GALENA, Kans. — Many people across the Four States own a shotgun or have had one passed down to them from older generations. But there’s one shotgun that can be found in Southeast Kansas that’s likely the most famous one in America, if not the world.
To the current owner, Brian Jordan, it’s known as the “Bonnie and Clyde Shotgun.”
Brian Jordan is the co-owner of Galena Liberty Pawn, along with his business partner Doug Gatewoood.
Nearly three years ago, Jordan came across what he called an “opportunity of a lifetime.” A shotgun that belonged to the 1920’s & 1930’s crime gang, Bonnie and Clyde, was going up for auction.
Jordan was determined to be the highest bidder, so that the infamous shotgun could be returned to the area where it was discovered. Jordan accomplished his goal of bringing home the shotgun, which now sits on display at Galena Liberty Pawn.
If you’re wondering what’s so special about this gun, Galena Liberty Pawn has the full story on their website, which you can find HERE.
Here’s how this one shotgun became so famous:
THE BONNIE & CLYDE SHOTGUN – HISTORY OF THE FIREARM
“Tom De Graff was a detective with the Joplin, Missouri Police Department when, on April 13, 1933, he, along with Newton County Constable, Wes Harryman, Joplin PD Detective, Harry McGinnis, and Missouri Highway Patrolmen, W.E. Grammer and George Kahler, attempted to execute a search warrant at an apartment rented by a group of men and women in south Joplin.
The warrant had been issued after receipt of a tip that a car matching the description of one used during a burglary at the Neosho Milling Company had been seen in the garage beneath the apartment.
Upon their arrival, Harryman exited the vehicle he shared with McGinnis and De Graff, and approached an unidentified man who began closing the garage door upon spotting them.
Almost immediately, Harryman was mortally wounded by a shotgun blast, and McGinnis, who was following, was killed by a second shotgun round.
The two Highway Patrolmen joined De Graff, who had taken a few pellets during the opening volley, and worked their way around to the side of the building, exchanging fire as they did so (W.D. Jones was hit in the side, Buck Barrow was grazed by a bullet, and Clyde Barrow was saved when his coat button deflected a bullet).
Eventually, the occupants smashed their way through the garage door in their car and sped away amidst a hail of gunfire from the surviving law enforcement officers.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of April 14, 1933, a search of the building yielded “an automatic rifle, four rifles, a sawed-off shotgun, and a revolver.”
De Graff expands on this in his affidavit: “In the spring of 1933 while in the company of two other officers, we made an investigation in the south part of Joplin, Missouri at which time we engaged the Barrow brothers in a gun battle. The two officers who accompanied me were killed, I also received a few shots from this shotgun. There were several guns seized at this time and among them was a Western Field Browning 12 guage (sic) shotgun with 15” barrel, serial number U 12034.”
SLIDESHOW: View Photos Of The Bonnie & Clyde Shotgun Display
According to the affidavit, the shotgun remained at the Joplin Police Department until De Graff left the department in 1941 when he took the gun with him “as a memento of the gun battle.”
It is interesting to note that the famous photographs of Clyde Barrow and W.D. Jones in front of their automobile with their assembled arsenal (found at the site of the Joplin shootout) distinctly show a sawed-off, slide-action Savage-Stevens Model 520-type shotgun propped up against the bumper on the far right.
The Western Field Browning Model 30 was a store branded version of the Model 520 made for Montgomery Ward, and there is little doubt that this is the very gun photographed with the Barrow brothers.
This is an extremely important piece in the history of Bonnie and Clyde, and would make a stellar centerpiece for any collection of U.S. criminal justice artifacts.
The metal on the gun has an overall mottled gray-brown patina with areas of pinprick pitting throughout, but most noticeable on the right side of the frame behind the ejection port, as well as traces of original blue left on protected areas.
Additionally, the magazine tube has areas of bright gray along the bearing surfaces of the slide.
The frame markings are nevertheless still clear and fairly crisp, and the barrel was shortened to a more easily concealable length by the Barrow Gang prior to its capture.
The trigger guard has a pronounced upwards bend along the bow indicating a heavy impact, possibly incurred during the Joplin gunfight.
The walnut buttstock and checkered slide have numerous small handling marks and minor surface blemishes throughout, and moderate-heavy flattening of the checkering points on both the slide and pistol-grip.
The original varnish and the original grooved, hard rubber buttplate are still present.
The action is functional, however the 1946 NFA registration affidavit written by De Graff states that the gun will jam after “firing one or two shells” due to an unspecified mechanical fault, possibly related to the impact described above.”
DISPLAYING A PIECE OF LOCAL HISTORY
After the passing of Tom De Graff, the shotgun was passed down to his son, who then decided to put it up for auction in 2019.
The winner of that auction for the famous shotgun was Galena Liberty Pawn co-owner, Brian Jordan, who paid reportedly close to $70,000 for the item.
Jordan’s business partner, Doug Gatewood said the shotgun is known by many who travel Route 66, and make it a priority to stop at Galena Liberty Pawn, which is located on the “Mother Road,” to see the weapon and its letters of authenticity.
“A lot of them (Route 66 travelers) know the history before they even get here. They’ve done their research so they know what they’re looking for. As they travel the route, they look for those places and things that have interest to them, and yeah, this shotgun for many travelers is one of those items of interest.”
Gatewood said people come to Galena Liberty Pawn daily just to see the display.
“People traveling Route 66 from Chicago, Illinois to Long Beach, California, 95% of them know about the shotgun. So they’ll stop in and see that the shotgun is located here along the Route. People want to see this piece of history, so it’s a big draw,” said Gatewood.
Many believe that the weapon that’s on display may have killed one, if not several people while it was in the hands of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde gang.
Gatewood says despite the bloodshed associated with the gun, it’s still a part of America’s history and is displayed to the public, not as a representation of the violence that was stirred up by the gang, but rather as a symbol of what has become part of American history.
“It’s just, you know, bad things happen, but it has become part of the story of Joplin. Now that doesn’t change history. Too often, we’re seeing things in America today, changing, and I think that it really hurts
to lose the historical value of so many things. Right and/or wrong. We need to remember because that’s what prevents it from happening again.”
When asked if Brian Jordan may ever want to put the shotgun up for auction as it becomes worth even more with age, Gatewood said the gun is not going anywhere.
“Brian has looked for this shotgun and looked for for items like this, and he’s going to hang on to it. It’s an infamous part of our history. We’re not proud of the of the infamous part, but we understand too, that it has become part of our heritage, and we want to recognize that, which is why you’ll find it here, along Route 66, on display,” said Gatewood.