Bonnie Parker’s .38 Revolver Being Auctioned

The Colt .38 Detective Special snub-nose revolver found taped to the inside of Bonnie Parker’s thigh after she was killed is going up for auction at RR Auction. The action is expected to reach $200,000.

The son of the police Captain who lead the famous ambush said in a notarised letter…

“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

Because the serial number had been removed from the pistol, the ATF had to issued a special serial number so that the auction could go ahead. The new serial is stamped on the butt.

Captain Frank Hamer took personal possession of many of the guns that Bonnie and Clyde had with them at the ambush. In 1934, upon learning that Hamer possessed her daughter’s shotgun, Bonnie’s mother unsuccessfully requested it be returned to her. It was a very different era back then when police officers could collect valuable trophies from criminals they killed!

[ Many thanks to Joseph for the tip. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • bbmg

    “found taped to the inside of Bonnie Parker’s after she was killed”

    Unfortunate omission there Steve, my first reaction was “The inside of Bonnie Parker’s what? Ughhh… presumably covered in cosmoline?”

  • bbmg

    Also, I read “in those days, no gentlemen officer would search a woman where she had it taped” as simply “chivalry will get you killed”.

  • Daniel

    Am I the only one a little bothered by the ATF making the exception for this case. Correct me if I’m wrong, but a firearm with serial number removed is contraband… Period! If I had a gun stolen and the criminal filed off the S/N would they issue me a new number? I don’t think so.

    As historically significant as this particular gun may be, if regulations can be changed/ignored just because they want to, where does that leave you when they decide that YOU are a “special case”.

    • alannon

      You are wrong.

      Serial numbers were not government mandated until 1968. Bonnie and Clyde were killed in the early ’30s; the serial numbers at that time were used only by the MFGs for internal tracking purposes.

      In this case a new S/N was added for transfer, but not required for possession.

      And yes, if you could prove the provenance of the firearm, you could simply have the number fixed. A lot of WWII trophies came back un-numbered; it’s not a hugely difficult process to get a S/N issued on weapons that are legally obtained but without a serial number. I’m actually kinda surprised the seller couldn’t simply add a s/n and register it; it’s not like he was changing the number.

      • Rob Reed

        “You are wrong.

        Serial numbers were not government mandated until 1968. Bonnie and Clyde were killed in the early ’30s; the serial numbers at that time were used only by the MFGs for internal tracking purposes.

        In this case a new S/N was added for transfer, but not required for possession.”

        No, the law states that it is illegal to possess or transfer a gun where the serial number has been “removed or defaced.”

        This means that if I gun was manufactured before serial numbers were required, and was manufactured without a serial number, than it is perfectly legal to own.

        But, if the gun was manufactured WITH a serial number, even if it was made before serial numbers were required, it is illegal to “remove or deface” that serial number. Therefore Bonnie’s gun was illegal.

        The ATF actions in this case were nothing new. They do have a procedure for assigning a serial number to a gun and I’ve read of several other instances where they have done it upon request. (Personally, I’d contact them through an attorney if I needed it down though).

      • alannon

        Not sure why I can’t respond to Rob directly; limit of the commenting system, perhaps

        At the time the law was enacted the gun did not have a serial number. You can’t be held liable for something that was legal at the time it was done. So, as the serial number had already been removed, the gun was legal; only if the serial number had been removed after 1968 would it be illegal.

    • RocketScientist

      Yet another example of the BATFE’s completely arbitrary and inconsistent application of their own regulations. I have never seen a law enforcement agency with less consistency from officer to officer, region to region, etc. I have gotten written clarifications on certain issues from the local office, only to be told later, in another location, “well that didn’t come from this office, so that doesn’t carry any weight here” even though they are supposedly working for the same federal agency enforcing the same rules. ugh.

      • Chortles

        From what I’ve read elsewhere, it was RR Auction that notified BATFE of what they had on hand (a historic firearm with a removed serial number) and requested a legal remedy.

      • Jacob

        Some day when you catch a nationally famous robber murderer you’ll be able to swing the MASSIVE favor of having a random number etched onto a gun. Because clearly the better option would be to destroy the gun thereby proving the stupidity and inflexibility of our entire society and the petty and selfishness of us as individuals. You know because we destroy historical firearms rather than lower ourselves to making an EXCEPTION!!

