Thompson SMG "Tommy"

Thompson Military version M1928 and the Classic  'Tommy Gun' Submachine Gun.
Lee-Enfield SMLE detail

Like many of the world's classic firearms, the Thompson Sub-Machine Gun is instantly recognizable.  Initially designed for trench warfare in World War I, by the time the final developments were taking shape, the war was over. Unfazed by this timing, the gun's designer, John T. Thompson, a West Point graduate, was still intent on developing a hand-held fully-automatic weapon, so he surged ahead. What had started out as a solution for trench warfare--which pretty much ended at the close of World War I--was then presented as a police firearm.

During Prohibition in the "Roaring Twenties" (and also the 1930's), small numbers of these weapons were stolen--or otherwise acquired by corrupt means--from police armories and used by infamous Gangsters. Because of some high-profile crimes like the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, committed by notoriously famous organized criminals--an image further bolstered by Hollywood--the "Tommy Gun" practically became the national mascot for gangster crime. The truth is that a vast majority of Thompsons were used by police and military, and for the most part saw very little action in the hands of gangsters. Some of those gangsters however, did meet their end at the hands of police using the Tommy Gun. While powerful and capable of delivering a high rate of fire, it was too large and heavy for easy concealment, which was strongly preferred by gangsters toting around illegal weapons. The cliche' of carrying the Tommy Gun around in a violin case was not very practical, and was probably used very little, except for in the movies.

Thompson Submachine Gun and M1928

While the most famous version of the Tommy Gun is the one with the large 50-round drum magazine, that version was not suitable for military use, as it made the gun--already heavy--excessively heavy, and tended to rattle. The military, having adopted the Thompson in 1938, preferred the version with the straight 30-round clip, known as the M1928.  The Thompson is considered a "submachine gun" because it uses pistol ammunition, in this case, .45 ACP caliber.  It was the first fully automatic weapon issued to troops. Many more modifications were made to the Thompson Sub-Machine Gun in order to lighten its weight and production cost. Used by American paratroopers and Ranger battalions, as well as the Navy and Marines, the Thompson soon found its way around the world, seeing action in China, Austrailia, The Soviet Union, and almost all U.S. Allies. It also saw action in the Korean War, and Vietnam, and countless other conflicts.

Enjoying some success in the military with paratroopers, Ranger battalions, Navy and Marine Corps units, it proved a reliable weapon, with a good, strong rate of fire. The Thompson was more expensive to produce than its German counterpart, the MP40, and was heavier, but its .45 ACP caliber ammunition was a good match for the enemy, many of whom were using 9mm Parabellum and simiar rounds. The Tommy saw action against the Japanese in the Pacific Island combat campaigns in the hands of the US Marines. It was used well after World War II, used in Korea, and even saw limited use in the Vietnam War.

The Thompson is still made today in legalized semi-automatic versions which range in price from US $900-$1,400.  You can also find some very nice customized and engraved models, that look too nice to risk causing wear by shooting them.  Original and functioning Thompsons from World War II and earlier can fetch $20,000 or more.  Because of its patriotic and historical value, the Tompson remains a popular collectors' firearm.   

Firearm Type: Full Automatic SubMachine Gun
Nation Of Manufacture: USA
Military Service Dates : 1938-1971
Variations: M1928, M1928A1
Ammunition: .45 ACP
Wars: World War II, Korean War,Vietnam War, others.
Recent Prices at Auction for Originals: US $200 to $3,400 (Still Produced)

Return to Gun Index

Interested in an authentic replica Thompson Submachine Gun?
We offer both the Commercial and the M1928 Model.
Our Replica Thompson M1928 
Our Replica Tommy Gun