Connect with us


America’s Tommy-Gun Relationship Status: It’s Complicated



Meet the REAL “Machine Gun Kelly.”

The Chicago Typewriter’s deathless prose continues to entrance …

During America’s Prohibition period, the Thompson submachine gun, famously known as the Tommy Gun, played a significant role as a weapon of choice for both criminals and law enforcement agencies. This period, characterized by the nationwide ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933, saw the rise of organized crime and the need for law enforcement to combat bootlegging operations. The Tommy Gun, with its rapid rate of fire and iconic design, became synonymous with the turbulent times of Prohibition. Its distinctive appearance, featuring a drum magazine and pistol grip, made it instantly recognizable and appealing to both criminals and law enforcement.

The Thompson submachine gun was developed in the aftermath of World War I by General John T. Thompson, who envisioned a compact and powerful firearm for military use. He recognized the need for a weapon that could deliver rapid and effective fire without the bulk and weight of traditional rifles. Introduced in the early 1920s, the Tommy Gun quickly gained popularity due to its firepower, reliability, and ease of use. Lightweight and portable, the Tommy Gun could provide American troops with a high volume of firepower in close-quarter combat situations.

Backing up slightly to 1916, General Thompson teamed up with the Auto-Ordnance Company, a firearms manufacturer, to bring his vision to life. The company’s engineers, including George E. Goll, worked on designing and prototyping the new submachine gun based on General Thompson’s specifications. The development process of the Thompson submachine gun involved multiple iterations and refinements to achieve the desired balance of firepower, reliability, and usability. Various prototypes were tested and improved upon to meet the requirements of military use, particularly in trench warfare scenarios.

The culmination of the development efforts led to the introduction of the Thompson submachine gun Model 1921 in the early 1920s. This initial model featured a distinctive design, including a drum magazine, pistol grip, and a forward handguard. It was chambered in .45 ACP and capable of firing in full-auto or semi-auto modes. Following successful trials and evaluations and meeting military requirements the Thompson submachine gun was officially adopted by the U.S. military in 1928. It was primarily intended for use by specialized units, such as the U.S. Marine Corps and later the Army, in roles that required high firepower in confined spaces.

The Thompson submachine gun was not only used by the military, but also gained popularity in the civilian market. The Auto-Ordnance Company produced various models of the Tommy Gun for law enforcement agencies, private security firms, and even individual buyers during the Prohibition era. Remember—up until 1934 you could freely purchase any firearm, including full auto, without background checks. And it was not until after 1934 that fully automatic firearms, SBR/SBS, and suppressors had to be registered and charged a $200 tax.

The use of the Thompson submachine gun during Prohibition left a lasting impact on American history and popular culture. The weapon’s association with famous gangsters and law enforcement actions became legendary, immortalizing the Tommy Gun as an iconic symbol of the era.

Prohibition was unpopular among many Americans, as it restricted access to alcohol. Criminals who openly defied these laws were seen as rebels fighting against government overreach. Some criminals, like Al Capone, cultivated a charismatic public image through media and community outreach, which garnered them admiration from some people.

The illegal alcohol trade during Prohibition was highly profitable, and criminals who succeeded in this trade were sometimes admired for their business acumen and success. Criminal organizations sometimes provided certain services and protections to communities, which led to them being viewed favorably by some people, especially if the local government was seen as corrupt or ineffective. Infamous gangsters based out of Illinois wielded the Tommy Gun in their illegal activities, earning it the nickname “Chicago Typewriter.” The glorification of criminals during Prohibition was a complex phenomenon influenced by various social, economic, and cultural factors of that time, and the Tommy Gun was at the center of it all.

The Tommy Gun’s high rate of fire and .45 ACP caliber ammunition made it a formidable weapon in close-quarter combat situations, particularly in urban environments where criminal activities thrived. Its ability to deliver a large volume of firepower quickly made it a symbol of fear and authority among those who wielded it during Prohibition. Thus began an arms race between criminals and law enforcement!

In response to the escalating violence and criminal activities during Prohibition, law enforcement agencies began to adopt the Thompson submachine gun as a tool to combat organized crime. Police departments, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and other law enforcement entities recognized the need for firepower that could match the criminals they were facing.

The Tommy Gun’s use by law enforcement marked a shift in tactics and weaponry, as officers sought to level the playing field against well-armed and dangerous criminals. The Thompson submachine gun provided law enforcement with a means to respond to threats effectively and protect communities from the violence associated with bootlegging and organized crime.

Prohibition ended in 1933, but the legacy of the Thompson submachine gun in this period continued to shape perceptions of firearms, law enforcement tactics, and the battle against organized crime. The Tommy Gun remains a powerful reminder of a time when criminals and law enforcement clashed in a deadly struggle for control during one of America’s most tumultuous chapters.

The Thompson submachine gun’s role in Prohibition as a weapon used by both criminals and law enforcement reflects the complexities of a challenging period in American history. The Tommy Gun’s impact on society, culture, and law enforcement practices during this era underscores its significance as a symbol of power, violence, and resilience in the face of adversity.

The Thompson submachine gun’s original development marked a significant advancement in firearms technology, introducing a new class of weapons known as submachine guns. Its impact on military tactics, law enforcement practices, and popular culture has solidified its place as one of the most iconic firearms in history.

Ultimately, one can argue that it was the Tommy Gun’s effectiveness that was responsible for the National Firearms Act of 1934. Ninety years later, the Tommy Gun, Chicago Typewriter, Trench Sweeper, Trench Broom—whatever you want to call it—remains a cultural touchstone. In fact, Auto-Ordnance still manufactures semi-automatic, civilian-legal-in-2024 versions of it!

I guess in the end the history of the Tommy Gun is the same as America’s history sometimes…complicated.

—James the “XDMAN” Nicholas, Mr. UnPewFessional Himself!

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Copyright © 2021 Brand Avalanche Media, LLC. Popular EDC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Brand Avalanche Media, LLC. This copyrighted material may not be republished without express permission. The information presented here is for general educational purposes only. MATERIAL CONNECTION DISCLOSURE: You should assume that this website has an affiliate relationship and/or another material connection to the persons or businesses mentioned in or linked to from this page and may receive commissions from purchases you make on subsequent web sites. You should not rely solely on information contained in this email to evaluate the product or service being endorsed. Always exercise due diligence before purchasing any product or service. This website contains advertisements.