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The real Thompson submachine gun

Possibly the Thompson is the best recognized submachine gun in the world! (as well as being the first to be called a submachine gun by it's creator) The Thompson submachine gun has secured ever lasting fame (or infamy) through its deeds and miss-deeds in the hands of law enforcement officers, strike busters and gangsters in the 20's and 30's. 

Recalling the prohibition era to mind, gangsters with pin-striped suits and fedora's, speak-easy's, careening  model A sedans with squealing tires, 1911 .45's and the staccato roar of the Thompson submachine gun! 

General John Taliaferro Thompson desired nothing but good to come from the gun that was named in his honor, preferring that the Thompson submachine gun be used on the side of law and order! 

I was lucky enough to fire a M1 Thompson in 1928 guise (vertical foregrip and finned barrel with compensator) at an indoor range in Las Vegas, it was fun to shoot and very accurate too! 

Allot can be said about the Thompson's longevity, as the gun has been featured in countless movies, documentaries and it's screen presence is very unmistakable! whether you like or dislike the history of the Thompson for right or wrong, it clearly is a symbol of the 20's and the 30's!

The Thompson is still in production to this day, in semi and full auto variants. 

Unfortunately, the full auto version is only available to law enforcement, government agencies  and export.

A short burst from the MGC Thompson

The MGC Thompson

The Model Gun Corporation (as far as I can tell ) started to produce the Thompson modelgun (probably) in the late to early 70's or 80's. 

I have yet to see any MGC made Thompson modelguns with 1980 or earlier dates on them. 

However, There are 2 distinctly different versions of the known MGC Thompson 1. The earlier "paper cap" type and 2. The later "CP"  (Cap Piston) type.

Also, the MGC custom shop (known as the bond shop) produced the custom version of the Thompson, that featured the original nomenclature on it's sides.

The MGC Thompson is lacking in one detail, there is no provision for the last shot hold open device that the original Thompson featured.

The magazines:

The Model Gun Corporation made just two versions of the Thompson magazines the "xx" and the "xl"  the 20 round "stick" magazine and the "50" round drum. (actually, the MGC version only holds 39 rounds) 

The magazines are constructed nicely out of stamped and blued steel and appear to be the real article, however they do not have the patent dates or nomenclature that the originals possess. 

The MGC versions of the Thompson magazines usually are unmarked in any way shape or form. (Japan, MGC etc.)

The magazines appear to be interchangeable with the real Thompson, but I don't think that the reverse is true as the MGC company used the metric measurement system as opposed to the Inch standard.

Also, the magazine spring in the MGC magazine has far less tension due to the spring balance that these modelguns employ therefore, when these modelguns are to be "fired"  it is advisable to lubricate the action in the effort to reduce the friction of the sliding parts. 

The 39 round drum is the one of the largest feeding devices available in the modelgun world (only the Hudson PPSH  with the 42 round ! magazine is slightly larger) the capacity is usually limited in the modelgun magazines due to the reliability factor. 

The drum is fairly straight forward and easier to load than it appears, As you remove the cover by first removing the key off the front, by slightly lifting the spring "flap" in the center and sliding the key off. 

Open the drum by prying the top off with finger pressure and then notice the rotation of the rotor, it revolves clock-wise. 

The rounds are placed around the rotor until 38-39 (the round count varies, due to the eaisly bent rotor fingers) rounds are placed inside. 

Once loaded, replace the cover and the key, and wind the drum up 4-5 "clicks" Warning: no more than 6 "clicks" other wise spring damage can occur! Be sure to clean the drum extremely well after "shooting" as rust will appear in no time! 

As you can see, there is some rust discoloration of the rotor in the picture! 

39 rounds of MGC cartridges, drum and"key"

The chamber inserts:

 Again, the MGC Thompson used two different cartridges the "paper cap" type this type, this was just a solid brass cartridge with an machined hole,( no moving parts) that you stuffed "paper caps" into, instead of the 4 piece "CP" (Cap Piston) cartridge that used the "plastic" 7mm cap. 

Accordingly, the chamber insert varies due to the cartridge style. 

The earlier "paper cap" type had a rather large "detonator" (or firing pin) and "gas ports" as the barrels where cast with a small hole for the gasses to pass through. 

Compared to the "plug" cap type which had a much smaller "detonator" (firing pin) but with a solid back with no holes as the barrel was blocked due to revisions in Japanese law. 

