Gangster Gats: Bonnie & Clyde

They don’t think they’re too tough or desperate,

They know that the law always wins;

They’ve been shot at before,

But they do not ignore

That death is the wages of sin.

‒ Bonnie Parker, “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” (1934)

 

On 23-MAY-1934, a posse of lawmen led by Texas Highway Patrol Special Investigator Captain Frank Hamer caught up with the murderous outlaw Clyde Barrow and his girlfriend Bonnie Parker near Mount Lebanon, Louisiana. They were shot dead from ambush as they drove on Highway 154 in an automobile. Their stolen 1934 Ford Model 40 Type 730 Fordor Deluxe Sedan became the Death Car. The marauding Bonnie & Clyde had practically lived in the vehicle. When searched by the law enforcement officers, the Ford turned out to be a rolling armoury.

SD_GG_BC

Remarkably, the exact contents of the Death Car have proven to be rather elusive, especially regarding the weapons found in it. I had previously attempted to list the inventory in GURPS Tactical Shooting (2011) (p. 80) and the Cthulhu ‒ Waffenhandbuch (2008) (p. 281). However, I have decided to go back to contemporary sources to try to make sense of the different modern accounts.

Press Photo

I will start with this public relations photo taken in front of the Arcadia Court House on the same day of the ambush (23-MAY-1934). It clearly shows only part of the inventory. The man on the left holding a 5-round stripper clip of .30-06 Springfield cartridges is Bienville Parish Deputy Sheriff A.B. Rogers.

SD_Gangster Gats 1_2

The photo shows from left to right, top to bottom:

  1. 12 20-round magazines for the Colt M1918 BAR.
  2. US Army 6-pocket cloth bandoleer holding 12 5-round clips of .30-06 Springfield cartridges.
  3. Colt M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) in .30-06 Springfield.
  4. US Army 6-pocket cloth bandoleer holding 12 5-round clips of .30-06 Springfield cartridges.
  5. Three Colt Government (M1911) semiautomatic pistols in .45 ACP.
  6. Remington Model 11 semiautomatic shotgun in 16-gauge 2.75” with sawn-off barrel and stock. [The gauge is impossible to say from the photo, of course, but knowing they had one in 16-gauge and one in 20-gauge, you can tell that this is the one with the larger bore.]
  7. Colt New Service revolver in unknown calibre.
  8. Assorted ammunition, including a few .32 ACP and .380 ACP cartridges, around 50 loose .45 ACP cartridges, three 50-round boxes of .45 ACP cartridges, 12 5-round clips of .30-06 Springfield cartridges, and 31 16-gauge 2.75” shotshells.
  9. Eight 7-round magazines for the Colt M1911.
  10. 7-round magazine for the Colt M1911 and two 20-round magazines for the Colt M1918 BAR.
  11. Colt M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) in .30-06 Springfield.
  12. US Army 6-pocket cloth bandoleer holding 12 5-round clips of .30-06 Springfield cartridges.
  13. 12 20-round magazines for the Colt M1918 BAR.
  14. US Army 6-pocket cloth bandoleer holding 12 5-round clips of .30-06 Springfield cartridges.

 

Condensed:

  1. Two Colt M1918 BARs in .30-06 Springfield.
  2. 28 20-round Colt M1918 BAR magazines.
  3. Remington Model 11 semiautomatic shotgun in 16-gauge 2.75” with sawn-off barrel and stock.
  4. Three Colt Government (M1911) semiautomatic pistols in .45 ACP.
  5. Nine 7-round Colt M1911 magazines.
  6. Colt New Service revolver in unknown calibre.
  7. At least 1,192 rounds of ammunition (assuming all magazines and guns are loaded): 296 rounds of .45 ACP, 860 rounds of .30-06 Springfield, and 36 rounds of 16-gauge 2.75”.

Ted Hinton Film

Soon after the last shots had died down, Dallas County Deputy Sheriff Ted Hinton took his 16-mm Bell & Howell camera and produced a silent black-and-white film of the Death Car; the still below is from that film. The film shows:

  1. Three Colt M1918 BARs in .30-06 Springfield.
  2. Two Remington Model 11 semiautomatic shotguns with sawn-off barrel and stock, one of them visibly of smaller bore, ie, in 20-gauge 2.75”.
  3. Three Colt Government (M1911) semiautomatic pistols in .45 ACP.
  4. Colt New Service revolver in unknown calibre.

