Investigator Weapons: The Strange Case of Harold Severy

Everything had gone fine until 1915, [Harold Severy] said, when he noticed that people were sticking their tongues out at him. Severy believed that his persecutors had a ringleader, and that lodges had been organized in various cities to torment him. His enemies, he thought, obtained advance information of his whereabouts and plans, apprising each other by underground communications. He tried to escape them by moving from New York to Baltimore, he said, but they caught up with him. Still trying to escape, Severy fled to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Chicago … Returning East, he came to Albany, where his tormentors soon caught up with him and began to cluck their tongues at him. Severy decided finally, he said, that the only way to stop the persecution was to shoot with a … gun.

New York Herald Tribune, “Albany Terror of ʻ16 Dies Mad at Matteawan” (22-JUL-1936)

 

On 01-FEB-1916, 25-year-old Harold Severy, dubbed “Jack the Shooter” by the press, was arrested in Schenectady, New York, for the murder of James Irving and the assault of three others. He had shot them on 28-JAN-1916 in Albany, New York, with a .22-calibre Stevens single-shot rifle without stock that had been fitted with a Maxim Model 1912 sound suppressor and a wire assembly to trigger the shot with the gun concealed up his right sleeve and the wire being pulled by a twist of his right hand.

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Tactical Shooting: Public Enemies

Gentlemen, shortly you will be provided Thompson submachine guns, BARs, and uh, .351 Winchester semiautomatic rifles. We are pursuing hardened killers. It will be dangerous.

– Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Melvin Purvis in Public Enemies (2009)

Michael Mann’s Public Enemies (2009) is but the latest effort to bring the life of infamous bank robber John “Johnnie” Dillinger on the silver screen. It follows his exploits between autumn 1933 and summer 1934, but really concentrates on his affair with gun moll M. Evelyn “Billie” Frechette. As in many other Mann movies, the law enforcement side receives almost equal attention, here in the shape of Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Melvin Purvis. While Mann undertook extraordinary effort to bring the time to life through clothing, automobiles, firearms, and locations, he stuck less rigidly to the historical facts, including the timeline. Events have been moved forward or backward, people have been omitted or changed, etc. It has to be understood that Public Enemies is not really a historical film at all, unlike Bryan Burrough’s meticulously researched book Public Enemies (2004), on which it is based. It is still an excellent movie, not the least because of its awesome score and of course its actors, including Johnny Depp as Dillinger, Christian Bale as Purvis, and Stephen Graham as “Baby Face Nelson.”

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Gangster Gats: James “Mad Bomber” Belcastro, Vampire Hunter?

I recently came upon an article in the Chicago Daily Tribune entitled “Seize 12 in Bomb Factory” (01-AUG-1929). The article recounted the “breaking up” on 31-JUL-1929 of the so-called “Belcastro Gang” in Chicago, Illinois. Its capo James “Mad Bomber” Belcastro was a member of the Gas Fillers and Owners’ Association, one of the many union rackets then in operation. In reality, he was not the boss of an independent criminal gang but a member of Al “Scarface” Capone’s Outfit. He and his men produced and sold homemade bombs. Explosives were used with alarming regularity in the 1920s in Chicago for black mail, disrupting the political process including in the “Pineapple Primary” of 1927, and outright attacks on competitors. Belcastro emerged unscathed of the raids in 1929, was shot and wounded in 1931, but lived on until 1945. He had been arrested more than 150 times but had never been convicted … Read More

Shopping Spree: Bannerman (1927)

Few are the sights that Gotham has to offer

Of greater interest and instructive aid,

Than the rare contents of this famous coffer

From all the earth’s ransacked corners here displayed.

Francis Bannerman Sons Military Goods Catalogue (1927)

 

Between 1865 and 1959, Francis Bannerman Military Goods ‒ from 1918, Francis Bannerman Sons Military Goods ‒ was probably the largest and certainly the most important military surplus store in the entire USA. From 1905, it had its primary outlet at 501 Broadway in New York, New York (GURPS High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 5; GURPS High-Tech: Pulp Guns 2, p. 24; Investigator Weapons 1, p. 25).

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Tactical Shooting: The Way of the Gun

One’s backfire, three is gunplay.

– Joe Sarno in The Way of the Gun (2000)

 

Christopher McQuarrie’s The Way of the Gun (2000) is an imperfect cult movie. Its main characters “Mr Longabaugh” (Benicio del Toro) and “Mr Parker” (Ryan Philippe) are of course named after the famous Hole in the Wall Gang members “Butch Cassidy” (née Robert Parker) and “The Sundance Kid” (née Harry Longabaugh), and there are several references to George Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), including the location where the showdown was shot. Unlike that brilliant Western, the story about two drifters who decide to finally pull a major score by kidnapping a surrogate pregnant woman suffers from plot holes, is irregularly paced, and has a good deal of forced dialogue. However, I have no issue with the dubious moralities displayed; the main characters are criminals and no more reprehensible than other fiction criminals ‒ or indeed, many nominally good guys. On the plus side, the film boasts first-class acting performances by the likes of Benicio del Toro, James Caan, and Geoffrey Lewis, an ace score, and, unsurprisingly given its title, some very cool shootouts.

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