M1A1 Thompson
The WW2-vintage M1A1 Thompson was simplified for ease of manufacture. Will Dabbs MD Photo
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How far will the typical American male go to look cool? Well, nowadays he will buy sports cars he can’t afford, put Lord-only-knows what kind of muscle-building supplements into his body, spend countless agonizing hours in the gym and waste money on tattoos he will invariably someday regret. His forebears who successfully fought World War 2 went one step farther. They willingly carried an 11-pound submachine gun all the way across Europe…just because they thought it made them look like James Cagney in the movie Public Enemy.

Gangster with Thompson Machine Gun
A handful of flamboyant gangsters had an impact on American society beyond their true numbers. Will Dabbs MD Photo

Foundation

The Thompson SMG was an American icon. Heavy, awkward, expensive and complicated, the very first prototypes were ready for operational testing the day after World War 1 ended. There the design would have otherwise languished and died had it not been for a surprisingly small number of very flashy criminals. In the aftermath of the Great Depression, psychopaths like John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd blazed their way onto Saturday afternoon matinee screens across the country.

Then as now, politicians and media personalities never missed an opportunity to weaponize a crisis, so the American people came to believe that there were motorized bandits hiding behind every roadside hickory. Reality is that there never was more than a few dozen real players. Regardless, in 1934 Congress taxed machine guns into oblivion along with sound suppressors and sawed-off long guns. We are all of us still languishing underneath that ill-conceived bit of legislation today. However, the cumulative effect was to make American males absolutely rabid to get their hands on a Chicago Typewriter of their own.

M1921 Thompson
The M1921 Thompson missed seeing action in World War 1 by mere days. Will Dabbs MD Photo

Ballistic Evolution

They only made 15,000 original M1921 Thompsons. They all fired big honking .45 ACP rounds the size of your thumb. John Taliaferro Thompson did not actually design the gun that bore his name, but he did successfully market it. Those 15,000 copies were all built under contract by Colt. Beautifully blued and magnificently executed, they were things of mechanical beauty.

The basic gun sold for $200 with a Cutts compensator. That would be about $3,300 today. The same gun without the compensator was $175. The M1921 came with a 20-round box magazine and could accept 50 and 100-round drums. It cycled at around 900 rounds per minute.

The M1928 was exactly the same weapon with a redesigned heavier bolt actuator that slowed the rate of fire down to a more manageable 675 rpm. The earliest M1928 versions came from that same 15,000-gun lot and had an “8” scratched over the “1” in 1921 on the side. Uncle Sam bought a few thousand slightly modified M1928A1 versions during the interwar years, but the Auto Ordnance Company that originally pushed the weapon eventually folded. Had it not been for WW2, the Thompson would have simply faded into obscurity.

American GIs during WW2 scrambled to get their mitts on a Thompson because it hit like a freight train downrange and just looked so darn cool. Will Dabbs MD Photo

The Industrial Engine of Total War

There is nothing like global war to energize a nation’s industrial base. The Thompson was ludicrously heavy, insanely expensive and sinfully awkward in action. However, with the outset of war, the U.S. and the UK just couldn’t get enough of them. In short order, the design was simplified to better facilitate mass production. The resulting M1A1 Thompson employed a more basic open-bolt system that did away with the floating firing pin and controversial Blish lock. It also dispensed with the Cutts compensator and moved the actuator from the top of the receiver to the right side. As the drums were noisy, heavy and expensive, the M1A1 receivers were not cut to accept them. Where the buttstock on the M1928 was removable, that of the M1A1 was fixed. By war’s end we had produced 1.5 million copies.

American GI’s just couldn’t get enough Thompsons. Friends who were there said they were always in short supply. One grunt buddy heading out for a night patrol in Europe actually traded his M1 rifle out to a 37mm antitank gunner for an M1A1 Thompson and five 20-round magazines. The following day he just made a point to avoid the antitank section and never gave the gun back. He humped that boat anchor of a weapon for the rest of the war.

The line of recoil on the Thompson was markedly higher than the buttstock, necessitating attention to technique manage muzzle climb. It also weighed twice what a comparable M1 carbine might. However, American dogfaces willingly humped these gosh awful-huge SMGs all across Europe and the Pacific just because they looked so darn cool.

The distinctive Cutts compensator was a $25 upgrade on early Thompson guns. Will Dabbs MD Photo

Special thanks to www.worldwarsupply.com for the cool replica gear used in our pictures.

