Saturday, March 7, 2015

Standard Toy Soldier Poses: The Tommy Gunner

Those of us of a certain age remember a frequent item in adventure movies and TV shows. Be it a gangster flick like "The Untouchables" or a World War II movie, the Thompson submachine gun was there. The iconic weapon spurted out long bursts of .45 caliber ammunition. It could cut down gangsters, bootleggers, German soldiers and Japanese marines.

Submachine guns were devised for use in trench warfare. They were intended to be a "trench broom", sweeping away enemy defenders. In fact, the first real workout for the submachine gun was by American gangsters. The fast-firing weapons were popular with bootleggers, racketeers and bank robbers of the 1920s and 1930s. Gunmen like John Dillinger were among the first to use submachine guns against armed adversaries.

The Thompson submachine gun was an American invention. It was first supplied to US Marines and sold to the British Army. Germany developed several submachine guns such as the Erma and Bergmann. They settled on the MP38 and MP40 weapons. These were cheaply made, using mostly stamped-metal parts. The United States produced its own cheap all-metal submachine gun, the M3 "Grease gun" in 1942. Britain developed the cheaply-made Sten Gun. Russia’s equivalent was the Ppsh "burp gun".

The submachine gun is an automatic weapon, magazine fed, that fires pistol ammunition. American weapons favored the .45 caliber. British and Western European submachine guns tended more toward 9mm. The advantage was the amount of firepower these weapons produced. What they had in volume of fire, they lacked in rage and breaking power.*

In World War II, submachine guns were generally issued to NCOs, especially Squad leaders, paratroopers and crews of tanks. They were popular in house-to-house and jungle fighting. With the advent of assault rifles, submachine guns were less common. Today, they are used mainly by law enforcement and security personnel. Their lack of penetrating power makes them ideal for use by police..

For boys in the old days, a Tommy gunner was a popular figure. He had a lot of firepower and he looked cool. Weapons such as the M16 and AK47 with their capacity for semi-automatic and full automatic fire have made submachine guns obsolete except for special situations.

You can learn more of light automatic weapons here:


* It must be noted that Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde, and Frank Hamer, the man who ended his crime spree, both favored the Browning Automatic Rifle over submachine guns. The BAR fired rifle ammunition, which could penetrate walls and break the engine block of cars and trucks. It was more accurate and could do more damage at a much greater range than any submachine gun.

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