Auto-Ordnance Model 1927 A1 Thompson Carbine


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

June 12th, 2007




Since about 1921, the legendary Tommy Gun has been one of the most recognized, revered, and maligned firearms in history. Also known as the "Chopper" and "Chicago Typewriter", the Thompson submachine gun has long been associated with depression era organized crime, often found posing in the hands of notorious gangsters of the time. The truth is that, while the Prohibition punks did sometimes use the Tommy Gun in their illegal activities, most often they used more easily concealable firearms, and the good guys pursuing the thugs were much more likely to be armed with the Thompson. At any rate, the Thompson gained a level of notoriety during that era that has never been equaled by any firearm since.

The Thompsonís real time to shine came in World War II, when many allied forces, including our own, revered the Tommy Gun as the best close range weapon of the war. Its only drawback was its weight, and its price. Being a high quality weapon milled from steel, it was expensive to produce, but it was the best submachine of its day. General Thompson himself dubbed it the "Trench Broom", which was a very appropriate term for the weapon, allowing a soldier or Marine to quickly fill an enemy trench or room with forty-five caliber bullets.

Today, an original Thompson will cost you about the same amount of money as a new pickup truck, and a nice pickup truck at that. Since our government is constantly watching out for us, and decided in 1986 that the good citizens of the United States could no longer buy any newly-built full-auto weapons, the prices of existing Thompsons and other quality Class III weapons have went through the roof. It is so good to know that our government wants to protect us from ourselves. The fact that no legally-owned full-auto weapons had been used to commit a crime in several decades did not sway our legislators from doing their duty to step on our Constitutional rights at every opportunity.  I have a good friend who owns an original full-auto M1 Thompson, and it is certainly one of the most fun weapons that I have ever fired.

Auto-Ordnance Corporation of Worcester, Massachusetts makes semi-auto Thompson carbines and short rifles that supplies todayís market with affordable weapons that, while not capable of full-automatic fire, allow us to enjoy the experience and nostalgia of owning a close copy of the famous Tommy Gun. Like the originals, the Auto-Ordnance Thompson fires the legendary .45 ACP cartridge. The Model 1927 reviewed here uses either the thirty-round stick magazines or the fifty or one hundred round drum magazines.  There is also available a ten round drum magazine for our citizens who happen to live in areas where their beloved government officials limit them to a ten round capacity.  Remember, there is no rule that says that laws have to make sense, and as long as voters keep electing ignorant elitist liberals to office, we get what we pay for. While I do not advocate the public lynching of government officials, a good old fashioned Southern tar-and-feathering would be fun to watch.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand, Auto-Ordnance makes a fine weapon. The metal has a nicely  polished blue steel finish, and the wood is genuine American walnut. Both the front and rear pistol grips are very comfortable to my hands. The sixteen and one-half inch barrel is finned along about half its length to aid cooling, just as were the original Model 1927s, and has a compensator is attached at the muzzle. The overall length is just under forty-one inches. The trigger pull, while long, measured just under five pounds, and was very smooth to operate. The sample gun weighed in at two ounces under twelve pounds without a magazine in place. A stick mag adds another pound or so, and the one hundred round drum weighs a bit over three pounds empty. Loading the magazines to capacity makes for a sizeable heft for a pistol-caliber carbine, but the result is a very pleasant to shoot firearm. The weight of the Thompson soaks up just about all of the recoil, and extended firing sessions continue to be fun until all of the ammunition is gone. Loading the stick mags was a simple and straightforward procedure, pushing the cartridges straight down into the magazine. Loading the drum is also easy. The winding key and cover are removed, the cartridges dropped into place, the cover and key replaced, and then just wind it up. Pretty simple.

The accuracy of the Thompson was very good. The sights are easy to see clearly, and the rear flips up to engage targets at long range (for a .45 ACP) if needed. Using the shallow V-notch rear blade, the Thompson would easily cluster a whole magazine full into less than two inches at twenty-five yards. Holding steadily for group testing, it would just cut one ragged hole at twenty-five yards. While Auto-Ordnance recommends the use of hardball (full metal jacket roundnose) ammunition, the Thompson performed perfectly with lead semi-wadcutter handloads as well. There were no failures or stoppages of any kind during testing. The big Thompson fed, fired, and ejected without flaw. The bolt stays open after the last round is fired, and the weapon fires from a closed bolt.

The Thompson came in a fitted hard case, and a violin case is available for those who want to further enhance the gangster look of the package.

Firing the Tommy Gun was a lot of fun. While it could serve well as a defensive weapon, or even as a hunting arm, the Thompson is probably best used as a nostalgic, fun, easy to shoot carbine.  It is not cheap, but the Thompson never was. It is a high quality, machined steel weapon, beautifully finished, and offers a good value to those shooters who desire to own a genuine Thompson without having to sell the house.

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Jeff Quinn

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Auto-Ordnance Model 1927 A1 Thompson Carbine.





Boge fires the Thompson at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, NM.





Standard rear sight (top), long-range flip-up rear sight (center), and front sight (bottom).





Compensator adds an authentic look and further tames recoil.





Finned barrel aids cooling during rapid-fire sessions.





Lever-style magazine release.





Fore grip (top) & rear grip (bottom) are ergonomic and effective.



Stick magazine holds 30 rounds...



...while the drum magazine holds a full 100 rounds of .45 ACP firepower.