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Old June 12, 2002, 11:52 PM   #1
andreb
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1930's Gangster, police and their guns.

Hello everyone,

I'm in the process of bulding a nice wood gun display with a glass cover to put on my wall. The idea is to have 3 guns on this display all of which would be examples of the guns used by the gangsters and the police during Al Capone's days. A Thompson Sub-Machine gun with the drum magazine would definately be there and my question is what was the handgun carried by the Chicago police back than, and was it the same gun Eliot Ness carried? What was the most common handgun used by the bad guys?

In my idea of the final project all the 3 guns would be in the display and each would be associated with a picture of either a gangster (I haven't decided which) holding the Tommy Gun gun or a picture of a police officer or Eliot ness holding the police handgun. The 3rd gun which would be the most commonly used handgun by the Gangsters would also be beside a picture of a gangster holding one.

So, what 2 handguns am I looking for?

Thanks in advance,

André
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Old June 13, 2002, 12:16 AM   #2
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Baddies liked the Colt .45, but not exclusively. Cops were generally issued .38s.

You might need more space:

There were a lot of pocket model .380s carried back then.

The police also used lots of shotguns.
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Old June 13, 2002, 12:21 AM   #3
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Don't forget many professional criminals carried BAR's. Clyde Barrow frequently used one with the stock cut down and a leather strap to fit over his shoulder for concealed carry under his jacket.

The bad guys carried the interesting weapons in most cases. The cops mostly carried revolvers and lever action /bolt action rifles.
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Old June 13, 2002, 12:47 AM   #4
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Chicago Police carried Colt Police Positives until just after WW II, when they switched to Smith & Wesson. At least that's what I've been told.

Elliot Ness supposedly carried a .45 Colt
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Old June 13, 2002, 01:41 AM   #5
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N-frame .38-44's. FIXED sights.

Police Positives, all stripes. K-frame .38's with pencil barrels.

1917's. Both kinds, Coltry and Smith & Western.

Detective Specials. Chief Specials. Fitz Specials.

1911's.

Colt 1903's.

Winchester 1907 Rifles. (Frank Hamer.) 1910's, too.

Remington Model 8's. Gotta have the schnabel fore-end of the older series. (Seen 'em in at least two period pictures.)

Ithaca 37 shotguns, and Winchester 97's. Riot guns, preferably.

Winchester 94's and 95's. (Border patrol. Others, too.)

S'all I can rember at this point. Might think of more. I LIKE Prohibition-era gangster guns.
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Old June 13, 2002, 01:47 AM   #6
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While local police departments were issued .38 Specials, many criminals and the FBI went with the .38 Super on a 1911 platform.
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Old June 13, 2002, 05:09 AM   #7
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Croyance:

This was before my time, but I have read a lot about the era, and while the FBI did apparently issue some .38 Supers, their main handgun from the 1930's until the 1960's, when S&W became more common, was the Colt Official Police. The guy who stated above that the S&W Chief Special was used needs to reflect that this model dates from 1950. The similar looking Terrier (.38 S&W, not .38 Special) was used in the '30's. But the front sight in that era, as with very early Chiefs, was the old "half nickel" shape, not the later ramp.

Also, some need to distinguish between the Colt Police Positive and the Police Positive SPECIAL, with a slightly longer frame, and using .38 Special ctgs.

Robert Stack used an Official Police in playing Ness in the TV series. The real Ness may have used a .45. Noticed that Stack later carried a Python in some TV movie where he played a guy being stalked by a crook. Maybe the actor just likes Colts.

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Old June 13, 2002, 09:18 AM   #8
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Bonnie Parker loved her hump-backed automatic shotgun, either Remington 11 or Browning Automatic 5. Pictures of her abound menacing with that badboy and chawin on a stogie!
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Old June 13, 2002, 10:09 AM   #9
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The better 1911 to display would be a pre-war .38 Super. It was prefered by good and bad guys alike because it was more likely to penetrate car bodies and bullet-proof vests. I believe John Dillinger's primary handgun was a Colt .38 Super as well.
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Old June 13, 2002, 11:09 AM   #10
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Colt's Super .38 did not appear until 1929. JD would have to be pretty high on the list to learn about its fabled qualities and get one before he was gunned down about 1934.
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Old June 13, 2002, 12:15 PM   #11
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Lone Star,

"Colt Official Police."

THAT'S the one I meant.

Problem is, I don't know much of squat about Colt revolvers...
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Old June 13, 2002, 02:27 PM   #12
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The Infamous Hoosier carried whatever he could get a hold of. He was seen with various pistols.

I have an uncle who was walking by the Warsaw, Indiana police station (on his way back from the movies) when JD threw the police chief down the stairs and stole a bunch of guns from the PD. Associates also stole from state armories.

I have no information of JD using a .38 super. The only reference I specifically remember was in Elmer Keith's book where it mentioned it should be used by lawmen. (Isn't it funny that the "magic sword" myth continues throughout history).

Lawmen in the Midwest also favored the Winchester self-loading rifle in .351 and .401 and Springfield 1903.
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Old June 13, 2002, 02:33 PM   #13
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Someone once posted a graphic of the guns captured from the "Dillenger Gang"

Among the items was a full auto converted 38 auto with an extended mag and rigged front grip (ugly looking beast), sawed off browning shotguns, Colt 45 autos, Colt 25 and 32 autos, Colt New Service models, a Tommy Gun, brass knuckles and lord knows what else.

Looked like a very mixed bag.

