auto ordnance


Thompson M1A1 submachine gun

Manufactured by Auto-Ordnance Corp. c.WW2 for the US Army - serial number 432620.
.45ACP 20-round detachable stick magazine, blowback fully automatic, parkerized finish.

The M1 series of Tommy guns, made for the US military, differ from the previous 1921 and 1928 ‘overstamped’ models by having an horizontal front grip - a feature shared by the earlier military M1928A1 - a rougher finish, a non-finned barrel and more importantly a bolt actuator situated on the right of the receiver, no longer on top of it. They also couldn’t accept the 50 and 100 round drum magazines that make the Thompson submachine gun iconic to this day.

A Thompson M1921 with a 100-round drum magazine. Note the blued finish - earlier models were much fancier than military one.

These front pistol grips make me fucking cringe everytime I lay eyes on them.

Let’s get away from revolvers and look at another iconic piece of American patriotism. The Trench Sweeper, The Chicago Typewriter, The Chopper, or just the Thompson, it’s one of the most iconic guns in history. It’s the Thompson Submachinegun. This is gonna be a long one.

The history of this trench broom begins with US Army General John Taliaferro Thompson. Former chief of the Small Arms division of the Ordnance Department, Thompson was sympathetic to the Allies, as were most Americans. And while working at Remington, heading the Remington plant at Eddystone, Pennsylvania. Having heard of the horrible trench fighting that beset most of World War 1, Thompson was determined to make something to give Allies an edge. He found a patent by John Bell Blish for a delayed blowback breech system and him and Blish founded Auto-Ordnance.

The original idea was for an automatic rifle in a full sized rifle cartridge, what we know know as the Thompson Auto-Rifle. This design went nowhere, so Thompson got the idea to instead make a similar idea in .45 ACP. And after reports of the German’s Bergmann MP18 came back, Thompson began working on making his design into an SMG.

The initial prototypes were slightly similar to the gun we all know and love, but were too late for WWI. With all military contracts dried up, Auto-Ordnance and Colt, who had bought the rights to also make it began eyeing the law enforcement side. And besides being bought by law enforcement, it became a common weapon for gangsters.

From Bonnie And Clyde to John Dillinger, the Thompson became an icon overnight. Gangsters across the 50 states used them, as they were reasonably accurate, had a very high rate of fire and thus came the other models. In 1928, Thompson was fired from his position in Auto-Ordnance during a period of low sales, but also released the updated M1928 version of the Thompson.

Yes I know it looks a lot like the M1921 above, but the M1928 was the first step in making the Thompson a military weapon. The bluing of the original was cut down, the rate of fire was reduced via heavier actuators and less powerful recoil springs. They also began to have horizontal foregrips instead of the pistol grip. This modification helped get the Thompson military contracts, first with the US Military during the Banana Wars, then world militaries from England to the warlords of China. Some of the first Thompsons were extensively by the IRA during the Irish Civil War. And WWII put the Thompson on the map.

The Thompson’s saw it’s biggest use in the largest conflict in World history. The original M1928 was the standard SMG for the British Military and the US and quickly expanded to be one of the most common SMG’s for the Allied military. It’s high rate of fire and reliability were offset by it’s high price, something that led the British to adopt the STEN gun in it’s place. But that still didn’t stop Thompsons from being used by the British, Free French, US, and many many other Allied forces in WWII and afterwards into Korea and even into Vietnam.

The final versions of the Thompson, the M1928A1, The M1 and the M1A1 were made in responce to the guns relatively high cost in manufacturing. While the US Military tried to replace it with the cheaper M3 “Grease Gun”, nothing could really dislodge the Thompson from it’s spot. And even with the rise of the assault rifle, the Thompson’s final days in the US Military were in the jungles of Vietnam, where it’s power in close quarters made it a loved weapon by LRRP operators and MAC-V SOG and SEALS.

And that is the Thompson’s legacy, from the gangster classic to the War Hero, it’s a gun for the everyman, and almost 100 years after the first M1921′s creation, they still see service. And you know damn well a gun this iconic is in more movies than you could shake a stick at.

