6 Photos of a Commando Mark III “Genuine Imitation” Tommy Gun
Russ Chastain 07.12.17
Some years ago, I fell heir to a really cool old shootin’ iron, of which I knew nothing. Naturally, I set about learning just what I had, and it wasn’t long before I learned I had a cheap, undependable, hastily-built carbine designed to fire 45 ACP ammo–with super-awesome good looks which more or less make up for its shortcomings.
This gun was made in Knoxville, Tennessee by Volunteer Enterprises, and is one of several incarnations of carbines which they made as Tommy gun lookalikes, relying on their resemblance to a Thompson 1927A-1 submachine gun to sell them. It’s a blowback-operated semi-automatic.
The Commando Mark III version shown here was made from 1969-1976, with either a square wood forearm or this finger-groove vertical grip. The shoulder stock is reputedly the same as a Thompson stock.
It’s amazingly heavy, and with a fully-loaded magazine, the Commando Mark III weighs more than ten pounds!
Speaking of magazines, these guns use mil-surp magazines for the M3 Grease Gun, which aren’t well-designed. When loaded, these magazines swell at the top, even if you just cram 5 rounds in. This increased thickness makes the magazines fit a bit too tightly in the mag well.
The crossbolt safety is located above & behind the stamped sheet metal trigger, and the magazine release is that button just behind the mag well.
This gun has one of the worst trigger pulls in existence, and it was worse when I first got it. I managed to smooth it out a bit, but it’s still extremely heavy; far beyond what my trigger pull scale can read (it maxes out at 8 pounds).
The bolt handle is on the left, unlike real Tommy guns. There’s no last-round hold-open feature, but you can lock it open if you pull the bolt back and pull out on the handle when it’s lined up with that round cutout above the safety.
The Thompson has cooling fins on the barrel… the Commando Mark III has a decorative aluminum piece which masquerades as cooling fins. It simply slides over the barrel (which isn’t tapered) and is secured by set screws. The vertical hand grip “stock” mounts to the bottom of this part.
Another feature designed to resemble a Tommy gun is this part. It just slips onto the barrel without anything to index it, and two set screws hold it in place. The slots in the top are meant to make it look like the Thompson’s compensator.
For what good it does, this part does serve as a front sight, so you will have at least a vague idea of where your shots may end up.
Some (many? most?) of these guns have peep sights, but this one clearly does not. What it does have is a remarkably crude sheet-metal sight, which can be adjusted with little to no precision–and which must be removed when you tear down the gun for cleaning.
The notched sight and the wings on either side which guard it are all formed from a single piece of sheet metal, held in place by a solitary screw.
Simplicity was the order of the day when this thing was built, and the receiver too shows this. It’s a length of square tubing, formed by bending sheet metal and welding it lengthwise along one corner. A steel block welded into the front of the tube is threaded for the barrel, and a simple ejector is welded inside of the tube. You’ll find nothing but the basics in this old dog.
You may have inferred that I don’t have a tremendous amount of love for the Volunteer Enterprises Mark III Commando, and you would be correct. Oh, it’s valuable to me for sentimental reasons… but as a shooter it ain’t much. The reason? It likes to jam.
I’ve done a lot of work on this gun to correct some troubles, but I haven’t fully cured its ailments.
That said, it’s a lot of fun to shoot when it’s in the mood to feed ammo, and it looks great doing it. All in all, I like it and I’m glad to own it.
Would I buy one? Maybe, if it was dirt cheap.
- Weight (unloaded without magazine): 8.1 pounds
- Magazine weight: 0.8 pounds (empty)
- Magazine weight: 2.2 pounds (loaded with 30 rounds 230-grain ammo)
- Magazine type: M3 “Grease Gun” 30-round
- Overall length: 36.625 inches
- Barrel length: 16.5 inches