Thompson Sub Machine Gun

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by tankie1rtr, Oct 11, 2008.

  1. tankie1rtr

    tankie1rtr Member

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    Hi Guys.
    I was reading through the threads and read one titled "Why were the British so late using the Sub Machine Gun" one of the posts refered to the Thompson being light in weight, also another thread asking why the military did nit use the Round 50 magazine. Well first of all lets address the Magazine, The 50 round magazine was operated by a large spring, and it held 50, 45cal rounds, the reasons why the mag wasnt used was that when the mag was full, it increased the weight of the weapon considerably, also when using the weapon at night, the 50 round mag was rather noisy and gave off a lot of "Battle Rattle" and really ripped through rounds at a fast rate, also with it being clockwork as we Brits call it, if it was dropped and dented, it was very tempremantal and ceased to work, the more prefered magazine was either the 30 round straight mag, (if you taped two together inverted, you had the equivelant of the 50 round mag but very easy to load into the weapon, as it was a direct push up into the magazine housing, with the 50 round drum mag, you had to slide it into the side of the weapon, via two slots, the 20 round straight magazine was also prefered. The early Thompson (The Gangster Round Drum) was designated the M28A1 and it had the finned barrel, this was offered to the US Army and was taken on but only in small numbers, itb was very costly to manufacture and the US Army didnt really take to it, it had an aggressive muzzel climb, also it was heavy, 12 of these were sold to the United Kingdom and were used by the Royal Marine Commando's who rather liked the weapon, although they used it with the straight 30 round magazine, The 1928A1 was fitted with a foregrip and a top of the receiver cocking lever, and as previously mentioned a finned barrel, to reduce the muzzel climb, the muzzel was fitted with a "Cutts" compensator, this deflected the muzzle discharge through vents in an upward direction, thus forcing the barrel down, this was adapted by the US and British forces. a year later the Thompson went through another redesign, and was coded the M1A1, This version had a smooth outer barrel and they did away with the foregrip and fitted a smooth foregrip, they also shortened the barrel by 4", the cocking handle was moved to the side, and it was fitted with a different rear sight, the breach block was made a bit heavier to slow down the rate of fire and it was fitted with a stronger return spring to also slow down the rate of fire, it had a flat muzzle with bladed foresite, and they did away with the cutts compensator, one post described the Thompson as a light weapon, I beg to differ, when you lug almost 9pounds around it only ever gets to feel heavier, I have used both versions and it is my favourite sub machine guns, it was kept in service by various forces around the world untill the mid 1950s. as I know of, I have never seen a Thompson that has been fitted with a steel wire butt as another member stated, I do not think that there ever has been a wire butt variant, but I would love to be proved wrong, I think the other member was getting confused with the M3 Grease Gun, that had a wire pull out butt, and was the same caliber.
    Regards
    tankie1rtr
     
  2. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Hi Tankie1 and welcome

    Never fired the thompson, but have read about it. I cant offer much more information about the Thompson than what you have said. I think it was a very capable weapon, but as you say, it was heavy. Its other major drawback was its cost of manufacture. being "old school" it was produced in the time honoured way, using lathe work and worked steel, with numerous amounst of shavings and turning done, and therefore using vast amounts of steel, factory space, and skilled labour. These were commodities in short supply in wartime. By comparison, the MP-40 used a maximum of a ma ximum of moulded steel, and stampings, and as far as possible its production was simplified so that it could be put together by unskiled labour. The Russian PPSH also approached the problem with ease of production in mind....with a simple mechanism and easily produced barrels (early versions I have read were put together with Moisin Nagant rifle barrels that had been cut in half.

    This is why the Thompson was nominally replaced by the "greasegun" in the US army, and the Sten in the british army....they were both much cheaper to produce. In Australia, the Owen Gun was favoured over the Thompson for similar reasons, also some of the Diggers I know say that the Owen was slightly more resistant to dirt than the thompson, but I am doubtful of that last points accuracy.

    Lastly there is the point about commonality in ammuition. For the british and Commonwealth forces, the ).45 round was not standard issue, which oncreased the logistic problem for the Army. The more ammunition types you have, the more logistic problems there are...just ask the italians about that
     
  3. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Hi Tankie. Agree with what you say about the Thompson. It was certainly a heavy beast. Some people might think that 9 pounds isn't that much but, in such a relatively small package, it is! I think the Thompson is probably one of the heaviest weapons, for it's type, I have ever demonstrated. Incidentally, the main reason us 'Brits' were late in fully adopting a SMG was because of costs; the Thompson was expensive, and, when the Sten went into full production, it proved adequate for the job, at a MUCH lower cost per unit.
    Also, it must be remembered that a fair propoertion of infantry small arms were lost at Dunkirk, and the armaments industry, quite rightly, needed to concentrate efforts on more 'standard' weapons, eg rifles. Of course, the concept of the SMG was alsd slow to take off in the British forces, as it was in a number of other armies, unlike the German armed forces.
    As for the 'wire' butt, I have actually seen one, which I used in a lecture about three years ago, once! It was extremely rare, and the 'owner' was made an offer he could not refuse, and sold it to someone in the 'States.
    The 'wire' was more of a thin steel rod, not quite as substantial as a Sten butt, and slid along the sides of the receiver. As far as I know, the design did not reach full production, as the 'wire' butt wasn't really up to the job for the weight and recoil of the weapon. I believe the concept was to provide a more compact weapon for paras, tankies and so on.
     
