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Testing your mettle on the G-Mans Tommy Gun Q Course

991 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  jwills
Back in the days where men wore fedoras (not trilbys), drove cars that weighed more than a tank, and only mixed whiskey with more whiskey, the Thompson submachine gun was the benchmark for defense needs. The military used it. The criminals loved it. And the FBI considered it standard issue for a while.

Why the tommy gun

Up until 1933, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was armed only with bad breath and colorful language. While some agents carried personally owned firearms, they relied on local cops accompanying them to do most of their heavy lifting (and heavy shooting). This changed after the Kansas City Massacre in which four law enforcement officers and a criminal fugitive at the Union Station railroad depot were killed by a machine-gun wielding gunman in less than 30 seconds. (As a knee-jerk reaction the following year, the feds also passed the NFA in 1934, placing a prohibitive $200 tax stamp on select-fire guns.)

This also led FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to place a near immediate order for Thompson submachine guns and the men to use them.

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"J. Edgar Hoover, head of the G-Men, demonstrates how to use a machine gun to Mickey Cochrane, manager of the Detroit Tigers, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., Sept. 11, 1935" (Image Library of Congress)

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December 11, 1935 FBI publicity photo, Hoover (left) is joined at the Bureau shooting range by Sumner Blossom, Editor of The American Magazine, and journalist/author Courtney Ryley Cooper. (Image Library of Congress)

One of the legends of the day was FBI Special Agent, Charles G. (Jerry) Campbell. Formerly an Oklahoma City beat cop, Campbell joined the Bureau just after they started carrying guns.

He was part of Agent Melvin Purvis's "flying squad" gangbusters and survived shootouts with both the Dillinger gang and Ma Barker and co. He is credited with developing the forward-leaning stance that became the FBI standard for full-auto control on the Thompson.

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The course of fire

To demonstrate proficiency, Tommy gunner G-men would have to fire 50 rounds in a course of fire from the 15, 25, and 50-yard marks at an alternating set of 2 Colt Police torso targets (the bent arm ones that are dubbed today as the B-21 silhouette), remember-- Colt made the early pre-WWII Thompsons; or Army "E" targets.


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From the 15, in a standing position they would take a magazine loaded with ten rounds and fire from the hip, using 'point shooting' (no sights) at the target. Set in semi-auto mode, the agent had 8 seconds to pull this off.

At the 25-yard mark, there were two stages. The first took another ten shot loaded mag and emptied it shooting from the offhand (i.e. left hand if they were right handed) on semi-auto in ten seconds. The second stage was two ten round mags, the first fired semi-auto, the second fired in bursts on full-auto, in a total of 25 seconds.

Then the course finished at the 50, where the agent kneeled and took the targets in 10 shots of aimed fire on semi-auto in 15 seconds.

It was this course that the FB of I used to ensure their tommy gun carriers could move, shoot, and survive.

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The more realistic target of Special Agent Sloan, via Historial G-Men

End of an era

Tommy gun historian Robert" Bo" Ramsour II estimates that no less than 200 Thompsons were bought by the FBI from 1933-39 while agents with personal funds purchased additional guns. To this total could certainly be added a number of 'Chicago typewriters' seized from waylaid criminal types.

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On top of this, former military M1A1 model Thompsons were likely passed on after World War 2. Agents across the country went about their work as these old warhorses rode quietly in car trunks and sat back at the office-- just in case they were needed.

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Other feds also used Thompsons-- such as these Deputy U.S. Marshals escorting "Machine Gun" Kelly from court.

Around 1971 the Tommy gun was phased out with the Bureau and Hoover himself went to that great office in the sky the next year.

Neither will be forgotten anytime soon.

While you may not have a Thompson around the house today, you can always replicate the course of fire with a SUB-2000 with a 30-round mag (or 33/50 in the Glock variants) and rock out like its 1933. Of course, you won't be quite as cyclic, but you can still have some fun and test your skills.

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While serving in the Navy back in 1969 my General Quarters Station weapon was a Thompson submachine & got to shoot it twice a year, each time one 30 round stick magazine only at a 55gal drum off the fantail of the ship while state side funny that those drums never shot back! Now I have a sub 2000 gen1 in 9mm am a happy camper but haven't tried shooting a 55 gal. drum with it? I have a pontoon boat maybe I try shooting a steel drum off it's fantail this spring?
@amauk Do it! Get a video or pics of your antics too lol.
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