.45 ACP Ammunition for the Thompson Submachine Gun


Hello All,

This is my first post in this forum. I am a collector of the Thompson Submachine Gun, and its many associated items, including the vintage ammunition used in this classic firearm. I own the website “Machinegunboards.com,” which is the premiere site for study of the TSMG, and I recently added a pinned post covering ammunition for the Thompson. I know that a lot more content will be added in the coming months, but I thought members of this board might like to take a look at it, and potentially submit examples of Thompson ammo from their own collections for possible inclusion in the reference post. In order to see the pictures, you will need to register, if you aren’t already a member of the site.

The post features many examples of vintage .45 ACP ammunition, as well as Peters Shotshells for the Thompson, and Hollywood blank ammo.

I’m in the process of further pinpointing the dates of manufacture of the ammunition featured in the pinned post, so if you have any information that may help with this cause, I would welcome your input. I appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you may have for the Thompson Ammunition pinned post.

Here is the link:

machinegunboards.com/forums/ … opic=12262


David Albert



I’m just curious as to how you separate ammunition for the Thompson SMG, other than the various blanks and shot rounds that were made primerily or specifically for it. since it had a long commercial life, from 1921 I suppose right to present, with gaps, any ball round that will funtion through the magazine, which as you know is almost any of them (great gun! I envy you being able to collect them!) could be said to be for the Thompson SMG. Certainly, every headstamp and date variation of U.S. Military Ball would have to count, dated from approximately 1919 right up until at least the Korean War. Long after the Korean War, in fact, there was open house on a heavycruiser in San Francisco Bay, and I took my wife and son aboard. It was after my military service, at which time there were no Thompsons actively in service with the U.S. Army of which I was aware anyway. Spread out on a blanket on the fantail of the ship were its small arms, and I was surprised to see a Thompson M1 (or M1A1 - could tell from the distance you had to look at it), and when I asked, one of the Sailors told me “Yes, we have a lot of those aboard.” They still had a BAR too, pretty much out of service by then, although I knew the Navy had those primarily for mine destruction.

What are your basic guidelines for deciding what ammunition is “Tommy Gun” ammo? Having a fairly large collection of .45, about 1650 specimens, without sijmply dates which I don’t collect, I am just curious.

As you may have noted from my reference to San Francisco, we can’t even dream about collecting TSMGs in California. I had a Savage-made M1928A1 DEWAT once, but nowdays, even those are frowned upon by the State. I have fired Thompsons somewhat as a guest four times a year of a Federal Agency, but that was years ago now. Lots of fun. Great guns - better in my mind than lots of so-called modern, highly touted sub-guns used today.

John Moss



Thank you very much for your reply. I was looking through the archives here, and I see that your collection is quite extensive. There are some specific pictures I saw that I would like very much to use in the pinned post on my website. I’ll send you an inquiry as to whether I may include them, credited to your name.

You raise a very good question about how I separate ammunition used in the Thompson. I would say that my definition is a bit loose, but it definitely includes anything marked for use in the Thompson. Other than that, it includes 230 grain ball ammo boxes, as well as specialty law enforcement ammunition, blanks, and foreign .45 ammunition from countries known to have used the Thompson in service. While there are still holdouts, most Thompsons saw service in police departments from the early 1920’s to the mid-1970’s. The ammunition I want to document ranges from the late 1910’s to the mid 1970’s.

Your account of seeing a Thompson after its official service life on a ship hints at the longevity of the Thompson. I have a friend who served on nuclear submarines, and he said he was issued one in 1990 for the specialty purpose of guarding the nuclear missiles aboard. They needed a weapon that had little chance of harming anything in the sub, so shotguns and Thompsons were used at that time, and I would not be at all surprised to learn of some in Navy service today. Incidentally, the BAR served well into the late 1970’s in the U.S. Army, from documentation I have collected.

