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M16 – Colt and Other Manufacturers

The M16 was entered into U.S. Military service in 1963, and was adopted in 1967 as the M16A1.  After suffering from early teething problems, the M16 family has been through several revisions and today enjoys a positive proven track record around the world.

There are several key variants of the M16 employed within the U.S. Military, however the platform is expandable by the end user, which has led to its popularity with both civilians and governments alike.

  • M16 – Original variant
  • M16A1 - Introduced a forward assist to aid with the seating of the bolt into battery, and a chrome bore
  • M16A2 – Added a case deflector, adjustable rear sight, 3 round burst, round handguards, and a heavier barrel
  • M16A3 - Upper receiver incorporates a Picatinny rail, with a detachable carry handle, as well as full auto operation
  • M16A4 - Similar to the M16A3, it featured a 3 round burst mechanism, and full length Picatinny handguard rails by Knights Armament for the attachment of accessories
  • M4/M4A1 – Based on a 14.5 inch barrel, with a Picatinny handguard, and collapsible stock. The M4 featured a 3 round burst mechanism, while the M4A1 had ability to select full auto

Within the NFA firearms community, Colt M16 variants are the most sought after as firearms that are both collectible and shootable.  Secondary manufacturers, and AR15s that have been converted to fully automatic prior to the 1986 cutoff date are still very collectible, but represent a more affordable price point, while maintaining all of the functionality of a factory M16.

DIAS ( Drop in Auto Sears ) are the final option for owning a M16, which allow a current production AR15 that features the proper space within the lower receiver, to function as a machinegun.  DIAS allow for newer vendors and style of receivers to be used by the end user, and have a big following for those wanting to enjoy the latest receiver technology, but in full auto.

H&K - Heckler & Koch

H&K machine guns and submachine guns represent one of the most popular categories in the NFA firearms community. Following WW II, Heckler & Koch formed in postwar Germany, where former Mauser engineers began designing a battle rifle for the German Federal Army. In 1959 H&K was awarded the contract to produce the G3 rifle as part of that contract, and thus began the H&K lineage. Since those early days, H&K have refined their design, and are known for design aspects such as their roller delayed blowback system (which means no gas system, operating rod, etc), fluted chamber (aids in the proper ejection of the spent case by encapsulating it with gas), and polygonal rifling (which provide a better gas seal to the bullet).

The most common H&K models available for purchase on the NFA market are:

  • G3 – Full size battle rifle in 7.62.x51
  • HK21 – Belt fed version of the G3 in 7.62x51, that served as a general purpose machine gun, which featured a heavier build, and hooked stock
  • HK51 - Not offered as a factory variant, but commonly available as a NFA variant that was introduced by Bill Fleming, this firearm is a G3 scaled down to a MP5 form factor
  • HK33 – A full size battle rifle, which originated as a scaled down version of the G3, and offered in 5.56mm
  • HK53 – A compact version of the HK33, with a form factor similar to the MP5
  • MP5 – Compact submachine gun, that is considered the Cadillac of SMGs, and was originally offered in 9mm
  • MP5SD – Integrally suppressed version of the MP5
  • MP5K - A machine pistol variant

NFA registered H&K firearms and sear packs are often referred by their trigger group style - SEF, Navy, 0-1-2, 0-1-3, 4 Position groups

  • SEF – Safe / Semi / Full Auto
  • Navy – Safe / Semi Full Auto
  • 0-1-2 – Safe / Semi / Two-Round Burst
  • 0-1-3 – Safe / Semi / Three-Round Burst
  • 4 Position
  • Safe / Semi / Two-Round Burst / Full Auto
  • Safe / Semi / Three-Round Burst / Full Auto

H&K machine guns are available as registered receiver guns, or as sear guns

  • Registered receiver guns were manufactured predominately via the conversion of factory H&K semi-automatic firearms, and are caliber locked to the receiver they were based on
  • Registered sears are generally considered more desireable, as the sear, which lives in the trigger pack, can be moved from one H&K firearm to another, so it can be used in a full size G3 or in your registered HK94/MP5 clone

There were several manufacturers of H&K conversions and sears prior to the 1986 cutoff – S&H, Fleming, FJ Vollmer, Qualified,  Terry Dyer, LaFrance, and others.  The quality of the conversions and manufacturing of sears varied with some manufacturers – with that in mind, our H&K firearms are inspected and verified before being offered for sale.

