Gun Review: Thompson Submachine Gun


There are very few truly iconic firearms, ones that the lay public as well as gun nuts can identify at first sight. Not only are those instantly recognizable guns a perfect representation of the era in which they were designed and first used, but they have a look and feel all their own that sets them apart from the rest of the firearms world. They’re ambassadors for their era, giving us a unique insight into the mindset and the technology of their time. And in my opinion, only four firearms make the cut: the M16, the Glock, the AK-47, and the Thompson SMG. Until recently, I had never fired the last one on that list. But thanks to Kevin Brittingham, that oversight has recently been corrected . . .

To understand the Thompson SMG, you need to start at the beginning of the story.

The realities of trench warfare during World War I were simply too much for the technology of the time. Guns had developed based on the idea of the traditional European battlefield, with tightly choreographed regiments of soldiers marching in formation, all firing in unison. Firing faster was an interesting concept, but even though Maxim’s machine guns had been around since 1889, it was only very recently that they had been adopted in large numbers by the armies of the world.

Even then, they were more like fixed artillery pieces instead of portable force multipliers. So when a single round from an FN Model 1910 touched off the powder-keg of Europe, the primary weapon in the hands of the average soldier was still a bolt action rifle designed for pitched battles in open fields. What they found instead was that their accurate long-range rifles were simply too big and too slow to be an effective weapon in the confines of an enemy trench.

General John T. Thompson recognized the issue immediately. The average soldier needed a weapon that was compact enough to not get tangled up when fighting in a trench, but accurate enough to hit targets some distance away. It needed to fire multiple rounds of ammunition in quick succession, but be simple enough that the average soldier could clean it and disassemble it without losing the important parts in the mud of France. It needed to have as little recoil as possible, but project enough lead to kill the enemy. It needed to be perfect, and Thompson had a solution.

The first version of the Thompson Submachine Gun didn’t have a stock. While gun control advocates of today wrongly claim that the AR-15 was designed to be fired from the hip, the Thompson SMG actually was. It could be fired while aiming down the sights, but when clearing a trench “point shooting” from the hip was a more effective method.

For the ammunition, Thompson chose the .45 ACP cartridge. The U.S. Army had recently adopted John Browning’s Model 1911 handgun as the replacement for their Single Action Army models, and since Thompson envisioned his gun being used at the same distances as the M1911 was intended to be used it only made sense that they used the same ammunition. At the time, shoulder fired firearms were almost always chambered in a full size rifle cartridge of some sort, with an emphasis on long range “stopping power” being a key requirement in the design. But Thompson understood that in order to keep the gun controllable in such tight quarters, he needed to use a cartridge with much less recoil. And the .45 ACP was an existing and accepted design already in the arsenal of the U.S. Government.

The operating mechanism was the final link in the chain that made the gun ideal for the conditions in France, and made it possible for the average soldier to use it. Instead of adapting one of Browning or Thompson’s gas piston systems to make the firearm automatically reload the firearm while firing, Thompson showed his true genius by adapting the recently discovered Blish principle to make the first blowback operated firearm.

John Blish’s discovery that two dissimilar metals would create an abnormal amount of friction when under pressure allowed Thompson to design a gun where the friction between the brass case of the cartridge and the steel of the chamber would keep the barrel sealed long enough for the projectile to exit the barrel, and then that pressure from the barrel would provide the rearward force required to cycle the bolt. It was a genius concept on par with any of Browning’s designs.

The only problem was that by the time the gun was ready, the war was over. Peace had broken out all across the world, and there was no need to clear any more trenches. So Thompson did what any self respecting capitalist would do: he threw a stock on it and sold it to the American public.

This is where the Thompson SMG starts to influence history in more ways that one. Throughout the 1920’s and the prohibition era, the Thompson was the weapon of choice for gangsters. The ease with which one could be concealed and the firepower it wielded was previously impossible to accomplish. As a result, gangsters and law enforcement officers bought the guns in droves. The gun’s identity as the weapon of gangsters was cemented in history after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre near Chicago where it was used to gun down five rival mobsters. That event was the tipping point in the politics of the day, and would eventually lead to the 1934 National Firearms Act which would kick off the drive for gun control in the United States.