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104 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been lucky enough to try a couple of Thompson variations on the range. You ain’t no kind of a POG if you haven’t shot a Thompson.

    • the largest buyers of these guns wasn’t gangsters but companies and corporations for their private police forces or “goon squads” during times of labor strife…when they were finally forced to give them up they opted to donate them to local PD’s where at least some remain to this day….some of these guns “papered”…some not…

    • I shot a Thompson at the Gun Store in Vegas. It was more fun than I could believe. My dad said that he had trouble shooting a Thompson gun in WW2 but I found it completely controllable and accurate

      • once paid a visit to the federal reserve next door…where they showed me some of the Thompsons they had stashed there…word was some of the banking types in charge wanted to melt them all down and make them into a sculpture….YIKES!….don’t know if it actually happened but I do know they moved on to MP5’s…

      • My dad told me the same thing too about the Thompson. He said it really climbed on full auto.. My dad loved his Garand. It was his favorite firearm of WWII and he shot them all. He didn’t have anything good to say about the M1 carbine, either, but man, he loved his Garand.

      • “controllable”

        WW2 45 ACP ammo for the sub machine guns was very hot, and could harm (ie, blow up) any 1911 pistol. The ammo you were shooting was likely not that hot.

        Just saying

        • I’ve got a couple sealed cans of that hot ammo, steel cased, made IIRC in 1943 by a subsidiary of Chrysler. I’d have to dig it out as it’s stashed deep.. since I hesitate to shoot it in my pistols. Only time I did the front sight of my 1911 went into the tall grass…

    • some guns just have that “look”….the early M-16’s were like that…lethal symmetry…..now they look like something made by Black and Decker!……

    • Never shot one. But have heard from multiple sources that they were actually more controllable in full auto without the buttstock – the left hand being used to hold the muzzle down, the right hand assisting in keeping the gun level using upward pressure while controlling windage and traverse…

      The idea being that the gun would pivot in your hands around its center as opposed to a straight rise against the shoulder.

      Would love to see that tested.

      Would love to see that tested.

    • Epstein, .45 ACP was the caliber. Although, I have a close friend who’s grandfather had a Thompson in .38 ACP or .38 Super. I forget. Anyway, supposed to have gotten it from one of Capone’s henchmen. Had a photo of the guy holding it behind Capone’s right elbow for provinence. Mike doesn’t know what happened to it after his grandfather died.

      • .38 Super would be cool. I always liked that round. If I could I would get a pistol in that caliber. But not enough money. The bane of my existence.

      • They were also made in 9mm for the European market.

        Original M1921 marked (often overmarked 1928) receivers were still being sold in the late 1930s.

      • Al Capone bought his first three Thompson
        s in a hardware store….where many of them just sat gathering dust… unaffordable and impractical for most folks…especially during the depression

  2. The “Chopper” is American cool.

    The most awkward part of use is the magazine change, the lack of a true “magwell” makes this drill slow and complicated especially in low light. As literally a pioneer of the first generation this comes with the territory given the desire for a drum magazine.

    • you would seldom need a mag change when using a drum…don’t drop the damn thing though…one dent and it’s done….

  3. Next time you hear someone complain about a rifles weight, just think of all the US GIs in WWII fighting the Germans across Europe with one of these.

    • I recently read a profile of the Thompson in an NRA gun mag. Anecdotal tale by an American general that his troops hated the heavy Thompson, and some would smash it on a rock if they could find a good German Schmeisser.

    • definitely gave you an edge in a close-in firefight…the weight made it controllable….and the Germans often dumped their Schmeissers for PPSH-41’s on the Russian front…it would accept their ammo and had twice the magazine capacity….the MP40 had a distinctive sound making it a little hairy to use in a night fight..

      • For hand-held infantry weapons:
        .45 ACP for the Thompson and 1911
        .30-06 for the M1 Garand and BAR

        That was it for the early part of the war. Unless you were on a mortar, bazooka or squad machinegun team.

        The M1 Carbine and its custom cartridge were the only things that started messing up the system.

      • Empty the M1 weighed nine and a half pounds. Thompson weighed eleven pounds empty.

        My issue m16 with 20 inch barrel and fixed but stock weighed about 7 pounds.

