With more than 18,000 members and 81 years of history behind it, the Ohio Gun Collectors Association is one of – if not the – oldest and largest gun collector groups in the United States. Every year, they host an Annual Display Show and their members bring out the big guns (figuratively and literally) for some remarkable displays. This year, I was honored to serve as one of the display judges.
One of the display took up 20 feet of table space but displayed only one gun: a Colt Model 1921 Thompson submachine gun in great shape except for two spots on the side and bottom of the gun where someone had taken a grinder and removed the serial number. In its place on the side is a crudely stamped new serial number assigned to the gun during the 1968 amnesty period.
The current owner purchased it as a shooter rather than a collector piece because of its condition. On a whim, however, he took the barrel off to check for a serial number in the 3rd place where they’re marked, which is not as readily accessible.
There, he found the original serial number: 5487.
That began a long, multi-year search involving original shipping records, newspapers from the 1930s, copies of police interviews, and a FOIA request.
What emerged was nothing short of remarkable. The current owner was now in possession of no mere “shooter grade” gun. Instead, he had documented proof that the gun had been part of a shipment that ended up in the hands of notorious gangster “Baby Face” Nelson. (The entire story is too long to re-tell here.)
Too damn cool.
(Note: photography is heavily restricted at OGCA shows. The above photograph of me and the gun was taken by the owner of that remarkable piece of gangster history.)
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.