Umarex Thompson M1A1 Part 2
The devil is in the detail
By Dennis Adler
WWII-era M1A1 Thompson SMGs are expensive. Auto-Ordnance still makes the .45 ACP models as semi-autos for a lot less, and those run $1500 to a little over $2000, depending upon the version; M1 Carbine, M1A1-style SBR, or Tanker Model, but the only way to get a select-fire version today, outside of purchasing an original WWII model or an older Auto-Ordnance model, (they built select-fire versions up until 1986), doing the paperwork, (this applies to the new Auto-Ordnance M1 SBR which approximates the M1A1 with a short 10.5 inch barrel), federal background check and transfer fees ($200), is to opt for air and get the Umarex Legends M1A1, which is to say, at this moment in time, the ultimate CO2 subgun on the market. Sorry MP40, this is a much cooler American subgun. There is literally nothing you can say about the look of this new Umarex model that is not positive. Like I said in Part 1, even the wood finished plastic stock, pistol grip and forearm are the most realistic looking pieces ever. Would I like to see a version with real wood? Absolutely, but that would probably raise the price at least another $100 (like the Springfield Armory M1 Carbine). As it stands, as a new 2020 model, there is nothing missing and I can’t think of a better way to kick off the year than with a model that has been on just about every Airgun Experience reader’s wish list for years.
The M1A1 Experience
Recreating famous American and European guns as CO2 pistols, rifles, and the very specialized semi-auto and full auto submachine guns used in WWII, has given airgun enthusiasts what are arguably the most famous designs of the 20th century in a form that can be appreciated for authentic details and enjoyed for sports shooting and collecting. But the historical imperatives of these guns can never be overlooked, the German MP40 was a response to the M1A1 Thompson (and earlier Thompson models), as an example, and both saw service in WWII by the early 1940s. Both are also made today as semi-auto centerfire guns, so the designs are not obsolete, but rather make the CO2 models all the more significant.
The WWII era Thompson was easier to handle than its predecessors. As a select-fire submachine gun sharing ammunition with the Colt Model 1911A1, ammo supplies in the field were easier to manage, and though heavy at 10 pounds (empty), it was handier than some heavy rifles, and perfectly designed for close quarter battle situations, especially where U.S. forces found themselves fighting an urban war from building to building, and block by block liberating cities under German occupation.
The M1A1’s fixed battle sights were optimal at 50 yards. The gun had an overall length of 31.9 inches with a 12-inch barrel. It was actually fairly compact. The Umarex Legends M1A1 measures 31.75 inches with a 12-inch barrel, and comes in a little lighter than the WWII model at 7.75 pounds.
Now, let us look at that in comparison to the German MP40 and Umarex MP40 CO2 model. In overall length the MP40 submachine gun measured 32.8 inches with the folding metal stock extended, 24.8 inches with the stock folded, and weighed in at 8 pounds 13.8 ounces empty. Barrel length measured 9.9 inches. The Umarex is very accurate in these details and no lightweight at 7 pounds, 14 ounces empty. The air rifle’s overall length with the stock extended is 32.75 inches and 24.5 with the stock folded. The smoothbore .177 caliber barrel is 9.0 inches and recessed inside a correct length 9.9 inch outer barrel with a full size muzzle. Overall, more than close enough considering the number of different factories that built MP40s during WWII. In effect, the two famous submachine guns of WWII, the M1A1 and MP40 are very much equals, with an advantage going to the M1A1, which could be fired either semi-auto or full auto, whereas the WWII MP40 was full auto only, making it difficult to control, and fired 9x19mm rounds, vs. the Thompson’s heavy hitting 230gr. hardball .45 Auto. As airguns, the M1A1 and MP40 are also equals.
The operation of both guns is of similar design and both use the dual CO2 (back-to-back) system which makes the magazine into an air chamber once the seating screw and O-ring seal are tightened down. Both have a 30-round capacity and both use a reciprocating blowback action. The differences are in the respective designs, the folding metal stock on the MP40 and use of early plastics (Bakelite) for the pistol grip and foregrip of the original guns, vs. walnut on the M1A1, the charging handle for the MP40 being located on the left of the receiver, the M1A1 on the right, giving right- or left-handed users respective advantages for operation.
It is fair to say that the new Umarex M1A1 benefited greatly from the development of the MP40 as a CO2 model in 2017, and at some point a head-to-head test will be done. But for now, let us fall into a new level of “BB gun mania” with the best WWII era CO2 airgun yet.
In Part 3 the first velocity and handling tests begin.