  4. According to the USPS Inspection Service’s web site, the first Thompsons sold to a government agency were a batch of (I assume) model 1921s which went to the Postal Inspectors. People sent large amounts of cash and other valuables like jewelry and bonds via registered mail so the post office was seen as an easy target. Employees who worked with registered and special delivery mail carried snubby Colts and Smiths until at least the mid 1970s.

  5. “the American people came to believe that there were motorized bandits hiding behind every roadside hickory. ”

    Actually, they were behind every 15th oak tree. Has everyone forgotten the age of speed traps? Local cops would go out to a 55mph zone, find an oak that obstructed vision, and put up a 25mph speed sign – right behind that oak. When you came whizzing by, at the speed limit, you would get pulled over, and written up for reckless driving. True, those bandits seldom carried Thompsons, but they were definitely bandits!

    Few people realize just how BIG those suckers are, either. We faced off with some Caribaneiri when they still carried Thompsons. Do you realize, you can roll a watermelon down the barrel, with room to spare? You DO NOT want to be looking down the wrong end of those things!

  6. When I was a teen a bunch of us dumbbells met one night on a country road and this fat kid named Big E had a Thompson he borrowed from his dad without permission. If Eddie Eagle would have been there he probably would have got shot:)

    • local PD use to store one behind the trophy case…some kid stole it, took it out in the woods and buried it…last I heard they had recovered it…most PD’s didn’t know what to do with these things…often storing them in lockers and such….

  7. I’ll be a contrarian: It was stupid heavy, awkward to shoot, horrible ergos in its furniture, levers and mag changes, super expensive at the time and was easily dumped for the later M3 Grease Gun and M1 Carbine.

    Only nostalgia keeps a halo on this gun.

    • that gun has an aura that won’t go away….especially the older versions…it became the symbol of an era…got a nice pic of Winston Churchill holding one…and, just like everyone else who’s ever done it…he’s got that same little grin on his face!

    • I’d take an M3 over one of these in an instant if I was going to be shooting at people who were shooting back. It’s a better gun in many ways such as mag changes and weight.

  8. Ruger just released the LC45 Carbine. I bought one of the first ones available locally about 10days ago. $750. Which is about as close as you can get in a modern gun to a Thompson. Weighs 7lbs. .45acp is making a comeback, imho, from what I see on the ammo shelves these days.

    • Extar told me they got one in the pipeline. I don’t care if it’s plastic. A 5 lb .45 carbine would rock my world!

      • I’ve put about 100 rnds of assorted bullets downrange in the last week, from 185grn Critical duty to 255grn +P hardcast, without a single problem. The gun will make one ragged hole at 50yds. I put a HS510C dot on it. 26rnd KCI mags are $12. Get some. 😉

        • I’ve put about 100 rnds of assorted bullets downrange in the last week, from 185grn jhp to 255grn +P hardcast, without a single problem. The gun will make one ragged hole at 50yds. I put a HS510C dot on it. 26rnd KCI mags are $12. Get some. 😉

    • My dad told me the same thing too about the Thompson. He said it really climbed on full auto.. My dad loved his Garand. It was his favorite firearm of WWII and he shot them all. He didn’t have anything good to say about the M1 carbine, either, but man, he loved his Garand.

  9. For a while, I carried the “lightweight” M60 when I was in the Army. They told me it was 23lbs. I guess that’s less than an M2.

    • Chris

      I also carried an M60 via Australian Army travel service for a while. 23 pounds unloaded plus 600 rounds was so much fun uphill.

      Our rifle was the FAL also 11 pounds unloaded but much better balance.

    • nothing light about the “pig”…but its presence was necessary…and somebody had to carry the damn thing…and you could shoot it from the hip if you had to….

  10. I was fortunate to shoot two original transferable Thompsons some years ago. One was a Colt manufactured 1921 which the owner had paid 30K for and and the other was a WWII Savage made M1A1 which was purchased for under 10K. I actually liked the feel and operation of the M1A1 better. Unfortunately they are both way too heavy, too expensive to manufacture and magazine changes are slow and awkward. I always wondered why the 1970’s and 80’s Auto Ordnance NY manufactured guns were made to NOT accept surplus GI magazines without modifying the magazine catch from “round” to “oval”.

    • The reason behind the M3 and M3A1 “Grease Guns”. They were still being issued to tankers in the 1980s and 1990s.