Ever since the 1930′s, The Thompson’s been a common sight in film. It’s heavy usage by the gangsters of the 1920′s and 1930′s to it being standard US Army issue for 30+ years makes it a Hollywood legend. From films set during the Roaring 20′s, the dark days of WWII to even modern day or sci-fi futures, A Thompson will show up. It’s big, loud, heavy and makes quite a glorious muzzle flash with the Cutts compensator.

You know how this goes by now, don’t you, from the silver screen to the computer screen.

The rise of the WWII shooter in the early 2000′s made the M1A1 Thompson a staple of many FPS games, with it arming the British and US forces just like it did in real life. With the first video game portrayal of a Thompson in 1997′s Blood, it’s been a long video game line, from the undersea in Bioshock to the zombie-filled streets of Killing Floor. Even the post-apocalypse has room for a Thompson, with one if Fallout 2, Tactics and New Vegas as well as a couple of Mafia appearances. It’s big, heavy and fires big bullets, it’s as iconic on the video game scene as it is in the movie scene and in real life.

And that is the tale of the Thompson Submachine gun, from the arsenals of gangsters and police to the hands of every GI from Saipan to Berlin, it’s a classic in every sense of the word. Whether stuffed in a violin case ready for use, rattling the streets of Dublin, firing into the night from Biafra to Bucharest or hanging on a wall, it’s a piece of history and will keep shooting on for years to come.

From Ireland to Lebanon, from Palestine and Berkeley…”


   Extremely Rare World War II Auto-Ordnance/Thompson Experimental Submachine Gun Serial Number “T2" 

from Rock Island Auctions                                                                                      

 This is a beautiful example of a super rare early WWII Auto-Ordnance/Thompson experimental SMG. This weapon was designed/developed in late 1941/early 1942 based on the request from the US Army for industry to develop a standardized 45 ACP SMG, as a replacement/substitute for the Thompson M1928 SMG. This is "One of Two” examples ever manufactured by the Auto-Ordnance company and tested at Aberdeen Proving grounds. The other example as we understand is still held by the Government. As we know it competed against several other SMG designs namely the Marlin M2 and the General Motors/Inland Div., M3 Grease Gun. All were developed with the intent of being a low-cost war expedient weapon intending to reducing the numerous parts and machining operations that were used in the Thompson. This gun is very unique in that it was developed along the same lines as the British STEN submachine gun in that it uses a straight tube receiver with a round machined bolt. It still used some of the M1 Thompson type parts such as the non-finned barrel, and front sight. It does have a completely unique full length one piece walnut stock with a fixed vertical pistol grip and top handguard. The actual receiver and barrel groups are held in the stock by two wing-bolts that served as simple take down mechanism. It has a fixed front sight mounted on the end of the barrel and a simple fixed rear sight that was mounted on the rear end of the receiver tube. The internal trigger pack is comprised of a machined frame with the hammer and trigger mechanism inserted/installed in the frame and covered by a stamped sheet metal plate on the side. The top of the receiver tube is marked: “THOMPSON SUBMACHINE GUN/CALIBER 45  T2/AUTO-ORDNANCE CORPORATION/BRIDGEPORT, CONNECTICUT, USA”. This specific weapon was actually tested by Aberdeen Proving Grounds and the results are documented in Ordnance Test Program number “5082”. A Copy of the cover sheet is included with this rare SMG, and a full copy could be obtained from the Government. The consignor also included some informational research with this weapon that discusses the performance of this gun during testing. As we all know this design did not win out against the General Motors/Inland Div. designed M3 Grease gun. It was noted in the report that this example had several stoppages and malfunctions as well as a small stress crack at the tail end of the trigger housing, all of which helped contribute to it being eliminated. Notwithstanding this is a very rare experimental SMG. Additional Information: This rare submachine gun lot now includes a photocopy of the original Aberdeen Proving Grounds Test report (Ordnance Program Number 5082) on the functioning and performance of this weapon.

Auto Ordnance Model TM1

Civilian model of the legendary Thompson submachine gun, they are generally chambered in .45 ACP, but there was a very small number of them produced in 10mm. There are several variations offered by Auto Ordnance, including SBR’s (Short Barreled Rifles) and pistols. One important thing to keep in mind is that the M1 models can’t use the iconic drum magazine; they lack the proper slots in the magazine well to accept them. (GRH)