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The M1A1 Thompson Celebrates Its 100th Birthday This Year

The M1A1 Thompson still stands alone among the technological-driven firearms industry.

Auto-Ordnance is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Thomson Sub Machine gun. The 45acp is still a reliable cartridge to use for all defense and forward operations. The Thompson has been demilitarized in today’s U.S. military, but the nostalgia still keeps this SBR alive.

The Thompson, will always turn heads partially because it’s known as the Chicago typewriter, but also because it screams Americana, and should definitely be a rifle platform that most people should be able to get their hands on.

Ballistically speaking, the 45acp moves between 900-1300 fps, depending on weight and power pressure. That’s not too different considering the speeds are the same coming out of a 1911 pistol. The reason you would want to harness the 45acp cartridge in the Thompson is to get 30 rounds readily available for close quarter engagement.

This gun was extremely critical in the trenches of Normandy and the beaches of Iwo Jima. The shorter barrel allowed for greater accuracy up to 50 yards. The 45acp delivered the highest muzzle energy for the pistol cartridges at the time. While many rifles earned their names in history during WWII, few have stayed in a category like the Thompson.

The Thompson was also very well known for its use by Chicago-area gangsters during Prohibition. Earning many nicknames, the Thompson was definitely heard and recognized by both cops and bad guys. In its shortest configuration, the Thompson was easy to use in vehicles and in tight spaces, making it preferable than the older longer rifles of the day. History aside, it caused as much ruckus with the Feds as the SBR AR-15s of today.

The reliability of the Thompson wasn’t so strong in the beginning, though. Troops often complained of the delicate magazine rail required to feed the rifle. In a pinch, the magazine had to be aligned just right to feed the magazine as designed, which was cumbersome, but still doable. Different evolutions also came of the charging handle and the forward grip position. Improvements with the barrel also evolved as the gun was being exposed to more heat and needed to cool off quicker.

All in all, the configuration used on the Military Arms Channel is the most salient of the bunch. Even 100 years later, the ATF still keeps this carbine under lock and key. Even though there are rifles that hit with heavier muzzle energy and there are pistol calibers that move dramatically quicker than the 45acp, you still have to go through the bureaucratic red tape that comes with an SBR. Why this is the case is up to anyone’s guess.

Cheers to the Thompson for surviving one century with incredible technological changes, and hopes that it will stay in service another 100 years!



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The M1A1 Thompson Celebrates Its 100th Birthday This Year