Historic American Firearms: Thompson Submachine Gun

Perhaps no single gun is as well associated with a single time period as the Thompson submachine gun is with the Prohibition Era. Originally developed by General John T. Thompson in the waning days of the First World War, the firearm that would go on to reach legendary status as the “Tommy Gun.” Once a popular choice for criminals and law enforcement alike, the Thompson submachine gun’s legacy continues today through its use in popular media.

Historic Beginnings

John T. Thompson was a general in the American military during World War I who saw the number of American casualties rising quickly. In an attempt to try and rectify the situation, Thompson set out to create a gun that was lightweight but could provide greater firepower to the individual soldier. The resulting firearm would become the first submachine gun in history, the perfect balance between the portability of a handgun and the firepower of a machine gun.

The Tommy Gun

Given its combination of power and maneuverability, the Thompson, affectionately known as the Tommy Gun became extremely popular during the Prohibition Era. It’s this era that is most well-known to the general public, with the Tommy Gun featuring in nearly every crime film depicting this era. Whether a classic mob film from the time, such as the 1931 classic  “Little Caesar” or a modern film set in the period like 2009’s “Public Enemies,” you can almost guarantee that a Tommy Gun will make an appearance, often loaded with its signature drum magazine.

If you’re a true gun historian, you’ll definitely want to book a D-Day gun range package at the Vegas Machine Gun Experience and feel the power of the classic Thompson submachine gun for yourself.

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Dianna Wyson