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Everybody loves a good story. Whether it’s tales of heroes set once upon
a time: or villainous drama, downfall – and redemption. Well get comfy, cos’ this gun’s full of ‘it. The Thompson. A classic SMG evocative of an entire era: Favourite of both gangster and GI alike. So, who exactly was the Thompson designed
for? Why was it co-opted by a rather nefarious
lot? And how did it shed its criminal image? The early 20th century is defined by great
invention: and by war. New technology changed the battlefield: and
in the case of the First World War, brought a stalemate unlike any other. John Taliaferro Thompson, officer of the US
Army – and small arms specialist – recognised the need for a new type of weapon. Earlier emplaced automatic weapons such as
the Gatling gun and Maxim machine gun had already proven their worth as a force multiplier
– and Thompson envisioned a scaled-down version:
a one-man ‘trench broom’ capable of making a clean sweep of muddy stand-off. Codenamed the ‘Annihilator’, its primary attribute
was man-portable automatic fire: feeding from either a 20-round box magazine or a 50 round
drum. Its firing mechanism was based on an existing
patent called the ‘blish lock’ – a mechanically simple action that relies on friction rather
than any more complex means of siphoning cartridge power. This did limit the weapon to lower-pressure
ammunition – in fact the only service cartridge suitable was that used in the M1911 handgun
– .45 ACP. Still, 45 calibre is far from anaemic – especially
not when served up at 700 rounds per minute. If Colt was the equalizer – Thompson would
tilt the odds. Unfortunately, his design was finalised just
as the war came to a close – his plan to profit from European conflict foiled by armistice. The ‘Annihilator’ had to find a new market
– and a more fitting name. Something less vulgar – yet still evocative of its firepower. Thompson called it a ‘submachine gun’. It was the first weapon to bear such a moniker
– but it wasn’t the first that fit the definition. There were numerous attempts at a hand-held
automatic weapon during World War 1 – with the most successful being the Bergman MP18. It was used by German troops – but it came
too late to make an appreciable difference, and so this new class of weapon remained unproven
– at least for now. The 1920s were a particularly dynamic decade:
an economic and cultural boom – jazz, flappers, and art deco; let the good times roll! Spirits were dampened slightly by Prohibition:
but in the name of free enterprise, plenty of rum-runners stepped up to fill America’s
glass. With no trenches to clear, the Thompson was
marketed as an ‘anti-bandit gun’ – an escalation of power over typical police weapons, and
a sure deterrent against organised crime. The trouble was – nothing stopped the gangsters
from getting their own. America had an odd sort of liberty – You couldn’t
legally buy a drink, but an automatic weapon? No problem! And so, far from being associated with justice
– the Thompson became a weapon of terror: 50 rounds on tap, and small enough to be concealed
in a violin case. It was a favoured tool of the Mafia – at least
for those who could afford it – and one that came to be associated with criminals like
Al Capone and John Dillinger. The distant chatter of its fire earned it
a new nickname: the ‘Chicago Typewriter’ – and its deadly report filed frequent feature in
the news: most famously in the ‘St. Valentine’s Day Massacre’, 7 killed in a herald of 70
shots. Truly it was ‘the gun that made the twenties
roar’. Such tales of crime made it to the cinema:
and no gangster film was complete without a shoot-out. The Thompson with drum magazine fast became
an essential fixture, with its recognisable profile and stubby length a perfect fit for
a cinematic frame. Wielded by cigar-chomping anti-heroes, the
Thompson’s appearances on screen were far more glamorous than the gruesome trail of
bodies it left in the morgue. The feel-good decade had come to a close – and
the great depression lay ahead. Prohibition ended in 1933 – after all, it
was a largely ineffective measure: and the moralists had bigger fish to fry. A year later, the National Firearms Act passed
– making it more difficult for criminals to get their hands on weapons like the Thompson. It imposed heavy taxes on their purchase,
doubling the already expensive price – and helped pave the way for future gun control. Also enforced from the same year, The Motion
Picture Production Code laid out self-regulating guidelines for Hollywood: no longer would
crime be romanticised, nor would violent shootings be standard fare. The action-packed gangster films of the 1930s
were snuffed out. This code would endure until the late 60s,
with the more liberal attitude of the era encouraging a new wave of American cinema
– including a revival of crime films: such as ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, and the particularly
influential ‘The Godfather’ The Godfather’s success spawned two sequels
and similar films such as Scarface and Goodfellas, and all of these together provide a key source
of inspiration for the rise of crime-themed video games that happened in the wake of Grand
Theft Auto. The well-dressed Mafia were heroes once more
– and their tools of the trade back in action. For those stories set in the authentic era,
the Thompson’s automatic fire and drum-magazine remain an essential feature. The Thompson has an indelible cultural link
with early 20th century crime – any movie, any television show, any game – where there
are gangsters, the Thompson isn’t far behind. However, to tell tales of the Thompson in
crime is to only tell half the story – after the roaring 20s and slightly more sombre 30s,
the Thompson was to reinvent itself in a rather different role. Once again, the world was at war: Europe in
turmoil, and the rise of Nazi Germany. Thompson himself died in 1940 – just prior
to America’s involvement in the war, sparked by Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor
in late 1941. However, his weapon had finally managed to
fulfil its original purpose as a warfighting machine, and as the US Army mobilised, they
placed massive orders. It was issued to corporals, sergeants, scouts,
tank crews and patrol leaders: with over 1.5 million units manufactured during the war. Initially, the Thompson’s prior association
with unsavoury characters hadn’t been forgotten: Some Anti-US propaganda attempted to paint
America as a bunch of gun-toting criminals. Clearly they didn’t account for America’s
romantic view of the villain – and besides, it didn’t take long for the Thompson to forge
a more valiant identity. Wartime pressure led to a few changes to the
Thompson design: eventually leading to the M1 and M1A1 revisions – easing manufacture,
and improving suitability for field use – which in turn gave it a new silhouette. The iconic drum magazines were spurned by
the military – they were heavy, less reliable, tougher to load and they rattled somewhat
when on the move – so instead, 30-round box magazines were used. The front grip was replaced with a simpler
horizontal hand guard in most military models: less fragile, and more compatible with a sling. Its rear sight was swapped for a snag-free
design that needed less machining – and could withstand a few knocks. It also turned out the Blish Lock was entirely
unnecessary – and, with a little re-engineering the M1 Thompson worked just fine as a straightforward
blowback weapon. And so, as America went to war the Thompson
went along – seen in the hands of the Allies across the Pacific, European and North African
theatres. Its design was mature and problems rare: Altogether,
the Thompson was a well-liked, capable SMG – a little heavy, and ineffective at longer
ranges – but it worked, and it looked pretty good doing it. As cameras became both more commonplace and
more compact, photography was now an important factor in the documentation of World War 2. Key moments were captured and given widespread
distribution via newspaper – and often seen in the hands of Allied soldiers: was the Thompson. It was these images inspired the retelling
of war stories in both literature and film. While the memory was still fresh, most media
intended for popular consumption softened the depiction of war, taking a more virtuous
tack that flattered the victors, making heroes of Allied soldiers. The bleak death and destruction were muted
– instead replaced with plucky defiance and tales of camaraderie: It wasn’t really until 50 years after the
end of the War that more realistic depictions found success at the box office. Saving Private Ryan had a grittier, more tragic
outlook – an injection of grizzly realism into the Technicolor heroism of yore. Its famous Normandy beach landing scene was
particularly effective: a soldier’s perspective of the events, bullets zipping overhead and
camera-shaking explosions carving craters in the sand. The first-person portrayal of war in film
was married perfectly to the emerging FPS genre in games, and a complement of realistic
firearms were brought to replace the generic pistols and rocket launchers seen before. The Thompson was amongst them, of course – and
with its large magazine and fully-automatic fire, it was a desirable choice – and a satisfying
spray and lack of necessary precision makes it one particularly suited to beginners. Given that most games put the player in the
boots of an American soldier, the Thompson is a very common starter weapon – and extensively
used, at least until it’s dropped in favour of a more exotic enemy weapon. In the years that followed, the American aspect
of the Second World War was milked dry – every front, every battle – over and over. And found in the hands of every sergeant,
and on the cover of every game: the Thompson a totem of a new era of unimaginative box
art. With a glut of similar games, a certain weariness
set in, forcing publishers to seek the Next Big Thing – leaving World War 2 (and by association,
the Thompson) in the past. Truthfully, the Thompson was obsolescent even
before World War 2 began – so its hopes of surviving another bout of post-war peace were
slim. America largely replaced the Thompson with
the M3 ‘Grease Gun’: a weapon that had none of the elegance or style of the Thompson – but
all of the functionality at a fraction of the cost. As wartime orders dried up, manufacturing
ceased and assets were sold. The Thompson’s time as a hell-raiser was over. And so the SMG retired, but you can’t really
keep a good thing down – and the Thompson isn’t afraid to be seen outside of its conventional
roles. Wherever it goes, it paints a vivid image
by its presence alone. Sometimes it’s just a throwback – a cultural
nod to its era, or acknowledgement of a game’s World War 2 roots. Sometimes it’s a transplant – thrust into
unexpected time, or an alternate history. An anachronism in action – whether it’s gangsters
in space, or a post-apocalyptic film noir. No other firearm evokes an era quite like
it. Part sinner, part saint. Known by a hundred names, An incredible gun that spits unbelievable
tales But the most amazing thing – Is that they’re all true. The Thompson. Annihilator. Chicago Typewriter. Tommy Gun. Thank you very much for watching – and until
next time, farewell.

