Any movie or history enthusiast will say that the Thompson submachine gun is an American Icon with a rich history in the military, law enforcement, civilians and criminals. Developed in 1918, John Thompson sought to replace the bolt action rifle with an auto rifle chambered in .45 ACP. Over time, and with some financial backing, the company “Auto Ordnance” was created.
Thompson, with the help of other designers, envisioned a hand held, one man operated submachine gun so in 1921 production began and then eventually Tommy Guns made their way to the United States. The Thompson was attractive due to it’s fast rate of fire however it was criticized for it’s weight, lack of accuracy past 50 yards and it’s lack of penetration with the .45 ACP.
The Thompson achieved most of its popularity from depression-era gangsters and the law enforcement who pursued them. It quickly became known as the “Tommy Gun,” “Chicago Typewriter” or the “Annihilator.” Throughout the years, the Thompson submachine gun became a famous part of American history.
I had the wonderful opportunity to experience a “Tommy Gun” myself. I say “wonderful” because the Thompson submachine gun is very rare, expensive and subject to NFA regulations which makes it near to impossible for the average American to experience this rifle, let alone own one. In today’s market, a decent condition Full Auto Thompson is priced between $20,000 – $25,000. Given the price and rarity of the rifle, it is safe to say that Thompsons are hard to come by.
The Thompson that I experienced was in excellent condition for an older short barreled rifle. I have to admit that while it was heavy, it was such a blast to shoot. The fast rate of fire was amazing as the gun smoke filled the air with a 30 round stick of .45 ACP. The Thompsons also became famous with their high capacity drum magazines that the Hollywood film makers loved to feature. The rifle I fired was equipped with several 30 round stick mags and I definitely wasn’t complaining.
The video above will explain the features, controls, magazines and shooting impressions that I experienced. Many people will have to go to a range and rent this rifle for top dollar as a range officer looks over their shoulder to assure this big money rifle is treated properly. I was fortunate enough to have a friend of a friend who owns this beauty and was more than happy to let me show it off on video. If you ever get the chance to shoot a full auto Thompson submachine gun, by all means check it out. Spend a few extra bucks on ammo too because the 30 round sticks sure go fast.
American Icon and Hollywood favorite? No doubt. A blast at the range? Like an experience I will never forget.