New York would have sold the guns and raised the taxes

    • Chained June 2, 2017, 5:09 pm

      No they would have destroyed the guns and raised taxes just for the hell of it.

  • Mr Gunner June 2, 2017, 11:46 am

    Last though. Rock Island auctions could handle that and realise much more in come for the pd. and everyone would be happy.
    The 1920’s guns depending on condition could be valued higher than 70,000 each.
    MG are high end collectibles and treated as such.

    • Rick Son June 2, 2017, 2:50 pm

      I wouldn’t pay over 500! They are just old shooters!

  • Kepha June 2, 2017, 10:54 am

    When and where is auction?

    • Dr. M. Katte June 2, 2017, 11:15 am

      Will someone please explain to Jordan Michaels the difference between ‘ordinance’ and ‘ordnance’?

      • AK June 2, 2017, 1:34 pm

        And….between “rifle” and “submachinegun.”

  • CatoRenasci June 2, 2017, 10:42 am

    My Dad owned a couple of legal Thompsons back in the ’50s and early ’60s – kept ’em at the local police range and made them available to the local cops if needed – in return, we could shoot them at the range and the dept. provided free .45ACP. An M1928 and an M1A1. The M1928 looked way cooler with the hand grip and the Cutts compensator, but I always shot better with the M1A1…. I wish he’d kept them, but they were traded in a series of deals among collectors that got him pieces he wanted more for what he thought were good deals at the time….

  • Todd June 2, 2017, 10:34 am

    “… Midwest Distributors has agreed to pay $22,000 for each of the iconic…” REALLY? Mor elite BEGGED to pay ONLY 22,000 each. The estimates are wildly underwritten!

    In any case, good on them but truly, I’ll believe it after it transpires. I find it highly unlikely that this sale of dangerous machine guns being let loose on the streets and amongst as well as in the hands of “the children” will go through without considerable attempts to block it. Someone will start screaming about public safety and security, terrorists and drug dealers in order to quash this amazing opportunity for well-heeled collectors.

    I hope it goes through – the values of my parts and mags can only benefit – of course, that being said – I wonder what if any “support package” will accompany the deal?

    Todd.

    • Mark June 2, 2017, 1:59 pm

      dont u love it when a weapon is call dangerous .my guns haven’t ever killed without my assistance ,have yours ?
      With $200 legal Attachments most AR’s & AK’s can fire 900rds a min anyway,Keeping the auto ban is just helping the 1% keep their investments from the rest of us,at a reasonable price,it’s as ridiculous today as a silencer ban,or Tax I guess we just call it..
      With a down loaded CNC program & a ready Available 3-D print a auto sear is just mins away for any criminal anyway, not to mention the entire untraceable weapon…
      Oh I just hate that 90% of us have to price the price because of a bunch of low life scum bags!!!

  • Mahatma Muhjesbude June 2, 2017, 9:54 am

    Once again, good purpose American Free enterprise is despotically curtailed by incessant totalitarian laws that should never have been implemented and should not continue to exist. Actually it’s an exemplary of how deleterious ALL gun control laws are in that they always wind up doing more harm than good and costing more than they are worth.

    Here We have a police department in need of equipment and is responsible enough to try Not to burden the taxpayers if they don’t have to, and came up with a fine idea to preserve valuable historic collectable items which will rarelyr be fired let alone used in crimes, and anti-Constitutional laws are essentially limiting and restricting the Protection of the people in their venue!

    We must move out harder on anti- anti-gun laws. Mid terms will creep up on us and become a ‘surprise ambush’. Then when the leftist totalitarians get back the Congress and/or Senate…well, we all know what that means.

    But, if push comes to flash bang, The police could always scale up the false War on Drugs Swat Raids in the City and Seize enough assets to then sell for the needed equipment?

  • Norm Fishler June 2, 2017, 9:52 am

    At the age of twelve I shot my first full auto Thompson at a shoot with the local police on a qualification shoot. I remember after I had finished with a twenty round magazine I stood there rolling the gun over & over in my hands, thinking to myself, “Is this is what all the fuss is about?” I have never liked them ever since. Heavy, awkward, overly complex and poorly balanced, I’ll take the M3A1 any day of the week. Say what you will about the M3, they just hang there & chug.