The Thompson SMG had already earned its place in history as the firearm that caused the first national gun control legislation to be passed, but the story doesn’t end there.

thomspn SMG, c eBay

In many ways, the Thompson and its history reflects the character of the boys sent overseas to fight in World War II — scrappy dogfaces with lots of fight and some mischief in their background who were shipped out to do a job and do it well. That interesting parallel alone is enough to give it its iconic status, but the gun’s performance in combat leaves no doubt.

The Marine Corps had been using the Thompson SMG for years before WWII started, but after the United States entered the war, the Thompson finally was placed in full production to stock the arsenals of the United States. While it may have come along too late for the first great war, the Thompson SMG proved to be one of the most effective and desired firearms in the hands of U.S. soldiers around the world. Some even argue that had the Thompson not been in the hands of American soldiers, we might not have won the war.

Thompson SMG, c Nick Leghorn

The Thompson SMG I fired was a later model, introduced for the soldiers in WWII and simplified to make the manufacturing process easier. Gone were the drum magazines and ladder sights of the earlier models. Instead, a fixed peep sight and straight 30-round magazines were introduced. The elaborate vertical foregrip was also removed and replaced with a more traditional handguard design. And while you may think that this makes the gun less controllable, you’re dead wrong.

The choice of caliber and the weight of the gun make this one of the lightest recoiling firearms I’ve ever fired. The gun just doesn’t move, even during sustained full-auto fire. The only time when there is any appreciable recoil, as evidenced by the video, is when the heavier modern loads slam the bolt all the way to the end of its travel and make it slam into the back of the receiver. Otherwise, the moving mass of the bolt keeps the recoil extremely light.

While the recoil is downright pleasant, the ergonomics aren’t so much. The gun was designed to be fired from the hip and you can feel it when you shoulder the gun. I’m a pretty big guy and the gun felt big and bulky in my hands. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like in the hands of my relatively malnourished and stunted grandparents when they shipped out. Plus, the angle of the stock compared to the action was extremely awkward and didn’t provide a good cheek weld at all.

Despite the poor ergos, the gun is amazingly accurate. In semi-auto mode, from 50 yards away, I was consistently nailing a B/C zone steel USPSA target, which is roughly the shape of the vital organs in a human. If you’re testing the combat effectiveness of a firearm, that’s the gold standard benchmark of combat effectiveness — the ability to put rounds in a vital area of a target.

The accuracy of the gun was exceptionally surprising given the operating mechanism. Open bolt guns are notoriously inaccurate, since the “lock time” from when you pull the trigger until when the gun goes off is many times longer than a closed bolt gun. There are a lot of moving parts acting on the gun to throw off your aim. But since all of the parts are in line with the bore of the gun, it all stays on target which is great for accuracy. It was a really pleasant surprise.

Thompson SMG, c Nick Leghorn

The controls of the firearm are primitive, but you can see the beginnings of the fire control system that we still use today. Simple switches control the functions of the firearm, much like the selector switch on the AR-15 platform. But while our selector performs multiple functions, the Thompson uses two different selector switches to control the SAFE/FIRE operation and the SEMI/FULL AUTO functions. The switches themselves are rather flimsy compared to other contemporary firearms of the day (such as the Browning Automatic Rifle and the second generation safety on the M1 carbine), but nearly a century after they were first manufactured they still work perfectly.

The most interesting thing is the position of the magazine release. Instead of placing it somewhere that the shooter can use their trigger finger to actuate it, it was designed to be used by the left hand when extracting the magazine. Even in 1928, John Thompson was trying to force soldiers to get the gun into their “workspace” (right in front of their face) during reloads to look at what they’re doing more closely.

Thompson SMG, c Nick Leghorn

Speaking of inserting a magazine, that’s one of the only things I didn’t like about the gun. Every other firearm from this period has a very clear tactile queue that you’ve inserted the magazine, from the very audible “click” on an M1 carbine to the reassuring “CHUNK” on a BAR. But with the Thompson you kinda just shove it in there and hope it stays. It’s slightly disconcerting, but after a while you get used to it and get a feel for when it’s in place properly.

Oh yeah, one last thing:

thompson smg, c Nick Leghorn

It has a reciprocating bolt handle. I know that’s kind of par for the course for things invented nearly a century ago, but the Browning Automatic Rifle had already figured out the non-recip charging handle for its design. That’s harder to pull off in such a small form factor, but hey, I have to find something to gripe about or else Robert starts cutting my pay.

