Last week saw the 85th anniversary of the last time Bonnie and Clyde went for a quiet country drive, and I was able, with the help of my friends at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, to track down an example of the elusive, yet famous, Colt Monitor.
Essentially a commercial variant of the World War I-era M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle made with a few tweaks by Colt, the R80 Monitor Automatic Machine Rifle was pitched for use by police, security and prison guards. Introduced in 1931, Colt only made something like 150 of the guns, with most of those going to the FBI and Treasury Department, who kept them in federal armories through the 1950s.
One was used by legendary Texas Ranger Frank Hamer’s team when they met with Bonnie and Clyde on a dirt road in Louisiana in 1934.
More in my column at Guns.com.
I’ve always been a fan of the Fitz Special concept, although not a practicing fan. More of an idle curiosity you could say, as I personally think they are unsafe.
Around 1926, retired NYPD cop John Henry Fitzgerald began customizing both full-sized Colt New Service, Police Positive, and Police Positive Special models to make them small concealed handguns, much like Colt’s then-new Detective Special. This modification included shortening the barrel to two inches or less, fitting a new front sight, removing the hammer spur and carefully checkering the top of the now-bobbed hammer, shortening the grip, and—unique to this type—cutting away the front 1/3 of the trigger guard and rounding off the now open edges.
A previously auctioned Fitz Colt
This trigger guard surgery left the bulk of the hammer exposed while carefully shrouding the very bottom and back of it to avoid snagging in the pocket. The open trigger guard allowed faster firing, accommodated large or gloved fingers, and according to some accounts made the weapon easier to fire through a pocket (if needed). While these modifications were done to large frame revolvers, they were performed mainly to the smaller Colt Detectives.
Although Fitz only converted less than 200 Colts, (some say as few as 20), the concept lived on and you see many other guns converted to the same degree.
Like this M1917 .45ACP moon gun:
That’s guaranteed to set the target on fire at close range…
My friend Ian over at Forgotten Weapons got a chance to check out a Colt Fitz at RIAC last week: