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On the Side of Law and Order: The Story of Thompson Gun SN 9468

By Tom Davis, Jr.

The Thompson submachine gun is known by countless names around the world, such as the Tommy Gun, the Chopper and the Chicago Piano. Approximately two million of these weapons have been manufactured, the great majority between 1940 and 1943. The first ones, manufactured by Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company in 1921 and 1922, form an exclusive family of 15,000 different members—and stories.

Serial Number 9468 is a member of that special family. Manufactured in early 1922, it was promptly placed in storage at the Colt factory in Hartford, Connecticut, for the Auto-Ordnance Corporation (AOC). As previously documented by authors such as Frederic A. Willis, James F. Bannan, Roger A. Cox, Tracie L. Hill, Douglas W. Richardson, Gordon Herigstad and Frank Iannamico, General Thompson’s dream of a hand-held automatic weapon was not an immediate financial success. Given today’s popularity and prices for original Colt Thompsons, it is almost inconceivable that the last Colt guns were finally sold by AOC in 1940. What makes SN 9468 unique is that it lived at Colt’s on two separate occasions. But let’s not get ahead of the story.

Like all of the 15,000 Colt guns, SN 9468 was originally manufactured as a standard Model 1921 Thompson gun—without a compensator. The option for a Cutts Compensator did not arise until 1927, when AOC signed a contract for the exclusive license of the Cutts Compensator in the United States with inventor Richard Cutts. What immediately followed was the introduction of the Model 1921AC Thompson gun—with a compensator. The nomenclature of the standard Thompson gun was changed to Model 1921A. The AC nomenclature change was only noted on the AOC paperwork and not marked on the guns.

SN 9468 was removed from storage at Colt’s in 1933 and sold to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office in Port Clinton, Ohio, under the leadership of Sheriff D.L. Cullenen. In a letter dated March 12, 1929, a new AOC salesman named E.E. Richardson told of a business trip to the Port Clinton area to meet with local...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N1 (January 2018)
and was posted online on November 17, 2017

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