Also, the bolts differ as the extractor is just a simple piece of stamped spring steel usually held on the bolt with a screw.

Compared to the "CP" style bolt which has an cast steel and  machined extractor that pivoted on a pin. 

Also, the bolt track seems to be slightly different so it is best to obtain the newer style of the MGC Thompson! Unless, all that you want is an display piece! 


The 1921 or the 1928?

The MGC usually came as  the 1921-the "Chicago version" (vertical foregrip, the 20 round "xx" "stick" magazine and no compensator) But MGC thoughtfully offered options! 

The manual has a picture of these options, horizontal forearm, compensator, drum magazine, a sling, (the horizontal  1928 forearm only as the 1921 did not feature a sling) Allen wrenches, (for disassembly) spare cartridges, etc.

 The majority of the MGC Thompson's imported into the USA seem to have come with (most of) the accessories so the owner sets the time frame, prohibition or the 30's. 

For me, the common MGC Thompson seems to be the 1921 with the vertical forearm and the compensator or the 1928 with the compensator and the horizontal forearm. 

I wanted to have the flavor of the original Thompson: the 1921 with the vertical forearm and with out the compensator. 

The muzzle needs to be modified for the compensator-less front sight assy though, as the muzzle from the factory was roughly finished, (and as it doesn't look quite right to me) so a little file and sandpaper work is required to make things right.


Caring for the MGC Thompson

The MGC Thompson is a very well built modelgun, with very few weak parts, and well balanced springs. However, the MGC Thompson needs to well cared for, (as do all of these modelguns) the main thing that needs to be addressed is that the gun must be cleaned  and well oiled  after every "shooting" cession. 

Although, care must be taken, as the screws thread into zinc and after a while they will strip out, so it is best to disassemble it rarely. 

I recommend spraying oil into the action as opposed to disassembly

I try to take mine apart only when the rate of fire slows down noticeably, meaning that a through cleaning/oiling is necessary .


"Shooting" the MGC Thompson 

Shooting the model guns is fun as is the challenge of getting them to run right! The average modelgun is quite tricky to try to shoot with any semblance of reliability! due to the spring balances, lubrication issues, cartridges etc. 

Actually, the hardest part has to be the acquiring enough caps and cartridges as they can be very expensive and hard to obtain! The MGC corporation did their home work on this model gun, and it shows, as this modelgun "out of the box" ran flawlessly! (both the 20 and the 39 round magazines) 

Again, the Model Gun Corporation was the best of the modelgun manufactures as their modelguns work out of the box!

The recoil actually, was a little stronger than I expected, although not too bad  (about a .22 long rifle in a fairly light rifle) but far more than I expected from a modelgun of this large size and weight. 

The rounds per minute was in the (rough estimate) 750-850 range maybe perhaps a little faster. 

The video also reveals the fact that I had reassembled the drum wrongly as it didn't feed right, and after the last cartridge is fired, the drum noisily unwinds itself! oops!

The second video (6/28/03)

The second video seems to be slightly better than the first in my opinion, but hey, it's the visitors that make the judgment calls here anyways! again, the damaged drum spring seems to give me allot of problems! I was using the 7mm Marushin brand caps (silver) for the video. 

The Marushin brand caps seem to work well, but the sparks produced by them aren't  (well, at least to me they aren't) realistic looking, it's just a matter of taste whether they look right or not.  :) 

The MGC brand of caps work well and generate few sparks, they do seem to be a little more powerful than the Marushin brand in comparison.

The MGC Thompson is a very large and heavy (all zinc and wood!) modelgun which just might be one of the heaviest modelguns out there! 

Therefore, it can be quite the handful! 

I found this modelgun to be very fun and very reliable (besides the temperamental drum magazine!) 

Unfortunately, the barrels on these late "CP" type MGC Thompson's where blocked just in front of the chamber therefore, no sparks or gasses will emerge from the muzzle, which ultimately takes away from the realism of this modelgun. 

Again, the very first MGC Thompson's (paper cap type) had "open" barrels that allowed the gasses to escape which looks allot better when it was fired. 

The video (s) is (are) somewhat short, mostly due to the reluctant drum and the cap availability issue. 

(and the clean up duties afterwards!)


 Click here for : The Thompson video 

Click here for : The second Thompson video



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