Umarex M1A1 “Tommy Gun” - test & review
- Credit: Archant
Paddy Egan gets first dibs on the Umarex M1A1 Thompson (“Tommy”) Gun in this detailed test & review of an iconic gun that spans history
Here we have the eagerly awaited M1A1 Thompson Gun, known as the ‘Tommy gun’. Umarex already have a model of the M1A1 released in America, but these guns have full auto capability, so they are not legal here in the UK. I contacted Umarex to ask if they had plans to make a model for the UK market, just as they did with the MP40, and they said, ‘most definitely’ and that I would be given the opportunity to try one as soon as they came into the UK. True to their word, the M1A1s became available in the UK on Monday the 27th of July, and I received mine to review on Thursday the 30th. A big thank you to Claire from John Rothery Wholesale, and Bevin from Umarex, for sorting me one so efficiently.
Brief History Lesson
The M1A1 was a further development of the original M192 model invented by John T. Thompson in 1919, and then the M1928, and they were known as the ‘Chicago typewriter’, often seen in gangster movies. They have a ribbed barrel, forward pistol grip, top cocking handle and drum magazine capability, whereas the M1A1 was standardised in 1942 during WW2 when the cyclic rate was reduced, the bolt, barrel, and foregrip all changed, and sights simplified to reduce costs and allow easier production. Even the retention slot for drum magazines was taken out, so only stick magazines could be used with all models chambered in .45 ACP.
Umarex M1A1 Legends
The Umarex model comes in a decorative cardboard box with similar colours of the MP40 and Walther Reign box, and the face of Al Capone. Maybe an American GI would have been more appropriate, considering the model, but that’s just me being a nerd.
All the details and specifications for the model are displayed on the box by way of icons; it is powered by two 12g CO2 capsules and energy is 7.5j; blow-back action, and a high capacity magazine that holds 30 4.5mm BBs. The magazine holds the correct amount of projectiles, too, which adds to the realism, rather than certain airsofts where you have magazines holding 300 BBs.
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Also displayed are the weight and measurements of the model and when you compare the original to the Umarex, the measurements are pretty much spot on. The barrel lengths are 300mm, and the overall length of the Umarex is 808mm, just 2mm shorter than the original. When it comes to the weight, the Umarex model is 1365g lighter than the original which weighs 4800g, but although lighter when you pick up the Umarex model’s 3435g, it does not feel light at all.
Inside the box, the M1A1 sits in its eggshell compartment with magazine, Allen key and manual, which is easy to follow.
The M1A1 comes in a worn finish, which you can tell from the front sight, barrel and on the receiver, and it’s all done very subtly, with no out of place scratches or wear marks, so a great job there.
The hand guard is faux wood, with oblong indents on both sides that feel strong and sturdy, a swing swivel moves freely and has a worn finish, too.
The left-hand side of the central part of the M1A1 has all the components; trigger, mag’ release, and selectors. Push up the bar to release the magazine.
There are two separate selectors with this airgun, just like the original. First is the safety, which is the rear one closest to the stock. Simply turn 180 degrees from SAFE to FIRE and then turn it back 180 degrees for it to be on ‘safe’ again. I am left-handed and use my left thumb to switch it to ‘fire’ with ease – and right-handed people will be able to do it quicker because you don’t have to move your thumb around the pistol grip. The other selector is the ‘fire’ control; FULL AUTO is engraved to the top left and SINGLE to the bottom right. Don’t get excited – the selector is stuck on SINGLE for the UK model due to our rules and regulations, but don’t let that put a downer on it. We are used to controlled bursts of fire, so it’s business as usual.
Below the selector is the magazine release catch, which you push up to move out the pivot that holds the magazine within its long guide slot. I found it much easier using my trigger finger to manipulate the catch, couldn’t get the knack right-handed on how to do it naturally. When the magazine is inserted, there is no play or wobble due to the long magazine guide slot.
