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Test cartridges fired by forensic ballistician Merle A. Gill used in the Union Station Massacre and Red Crown Tavern shootout investigations of 1933. This is a small, hand-made wooden case (1 3/8″ x 13 1/2″ x 5 1/2″) that has four internal trays containing 63 handgun and rifle cartridges, most of which have been fired, and their recovered bullets placed backwards into the case so that the rifling patterns are visible. Most of the cartridges are .45 ACP, and all are numbered (over 40 Model 1911 pistols were taken from the gang's cabin at the Red Crown). Also present are a number of fired .30-06 cases (unfortunately the notes painted onto them have faded to illegibility, however they were probably fired from the captured BARs taken at the Red Crown), and six unfired rounds of .32 S&W. A typed note affixed inside the case’s lid reads, in part: “These bullets and cartridge cases were test-fired from guns used by Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker in a battle with law enforcement agents…near Platte City, Missouri, July, 1933. The guns were tested for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in connection with the Union Station massacre of June 17th, 1933 at Kansas City, Missouri. Merle A. Gill, Laboratory, K.C. Mo.” The case's hinged lid is crudely secured with a screw.
The most interesting items in the collection are: two unfired .45 ACP cartridges (one labeled “BUCK BARROW”, the other labeled “CLYDE BARROW”); one unfired .44 Special labeled “BUCK BARROW”; one fired .44 Special with recovered bullet and small paper note that reads, “Buck Barrow / 8-1-33 / 44 S&W Gill / #7457 for FBI”; and a fired .38 Special with recovered bullet and small paper note that reads, “Barrow Guns / 8-1-33 / 38 S&W / 303576 / Tested for FBI / Gill.” These notes were rolled up and inserted within the casings.
Merle A. Gill was a Kansas City ballistician who conducted the ballistic portion of the FBI's investigation into the Union Station Massacre, in which several FBI agents and KC Police were killed or wounded during the botched rescue of Frank ‘Jelly’ Nash. A few weeks later, the Barrow Gang passed through an already jumpy Kansas City, and were spotted at the Red Crown Tavern and Cabins in nearby Platte County, MO. Heightened suspicions led to a posse and eventual gun battle—one of the fiercest the Barrow Gang ever fought. It was at the Red Crown that Buck Barrow received his grievous head wound, and Blanche was wounded in the face. An immense cache of weapons, abandoned during their successful escape from the posse, were taken out of the Gang's cabins, and it was from these guns that Gill made this sample case, apparently to see if the Barrow Gang had anything to do with the massacre in Kansas City a few weeks previously. Gill's ballistic investigations for the FBI (investigations that J. Edgar Hoover was not pleased to have in the hands of a non-FBI employee) are mentioned in 'The Life and Death of Pretty Boy Floyd' by Jeffery S. King (1998). This is a spectacular piece of gangster history, dating to an early period of forensic investigation techniques.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.