  4. tankie1rtr

    tankie1rtr Member

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    parsifal Airframes.
    Hi Guys.
    Nice to meet you, I totaly agree with what you say especially about the ammunition, it was a bit of a nightmare, the US army used the 45acp round for their general issue 1911A1 Colt sidearm, and it was also used in the Thompson and the Grease Gun, also in the revolver, but we used the 9mm, they said that it would always be available as we could also use captured enemy ammo, as for the sten, it was known as the Plumbers Dream, as you will be aware it was just a piece of pipe with a spring and breech block (well they all are basically) and it cost just 2/6 (Half Crown or Two Shillings Sixpence for people not conversant with our old coinage) today it would equate to 12 pence. As for the production of the Thompson it was as you say Parsival, it was machined and quality made, it was a wonderful robust fantastic weapon, as for the Owen gun that you guys had, it was much revered by our guys, and what made it better over the sten was that it had a verticle feed magazine, and this made it have lots less stopages than the sten that had a horizontal fed mag Airframes, as for your last comment on Tankies Paras, I served with them both, ha ha, and the weapon that we had was the L1A3 Sterling, 9mm, the only thing it was usefull for was testing how deep puddles were with the butt extended, and you could take the top off a bottle of beer if you stuck it into the ejection port,
     
  5. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    I have just a couple questions........

    What the hell is a pence and a shilling and a half crown?

    Just kidding with ya Tankie. I appreciate the input and clarification. This is a post that I'll re-read a couple times just to make it stick in the old memory banks.
     
  6. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Tankie,

    >as for the Owen gun that you guys had, it was much revered by our guys, and what made it better over the sten was that it had a verticle feed magazine, and this made it have lots less stopages than the sten that had a horizontal fed mag

    Was that the main reason for the preference, or did the Owen have other advantages that were considered even more important?

    I'm asking because someone posted a US forces evalatuation of the infantry actions in Korea on this board, and to my surprise, the soldiers were not overly worried about weapon reliability in that conflict. They thought along the lines, "When it jams in a low-intensity action, there'll be time to fix it and enough other guys to keep on firing, and when it jams in high-intensity action, I an just pick up another weapon from a wounded or killed comrade".

    Other considerations were that the rapid-fire weapons usually ran out of ammunition first, in the rough sequence M1 carbine - LMG - BAR. The riflemen "never" ran out of ammunition as they reduced rate of fire when their ammunition supply dwindled. In the defensive night actions typical for the period in question, the decisive period usually was a couple of hours after the intial attack when the rapid-fire weapons had already run out of ammunition, so it was rifle fire that decided the outcome. Nevertheless, the BAR was very useful due to its combination of firepower and mobility, even in defensive positions (which were somewhat fluent anyway), and the report pointed out that the number of BARs for per unit (per company, I believe) would be doubled in the future. The report also pointed out that flares for battlefield illumination had been virtually forgotten by the military and only rediscovered after bad losses, and that the soldiers should be trained in the use of grenades, which were undervalued in the field despite their usefulness in the mouned terrain of Korea. The general conclusion was that the US soliders had adapted fairly well to a flexible style of infantry fighting, and that the infantrymen were quite effective on the average, more than US infantry had been in WW2, because they actively moved around in their positions to find a way to fire at the enemy. Apparently, experience from WW2 was that under daylight conditions, a fair percentage of soldiers would just "freeze" in place and stay there even if no enemy ever entered their field of fire.

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  7. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Airframes,

    >Agree with what you say about the Thompson. It was certainly a heavy beast. Some people might think that 9 pounds isn't that much but, in such a relatively small package, it is!

    I believe it's about the same as a full-sized H&K G3 for 7.62 mm NATO rounds, and I'd consider that uncomfortably heavy. But wasn't the historical origin of the submachinegun concept the idea to have a rapid fire weapon that could be carried by a single man, unlike the machine guns of WW1? The Thompson would have to be considered a success by that criterium ...