I recall also that Bonnie and Clyde were bushwhacked with .351 Remington self loading rifles.
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Old June 13, 2002, 03:33 PM   #14
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Dr. Rob-

That .351 was a Winchester, much favored by Border Patrol in Col. Askins's tenure with them. Ranger Frank Hamer had a Remington; I think in .30 or .35 Remington caliber when he shot down Bonnie and Clyde. Don't know what the other lawmen used. Some could have had .351's.

Oddly, I have a book on Indian hunting in the 1920's and '30's by a British officer who used a Winchester .351! Guess the guns got around. Also, Kenneth Anderson used a Winchester M95 in .405 on man-eating tigers and leopards.

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Old June 13, 2002, 04:16 PM   #15
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There are numerous accounts of Texas Rangers having been armed with Model 95 Winchesters in .30-40 Krag prior to World War I.
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Old June 13, 2002, 04:41 PM   #16
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At least one of the lawmen was armed with a BAR. I saw a re-enactment that was shot in the months following the shooting, thanks to the History Channel. The BAR gunner was firing from the shoulder, standing up. Takes a lot of sand to do that.

Funny thing, though. The lawmen who participated in the shooting also starred in the re-enactment. And, they didn't seem too sorry that Bonnie and Clyde bought it.

Different times, I guess.
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Old June 14, 2002, 02:19 AM   #17
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Lone Star - I agree that most police, including the FBI went with revolvers, first in .38 Special and then what became known as the .357 Magnum. But the .38 Super became famous, or infamous from this time. The story goes that the FBI wanted a semi-auto that could shoot through steel car doors like the .357 Magnum goes. It became famous enough so that guys like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler featured them in their writing.
So I mention the .38 Super for the perception. After all, how many actual hippies were there in the sixties? And to hear tell, the entire generation was at Woodstock.
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Old June 14, 2002, 09:06 AM   #18
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I don't remember Dashiel Hammet talking about .38 Super, but I do remember him talking about the Webley Fosberry in .38 ACP. That's what his partner (Miles Archer?) was whacked with in "The Maltese Falcon."

As for the penetrating car bodies, yes, that was a concern. So much of a concern that it led to:

1. Winchester and Remington both developing metal piercing ammunition for .38 Super, .38 Spl., and .45 Auto.

2. Helped fuel the development of the .38/44 Heavy Duty.

3. Also helped fuel the development of the .357 Magnum.
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Old June 16, 2002, 12:23 PM   #19
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An original nickle-plated Colt 1911 in .38 super.

A Thompson .45 with a drum magazine.

A Colt Official Police in .38 S&W or special.

And throw in a Colt 1903 in .32 acp as most gangsters carried one as a backup.
 
Old June 16, 2002, 06:27 PM   #20
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My father-in-law encountered Bonnie and Clyde many moons ago, on his way home from school in Commerce Oklahoma on the Missouri border. He said they were outside the bank they'd robbed, shooting everyone in sight. He hid behind a trash can to save his life. Those two weren't just thieves, the were psychopaths. And Bonnie sure didn't look like Faye Dunaway!

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Old June 16, 2002, 07:17 PM   #21
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A good book on the subject is "The Gun That Made the Twenties Roar"

I read it in the 70s, and before posting this I did a search, and to my surprise, I found the beast!

http://www.rutgersgunbooks.com/Thompson.shtml
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Old June 17, 2002, 08:59 AM   #22
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Speaking of that photo of Bonnie & Clyde's assortment of weaponry (with the Franken-1911), does anyone have a copy of it or a link to it? I've been trying to find a copy, and haven't had any luck...
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Old June 4, 2005, 07:29 AM   #23
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Dear André!

If I were you I would buy following items:

The Chicago Police Department used in the 1920's/30's .38 special Colt Commando and Police Positive revolvers, but original specimens are expensive and really hard to get... You can garnish such a Colt with an old (!) silver CPD Patrolman star or a pair of handcuffs.
Prohibition agent Eliot Ness carried a .38 Colt Detective Special (take care of a "first issue/generation" model, which were produced from 1927 - 46!). (As a nice completion, would be a badge of the Bureau of Prohibition the best thing that you can do. You can buy one in the "Cop Shop" in the internet.)
Prohibition agents also used automatic pistols (Colt .45) and sawed-off shotguns. (I'm not sure which kind of shotgun (make/model) they are really used - but I believe they carried Winchester 1897 pump-action shotguns with cut down barrels.)
I’ve heard from an agent of Ness' squad (Barney Cloonan), who carried a .45 Smith & Wesson. (I think they mean a M 1917 revolver, but this is only a supposition.)
The general expectation that Ness and his revenuers used Tommy guns is a myth. (One reason for that are the exaggerate Tommy gun fights with the Robert Stack/Eliot Ness part in the old black and white 1960's TV series.)
The real Eliot Ness never carried such a Thompson 1927 A-1 (SBR) submachine gun. He always carried his .38 Colt Detective Special and if necessary a sawed-off shotgun.

I hope I could help you a little bit!

Best regards,
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Old June 4, 2005, 07:51 AM   #24
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My father hjas a picture of his father with Al Capone

Granddad had a break open hammerless .32 revolver and a sawed off shotgun.

Uncle Al was not visibly armed
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Old June 4, 2005, 04:52 PM   #25
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I dare say Dasiel wrote of the WW1 era 455 Webley-Fosberry. My choices would be a 4" Colt Police Positive in 38 Short Colt. A nickel plated 1911 in 45 ACP with ivory grips. A cut down BAR OKA, a Whippet. A Winchester 97 pump shotgun.
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