We’ve all heard the names: Dillinger, Capone, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde. These outlaws have been romanticized to the point they are now folk heroes that hold their own special place in the American consciousness. They were products of their times, and those time were defined by desperate economic conditions and prohibition. And make no mistake: these were violent criminals. Their implements of choice? Firearms.
In fact, the guns used by these luminaries of lawlessness are almost iconic as the figures themselves. Everyone has seen a gangster picture or two in their day, and what is up there on the silver screen, right alongside the handsome faces of the famous matinee idols? The muzzle flashes of handguns, rifles and the famed Thompson submachine gun.
The Thompson (Tommy) submachine gun was patented in 1920 by an American general, John G. Thompson. This machine gun (erroneously believed to be the first of its kind) was intended for use by the U.S. Army but the criminal class had other plans. Over the course of the 1920s and well into the Great Depression of the ‘30s, the Tommy gun became the unofficial symbol of gangland violence. Weighing only 10 pounds, it was light for a larger weapon and could accommodate a 30-round ammo box or 50-round drum. Its lighter weight and high rate of fire allowed users to wield it in a variety of scenarios – such as shootouts with the police. John Dillinger certainly favored it for this specific purpose.
Colt .45 M1911
Both Bonnie and Clyde had their preferred firearms, Clyde’s being this government-model Colt handgun first manufactured in 1911. Known for its power and durability, this semiautomatic, single-action pistol carried a seven-round clip and was reliable despite its cumbersome cocked-and-locked design.
Colt Det. Special .38
This is the handgun Bonnie Parker had on her person at the time of her death in 1934. This revolver was patented in 1926 and features a short 2’’ barrel. Bonnie’s particular model featured checkered walnut grips and a round but that were first introduced in 1933. During her years above ground, Bonnie Parker preferred to carry her favorite six-shooter on her thigh, secured with medical tape.
Browning Automatic Rifle
This automatic weapon, first manufactured in 1917, is one that both criminals and police could agree on. Oftentimes members of John Dillinger’s gang would be wielding one of these military-style rifles while the officers hot on their trail did the same. These weapons were .30-06 caliber, which means one thing: heavy-duty firepower. But what the Browning possessed in brute force it certainly lacked in portability, as it weighed close to 20 pounds.
The above-listed firearms were as much a part of the time period as fedoras and pinstripes. More than that, they were inexorably linked to the famous gangsters who wielded them. The notion of John Dillinger without a Tommy gun is almost impossible to conjure, as is a Clyde Barrow without his trusted .45. Indeed, these weapons have as much a place in the American Lexicon as the men and women whom they helped to make famous.
Preston Cooper Is a professional blogger that provides information and advice on firearms. He writes for Fire Arms For You, the best place to buy discount shotguns online and an online firearm sale.