Thompson submachine guns have gained quite the following amongst gun collectors over the years. When we hear the term “Tommy Gun”, often used instead of the Thompson submachine gun, we imagine gangsters of the early 20th century shooting at police officers from getaway cars containing large amounts of illegal liquor. It has been said that a Thompson model was owned by Bonnie and Clyde, which sold in 2012 for $130,000.
Because of its colorful and dynamic history, the Thompson Submachine gun has become one of the most sought-after pieces for commemorative firearm collectors across the nation.
The Thompson submachine gun was originally developed by General John T. Thompson, whose initial idea was to create a semi-automatic rifle to replace the service rifles in use that featured bolt action mechanics. Thompson’s dream was to manufacture a “trench broom” that would help wipe out enemy forces in trench warfare situations. After stumbling upon a patent that was issued to John Blish in the year 1915, and a financial backer in a Mr. Thomas Ryan, production of what would eventually be called the “Annihilator I” commenced. This name was eventually changed to the Thompson submachine gun after WWI ended.
The Thompson submachine gun first went into production as the M1921, which was sold to various buyers in the U.S Postal Inspection Service and the United States Marine Corps. Early batches were also bought by Irish Republic agents, for use in the Irish War of Independence.
The Thompson was used in World War II by American forces in both the European and Pacific Theaters. It was also used by many of America’s allies including Britain, Canada and Australia. It was used by special operations forces, like paratroopers and Rangers. In the Pacific, some U.S. Marines carried the Thompson as they landed on a number of the Pacific islands. During World War II, more than 1,000,000 Thompsons were produced for use by Allied forces.
- No longer the standard issue for the U.S. Military, Thompsons were still available and used by American forces.
- Distributed to Chinese armed forces prior to the rise in power of the Chinese Communist party, it was also used by Chinese Communist troops against American troops.
- Used by reconnaissance American advisers and units.
- Later replaced by the M16.
- Used by Viet Cong as well, who manufactured their own models.
As noted above, the Thompson submachine gun gained lots of popularity during the Prohibition Era as it was often used by gangsters of the era as well as law enforcement officers. Hollywood had a strong role in the gun’s popularity, as it could be seen in movies about the gangsters and G-men of the Prohibition era, as well as movies about World War II.
If you are a collector, owning a Thompson submachine gun is simply a must-have. This firearm brings with it a large, dynamic history and a one-of-a-kind look that is sure to fit right in with your collection. It is truly an American classic.