100 thoughts on “Thompson.

  1. In call of duty the thompson is Internet Explorer, and the MP40 is chrome
    One only exists so you can get the other

  2. Teacher: now this is the origin of the thompson do you have any questions?

    Student: can we still buy the gun?

  3. I watched this after I got 10 kills in PUBG with nothing but a Thompson.
    Also was the M4A4 an modern Assault Rifle form of the M1A1 Thompson?

  4. every game I play that has Thompsons and let's you rename weapons I'll get a Thompson and rename it to "Chicago Typewriter"

  5. Wished prohibition existed ya know for alcohol and not guns . I miss the feeling of walking into a 1950s gun shop to buy whatever I so desire , but now even as a veteran I get treated horribly and the hassle of the police deterring the people interested in gun ownership .
    Today you first have to prove you exist , a paying job , background check , annual check ins if there isn’t more . Background check the likes of which would anger Jesus and a complete mockery of what democracy used to be .
    Firstly applying online is easy , but to prove where you live with who the situation , emotional and personal problems , then get everyone who knows you involved , if it wasn’t a stringent process to begin with , then training and safety , like I’m the retard ( treated like public enemy number one , just like border security , tsa , the idiots who making living in a first world country hell, then listing genuine needs not wants , then regular stops by the police to get harassed even more by the police .
    Then specifying which fun to know what it is and questioning as if it’s a cia interrogation and the NFA really does make life shit for everyone .
    To add insult to injury a person who has a recorded felony can’t own a firearm simply because they could be a risk to someone else or themselves .
    A lieutenant in the marines couldn’t go through airport security without scrutiny of having a gun even though he’s not posing a threat to anyone , just disgraceful and to strip them of a basic right .
    It’s so meaningless the regulations , and the profiling , by clueless idiots.
    Just look up the conditions in your own country today and see what I’m talking about .
    Even if you get it right they decide not to give it to you ,well too bad.
    Cause I already warned you .
    There was gun control before ww2 unbelievable . Communist , socialist , fascist and dictatorships all over the globe .
    I can only do certain things with the limited amount of fun(s) I can own and ammo(s) it’s all just devastating .
    Gun control is an act of the devil . It’s also an industry politicians exploit to their own advantages and also controls people’s opinions .
    Restrictions on top of restrictions on top of restrictions . Life went downhill after the mid 50 s even though I’m only 29 years old.
    I know a lot more than people older than me .
    Still yet they’re not as bad as insurance policies and the people in charge of the companies because they’ll eat you alive .
    Hope everyone enjoys fascism because it’s staying just like the unlimited oppression present today.
    I have put the matter simply , I could have made it much more longer.
    God bless everyone .

  6. clever. using LA Noire as a transitionary piece from 'criminal vs cop' Thompson action, to Military Thompson action, given the protagonist of that game would have used it in both theatres.

  7. The Blish Lock depended on a Blish Principle that doesn't actually exist lol. The gun was really a simple blowback with some completely unnecessary mechanics in it!

