Named after its designer, General John T. Thompson, this submachine gun was first produced in 1919, and was originally designed to aid U.S. soldiers during World War I . General Thompson wanted to build a machine gun that was light, and thus the Tommy Gun, one of the first ever submachine guns, came into being.
The gun became extremely popular in the 1920s and 1930s among gangsters and also police. The Tommy Gun was also used by the U.S. Army from the very beginning of World War II for close combat. The Tommy Gun served in the armed forces and was a reliable military surplus item for longer than any other gun of its kind that was designed in the same time period.
The Tommy Gun’s U.S. military tenure had almost come to a close by the time the Korean War came around. The firearm was replaced by the M3 submachine gun (commonly known as the “grease gun”). The Tommy Gun continued to be used by some law enforcement agencies in the U.S. until 1976, when it was relieved of its duties.
There were several variants of the Tommy Gun produced, one of the first being the Model 1919. It was reported to have a firing rate of 1500 rounds per minute, and only 40 guns of this model were made. The M1928A1 was one of the models that saw extensive military use, entering into service just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Its most distinctive characteristic is a horizontal forend as opposed to the vertical foregrip of earlier models. The most widely-produced model for the military was the M1A1. It could be produced much quicker and cheaper than the M1928A1.
The benefit of the Tommy Gun that made it so popular was its light weight. Machine guns used prior to the Tommy Gun’s inception were relatively heavy. The Tommy Gun weighs a measly 10 pounds. Just for comparison, the M60 machine gun weighs more than 23 pounds. The Tommy Gun uses a .45 caliber ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) round, which is the same cartridge used in the M1911 pistol. It has a firing rate of 600-1200 rounds per minute (although the Model 1919 supposedly had a higher rate).
The Tommy Gun is getting harder to come by for purchase these days. But the good news is, we know of the best place to get one. Impact Guns sells a M1928A1 model right here. Along with your Tommy Gun, you can get a carrying case that’s shaped like a violin (just like in the movies). But don’t get caught bringing your gun into a concert with this case!
Written by Craig Kent, member of the Best Military Surplus team.