Bonnie and Clyde, the names are known in every American home. Most picture two star crossed lovers committing crimes in dust bowl era America. Robbing banks, stealing cars and living wild and free. In reality, Bonnie and Clyde were cold-blooded killers running in a gang of cold-blooded killers. Their gang murdered 13 people and died as violently as they lived. Along the way, they collected quite the arsenal, and today, we are going to take a peek behind the curtain to see what armed the Parker-Barrow gang.
We won’t go over every single firearm in their massive arsenal, but we want to cover some of the more interesting weapons wielded by the gang. They had dozens of guns, but it’s clear which guns they were partial to.
Barrow’s BAR, aka the Scattergun
Where does a two-bit chump like Clyde get a Browning Automatic Rifle? Well, he stole one, well actually, he stole three, from the Missouri National guard. The BAR was a magazine-fed, fully automatic rifle that chambered the .30-06 Springfield cartridge. The BAR provided a ton of firepower, and Barrow loved his gun.
He took a hacksaw to the barrel and stock and trimmed the gun considerably. He cut the barrel back as far as he could and left a pistol grip akin to something you’d see on a sawn-off shotgun. The now smaller weapon allowed Bonnie and Clyde to use the weapon in and out of the vehicle. BARs are big guns, and if you’re a motor-borne bandit, something shorter is more maneuverable.
He called it the scattergun. We might call shotguns scatterguns because of how they disperse shot, but Clyde called it the scattergun because when he pulled it, people scattered. The full-auto .30-06 rifle could rip through the vehicles of the day and took any kind of cover away from law enforcement.
The magazine-fed gun easily outgunned officers armed with revolvers and shotguns. In the Bonnie and Clyde death car, they found three BARs and 100 round loaded BAR magazines.
Bonnie and Clyde and The Whippet Guns
Bonnie’s preferred weapon was supposedly a 20 gauge semi-automatic Remington Model 11. Bonnie was the definition of petite, and the light recoiling semi-auto 20 gauge was likely light and handy for her. A second 12 gauge variant of the same gun was also known to be used by the gang.
Clyde trimmed back the barrel and stock to make the classic sawn-off shotgun we all know and love. He called these Whippet guns. They could be hidden under a coat, and ‘whipped’ out when needed. The semi-auto action and some loads of buckshot made them intimidating weapons. The famed photo of Bonnie pointing a gun at Clyde shows the 20 gauge Remington Model 11.
The Model 11 was an American variant of the Browning Auto 5. This recoil operation shotgun was one of the first successful semi-auto shotguns. This pattern weapon was extremely popular, and it’s not a surprise Bonnie and Clyde ended up with the gun.
The Winchester Model 1901 – A Heavy Hitter
My favorite gun found in possession of Bonnie and Clyde was the Winchester Model 1901. The 1901 succeeded the 1887 as Winchester’s lever-action shotgun of choice. This particular model chambered the mighty ten gauge shotgun cartridge. The Winchester 1901s came to be because 1887s couldn’t utilize the more powerful smokeless powder shotshells.
The Model 1901 did not come in 12 gauge because Winchester didn’t want to compete with their own 12 gauge model 1897. The gun came with a massive 32-inch barrel which, if you’ve followed the theme, was trimmed considerably. Interestingly enough, Clyde wasn’t an idiot. Handling a 12 gauge or 20 gauge Remington Model 11 without a stock is doable.
Handling a ten gauge anything without a stock is a lot tougher. They trimmed the barrel but left the stock in place. This made the weapon controllable and offered some thunderous power. The 1901 wasn’t a popular gun, and only 13,500 were produced, and one ended up with Bonnie and Clyde.
The Handguns of Bonnie and Clyde
While we covered three very interesting long guns, it’s worth noting they had a pile of handguns. In fact, the car they died in held seven M1911 pistols. The famed handgun was in use by the Army at the time and represented a very modern handgun for 1930. It offered faster reloads and more rounds than revolvers.
On top of that, they found a Colt M1903 in their vehicle. This little 32 ACP pistol was a popular gun for lower-profile carry. Compared to the 1911, it was much smaller with a lot less recoil. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was Bonnie’s handgun. She was 4 foot 11 inches tall and weighed 90 pounds. Her hands were likely small, and the M1903 like sat well in her hand.
We know she used a Colt Detective special. This little gun was found taped to Bonnie’s thigh. It was likely hidden under a dress and rather easy to access. The little 38 Colts were rock solid guns and were reliable to a fault.
Finally, the Bonnie and Clyde gang had a Colt Model 1909 Revolver. This 45 Colt revolver offered a modern double-action design with a flip-out cylinder in the proven 45 Colt cartridge. This six-shooter brought the thunder and was a modern design in a classic cartridge.
It seems like the gang led by Bonnie and Clyde were more attached to firearms than gangs before them or after them. Sure, some guys had their favorites, but Bonnie and Clyde had a car full of guns and ammo. The fact they heavily modified the weapons os extensively showed some insight and some tactical prowess. Id’ love to be able to pick their brains, but unfortunately, Frank Hamer and his crew removed them. All I can do is examine and assume, and I think my assumptions are fair.