SD_Gangster Gats 1_1Ted Hinton Interview

Hinton said in a 23-MAY-1934 interview that was published the next day in The Dallas Dispatch: “In the back of the car we found three machine rifles, two automatic shotguns, 10 automatic pistols and 1500 rounds of ammunition.”

  1. Three full-automatic rifles.
  2. Two semiautomatic shotguns.
  3. 10 semiautomatic pistols.
  4. 1,500 rounds of ammunition.

Frank Hamer Interview

Hamer is summarized in a 23-MAY-1934 interview with the St Louis Post-Dispatch: “In the wrecked car were three army rifles, two sawed-off shotguns, a dozen pistols and large quantities of ammunition, besides Bonnie Parker’s machine gun [sic].”

  1. Three rifles as used by the US Army.
  2. Two shotguns, sawn-off.
  3. Auto-Ordnance Model 1921 Thompson submachine gun in .45 ACP. [This is what is invariably meant by the term “machine gun” at the time. However, Bonnie & Clyde probably never owned one. The quoted text originated from a journalist, indicating a mix-up or fabrication.]
  4. 12 handguns.
  5. Large quantities of ammunition.

Frank Hamer Report

Hamer was interviewed by Walter Webb shortly after the shooting on 04-JUL-1934. The account was eventually published in The Texas Rangers ‒ A Century of Frontier Defense (1935): “The examination … revealed that the car was nothing but an arsenal on wheels. Its inventory included:

3 Browning automatic rifles        Cal. 30

1 sawed-off shotgun Gauge 16

1 sawed-off shotgun Gauge 20

1 Colt automatic pistol      Cal. 32

1 Colt automatic pistol      Cal. 380

1 Colt revolver, double action     Cal. 45

7 Colt automatic pistols    Cal. 45

100 machine gun clips [sic] of 20 cartridges each

3000 rounds of ammunition scattered all over the car.”

 

Condensed:

  1. Three Colt M1918 BARs in .30-06 Springfield.
  2. 100 20-round Colt M1918 BAR magazines.
  3. Shotgun in 16-gauge 2.75”, sawn-off .
  4. Shotgun in 20-gauge 2.75”, sawn-off.
  5. Seven Colt Government semiautomatic pistols in .45 ACP.
  6. Colt Pocket Hammerless semiautomatic pistol in .380 ACP.
  7. Colt Pocket Hammerless semiautomatic pistol in .32 ACP.
  8. Colt New Service revolver in .45.
  9. 5,000 rounds of ammunition. [This includes the 2,000 rounds in the BAR magazines.]

First Henderson Jordan Interview

Bienville Parish Sheriff Henderson Jordan gave a short interview to the Associated Press on 23-MAY-1934, in which he said: “In the car we found three submachine guns [sic], two automatic sawed-off shotguns, four .45-caliber automatic pistols, two .38-caliber automatic pistols and one .45-caliber revolver, also a large quantity of ammunition.”

  1. Three Auto-Ordnance Model 1921 Thompson submachine guns in .45 ACP. [This is clearly just imprecise terminology and he actually meant Colt M1918 BARs, since Bonnie & Clyde probably never had even one submachine gun.]
  2. Two semiautomatic shotguns, sawn-off.
  3. Four semiautomatic pistols in .45 ACP.
  4. Two semiautomatic pistols in .38[0 ACP]. [He may have meant .38 ACP or .38 Super Automatic, but other sources confirm that at least one of the Pocket Hammerless pistols was a .380 ACP; although the other was in .32 ACP, they look the same.]
  5. Revolver in .45.
  6. Large quantities of ammunition.

Second Henderson Jordan Interview

Jordan was cited in a much longer interview for True Detective that appeared in NOV-1934: “In the lap of Clyde Barrow was a sawed-off 16-gauge automatic shotgun. His right hand was curled around the shortened stock … In ‘Bonnie’s’ [sic] lap was a .45 caliber automatic pistol … Between the pair was another automatic shotgun. On the floor of the car was a bag containing forty clips [sic] for a Browning automatic rifle. Three rifles of that type were in the rear of the car. All were loaded. Under a robe on the rear seat were ten automatic pistols and one revolver, all fully loaded. Three bags and a box contained more than two thousand rounds of ammunition.”

  1. Three Colt M1918 BARs in .30-06 Springfield.
  2. 43 20-round Colt M1918 BAR magazines.
  3. Two semiautomatic shotguns, one in 16-gauge 2.75” and sawn-off.
  4. 11 semiautomatic pistols, at least one a Colt Government (M1911) in .45 ACP.
  5. Revolver.
  6. More than 2,860 rounds of ammunition, including the 860 rounds in the BAR magazines.

Modern Sources

In the many modern sources on Bonnie & Clyde, the details are perhaps even more confused.

Gordon Frost and John Jenkins

Frost and Jenkins were the first to mention a 10-gauge shotgun, quoting Hamer from Webb in I’m Frank Hamer ‒ The Life of a Texas Peace Officer (1968), p. 233:

“The examination … revealed that the car was nothing but an arsenal on wheels. Its inventory included:

3 Browning automatic rifles        Cal .30

1 sawed-off shotgun Gauge 10 [sic]

1 sawed-off shotgun Gauge 20

1 Colt automatic pistol      Cal .32

1 Colt automatic pistol      Cal .380

1 Colt revolver, double action     Cal .45

7 Colt automatic pistols    Cal .45

100 machine gun clips [sic] of 20 cartridges each

3000 rounds of ammunition scattered all over the car.”

 

Condensed:

  1. Three Colt M1918 BARs in .30-06 Springfield.
  2. 100 20-round Colt M1918 BAR magazines.
  3. Shotgun in 10-gauge 2.875”, sawn-off . [Frost and Jenkins cite Webb as their source, yet in Webb’s list there is no 10-gauge gun. This is clearly a clerical error.]
  4. Shotgun in 20-gauge 2.75”, sawn-off.
  5. Seven Colt Government semiautomatic pistols in .45 ACP.
  6. Colt Pocket Hammerless semiautomatic pistol in .380 ACP.
  7. Colt Pocket Hammerless semiautomatic pistol in .32 ACP.
  8. Colt New Service revolver in .45.
  9. 5,000 rounds of ammunition. [This includes the 2,000 rounds in the BAR magazines.]

Charles Askins

Askins “quotes” [he seems to have edited the list] Hamer from Webb in The Gunfighters ‒ True Tales of Outlaws, Lawmen, and Indians on the Texas Frontier (1970), pp. 240-241:

“The examination also revealed that the car was nothing but an arsenal on wheels. The inventory included:

3 Browning Auto Rifles   Cal .30-06

1 sawed-off Winchester Mod 12 [sic]   Gauge 16

1 sawed-off Winchester Mod 12 [sic]   Gauge 20

1 Colt New Service revolver   Cal .45

7 Colt automatic pistols Model 1911   Cal .45

1 Colt automatic pistol   Cal .380

1 Colt automatic pistol   Cal .32

100 loaded magazines for BAR

3,000 rounds of assorted rifle, shotgun and pistol ammunition.”

 

Condensed:

  1. Three Colt M1918 BARs in .30-06 Springfield.
  2. 100 20-round Colt M1918 BAR magazines.
  3. Winchester Model 12 shotgun in 16-gauge 2.75”, sawn-off.
  4. Winchester Model 12 shotgun in 20-gauge 2.75”, sawn-off. [These two latter guns are definitely incorrect, since the Winchester Model 12 is a pump-action. It is probably a mix-up with the Winchester Model 11, which is a semiautomatic shotgun similar to the Remington Model 11. The mistake was not Hamer’s but Askins’, who also mentioned the Winchester Model 11 elsewhere in his book.]
  5. Seven Colt Government (M1911) semiautomatic pistols in .45 ACP.
  6. Colt Pocket Hammerless semiautomatic pistol in .380 ACP.
  7. Colt Pocket Hammerless semiautomatic pistol in .32 ACP.
  8. Colt New Service revolver in .45.
  9. 5,000 rounds of ammunition. [This includes the 2,000 rounds in the BAR magazines.]

Thomas Swearengen

Swearengen gives some specifics on one of the Remington Model 11s in The World’s Fighting Shotguns (1978), pp. 320-321:

Remington Model 11 semiautomatic shotgun (#1011722) in 20-gauge 2.75”, stock sawn-off, barrel sawn-off to 41.1 cm (16.2”).