On the right-hand side of the M1A1 are a set of markings that clearly indicate that it is an airgun and displays its serial number. I am happy to say that it does not have any new style or any safety warnings plastered on it. (Always read the manual first!).
Moving on to the cocking handle; it is on tight and has no play, so pulling back the handle to full travel is not stiff at all and it gives you a clear view of inside the chamber if you hold on to the bolt. As you let it forward, you can see it in cocked position because the cover is half closed. It is perfectly safe to dry-fire or hold on to the bolt, depress the trigger and allow the bolt to move forward.
The sights are fixed. The rear has both peep and ‘U’ notch incorporated at the top, with triangular protectors on each side, and the front sight has a fixed thick blade.
The M1A1s pistol grip is large and solid on the gun, as is the rear stock, which feels sturdy. The grain looks great and you would only know it is faux wood by holding it, but this does not detract from the airgun because the build quality is excellent and it has an authentic finish. It has a metal stock plate with oversized black stock screws all round – again, nice touch Umarex!
M1A1 out on my range
Before I took it outside to my garden range, I gassed up and loaded with low-ricochet BBs. It was a straightforward affair, undoing the large nut with the supplied Allen key, and inserting two 12g CO2 capsules; neck first for the first one, neck down on the second, pull and hold down the retaining spring and insert BBs. My preference was the Excite Smart Shot because I planned to shoot cans and metal plates as well as paper targets.
Outside and ready to go, with safety glasses and my trusty hat – it was rather sunny. I’d prepared my usual 6-yard (10m) set-up and chosen the appropriate targets. The M1A1 does fit nicely in the shoulder and everything feels sturdy. The faux wood furniture is solid with no undue movement, and as you pull back the cocking handle, you can hear all the mechanical noises, and the sights allow you a clear picture.
I turned the lever off SAFE, on to FIRE and then took my first shot. Boy! Has it got some power! I know it states <7.5j on the box, and sadly I didn’t have a chrono’ available at the time, but you do get accustomed to the sound of BBs or pellets hitting cans or metal plates. You even get accustomed to the time it takes for the projectile to find its target, and this M1A1 sure is up there, and very capable of shredding any can put in front of it!
My initial string of shooting into paper targets was low and left, as it was also on the can. The grouping was rather good and I just wanted to have the full grin factor – this is my happy face! – before I tuned into the airgun, but I continued to blat away for a good while, destroying cans, because I was having too much FUN! That’s what is all about really, isn’t it?
I managed to get five mag’s worth out of the M1A1, which equates to 150 shots from the two initial CO2 capsules I put in. Shooting was a mix of steady, rapid fire and slow, controlled shots. I could tell on the fifth magazine that it would soon be time to change the CO2 and it would not be worth filling a sixth magazine for just a few shots out of it. The trigger is single action, so you have to cock it initially and then the blow-back takes over to activate the trigger for follow-up shots. It is slightly heavy on taking single shots, but not too heavy to let off these rapid, quick succession trigger pulls. The blow-back is nice and sharp, and you can feel it in your shoulder. For the controlled accuracy test, I used fresh a CO2 and the UBC V&O target, which is five shots into each roundel. The grouping was in a straight line on both targets, and a flyer that was down to me because the stock was riding on my shoulder, so bad form on my part with the blow-back.
I put up my first paper target again, sorted out the fundamentals, and didn’t think too hard or put it in a competition theme, and the grouping was much better. On shooting the M1A1, I didn’t have any issues using the Excite Smart Shot at all, due to the straight-line, single-stack feed magazine, which is as solid and sturdy as the rest of the airgun.
All in all, the M1A1 is a cracking airgun for my little shooting sessions, and I plan on doing as much as I can before I send it back. Well done to Umarex, and it complements their MP40 Legends, too. I wonder if Umarex will bring out a Sten, or even a Bren perhaps!
Power Source: 2 x 12g CO2 blow-back
Calibre: 4.5mm (0.177) BB
Magazine Capacity: 30
Trigger: Single action
Barrel: Smooth bore
Barrel Length: 300mm