  8. I swear to God, it took you all the way until the end to say "Tommy Gun" and now I can't get jim Carrey's Mask outta my Head.

  9. The biggest problems of tommy gun are the weight and control. Comparing it to the other guns from ww2 era it falls flat on the face. No romance can fix that.

  10. I know an idiot that tried the tommy gun for the first time in Fortnite
    Saying that it's an Assault rifle and the correct name for it is Tommy gun, not Thompson.

    Im offended
    Knowing nothing about guns, thinking they know everything by just playing fucking fortnite

  11. The early 20th century is divined by great invention, like automobiles, television, airplanes, and of course the most important…. sliced bread

  12. An great American Icon. The Germans referred to the American soldiers as Tommy's. Ain't that something.

    – Truth

  13. I just recently findout this amazing series, but kind of dissapointed with Thompson. Because Thompson was in use during Korea for example, many other countries kept using it. It was used in Vietnam war, mostly by South Vietnam forces but USA used it as well.

  14. One of your most fun videos yet. Who knew the tommygun had a backstory even more interesting than you'd guess by looking at it.

  15. The blishlock doesn't work IRL, the Thompson was just a overly complicated/expensive blowback gun.
    Actually, the prohibition had a positive effect, the violent crime didn't render invalid the decrease in alcohol related deaths
    And the Thompson was not given to Scouts or NCOs, they were issued M1 Garands, but the the company HQ had 6 of them that they could hand out when needed.
    Worth mentioning 20 round box mags were also used.

  16. 2:55 is it safe to assume that rappers weren't the first to but stupidly large mags and stocks on pistols?

  17. I reeeeeally hope Thompson himself got to hear some of these stories in the afterlife, because it's really tragic he died before WW2.

  18. America in a nutshell: I'm sorry sir, but you can't buy a drink from me…

    But do you want an automatic gun?

  19. Originality autoordinance made 15,000 tommy guns, the original run from 1921 didn’t sell out until ww2 started the majority were bought by Hollywood studios.

    Gangster films dictated gun control laws

  20. “Part sinner, part saint. Known by a hundred names, and incredible gun that spits unbelievable tales. But the most amazing thing- Is that they’re all true.”

    Damn, that sends shivers down my spine!

  21. Machine guns were banned in Most states before the federal firearms act. Still passing laws to stop gangsters didn't really work, they don't follow the law

  22. When gun control law was passed did mafia gangs steal guns ,rob gun shops and kill other gangsters (or whoever the f***ed up victim who has a gun) instead?

  23. Fun fact. The house of the guy who invented the Thompson is still standing. It’s a music venue now and I’ve played rock shows there. The building itself is about 200 years old. It’s called “The Thompson House” and it’s located in Newport Kentucky. You can see Cincinnati from the front porch.

  24. Enjoyed it all, except the NFA did not stop criminals from getting it, it only stopped law abiding citizens from getting it, the NFA needs to be repealed.

  25. i once fired a thompson in the "chicago typewritter" configuration, i wasn't expecting much from such an antiquity, well was i in for a surprise when i realised this thing barely had any recoil.
    from such an old design, made to be mass produced the cheapest way possible, it's genuinely impressive to be able to shot 10 round bursts in a target 30m away when it's not only your first time firing the gun, but a full auto SMG.
    honestly against soft unarmored target, and as far as big bore SMG, i think it's still among the best one after a Kris Vector.

  26. Funny thing about the Thompson is that soldiers’ opinions on it varied drastically depending on what their job was.

    People that spent a lot of time in Jeeps or tanks loved it, but anyone who actually had to carry the thing around HATED it.

    The gun itself weighs about 10 lbs, the magazines were heavy, and it wasn’t very useful past 50 yards or so. In the words of Ken Hackathorn: “It has a trajectory like a loaded toolbox.”

    The gun itself was obsolescent before WW2 even started, and the US Army was looking for a replacement from the get-go, hence the M3 Grease Gun.

  27. "The NFA made it harder for criminals to get guns"

    That's funny because what it really did was make it so the only people who could afford full autos were criminals. The irony of gun control.

  28. Its weird how fortnite names these weapons so vaguely. Thompson – Drum Gun. M1 Garand – Infantry Rifle. P90 – Compact SMG. Desert Eagle – Hand Cannon. M4A1 – Assault Rifle.

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