Guns of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre
The two Tommy Guns (courtesy Logan Metesh)
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Ninety-one years ago today, a group of police officers entered a Chicago garage to confront a group of gangster-bootleggers as they unloaded a shipment of illegal hooch. Except the officers weren’t real…they were from a rival gang.

I recently had the opportunity to get some “hands-on history” time with the guns from that infamous murder. The video below details the storied history of the two actual Thompson submachine guns used in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on February 14, 1929.

For those of you who can’t watch the video because you’re at work, here’s some photos to hold you over until you’re able to check it out:

Guns of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre
The two Tommy Guns (courtesy Logan Metesh)


Guns of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Three of the magazines recovered with the guns (courtesy Logan Metesh)


Guns of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Straight-on and angled views of the area where the serial number and model were removed and raised with acid. (courtesy Logan Metesh)


Guns of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Yours truly with the historic guns (courtesy Logan Metesh)


Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.

This article was originally published in 2019.

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  1. History is always interesting, and it’s no hindrance to be aware of this event that is relevant almost century later. Things happened, and we learn about them.

    Not sure how I feel about using a real-life massacre as a Valentine’s Day clickbait ploy, though. Not a big deal, really, but still…

    Somewhat like tasting a cup of coffee at a coffee shop that’s okay and does the trick, but somehow has a tinge of weird taste that doesn’t go unnoticed.

  2. My grandfather on my mother’s side had a small trucking/delivery business located in that neighborhood back in the day. Later that day he found a very well trained German Shepard that appears to be lost and took it home. Family lore was that it was owned by one of the dead gangsters. Apparently they were not only well armed but had attack trained dogs as well. The dog was the family pet there after and as the story goes kept the kids in line and out of trouble ’till it’s dying day.

    • Guns cost around $25 at your local hardware store, completely without interference from the law passed 5 years *later*. The incident was the impetus for the law, though I don’t understand why anybody got so worried about dead gangsters. Possibly worry about the liquor supply.

      • Handguns were about 25 bucks, but the Thompsons were around 200 dollars each, several thousand dollars in today’s money.

        A Thompson Submachine gun was the the gangster’s gold ‘grill’ of the 1920s…

        • Not an expert. But my understanding is that bad guys then preferred a shotgun. Much cheaper, easy to get and no one thought twice about an adult male in America buying a shotgun. Lethal at gangster range.

          My understanding is that clyde barrow preferred the BAR to the tommy gun. Cars were heavier and made of steel. He didn’t trust pistol caliber bullets to get at the soft stuff inside the car. And he didn’t buy his auto weapons. He stole them from police and NG armories.

          Bad guys will get their guns. Gun control laws simply give them more victims to choose from.

    • “So gangster had/have machine guns”

      Not just machine guns, but .45 ACP machine guns! Evil soul-stealing .45 ACP machine guns!

      But that couldn’t possibly be true, because the video claimed that one of the shot men, Frank Gusenberg, lived for several hours after being shot a *whopping* 22 times!

      How could that POSSIBLY BE???

      EDIT – Wikipedia claims Frank Gusenberg was only shot 14 times, the number 22 was an error :

      “When police arrived at the scene, Gusenberg was the only victim still alive despite having been shot fourteen times (reports erroneously list twenty-two times).”

  3. “Appeared” to be cop’s. Often one & the same in Chicago. Again. Still. I loved the “Some Like it Hot” scene. And George Raft…

  4. Rich people. The criminal or law abiding, will always have Machine Guns. They can afford to buy them. This includes private corporations like steel and coal companies who used them to shoot their employees.

    But no Bump Stock ($175) for the poor gun owner. The Sten Gun at $10 a copy was a terrible Machine Gun. It got a lot of soldiers killed. But it was cheap to produce. Over 2 million were made during WW2. It was designed to be made in One Man machine shops if necessary. And many were in England during WW2. The Tommy Gun cost about $300 a copy Plus the $200 tax stamp. The British couldn’t afford to buy Tommy Guns for their entire military. So they made a $10 machine gun instead.

    “South Florida elitist billionaire Mike Fernandez loves to brag to the rich and powerful about his “colossal” gun collection which includes many machine guns and “assault weapons.”

    • The rich got fast cars too but that doesn’t mean I can’t run them off the road if I get close enough

      • I suppose gangster tires will slip and slide and lose their grip on freshly-squeezed Possum guts on the road… 😉

    • Can’t forget the M3 “grease gun” manufactured in the US for the military is alleged to have cost the government $13.,and was even still issued to US Army tank crews in National Guard tank unit until recently.

      • With the PCC craze going on, you’d think someone would bring back those old iconic SMGs and they could do it for pretty cheap compared to the newer model PCCs. You could crank out Stens, Grease guns, and MP40s for a few hundred per, and produce them for less then a hundred easily.

      • Rich in the traditional sense (millionaire+), no, but you still have to be well off enough to drop $5k+ on a non necessary item as well as tie up a not inconsequential amount of money for a long period while your tax stamp processes.
        There’s absolutely no reason why average ‘Joe middle class’ shouldn’t be able to buy a drop in full-auti sear, or even a full-auto firearm for FAR less than $5k, except for that mother of all heinous bills (NFA) that prevents it.

  5. Very interesting article. It does serve as a reminder that Chicago has been a hub of corruption for at least 100 years.

  6. Let us not forget this event was a major contributor to the drafting and passage of the abhorrent National Firearms Act which has been the key instrument in stifling our rights and stifling technological development in the industry.

  7. Excellent presentation. He certainly did his homework. Concise, informative, no drama or histrionics, no blame game on the function and purpose of weapons. etc,, etc,, Very interesting and should be mandatory for all law enforcement classes.

  8. In the mid eighties I had a friend who was just a regular working guy like me who had 5 NFA guns including a beautiful Thompson that was actually marked “Property of Chicago Police Dept”. It was in the factory case with a stick magazine and drum and some cleaning gear.

    I’ve often wondered what that gun would be worth today.

      • To many people working class were saving up to buy their first Machine Gun. The gun grabbers figured that out. So we have now an outright ban. But the rich can still afford one.

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