Thompson Submachine Gun

Perhaps no other firearm is so universally recognizable, nor as interwoven through modern American and Allied history as the Thompson Submachine Gun, a.k.a. the “Tommy Gun.”  The image of a Thompson with a 50-round drum conjures up thoughts of gangsters and the lawmen who brought them to justice during the 1920’s and 30’s.  It gained notoriety when two Model of 1921 Thompsons were used by gangsters in the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, an event that, along with other criminal activity, drove decisions to legislate machine guns, creating laws that continue to govern the NFA community today.  It is the classic of all classic firearms.

Most do not realize that the Thompson did not achieve initial commercial success.  Auto-Ordnance was a company created in 1916 by John Thompson and a hand picked group of engineers with the financing of Fortune Ryan, who named the submachine gun that the company invented after the man who inspired it.  What began as a rifle design around the Blish locking principle, ended up becoming a successful “submachine gun” chambered in the .45 ACP pistol cartridge.  The design missed the target of becoming available prior to the end of World War I, but the team pressed on.  The first Thompsons sold commercially were known as Model of 1919’s, of which about 40 were made, most of which had small changes to their design along the way, and were made in a shop in Cleveland, Ohio.  NYPD was an early adopter of the Model of 1919. 

The Model of 1921 is the classic Thompson Submachine Gun, and was subcontracted by Auto-Ordnance to be manufactured by Colt, which made 15,000 Thompsons, serial numbered from #41 to #15040.  Colt Thompsons are beautiful firearms, made between 1921-22 in the same manner that Colt manufactured all of their other fine firearms of the period.  The guns were fed by 20-round (XX), 50-round (L), and 100-round (C) drums.  Along the way, sales of the Thompson slowed, and the original Model of 1921A (no compensator) configured Thompsons were altered into several new configurations.  These included the Model of 1928, which was eventually adopted by the USPS to supply to Marines to guard the mail, followed by U.S. Marine and Army adoption, and involved the addition of a compensator, and heavier actuator, to slow the rate of fire from 900+ RPM down to about 750RPM.  The Model of 1927 was a semi-automatic alteration to spur sales to law enforcement agencies who didn’t want a machine gun in the hands of their officers.  The largest purchasers of Colt Thompsons were France, Sweden, and the U.S. Military entities whoadopted it on a limited scale.  It took until 1940 to sell all 15,000 Thompsons, and the failing company was sold to Russell Maguire in 1939.  The winds of war quickly made Maguire’s acquisition of Auto-Ordnance one of the most fortuitous deals in history, and World War II drove production of a further 1.5+ million units.

Russell Maguire’s Auto-Ordnance Corporation contracted in early 1940 with Savage Arms of Utica, NY to produce Model of 1928, and then Model of 1928A1 Thompsons while a company factory could be built in Bridgeport, CT.  The new Auto-Ordnance Bridgeport factory came online in late 1941 and most initial production went to Britain, as well as the U.S. Army.  No Savage Thompsons bore the Savage name, but they can easily be distinguished by the “S” prefix of their serial numbers.  It is almost 100% certain that their serial numbers began with S-15041, starting off where Colt production serials ended.   The Thompson was an expensive gun to produce, and during WWII, efficiencies drove the creation of the Model M1 and M1A1 Thompsons, which eliminated the Blish lock, and removed the ability to usedrum magazines, and a 30-round (XXX) magazine became available.  M1/M1A1 Thompsons have a side-mounted bolt handle.  The Thompson was officially replaced in 1943 by the M3 Greasegun, but production of the M1A1 Thompson occurred until 1944.

