This past April (2001), the Ft. Meade Rifle and Pistol Club tested "green" (lead free) ammunition for suitable, accuracy and function. I took my trusty Bridgeport 28, with a Cutts Compensator, as one of the test weapons. Generally, the green ammo shot a little higher due to the lighter weight bullet and larger powder charge. But that is not my purpose for this article.

As the testing wound down, I was asked if I had brought a handgun and holster. I said I only had my Thompson. John Pepper said "Close enough - come on down and do the practical pistol class." Excluding John, I was the only non-pistolero. Yes, this was going to be interesting, but I had been battle hardened by two of Tracie's shoots. Since we were all testing the green ammo, it took a little time to develop the aim points for the steel pepper poppers. For those of you with a Freudian orientation, my aim point turned out to be what I visualized to the crotch area. I have no idea what it means, but that's when the poppers started dropping damn near every time (unlike Chris Griffins which I can never get to fall over - - just kidding, Chris).

The coarse had three stages, and my memory is a little hazy, so some details are most likely a little in error. The shooter on stage three would first use a knee on a simulated attacker (any question of the target for the knee? I will say there was not enough padding on the attacker for my knee), then shove him back with a hand to the face, so he could be shot. As soon as the shooter on stage three shot the attacker, the shooters on the two other stages could start engaging their targets. The stages were separated by thirty feet and the only movement was on stage three which was away from the first two stages, so there were no fratricide problems.

Stage one was shooting through a one foot square opening that sat at ground level. My biggest problem was keeping my hat out of my line of sight. My thirty round magazine performed the additional duty of mono-pod. There were two clusters of four poppers each and a stop plate. Stage two was shot seated with another two cluster of four poppers and a stop plate. For stage three, after you shoot the bozo you just did the "hand-to-hand" with, you have a fast walk to the barricade 30 feet to the side. Did I mention the two targets to shoot at along the way? The idea was to keep them ducking and kill them when you were safely behind the barricade. After blowing those two poppers away, there was another cluster of four to deal with. The final barricade was another 30 feet to the side. You're almost finished, but you have an interesting double popper to defeat. The plate in back is a terrorist--you hit it, it falls and leaves the hostage standing--a highly desirable outcome from the perspective of most hostages. However, if you hit the hostage, it falls over and takes the terrorist with it. Nine out of ten hostages prefer the former outcome.

I had several advantages. My ten inch barrel was generating a couple of hundred feet per second more muzzle velocity, so I could still down a popper with a marginal shot. My estimate was that I used approximately the same number of rounds as the 1911's, but my misses were a lot faster. I had a much longer sight radius. I was not affected as much by the lesser accuracy of the green rounds. I only had to reload after thirty rounds--in fact, I never had to use all thirty round on any stage. An advantage of more than 4 to 1 in capacity. Finally, I was able to knock over targets on the move. Nobody was more surprised by that than I was!

So what happened? A typical stage one time for a 1911 was 12 to 15 seconds; I was in the 6 to 8 second category. Reloading and reengaging a missed target dominated the lost time for the 1911's. For stage two the story and times were essentially the same. Stage three was an eye opener. First, two popper were down before I reached barricade one! As on stages one and two, the clusters were easy for the Thompson -- 2 to 3 seconds to down them. The hostage/terrorist popper should have been a problem, but the Thompson's weight and accuracy kept the burst on target. Never once did I hit the hostage. One minute was a good time for the 1911's; my 1st time was 31 seconds. One tip given to me after the shoot was to spray and pray the clusters--take the cluster down with one burst. That certainly would have worked on the first two stages where I had plenty of ammunition in the magazine. On the third stage, I don't know if the reload time (Thompsons lose the reload race badly to the 1911's) would have cost more than that gained from the spray and pray. Maybe next time I'll have the answer.

I don't think this is the definitive answer to the debate, but even given enough room to maneuver the 10 pound beast and a little distance (20 = feet) to the intended--I'll take General Thompson's trench broom!