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Thompson Model 1921.

The Thompson or "Tommy" gun is a type of submachine gun invented by former US Army officer John T. Thompson in the 1910s.


Although patented in 1915 with the name of "Annihilator" and developed with the declared purpose of being supplied to the Allied armies in the Western Front, the first units weren't completed until 1919 and thus too late to be used in World War I. The gun was later released to the civilian market in 1921 by Thompson's Auto-Ordnance Company as the "Thompson Submachine Gun", making it the first gun to be labelled as submachine. The Thompson quickly became a symbol of the Prohibition era because of its widespread use by both gangsters and law enforcement, particularly in Chicago. A number of Thompson guns also found their way to Ireland where they were used late in the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) and in the subsequent Irish Civil War (1922-1923) that followed.

Season 2[]


A crate of Thompson guns in the Atlantic City Armory. ("Two Boats and a Lifeguard")

Having been informed that the man that tried to kill him in June 1921 was Vito Scalercio, a Chicago hitman linked to Al Capone, Nucky Thompson sets a meeting in the Atlantic City Armory with Capone's boss Johnny Torrio and New York City crime boss Arnold Rothstein. On his arrival, Nucky finds a guardsman checking crates from the Auto-Ordnance Company full of Thompson submachine guns. The guardsman tells Nucky that his guests are waiting in the lunch area and Nucky asks him for a favor. He bribes the guardsman to lie to the federal agents following him by telling them that he was there but left immediately with Eddie Kessler, his driver and butler. Nucky looks at the guns and jokingly wonders if they are expecting an attack. The guardsman explains that there are 3,000 of the guns in the basement, all of them war surplus. He jokes that Eddie’s Kaiser chickened out of the war earlier than expected. Nucky goes inside and Eddie goes back to the limousine to provide the decoy, calling the guardsman an asshole under his breath. Nucky sees the opportunity later on and orders his Irish enforcer Owen Sleater to set a meeting for July 1 in Belfast, Ireland with Irish Republican Army cell leader John McGarrigle. ("Two Boats and a Lifeguard")

Using the recent death of his father Ethan Thompson, a native of Ireland, Nucky smuggles a dozen Thompsons and their respective magazines from the Armory in a coffin under the pretense that he is travelling to bury his progenitor in the land of his birth. Nucky presents the guns to McGarrigle calling them his "donation to the rebellion" and tells him that he intends to trade the remaining 3,000 for Irish whiskey. To his surprise, McGarrigle seems horrified and uncooperative, and only agrees to pass Nucky's proposition to the IRA leadership.


Nucky demonstrates the power of the Thompson gun. ("Battle of the Century")

Later on, Nucky shows the power of the Thompson gun by blasting a grandfather clock to pieces in the presence of some of McGarrigle's colleagues including Daniel Fitzgerald, Bill Neilan and Patrick, all of whom appear to be more enthusiastic than McGarrigle. Nucky tells them that the gun holds 50 .45 calibre rounds per magazine. He hands the weapon to Sleater who gives it to Neilan. Nucky says that it is nicknamed “ the trench broom”, for obvious reasons. Neilan gives the weapon to Patrick who says that with a few thousand of the guns they could fight all the way to Buckingham Palace. Fitzgerald assumes that Nucky invented the weapon, given their shared surname. Nucky is momentarily discombobulated but dismisses the link as a happy coincidence. Neilan wonders how Nucky got hold of the weapons and Nucky simply says that they are American made and that he is an American. The mood is broken, however, when McGarrigle arrives at the place and announces that the British have offered a truce and Sinn Fein politician Éamon de Valera is travelling to London to negotiate for the establishment of an Irish Free State - a British dominion, not full independence. The IRA's reactions vary between disbelievement and rage. McGarrigle, however proclaims his support for the idea believing that it is the time for peace. Fitzgerald muses to Nucky that McGarrigle's behavior owes to the fact that his son was killed in battle a month before and he is grieving.