SD_Gangster Gats_1_3

Swearengen also mentions a Winchester Model 1901 in The World’s Fighting Shotguns (1978), pp. 177-178:

Winchester Model 1901 lever-action shotgun (#72767) in 10-gauge 2.875”, barrel sawn-off to 50.1 cm (20”). [This is supposedly Clyde Barrow’s weapon as mentioned by Frost and Jenkins in I’m Frank Hamer. However, this is nowhere to be seen on the original film and photos, which clearly show two Remington Model 11s. It is also never mentioned by the shooters in their early testimonies. This lever-action is usually depicted on a photo together with Frank Hamer’s own Remington Model 11 Police Special used in the ambush and a sawn-off Remington Model 11 supposedly taken from the Death Car. If the Winchester had actually been owned by Barrow, then it had almost certainly been confiscated by lawmen on an earlier occasion, perhaps on 18-JUL-1933 in Platte City, Missouri, or on 24-JUL-1933 at Dexfield Park, Iowa. However, it also may be have been one of Hamer’s personal guns and wrongly attributed to Barrow. Despite Swearengen’s claim, it does look like a factory Winchester Model 1901 Riot gun rather than a sawn-off weapon, as evidenced by the bead sight, making it less likely that it was a Barrow weapon and more likely that it was owned by Hamer.]

James Ballou

Ballou gives the following contents list in Rock in a Hard Place ‒ The Browning Automatic Rifle (2000), pp. 86, 88:

  1. Four Colt M1918 BARs in .30-06 Springfield. [The fourth is almost certainly the one borrowed by Hinton from the Texas National Guard, used by him in the ambush, and visible in the film lying on the roof of the car, ie, this is erroneously attributed to the contents.]
  2. 75 20-round Colt M1918 BAR magazines.
  3. Remington Model 11 semiautomatic shotgun in 20-gauge 2.75”, sawn-off. [The second shotgun is missing from this account.]
  4. A large number of Colt Government (M1911) semiautomatic pistols in .45 ACP.
  5. Colt New Service (M1917) revolver in .45 ACP. [This is probably supposed to be the Colt New Service (M1909) mentioned elsewhere. The M1909 and M1917 look identical.]

John Phillips

Phillips gives the following contents list in Running with Bonnie and Clyde ‒ The Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults (2002), p. 207:

  1. Three Colt M1918 BARs in .30-06 Springfield.
  2. 100 20-round Colt M1918 BAR magazines.
  3. Two shotguns, sawn-off.
  4. Seven Colt Government semiautomatic pistols in .45 ACP.
  5. Colt semiautomatic pistol in .38[0 ACP]. [This appears to be a clerical error.]
  6. Colt Pocket Hammerless semiautomatic pistol in .32 ACP.
  7. Colt New Service revolver in .45 “purchased for Commerce, Oklahoma City Marshall Percy Boyd.”
  8. 3,000 rounds of ammunition.

[This has been mainly taken from Hamer’s report in Webb’s account.]

Jonathan Davis and James Knight

Davis and Knight give the following contents list in Bonnie and Clyde ‒ A Twenty-First-Century Update (2003), p. 167:

  1. Three Colt M1918 BARs in .30-06 Springfield.
  2. 100 20-round Colt M1918 BAR magazines.
  3. Two shotguns, sawn-off.
  4. Nine Colt semiautomatic pistols in three different calibres.
  5. Colt revolver in .45.
  6. 3,000 rounds of ammunition.

[This has been taken from Hamer’s report in Webb’s account.]

John Henwood

Henwood gives the following contents list in The Great Remington 8 and Model 81 Autoloading Rifles (2003), p. 264:

  1. Three Colt M1918 BARs in .30-06 Springfield.
  2. 100 20-round Colt M1918 BAR magazines.
  3. Remington Model 11 semiautomatic shotgun (#1011222) in 20-gauge 2.75”, sawn-off.
  4. Winchester Model 1887 lever-action shotgun in 10-gauge 2.875”, sawn-off. [This is probably supposed to be the Winchester Model 1901 mentioned above. The Model 1887 and Model 1901 look identical.]
  5. Seven Colt Government (M1911) semiautomatic pistols in .45 ACP.
  6. Colt Pocket Hammerless semiautomatic pistol in .380 ACP.
  7. Colt Pocket Hammerless semiautomatic pistol in .32 ACP.
  8. Colt New Service (M1917) revolver in .45 ACP. [This is probably supposed to be the Colt New Service (M1909), see below.]
  9. 5,000 rounds of ammunition, including 2,000 rounds in BAR magazines.

[This appears to be taken mostly from Hamer’s report in Webb’s account, with the 10-gauge shotgun added and Henwood’s own calculation of the ammunition.]

