Guns of Outlaws – Weapons of the American Bad Man – Introduction Part One

By Gerry and Janet Souter

Remington Model 11 Whippet: Bonnie and Clyde’s Shotgun
Remington Model 11 Whippet: Bonnie and Clyde’s Shotgun, This famous picture shows Bonnie demonstrating the whippet on Clyde. H/T
Guns of Outlaws: Weapons of the American Bad Man
Guns of Outlaws: Weapons of the American Bad Man:

Illinois –-( Historians Gerry and Janet Souter take the reader back to a time between 1840 and 1940 when men and women traveled an imaginary twisting outlaw path, the “Owlhoot Trail,” where outlaws and man hunters lived bold and died hard.

In their new book, Guns of Outlaws — Weapons of the American Bad Man ( ) , the pages show actual tools of the trade wielded during a violent century, bound up in a mix of hard truths and mythology. The only solid reality left behind are these trusted relics, aged and showing holster wear with salt-etched pits from sweaty gun powder-stained hands.

Visit the owners of these antique killing machines, some not too bright, most favoring a simplistic path to conflict resolution: “Shoot the son of a bitch.” Sociopaths all, seasoned with toxic psychopaths, snake fast with a six gun, or reveling in the chatter of a Thompson submachine gun chewing its way through writhing targets – and we’re talking about both sides of the badge. In Guns of Outlaws, you see their talismans and hear their blood-soaked sagas, tales of redemption and damnation, all recalled from gun smoke memories.

Excerpt One: Introduction

The deadly guns of the bandit trade tell the story of the American outlaw culture. Those same guns blazed hot in the hands of the underpaid law men who doggedly pursued the American bad man’s greed-fueled determination to never pay when they could steal.

Al Capone
Al Capone

Six guns, rifles, shotguns and pistols evolved into exotic weapons of murderous destruction, leaving a trail of artifacts that reaches back into our violent history. Firearms evolution is not the tail that wagged the dog, but is the residue that marks the rise and fall of the outlaw trade from the eighteenth century to the 1940s when the last of the outlaws, Al Capone Chicago’s boss of bosses, left Alcatraz Prison and later died in bed, a disease ravaged, babbling shell whose name once chilled men’s hearts and became a symbol of crime around the world.

Outlaws and the lawmen who pursued them came in all shapes and sizes, colors and genders as did their choices of aggression and protection. In the pages of Guns of Outlaws – Weapons of the American Bad Man we’ll examine and discuss the actual guns they carried as well as look-alikes and trends in technology, all gathered from museums, historical societies and private collections.

The difference between “owned by” and “used by” is pursued as far as provenance permits.

This is not a catalog. It is as much archeology as it is history. Like the swords of ancient kings, these artifacts bear the scuffs, rust and scabbard wear of use, or the curious vanities of their owners: engravings, inlays, plating and hand carved notches commemorating survival, and defeat of a rival who was two seconds too slow.

We’ll also explore life on the “Owlhoot Trail,” – an imaginary twisting outlaw path — and visit where they lived, where they worked and where they died. The mythology of their lives and skills is a dense thicket of hearsay, facts, fantasies, truths, delusions and steaming heaps of once or twice digested lore that makes great stories, but can be bottomless traps for the historian.

For instance, there are many versions of the deaths of Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and Pretty Boy Floyd – all sworn to in writing. The gunfight at the O.K. Corral is a virtual blizzard of half-truths and mis-directions, and at least one unique gun is widely described in great historical detail, but never existed.

Life for many in the Old West, the New West, Prohibition and the Great Depression was a struggle. Most of the outlaws who packed their pistols and left home were victims of real or imagined injustice. Some inherited old feuds. Others fled from broken homes that were crushed by a hard scrabble existence. A few embraced the owlhoot life to pry the rich man’s boot off their neck and taste the rewards of a life lived hot and fast.

Many famous outlaws were semi-literate losers with entire careers based on one chance encounter.

Justice was meted out by men not far removed from the lawbreakers they pursued and captured – when convenient – or killed when desired. Dedication in a lawman was rare, but highly prized when discovered. The pay was low and often second incomes were needed to buy bullets or feed a family. It was not unusual for outlaws to put on a badge, or for admired lawmen to stray across the line and considerably raise their standard of living.

Pretty Boy Floyd's Possible .32 Colt Automatic
A .32 Colt Automatic possibly owned by Pretty Boy Floyd.

Watchdog volunteers were at hand in many communities to level the playing field when dishonest men – and women – became annoying nuisances. Quick judgments rendered by flinty-eyed vigilantes often ended with premature application of a short noose dangled from a tall tree. On the other hand, too many local deputies armed with squirrel rifles and duck guns found themselves facing automatic drumfire in the hands of hardened killers.

From the double bang of the flintlock to the chatter of bucking submachine guns, we’ll ride the Owlhoot Trail from antique to modern times and try to live as close to the bone of reality as we can while squinting into the fog of legend. “Return with us now to yesteryear” when the outlaws lived bold and died hard; when courage and guts prevailed behind a scarred and dented badge, the rise and fall of the American Outlaw.

Editors Note: This is a brief excerpt from the new book Guns of Outlaws – Weapons of the American Bad Man. In coming days AmmoLand will feature more excerpts from this highly interesting book.

Find your copy of Guns of Outlaws: Weapons of the American Bad Man on Amazon:


Janet Souter has authored or coauthored more than forty nonfiction books in the areas of history, biography, young adult, art, military history, business, and the Internet.

Gerry Souter attended the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago. He has worked as an art teacher, photographer, a security guard, a rifle instructor, and a seaman in the Merchant Marine. He and his wife, Janet Souter, have authored or coauthored more than forty nonfiction books in the areas of history, biography, young adult, art, military history, business, and the Internet.

Janet and Gerry live near Chicago.

William B. Shillingberg, Wyatt Earp and the “Buntline Myth”, Kansas Collection, Kansas Historical Quarterly, copyright, 1976, the author

(Note) Although Colt displayed some long-barreled single action revolvers at the 1876 Centennial, it was not until December 1, 1877, that any left the Hartford assembly plant for actual sale. Besides, five guns were not involved in this shipment, nor were they sent to Ned Buntline or even to a New York dealer. Instead, this order consisted of four 16-inch .45 caliber single actions, assembled with the now rare semi-flattop frame (not “regulation . . . style”), shipped to B. Kittredge & Co. of Cincinnati, Colt’s main Western agent. [69] These guns, advertised with a “long carbine barrel,” sold for $5 above the standard price.(Shillingberg)

(Note – O.K. Corral) The shotgun Doc Holiday carried was either a W. W. Greener, his personal Colt Shotgun, or more likely a Belgian Eclipse “Meteor” 10 gauge double barrel weapon with no shoulder stock and the barrels trimmed back to 18 inches commonly referred to as a “Whippet.” Gun. (Rosa, Shillingberg, O’Neal)

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6 years ago

I dont know why but I have always considered Billy the Kid more myth than legend. Everything I read about him someone else will contradict completely. I would never buy any firearm that was ‘possibly’ owned by BTK because I’m not convinced he really existed.