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Written review for the Thompson M1A1

Well I think it was quite fitting that when this weeks gun landed at my door, sent by the very nice people from Rothery’s via Vector-Air, just as I’d started re-watching the series “Band of Brothers” is this going to be worth the wait or will it be a disappointment? And before we start, it must be said this does NOT come into the disappointment category, indeed, the complete opposite, Umarex have done it again, they’ve produced another must have for plinkers, collectors and enthusiasts alike.

Let’s get straight to the walk around of this classic and iconic gun.....well after the history lesson...

This really does have to be one of the most iconic guns of the 20th century, and most people associate this with either World War Two or gangsters running bootleg liquor.

It actually started life as an idea of general John T Thompsons around 1915 and started to be built in prototype form around 1917, it was intended to be a one man machine gun that could be used to help clear trenches in the First World War and was nicknamed the “trench broom” the irony really is that it was finished and ready to be shipped to Europe to be used as it was intended 2 days after the war finished.

Which then brings us onto its first infamous appearances during the prohibition period when it was used by law men and gangsters alike. It was usually the 100 round drum magazine version that we associate with this period, which was a different variant to this one. now, the type c magazine didn’t fit the M1A1 box type as this was loaded by sliding in from the side and had a top cocking action, rather than the side action and initial a 20 round bottom loading box or stick magazine that was later changed to a preferred 30 round  magazine after users either taped 2 x 20 round magazines together or in some cases welded them back to back to get that higher capacity.

The military preferred the box type to the round ‘c’ type because reloading was easier and quicker, it weighed less than the 100 rounds, didn’t rattle, if it jammed it was easier to cure with a drop down magazine and you didn’t need to cock the gun before putting the magazine in with the box where you did with the round larger capacity mag.

Prior to ww2 it saw action in various theatres of action, including being used by the IRA in Ireland briefly. It was even used by the US postal inspection services after a spate of robberies. And of course in such things as the st Valentine’s Day massacre. It also had such famous owners as Bonnie and Clyde. But of course the M1A1 version such as this replica really was best known for its use in WW2 along with the M1 Carbine I reviewed recently.

It was mainly a close quarters weapon and as such was issued to the sections of the military that would find themselves in that environment ; paratroopers, patrol leaders, tank units and was also often used by non commissioned officers, commissioned officers and soldiers involved in raids on german positions. It had a high rate of fire, but received complaints about its stopping power with less than 1000 fps and accuracy issues over 50 yards, from its .45 calibre ammunition, hence it was more suited to use in close quarter situations.

There were 1.7 million of the different variants made in its lifetime and as always it was copied and used all over the world after WW2. It’s probably the gun with the most  “aka” names;

Tommy Gun", "Street Sweeper" ,"Annihilator", "Chicago Typewriter", “Trench Broom”, "Chicago Submachine", "Chicago Piano", "Chicago Style", "Chicago Organ Grinder", "Drum Gun", "the Chopper", "the Tommy Boy" or simply "the Thompson

This really is a piece of history that cannot be ignored...

Enough of that, let’s take a closer look at this Co2 powered bb version.

One of the first things you notice when you get this in your hands is the weight, this is 3.5 kgs or 7.75 lbs and feels solid and weighty, but that’s still about a kilo short of the originals weight, so this was not a light thing to carry around for days on end. And those figures, by the way, are unloaded. The length is identical to the original at 810mm or 31.9 inches. Strangely it feels longer, I put that down to the fact we’re so used to compact bullpups that this “transition type” gun feels long from butt pad to grip and even longer when reaching for the forestock. This just takes you back in time and adds to the overall feel of this gun.  The wood on this isn’t!! ...wood that is, But blimey it is excellent quality, so realistic and the finish to it is first class. The rest is metal and this adds to that very life like weighty feel. Again the quality is terrific.