Jeff Guinn

Guinn gives the following contents list in Go Down Together ‒ The True Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde (2009), p. 343:

  1. Three Colt M1918 BARs in .30-06 Springfield.
  2. Two shotguns, sawn-off.
  3. Almost a dozen handguns.
  4. Thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Conclusion

My best estimate from all of the above sources would be this:

  1. Three Colt M1918 Browning Automatic Rifles (BAR) in .30-06 Springfield (7.62×63mm) (GURPS High-Tech: Pulp Guns 2, p. 11; Investigator Weapons 1: The 1920s and 1930s, pp. 63-64). [This can be seen in Gary Hoffman’s Bonnie & Clyde: The True Story (1992) and Bruce Beresford’s Bonnie & Clyde (2013).]
  2. At least 28 and as many as 100 20-round magazines for the Colt M1918 BAR.
  3. Remington Model 11 semiautomatic shotgun in 16-gauge 2.75” (16.8×70mmR) (GURPS High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 23) with sawn-off barrel and stock (GURPS High-Tech, p. 106; Investigator Weapons 1, p. 76). [This shotgun is mentioned by former associate W.D. Jones in his detailed statement to the Dallas County Sheriff on 18-NOV-1933 as Barrow’s favourite: “Clyde Barrow also had a sixteen-gauge automatic shotgun with a sawed off barrel strapped to his body and concealed under his overcoat …” In an interview that appeared in the NOV-1968 issue of Playboy Jones again high-lighted this gun: “Clyde had a sawed-off 16 gauge automatic shotgun along with him all the time. It had a one-inch rubber band he’d cut out of a car-tire inner tube attached to the cut-off stock. He’d slip his arm through the band and when he put his coat on, you’d never know the gun was there. The rubber band would give when he snatched it out to fire. He kept his coat pocket cut out so he could hold the gun barrel next to his hip.”]
  4. Remington Model 11 semiautomatic shotgun (#1011222 or #1011722, probably the latter) in 20-gauge 2.75” (15.6×70mmR) (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 23; Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 82-83) with sawn-off barrel and stock. [This is sometimes claimed to be Parker’s weapon, but most accounts agree that both shotguns were located on the driver’s side, muzzle down.]
  5. Seven Colt Government (M1911) semiautomatic pistols (#164070 and six others) in .45 ACP (11.43×23mm) (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, pp. 17-18; Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 37-38).
  6. At least 10 7-round magazines for the Colt Government (M1911).
  7. Colt Pocket Hammerless semiautomatic pistol in .380 ACP (9×17mm) (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 15; Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 40-41).
  8. Colt Pocket Hammerless semiautomatic pistol in .32 ACP (7.65×17mmSR) (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 15; Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 40-41).
  9. Colt New Service (M1909) revolver (#148261) in .45 LC (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 9; Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 39-40).
  10. At least 2,000 rounds and as many as 5,000 rounds of ammunition. The minimum assumes 28 BAR magazines loaded with 560 rounds and around 1,500 loose cartridges. The maximum assumes 100 BAR magazines loaded with 2,000 rounds and 3,000 loose cartridges.
  11. Dunrite Bullet-Proof Vest (High-Tech, p. 66; Investigator Weapons 1, p. 49). [This was hidden in the headliner and not discovered until 1936, hence it is missing from most of the accounts.]

 

The Colt M1918 BARs and Colt Government (M1911) semiautomatic pistols as well as most of the ammunition had been accumulated in several burglaries: on 19-APR-1933 in the National Guard armoury of Plattville, Illinois (three BARs, five pistols, large amounts of ammunition), on 07-JUL-1933 in the National Guard armoury of Enid, Oklahoma (five BARs, 46 pistols, 10,000 rounds of ammunition), and on 19-FEB-1934 in the National Guard armoury of Ranger, Texas (four BARs, 13 pistols, large amounts of ammunition). Many of the stolen weapons had to be abandoned when the police closed in, while others had been cached with accomplices or even just dumped in the woods. The Colt New Service (M1909) revolver, US Army surplus, had been the issue sidearm of Police Chief Percy Boyd in Commerce, Oklahoma. Clyde had robbed it from him on 06-APR-1934. The origins of the shotguns and small-calibre pistols are mostly unknown. They had bought one semiautomatic shotgun, possibly the 20-gauge, in Shreveport, Louisiana, in MAR-1934.

 

Related posts:

Gangster Gats: Fred “Killer” Burke

Gangster Gats: Cleaver Gang

Gangster Gats: Dillinger-Nelson Gang

Gangster Gats: “Pretty Boy” Floyd

Gangster Gats: Purple Gang

 

 

 

 

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