    With that much out of the way, I am delighted to see SLPD’s enlightened attitude towards acquiring new equipment for their rank & file. I know the Class Three Community is positively salivating at the thought of adding more Thompsons to the Class Three registry. The anti gunners who will collapse in hysterics at the thought have not a clue as to how the process works. As I understand it, Class Three firearms owners are the single most law-abiding group of individuals in this nation, bar none. Enjoy!

    • Mahatma Muhjesbude June 2, 2017, 10:08 am

      Yeah, Norm, I fired a lot of Thompsons and Grease guns. Thompson was too heavy and fast, Grease guns were too inaccurdate and slow, LOL! You could pull your trigger faster on a semi-auto than the cyclic rate of an M3. But they survived several wars and we always had plenty around for the indigenous populations we were trying to turn into rebels and insurgents.

      I remember quite a while back I saw an ad somewhere–maybe in Shotgun News about Dillinger’s Thompson being sold? I don’t know if that was from the CPD or somehow a private dealer but one would only have to ‘guess’ how that happened. LOL! A figure of 25k stands out in my mind. And this was many years ago.

      All I can say is that in terms of historic ‘Gangsta’ treasures that would make a Museum curator pee in his pants, and an avid collector lose a lot of sleep over deep in bowels of the ‘Evidence and Property’ recovery rooms in Chicago and other major cities would rival the Vatican’s Secret Vaults in commercial sex appeal.

  • paul bass June 2, 2017, 9:48 am

    saw one of those Thompson brought out of the armory back in 1962 when a truck load of cattle overturned and one particularly stubborn cow refused to be rounded back up. a sergeant called to have a Thompson sent to the scene so he could slay the cow. one old patrolman stepped up, drew his s and w model 10 and placed one 158 grain Remington lead bullet into the cow’s brain, and the round up was over. i would like to know what ever happened to the 1200 Winchester model 1897’s that were in permanent storage in the range, donated from the streetcar strike riots from 1906, (an old st. L cop from the 1960’s)

  • Retrocon June 2, 2017, 9:08 am

    Now would be a good time for congress to remover the ban on transferring post-1986 full auto firearms…

    Well, not for that one dealer.

    • mblack June 2, 2017, 10:28 am

      lol. No kidding!!!

  • Jeffrey L. Frischkorn June 2, 2017, 8:34 am

    This was my late father\’s favorite go-to weapon in World War II… He loved the Thompson…

  • Ryan June 2, 2017, 8:18 am

    Anyone else see a problem with the math from the facts above? If they sell the 27 Thompson’s for $22k each, the proceeds total $594k. If they have $350k left over to buy AR-15’s, that means they will spend $244k on pistols. If they buy 1,525 Beretta’s with this money, they are paying only $160 per pistol? Something’s off here.

    • Paul Jones June 2, 2017, 10:14 am

      You missed this “The Tommy gun sale combined with the sale of the department’s old handguns will pay for 1,525 new 9 mm Beretta handguns as well as $350,000 worth of new AR-15s.”

    • Mahatma Muhjesbude June 2, 2017, 10:20 am

      Yeah, something doesn’t add up. Isn’t that ALWAYS the problem in a police state? The government will give them FREE Vietnam surplus M-16s if they cozy up more to the Dark State’s War on Drugs attrocity and try to surpass the current record and go for the 100 THOUSAND national goal of mostly illegal SWAT drug raids for Asset Forfeiture seizuires.

      So what they really want the money for is advanced intrusion search devices like wall penetrating radar, probable cause canceling drones, and the new rage in all the land currently, Patriot Radar Equipment. To illegally search anybody walking around anywhere at any time.

  • DIYinSTL June 2, 2017, 7:53 am

    The SLPD also have two Browning M1919 light machine guns but can’t sell them because technically they are on loan from and still belong to the Feds. Maybe our reps in congress should stop fund raising long enough to get ownership transferred for the next time the PD needs some ready cash.

  • JG June 2, 2017, 7:32 am

    Sounds like SLPD has a friend at the Midwest distributor. “Can’t find 30 people to buy a real Thompson SM”… BS

    • Mr Gunner June 2, 2017, 11:42 am

      Had I known I would have placed a bid for the lot and I know several others that could cash buy the lot. As far as individual collectors there are 330,000 of us.