After WWII, the Thompson assets changed hands from the Auto-Ordnance Division of Maguire Industries to a consortium of investors who sold it to Kilgore Manufacturing Company in Westerville, Ohio, who planned to restart M1 Thompson production.  A large industrial accident caused Kilgore to drop the project, and the assets were again sold through a consortium to Numrich Arms of Mamaroneck, NY in 1951.  Numrich soon moved to West Hurley, NY, where it still operates a huge gun parts business today.  George Numrich Sr. sold many remaining production Thompson units, put together from leftover parts, and are commonly known as “crate guns,” or “NAC Thompsons.”  These have several iterations, and are not often encountered, but they are out there among the NFA community, and represent another small class of Thompsons.  Numrich wanted to market a semi-automatic version of the Thompson, and received approval to do so in 1974.  In 1975, the Model 1927-A1 Semi-Automatic Carbine came to market as a result.  Numrich also produced several thousand Model of 1928 Thompson Submachine Guns under the Auto-Ordnance name, and over 600 Model M1 Thompsons prior to the ban of further manufacture on May 19, 1986.  These machine guns are commonly referred to as “West Hurley Thompsons.”  Numrich sold Auto-Ordnance to Kahr Arms in 1999, and the company continues to produce semi-automatic versions of the Thompson.

The Thompson is one of the most popular NFA firearms, and there are over 11,000 transferable units in the NFA registry.  Colts are the most desirable and expensive, followed by WWII models, then NAC Thompsons, followed by West Hurley Thompsons.

(Courtesy David Albert – Thompson Historian)


The Uzi has been sold to more law enforcement organizations and military units than any other submachine gun ever made, and represents one of the most recognizable firearms in the world. Developed in the late 1940s by Uziel Galil, and adopted by the Israelis in 1954, the Uzi was rolled out into general use by the end of 1950s.

Designed to have a rate of fire of  600 rounds per minute from an open bolt, and built primarily from stamped sheet metal, the Uzi is a prime example of  functional simplicity. The Uzi features a grip safety in addition to the safety selector, which offers Safe, Semi, and Full Auto functionality.  Although originally fitted with a wood stock,  it was updated to a folding steel stock in the 1960s.   Primarily known as a 32rd 9mm submachine gun, the Uzi has also been produced in or with conversion kits for 22 LR, 45 ACP, and 41 AE.

Variants of the original Uzi, include the following:

  • Mini-Uzi  -  1980 - A shorter and lighter version of the full size Uzi, with a 7.76 inch barrel instead of the full size 10.2 inch of the original Uzi, and a cyclic rate of 950 RPM.
  • Micro-Uzi – 1983 – The smallest of the Uzi family, with a 4.6” barrel and a faster cyclic rate of  1200 RPM from a closed bolt.

Sten Gun

Named after its four chief designers, the STEN Gun was a British submachine gun that was pressed into service in 1941 to fill the demand for a submachine gun that was being left unfilled by limited Thompson submachine gun deliveries from the United States to WW 2 England..

Designed to be simple to produce, with low production costs, the STEN was chambered in 9mm, fired from an open bolt, and had a very low cyclic rate of approx. 500 rounds per minute from its 32rd magazine.  Taking a total of five man hours to manufacture, production was originally handled by multiple small shops producing the various fourty-seven stamped and simply machined component parts (in the case of the Mk III), which were then final assembled and welded in Enfield.  There were six versions of the STEN, Mk .I – Mk. VI, that were refinements of the original design to either simplify production, or address safety issues.

  • Mk. I -  Had a conical flash hider, more refined finish, wood foregrip, slightly different sights, and an extended barrel shroud.
  • Mk. II – Represented a simplification of the design, where the wood was eliminated, stock skeletonized, barrel shroud cut back several inches and cross drilled with holes, removable barrel was added, and the magazine housing could be rotated 90 degrees while still retaining the magazine.
  • Mk. III  -  Was another simplification of the Mk. I, where the receiver and barrel shroud were one piece, and extended forward towards the muzzle, and a fixed magazine housing.
  • Mk. IV – Was an experimental model, that was never put into production, that had a folding stock meant for paratrooper use.
  • Mk. V -  Introduced towards the end of the war, certain refinements were brought back into the design, that included wood furniture, and a bayonet lug.
  • Mk. VI – Suppressed version of the STEN Mk. V

The STEN family served the British well into the 1960s, when it was replaced by the Sterling.


Design of the Sterling began at the end of WW II, as a replacement for the STEN Gun, but with ending of the war in 1945, adoption was slowed till 1953.  When finally placed into service, it too featured a cyclic rate of around 500 Rounds Per Minute and fired from an open bolt,  but had significantly more refined production methods, under folding stock, improved bolt group, and a 34 round magazine.


