The new Thompson Model T5-9L20 carbine from Thompson Auto-Ordnance chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum.
The new Thompson Model T5-9L20 carbine from Thompson Auto-Ordnance is chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum and comes with a 20-round stick magazine. mfg photo

The Tommy Gun is a legendary firearm. Nothing more to say about that. But for as popular as it is, the design hasn’t gotten many modern updates, the way some classic firearms have…until now.

For the first time ever, a version of the Thompson submachine gun is being offered in a centerfire caliber smaller than it’s original .45 ACP chambering.

According to this story from, the Kahr Firearms Group, which owns the Thompson Auto-Ordnance line, introduced the Thompson Model T5-9L20 carbine chambered in 9x19mm this week, complete with an excellent-looking 20-round stick magazine.

“Fans of the Thompson product line have been asking about a 9mm for a number of years,” said Frank Harris, VP of sales and marketing, in a statement. “We really think that this 9mm Thompson is going to be a hit with shooting enthusiasts across the globe.”

Made famous during war, on gangland streets and in Hollywood films, the “Tommy Gun” was a marvel of its day.

Great Guns: The Thompson Submachine Gun

What could there be not to like—the look and feel of a classic Thompson as a non-NFA carbine that you can feed with light-kicking, affordable-to-shoot 9mm? No wonder people have been asking for it.

The receiver is machined from a solid billet of aluminum with walnut furniture. Because the gun is a semi-auto carbine with a 16.5-inch finned barrel and an overall length of 41-inches, it doesn’t require a tax stamp and can be purchased like a normal long gun.

The whole package, including one magazine, has an MSRP of $1,364.

There have only been a couple modern incarnations of the Thompson chambered in anything other than .45 ACP. Thompson produced the Model 1927A3 in the 1990s chambered in .22LR, and the short-lived Volunteer Arms company put out a Thompson-style gun chambered in 9mm called the Commando Mark 9 in the 1970s—but, like the company, it wasn’t around for long—plus it only looked like a Thompson in the vaguest of terms.

The new model from Thompson is an excellent reproduction of the original Thompson Model 28AC, just with a longer barrel and no full-auto selection, in addition to the caliber change.

The St. Louis police department put 30 Prohibition-era Thompson submachine guns on the market—and they’re going fast.

Original Tommy Guns Up for Sale

The Tommy gun was designed during World War I by Brig. Gen. John Taliaferro Thompson in conjunction with Navy Cmdr. John Blish as a weapon that could shift the tide of trench warfare on the Western Front by acting as a sweeper. The Auto-Ordnance Company began producing Thompson submachine guns, chambered in .45 ACP to match the M1911, in 1921 with an initial contract filled by Colt. The fact that the Tommy Gun was chambered for the same round as the 1911 was more of a happy coincidence than anything else. After firing his prototype gun into live cattle and even human cadavers, Thompson determined the .45 was the round that did the most damage and was best suited for his design.

While the submachine guns came along too late to be used in WWI, many were bought and utilized by police departments and gangsters alike during Prohibition, when the distinctive gun with its vertical foregrip, optional drum magazine, and high rate of fire earned its nickname “The Chicago Typewriter” along with an air of infamy.

That reputation was somewhat dispelled when the gun went on to serve admirably alongside the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, and M3 Grease Gun in World War II, during which over 2 million Thompsons were produced.

The company continued making select-fire models until 1986, after which only semi-automatic models have been produced. Kahr has owned the line since 1999.

Watch a longer history of the Tommy Gun here: