From notorious bank robber John Dillinger’s prohibition-era revolver to an arsenal of weapons owned by Ma Barker and her gang, the FBI’s cache of firearms holds almost every gun ever made.
These fascinating photos give a rare insight into the Bureau’s 80-year-old collection which is kept at the FBI laboratory in Virginia.
With an inventory of more than 7,000 weapons, the endless racks of guns provide a reference point for the laboratory’s firearms examiners to support criminal investigations.
Among the more unique items in the collection are an old Thompson submachine gun hidden in a guitar case and a pistol hidden in cut out pages of a rare first edition of Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
Notorious depression-era bank robber John Dillinger’s .45 calibre and raider ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd’s Colt 1911 are held in the vault.
The unique collection includes accessories like silencers and muzzle attachments as well as more heavy duty weapons such as grenades and rocket launchers.
A file of more than 15,000 types of ammunition are also kept on file.
John Webb, a firearms examiner for the FBI, said: ‘This collection is used in active cases in comparing known samples from our collection with question samples from the field.
‘Often, an investigator will receive a part of a firearm or a firearm that isn’t functional.
‘We can take that and compare it with our reference collection, determine what isn’t functioning, and repair it so we can obtain the test fires we need to conduct examinations with bullets and cartridge cases.’
Most of the staggering collection of firearms comes from closed investigations, others have been bought by the FBI and some even arrive as donations.
In most instances, the guns are held as evidence in court before being sent back to the lab where experts can either add them to the reference collection or destroy them completely.
The FBI aims to duplicate every firearm in existence with the belief that sometimes a case could hinge on linking a firearm component to a similar part on one of their reference guns.
John added: ‘The collection has been extremely useful in criminal cases. It has been directly responsible for assisting to solve crimes.
‘We are only a small part of this collection, it was here long before I was, and it will be here long after I’m gone.’