      • American version of the Sten…couldn’t have made it cheaper…even did away with the cocking handle…stick your finger into the bolt to cock it…can’t get much simpler than that

        • To be honest, I think the M3A1 is the simplest but still effective SMG ever made. I think it achieved “design elegance” with everything it needed and nothing it didn’t. So good the Philippines equivalent of the SEALs merely added some Picatinny rails to add modern accessories to the M3A1.

          If it took the double-feed magazine from the Thompson, it would have been near perfect.

          BTW, being an Aussie I think the Owen is the best 2nd gen SMG ever made. So good in WW2 US troops would go to great lengths to get the unjammable SMG, and so did their sons 20+ years later in the Vietnam War.

    • incidentally, the Denix non-firing replica is almost an exact match for the real thing…even got the weight right…makes a great wall-hangar…some of those air-softs are pretty close, as well

  11. The british had to pay that two hundred dollar tax stamp. On top of the original cost of the thompson. And that motivated them to develop a machine gun that cost a lot less. So they ended up producing the Sten Gun.

    And gun control in 1986, which made machine guns extremely expensive in the United States. Also motivated americans to produce a low-cost alternative.

    The bump stock. The binary trigger. Technology and human innovation have produced something cheaper. That operates very similarly to a real machine gun.

    And a rubber ban will cost even less than those two alternatives.

    Wars motivate humans to make better weapons. And government laws that get in the way, motivate humans to create alternatives to those weapons.

    • “The british had to pay that two hundred dollar tax stamp. On top of the original cost of the thompson. And that motivated them to develop a machine gun that cost a lot less. So they ended up producing the Sten Gun.”

      Uh — the Sten was issued just after the Battle of Britain. I don’t recall the British paying the US for tax stamps back then.

      • to alien
        From what I have read the US wanted to make lots of money, from any country that needed weapons. To defend themselves against a German invasion.

        But the “military industrial complex” and the government wanted $$$ for their guns. Nothing is “free” from the government.

        I have read that the cost to purchase at single Thompson was about $495.

        • https://www.americanrifleman.org/content/the-g-i-thompson-in-world-war-ii/

          “On Feb. 24, 1942, Savage contracted with the Ordnance Dept. to manufacture the new model at a cost of $36.47 per gun. Auto-Ordnance’s contract price for the M1 Thompson was $42.94 each.”

          Prices when sold to the US Government.

          Concerning prices to the Brits, this article states:

          “Savage was to ship them as fast as possible at $225 apiece, and these guns, finished in commercial blue, were supplied in a transit chest with walnut stocks and two “L”-type drum magazines, five box magazines, a webbing sling, 1,000 rounds of ammunition and a cleaning kit. …

          “By the summer of 1942, however, panic measures set in to introduce some alternative to the costly Thompson, resulting in the production of the Sten submachine gun. Unlike the finely machined Model 1928, with its beautiful finish, the Sten was assembled by unskilled workers from black-painted parts supplied by subcontractors and cost £2.50 (about £112 or $180 in current values).”

          https://www.americanrifleman.org/content/the-tommy-s-thompson/

  12. Like most weapons used in war they always have myths attached to them. My Father who served with Patton’s 3rd Army, 7th Division had some interesting things to say about the Thompson whose nickname by G.I.’s was the “Stub Thompson” probably because it was so much shorter than the M1 Rifle.

    My Father said that in training everyone wanted to use the Thompson, probably because they were all brainwashed by the James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson gangster movies. In actual use in Europe the foot soldier soon changed his mind about the value of carrying a Thompson. The cartridge had a poor reputation for not having much penetration and a looping trajectory making hits a long range more luck than skill and the gun was uncontrollable in full auto fire unless one was just sweeping a small room with it.

    My Father said that when a German soldier was shooting at you from a big distance away the Thompson was quite useless to return fire and you were at a big disadvantage which is one reason (besides its weight) that some soldiers threw away their Thompsons into the nearest ditch and picked up an M1 Rifle.

    It is true that the armored units liked the Thompson much better than the infantry as they did not have to carry them but had them inside their vehicles and their shorter length made getting them into action superior to having an M1 rifle. My Father carried a Thompson in his armored car.

