Mob Guns

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.

 

 
Arsenal: The FBI has a collection of more than 7,000 guns at its laboratory in Virginia
Arsenal: The FBI has a collection of more than 7,000 guns at its laboratory in Virginia

 

 
Hidden: The vast collection of weapons even features a pistol hidden in the cut out pages of an early edition of Gone With The Wind
Hidden: The vast collection of weapons even features a pistol hidden in the cut out pages of an early edition of Gone With The Wind

 

 
Disguise: A submachine gun hidden in a violin case is among the reference library of weapons held by the Bureau
Disguise: A submachine gun hidden in a guitar case is among the reference library of weapons held by the Bureau

 

 
John Dillinger
Ma Barker
 Notorious: The FBI collection even features weapons belonging to the likes of bank robber John Dillinger, above, and gang leader Ma Barker, below
 
Infamous: John Dillinger's .45 calibre, pictured, is among the guns in the FBI's collection
Infamous: John Dillinger’s .45 caliber, pictured, is among the guns in the FBI’s collection

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.

 
Unique: A key ring which doubles up as a tiny pistol is kept for reference by firearms examiners
Unique: A key ring which doubles up as a tiny pistol is kept for reference by firearms examiners

 

 
Reference: The collection features almost every gun ever made. Some are from closed criminal cases, others have been donated and some are bought by the FBI
Catalogue: The collection features almost every gun ever made. Some are from closed criminal cases, others have been donated and some are bought by the FBI

 

 
Helping with investigations: As well as the guns themselves, the collection also houses a number of firearms accessories including silencers and muzzle adaptors
Helping with investigations: As well as the guns themselves, the collection also houses a number of firearms accessories including silencers and muzzle adaptors

 

 
Evidence: Many of the guns in the collection were initially seized as evidence in closed cases. They are taken to the lab to be archived or completely destroyed
Evidence: Many of the guns in the collection were initially seized as evidence in closed cases. They are taken to the lab to be archived or completely destroyed

‘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.

 
Forensics: The guns are used by firearms examiners to crack new cases involving guns
Forensics: The guns are used by firearms examiners to crack new cases involving guns

 

 
Closer inspection: The inventory has been amassed over an 80 year period. Some items are just parts of retired weapons which can be matched up to firearms used in modern day crimes
Closer inspection: The inventory has been amassed over an 80 year period. Some items are just parts of retired weapons which can be matched up to firearms used in modern day crimes

 

 
Crucial: 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
Crucial: 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

 
Historic: FBI scientists have been using the gun vault for 80 years in a bid to crack crime
Historic: FBI scientists have been using the gun vault for 80 years in a bid to crack crime

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.’

 
Storage space: The vast collection is stored at the FBI's laboratory in Virginia, pictured
Storage space: The vast collection is stored at the FBI’s laboratory in Virginia, pictured