  • L2A1 – 1953 - Referred to as the Patchett Machine Carbine Mk. 2
  • L2A2 -  1955 – Referred to as the Sterling Mk. 3
  • L2A3 – 1956 – Referred to as the Sterling Mk. 4
  • L34A1 – Referred to as the Sterling-Patchett Mk. 5, this was the ever popular (and quiet) suppressed version

The Sterling family served until 1994

S&W M76

Introduced as a 9mm copy of the Swedish K, the Smith & Wesson 76 was produced from 1967 to 1974, after the Swedish government restricted export of the m/45 to the Navy Seals due to the Swedish opposition of the Vietnam War.  By the time the M76 reached production, the Military’s need for the firearm diminished, so most copies ended up with police departments and civilian purchasers.

Besides S&W Produced guns several other manufacturers made copies

  • MK760 - MK Arms licensed the rights from Smith & Wesson, and produced a true copy of the M76 until 1986
  • M76A1 - Global Arms was an offshoot by one of the partners from MK Arms
  • SW 76 - JMB Distribution produced guns from tubes that John Stemple registered in 1986. The tubing diameter of these receivers was different than that of the original S&W gun, and as such required a bolt that was specific to the gun, and sleaving of the tube

Swedish K

Adopted by the Swedish government in 1945, it served as the standard submachine gun for Sweden until 1965, and was fully retired from service by 2007. Chambered in 9mm, the m/45 Swedish K is a blowback design, operating from an open bolt, with a cyclic rate of approx. 600 rounds per minute.


Originally designed in 1964 by Gordon Ingram, the Model 10 9mm submachine gun met little early sales success. The weapon received little recognition until the late 1960s, when Ingram teamed up with Mitch Werbell, a suppressor designer specializing in covert operations equipment, who paired his Sionics suppressor design in 45 caliber to the M10 platform to create an effective and quiet system for special operations forces.

Under the name of Military Arms Corporation, Ingram and Werbell began production of the Ingram submachine gun in 1969 in Powder Springs, GA and later moved to Marietta, GA, when they outgrew their original facility.  During that time, Ingram and Werbell were forced from the Military Arms Corporation by members of their parent holding company, the Quantum Corporation, who struck Ingram’s name from the gun, and replaced it with MAC. Under the new management, the company slowly proceeded into bankruptcy, and by 1976 the assets were sold by the courts.

That same year, RPB was formed by former MAC employees Roby, Pitts, and Brueggerman, who had obtained the rights to manufacture the M10 and M11, and setup shop in Atlanta, GA.  RPB began their production using left over parts and machinery from the original MAC days, but a year into the business they were under water, and the company was sold to Wayne Daniel in 1978.  He moved the company to another part of Atlanta, but retained the RPB Industries name.  Four years later, RPB Industries was dissolved, and their shop equipment and M10 tooling sold off to the Advanced Armament Corporation, who went on to produce the Texas MACs.

Wayne Daniels took his knowledge and rights to the M11, and in 1982 formed SWD (which stood for Sylvia and Wayne Daniel) Marietta, GA. As SWD, they produced the M11, which had a smaller frame than the M10, in both 9mm and .380 variants.  The M11 in 9mm has a smaller frame than a MAC 10, and the MAC 11 in .380 is even smaller than the MAC 11 in 9mm.

On May 19,1986, production of new civilian MACs by the various companies was brought to a close with the passing of the Hughes Amendment – however inventories of receiver flats and other parts allowed folks like Wayne Daniel to continue production of hybrid parts guns derived from RPB, SWD, and Texas MACs.

With a high cyclic rate, and compact design, the MAC has often been referred to as a “bullet hose”. Through the use of suppressor, the controllability of the platform is greatly enhanced, but the high cyclic rate was still detrimental to the use of the gun for some users.  Enter Lage Manufacturing, who introduced their wildly successful line of upper receivers for the MAC line of submachine guns. These upper receivers have breathed new life into MACs by offering lower cyclic rates, sight rails, high capacity drum usage, and overall better controllability.  Many Lage MACs are quite successfully used in various submachine gun competitions, including the semi-annual National Submachine Gun Competition at Knob Creek in West Point, KY.

Through the years the MAC has been one of the most tenacious submachine guns on the market – having survived multiple manufacturing companies, bankruptcies, government regulations, and eventual modern rebirth – but it also remains one of the best values in the machinegun world, delivering an exceptional amount of smiles per dollar to their owners. 