    The same was true for the M1 Carbine although the Carbine was never perfected and had a huge propensity to jam especially on the last one or two shots out of the magazine. The Carbine magazines were so poorly made with flimsy thin metal and weak springs that solder’s in the field never reloaded any magazines they simply threw them away and used a new fully loaded magazine. I have never owned (despite having purchased 6 of them) nor have I ever shot any MI carbine including the examples that my buddies owned that did not jam or was totally reliable. But I digress from the subject at hand “The Mythical Thompson”.

    The Sten gun in 9mm (which often got an undeserved bad rap) and the German MP40 recoiled less than the Thompson as well as weighing less and a soldier could carry more rounds of ammo and the 9mm shot flatter and had superior penetration all of which made these two guns both superior to the mythical Thompson.

    I once watched a video where they compared and shot the Sten along side the MP40 and the Sten was not inferior or more unreliable than the MP40. In fact they seemed to be fairly equal.

    I make none of these statements without first hand experience as I have fired both the Thompson and the Sten and I would take the Sten anyday over the Thompson for the above mentioned deficiencies of the Thompson. Yes, the Thompson gave the impression of being a well made Cadillac of a weapon but in actual use it was a big failure, especially its .45 acp caliber. If the .45 acp had not been such a failure of a caliber the U.S. military and police forces would still be buying sub-guns in .45 acp and still using pistols in .45 acp but the dominant caliber is still the 9×19 and for a lot of good reasons to numerous to go into here. That is a nother story for a different day.

    Towards the end of the war the German Assault Rifle, the STG 44 created a sensation and even Hitler when he first fired one was so impressed with it he did not create a big stink that it was developed totally without his knowledge. It brought in a whole new lineage of modern military rifles making the Sub-Guns as obsolete as the Model A Ford compared to the Italian Ferrari. I am speaking of military use not police use.

    When researching the development of the Thompson I was rather surprised that it was developed and test fired and the bugs worked out of it so it would work on the second floor of a decrepit old building in downtown Cleveland. I think I still have the address and maybe someday I will see if the building is still standing. I might add it was not Thompson who perfected it but a gunsmith hired by Thompson to perfect it so it would work. Today making that much noise firing a machine gun in Downton Cleveland would bring on a swat team swarming down on you. It shows you how much things have changed since those days in the dead hand of the past.

    • Still claiming to have all this experience and ownership of all these weapons even after you were doxxed and shown to be a failure of a basement dweller? The biggest supporter of gun control has all these weapons and experience?

      Buffoon.

    • “My father”. “My father”. “My father”. “My father”. Really? You knew “your father”? Did your mother have a “sign-in” sheet at the bakery-style “take-ticket” and “wait for your number to be called” outside the front door?

      • Mommy is making up tall tales about his father. Is the father’s name “John” because he was one?

  13. Unpopular opinion, the Thompson and Tommy are terrible. Did they do wonders for the US? Yes! Do they work well? YES! But you have to understand, the gun weighs 11 pounds not counting the loaded .45 mag or drum. The stock and grips are absurdly low positioned on the rifle and super chunky. The makes it feel like you’re trying to control dumbbells with fat chopsticks.
    It is the least economic/comfort firearm I know of.

    • the MP5 is at the top of the list…still widely used in LE…but none of them are all that cheap…entry level guns are usually Stens or the Mac 10 or 11…all of them now cost thousands…back in the day [pre-86]…they went for a couple of hundred bucks…my own AO Thompson was purchased for less than $600…sorry guys…no sense crying about it now…and all this was accomplished during a republican administration accompanied by an NRA “compromise”

  14. One of the major factors in my wanting to obtain the classIII license I had was because I wanted a full auto Thompson. And, after jumping through all the hoops and spending way too much money, I did get one. Awkward to handle at first. And changing mags was a little clumsy.
    The handling issues soon worked themselves out as I used the thing.
    Knowing what I do now, as opposed to the legend, I would indeed think twice about the weapon. Would look at other SMG’s first. But, I do like the dang thing. And do miss having one. Expensive, a little clumsy, and not the easiest to work with, but the cool factor and just fun of having one on a shooting range is somehow worth it.

  15. it’s a real attention getter…wanted one all my life…pass it around and let others shoot it a bit…they’ll talk about the experience forever…

  16. They willingly carried an 11-pound submachine gun all the way across Europe…just because they thought it made them look like James Cagney in the movie Public Enemy.

