RR Auction of Amherst, New Hampshire will be auctioning an impressive lot Bonnie and Clyde’s personal possessions on September 30 in Nashua, New Hampshire. The items are part of a collection titled ‘‘American Gangsters, Outlaws and Lawmen’’. The lot features items from several notable gangster era individuals including Al Capone, John Dalton, Wyatt Earp, Lucky Luciano, Eliot Ness, and many others including Bonny and Clyde. One item in particular, Bonnie’s .38 caliber Colt Detectives Special, is of particular interest.
Bonnie had scratched off the serial number of the .38 caliber Colt Detective Special, presumably to avoid identification at a crime scene. While owning a gun with the serial number removed is not an issue for a gangster, it is for an auctioneer and a potential auction winner. RR Auction obtained the revolver from a private collector this summer and noticed the serial numbers had been obliterated. After the auctioneers realized the serial number was missing they contacted the ATF, as it is illegal to sell a non-serialized pistol under the Gun Control Act of 1968.
The ATF agreed to put a serial number on the pistol, and it is now part of the September 30 auction. Below you can find the item description and the interesting story of how the pistol came into RR Auction’s possession.
Bonnie Parker’s Colt Detective Special .38 revolver, carried by her at the time of her death. A notarized letter from former Special Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, Jr., dated December 10, 1979, identifies this gun and states, “On the morning of May 23, 1934, when my father and the officers with him in Louisiana killed Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. My father removed this gun from the inside thigh of Bonnie Parker where she had it taped with white, medical, adhesive tape. My father said that one reason she had the gun taped to the inside of her leg was that, in those days, no gentlemen officer would search a woman where she had it taped…Sometime later, my father gave this gun to Buster Davis who had been a Texas Ranger and was, at the time, an FBI Agent.” Included with this gun and mentioned in this letter is a framed handwritten note from Frank Hamer, written on the back of an old Texas Ranger Expense Account form, reads “Aug/1934 Davis hold onto this. Bonnie was ‘squatting’ on it. Frank.”
The Colt Detective Special is blued with a 2″ barrel having a 1926 patent date. It is chambered for the .38 Special cartridge and has the round butt checkered walnut grips that were introduced in 1933. The revolver is in fine mechanical condition with about 70% original blue blending with plum patina. All factory markings are in excellent condition. The grips show moderate wear and rate good condition.
This is a well-known gun in Texas as it was displayed in several major museums (including the LBJ Library in Austin) for a two-year exhibition in the early 1980s. There can be no other gun with a closer association to Bonnie Parker than the one taped to her body at her death.
Many of the guns carried by Bonnie and Clyde ended up in the estate of Texas Ranger Captain Frank Hamer, who led the six-man posse that performed the ambush on May 23, 1934. As an unexpected bonus for his service, Hamer was promised that he could take anything the outlaws had in their possession at the time of their capture. This .38 Special, concealed beneath Bonnie’s red dress that morning—the same way she concealed the gun that enabled Clyde to bust out of prison in 1930—was one that he kept. As early as October 1934, Emma Parker wrote to Hamer in an attempt to get her daughter’s guns back; despite threats of legal action, she was denied.
In 1978, Bonnie Parker’s gun was sold to Raymond Brown, owner of the County Store Gallery in Austin, Texas. It was later displayed at the Institute of Texan Cultures in 1981 as part of the exhibit “Texas Women: A Celebration of History.” In 1986, the famous gun was sold by Texas auctioneer Tom Keilman to the current owner, who later displayed it at the renowned 2001 Bonnie & Clyde Exhibition held at the Hall of State in Dallas, Texas. The guns confiscated by Hamer were collectibles from the moment they were seized eighty years ago and have continued to gain value over the past eight decades. This particular gun, Bonnie’s personal Colt revolver, so closely related to her, is justifiably one of the most desirable.
This transfers as a modern firearm.
Provenance: Bonnie Parker Texas Ranger Frank Hamer Buster Davis Special Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, Jr. Raymond Brown Collection Tom Keilman Auctioneers, 1986 Robert E. Davis
As discovered by Frank Hamer, this Colt .38 caliber Detective’s Special revolver had its serial number removed. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has issued this firearm serial number ATF7620091 in accordance with ATF Directives in full compliance with Federal law. The serial number has been placed on the frame of the firearm as pictured below
Image and item description courtesy RR Auction