Starting from the front there is the post type,  open fixed sight, moving back you come to the forestock with strap mount ( which is crying out for a nice leather strap) and there are grooves for grip.  Moving back further we come to the all metal squared body with metal drop out 30 round magazine, we’ll look at that a little more later. On the left hand side we then have the magazine release lever that wraps itself around the trigger guard and has a stippled thumb lift release action and a finger push forward lever to ensure the magazine is locked in place. Behind that there are two 180 degree rotating levers for the safety and the single and full auto selection modes. The safety is solid and secure when in use with definite clicks. Sadly, in the U.K. the full-auto mode is not selectable, so it’s down to fast finger work. Below this is the grip in all its original simple shape. Finally at the rear is the third piece of faux woodwork, the buttstock, again with fitted strap attachment. On the top we have the fixed sight, which highlights the intended use for this gun as it certainly isn’t to be used in any super accurate target work with that level of variance in the sighting. This was a shoot and spray item back in the day. On the right hand side is the bolt action, and yes this is blowback for that original feel. 

Oh, bring on a shell ejecting version.....

That magazine then,

It’s a 30 round bb mag with the usual pull down spring to load the BB’s, the only comment I have is it would benefit from a cut out to hold the spring in place whilst you load it, just to save on the Broken nails. Once all 30 rounds are in simply release the spring.

The co2’s! and yes, I said co2’s’ because this little darling takes two back to back, unscrew the bottom using the hex key provided, drop in the first one nose first then the second one bottom first. Re-tighten, slide the magazine back in and lock into place and your good to go, let the fun begin. Now it is quite possible to put an empty co2 and a full one in if you intend just shooting a couple of magazines... but where’s the fun in that! Get yourself plenty of co2’s and a fair few BBs too. Because loaded with a couple of 12g co2’s you should be good for around 4 magazines worth.

Power levels then, this isn’t a pigeon pulveriser by any means, it is, a fun plinker and collectors gun and I’m not expecting high power levels, put through the chrono it saw around 500 fps with standard 5.4 grain steel BB’s which is around 3ft/lbs or 4.07 joules. Which is more than enough for a spot of fun plinking. It must be said the blowback action does give it a really nice feel. Ironically enough the comment around the original was that due to its weight it didn’t have a great deal of recoil and kick-back to it, so this blowback action is a welcome addition.

Target work. Let’s have a go shall we with that original design sight, out at 10 m initially.. it’s not bad for a first attempt and good enough for some plinking work. And after all, it’s the shooting from the hip we really want to perfect.

This one was sent to me on loan to complete this review and sadly has to go back. But it has fulfilled in many ways a bit of a childhood dream or fantasy and has been more rewarding than I can possibly explain in one of these programs, it is great fun, it feels so good to use, it puts you right back into 1944 when you pick it up and hold it. It has a retail price of £299 U.K. and to me that isn’t a lot of money for this gun, considering the original Thompson was around $200 100 years ago. And at this price it’s pretty obvious that these things are going to fly off the shelves as soon as anyone picks it up. I know they’ve got them in at Vector-air and I know I’m going to be putting my name down for one, who knows, maybe Mrs AAR can have one aswell, I feel a Bonnie and Clyde video coming.......

I really have enjoyed this one, a lot, there is nothing to not like about it. They sometimes say you should never meet your childhood dreams and fantasies because you can be disappointed, well in this case definitely not, it’s been a real pleasure, If you like your historic guns and feel that “band of brothers” mood come over you, you’re really going to love this . 

hopefully you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have, hopefully I’ll see you next week, Friday’s seem to come around so quickly with all this lot going off, until then, thank you so much for reading, stay safe and shoot safe. Bye for now.

Watch the review here:

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Unknown member
Aug 30, 2020

I put a post up regarding this review in the AAR forum as it hadn't hit the AAR website at the time, but now it is here, I think it is worth repeating so here goes ...

Andy you just get better and better!

This review is one of your best I reckon with all the information expertly rolling off your tongue, your marvellous sense of humour which you’re exposing more and more including role play … simply magic! … as is the expanded history detail including images which I find most interesting as well as the attention to detail with the ‘walk around’, accuracy, power etc.

As I have mentioned before in a previous post, I have difficulty holding…

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