    Is this a product of your imagination? GIs carried the weapons they were issued, and when they did get to choose, they had a limited selection. Their only other option at the time for a fully automatic one-man weapon was the awkward 16 lb. BAR.

    Early in the war if you wanted a fairly short, handy weapon that was no heavier than the Garand the Thompson was it until the M1 Carbine came around, and the select fire M2 versions of the carbine only started to appear at the end of the war, by which time the M3 submachine gun was replacing the Thompson anyway.

    • Actually, there were some younger GI’s that did carry one across Europe, at least for a while, because they wanted to be sort of James Cagney like thinking it was cool.

      My relatives told me all sorts of things about their war experiences. Although GI’s mostly carried what they were issued, some of them if they got the chance would swap out for something else if they could get something else some way or another and sometimes it was a Thompson, and sometimes a few of them were even given to some GI’s after the war was over (that, I have ‘heard’ 😉 sometimes still gets fired).

      • When WWII ended, in some theaters the GI’s were allowed to purchase 1911 pistols and sometimes other firearms they were using (or had possession of for use) when the war ended. The price was under $20. It was not a universal policy but it was theater, and sometimes commander (even in other areas where it wasn’t policy), dependent and common. Sometimes a troop would not be charged anything actually even though it would be recorded as if they had paid for it thus essentially ‘gifted’ the gun (given to them), some of these were Thompsons. Most GI’s that wanted to keep a captured enemy firearm weapons they personally had ‘liberated’ were allowed to do so, all sorts of weapons from pistols to sub machine guns.

        Today, getting to keep their ‘service firearm’ is restricted to just retiring generals who are permitted to purchase the pistol they were assigned, or more loosely interpreted, in issue at time of their retirement (Title 10, Section 2574 of the U.S. Code) for not less than cost. However, more recently, it was determined that these retiring generals could opt for the Army’s (if the general was Army) newer side arm in the form of a personalized M18 (made by Sig). But because of the way the law is written sometimes other retiring military members below the rank of general are rarely permitted to buy their issued service pistol when they retire if there was some sort of special sentimental reason but mostly its restricted to retiring general officers.

        • It should be noted though the ‘policy’ that allowed WWII GI’s to purchase their firearms was ended rather quickly for the M1 Garand rifle, and the ones that were sold were then required to be ‘registered’ and less than 5% ever were and no one cared. The Thompson’s were over looked though in the prohibition because although some had been sold or ‘gifted’ to soldiers they were recorded as just ‘rifle’ in the records and no one actually knows how many were kept. And 1911’s could still be kept, and no one cared to look at the numbers actually given away or sold.

        • I have a couple firearms my father brought home from WWII. One of the prizes is a Mauser1898 rifle with Imperial German markings. As well as a NAZI marked Belgian Browning Hi-Power. Wish he would have somehow gotten an MP38/40 or the STG, I think it was 44.
          I could think of others he could have sent home as he says he did the firearms he did have. Broken down as parts/pieces, sent to his fathers address and reassembled after he returned from Europe.
          According to some of the veterans from that war I knew as a youngster, many soldiers did much the same with captured firearms or other items. Of course most of the real good stuff was grabbed by the officers. Sometimes have to wonder exactly how much looting was done by our troops as they moved across Europe. Likely a fair amount, but nothing like the Russians did during and after the war.

  17. They’re iconic and fun but not really my jam.

    They’re hilarious in certain gun stores though. Wait until some *hardcore gun guy* goes on a rant about a 10-12lb AR and then ask his opinion of the Thompson. Then point out that it’s 11lbs and the Garand rifles of WWII were about the same.

    His head explodes 9/10 times and the guys behind the counter are rolling 10/10 times.

  18. Everytown for Gun Safety (wants to continue to make people less safe by making them defenseless, so) filed a major legal brief in support of California’s government-mandated gun-free zones (aka “sensitive places”) but they rely heavily on historical analog laws that come far too late in history to be relevant to the 2nd Amendment.

  19. The first time I picked up a Thompson I was surprised how heavy this gun was. Shot fine, but the weight! However, it did not compare to the M60 I lugged around when in the Army, my battle buddy had to carry the spare barrel and ammo. That sucker was heavy If memory serves me, I think it was about 23 Lbs.

  20. 2nd attempt to post in 2 days

    Like most weapons used in war they always have myths attached to them. My Father who served with Patton’s 3rd Army, 7th Division had some interesting things to say about the Thompson whose nickname by G.I.’s was the “Stub Thompson” probably because it was so much shorter than the M1 Rifle.