    • Kojack June 2, 2017, 5:19 pm

      I didn’t follow that either. What is with the NFA requirement? If these are older than 50 years, which they appear to be from the article, then they are C&R by definition. If I have a C&R and a machine gun license in my state, then I would be able to purchase without any issue. Am I missing something?

  • Chick June 2, 2017, 5:13 am

    I applaud the St Louis PD! I wish I had the money to buy one of these historic firearms! They realize the historical significance of the Thompson, and that people able to pay this money for them, are NOT gangsters. I can easily imagine San Francisco PD just having them destroyed.

  • Joe June 2, 2017, 5:00 am

    I can almost hear the saliva dripping onto the floor from those collectors anticipating the prospect of acquiring one of these fine pieces of American history. Let the bidding begin in earnest !!

  • WEDGE June 2, 2017, 4:28 am

    Beretta?! They must be stuck in a contract…What’s really hard to believe is that the gun control city didn’t force the police to destroy all those evil “Deadliest Dillinger assault ghost-guns”. Oh, wait. There’s some brown on them…that’s right, they’re ok then.

  • George Nelson June 1, 2017, 11:03 pm

    What a STUPID thing for the SLPD to do. As long as those Thompsons are in good mechanical shape, they will perfom as they once did. New ammo tecnology sinse the late ’20’s would result in a very modest improvement in performance. BAD IDEA.

    • Mike June 2, 2017, 7:13 am

      Sarcasm I hope?

    • Chris June 2, 2017, 7:16 am

      Also a bad idea to have your department depend on 80+ year old guns that need parts and regular maintenance.
      They made the right call. These guns deserve to be in the hands of collectors who can take them out to the range now and then.
      Plus, the STPD made it clear they needed pistols. These weren’t being sold to buy Mp5s, they were being sold to buy Berettas. Tommy’s aren’t exactly the best substitution for a duty handgun. I like the idea of 27 Thompsons getting put into hands where they can see the light of day now and then rather than remain in a police gun locker.

      • Mike June 2, 2017, 7:44 am

        Good reply!
        I have wanted one since 1965 but it was always just out of reach money wise…now that I can afford one CT laws prevent it…it’s okay for grown men to cry if it has to do with guns.

        • Chris June 2, 2017, 9:23 am

          Mike – you’re lucky if you can afford a Tommy! I’d move where I could do so 😉
          I love a Thompson, and that Savage M1 for $14 large I’d be tickled to death to own.
          My ‘dream gun’ tho is the old German Mp40. I don’t know what it is about it but I’ve loved it since I was a kid about 10/11 yo.

    • Tim June 2, 2017, 7:46 am

      A Tommy gun is NOT a good idea for a police force. Mobility and a controlled rate of fire are a must for modern departments. First off go to a local gun shop and handle one of the semi auto versions. THEY ARE HEAVY. Add 50 rounds of 45 ACP and they weigh 14 3/4 pounds. They will fire 700 rounds per minute. An AR15 with 3 round burst makes more sense weighing in at 7.9 pounds with a standard capacity fully loaded mag (30 rounds). Yes, a 230 grain 45 ACP has greater knock down power than a 77 grain 223 round but that is what a sidearm is for. In a suburban environment doing structure sweeps a lighter weapon is a must for mobility. Until a sniper is on site with a 308 an AR15 will quite easily punch holes is a bad guys chest at 200 to 300 yards as fast as you can reacquire the targeted vitals. A full auto is fun to shoot but is not a good choice for domestic policing. I applaud them for making a good choice in what to do with the guns.

      • John June 2, 2017, 9:01 am

        Wrong, I’m retired LE, when I went on the Dept I worked for also had 25 Thompson’s, they were extremely easy on entries, accuracy was unbelievable, the Inspector in charge could spell his name with one! And the site of them alone stopped many barricaded suspects in their tracks, would take one any day over a black gun!

        • Andrew June 2, 2017, 10:15 am

          Except you got practice.
          How much practice would be needed for a 1920’s vintage SMG to maintain proficiency? 50 rounds a year? No, probably more like a few hundred per week.
          How many departments would authorize that?
          And then…
          Sure, you “had” 25 of them, but unless you got an armorer, and have Numrich on Speed Dial to keep those things running, they’re not going to number 25 for very long. And at that rate of “use” they’re still not going to number 25 for very long, some being almost 100 years old.

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