Recoil - - Gunnery -




Al­most to the next bunker, run­ning in the open, low on ammo for this 1911, trac­ers snap­ping by my head. Holy crap, no way, is that a Thomp­son sub-gun lay­ing on the ground? As I snatch it up, I tac reload as my on­line mates cheer. Ap­proach­ing the bunker, my ene­mies are com­ing into view as I strafe the trench right to left with my trench sweeper. They never had a chance.

I drop down into the trench headed for the bunker, push the drum re­lease si­mul­ta­ne­ously flip­ping out the old drum and in­sert­ing a new one in its place like the smooth op­er­a­tor I am. Once I break that thresh­old I’ll sim­ply strafe my sights across the room at chest height and any­one inside will be cut in half.

“Gabe … Gabe … Snap out of it! You know that Tommy can’t do any of that right?”

Gabe: “It’s just a game dad, I know (not re­ally be­liev­ing my own words).”

Me: “I just want you to know there is a ma­jor dif­fer­ence be­tween what your gam­ing guns do and what real guns do; the dif­fer­ence be­tween how they op­er­ate in the game ver­sus real life.”

Gabe: “I know, I know.”

The Tommy Gun is a uni­corn of on­line gam­ing. It’s a force mul­ti­plier with sick rates of fire and amaz­ing ammo ca­pac­ity. It’s deadly ac­cu­rate in full auto, even at in­ter­me­di­ate ranges. The vir­tual er­gonomics and man­ual of arms are won­der­ful, right?

About a week af­ter the afore­men­tioned con­ver­sa­tion with my son, I was hold­ing a brand new Auto-Ord­nance re­pro­duc­tion WWII-era ri­fle. Once I got over my boy­hood ro­mance and nos­tal­gia, I re­al­ized I had no ex­pec­ta­tions, no frame of ref­er­ence at all since I’d never shot one. The model I held was the Thomp­son M-1 mil­i­tary model (TM-1) semi-au­to­matic.

The TM-1 comes with one 30-round stick mag­a­zine and a man­ual. At a sturdy

11.5 pounds with a 16-inch bar­rel and over­all length of 38 inches I was sur­prised at the over­all bulk of the weapon, lead­ing me to won­der how many Nazis got their head bashed in by one. As I shoul­dered it and charged the bolt to snap in, I re­minded my­self about when and why this gun was rel­e­vant. Its bulk and heft are rem­i­nis­cent of in­dus­trial-age Amer­i­can steel crafts­man­ship, with a seem­ingly in­de­struc­tible milled re­ceiver. The raw wal­nut is a nice touch as the end user can cus­tom­ize its color be­fore adding nec­es­sary wood preser­va­tive. The non-ad­justable fixed sites were no prob­lem when the name of the game was vol­ume of fire, and this gun cer­tainly was de­signed to be fired from the hip. There is also a rear sight notch above the rear ghost ring for longer ranges.

The Auto-Ord­nance mas­ter­piece, although an iconic 20th cen­tury firearm, is quite prim­i­tive in com­par­i­son to to­day’s mil­i­tary small arms. Like I said, keep it in con­text. This re­pro­duc­tion is for the afi­cionado, the per­son who ap­pre­ci­ates the Thomp­son’s im­pact on bat­tle­fields, Pro­hi­bi­tion-era Chicago, and even the streets of Ire­land. Iron­i­cally, the Thomp­son’s wide­spread do­mes­tic use would even­tu­ally con­trib­ute to the rise of the Na­tional Firearms Act of 1934, thereby set­ting off the ever con­tentious and still rel­e­vant gun con­trol de­bate.

The his­tory of why and how Gen­eral John T. Thomp­son in­vented the Tommy Gun is as in­ter­est­ing as it is im­por­tant to the his­tory of our coun­try and of mod­ern western civ­i­liza­tion as a whole. In its time, it was a won­der to behold. The old long guns of WWI, used by ma­neu­ver­ing troops un­der large vol­leys of fire, wouldn’t stand a chance in the close-quar­ters com­bat of trench war­fare. Un­for­tu­nately for both Thomp­son and the Amer­i­can troops, the Great War would be over be­fore he could get his de­sign into the hands of the Al­lied forces. Thomp­son died in 1940, hav­ing never seen his guns reach the bat­tle­field, but that would change a year later when the at­tack on Pearl Har­bor kicked us head­long into WWII,

this time with the famed Tommy Gun in the hands of our troops.

