Unmistakable: The Thompson

posted on December 11, 2013
edmassk-51.jpg

It is unlikely that any other firearm has captured the public imagination so thoroughly, both at the height of its era and continuing on long thereafter, as the Thompson Submachine Gun. Even today, more than 90 years after its introduction, the Thompson still dominates the iconography of the submachine gun. It is preeminent, impressive and an unmistakable figure of World War II American firepower.

Its role in Depression-era gangland violence made it infamous-despite the fact that it was intended for use “On The Side of Law and Order” and was more common in the hands of lawmen than criminals-and it earned defamatory nicknames including, “Chopper,” “Chicago Typewriter” and “Gangster Gun.” In 1926, Colliers described the Thompson as a “diabolical engine of death.” The negative publicity kept the Thompson from being viewed as an important military arm-until it was almost too late.

When the Thompson finally ended up in the hands of American Marines, sailors and soldiers, its reputation was already well established. In combat, the Thompson earned respect from all who fired it, and the gun instilled confidence in the men who carried it. My father, who carried a Thompson in Europe during World War II, once told me: “When the Krauts heard the blast of a Thompson, they either gave up or went away and bothered somebody else!”

As a submachine gun, it excelled at close range. In the Pacific, it blasted Japanese through the thick jungle underbrush. In Europe, it pounded Germans in hedgerows and in house-to-house actions. It was heavy, but it was robust and reliable. It was expensive to produce, but the G.I.’s confidence in the gun justified the investment.

Through the years, I have heard and read many stories and myths about the Thompson. One Thompson accessory quickly dismissed as “too heavy,” “too complicated” or “too noisy” is the 50-round drum magazine. The drum was thought to have been quickly phased out early in World War II. But my photographic research doesn’t support that notion. You will see numerous photos of Marines using 50-round drum magazines throughout the war (including on Okinawa, the last major island battle). Obviously, some Marines valued the extra firepower inherent in the drum, and it is proven through the photos.

The Thompson has a classic, distinctive appearance. It is a legend among firearms, and photos of the gun speak for themselves, much like the “Tommy Gun” itself did, in its own unmistakable way.

Latest

Horman Ar10takedown 3
Horman Ar10takedown 3

Building A Takedown Pistol In .308 Win.

With the large amount of components available for the AR-10 platform, along with a new trend of more compact AR pistols, constructing your own foldable, compact, takedown AR-10 pistol is possible.

Kahr Arms To Host Annual Rod of Iron Freedom Fest

Kahr Firearms Group is hosting this year’s “Rod of Iron Freedom Festival” at its Greeley, Penn., Kahr Headquarters facility.

Mossberg Maverick 88: Mossberg's Budget-Priced Pump Shotgun

The Maverick 88 is one of Mossberg's best known shotgun models and is currently available in 14 different versions.

The Men And Guns Of D-Day: 82nd Airborne Division

Watch this segment of American Rifleman Television "The Men And Guns Of D-Day" to learn more about the men of the 82nd Airborne Division, their stories and the firearms they used during "The Great Crusade."

MidwayUSA Grants $2.3 Million To Help Youth Shooting Teams

The MidwayUSA Foundation recently announced the payout of more than $2.23 million in cash grants to 612 youth shooting teams.

Review: Bond Arms Roughneck

The Roughneck derringer from Bond Arms is an entry-level option in 9 mm Luger, but don’t let that fool you, as the quality of its materials and craftsmanship rival those of the company’s top-end variants.

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.