In 1916, General John T. Thompson worked with Thomas Ryan to develop a new semi-automatic rifle that would use a breach locking system patented by U.S. Navy Commander John Blish. The Auto-Ordnance Corporation was then founded in Cleveland, Ohio to design and build this new firearm.
After two years making several prototypes, the design team at Auto-Ordnance developed a few prototypes of an ‘automatic rifle’ using the Blish system that was chambered for the standard .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) pistol cartridge.
The first public demonstration of the Thompson in 1921 created enough interest to form a contract with the Colt Company in Hartford, Connecticut to build 15,000 guns. These guns were designated as the “M1921 Thompson”.
The Thompson was the first weapon that was labelled and marketed as a "Submachine Gun”
Improvements were made to the M1921 Thompson and a new model M1928 Thompson was introduced and was quickly procured by the U.S. Navy for the Marines fighting in Nicaragua.
The M1928 Thompson quickly became the most widely known firearm. This model gained fame from its use by criminals and Police during Prohibition and in Hollywood films about their exploits. It was nicknamed "Tommy Gun" by the media.
Over 2 million Thompson submachine guns were produced and used by all Allied countries during World War II.
The FBI used Thompsons until they were declared obsolete and ordered destroyed in the early 1970s. The 1928 Thompson was the last small arm adopted by the U.S. Army that used a year designation in the weapon’s official nomenclature.
The Thompson has made more history than any other hand held weapon of its type and General Thompson only lived long enough to regret that it bore his name.
· The first weapon that was labeled and marketed as a "Submachine Gun”.
· Nicknamed "Tommy Gun" by the media.
· The M1921 and M1928 Thompson guns could fit a 50 or 100 round drum. Wartime models used a box magazine as the drums were easily damaged.
· This gun gained popularity among civilian collectors for its historical significance.
Advantages: Rugged, very reliable, excellent automatic fire control, comfortable to fire, selective fire, excellent short range hitting power, staggered box magazines are easily reloaded without a charger, the detachable butt stock allows for compact storage.
Disadvantages: It is very heavy for a SMG, complex to maintain, awkward to carry, relatively long for a SMG, expensive to manufacture
Used extensively by the armed forces of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Sweden, Yugoslavia, Russia, China, and many South American countries and South East Asia. h