St. Louis Police Unload 27 Tommy Guns

The Chicago Typewriter. The Trench Broom. The Tommy Gun. The Chopper. The M1928A1. Whatever you call the Thompson submachine gun, it has a storied past that reminds us all of the Roaring 20’s and the gangsters who used them. Auto-Ordnance and other companies make civilian reproductions these days, but if you ever wanted to get your hand on a vintage, full-auto version, now’s your chance. The St. Louis Metro Police Department has decided to sell 27 of their 29 Thompson submachine guns, along with some old Beretta 92s and patrol carbines.

The 1921 Thompson Model C with the 100 Round Drum Magazine.

The 1921 Thompson Model C with the 100 Round Drum Magazine.

The St. Louis Metro Police recently requested an increase in their budget, but have found that they might not get the needed additional funding. With the opioid epidemic sweeping across the Midwest and elsewhere, St. Louis is in need of purchasing more Narcan for overdose cases, increasing fire department funding, and all the other budgetary constraints that go into governing a big city in America. The SLMPD, unfortunately, has aging sidearms and the need for many new officers. So, the police department is looking to fund their own armory purchases, with the auction of outdated and retired service weapons.

The SLMPD collected over 100 Thompson submachine guns chambered in .45 ACP from the 20’s through the 40’s, paying just $125 for each of them. Of the 29 Tommies that remain, some included in the sale are very rare models, such as 1921 and 1927 models manufactured by Colt. They also have some of the new military models issued in 1941. The police purchased the Tommy guns to keep up with the increasing firepower of the gangsters of the era, such as Al Capone and the infamous Giordano crime family. In fact, St. Louis was one of the few police department that was better armed than the criminals at the time, getting their hands on the automatic .45 ACP Thompsons before the bank robbers of the era. They eventually retired the Thompsons in the 1960’s when they upgraded to the more modern carbine systems. In storage they stayed, collecting dust, until 2014 when the police department decided to sell them.

Modern semi-auto versions of the the Thompson can be had, even with violin cases.

Modern semi-auto versions of the the Thompson can be had, even with violin cases.

The original sale fell through, though, as fears that the required tax stamp process would delay the sale and minimize the profits. Three years of budget constraints and aging weapons later, the SLMPD found a new solution. Working with Gun Trades to broker the deal, the police department is selling the firearms outright to Midwest Distributors for a flat fee. Midwest will then handle the the individual sales and auctions, netting them a big profit. The police are also working with Police Trades to broker the sell off over 1,700 of their Beretta 92s and .223 Remington patrol carbines to Bill Hicks & Co., another firearms distributor. The combined sale should net the police department $1.2 million, allowing them to purchase 1,500 new Beretta APX handguns and a large amount of patrol rifles. The SLMPD also plans to keep two of the Tommy guns for display in the Police Academy, for posterity’s sake.

Original Thompson machine guns are highly sought after and hard to find. Since the National Firearms Act (NFA) in 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968, automatic firearms have been highly regulated. New full-auto Thompsons are no longer produced, so only the models before 1968 are available. Many are held up in private collections or have been destroyed. Because of this, there are few on the open market and most fetch $15,000 to over $30,000 not including the required $200 BATFE tax stamp. Hopefully, with 27 new rifles joining the pool, it may be easier to get your hands on one. If that price is too steep for you, you can always try one of the semi-auto versions from Auto-Ordnance or Thompson.

Think you might try to get one of these Thompsons? Do you already own a Tommy gun? Let us know in the comments!

40 Comments On This Article

  1. I have an original M1928-A1 Bridgeport Thompson. Had if for over 11 years now. Prices they are quoting above for the Thompson market are pretty low. A nice Bridgeport (meaning original Auto Ordnance Corp. and NOT Neumrich Arms of NY) will run $27 – 30K and an original Colt made Auto Ordnance M1921 would easily fetch $38 – 40K or more depending on condition and history. Would really like to see how much these are going to sell for and how to get one.