    My Father said that in training everyone wanted to use the Thompson, probably because they were all brainwashed by the James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson gangster movies. In actual use in Europe the foot soldier soon changed his mind about the value of carrying a Thompson. The cartridge had a poor reputation for not having much penetration and a looping trajectory making hits a long range more luck than skill and the gun was uncontrollable in full auto fire unless one was just sweeping a small room with it.

    My Father said that when a German soldier was shooting at you from a big distance away the Thompson was quite useless to return fire and you were at a big disadvantage which is one reason (besides its weight) that some soldiers threw away their Thompsons into the nearest ditch and picked up an M1 Rifle.

    It is true that the armored units liked the Thompson much better than the infantry as they did not have to carry them but had them inside their vehicles and their shorter length made getting them into action superior to having an M1 rifle. My Father carried a Thompson in his armored car.

    The same was true for the M1 Carbine although the Carbine was never perfected and had a huge propensity to jam especially on the last one or two shots out of the magazine. The Carbine magazines were so poorly made with flimsy thin metal and weak springs that solder’s in the field never reloaded any magazines they simply threw them away and used a new fully loaded magazine. I have never owned (despite having purchased 6 of them) nor have I ever shot any MI carbine including the examples that my buddies owned that did not jam or was totally reliable. But I digress from the subject at hand “The Mythical Thompson”.

    The Sten gun in 9mm (which often got an undeserved bad rap) and the German MP40 recoiled less than the Thompson as well as weighing less and a soldier could carry more rounds of ammo and the 9mm shot flatter and had superior penetration all of which made these two guns both superior to the mythical Thompson.

    I once watched a video where they compared and shot the Sten along side the MP40 and the Sten was not inferior or more unreliable than the MP40. In fact they seemed to be fairly equal.

    I make none of these statements without first hand experience as I have fired both the Thompson and the Sten and I would take the Sten anyday over the Thompson for the above mentioned deficiencies of the Thompson. Yes, the Thompson gave the impression of being a well made Cadillac of a weapon but in actual use it was a big failure, especially its .45 acp caliber. If the .45 acp had not been such a failure of a caliber the U.S. military and police forces would still be buying sub-guns in .45 acp and still using pistols in .45 acp but the dominant caliber is still the 9×19 and for a lot of good reasons to numerous to go into here. That is a nother story for a different day.

    Towards the end of the war the German Assault Rifle, the STG 44 created a sensation and even Hitler when he first fired one was so impressed with it he did not create a big stink that it was developed totally without his knowledge. It brought in a whole new lineage of modern military rifles making the Sub-Guns as obsolete as the Model A Ford compared to the Italian Ferrari. I am speaking of military use not police use.

    When researching the development of the Thompson I was rather surprised that it was developed and test fired and the bugs worked out of it so it would work on the second floor of a decrepit old building in downtown Cleveland. I think I still have the address and maybe someday I will see if the building is still standing. I might add it was not Thompson who perfected it but a gunsmith hired by Thompson to perfect it so it would work. Today making that much noise firing a machine gun in Downton Cleveland would bring on a swat team swarming down on you. It shows you how much things have changed since those days in the dead hand of the past.

  21. I’ve never had the opportunity to fire the real thing, but I have an airsoft Thompson. It’s a blast shredding aluminum cans in the backyard. Cheap, too!

  22. 3rd time trying to post this

    Like most weapons used in war they always have myths attached to them. My Father who served with Patton’s 3rd Army, 7th Division had some interesting things to say about the Thompson whose nickname by G.I.’s was the “Stub Thompson” probably because it was so much shorter than the M1 Rifle.

    My Father said that in training everyone wanted to use the Thompson, probably because they were all brainwashed by the James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson gangster movies. In actual use in Europe the foot soldier soon changed his mind about the value of carrying a Thompson. The cartridge had a poor reputation for not having much penetration and a looping trajectory making hits a long range more luck than skill and the gun was uncontrollable in full auto fire unless one was just sweeping a small room with it.

    My Father said that when a German soldier was shooting at you from a big distance away the Thompson was quite useless to return fire and you were at a big disadvantage which is one reason (besides its weight) that some soldiers threw away their Thompsons into the nearest ditch and picked up an M1 Rifle.