M2 Carbine

The M2 Carbine (Carbine, Cal. .30, M2) was the late WWII, select fire offspring of the M1 Carbine.  Much has been written about the history and myriad details of the M1 Carbine, and its manufacture by 10 main contractors during the war.  Manufacturers were Inland, Winchester, Rock-Ola, IBM, National Postal Meter, Saginaw Steering Gear, Underwood, Quality Hardware, Standard Products, and Irwin-Pedersen.  Over 6 million units were produced in .30 Carbine caliber, and most folks either love them, or hate them.  The M2 Carbine was only produced by the Inland Division of General Motors in Dayton, Ohio, and its main wartime military service occurred during the Korean War, with very little activity during WWII, since it was introduced very late in that conflict.  It also saw use in Vietnam, particularly with ARVN forces, although many were used and/or modified for special applications by U.S. servicemen.  It served the U.S. Military in various applications from 1942, until the early 1970’s.  The weapon weighs about 6 lbs. loaded, and can be fed by a 15 or 30 round magazine. It fires at a rate of about 750 pm, maybe a little higher.

In the NFA world, there are several unusual aspects to “M2 Carbines” that should be understood. The main differences are as follows:

  • Inland M2 Carbines manufactured originally as M2 Carbines (C&R)
  • Inland and other manufacturer M1 Carbine receivers that are converted to full auto (Not C&R)
  • Other manufacturer M1 Carbine receivers that are converted to full auto, and re-marked “M2” (Not C&R)
  • Inland M1 Carbine receivers that are converted to full auto and re-marked “M2” (Not C&R)
  • Registered M2 Carbine part sets that can be placed into an M1 Carbine host firearm (A special set of 8 M2 related full auto parts, with one being serial numbered) (Not C&R) (Possession of these particular parts, all together, technically constitutes a machine gun, even without a receiver present)
  • Plainfield M1/M2 Carbines, either manufactured or converted (Post War Commercial) (Not C&R)
  • Universal M1/M2 Carbines, either manufactured or converted (Post War Commercial) (Not C&R)
  • Converted Iver Johnson M1 Carbines (Post War Commercial) (Not C&R)
  • Converted Howa (Japan) M1 Carbines (Post War Commercial) (Not C&R)
  • Several other, smaller companies made M1 Carbines through the years that could have been converted to full auto prior to May 19, 1986
  • There are some other, uncommonly encountered variations of the M2 registered parts sets (Not C&R)
  • Any M1 Carbine, even those manufactured by Kahr Arms (Auto-Ordnance) today could be hosts to registered M2 Carbine parts sets

It is important to understand exactly what you are purchasing when considering an M2 Carbine. Many M2 Carbines were amnesty registered in late 1968.  If you are looking for a C&R M2 Carbine, it’s going to be an Inland.

One nuance to all of this that is mentioned for awareness only, is that Inland, at the very end of their M2 production run in 1945, made some receivers that they marked “M2,” and supposedly never assembled into M2 Carbines, so they were never technically considered machine guns.  They were given to employees of the company, and had “XD” serial number prefixes. There could be some that were subsequently amnesty registered as machine guns, which would have the appropriate associated NFA paperwork, but they were not registered as such originally from Inland. A few such M2 marked guns have been encountered in collector circles, and since they are marked M2, but are not registered, they should be considered and treated as contraband. 

The M2 Carbine, while not a fragile firearm, is a little less resilient over time than many other full auto firearms, and attention should be paid to part functionality and overall wear to the receiver.  The weapon fires a cartridge that is basically equivalent to a .357 Magnum in full auto, so it does take a beating.  A Marine manual of the Korean War era recommended that after firing 15,000 rounds, M2 Carbines should be inspected for usability, and undergo full arsenal rebuilds.  Most M1 Carbines went through arsenal rebuilds during, or following WWII.

The market for M2 Carbines has always been on the lower end of the machine gun price scale, and as such, they are more affordable than most MG’s.  Price is dependent upon desirability, associated with the many nuances previously detailed.  C&R Inland M2’s command the highest prices, of course dependent upon condition, while converted, post war commercial Carbines represent the low end of the price scale.