Tommy Guns: Prohibition Collector's Items

The Tommy Gun is associated with the Prohibition era and sought after by Prohibition-era ganster culture enthusiasts. Non-firing replicas of the classic Thompson submachine gun are sought by collectors, but perhaps surprisingly, also by prop managers for plays and theatrical presentations. eBay offers a variety of reproductions of this piece of Roaring Twenties history.

Things to know about the vintage Tommy Gun

Replica Tommy Guns are non-firing guns that are modeled after the original classic submachine gun. These guns may have been working models at one time, but they have since had the firing mechanisms removed. It is more common to find a piece that was never designed to fire. Tommy Gun replicas are usually accurate reproductions, with the inclusion of the recognizable round ammunition drum the gun was known for, despite not actually firing. It is also possible to purchase additional round magazines for the replica.

Is a background check required to purchase these used guns?

There is no FFL license or background check required to purchase a submachine gun replica. This is because the replica is not a working firearm: It will not discharge ammunition. Firing mechanisms have been removed from these replicas, and if they appear to be present, they are solely ornamental. A working lower unit or trigger mechanism is what classifies a gun as a federal firearm subject to existing gun laws. As such, these replicas can be shipped right to your home instead of to a licensed firearms dealer.

Uses for a replica Tommy Gun

Tommy Gun replicas have been used in many creative ways. They are sometimes used as props for television and film productions, and they can also be found in historical displays about Prohibition. Collectors enjoy displaying their collectables, and museums may carry them for use in interactive exhibits. The sky's the limit when it comes to replica uses; other applications for a used machine gun replica could be:

  • An educational tool for firearms historians and gunsmiths
  • A decorative piece for a speakeasy or themed bar
  • A cosplay item
  • A prop for vintage photography
  • A display piece for firearms collectors
Are non-firing replica guns legal to own?

In most jurisdictions, there are no restrictions on owning a nonfiring Tommy Gun. There may be some restrictions on where the gun can be taken or displayed. If carried in public, the owner may be required to use an identifying mark on the barrel that indicates the gun is not operational. Buyers should always check their local laws before making a purchase of any used non-functional firearm.