FBI Finds Trove Of Missing Historic Guns

posted on March 16, 2023
Counterfeit Walker Colt
This counterfeit example of a rare Colt Walker percussion revolver on display at the NRA National Firearms Museum is of a similar style to the one recovered in Delaware.
Courtesy of NRA Museum

The FBI returned a number of historic and extremely valuable firearms to the museums they were stolen from nearly 50 years ago. The most valuable among them, which vanished from a Connecticut facility in 1971, was a Colt Whitneyville Walker revolver. The rare wheelgun, according to a USA Today report, would likely fetch more than $1 million. One of the other few remaining—made in 1847 and sold during a Rock Island Auction Company event in 2018—sold for $1.84 million. Fewer than 100 were produced for the commercial market.

An anonymous tip fielded by a pair of Pennsylvania detectives re-launched the investigation that finally solved cold cases that spanned six states and included missing items from 16 different museums. The original call they received turned out to be inaccurate, but they noted a few stale leads that begged for follow-up. Combined with confidential informants, and 14 years of legwork, the trail led to a Delaware home. They were out of their jurisdiction, however, so they enlisted FBI aid.

Executing a search warrant for the senior citizen’s home, the task force discovered the attic and safe held dozens of historic firearms. None, however, were missing from museums. Most were lawfully obtained at estate sales and flea markets, although the few reported as stolen led to charges being leveled.

The man, now 73, entered into a plea agreement in December 2022. His sentence, under its terms, was one day in jail, 14 months under house arrest and a $65,000 fine.

Part of the deal’s terms, however, required him to inform investigators where they could find the Colt Whitneyville Walker, as well as guns missing from the Museum of the American Revolution, Daniel Boone Homestead, U.S. Army War College and others. All are now back in their rightful hands, and the Walker had the personal escort of two members of the Connecticut State Patrol as it traveled back to the Museum of Connecticut History.

The defense attorney told reporters his client simply collected the guns because he loved history, memorized every detail about them and had no intention of ever selling them.


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