The Thompson submachine gun (nicknamed the Thompson or Tommy Gun) is an American submachine gun, invented by John T. Thompson in 1918, that became infamous during the Prohibition era and its use with the army.
History and Description
The Model 1921 (M1921) was the first major production model. Fifteen thousand were produced by Colt for Auto-Ordnance. In its original design, it was finished more like a sporting weapon, with an adjustable rear sight, a blued, finned barrel and vertical foregrip (or pistol grip) and the Blish lock. The M1921 was quite expensive to manufacture, with the original retail price around $200, because of its high-quality wood furniture and finely machined parts. The M1921 was famous throughout its career with police and criminals and in motion pictures. This model gained fame from its use by criminals during Prohibition, and was nicknamed "Tommy gun" by the media.
The M1A1, standardized in October 1942 as the United States Submachine Gun, Cal. .45, M1A1, could be produced in half the time of the M1928A1, and at a much lower cost. The main difference between the M1 and M1A1 was the bolt. The M1 bolt had a floating firing pin and hammer, the bolt of the M1A1 had the firing pin machined to the face of the bolt, eliminating unnecessary parts. The reinforced stock and protective sight wings were standard. The 30-round magazine became more common. In 1939, Thompsons cost the government $209 apiece. By the spring of 1942, cost reduction design changes had brought this down to $70. In February 1944, the M1A1 reached a low price of $45 each, including accessories and spare parts, although the difference in price between the M1 and M1A1 was only $0.06. By the end of the war, the M1A1 was replaced with the even lower-cost M3 (commonly called the "Grease Gun").
The Thompson was a common sight in the media of the time of prohibition, being used by both law enforcement officers and criminals. The Thompson was also known informally as: the "Tommy Gun", "Trench Broom", "Trench Sweeper", "Chicago Typewriter", "Chicago Piano", "Chicago Style", "Chicago Organ Grinder", and "The Chopper".
The Thompson was favored by soldiers, criminals, police and civilians alike for its ergonomics, compactness, large .45 ACP.45 ACP cartridge, reliability, wood and metal design and high volume of automatic fire. It has since gained popularity among civilian collectors for its historical significance. However, back in war-time it was very expensive and complicated to make, similar to the Luger P08, so it was replaced by the cheaper and simpler M3A1 "Grease Gun", similar to how the Luger was replaced by the cheaper and simpler Walther P38 in the German army.