The Auto-Ordnance T-2 .45 Caliber Submachine Gun

By Frank Iannamico

The Thompson submachine gun first appeared on the commercial market in 1921. The Auto-Ordnance Corporation had attempted to sell the weapon to the U.S. and several foreign governments for military use numerous times. World War I had ended just a few years earlier and most countries had large surplus of military weapons. Virtually no one was interested in buying the expensive Thompson submachine gun. A few were sold to police departments and other security concerns. The concept of the submachine gun as a military weapon was first introduced by the Germans near the end of World War I in 1918, but its appearance was brief. Both the weapon and the tactics for its use in close quarter fighting were largely ignored by the allies.

As early as 1939, as the German Army was advancing across Europe, both the British and United States realized their oversight in ignoring the pistol caliber submachine gun, and both countries scrambled to get a submachine gun in service. The only proven design that was immediately available was the .45 caliber Thompson submachine gun. There were still a few of the original 1920-era Colt made Thompsons remaining in Auto-Ordnance’s inventory. Most of these Colt-made guns were immediately purchased by the British Government. Due to the huge demand for the Thompson, the weapon was placed back into production in 1940. Most of the guns were subcontracted out to the Savage Arms Corporation although some were manufactured at Auto-Ordnance’s Bridgeport factory. By World War II, the 1921/1928 model of the Thompson was obsolete. The gun was cumbersome, heavy and very expensive to produce. The British paid $168.75 first 1928 model Thompsons, compare this to the M1919A4 .30 caliber Browning machine gun that cost the government only $55 each. The price of the 1928 model Thompson was continually reduced until it reached a low of $70. The introduction of the simplified M1/M1A1 model in late 1942 cut the cost even further. Still, the weapon was heavy and time-consuming to manufacture.

As early as 1939, when Savage was first tooling up to make the Thompson, the government began to seek a less expensive weapon in the submachine gun class. Many weapons were tested from 1939 until 1943 even after the U.S. M3 weapon, that eventually became the weapon that replaced the Thompson, was adopted.

Concerned about losing a lucrative government contract to another contractor, the Auto-Ordnance Corporation quickly began to develop their own replacement for the Thompson. By 1942 Auto Ordnance was ready to submit their new .45 caliber submachine gun to compete in the U.S. Ordnance Department trials.

The Auto-Ordnance T-2 Submachine Gun

The Auto-Ordnance entry in the Ordnance Department’s submachine gun trials for replacing the Thompson was their prototype T-2 submachine gun. The T-2 weapon was an entirely different concept than the Thompson had been. The open-bolt-operated T-2 was made from sheet metal stampings and had a receiver that was constructed from metal tubing. Weight of the T-2 with an empty magazine was 8.6 pounds. An end cap located at the rear of the receiver tube was provided for stripping the weapon. The cylindrical bolt used a cocking handle very similar to that of the Thompson M1/M1A1 model. The .45 caliber T-2 barreled receiver was attached to its wooden stock by two wing-nut-style fasteners. Prototype T-2’s were made in both a .45 ACP and a 9mm Parabellum version. The .45 caliber model used a standard Thompson box magazine. A special pivoting two-stage trigger was used to select the semiautomatic or full-auto mode on both the 9mm and .45 caliber models.

The testing of Auto-Ordnance’s T-2 weapon was initiated on 9 September 1942 at the Proving Center of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Observers present for the test were Captain Peter White from the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, Mr. John Ferguson and Mr. James Landen, both from the Auto-Ordnance Corporation.

On 11 September 1942 the Ordnance Department’s testing of the T-2 was concluded at Aberdeen Proving Ground. By the time Auto-Ordnance’s new submachine gun was being readied for testing the Hyde M2 submachine gun design had emerged as the most prominent weapon in the trials. As a result, the performance of Auto-Ordnance’s T-2 gun was compared directly with the new Hyde .45 caliber M2 submachine gun.

George Hyde designed the .45 caliber M2 submachine gun. The weapon evolved from several of Mr. Hyde’s earlier designs. Hyde with the assistance and resources of the Inland Division of General Motors perfected a weapon that became known as the Hyde-Inland. The Hyde-Inland submachine gun was successfully tested, and was adopted as the U.S. Submachine Gun, Caliber .45, M2 on 30 April 1942. A contract to manufacture the M2 submachine gun was awarded to the Marlin Firearms Company. Although the Hyde-Inland submachine gun was adopted as the U.S. M2, few were built. Delays and many problems were encountered with the manufacture of the weapon; as a result less than 500 were produced before the contract was cancelled. The U.S. M2 was officially declared obsolete on 14 June 1943. (See the article: U.S. M2 Submachine, Small Arms Review, volume 4, number 10, for more information on the .45 M2). Another Hyde-Inland design the T-20 was successfully tested and eventually adopted as the U.S. M3 submachine gun. The M3 would serve as the standard submachine gun of United States during the remainder of World War II and for many years after.

