My Dream Gun… the Full Auto Thompson Submachine Gun

By CTD Suzanne published on in Firearms, News

We all have one. That one gun we would love to own one day. There are many reasons why you still don’t have it in your possession—its über expensive, hard to find, you have to jump through hoops to own one, or you live in California. Your reasoning behind wanting to own one is irrelevant, because usually your dream gun is the one that absolutely serves no purpose but to be straight up damn cool.

For the longest time my dream gun has been the Thompson. And not a wimpy semi-automatic one either. Is it because I have shot one and it just blew my mind? No. It is because I am nostalgic for a day I never knew. The days when owning a fully automatic Thompson didn’t require a Class III license. In fact, when production of the Thompson submachine fell just short of WWI, Auto-Ordnance marketed the Thompson to the public. You could buy a Thompson just about everywhere, even through mail order or your local hardware store. I also romanticize life in the roaring 20s. Thanks to Hollywood, my imagined 1920s was full of flapper dresses, underground jazz music and where bootlegged liquor and gambling didn’t actually cause as much death and violence as it did. Plus, the Thompson, with its vertical foregrip, finned barrel, and large drum magazine is one of the most iconic firearms in history. Show any anyone a picture of the Thompson and they are going to say, “Oh! That’s a Tommy gun.”

Belt feds aside, I believe the Thompson is one of the finest and meanest looking guns ever. Its stamped steel, simple rectangle-shaped receiver is all business, while the smooth polished wood of its buttstock, foregrip, and pistol grip highlight the gun’s classic side.

General John Thompson and his Tommy Gun

General John Thompson and his Tommy Gun

General John Taliaferro Thompson—a West Point graduate, pivotal player in the U.S. Army’s adoption of the Springfield M1903, and aide in .45 ACP caliber development—came up with the idea of a hand-held, fully automatic firearm. General Thompson believed that “a one-man, hand-held machine gun. A trench broom!” would be the future weapon of war ( General Thompson did not believe that any of the other weapons systems, gas-operated, recoil-operated, and blowback would be suitable for the gun he had in mind. He came across John Bell Blish’s invention, the Blish Locking System that allowed a simple blowback-operated firearm to incorporate a breech locking system. General Thompson made a deal with Blish, offering him shares into the Auto-Ordnance company in trade for the permission to use the Blish Locking System.

General Thompson then hired Theodore Eickhoff and Oscar Payne to be his main designers in developing the firearm. The gun finally came into production in 1919, General Thompson called it a submachine gun, a term we now designate any rifle or carbine that fires a pistol caliber. Originally, General Thompson had planned to market the gun to the military, but it fell short in making it into WWI. However, in the 1920s, the U.S. Coast Guard adopted the Thompson and in 1928, the Navy requested a version of the Thompson for use by Marines. Shortly thereafter, after WWII began Auto-Ordnance supplied the Thompson submachine gun to Army troops.

The Thompson was the preferred gun over the M1 Carbine and during the War it proved itself an excellent close-quarters combat weapon. At 600 rounds of .45 ACP per minute, no other country’s military had that kind of firepower.

As far as gangsters go the most notorious such as Pretty Boy Floyd and John Dillinger did own Thompsons, they were not as popular with the gangster set as Hollywood like us to believe. The Thompson is heavy, weighing in over 10 pounds; it’s long, making the gun very difficult to conceal, hence why gangsters would remove their Tommy gun’s buttstock. A full-sized Tommy gun looks great on film, though, and that is why we get the notion that gangsters and villains brandished and favored the gun.

Kahr Arms now owns the rights to Auto-Ordnance and currently produces 15 different versions of the Thompson long gun and 2 models of Thompson pistol. Kahr expertly studied the original Thompson blueprints to recreate an exact replica of the iconic firearm. Made in the USA, current production

semi-automatic model Thompsons range in price from just under $1,000 to almost $1,400.

In all these years I’ve been admiring the fully automatic Thompson, I have never had a chance to shoot one until recently. On June 23 and June 24, 2012, I went to the Oklahoma Full Auto Shoot and Trade Show (O.F.A.S.T.S.) where vendors, individuals, and retailers converge to rent out their machine guns and blow up cars. Albeit at a price, there really are not that many opportunities to have so many Class III weapons at your disposal. With my limited funds, it was hard to choose between shooting something you know will be awesome, like the H&K MP5, or one of the more exotic Class III such as the Lahiti, Mini Gun, or WWI Maxim. Fortunately, my friend reminded me that the Thompson was my dream gun, so that’s the one I ended up choosing.

CTD Suzanne shooting a fully automatic Thompson submachine gun.

CTD Suzanne shooting a fully automatic Thompson submachine gun.

I opted for two 50-round drum magazines. O.F.A.S.T.S prices are set at $30 per magazine for regular calibers and $17 for your second magazine. It was worth it to spend the extra for another magazine. If you have ever shot full auto, you know how quickly 50 rounds go! I did not get a chance to ask the owner of the Thompson I shot which model it was, however judging by the picture, it is a classic full auto model with the Cutts compensator, and finned and threaded barrel. O.F.A.S.T.S does not put out traditional paper targets, but cars, airplanes, refrigerators, stoves, and other such “targets.” Yes, I said airplanes. I aimed in the general direction of a stove that was the closest item to me and let her rip. I have no idea if I hit that stove or not, but who cares? Once I get a lot more time behind full autos, then I can start focusing on hitting something. Since this was only my second time to shoot full auto, my main concern was keeping control of the weapon. Athough the Thompson is a very heavy weapon, for me anyway, weighing about 10 pounds, I was very pleasantly surprised how controllable it is. It may have been because of the adrenaline, but the recoil was unnoticeable and the muzzle was extremely easy to control. I had no problems with climb. Was the Thompson all I imagined it would be? Sure. Especially since I felt like a complete badass while shooting it. My friend who was with me, after seeing my incredibly large grin, smiled back and said, “You need one now, right?” I responded, “of course!” So, if you ever ask me, “why own a full auto?” Because they are damned fun. That’s why.

What is your dream gun? I would love to hear about it.


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