By 1939, Auto-Ordnance was thoroughly bankrupt, having about $400 in assets and a debt of more than $1.2 million to the estate of the late Thomas Ryan, it’s original financier. Ryan had died in 1929, but the company shareholders had prevented his estate from forcing the sale of the company for a decade. In 1939 they could hold out no longer, and the company was sold to one Russell Maguire, a high profile corporate raider.
Maguire, however, saw the potential of a submachine gun company on the brink of a new world war, and negotiated a contract with the Savage Arms Company to begin new production of Thompsons (the original Colt guns from 1921 having finally all sold). Orders began to come in from Europe, and new Model of 1928 Thompsons were sold to France, Sweden, and most substantially, the United Kingdom. The US military would also start buying Thompsons in quantity (designated the M1928A1), but the UK orders (paid for in bullion) were a massive source of profits for the company.
Auto-Ordnance would roll some of these profits back into the company, buying an old automotive brake factory in Bridgeport Connecticut and tooling up their own production of receivers and trigger frames to supplement Savage’s production. A number of changes were progressively made to the guns to simplify and speed up their manufacture, including smooth barrels, stamped ejectors, vastly simplified rear sights, and horizontal front grips. By the time the M1928A1 was replaced by the M1 Thompson, more than 1.1 million had been made by AO and Savage combined. The Thompson had at last found it’s purpose!
This is the third of a 5-part series on the development of the Thompson…