Firing the Thompson SMG was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It’s such a beautiful gun aesthetically and when you throw in all the technological advances that it represents as well as the history of the gun, it’s simply a magical piece of art. Like I said, it truly is an iconic firearm. And I will never forget the afternoon I spent with it on the range.

Thompson Submachine Gun

Specifications
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel: 10.5″
Size: 32″
Weight: 10.6 lbs. empty
Operation: friction delayed gas blowback
Capacity: 20 / 30 round stick magazine
MSRP: $20,000

 

Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
All ratings are relative compared to the other weapons in the gun’s category.

Accuracy: * * * * *
From a barrel nearly a century old and well past the replacement mark in terms of round count, it was still combat-effective even at 50 yards. And for an SMG of this era that’s all we care about.

Ergonomics: * *
Ambidextrous this thing is not. All of the controls are set up for right-handed shooters. Lefties just have to deal with it. Plus, the tacked-on stock makes the thing less than ideal for a weapons platform ergonomics-wise.

Ergonomics Firing: * * * * *
Oh man, it feels good. Like, really good.

Customization: N/A
If you even so much as suggest changing a single thing on the Thompson then I will personally come to your house and kick your ass. Red Jacket, I’m looking at you.

Overall Rating: * * * * *
Again, this is an iconic firearm. It has all the features that make a classic gun; a great history, it represents a giant leap forward in technology and it’s just a great-shooting firearm. For those with the cash, it’s the perfect addition to any collection.

comments

  1. My absolute, personal favorite firearm of all time, hands down. Thanks for the review.

  2. avatar Gregolas says:

    Firing a 1927 model in ’92 is one of the highlights of my life! An M1A1 is on my list to get my full-geek Sgt. Saunders on!
    Thanks Nick!

  3. avatar Paul W says:

    Man, you get to shoot a Thompson and you STILL complain! 😛

  4. avatar Kvjavs says:

    Thanks for not doing some strange trendy stance in your video like the guy did in the picture. I was about to cry.

    1. avatar jim says:

      The guy in the picture, making the crazy stance, which nearly made you cry is Col. Thompson. Some may think that he is entitles to hold the weapon as he pleases.

      1. avatar Francesco says:

        I think he is talking about the dude with the John Deere hat on top of the page, firing all “Chris Costa” like

  5. avatar LS/HD says:

    Looks like fun. Lucky dog.

    For your list of four iconic firearms, using the definition you’ve set forth, I’d say the Thompson probably tops that list, especially if you show a picture of one to John Q Public that includes the drum magazine. But the list would have to include the Colt Single Action Army, which has to be close to the most iconic gun of all time, no?

    1. avatar Hanover Fist says:

      +1 on the Colt SAA. If there is only four on the list it should be there instead of the Glock. Most lay people would probably call any black plastic pistol a Glock, but the SAA is as iconic as it gets.

      1. There are a few more that you could add to that list the 1911 colt the luger thet m3a1 grease gun the Bar,the m1 grand and more my wife is from the Philippines and knows these guns very well what makes you think a gun person like me cant name 10 or more right of the bat

    2. avatar Jay says:

      His criteria: “Not only are those instantly recognizable guns a perfect representation of the era in which they were designed and first used, but they have a look and feel all their own that sets them apart from the rest of the firearms world.”

      I’d definitely put a Colt SAA on that list, and probably also a Luger P08 (early semi-automatic handgun; maybe an early 1911 or a Mauser C96 instead) and a Lee-Enfield or a Mauser (the pinnacles of bolt-action battle rifles).

    3. avatar Ing says:

      The lever-action Winchester rifle (or heck, the Henry). All you have to do is say “Winchester” and everyone knows what you mean — the straight stock, the unmistakable profile of the lever, the slim forend — a firearm that was perfect for its time and purpose, it’s the iconic image of the American West.

  6. avatar Craig says:

    “For the ammunition, Tommy gun chose used the .45 ACP cartridge. The U.S. Army had recently chosen John Browning’s Model 1911 handgun as the replacement for their Single Action Army models,”

    First sentence might want to get edited a little; reads like a Russian trying to talk to an American in English. Second, the M1911 didn’t directly replace the Colt SAA; the M1911 was designed to replace the Colt M1892 .38 revolver. The Colt M1892 wasn’t the most effective tool against Moro rebels, so some SAAs were brought back. However, the M1911 was designed to replace both. Kind of like how the Makarov replaced the Tokarev and the M1895 Nagant. It wasn’t simply SAA one day and M1911 the next.

