The Thompson “Tommy Gun” TM1
Pat Cascio 04.21.16
For as long as I can remember, a lot of people have called me “old school,” “old fashioned,” or something to that effect. And I don’t take offense at it in the least.
I still believe the best music ever made was from the mid to late 1960s, and I believe it was the best of times in my own life, too. My radio is always set on an “Oldies” music station, and I love watching the old TV shows from the 1960s, too–even the 1950s. Times were simpler back then. No cell phones, no computers, no video games, no 24-hour news channels. Heck, as a matter of fact, we didn’t have TV stations on the air 24-hours per day, either.
Like many gun writers, I like the older style guns. That’s not to say I don’t have more than my share of modern polymer framed firearms. I grew-up watching WWII movies when I was a kid, and one of my favorite tv programs in the 1960s was simply called “Combat.” The show’s star, Vic Morrow, played the tough-as-nails “Sgt Saunders,” and he carried a Thompson sub-machine gun.
I was always fascinated with the “Tommy Gun” for as long as I could remember. However, when I started writing gun articles for the various firearms publications over the past 23-24 years, I just never got around to testing a “Tommy Gun” for some reason.
I requested a Thompson Auto-Ordnance TM1 semi-automatic (only) version of the famed “Tommy Gun” from WWII from the nice folks at Thompson Auto-Ordnance, and the wait was on. More than two months passed before I had my sample in-hand. And I’m hear to tell you, it was worth it, too.
Features, Fit, and Finish
A quick look at the TM1 version. This is about as close as you can come to owning a select-fire Tommy Gun, without all the red tape involved in owning an NFA weapon. The TM1 fires the grand old .45ACP round, which has been a proven fight stopper since its inception.
The TM1 has a 16.5 inch barrel and it fires semi-automatic. The overall length of the TM1 is 38-inches, and it comes with a blade front sight, and a fixed rear sight–no sight adjustments are allowed. The walnut stock, pistol grip, and forearm are a real thing of beauty, too. Not a flaw could be found in the wood or workmanship.
The gun only comes with one 30-round magazine, though I wish they would include a couple extra mags. I did order some extra mags with my sample.
The gun also comes in a fitted polymer carrying case, too. The TM1 model does NOT accept the drum magazines, and I specifically didn’t want a Tommy Gun that accepted a drum magazines. The gun is heavy enough at 11.5-pounds empty. Plus, I just knew I would burn through a lot of .45ACP ammo with the 30-rd stick mags. This TM1 also accepts 10 and 20 round stick mags, too.
A quick note on the 30-round mags: they are modified military magazines. The BATF required that Auto-Ordnance reposition the magazine catch on the semi-auto versions of the famed Tommy Gun for some stupid reason. I purchased some used military surplus 30-round mags from CDNN Sports and simply had to enlarge the oval hole in the back of the magazines upwards just a tiny bit with a Dremel Tool to make them fit the TM1 perfectly.
The Thompson M1 “Tommy Gun” was used in battles all over Europe as well as in the Pacific Theaters of operations during WWII with great success. The M1 version could be fired full-auto or by flipping the selector switch to semi-auto for more precise aiming. However, to be sure, most Tommy Guns were usually used in the full-auto position.
The safety is located on the left side of the TM1, as it was on the M1, and you can NOT reach the safety with your firing hand/thumb; you have to either shift the gun in your hand or use your left had to engage or disengage the safety. This is one of the few drawbacks that I didn’t like. However, with a little practice you could snick the safety on and off with the left hand fairly quick.
A word about the fixed sights: you cannot adjust them for windage or elevation. However, the good news is that the sights were perfectly regulated on my sample, and at 25-yards, if I did my part, I could place 5-shots inside of an inch. We are talking serious accuracy here, folks!
The TM1 model is heavy at 11.5-pounds empty, so placing it over a rest was the best method for obtaining the best accuracy. Standing off-hand, my groups at 25-yards were quite a bit larger due to the weight of the gun and trying to hold it steady.
The all-steel receiver on the TM1 is milled steel (no polymers at all), and this makes the gun heavy. To be sure, the gun was finished in a beautiful deep, dark blued finish with no tool marks any place. The TM1 is a real thing of beauty in my eyes. Just hefting it made me think about all those WWII movies I watched with the good guys carrying aTommy Gun. John Wayne used one in “Back To Bataan” with great effectiveness against the enemy.
