the Tommy Gun in Crime and Law Enforcement

In later days it is believed that no less than 500 Thompsons were used by IRA terrorists during their campaign in Northern Ireland.

Prison and Security Use

The US Bureau of Prisons, US Mint Police, Postal Inspectors as well as many state Corrections Departments purchased small lots of the M21 civilian model and were later given many post-WWII M1928 and M1 military Thompsons for use. This stock of weapons was sold in small batches by traveling salesmen, through mail order and in local hardware stores and sold to the public including postal service, FBI, US Marines, Texas Rangers and Coast Guard through 1938. More than 1400 Thompsons were confiscated from Neo-Nazi Richard Lauchli in 1969. The easy to control and reliable Thompson soon became a favorite of such hi-speed public enemies as John Dillinger, Homer Van Meter, Pretty Boy Floyd and the hit men of Murder Inc.

Hill, Tracie L Thompson, the American legend: the first submachine gun

Informal Interview with CPO Whiffenbach, USCG ret 2010

It was the seminal weapon of the prohibition gangsters and the tool of choice at the St Valentines Day Massacre on February 14, 1929 in Lincoln Park Chicago. It was often marketed to bank guards, law enforcement agencies and courier services as “the Anti-Bandit gun”.

Many small law enforcement agencies, namely the Mitchell County Sherriffs offices, among others in the mid-west still have one or two of these old relics in their armory. Newsreel footage of the opening of Alcatraz, the building and stocking of the Federal Gold Depository at Ft Knox, and of the turbulent prison riots of the 1960s and 1970s show guards poised and ready with their Tommy Guns ready to respond.. It was decreed however that the Thompson was to be removed from US Federal law enforcement use during post-Hoover reforms in 1970.

Criminals and the Tommy Gun

Since the weapon was not a controlled item until after the National Firearms Act of 1968, many hundreds of the M21 Thompsons sold on the public market were purchased legally by criminals. Today the Thompson has quietly marched away into the history books of cops and robbers, terrorists and lawgivers across the world .


Auto Ordnance Website

Cox, Roger A Thompson Submachine Gun

Mullin, Timothy L The Fighting Submachine Gun, Machine Pistol, and Shotgun: A Hands-On Evaluation

FOIA Request April 2010 to US Army TACOM Rock Island on file with author as to number of Thompsons of all types in US Arsenals

Richard Lauchli and his arsenal of Tommy gunsThe first production models of the Thompson Submachine Guns were 15,000 M21s made by Colt on contract to Auto-Ordnance in 1921-22. One of these “St Valentines Guns” is still maintained in storage by the Berien County Sherriffs Office

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