Sangamon County Rifle Association
Right Reason on Second Amendment Rights
Springfield, Illinois

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Bonnie & Clyde and the .401 Winchester

Presentation by Tom Shafer and Jeff Bedolli
December 2011 GunNews



Jeff Beddoli
A resident in Southern View passed away a while ago and Tom Shafer and Jeff Bedolli went to his estate auction.  It was a good time with lots of neat stuff, among which was a .401 Winchester Model 1910 self-loading rifle that Jeff bought.  He brought that rifle, along with a .351 Winchester self-loader to the meeting.

Tom Shafer teamed up to offer a discussion of Bonnie and Clyde as one of the rifles the infamous duo had was a .401 self-loader.


Jeff Bedolli with the .401 self-loaderWinchester Model 1910 rifle.




,351 Winchester self-loaderJeff said the .351 was a surprise hidden in the back of his dad's closet.  "Anytime you find an extra gun in your closet, you've got to like that," he said.

The history of the .401 is a bit conflicting.  Winchester is supposedly the first repeating center-fire rifle.  Some folks think this was a Browning design, but it's not.

These 1910 .401 self-loading rifles were primarily used by the French and British airmen, American law enforcement and prison guards.  The are also used more recently as deer rifles.

Both models (the .351 rifle is the Winchester 1907) are blowback operated.  It has a strong spring and a pretty heavy receiver.

Jeff hasn't shot either one of them as modern ammunition is not readily available.

Tom Shafer commented that unfortunately these rifles have outlasted the ammo.  Original ammo costs more per box now than the rifle.  It's also tricky to reload so that it functions reliably in the rifle because of the blowback operation.

There is some reloading information out there, thanks in part to the Internet.

One of the ammo dealers who is at all the local gun shows, Gary Hall, is in process of making several boxes for both of these rifles for Jeff.  It will still be expensive but not all that bad.

Interestingly enough, some of these ended up in airplanes in WWI.  They break down and are pretty compact and pilots actually fired from their cockpit at the enemy aircraft's pilots.  With no guns mounted on the planes at the time, it was about the best they could do.

Both models had pretty short runs with very limited production.

Jeff read somewhere on his notes they originally sold for $28.00.  Today they sell for as much as $2000 in mint condition.

With all the recoil being in the forward portion of this rifle this is where all the damage takes place and as Jeff mentioned, all forearms tend to be cracked just for that reason.  That's where all the weight is as you'll notice when you're holding it.

That entire line of guns is called the forgotten Winchesters by several different people Jeff has talked to.

Tom ShaferTom talked at length about Bonnie and Clyde and their exploits throughout the Central U.S., including Nokomis, IL.

He discussed Bonnie's love of poetry and how she chain-smoked Camel cigarettes.  Shafer also noted that both of the outlaws were small-statured.

They had many weapons, including a BAR rifle, and killed quite a few police officers and a few civilians as they drove around robbing businesses.

Their exploits were romanticized in part through the sensationalist media and some have suggested without the sex appeal of Bonnie, Clyde would have been remembered as nothing more than a punk.

Tom Shafer does his best impersonation of Clyde Barrow.


Shafer closed with a description of some of the guns found in Bonnie and Clyde's car after the duo were ambushed and shot to death by nervous cops in Louisiana.

It all tied in quite nicely with Jeff Bedolli's technical presentation


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