There are a number of classic guns that simply feel “right” when you pick them up. They feel more like an extension of yourself than an addition. I’m talking about the Colt .45 Peacemaker, the 1911, and the Tommy Gun. Granted, a lot fewer people in modern days have had the privilege of shouldering a real .45 Thompson Machine Gun. But I can tell you from experience, when they do it, they instantly feel the connection. Although it’s not full auto or .45, the Standard Manufacturing G4S rekindles that feeling.
The Standard Manufacturing G4S Tommy Gun
I was in my mid-20s the first time I picked one up and started emptying stick and drum magazines in full-auto. It was amazing. To be honest, the gun was a little too long for me. I also found it to be considerably heavier than most of the carbines I was accustomed to shooting.
But the feel of the polished wood, the balance, and the amazing lack of recoil won me over instantly. Guns like this aren’t simply mass-produced, injection-molded hunks of plastic. They are the products of craftsmen, and both their beauty and utility stand the test of time.
New Tommy Take
Standard Manufacturing in New Britain, Connecticut, knows a thing or two about American craftsmanship. They were inspired by the look and feel of the old Tommy Gun of yesteryear, but they wanted to create a modern gun.
First, they dropped the caliber down to .22 LR to make it affordable and fun to shoot. Next, they kept the price down by foregoing the classic, polished wood stock and grip. However, they kept the milled receiver and metal magazines and designed the gun with some serious heft, just like the original.
The forend needed a little updating because these days we like to add red-dot sights, lights, lasers, bipods, and all kinds of accouterments to make it more fun. Likewise, the stock was based on the collapsible M4-style stock. Finally, it was given a thumbhole-style grip and a slotted charging handle on top.
The G4S has a vertical safety lever that also locks the bolt to the rear in the top position. Click it down one position, and it releases the bolt to go forward but keeps the gun on “safe.” Click it down to the bottom position, and it is on “fire.”
This is a lot different from the original Thompson, which had a rotating safety that had to go 180 degrees forward to go to “fire.” It had a second rotating selector switch to go from semi to fully automatic fire.
Also, the original Thompson fired from an open bolt, so when the trigger was pulled, the bolt slid forward, loaded a round, and fired it. Because the G4S fires from a closed bolt, it is nice to have a way to lock the bolt to the rear for cleaning, checking if it is safe and empty, and clearing malfunctions.
Getting Better with Age
Why doesn’t the G4S fire from an open bolt? Open bolt systems are used primarily in sub-machine guns that fire fully automatic. These guns get hot a lot faster than semi-automatic guns. So, holding the bolt open allows airflow so the barrel and chamber can cool faster.
However, because the guns are firing literally as the bolt is slamming into place, they tend to be less accurate. Is this a problem? Not really. If you are using a shoulder-fired weapon on full-auto, you are either at pretty close range, or you are wasting ammo.
The advantage of a closed-bolt system like the G4S is it has increased accuracy and less chance of external fouling from dirt and debris falling into the chamber.
The magazine release on the G4S is also radically different from the traditional Thompson. It sits in the same place on the left side of the receiver above the trigger, but instead of being spring-loaded and pushed upward to release the mag, it swings down 90 degrees to “lock” the magazine into place.
To change the magazine, you swing it back up and pull the magazine out of the side horizontally. The old Tommy Gun stick mags slid up from the bottom in the way we think is normal today. The drum mags slid in horizontally from the left side. On the G4S, both the stick and drum magazines slide in horizontally from the left side.
They have two offset aluminum tabs that slide into slots in the receiver before the magazine catch is rotated down to lock it in place. It takes a little getting used to, and it is not fast.
My solution: Forego the 10-round stick magazines, load up the 50-round drums and keep plinking away. Both styles of magazines are easy to load.
The G4S turned out to be as fun to shoot as the traditional Thompson. My one overriding complaint is this .22 was made for adults. Now, I stand a solid 5-foot, 6-inches with my lifts and a stiff, cold breeze blowing up my skirt.
When I collapsed the stock all the way, the gun fit me pretty well. But as I moved the six-position, collapsible stock out, it became obvious that this gun was made for the Paul Bunyans and Amazons of the world. The G4S was not made for Hobbits. The traditional Thompson fits me exactly the same.
Shooting it felt great. I forgot to bring a vertical foregrip to attach to the forend, but it feels like it was made for one. It also feels like it should be shot from the hip as often as possible, perhaps while sneering, “Keep the change, you filthy animal!” A fedora is a must. I draw the line at a three-piece suit, but personal mileage may vary.
Before I started my plinking session that ran through most of the .22 ammo I hoarded over the last three years, I began with an accuracy test. I mounted an EOTech Vudu SR-1 1-6x scope on top.
This has recently become my favorite tactical scope because of its unique ability of its first-focal-plane reticle. That allows it to function well as a red dot at low power and then have its mid-dot reticle bloom into view for hold-overs and windage when magnified.
I shoot a lot of different scopes, and it stands head and shoulders above the normal 1-4x or 1-6x tactical scopes. It is a bit too much scope for a .22, but I like to give every gun the benefit of the doubt and see how it does with really good glass mounted on it.
The G4S Handled All Ammo Nicely
Ammunition for the accuracy test ranged from normal, cheap plinking ammo to top-of-the-line, almost competition grade. It all functioned great in the gun. I tested it at 25 yards, which is typically pretty far for a .22, but I have taken plenty of rabbits at this distance, so I thought it seemed fair.
I really liked the trigger and how short of a reset it had. The iron sights seemed a bit crude, so I was happy I used a good scope for accuracy. The last round does not hold the bolt open, but that is a common complaint for a lot of .22s. This isn’t a tactical gun, so feeling the gun go “click” instead of “bang” is merely a mild inconvenience.
Other than that, the Standard Manufacturing G4S embodies the very soul of why we love to go to the range, the train tracks, the old pond, the woods, or wherever your happy place for plinking may be. It is one of those guns that make you smile. Likewise, it is the perfect .22 to share with a friend or your dad as you burn through a brick of .22s and create memories of what makes America great. It is a step back to a classic era but with a modern twist.
By the way, my wife, kids, and I have a three-day camping trip planned two weeks from now. The Standard Manufacturing G4S, a bunch of aluminum cans, and a whole lot of cheap .22 shells will be our main entertainment. I will be making awesome family memories that will outlive me. There is no place I would rather be.
For more information, please visit STDGun.com.
Standard Manufacturing G4S Specs
Caliber: .22 LR
Barrel: 16.5 inches w/pinned suppressor
Overall Length: 35 to 38 inches
Weight: 10.5 pounds (empty)
Stock: Six-position collapsible
Sights: Iron front w/channel
Capacity: 10-round stick, 50-round drum
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Tactical Life magazine. Get your copy today at OutdoorGroupStore.com.