    1. avatar Dan Zimmerman says:

      Edited. Thanks.

  7. avatar gbo says:

    MSRP, eh?

  8. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

    I would add the brown Bess, the Spencer rifle, and colt .45 SA. To your list of firearms that define their time. Good write up. Good luck with the ads kicking…

  9. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    I’m not the jealous type….normally.
    I still have yet to fire one. That looked like too much fun.

  10. avatar Ralph says:

    And then there’s the unmistakable sound of the Tommy gun at full song. A few weeks ago, I heard the Class 3 boys firing off their Thompsons at the range. Lovely.

  11. avatar Roscoe says:

    M1928A1 Thompson; my dream gun.

  12. avatar disthunder says:

    Maybe some day. I do have the SBR version pending delivery from Kahr, so that will help fill the void until I can buy guns in the used luxury car price range.

    1. avatar aweds says:

      The Kahr/ Auto Ordnance Thompson SBR is a gun I’d like to see a review on, too. That might be possible one day, not a $20k+ classic.

      1. avatar VSN says:

        Saw those on Gallery of Guns, but didn’t see the point in buying the semi-auto version.

  13. avatar A-Rod says:

    Nick, I am not disagreeing with you on this but I would like to make a counterpoint. You say “The realities of trench warfare during World War I were simply too much for the technology of the time. Guns had developed based on the idea of the traditional European battlefield, with tightly choreographed regiments of soldiers marching in formation, all firing in unison.”
    The way my ROTC instructor explained it to us in US Military History is that the US learn during the Civil War that faster rates of fire, newer technology, tight unit formations and large open battlefields made for a bloodbath on both sides. Europe did not learn this lesson until WWI. By that time weapons were full auto, gas weapons were being used and armies were still lining up in tight formations and charging the front line. 10,000+ men dead in one day was a high price to pay.

    Awesome write up!

  14. avatar PeterC says:

    Super gun and a delight to shoot! When I was moonlighting at Hunter’s Lodge back in the late 1950s, we were selling lightly DEWATed 1928A1s for $79.95. Unfortunately, my monthly pay as a PFC was $72.

  15. avatar Jay1987 says:

    I would add the m1/m2 carbine to the list the 1911 and possibly the m1 and the 03 springfield.

  16. avatar tdiinvaThe says:

    Nick is showing his youth. Only the AK-47 belongs on his list. As other’s suggested then Winchester ’73, and the M-1 Garand are much more iconic then the Glock and the M-16. In fact the Glock is too new to really know it it’s iconic. Wait unitl 2050 and then tell me if anybody cares about it. (You will probably need a medium to tell me.)

    And Nick, we would have won the war anyway without the Thompson. Not so certain if we didn’t have the Garand.

  17. avatar 4thInfantryStephens says:

    God that MAGPUL rifle dynamics “operator” stance looks so wrong on that classic weapon, also I’m sure the third degree burn on the inside of his thumb after the first mag wasn’t worth the minor benefits.

    But I digress, A truly beautiful piece of engineering.

    1. avatar Hanover Fist says:

      He looks Sofa King We Todd Ed.

  18. avatar Sid says:

    I watched the episode when the coonasses from Redjacket defiled a Thompson. It was like watching them carve sunglasses on Mt Rushmore. Just wrong.

    1. avatar Dan says:

      Yeah, and the cops it was built for payed for it anyway. I’m pretty sure they could have found a NEW H&K SMG for what the idiots at Redjacket charged them… Seeing them do that to the Thompson was akin to blasphemy in my eyes. Same as “re-building” a perfectly good BAR on that one episode.
      Not as bad was when that guy on American Guns desecrated some guy’s Grandaddy’s 12 Gauge to make an antique into a tactical monstrosity for 3x the price of a Benelli…
      Some people have more money than brains and NO respect/admiration for good old guns.

  19. avatar lolinski says:

    So the Colt SAA, 1911, MP5, MP40, Uzi, Mauser and the Dragunov SVD are not iconic? The SVD is stretch sure but pretty much everyone I know knows about it and the other guns I mentioned.

    And yes, I am jealous you got to fire a Thompson while I wont in a good while.

  20. avatar ensitue says:

    “only four firearms make the cut: the M16, the Glock, the AK-47, and the Thompson SMG.”.
    Not a single Browning?
    I find your myopic vision disturbing.