  2. I own one of each military model, but would be interested in getting one of the rarer ones, as long as it’s in good condition. Though a police department may or may not have taken the best care of their weapons, I don’t imagine they got a lot of “field” time, so they should be in pretty good shape.

    On occasion, the FBI would call upon one of my father’s Army buddies when they needed to track and catch a dangerous criminal in eastern Tennessee. They’d give him a Thompson (which is what he carried in the Pacific) and off he’d go. Too bad they only loaned it to him. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, of course, you could find them pretty easily, anyway. Oh, well.

  3. Different article I’ve read about these guns said they would be selling for around $24,000.00 each. Small price to pay, if you have this kind of money. Sure wish I had hit that $435 million Lottery, and, I’d make a deal directly with the St Louis PD, myself. I’d give them $1.5 million for them…

  4. There are under 200,000 transferable (available for public ownership) MGs left in the U.S. The fact that they bothered to register them rather than hand them over to the ATF to be cut in 1986 is amazing. As with anything that is irreplaceable and collectible, they are worth whatever someone else is willing to pay for them…I imagine they will bring whatever SLPD asks. As MG collectors know, a finite quantity of something means it will only ever go up in value.

  5. Congress created a seller’s market when it capped the supply in 1986, but did nothing to limit demand. Not just for Thompsons, but for all automatic firearms. It is heartening to know that there are still caches of original Thompsons squirrelled away in some PD somewhere. Hopefully, also BARs.

    • 9mm is crap. Let’s go with 40 cal, 10 mm, and (duh) 45 cal. Even 38 Special +p or 44 Special. Troops who have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan who have shot guys with the 9mm doesn’t work. The troops have to shoot the enemy 8, 9 10 times to put him down. That leaves few rounds to engage a second enemy. The troops are pissed because of a under powered pistol cartridge.

      • It’s the 9mmFMJ that’s the problem.
        9mm with a modern JHP bullet has no problem.
        But if you have to shoot a FMJ like the military must, then I’ll take a 45 every time thank you.

      • Yea that might be true due to NATO ball ammo they have to use in battle. But loaded up with modern HP defense loads much different out come. Even the FBI is considering going back to the 9mm.
        The seals have been more than happy with it, I’m guessing special commando units are able to use more leathal loads.
        The 9mm is more than enough stopping power with correct defense ammo and shot placement.
        And if your worried about capacity you can always slam home a 33 rounder for the maximum load out scenario.
        But some will never get it or accept this, and that’s OK to each his own.
        9mm is cheap to train with and training means efficientcy and the better trained the better the outcome. And let’s not forget copacity in a Glock.
        There is a reason why the Seals go with Glock and go with the 9mm.
        Look up Jeff Gonzales a ex Navy seal with Tricon concept Inc, evolved training and research it.
        Made it plain as day for me to understand.

  6. Rodger McDonald, Benbrook,Tx

    I just called the SLMPD and spoke with an Officer. The PD is not the people who are selling them. They are being sold thru a 3rd party and I may be wrong but I’m guessing that they will go to the highest bidder.

  7. And of course the “middlemen” will make an exorbitant profit because the City of St. Louis is run by the same type of people as Chicago and Detroit. Once again, the tax payers of St. Louis will get screwed by not getting the maximum amount for the guns. Someone is getting rich and it won’t be the city!

  8. Mike, Spring Branch, TX.

    Rodger from Benbrook is correct. It’s a mater of supply and demand. Small supply and a high demand. Any gun lover would probably give a leg for one of these or at least a foot. I would. (For the Colt model)

  9. A local dealer appraised the department’s collection in 2014 at $770,000. It includes rare 1921 and 1927 Colts and a model made in 1942.

    Kentucky-based Midwest Distributors will pay $22,000 for each of the department’s 27 Tommy guns, which makes up the bulk of the $618,500 the company is spending to buy the department’s surplus weapons.