Only five known examples of the T-2 still exist, two are in private collections.


The T-2 was found superior to the M2 in two areas, semiautomatic fire accuracy and the mud immersion test. During the mud test the Auto-Ordnance T-2 remained operative, while the Hyde M2 would not function at all. The cyclic rate of the .45 caliber T-2 was from 600 to 640 rounds per minute, with a low of 544 RPM. The T-2 proved to be very stable when firing in the full-auto mode, but the performance of the Hyde M2 was slightly superior. It was noted that the T-2 had greater felt recoil and a more pronounced muzzle climb than the Hyde M2. In the full-auto accuracy tests the Hyde M2 once again proved to be superior. The Hyde M2 scored 99 out of 100 hits, whereas the T-2 scored 80 out of 100 hits on target. The target used for the test measured 6-feet x 6-feet at a range of 50 yards. During the semiautomatic fire test the T-2 proved to have a slight advantage over M2. The Auto-Ordnance T-2 fired in semiautomatic from a closed-bolt position, giving the weapon a slight accuracy advantage over the M2 in semiautomatic fire. Another desirable feature of the T-2 weapon was the lack of a selector lever to shift from semiautomatic to full-auto operation. On the T-2 full-auto fire was achieved by squeezing the trigger to its full rearward position. For semiautomatic fire the trigger was only pulled partially to the rear. The weapon could easily be operated in either semiautomatic or full-auto by trigger manipulation after only a brief familiarization period. However, the current design of the mode of fire selector on the .45 caliber T-2 was found to be unreliable.

During the course of the testing, the Auto-Ordnance T-2 experienced 60 stoppages, and 2 parts breakages, as compared to 2 stoppages and no parts breakage on the Hyde M2. It was noted that after 750 rounds the trigger housing on the T-2 had cracked, and that 37 of the T-2’s stoppages were attributed to the trigger housing failure. After the test results were studied and reviewed, an Ordnance Committee meeting held 19 November 1942, recommended that no further consideration be given the Auto-Ordnance T-2, in view of the many disadvantage’s of the weapon when compared to the M2. The 9mm version of the T-2 was not considered or tested by the U.S. Ordnance Department.

The T-2 was a straight blow-back-operated weapon, the bolt cocked the hammer during its recoil stroke, which absorbed some of the bolt’s energy to slow it down. On the counter-recoil stroke, the last 1/32 inch of travel released the automatic sear, which in turn released the hammer, that strikes the firing pin, firing the weapon.

A few objectionable features of the Auto-Ordnance T-2 were noted during the testing. One was that the bolt did not remain open after the last round in the magazine was expended. Another feature was the buttstock was too short and the buttplate was fastened at an angle that permitted the weapon to slide up on the operator’s shoulder during full automatic bursts.

Receiver Markings of the .45 Caliber T2 Submachine Gun


The receiver of the 9mm T-2 was unmarked.

Auto-Ordnance .45 Caliber T-2 Trial notes:

226th Partial Report of Functioning and Mechanical Tests of Machine Guns and Machine Gun Accessories and the First Report on the Thompson Submachine Gun, Caliber .45 T-2. Ordnance Program 5082.

9 September through 11 September 1942
The Proving Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland


Due to the T-2’s construction the weapon could not be mounted in the Frankford Arsenal rifle rest device. The weapon was fired from a makeshift rest for an indication of its accuracy potential.

In the 100-yard test of offhand semiautomatic fire the T-2 fared much better than the M2.

Firearm: Extreme Horizontal, Extreme Vertical, Extreme Spread
Hyde M2: 19.07, 28.87, 31.76
AO T-2: 10.43, 13.66, 15.48

Automatic fire 50-yard range, standing position, target 6x6 feet.

The short stock and buttplate angle contributed to the poor performance of the T-2 weapon.

Hyde M2 99 hits out of 100 rounds fired Average rate of fire 527 rpm
AO T-2 80 hits out of 100 rounds fired Average rate of fire 600 rpm


The T-2 experienced 62 malfunctions compared to 20 malfunctions recorded with the M2. A large portion of the T-2’s malfunctions (37) were due to a cracked trigger housing.

In the standard dust test both the M2 and T-2 functioned equally well. No malfunctions were recorded with either weapon.

During the mud test the T-2 fired normally while the M2 would not function.

Although the T-2 was quite stable during full-auto fire the M2 was found to be superior in this respect.

The complex semiautomatic and full-auto trigger design of the T-2 would probably be unacceptable to the using services.

The Auto-Ordnance T-2 weighed 8.6 pounds with an empty 20 round magazine, this was slightly lighter than the M2 that weighed 9.08 pounds.

Ordnance Recommendations: None

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V6N9 (June 2003)
and was posted online on November 8, 2013


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