    1. avatar BDub says:

      Agreed. The 1911 is synonymous with semi-auto pistol and I know many a layman that can identify an M2HB – Ma’ Deuce rules!

      1. avatar ensitue says:

        M-97, M-12,M-37, M-78-94, pump and semi-auto 22s, BAR, M-1919, Superposed, Woodsman, the list is LOOONG

    2. avatar slicer87 says:

      I guess the M97 trench gun, the granddaddy of riot shotguns didn’t make the list either? The Uzi is pretty well know gun too, the Tommy gun of the 80s. Tech 9s are also pretty famous.

  21. avatar Jeh says:

    Ah the Thompson, a masterpiece of a classic firearm, and the symbol of the Mafia, gotta love it.

    However “All of the controls are set up for right handed shooters, lefties just have to deal with it.”
    No, screw that, ill have the damn thing pulled apart and mirrored before I shoot one in such an awkward “right handed” manner, implying I bought one of my own of course.

    1. avatar lolinski says:

      Being ambidextrous is even worse. I hate bolt actions since they cant be used with either hand.

  22. avatar rt-texas says:

    I so hope to have the opportunity to fire one of these some day! I’ve never even had the opportunity to hold one.

  23. avatar g says:

    Great review of a classic.

    Oh, to have a spare 20k laying around for a Thompson…

  24. avatar BDub says:

    Awesome write-up on the Thompson. Thanks.

    It seems like to would be fairly easy to modernize the Thompson into a near perfect subby. Redesign the stock to be straighter, put some picatinny on the top, and build up the receiver with a magazine well, and there you go.

    1. avatar Crunkleross says:

      Do you work for Red Jacket?

  25. avatar Redleg says:

    You should give the MP-40 a whirl. I found it much more enjoyable to shoot than the Thompson and I’ve shot a heck of a lot of different guns. I went through an OPFOR weapons course in the Army which included WWII weapons, basically anything that could be found on the battlefield in a 3rd World Country and by far my favorite weapon was the MP-40.

  26. avatar cubby123 says:

    We have six of them at our range and we fire them every day,1921 colt,2 1928 savages,2 1928a1’s and an m1a1 like featured.It is our most popular rental.I’ve always said’THOMPSON SUB MACHINE,TWO ONE HUNDRED ROUND DRUMS,PERFECT GANG BANGER ANIALATOR “.I know that’s a little brash for California,but since I don’t care what they think,it’s good advice

  27. avatar Crunkleross says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about the Thompson’s ergonomics before. The original Thompson action used the Blish principle by employing the Blish Lock an H shaped piece made of brass that straddled the bolt. The M1 model you fired did away with that part making it a straight blow back action for war time production cost savings and simplification. I’d love to own any of them but the expense is prohibitive, semi-auto versions are just don’t cut it if you’ve ever shot a real one.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      The Brits were early users of the Thompson. In North Africa they started having trouble with the Blish system and sand. The probelm appears to have either gone away or been reduced greatly in severity with the Tommy guns that were modified away from the Blish system.

      And no one gun won the war for the Americans. The US had the most firepower available for grunts of any nation involved in that war. M1, M1 carbine, Bar, all semi or full auto and then the grease gun was around also. All other nations involved in that war still depended on the bolt action rifle as the mainstay of their infantry.

      If one gun one the war for the US it would be the PPSh41.

      1. avatar lolinski says:

        Can you explain please? I am curious (about how the PPSH41 won the war for the US).

        1. avatar Gyufygy says:

          The Eastern Front chewed through most of the Nazis Best and Brightest and a good bit of their Fair to Middling before D-Day ever happened.

          Chewed through a lot of Soviet conscripts and civilians, too, but that’s another story.

        2. avatar jwm says:

          The facts are real simple. The germans put 75%, at a minimum, of their resources and efforts into fighting the Russians. The western allies had to face, for the most part, second line units and units that were rebuilding and repairing from the maulings they got on the eastern front.

          I’m not denigrating or taking away from the western allies at all. They had a hell of a fight on their hands also. It’s an oversimplification, but basically the Germans were defeated by Western air power and Eastern manpower. And both East and West out factoried the Germans.

