Raging Guns of the Roaring 20s

Updated 4 years ago Special to HuntingtonNews.Net
Raging Guns of the Roaring 20s

by Ben Tate

Apart from the Wild West, there are few American epochs more notable for the romanticized notion of lawlessness than the “roaring 20s.” While New York big wigs were sipping martinis, criminals throughout the vast Midwest were taking down banks with reckless abandon, becoming folk heroes in the process. On the other end of the spectrum, gangsters competing for control of the lucrative bootlegging trade were laying siege to major cities throughout the country. And how did these ruthless maestros of mayhem accomplish the violent task at hand? With guns, of course.

Yes, the 1920s, as well as the Depression era in general, were known as much for the iconic weaponry as the dapper gents and luscious ladies who wielded them. In no particular order, here are some of the most famous guns ever fired by famous criminals.

Colt Det. Special .38

When Bonnie Parker met her fate alongside the love of her life, Clyde, she was carrying this little fella. First manufactured in 1926, the .38 Special was notable for its 2” barrel, which made it one of the more concealable handguns of its day. Bonnie liked hers with a checkered walnut grip and rounded but. As for transport, she eschewed holsters in favor of some medical tape and a free area of her thigh.

Browning automatic rifle

This weapon, first produced in 1917, packed so much firepower that it became equally popular among both cops and crooks. In its heyday it wasn’t uncommon for shootouts to take place with both sides using this particular rifle. But despite its gargantuan .30-06, caliber, it never really caught on like the Tommy gun. This was most likely due to the fact that the Browning weighed 10 whole pounds, making it cumbersome and difficult to wield in a pinch.

Colt .45 M1911

If Bonnie favored the .38 Special, it was Clyde who preferred the M1911. Colt first produced this weapon for the government in 1911, but it quickly took off in popularity across other segments of society, most notably the criminal underclass. Its semi-automatic functionality and seven-round clip no doubt played a part in this popularity.

Tommy Gun

Perhaps more than any other weapon on this list, the Thompson submachine gun defined an era marred by gangland violence. Having been invented by a general, John G. Thompson, it was ironically intended for use by the Army. However, the criminals of the time had other plans. The fact it could accommodate a 50-round ammo drum wasn’t its only selling point: the Thompson was also light for its size, weighing only 10 pounds. This meant folks could wield it in a variety of scenarios, including shootouts while trying to escape from a bank heist, say. John Dillinger certainly found occasion to use it for that very purpose.

The examples listed above serve to illustrate how advances in modern weaponry informed criminality in the 20s. Their precision and high rates of fire (for the time period) revolutionized the landscape of violence and led to some pretty high body counts. Luckily for those of us in modern society, the men and women who yielded these weapons have been consigned to the history books.

Image by: Daily Mail


Ben Tate is a professional blogger that shares his knowledge on replica firearms. He writes for MaxArmory.com, where you can find replica and collectible firearms.

Comments powered by Disqus