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  8. tankie1rtr

    tankie1rtr Member

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    Hi Ho Hun.
    I will answer your questions in two seperated paragraphs, first of all I cannot answer you questions relating to the US Forces, because I am British forces, and we and our American cousins have different training. for the British soldier, it does not matter if it is high or low intensity action, If your weapons jams you automatically go into your IA's (Immediate Actions) it is like a second nature, I suppose if the enemy is virtually on your collar you would pick up a fallen comrades weapon, although I have had combat experience, its never got that close. as for the rapid fire weapons, they do not necessarily run out of ammunition first, each Machine gunner is taught to develope a trigger disciplne, and fire on short bursts, very much to the tune of "Stuff you jack" bam bam bam, and not to use long bursts, mainly for two reasons, you do not want to wear the barrel out, and conservation of Ammunition, also dont forget its horses for courses, Rifles for distance work, and accuracy, LMGs for laying down fire but the effectivness is not accuracy, it is the cone of fire, and lastly, the smg, although it does give you a certain ammount of firepower, over 45 yards its pretty usless on accuracy, and you woould just be wasting ammo. the smg on the other hand holds its own on FIBUA (Fighting in Built Up Ares) they are fantastic for clearing rooms, also if you are Armoured crew like myself, it was easy to fold up and clip into the side of the turret. As for your second question, the H7K G3 is longer than the Thompson, and it is standard 7.62mm Nato Ammo, the Thompson is 45cal acp. this round is much smaller than the 7.62mm, so you ammo alone weighs more, I think the weapons weigh very much the same. and yes your historical origin was to have a single man weapon that can develope rapid fire, and the Thompson is considered to be the most famous and successful smg of all time. Please pardon my ignorance, but I cannot place your flag, I do recognise it though, could you please tell me what country it represents. once again please excuse my ignorance.
    Regards
    tankie1rtr
     
  9. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Hi again Tankie. A good explanation for those that haven't used the weapons. You missed one thing on the Sterling though, it was good for t******g people over the head with, using the butt!! How many times did you catch your finger when folding the butt? I can still feel the pain!!!
     
  10. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Tankie,

    >as for the rapid fire weapons, they do not necessarily run out of ammunition first

    Roger that, this was just the US experience in Korea. The short-range power of the submachineguns you describe might have been well-used in the early part of the engagements, considering that the Chinese often tried to overwhelm the US forces with surprise attacks by grenade and submachinegun platoons, indicating rather short engagement ranges.

    >Please pardon my ignorance, but I cannot place your flag, I do recognise it though, could you please tell me what country it represents.

    The flag is Vanatu's: Vanuatu - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    (If you move the mouse cursor over the flag, there should be a pop-up box showing the name, too :)

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  11. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    The best SMG of WW2 has got to be the MP-40, simple yet genius, robust, reliable, light, good RoF (500 rpm) and very accurate.

    The Thompson is too heavy IMO as-well, which keeps it from ranking alongside the MP-40.

    The PPSH-41 is unwieldy compared to the MP-40 Thompson IMO, which is a major drawback in combat, but it's light, extremely fast firing and has a very high capacity drum mag. I like the PPSH-42 a lot better, a very nice weapon.
     
  12. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    What were the opinions on how the Thompson handled in the jungles of Burma and the SW Pacific?
     
  13. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    AFAIK the A1 with a 50 round drum mag was used a lot by the US Marines in the Pacific, and it was well liked although again abit heavy, and the battle rattle was always an issue (Even with the straight mag), making it dangerously noisy.
     
  14. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    The Thompson is an excellent SMG but I'm suprised they kept manufacturing it to a large scale because of its expense and difficulty to produce. I honestly think that the Owen gun was the best SMG of the war, this isn't just my Aussie bias. It was very reliable and very popular with those who used it. Obviously in terms of impact and numbers produced its very hard to argue against the MP40 an excellent weapon.
     
  15. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The Owen had the best reputation of the three guns used by the Australians in the jungle (the owen, the thompson and the austen....a version of the sten). The thompson was judged a little heavy, and occasionally prone to jams because it was less resistant to dirt than the Owen. The Austen suffered the worst reputation of the three as far as reliability was concerned.

    The owen was the queen of the battlefield in the jungle. I have only fired the thing once, but compared to the later F1 (which replaced the owen in 1962) it was a little sweetie to fire, recoil very mild, minimal creep and quite accurate.

    The F1 was handy in the boarding party uses that I used it on, but it always felt a bit awkward, and took some getting used to as far as controllability was concerned. However, in the context of a boarding party it provided a very handy and relatively lightweight weapon that was good value in the confined spaces of a ship. It had a reputation for poor reliability, similar to the Sterling, but I never had that problem. It took me a while of practice to learn how to fire it properly, but if you used small controlled burst, you could even fire the thing one handed with some degree of accuracy

    But compared to the owen, it was rubbish. The owen was 3 lbs heavier but its action was just much smoother and the thing "felt" more reliable.....
     
  16. Trebor

    Trebor Well-Known Member

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    I actually wouldn't mind owning one of those bad boys :D
     
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