No, I'm not talking about Rahm Emanuel's secretary........I'm talking about the one that Al Capone and a host of others wrote THEIR names with.
The Thompson Submachine-gun was known by a few other slang names as well........"Trench broom"......."Heater".........."Chopper", etc. Designed and invented by former U.S. Army Colonel John Thompson ............it was mostly called for its inventor as simply, the "Tommygun."
As a young Captain during the Spanish-American War, Thompson saw the need for a weapon with the capability of the Gatling gun......but one that could be carried by one man.
Unable to sell his superiors on the idea, he resigned and left active duty to start up his own company, called "Auto-Ordinance", which still exists today.
Originally called the "Annihilator One", it was ready for World War I service on November 11th, 1918-----Armistice Day! So there they sat on the shipping docks with nowhere to go.
The gun's rate of fire was dazzling, as those who witnessed his public demonstrations could attest to. The problem WAS........the "War to end all wars" was OVER and the military wasn't looking to upgrade. After all--------there "weren't going to BE any more wars", right?
Thompson was not discouraged.......he put on demonstrations to police departments, but law enforcement was only "lukewarm" at best....................
John Thompson had chosen the 45 automatic pistol round to chamber the new gun in. The 45 ACP was/is a proven manstopper, and the Tommygun could spit them out at over 600 rounds per minute! But the "Tommygun" was $200.00, plus $20.00 more for a 50-round drum. A 45 automatic PISTOL at the time, was an incredible $17.50 apiece. For the price of ONE Thompson, you could equipped 11 police officers with 45 automatic Colt pistols.
No sale. The Thompson was the fastest firing, most devastating gun in the world at the time. It was everything John Thompson said it was, and MORE. There was still only one problem................nobody wanted to buy it!
Sales were hurting, even though the Irish Republican Army bought a bunch of them to use against the British. They failed however, to buy enough ammo to really be able to USE the gun to its full potential.
His back to the wall, and company about to go under, John made a fateful decision.......he made it available to the public. It was completely legal back then to buy a fully automatic weapon, and you could even find them in hardware stores!
WELL-----------------you know much of the "REST OF THE STORY", as the late Paul Harvey used to say...........The military and the police weren't sure what to do with a weapon like this, but public "tradesmen" like Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby-Face Nelson, John Dillinger, George Kelly and Al Capone and a bunch of THEIR "associates" had no problem at ALL figuring out how to use this new gun.
In short order, it became painfully obvious to the Feds that they would HAVE to buy them, just to keep up with the CRIMINALS!
The gun developed such a reputation on BOTH sides of the law, that when World War II broke out, the War Department (today known as the "Defense Department"), bought GOBS of them for the Army, Navy and the Marine Corps.
(The Marine Corps actually DID use them earlier in South America during the "Banana Wars", and the Post Office used them to guard the mail on trains).
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered all of his agents to be qualified on the Thompson, and it soon became the "standard", that when you saw an agent with a badge on his chest carrying a Thompson, it served notice to the criminal that the agent was here to take a man back the easy way or the hard way.
The troops in World War II LOVED the gun! Whether in the cold winters of Germany, or in the tropic jungles of the Pacific, the Tommygun proved its worth.
Shooting the 45 ACP pistol cartridge, it didn't have the range of an infantry rifle, but in the heavy jungle foliage and down into the trenchlines, it was DEVASTATING "up close and personal" as they say.
(Because the 45 pistol bullet flies at subsonic speeds, the gun is called a "SUB-machinegun")------if you ever wondered where THAT term came from.
The ROUND "drums came in 50-shot or the larger 100-shot" and was primarily used by the gangsters-----and of course, no movie-maker would ever use one in a film WITHOUT a drum.
But the military determined ( and so have I with THIS one), that the "straight-stick" 20 and 30-round magazines feed the cartridges a lot more reliably.
Looks can be deceiving, and while the Thompson is smaller in dimensions than the M-1 Garand rifle, it is four pounds HEAVIER empty, and then goes UP from there, depending on which magazine or drum it's loaded with. Rear sights vary-------MINE has the "quick-reference combat sights"."
Many Thompsons were equipped with the Cutts compensator, which keeps muzzle-climb to a minimum, although the 45 ACP round doesn't create enough recoil to move a 13-lb gun around with any real significance. It is VERY controllable.
The Thompson also served in the Korean War, and our First Sergeant in Vietnam had one!
But with the new regulations in 1968, the Thompson was no longer allowed to be made in FULL-AUTO form.......although if you're VERY rich and don't mind all of the paperwork and ATF access into your home, you can still buy an ORIGINAL, when you can FIND one for sale.
But Auto-Ordinance is still allowed to make them in SEMI-auto form, and even at THAT, they're still around a cool "grand" or more.
Mine is a modern-day "Tommy" from Auto-Ordinance, but is still fun to shoot.
It is a well-thought-out design, and teardown for cleaning is not difficult.
The bolt assembly cocking knob is on the TOP, on the 1927A1 models like MINE..........and on the rightside if the gun is the re-pro for the military M-1 version.
The receiver, recoil & buffer springs are of simple design, and work well. I've often thought that jamming problems in some of the more modern weapons, have stemmed from "over-engineering" trying to create more "ground-breaking GEE-WHIZ bells & whistles.
The old Thompson patented design is of timeless simplicity. A very straight-forward gun.
Whether a $60,000 full-auto original, or a brand new SEMI--------I can tell you THIS much.........the gun is "all-business", a 45-caliber "bullet hose", that only a fool would go up against.
The Thompson Submachine-gun............it IS what it IS.........
......it WAS what it IS...............it IS what it WAS................
............or SOMETHING like that!