        Laws are applied by law enforcement to the best of their ability. If you’re constantly trying to find loopholes, cheats and shortcuts in laws by requesting information from random officers you get what you paid for, you paid nothing you got nothing. Legal opinions come from lawyers. You don’t get opinions on how to cheat on taxes from the IRS. Why would anyone in the right mind would ask the ATF on how the cheat on ATF enforced rules ….

      • RocketScientist


        Your reply illustrates the wisdom (or lack thereof) of opening your mouth when you do not know what you are speaking about. I never said anything about finding “loopholes, cheats and shortcuts”. I was not trying to come up with some way to sneak around a regulation for a personal matter. I work for an aerospace and defense contractor and as part of my work deal on a regular basis with materials that are very carefully monitored and controlled by BATFE. When there was a change in their regulations and reporting/record-keeping requirements, there was some ambiguity due to the wording of the revised regulation. I sought clarification from the local BATFE office, which is the correct procedure according to yet another BATFE regulation. The answer I received in writing was later contradicted by the BATFE office at another of my company’s facilities. I cannot go into more detail out of respect for confidentiality agreements and sensitive/controlled information laws.

        I understand the role of discretion in the enforcement of laws (as can anyone who has been let off with a warning for speeding) but this situation is slightly different as the BATFE is in many cases the CREATOR of the regulation they are also tasked with enforcing. As such, they ARE the correct people to seek clarification from.

  • Raoul O’Shaugnessy

    “It was a very different era back then when police officers could collect valuable trophies from criminals they killed!”

    One of my customers, ancient old man, comes into the shop looking for .32 S&W Long ammo. I ask him what gun he has in that caliber. He reaches into a paper bag and pulls out an immaculate pre-war S&W Hand Ejector. Absolutely minty. I ask him where he got it. His dad was a country doctor in Iowa back in the ’20s. One day he and the sheriff’s deputy went to quarantine a house. As the deputy was nailing the notice to the porch of the house, the owner of the house came out with the gun and shot the deputy. The doctor took off running and hid in a ditch until the coast was clear. He ran back to town, got the sheriff who came out with a few guys and a brief armed encounter occurred. The guy who shot the deputy got shot a couple times and as the sheriff was walking through the scene, he bent over, picked up the .32 that has been used to shoot the deputy and tossed it to the doctor and said “Here. Souveneir.” The gun is in amazing shape and probably worth a few bucks to a collector but the story, especially as this old guy tells it, is worth even more.

    • Dave

      Cool story! I had an old friend who had been a deputy back in the ’50s/’60s tell me that once a year he and the Sherriff went out in a boat on the river and tossed out confiscted guns. No telling what still lies on the bottom of our rivers here in Georgia!

  • dayledabomb

    Sweet jesus! i want that gun!

  • Nicks87

    The ATF is a joke. Who cares if it doesnt have a serial number? It’s a collectors item that will be put on display with the paperwork that proves it’s authenicity.

    More Bureaucratic red-tape (control) from the criminals in D.C.

  • Jas van Driel

    In 2008 the EU issued new regulations concerning the marking of firearms. These were based on the UN Vienna protocol. FESAC (the European collectors organization) fought hard to get an exempt status for collectors and collectors’ guns, and that the rules not be applied retroactively. FESAC was successful in this so there is now an explicit exception from the marking requirement for all guns that are considered as collectors pieces.

    This is exactly why FESAC fought so hard. A simple bureaucratic rule requires that an authentic collectors piece (with considerable value) is defaced or scarred simply because government officials do not have a clue what the words “history” and “authentic” mean. It is there not for any reason, just because the rules say so, “to make it legal”. That is what destroys our heritage.

    Remember the row that broke out when Newman’s “Who’s afraid of red, yellow and blue” was restored with the wrong paint? Why does the world not shout “cultural barbarism” when the original Parker gun is defaced with a government’s fingerprints? Nobody cares, but the same people who insist that this marking be applied will be up in arms when somebody suggests to put a barcode on a painting to be able to track it. Hopefully their arms will be properly marked…..

    And boy, if that Parker gun could talk…..

    • Jas

      It would probaly say “The things that I have seen……”.

  • Kenny

    Cops taking from criminals is no different today. Please Google “forfeiture laws.”

    If you are a drug dealer, a “terrorist,” or other perceived malcontent, say goodbye to your expensive shit.

  • Don

    Very interesting story. I live in Tyler, TX about 135 miles from the place of the ambush in Louisiana. I remember my dad telling me that he heard the police siriens when they were chasing them through Tyler in 1934 heading to where the ambush took place.

  • bbmg