When I uncased the Auto Ordnance 1927A-1 Model TM1 “Tommy gun” at the range and struggled with its 11.5-pound weight, catching its protruding grip on the edge of the shooting table, I thought out loud, “What’s this good for?”
The sample is from Auto Ordnance, which was purchased by Kahr Arms in 1999, and is a copy–without full-auto capability, but with a 16.5-inch legal-length barrel–of the World War II-era Thompson submachine guns.
As such, this model will not accept a drum magazine, nor does it have the front vertical foregrip, and the bolt handle, such as it is, is on the right side, not the top, of the receiver. The TM1 also lacks a compensator on the muzzle, along with no adjustable rear sight. (Auto Ordnance does, however, make such a model. In fact, it offers seven “Tommy gun” models.)
This sample is blued over a dull, bead-blast finish, with the only jarring notes being the bolt finish where the bluing failed to take in spots. Also, the 30-round magazine doesn’t feel or appear to be very sturdy, but it worked well for me during my shooting.
The barrel tapers nicely forward to support the pinned-in front sight blade. The aperture rear sight is a single unit that has been formed to have wings on either side of the punched out and bent upward section in which the aperture sight is drilled.
Curiously, at the top of this piece, a rudimentary square notch “sight” has been cut. The wood fore-end is horizontally grooved on each side, with a 1.5-inch sling swivel beneath and attached to the barrel with a screw.
The TM1 is blowback-operated and has a massive bolt that is restrained by two springs and its own weight when the gun is fired. A good-sized extractor takes care of case removal. A horizontal bolt handle (a round metal pin) is located on the bolt’s right side and held into the bolt body by the firing pin.
The bolt is driven by two springs, and the floating firing pin is supported by its own large coil spring. The bolt locks back two ways: on an empty magazine and by a manually activated trip lever.
When the bolt retracts over an empty stick magazine, a stud in the magazine catch mates up with a matching hole in the rear wall of the magazine body. Easy.
To lock the bolt back without a magazine you must move the trip lever, which is in between the magazine guide rails on the front face of the trigger group.
For me, doing this was quite difficult because the bolt is under very heavy spring pressure and the bolt handle is very short, so I could get only two fingers on it with which to pull it back. I’ve done it without drawing blood, but I’ll stick to using an empty magazine to lock the bolt back if at all possible.
The semi-circular magazine catch is located above the trigger guard opening, with its rear lower end checkered and angled slightly inward, allowing for an easier upward push. I can reach it with my shooting hand while holding the pistol grip, but things go better if I manipulate the magazine and catch with my support hand.
Removing the magazine was at first quite difficult. The first time it was a two-person job. While I held the gun firmly, with the catch disengaged, my son tugged the magazine out. However, after a few insertions and removals, the magazine was polished enough for me to do this without help.
The mechanical thumb safety is at the top of the left side of the wood finger-groove pistol grip. It is a round bit of metal that must be rotated 180 degrees forward to “fire” from its rearward “safe” position, and vice versa.
Again, I can do this with my trigger hand while gripping the gun, but the space between the safety and the overhang of the side of the receiver is small enough that using my support hand ensures a positive change.
The buttstock is nicely figured dull-finished wood and has a contoured steel buttplate and rear non-detachable sling swivel.
To disassemble, it helps to first read and follow the instruction manual. The buttstock comes off first, followed by the frame which contains the trigger assembly. After this, the recoil springs are removed. Next out are the firing pin pilot and spring and the hammer.
The system used to fire a round is a bit complicated, with the firing pin proper pinned into the front of the bolt, with the other parts behind it. The bolt releases from the sear, bringing the other parts forward and the firing pin is struck. At this point the bolt then can be lifted out. Any further disassembly is unnecessary and voids the warranty.
In preparing for our range visit, I loaded the magazine with Black Hills 230-grain JRN ball ammo and packed boxes of Winchester, Remington, MagTech and 1963-dated GI ball ammo.
I lubricated all moving parts and dry fired a bit. I was surprised when I weighed the trigger and found it measured 12.5 pounds. It feels much lighter, perhaps due to a long and smooth trigger pull not unlike a double-action revolver. At 15 yards the TM1 shot to point-of-aim with very little recoil.
Other than my son putting five rounds of the Black Hills ammo into a well-centered tight knot in a Shoot-N-See target, we did no further accuracy work.
We did, however, have fun firing multiple rounds from a depressed muzzle position at an IDPA target and then at round black target pasters.
At one point, when my son had emptied a magazine and gun smoke was curling out of the ejection port, he grinned and said, “It’s fun to shoot!”
And therein lies the answer to the question I posed at the beginning of this: “What is this good for?”
Sometimes it’s easy to forget to simply go shooting to enjoy yourself. With the TM1, you and many of your newfound range “friends” (you will attract attention) can enjoy (safely, of course) dumping .45 ACP slugs downrange as quickly as you can pull the trigger.