Thompsons also live on. I’m a Past President of The American Thompson Association, and last month, we held our annual show and shoot, where we put about 6000 rounds through many individually owned, legal Thompson Submachine Guns. If you’d like to see what the shoot was like, it will be featured on an American Rifleman TV episode on the Outdoor Channel on September 22nd. The show will feature our paper shoot, and our ever-popular steel shoot.


David Albert


David - if you have pictures I have taken some time ago, I hope they are decent. In working on a book on the Makarov, I have acquired a digital camera and finally am getting the hang of getting good cartridge photos with it.

You have my blanket permission to use any photo of ammunition taken by me in anything that you write that is not “anti-gun” in outlook. I know nothing you write would be, but that is my sole condition of use of anything I write or photograph to do with firearms. You do not have to credit me. If it is easy to do, fine. If not, don’t worry about it. I don’t have an ego on these things.

Let me state here and now that my permission to use my photos applies to anyone writing about cartridges, and applies to any photos in any article I have written other than those credited to other collectors by me. I cannot give permission for that. Further, it does not apply to any photos in the book I wrote on 9 x 23 mm cartridges. I gave all rights to that book to GIG Publications, and permission to use photos from it would, therefore, have to come from them. I suspect that would not be a problem. As for credit by anyone, It simply is not an issue with me one way or the other. I am happy to be whatever small modicum of assistaqnce I can be to fellow collectors and students of firearms and ammunition. I wish it was more.

In reference to the Tommy Gun and BAR being in service, I finished my intial Regular Army service in late 1959, and my active Reserve service in 1965. I had thought the BAR was out of regular Army issue by then, but we absolutely did still have some kicking around the Reserves.
While never there, I know that ARVN had both Tommy Guns and BARs, but don’t know about use by regular units - I do know that MAAG and Special Ops guys certainly had access to both.

John Moss



Thank you for your service to our country, and thank you, also, for your permission to use the photos. Much appreciated!

BTW, the Remington .45 ACP Riot round with the 3 disks, and the one buckshot in the nose is commonly referred to in the Thompson community as the “Rattle Round.” (I saw your post on the subject in the archives) The round was patented by T.F. Werme in 1924 (filed in 1922), and rights were assigned to Remington. A cutaway picture, and summary of its properties were included in the scarce Auto-Ordnance 1922 Price List.

Thanks Again!

David Albert


We had 6 Thompsons(top knobs, so guessing '21s?), 2 1919A4s, 2 M60s, 20 M14s, a bunch of 1911s and a half dozen M1 carbines on the USS Luce DLG-7/DDG-38 '74-'76. For the Landing Force. And shooting sharks. But only when swimmers were in the water. There was no limit on sea gulls. Very difficult to hit. At least, that’s what they said.


Rick - your Thompsons may have been 1921/28 U.S. Navy “over strikes.” I believe the Navy took most of their 1921s and converted them to 1928s (reduced the rate of fire), and overstamped the “1” with an “8.” I don’t know a lot about Tommy Guns, except how to shoot them, but I saw one of those overstamped Navy guns about 40 years ago. I may have the details wrong - its been a long time - but “dalbert” will know. I would love to have a Thompson. I even miss my old dewat, which I sold only because I happened to have some very good accessories with it, and a collector offered me top dollar for the gun and each one of my accessories, just to get the latter. The gun itself was nothing special - not a rat, but some finish wear and, for example, the barrel was welded to the receiver externally, right at the top of the receiver where the barrel screws in. Any DEWAT is just a wall hanger anyway - no real fun since you can’t shoot it. Still, I have shoot 1928 Thompsons a lot, and the M3A1 a little too. I don’t recall every shooting an M1 or M1A1 Tommy gun though. I would like to someday.
Will never happen in my home state though, as I don’t have the LE “ins” that I used to have years ago.

John Moss


Rick - John

The Thompsons on the Luce were most likely M1928 A1. The standard GI until the M1 was adopted in 1942.