Testing and Accuracy
For my testing I had a decent selection of .45ACP ammo on-hand. The owner’s manual states that you should only use 230-gr FMJ ammo in the TM1, and that other bullet shapes probably might cause feeding problems. I’m here to tell you that my sample ate through everything I fed it, period.
From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had their 160-gr TAC-XP Barnes all-copper hollow point load. This is a low-recoiling load, but the TM1 fed and fired it without any problems at all.
I also had Buffalo Bore’s 200-gr FMJ FN +P load, their 185-gr JHP +P load and the 185-gr TAC-XP +P Barnes all-copper hollow point load. Again, no feeding or functioning problems at all.
From my friends at Black Hills Ammunition I had their 200-gr SWC all-lead load and their super-accurate 230-gr FMJ loads. I will say that my sample TM1 really seemed to run extremely smooth(er) with the +P .45ACP loads. However, once again, there were no failures to feed or extract with any of the ammo tested. I was really surprised that the lighter low-recoiling loads functioned without any problems.
Best groups were with the BlackHills 230-gr FMJ loads. They consistently gave me one-inch groups if I was on my game. Other loads were hot on the heels of this load. This gun was accurate, pure and simple!
The charging handle on the TM1 is on the right side of the gun, and I’m here to tell you that it is very hard (stout) to pull back to chamber a round. However, after several hundreds rounds of ammo through the gun, it was much easier to charge a round from the magazine.
According to the owner’s manual, you should lock the bolt back, insert a loaded magazine, and then pull back to release the bolt to chamber a round. However, I would lock a loaded magazine into the gun and then charge the chamber that way. It didn’t seem to matter which method I used; the ammo fed just fine.
The TM1 fires from a closed bolt, where the M1 select-fire model fires from an open bolt. The magazine release is on the left side of the gun just above the trigger guard, and once again you have to use your left hand to remove a magazine from the TM1. It’s a bit slow, but with practice it’s not a problem.
I do have one major complaint with the TM1 sample, and that is it just eats through .45ACP ammo like a 5-year-old child eating through a bag of Halloween candy. The TM1 was a load of fun to shoot, and each time I’d take it out shooting, I would burn through two boxes of ammo before I knew what happened. In one shooting session, I burned through 200 rounds without thinking about it, and in another shooting session, I burned through 400 rounds of ammo before I knew what happened.
Loading the 30-round stick magazines is easy. You simply push the rounds straight down–unlike double-stack handgun magazines, where you have to start the round at the front of the magazine and push down and back to load a round. I believe that simply pushing .45ACP rounds straight down made loading fast and easy, and that’s one of the reasons I burned through so much ammo during my shooting sessions.
Recoil? None to speak of. But then again, I didn’t think there would be much recoil shooting an 11.5-pound carbine. It is not recommended that you ever shoot any firearms without hearing protection, but with that said, I did fire the TM1 several times without my hearing protection on. The noise is quite a bit less than firing .45ACP ammo through a handgun. Still, you should always wear your hearing protection.
If I had one real complaint about my TM1 sample it would be that the stock is overly long. Trigger pull is about 15+ inches, and you have a hard time shouldering the TM1 because the stock is so long. I don’t understand why the stock is so long. However, it can easily be shortened by your local gunsmith in short order.
I guess that’s my one real complaint, other than the way the TM1 eats through ammo. The TM1 is one of most fun guns I’ve shot in a long, long time. I also put a small piece of “skate board” friction tape on the charging handle. I found it a bit smallish and slick. However, I do have an extended charging handle on-order for my Tommy Gun from Auto-Ordnance.
Yeah, the Tommy Gun is “old school” or “old fashioned,” but I’m telling you that it will hold it’s own in a gunfight out to 125+ yards (or a bit farther out than that) if you have a good rest to place the gun over. I shot the TM1 at targets of opportunity well past 100-yards, and once I figured out the holdover, I was consistently hitting large rocks with ease. The .45ACP round doesn’t drop as much as you think it would, firing from a 16.5-inch barrel out to 100-yards+.
Now, I wouldn’t desire to go up against someone armed with an AK-47 or an AR-15 if they were out several hundred yards from me. However, the Tommy Gun can hold its own when the combat is close-in, 100-yards or less. And the .45ACP round will get the job done if you do your part.
Yep, I’m old school–and love it!