The Thomspon submachine gun, more popularly known in common lore as the Tommy Gun, is the most iconic weapon associated with the American Mafia of the early 20th century. 

To understand the relationship between this iconic firearm and the infamous organized crime syndicates of the era, we must delve into the history of the gun, the socio-political climate at the time, and how this weapon became so tightly interwoven with the Mob’s lore.

We will also look at the Tommy Gun’s influence on different forms of pop culture and how it shaped the creation of these art forms. 

The Birth of the Tommy Gun

The Tommy Gun was created during World War I by General John T. Thompson. He initially intended it as a trench-busting tool. Its compact design, high rate of fire, and .45 ACP ammunition made it a powerful weapon for close-quarters combat

General John T. Thompson (Wikimedia Commons)

However, the war ended before the weapon could be mass-produced for military use, leaving the manufacturers in a problem. A tool of war was suddenly without a war.

In the years following World War I, the Auto-Ordnance Company, the manufacturer of the Tommy Gun, looked to sell their firearms on the civilian market. Ranchers, law enforcement agencies, and private security firms were the target market. 

Still, the Tommy Gun saw limited initial commercial success due to its high price tag and somewhat specialized function.

The Tommy Gun, the Prohibition Era, and the Mafia