for the M1928A1 Thompson Submachine Gun
. Other nicknames include the Cutter
, the Trench Broom
, and the Chicago Typewriter
The gun was designed by John T. Thompson as a weapon to clear trenches of enemy troops during ground warfare. He came up with ideas for rapid firing small arms with in service during the Spanish-American War, where he helped to assemble the Army's first gattling gun brigade. After performing tests on which type of bullet would be most effective, he developed a .45 caliber rimless cartridge, which was implemented on some Colt pistols starting in 1911. After retiring from the Army and working for several years at Remington, he founded the Auto-Ordnance Corporation to begin development of a lightweight machinegun.
The first demonstration of what would become the Tommy Gun took place in August of 1920, at Camp Perry, Ohio. It was capable of firing 800 rounds of ammunition per minute. While the armed forces did not immediately show an interest the gun, it was put into production by the Colt Firearms Company under contract from the Auto-Ordnance Corporation, hoping that Colt's reputation and relationship with the armed forces would lead to a government contract. In the meantime, but Tommy gun was sold on the open arms market, and soon became quite popular with those in the criminal underworld.
The Tommy Gun became a weapon of choice for bootleggers and street gangs during prohibition because it was relatively easy to carry concealed and packed a massive amount of firepower. While the going price on the open market for the gun was about $200, black market prices soon rose to $2000. It was used in many gangland murders, including the now famous Saint Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago.
The US Coast Guard placed an order for Thompsons to be issued to boats on the Atlantic coast, and the Postal Service placed an order after a rash of robberies. In March 1932, the Army started deploying the gun as a “non-essential limited procurement” weapon, which was changed to a standard procurement in 1936. However, when the gun received its official designation from the army (M1928A1) in 1938, there were only 9000 guns in use.
World War II soon changed the fortune of Auto-Ordnance. Orders came in from France and the UK, and soon after from the US Army as well. By 1942, Auto-Ordnance had made over 500,000 Tommy guns. When production ended in 1944, the company had made 1,750,000 guns, with enough spare parts for another 250,000. However, weapons development during the war had made the Tommy gun obsolete, and they were soon discontinued.