For my live-fire test I headed out to some open coun­try near the U.S./Mex­ico border.

Loaded up and ready to go, I put the TM-1 through a num­ber of drills in­clud­ing three-round clos­ing drills, po­si­tion tran­si­tions, and box drills. In to­tal, I shot around 400 rounds of Winch­ester white box 230 grain, which seemed to be the chow of choice for the Tommy. The bolt it­self is hefty and the recoil spring on the brand-new Auto-Ord­nance is not par­tic­u­larly easy to over­come. This gun def­i­nitely needs some break­ing-in time, es­pe­cially if you’re try­ing to be the smooth op­er­a­tor you pre­tend to be in video games.

The trig­ger, at first, seemed stiff with too much creep, but it was de­signed that way so re­mem­ber its orig­i­nal in­tent. I found the trig­ger worked very well for squeez­ing off rapid strings of shots, and I had no trou­ble keep­ing the sights on the tar­get. Over­all I had a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and walked away a lit­tle more Amer­i­can for hav­ing shot one. So, for the gamer, how does the Tommy com­pare in real life? Let me first re­mind you that this TM-1, and all other Tom­mys of­fered by Auto-Ord­nance, are semi-au­to­matic, so I can’t

speak on its full-auto shoot­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. But I can speak to the un­re­al­is­tic smooth mag changes, the lack of mal­func­tions and fail­ures to feed, ex­tract, or fire you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence with any gun in real life.

For all you first-per­son shooter fans, here are some notes I took away: the Thomp­son takes train­ing, like any gun. Build­ing mus­cle mem­ory with its man­ual of arms, in­clud­ing snap­ping in on its awk­ward slip­pery stock. There’s also the ma­nip­u­lat­ing of the stubby and no­tice­ably stiff charg­ing han­dle, which, by the way, is in­con­ve­niently placed on the right side.

A friend and for­mer fel­low in­struc­tor at the US Army’s Weapons In­tel­li­gence Team Course, Scott Mont­gomery, ex­plained his feel­ings for the clas­sic over a beer.

“Any red-blooded Amer­i­can feels the need to hold a Tommy gun in their hands, and tak­ing one home is the next step. For me, own­ing the Thomp­son brought a sense of pride and was a great con­ver­sa­tion piece. How­ever, the Auto-Ord­nance M-1 is not what you might ex­pect. It re­turns you to a time when steel ruled and the Thomp­son has plenty of it. It’s so solid that it de­tracts from the joy of shoot­ing it.”

“Want­ing to show it off I shot it in the Sierra Vista Bat­tle Ri­fle match, a small gen­tle­men’s match where old men with an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the rare and cool shoot for brag­ging rights and to show re­spect for the sol­diers of the past. The Thomp­son per­formed well at 100-me­ter tar­gets and was on par with the M1s, 1903s, and FALs. When those ranges ex­tended out to 250 me­ters, the Thomp­son was nowhere near be­ing able to com­pete. The front sight needed to be held about 2 feet above the tar­get and all my com­peti­tors en­joyed watch­ing the slow-mov­ing

.45 rounds lob­bing into the tar­get. The Thomp­son is a great ex­am­ple of de­sign and crafts­man­ship, but de­sign and crafts­man­ship from 100 years ago. It’s not what any­one would want to use to de­fend their fam­ily or their home but a gun to be ad­mired for what it is, a ma­jor piece of Amer­i­can his­tory. It pays homage to the young sol­diers that car­ried it and used it to sup­port their brothers at their side.”

Any­one who en­joys first per­son shooter games should seek out the Tommy gun for full, IRL im­mer­sion. Next time you’re run­ning and gun­ning just re­mem­ber the ex­pe­ri­ence of on­line play is strictly en­ter­tain­ment, and a ton of his­tory and sac­ri­fice have gone into the gamers guns of past and fu­ture.


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