During the night, Nucky insist McGarrigle again with his offer. McGarrigle marvels at Nucky’s proposal to trade arms for whiskey. Nucky comments that he does not have the funds available to buy the liquor. McGarrigle insults Nucky by wondering if he even has access to the guns and says that Nucky has only proven that he has a dozen and performed a stunt in a field with one of them. Nucky wonders if McGarrigle can afford to decline his offer and McGarrigle says that it is his to live with if he does. Nucky is perturbed by his stubbornness and looks back at Sleater. Nucky argues that Britain has given no considerations in the run up to peace talk; no prisoner releases, further troops in Ireland, weapons seizures and threats of martial law. McGarrigle asserts that one side must take the lead if the fighting is to stop. Nucky criticises this as a strategy that puts McGarrigle’s people at risk. McGarrigle says that the risk is worthwhile eliciting a sigh from Nucky. Nucky reminds McGarrigle that he was helpful when McGarrigle was in need and wants McGarrigle to reciprocate. McGarrigle doubts Nucky’s belief in his cause and wonders if Nucky has considered the lives that his automatic weapons will cost. McGarrigle believes that Nucky is without conscience. Nucky angrily demands honesty and says that whenever men like McGarrigle need to win a conflict they will turn to those who can deliver. Defeated, Nucky leaves the table and asks Sleater to take him back to the farm where he has find accommodation.


Nucky's first dozen smuggled Thompson guns for the IRA. ("Battle of the Century")

The next day, Nucky and Owen leave the farm in the presence of McGarrigle and his colleagues. Sleater holds the door of the car open for Nucky as McGarrigle says that Nucky is heading back to America. Nucky observes that he is empty handed and McGarrigle says that Nucky will doubtlessly land on his feet. McGarrigle’s driver stands behind Nucky. Wary, Nucky says that he is not so sure. McGarrigle says that he thought all Americans were optimists and Nucky says that Irish Americans are not. McGarrigle laughs and wags his finger at Nucky. Nucky is surprised to find Neilan waiting in the car for him. Neilan invites him to sit; Nucky glances at Sleater who gives a slight nod. McGarrigle asks Neilan to see Nucky safely to the port and Neilan promises to do so. Neilan taps on the door and Sleater pulls away. Nucky glances at Neilan, but rather than him it is McGarrigle who is shot by Patrick as the car drives away. Patrick stands over the body and fires again. Neilan is expressionless throughout and then announces that Nucky will deal with him from now on. He offers to exchange 1,000 machine guns for 10,000 cases of whiskey, without negotiation. Nucky looks at Sleater and then nods agreement. ("Battle of the Century")

In a matter of days, Nucky floods Atlantic City with cheap, but high quality Irish whiskey, hurting his rival's finances and political power. ("Georgia Peaches")

Season 3[]

Some of Gyp Rosetti's men carry Thompson guns during his first take over of Tabor Heights, New Jersey. Rosetti's first intention is to cut off the liquor trade route between Nucky Thompson and Arnold Rothstein, but later also uses the location to hijack a shipment for himself, resulting in the death of 11 of Mickey Doyle's men.  ("Spaghetti and Coffee", "Bone for Tuna")

Chalky White mentions that the Rosetti men who have invaded Atlantic City in June 22, 1923 are patrolling the streets with Thompsons. ("Two Imposters")

Several Thompson guns are used during the following 6 days mob war in Atlantic City. Al Capone uses them to execute a group of bootleggers linked to Rosetti, and Rosetti-Masseria's men use them to take over Mickey Doyle's warehouse, firing on the guards from running automobiles. Capone and Chalky White's gangs also use them when they ambush the convoy transporting Joe Masseria's 31 remaining men back to New York City. ("Margate Sands")

Memorable Quotes[]

  • Daniel Fitzgerald: "And you invented it Mr. Thompson."
    • Nucky Thompson: "Beg your pardon?"
    • Daniel Fitzgerald: "The Thompson gun?"
    • Nucky Thompson: "No. Just a happy coincidence."


Season two appearances
21 Ourselves Alone A Dangerous Maid What Does the Bee Do?
Gimcrack & Bunkum The Age of Reason Peg of Old Two Boats and a Lifeguard
Battle of the Century Georgia Peaches Under God's Power She Flourishes To the Lost
Season three appearances
"Resolution" "Spaghetti and Coffee" "Bone for Tuna" "Blue Bell Boy"
"You'd Be Surprised" "Ging Gang Goolie" "Sunday Best" "The Pony"
"The Milkmaid's Lot" "A Man, A Plan..." "Two Imposters" "Margate Sands"

External links[]