      2. avatar WTS says:

        The German infantry had a different philosophy than the US. Their primary weapon was the belf fed MG and men with bolt guns and SMGs were primarily support and ammo carriers for the MG. While the Garand was superior to the Mauser bolt, the German squad had quite a bit more firepower than the US squad with a 20 round BAR. This was widely recognized at the end of the war by US analysts. If a maching gun from the heavy weapons plattoon was attached this made the squad or platoon more comparable to its German opponent. For me, its hard to make an argument that individual arms won or lost the war. If the US hadn’t had the Thompson we would have invented or copied some equavalent pretty quickly. The real war winner was vast, relentless quantities of brave and stubborn men, munitions and support materiel, from the largest indutrail power in the world.

  28. avatar Scout says:

    According to my informations the original Thompson did not rely just on friction between the case and chamber. Blish principle was used by forcing “H” shaped brass part out of way before action could open. It was considered too complicated and expensive for war production, so much heavier solid bolt was used instead (pure blowback). Even so, rate of fire increased slightly. I have to admit I have never shot one :-).

  29. avatar David says:

    You could field a Tommy Gun on a modern day battlefield they are that BA! The later versions of the Tommy made it all the way until the Vietnam era in modern service. Would love to have one 🙂

  30. avatar IdahoPete says:

    “Firing the Thompson SMG was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.”

    Current emotion: Extreme Jealousy.

  31. avatar pietro says:

    I shot an MP 40 and it’s just as beautiful a gun, although the fodder is “just” 9 mm. But I’ve never tried a Tommygun.
    Excellent write up, thanks, you lucky b…eggar!

  32. avatar Michael Reed says:

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that Winston Churchill loved the Tommy gun (I think I even remember seeing him in photo holding one) and he wanted to buy zillions for the British Army in WWII. However, the Brits determined the cost was too high and so they went with the simpler, cheaper Sten.

  33. avatar chuck k says:

    Giving away my age here, but I went to grade school in Baltimore in the 50’s. D.C. is very close, and we did regular field trips down there. I was maybe 10 years old. We went to the FBI building and they took us to the indoor shooting range. One of the highlights of my young life. So guess what they were shooting? TOMMY GUNS!! The agent giving the tour even shot one off his chin and hit the target to show us how little recoil there was. I had almost forgotten about this until I read this article. And can you imagine anything like this happening on a school tour these days???? Guns actually being fired!!!! Nick, thanks for bringing back those memories.
    Write a review sometime on my first shotgun. A J.C. Higgins (Sears brand) 16 gauge bolt action! Pretty good deer gun, actually.

  34. avatar Mike says:

    The sling and front buckle can be used as a handle.

    http://www.imfdb.org/images/thumb/8/80/THAB15.jpg/600px-THAB15.jpg

  35. avatar Rudy says:

    How lucky I was as a child. I remember my dad taking me to the local gun range to shoot a full auto Thompson submachine gun. I had to have been somewhere between the ages of 8 and thirteen. The local gun range had a tommy gun an Uzi a Mac-11 a H&k MP5 and an M16 and a Grease gun that could be rented. I remember getting to shoot all of them except the grease gun. My favorites where the tommy gun and the H&k. Thanks dad.

  36. avatar Aharon says:

    Nick, great review and pics. The TG is one of my favorites even if I have never fired a real one; just the ones I played with as a kid.

  37. avatar TSgt B says:

    While I was stationed at Lowry AFB, Colorado in the ’80s, there was a firing range called the Firing Line near Aurora Mall (not too far from the theater that a$$hole shot up). You could rent full-auto weapons there, and I fired the M1A1 Thompson, Uzi, H&H MP-5SD, and Mac 10, all full auto. The Thompson was the best!

    A few years later, my girlfriend at the time gave me a gift certificate for that range, and time with the Thompson, again. Never should have let her get away!

  38. avatar VSN says:

    I shot the Model 1928, and was shocked at the amount of muzzle-flip. I could only keep it on target with short bursts.

  39. avatar Editor Friend says:

    “It was a genius concept on par with any of Browning’s designs.” What you mean is that “It was an ingenious concept on par with any of Browning’s designs.” Carry on.

  40. avatar HOWARD A SCHNEIDER says:

    NOTHING BETTER THAN HOLDING A 1921 COLT THOMPSON.

  41. avatar JAW says:

    FYI
    The Blish lock was discontinued on the M1 and M1A1 models. The M1 still had a hammer while the M1A1 used a fixed firing pin machined into the bolt face. Only the earlier models (pre-M1) used the Blish lock. It was found with the heavy bolt the Blish lock was not needed and it was designed out to save costs. This also increased reliability and slowed down the rate of fire somewhat. Other changes in the M1 model included the smooth barrel, fixed stock and lack of a compensator and other cosmetic changes. The 30 round stick mag became standard.

