Check Out This Cheapo Thompson Submachine Gun

Too bad the Grease Gun rendered it moot

War Is Boring
May 9, 2016 · 5 min read


The U.S. Army had initially been uninterested in submachine guns, and it was only in the late 1930s that the Ordnance Department placed Auto-Ordnance’s Thompson SMG on its “limited procurement list.”

In September 1938, officials green-lit procurement of the Thompson, but it was not until June 1939 that the government actually placed its first order for M1928A1s.

From the outset, the Army had sought a cheaper alternative to the expensive Thompson and, by 1941, had begun testing a number of alternative designs. In April 1942, Army adopted the M2 submachine gun, designed by George Hyde, as a substitute standard for the Thompson.

The Auto-Ordnance Corporation didn’t want to lose out on lucrative contracts, so it developed a more cost-effective, easier-to-manufacture SMG design — the T2.

Despite adopting the M2, the Ordnance Department continued testing other SMGs and, in November 1942, conducted trials of the T2 at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Testers compared the results to the data from the earlier trials of Hyde’s M2.

Auto-Ordnance developed the T2 in both .45 ACP and in nine-by-19 millimeter, which the British and Commonwealth countries preferred. The U.S. Army, however, wasn’t interested in the nine-millimeter variant and declined to test it.

The T2 had a tubular receiver, fired from a closed bolt and used a blowback action. It fed from standard Thompson submachine gun magazines, with the front of the trigger guard having the same interface as the M1/M1A1′s 20- and 30-round magazines.

The T2 also had a simplified magazine release just below the trigger guard.

Unlike the Thompson M1, the T2 doesn’t have a fire-selector and, instead, features a pivoting two-stage trigger. The shooter activates the fully-automatic mode by pulling the trigger completely to the rear. While this was a useful simplification of the shooting process, it made for a more complex trigger mechanism.

The T2 weighed 8.6 pounds unloaded and was just over 32 inches long, making it slightly shorter and two pounds lighter than the Thompson M1A1 was. The T2 was also slightly lighter than the M2, which weighed 9.4 pounds.

The U.S. Army’s testers noted that the T2 had a short length-of-pull and an unusual butt profile. Another notable quirk of the T2 prototype was its use of wingnuts to fix the receiver into the all-wood stock. In the field, this would certainly have caught on troop’s clothing and equipment.

The Hyde M2. Springfield Armory Museum photo

During the mud test, the T2 suffered from a series of failures to fire. Mud prevented the bolt from going into battery for the first four rounds. But the shooter fired the rest of the magazine without stoppages. The firer inserted a fresh magazine and reported two further failures — a failure to eject and a failure of the bolt to go fully forward.

An inspected revealed that, in fact, very little mud had entered the T2′s action because it fired from a closed bolt. What little mud did enter, slipped in when the weapon was charged. The Hyde M2, the T2’s main competitor, had suffered much worse during the mud test — and could not fire at all.

A test of semi-automatic accuracy found that the T2 was more accurate than the M2 was, as the former fired from a closed rather than open bolt.

A test of automatic fire accuracy found that the T2 suffered from greater muzzle climb than the M2 did. At 50 yards, the M2 put 99 out of 100 rounds onto a six-by-six-foot target. The T2 managed 80 out of 100 rounds, possibly a consequence of the T2′s unusual butt profile, which reportedly caused the weapon to slip out of the operator’s shoulder.

During testing, the T2 suffered 60 stoppages and two parts breakages and, after firing a total of 750 rounds, the trigger housing cracked.

Once testing of the T2 had concluded, an ordnance committee met on Nov. 19, 1942 and recommended that Auto-Ordnance’s T2 receive no further consideration.

Instead, the government contracted Marlin to manufacture 164,000 M2s at a cost of $36.76 per weapon beginning in December 1942. This was only marginally cheaper than the eventual production cost of the Thompson M1 $44 per unit.

Production delays meant the first M2s were not delivered until May 1943. Ultimately, the Army issued neither the T2 nor the M2, as the cheaper and easier-to-produce M3 Grease Gun became available in June 1943.

This story originally appeared at Historical Firearms.

War Is Boring

From drones to AKs, high technology to low politics, exploring how and why we fight above, on and below an angry world

War Is Boring

Written by

We go to war so you don’t have to

War Is Boring

From drones to AKs, high technology to low politics, exploring how and why we fight above, on and below an angry world

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