SlickRick and John,

The Thompsons onboard the ship were most likely M1928A1’s from WWII, although a 21/28 Navy overstamp was not out of the question. The 21/28 overstamp refers to an early Colt manufactured Thompson…there were only 15,000 of them manufactured by Colt, compared to approximately 1.5 million 1928A1’s and M1/M1A1’s during WWII. The Colts are the most sought after, and valuable Thompsons, and while the U.S. Navy did have some, we’re only talking in the hundreds for quantity. The first 15,000 Thompsons took about 18 years to sell. Almost 1/3 of them remained in Auto-Ordnance inventory at the outbreak of WWII in 1939.

If you want to shoot an M1, you should join The American Thompson Association, and come on out to Ohio in August, and I’ll let you shoot mine.

David Albert


[quote=“RayMeketa”]Rick - John

Shooting seagulls is not difficult. They are filthy, stupid, curious birds that will fly very close to you, and they can be shot with pistols, on the wing. Or so I’ve heard.


I’m guessing, from what I was told, it was very difficult, from the fantail, at speed, with the M60. They tried to draw them in with trash, but we, oops, they, didn’t factor in the 20+ knots speed and extending the range as the gulls sat on the trash. Oblivious to the little splashes around them. They said they were laughing so much, it threw off their aim. Hence, the difficulty in fixing the target(s). And to keep this thread within bounds, we, they, were shootin 7.62 X 51. H/S ?

I’ll leave the wrist rocket, pennies and gulls sitting on the donut story for another, more applicable thread.


SlickRick, Please clarify, was it the birds laughing or the shooters???



Thompson’s were carried on submarines until about the mid-70’s, at least in my experience. The USS Clamagore, now in Charleston, was decommed in 1975 and her small arms locker is still setup for the Thompson. We off-loaded ours that same year from SubGruFive boats in San Diego, as I recall, and the small arms lockers had to be modified.

Somewhere I saw reference to Thompson’s being on subs as late as the 1990’s and while I can’t catagoriclly deny it, I sure doubt that to be the case. I was involved in small arms management then and I’m certain the Navy Supply System did not support or list Thompsons. The standard allotment for submarine small arms was the M1911A1, Mossberg or Remington 12ga pump shotguns and M14 rifles, with selector switches for some, in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Concern about penetration of vital equipment from dischargeing firearms inside a submarine were addressed and for some time #8 and #7 1/2 birdshot were issued and directed to be used within the hull for defensive purposes. Typically, the Navy did or had done penetration test which caused them to withdraw the birdshot and return to 00 buck in the 9 pellet loads. By the 1990’s we were back to buckshot.

I only got to shoot one Thompson, back about 75, as they were being withdrawn and shipped back to Crane Indiana. I can only state they used long magazines and bucked like a wild horse! At least to me. Model, type, etc… don’t recall. Ammo was certainly the same 230gr FMJ we fed the M1911’s because we were firing both that day.


When I was stationed with the Mothball Fleet in San Diego in the 1950s most of the larger ship’s armories still had Thompsons in them (along with other SA). The end of the Korean War signaled the end of the Mothball concept (those ships would never be re-commissioned) and one of the mothball Gunners Mates jobs was to clean out the armories of small arms. Most of what we collected was de-milled by stripping all parts and torch cutting the receivers. Everything was then sold as scrap. Much of that stuff ended up back on the commercial market and many were welded back together. Me and 5 other fools had a Machine Gun Club in the 1960s and 1970s and our arsenal included 4 Thompsons that we rebuilt ourselves. Back then you only needed a $200 tax stamp and a Form 1 to build your own machine gun.

Ironic, huh?? Cut 'em up in the '50s. Weld 'em together and shoot 'em in the '60s.

More than one sailor spent a big part of his youth in Leavenworth after he decided he would keep a souvenir or two from those armories. We kept very strict records and they always got caught. Once the receivers were torched and tossed in the boxes, no one seemed to care, but before that, Big Brother was watching our every move.

History lesson over.