    It is true that the armored units liked the Thompson much better than the infantry as they did not have to carry them but had them inside their vehicles and their shorter length made getting them into action superior to having an M1 rifle. My Father carried a Thompson in his armored car.

    The same was true for the M1 Carbine although the Carbine was never perfected and had a huge propensity to jam especially on the last one or two shots out of the magazine. The Carbine magazines were so poorly made with flimsy thin metal and weak springs that solder’s in the field never reloaded any magazines they simply threw them away and used a new fully loaded magazine. I have never owned (despite having purchased 6 of them) nor have I ever shot any MI carbine including the examples that my buddies owned that did not jam or was totally reliable. But I digress from the subject at hand “The Mythical Thompson”.

    The Sten gun in 9mm (which often got an undeserved bad rap) and the German MP40 recoiled less than the Thompson as well as weighing less and a soldier could carry more rounds of ammo and the 9mm shot flatter and had superior penetration all of which made these two guns both superior to the mythical Thompson.

    I once watched a video where they compared and shot the Sten along side the MP40 and the Sten was not inferior or more unreliable than the MP40. In fact they seemed to be fairly equal.

    I make none of these statements without first hand experience as I have fired both the Thompson and the Sten and I would take the Sten anyday over the Thompson for the above mentioned deficiencies of the Thompson. Yes, the Thompson gave the impression of being a well made Cadillac of a weapon but in actual use it was a big failure, especially its .45 acp caliber. If the .45 acp had not been such a failure of a caliber the U.S. military and police forces would still be buying sub-guns in .45 acp and still using pistols in .45 acp but the dominant caliber is still the 9×19 and for a lot of good reasons to numerous to go into here. That is a nother story for a different day.

    Towards the end of the war the German Assault Rifle, the STG 44 created a sensation and even Hitler when he first fired one was so impressed with it he did not create a big stink that it was developed totally without his knowledge. It brought in a whole new lineage of modern military rifles making the Sub-Guns as obsolete as the Model A Ford compared to the Italian Ferrari. I am speaking of military use not police use.

    When researching the development of the Thompson I was rather surprised that it was developed and test fired and the bugs worked out of it so it would work on the second floor of a decrepit old building in downtown Cleveland. I think I still have the address and maybe someday I will see if the building is still standing. I might add it was not Thompson who perfected it but a gunsmith hired by Thompson to perfect it so it would work. Today making that much noise firing a machine gun in Downton Cleveland would bring on a swat team swarming down on you. It shows you how much things have changed since those days in the dead hand of the past.

  23. This Veteran Should Be Tried For Treason For Getting This AR-15 Ban Passed In Virginia House.

    • It’s Sunday. I’ve been on several boards that slow down or cease for the weekend.

      If you want more posts, you could submit some yourself. The site is always looking for writers, and a few members have had their articles published. Of course, then you’d be subject to being shredded by the readership.

      • I’ve been here for 10 years. I can never remember a full day without fresh posts. On holidays they put reprints up, but they put up something.

        Shredded? You never met my first wife. Everything is easy after that.

  24. Looks alone was not the reason why it was carried and used throughout WWII, despite the author’s ludicrous assertions to the contrary. It saw so much action because it was the only game in town (at first) — and it worked. Perhaps its place in the author’s heart as one of his favorite personal playthings his viewpoint is distorted. The M3 “grease gun” pretty much supplanted the Thompson because it was actually better, and IMHO beats the Thompson’s “cool factor.” But that’s just this man’s opinion, which I am certain is shared by many.

    I also think that the UZI is the best SMG of all time — but that’s probably because I happen to own one, even though I know the H&K MP5 is almost universally favored.

  25. I would assert the Thompson is exactly what a PCC should not be, and certainly isn’t “powerful” in .45ACP. In fact, it was so bad, Colt was encouraged to take the M16 that direction and the result was the XM177 – accepted in 1965, and still in use as the 11″ barreled versions for teams use, shipboarding, urban warfare etc.

    What cemented the publics adoration were all the gangster movies and wartime photos and film. When it weighs as much as a Garand and the bullets fall to ground at half the range, no, its not all that. Every AR pistol bought or built is a vote the Thompson doesn’t do the job.

  26. valentimes massacree.
    bell’s gunshop in franklin park had rentable thompsons and uzis. just for the heck of it. pretty neat. box checked.

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