Submachine guns did a lot of work in the jungles

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

The Thompson .45 submachine gun underwent three or four changes during the war, in the interests of production manufacture and simplification, but essentially remained the same, Dunlap explains:

Like the M1, it was a weapon I did not like but ended up respecting. Here again, weight was the drawback — the original M1928 model went 10.8 pounds without magazine and the simplified M1 and M1A1 models ran 10 pounds even, without clips (the M1A1 was the same as the M1 except that it had its firing pin machined on the face of the bolt, integral with it, while the M1 had the older style movable firing pin and “hammer”).

The stocks of all three had too much drop, which made accurate automatic fire from the shoulder almost impossible, since the guns could climb up an off the mark easily.


Effective range of these guns was about 75 yards in the hands of the average soldier. This because the trigger-pull on the gun was 14 pounds maximum, 10 pounds minimum, and it fires from an open bolt, making accurate semi-auto fire very difficult.


Submachine guns did a lot of work in the jungles where often only the approximate direction of an enemy would be known and it was desirable to rake an area with bullets. For investigating the tops of coconut palms it was a highly useful tool, and good for hosing dugouts or clearing bunkers at times, but grenades were smarter and safer for the latter jobs.


  1. Kirk says:

    What’s fascinating to observe, reading Dunlap, is just how much of our post-WWII small arms idiocy has its roots in the “system” not paying attention to actual conditions of the war as it was really fought.

    Handwriting was on the wall, for Vietnam, if anyone had bothered to note the real lessons. The M1 was only successful because it was going up against an enemy armed mostly with bolt-action rifles and an overweening faith in the efficacy of their men’s morale. Had the Japanese in the Philippines had access and widely issued the AK? LOL… It would have been ugly. Fortunately, they were pretty delusional, themselves. Bayonets on an LMG delusional…

    If the morons who gave us the M14 and M60 had actually bothered to consult with men like Dunlap and other actual combat veterans, I think that the solution set for what they came up with would have looked a lot like the eventual AK and Sturmgewehr solutions. Unfortunately, big bureaucracy and stultifying hierarchy won the day, and we got the ultimate rifle for the National Matches, along with a truly half-ass implementation of a GPMG.

    Big is bad. You can do moon shots with it, but the actual long-term progress is going to come from things like the current ferment in the space launch industry, which NASA is clearly not out in front of.

  2. Paul from Canada says:

    At least you can console yourself that the U.S. is not alone in this. Pretty much EVERYONE’s military procurement is a mess.

    Look at eh British L-85 program. I have the Collector Grade Publications book on the subject, and Ian at forgotten Weapons deals with it in detail. It was a complete fiasco, and pretty much every mistake made in the adoption of the M-16 is repeated, AND THEN SOME.

    I was absolutely flabbergasted to read that the powder was also a problem. At some point, the British looked into adopting the Beta C Mag for the LSW (SAW) version of the rifle. The manufacturer was lent an L-85 LSW and given a bunch of ammo for testing, and they had issues. When they used US and other NATO ammo, it worked much better.

    The L-85 was basically a bullpup version of the AR-18, blatantly ripped off from Sterling/Armalite without license or permission. Sterling engineers got a look at one, and noticed that the cam pin track was the wrong shape, and didn’t give enough dwell time.

    I could talk for hours about Canadian examples of procurement folly.

  3. Kirk says:

    Yeah, the L85/SA80 is a classic example of how not to do things. Also, a case study in the arrogance and essential incompetence of a lot of government agencies, particularly the “managerial classes”.

    One of the things that blew my mind, reading about the L85 deal? That the arrogant bastards over the folks at the Royal Ordnance plant Enfield were told in the middle of the development that they were to made redundant, and that production would be moved to Nottingham (that notorious center of firearms production expertise…) after the facilities at Enfield were shut down. Basically, the people running things were like “Here, develop this for us, and we’ll have someone else build it… Meanwhile, you’re fired…”.

    Not. Smart.

    There’s so much of this crap going on in the world, I have to wonder how the hell anything of quality ever gets done, and truly cherish those small things where we manage to build something truly good.

    It’s like with Toyota; the guys at Toyota USA were telling the executives in Japan that the 4-door pickups that Toyota sold around the world would sell like hotcakes here in the US. No, no… We know the American market better than you do, they will never sell, said Toyota Japan. Cue Nissan bringing in the 4-door Frontier, and having those things fly off the dealer lots? Oh, yeah… Now Toyota Japan authorizes development of the 4-door Tacoma.

    It’s like centralization is a bad thing, or something…

  4. Graham says:

    I’m still impressed that Toyota has cornered the market in terrorism and guerrilla warfare transport with basically three vehicles- Hilux, Corolla, Land Cruiser.

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