THE HUDSON MODEL M1A1
In late November of 1999 I stumbled across an M1A1 offered for sale on Ebay. This item had been accepted by Ebay for listing as it was a "model" of the M1A1 and was incapable of firing (or being made to fire) live ammunition. The description of this item indicated the model was an exact replica of the M1A1, had been manufactured in Japan by a company named Hudson, and was made completely from wood and metal. As the model contained no plastic parts it weighed in at a hefty 11.5 pounds. The description also hinted that this model (or ones like it) had been used in the filming of the movie Saving Private Ryan, though no provenance could or would be provided to substantiate this claim. One of the pictures of the M1A1 accompanying the written description contained six (6) "blanks" that could be loaded into the 20 round magazine for additional realism. See Figure (1). The written description further hinted that these "blanks" "might possibly" be made to function with the model M1A1, though the author was unsure what would be required to make them do so. At the conclusion of the auction I was not the high bidder, so I wrote the seller to see if he had (or could locate) a second model for sale. By Christmas of 1999 1 had received my own Hudson model M1A1. I had also become thoroughly captivated by its design and intrigued with its probable method of function. I set off on a search for the "caps" required to make the model functional, a search that would take more than 5 months and many hours on the Internet to complete.
Using the keywords "model guns", "Hudson", and "blowback design" led me to a website that provided me with my first insights to "replica guns". As gun ownership in Japan is strictly controlled (only the police and the military are afforded this privilege), Japanese civilians with an interest in weapons may only own nonfunctional models or replicas. These models come in two basic types - (1) replicas that operate like real ones, but cannot shoot projectiles, and (2) Air Soft guns which can shoot projectiles (plastic BBs) but do not function like real guns. Research on the Internet suggested that some of the model guns similar to mine end up in the United States because they are used by movie production companies in lieu of using the real weapons. Use of the real weapons entails special permits, on site armorers, possible injury from mishandling or misuse, and extensive dealings with agencies and individuals not terribly prone to worrying about the production company's problems. Use of model weapons eliminates most of these difficulties. Current movie production company techniques allow any desired sounds to be added later.
Replica guns are generally made of wood and zinc die-cast parts. The bore of the weapons is completely sealed together with a hardened steel insert and the internal workings of these models are often copied after their original counterparts. My M1A1 would seem to fall into this category. While the barrel is solid, this can only be determined upon close inspection. The model is marked on its right side just above the fixed sight - "Auto Ordnance Corporation, Bridgeport Connecticut USA" but contains neither patent numbers nor a serial number. On the left side just beneath the rear sight the gun is inscribed "Thompson Submachine Gun Caliber 45 M1A1 W.G. Hudson No". The model is also marked just above the appropriate levers - "fire ---- safe" "full auto ---- single."
I should note for the record that these models are not generally imported from Japan into the United States. To meet current federal guidelines, all imported models must have the registered trademarks removed and each weapon's barrel has to be fitted with an international orange plug. I have fashioned an orange plug for MY model but have not yet filed off the trademarks. The 20 round magazine that accompanied the M1A1 again appears from a distance to be real. While only six (6) "blanks" were supplied with the model, the magazine will hold a total of 20. If I have any complaint at all about my own model it centers on the magazine catch. The magazine catch spring is quite loose and the magazine has a habit of disengaging" when being fired. I have found it necessary to hold the magazine in place in order to keep it from falling out when the model is fired. No instructions accompanied this model but a picture of its component parts was supplied, in the event, I suppose, that replacement parts were needed. See Figure (2) Perhaps someone with a good working knowledge of the M1A1 will be able to compare the parts used in this model's construction (and their probable function) with those found in a real Thompson.