By Frank Iannamico
Thompson enthusiast Tracie Hill founded the Thompson Collectors Association in 1990. From its humble beginnings it now boasts over 250 members worldwide. Since the association’s debut a lot of information and knowledge regarding the Thompson has been exchanged through the TCA’s newsletter. The monthly newsletter provides a format for members to share information as well as advertise any items that they may want to sell or trade. You don’t have to own a Thompson to join the Thompson Collectors Association; all that is required is an interest in this legendary weapon.
The TCA annual show and shoot is held each August in Ohio. It is a family oriented event that attracts members from all over the country. For members that live in the western part of the United States TCA member Don Hall puts on a similar “western” Thompson event each year in Chloride, Arizona- a quaint semi-ghost town.
To complete the research for my new book on the military Thompson Submachine Gun, I knew that I would have to attend the Thompson Collectors Association’s annual shoot and show. I had been a member of the association for several years, and always planned to attend one of the events, but time never allowed me to do so. This time it was different, I HAD to in order fully complete my research.
I made my motel reservations early in the year and marked my calendar. When August finally rolled around, I packed my toothbrush and Thompson and off I went destination Newark, Ohio. When I arrived in Newark I was pleasantly surprised, it was NOTHING like Newark, New Jersey. The area was very nice, it was a beautiful summer day and I was attending a machine gun event what could be better?
Tracie Hill, author of the book “Thompson; The American Legend, the First Submachine Gun” (a must read for the Thompson enthusiast) still heads up the Thompson Collectors Association. Tracie also has quite an impressive Thompson collection, which he regularly displays at major gun shows. Tracie and the TCA have done much to legitimize machine gun ownership through their work with the National Rifle Association, and with their historical world-class Thompson Submachine Gun exhibitions.
The TCA’s annual meet begins on a Friday and concludes Saturday evening. There is a safety meeting held on Friday night that you must attend in order to be eligible to participate in the shoot on Saturday. As it should be, safety is paramount at this event. The remainder of the first day was spent looking at all the impressive displays put on by the members, there were also many Thompson items offered for sale. The 2000 square foot display area featured 17 separate displays on 25 tables. Displayed were Thompsons, accessories and memorabilia.
On Saturday morning all of the members gathered at the Newark Police range for the shoot. Tracie has established a good rapport with the Newark Police Department, and the TCA members are the only civilians permitted to use the range. Newark officers even volunteer their time to run the range for the affair. For those members that want to participate, but don’t have guns, many members offer to “loan” their Thompsons to allow them to compete. There were a total of 56 shooters competing in the contests.
TCA range officer Sutton Coffman gave a briefing on the rules of the shoot, again insisting on complete adherence to the safety regulations. The first leg of the contest was timed semi-automatic fire at silhouette targets, this was followed by full-auto fire at varying distances. Everyone tallied their scores and moved on to the next event, the pepper popper shoot. In this contest two shooters compete head to head. Sutton gave a briefing on just what the object the event was, and how we were to proceed. In the pepper popper event there are five targets for each shooter to engage. Your weapon must be fired on full-automatic during the contest. Each individual target must go down before the next one is engaged. The first shooter to knock all his/her targets down in order wins, and he or she moves on to the next round until one by one all of until all of the shooters are eliminated except one. The targets are well balanced and require a good solid burst to knock them down. The competition is quite challenging and fast paced, each individual contest is usually over in just a few seconds.
I must interject at this point that I personally am not very fond of formal, regimented timed events with rules, although I am ALWAYS safety conscious. My idea of having a good time with a submachine gun is generally just going out into the woods with only one or two other shooters, setting up targets and blasting away. But, I must admit that I had a great time at the TCA pepper popper shoot, even though I didn’t win. I am looking forward to competing again at the next shoot.
Some informal shooting at the range followed the formal contests for the benefit of those who don’t normally get a chance to do much shooting. A few members are from states where machine gun ownership is restricted, and they don’t often get the chance to “play” with a Thompson.
After the shoot concluded everyone returned to their motel rooms to freshen up for the informal dinner. We all gathered at a local restaurant where Tracie had a private table reserved for us in the back room. After a good meal and talking Thompsons. Tracie gave out the awards for the winners of the shoot. The highest score of the silhouette competition was turned in by Phil Askew, followed by Sherman Kirkland. Winners of the steel pepper popper shoot were; first place Kevin Brubaker and runner up Lelan Whitmire. After the dinner everyone returned to the display area. At this point the ladies were afforded a “Ladies night out”. This was an opportunity for them to briefly escape from Thompsons, by attending a play in a downtown Newark theater. In the interim back at the show, a fund raising auction of Thompson memorabilia was held. After the auction the members elected a new board of directors. The election results were; Tracie Hill President, Tom Woods Vice President, L.J Warren Treasurer, Directors elected; B. Sutton Coffman, Chuck Klien, Lee Wolfe, Dave Dillon and Lyle Wescott. These aforementioned folks put forth a lot of effort in putting on not only the annual TCA event, but also with the Thompson displays they do throughout the country. They do a very professional job and do a lot of very positive things to enhance the public’s perception of the class III collector.
The 2000 TCA meet had 73 attendees which kept the event at a personal level, Tracie was the only person at the event that I previously knew, but by Saturday I had made a lot of new friends.
For more information about joining the Thompson Collectors Association write to;
P.O. Box 8710
Newark, Ohio 43055
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V4N10 (July 2001)|