Whether used by hero or villain, this is one iconic, badass firearm, not to mention a quintessential piece of Americana.
It doesn’t matter who is firing it or if it’s just on display, the Thompson submachine gun is one wicked cool piece of firearms history. From prohibition era gangsters and outlaws to cops and WWII heroes, the Thompson has become a legitimate icon of American firearms lore and even mythology.
I recently held a Thompson (but didn’t get to fire it) and I have to say, yes, I did feel pretty badass just holding it and getting my picture taken with it.
Invented by John T. Thompson in 1918, the Thompson submachine gun fires a .45 ACP cartridge and was favored by soldiers and police officers facing bad guys for its accuracy and high rate of fire. But these are the very reasons that the bad guys often carried Thompsons too, at least as far as civilian outlaws are concerned.
Made famous during the prohibition era, the “Chicago Typewriter,” as it was also known, was a favored weapon of gangsters. Two “Tommy Guns” – another nickname – were used in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and became known as “the most famous murder weapons in the world” and “the gun that made the 1920s roar.”
The gun continued to make its presence felt during WWII, where it was relied upon by paratroopers, ranger battalions, special operations troops, tank crews and anyone who could get their hands on one. It was affectionately also known as the “Trench Broom” or simply as the Thompson by WWII soldiers.
There were of course several variations of the Thompson submachine gun, and it was used in many conflicts throughout the world. It has become a highly collectable firearm, and the Thompson reportedly carried by infamous Prohibition era outlaws Bonnie and Clyde sold for $130,000 at a 2012 auction.
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