Deacon’s Bully Pulpit #2 Tommy Gun

~June 11th, 2012

A look at our favorite gun, the Thompson Sub Machine Gun. Since this sport of ours is all about fun, this gun sums it up. “The Chicago Typewriter”, “The Chopper”, “The Tommy Gun” , etc, everyone recognizes it.

I had it on my “Grail Gun” list for many years, and one day John Tucker called me and said he had one. I raced over to his shop on my lunch break, and drooled all over it while avoiding stepping on his dachshund. I traded him for it and brought it home. I have never regretted that trade, and discovered there is no other gun that comes out on the range that draws a crowd like this one. There are a few things you need to know about it, so let’s take a good look at why you should consider it as your gun for our sport.

Reasons to use the Tommygun:

1. It shoots the same round as the 1911 and the 1917 Smith & Wesson and Colt revolvers, the .45 ACP, so it will be very nice when loading up for some capers, as you only have to grab one type of ammo, [believe me it does make a difference!].

2. It is a pussycat to shoot and accurate as well.

3. There is absolutely no other gun out there that is more recognizable, so your “Yeah, I own a Tommygun!” attitude is undeniable and understandable.

The Thompson was developed by General John Talifiero Thompson’s engineers for trench warfare in WW1. The first prototype testing units were on the docks on New York City awaiting shipment when the Armistice was declared. It was a beautifully machined and hand fitted piece of engineering, and this was reflected in it’s price. After the war, the entire world was awash in surplus firearms and most of Europe was nearly bankrupt, so the new-fangled gun’s sales were far less than expected. If not for the notoriety the gun garnered in the Prohibition days and the Irish Civil War, it might have languished as a footnote in history. But once WW2 hit, over a million were built and used all over the world by Allied forces. Beautifully machined, even the simplified version introduced in 1942 was a work of the machinist’s art. It was only dropped from production because it was too expensive compared to it’s replacement the stamped metal M3 “Greasegun”.

If you can afford a full auto one, congratulations, as they sell for over $25,000 now. Thankfully we can still get the semi auto version to enjoy. There are 2 types for our purposes, for simplicity we will call them the Civilian and the Military Models. The Civilian version has the vertical grip up front and is what folks usually associate with the bootlegger era, while the Military version has a foregrip that runs along parallel to the barrel, think Combat with Vic Morrow or Saving Private Ryan. These guns are capable of surprisingly good accuracy, so enjoy busting bowling pins at 50 or 100 yards. You will discover excellent sights on all versions [the military ones having a larger and simpler peep, so they are easier on older eyes] and magazines are available in 20 and 30 round sticks and 50 and 100 round drums [these are also available in 10 round versions for those unlucky enough to live in restrictive regions]. If you buy surplus magazines for your currently made Tommy, you may need to modify them as the magazine catch has been modified for the semiauto ones from the factory. Don’t worry, as it is an easy 5 minute job with a small file or Dremel tool. The drums will not fit the current Auto Ordnance military styled versions, so if you have to have a drum, check first that it will work! The sticks are a lot less fussy, cheaper [$20-$30 as opposed to $200 for drums] and will run much more reliably, but I have to admit the drums are so very sexy. Shooting the Tommygun is just pure pleasure, as it’s weight makes it feel like a .22 in the recoil department, however, that same weight can make it awkward for smaller shooters to handle easily. If you haven’t ever handled one, you will be surprised at how “substantial” it truly is. Many Tommys have a Cutt’s Compensator on the barrel, it isn’t really necessary with the semi auto versions we shoot, but it was on the full auto ones, so AO still puts it on them. The Tommy will run fine, even with the compensator, with either lead or jacketed bullets. There are versions made without the buttstock and with a short barrel that are classified as pistols. These are a lot of fun to shoot, but you will not be as accurate unless you have substantial upper body strength.

Accessories are a lot of fun to acquire. The famous violin case was actually used for transporting a Tommy that was broken down and would have required a little time to reassemble, or use it without the buttstock. I have seen a couple of cello or guitar cases that would serve on today’s guns and probably look pretty neat doing it too. Reproduction and surplus magazine pouches are available, be careful when you order to make sure you get the one that will fit your mags. The 20 round one will not close with 30 round mags in it and the 30 round pouch swallows the 20 rounders and you have to fight to get the magazine out!

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