    1. avatar Rothhammer1 says:

      Quite correct.
      The design changes that eliminated the bronze ‘Blish mechanism’ and the bolt oiling apparatus also resulted in a slimmer profile to the upper receiver along with relocation of the bolt handle from the top to the side. These changes make the MI, M1A1 models instantly recognizable as being different from the 1928 A1, 1928, 1921 models (which also usually had the ‘Cutts” compensator attatched to the muzzle, as M1’s did not).
      Further, the ‘gangster’ drum magazines of 50 or 100 rounds, though shipped in great numbers (and highly valued today), were eschewed in the field as being awkward to load, inconvenient to carry and noisy (they rattled a lot when loaded). Tommys and GIs realized quickly that by taping two of the 20 round box magazines together, staggered (offset) a couple of inches and with the feed at opposite ends, they had 40 rounds close at hand by firing 20 and flipping the mag over for 20 more. When the 30 round mag’s came out for the M1’s (which also fit the previous models), this method made for quiet, convenient 60 round mag’s.

    2. avatar Rothhammer1 says:

      Another difference between the M1, M1A1 and the previous models is that the M1’s had a fixed buttstock whereas the 1921, 1928, 1928A1 models had a buttstock assembly that easily slid off with the press of a button.
      The photo of Gen. Thompson used in the article shows him holding a 1921 model (with buttstock removed) from the original production run of 15,000 that were made by Colt Firearms. It was only prototypes such as the 1919 ‘Annihilator’ that lacked any provision for a buttstock. The entire production run of 1921, which Thompson and his rep. George Goll tried tirelessly to market to governments and military organizations before offering them to the public, had buttstocks of the removable type.
      I have never seen a photo (anybody got one?) of a Thompson SMG in actual field use being carried or fired sans buttstock. I imagine it would be a nuisance to carry it loose while managing the gun and everything else going on in a battlefield situation, and the stock provides stability.

  42. avatar ggrimes2 says:

    Heavy, built to exacting standards and a symbol of Made in the USA quality. I’ve had many opportunties shooting both this and a “real” BAR. I’ll never be able to afford one but if I buy the ammo a friend lets me shoot his. I don’t think anyplace that has had television would not know a Thompson. Walk into any store anywhere and people know why you’re there and will give you the cash register!
    I have several Class III weapons but none carry a touch of class exhibited by a Thompson. The AR or HK or the like in modern sub guns might be a better SMG but I doubt any will garner the admiration or affection of that Thompson. How about doing a review of the MP-40 or a BAR as another classic test.

    1. avatar Redleg says:

      I second the MP-40 review request!

      I’ve fired most foreign machine-guns (SMGs, assault rifles, & crew-served) while taking an OPFOR weapons course in the 10th Mountain and I enjoyed the MP-40 more than any other one, even more so than the more modern weapons (only up to circa 1996).

      I found that the MP-40’s caliber and rate of fire coupled with firing from the open bolt minimized the effects of muzzle climb and allowed for great accuracy.

      I’d be very interested in a formal TTAG review!!!

  43. avatar Bob says:

    I am lucky enough to have 2, a 1928 and an M 1 that was an amnesty registered bringback. The M1 goes out every time I go to the range. Not to defend Red Jacket, most of thier work is a gun crime, but the Thompson they worked on was a semi. It was converted to full auto and was a restricted firearm only ellagable to be owned by government entitys, then they realy F##×$ it up

  44. avatar Jeff says:

    If you get a chance to try one again, use your right thumb to activate the mag release (press up). Works quite well. Also, if you release it prior to inserting the new mag, you get a solid “click” when the mag locks home.

  45. avatar dave says:

    What about the sterling l2a3. Awesome sub-gun – possibly the best.

    The ergonomics are similar to a m1a1 / Thompson.
    A central pistol-grip and magazine, length of stock and angle, protruding upper on both.
    I placed a sterling over a m1a1 and everything was in the same positions (except that the mag projects out the side of the sterling)

  46. avatar Mike S says:

    Go ahead, kick my ass. I put a red dot in place of the rear sight. I use my semi as a proper pistol caliber carbine while 3gunning in Idaho. Ha! Gods caliber 45ACP!

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