• Red Nichols, Holstorian

It's a date -- with the FBI

Updated: Mar 23

This oft-seen image of Jerry Campbell firing his Thompson submachine gun is notable to us holstorians because he's wearing his Myres No. 614 "Threepersons" holster with one of his 357s in it; on what looks like a Brill trousers belt (Campbell also had a Brill holster for his S&W). The image has been colorized of course:

All the items shown are all datable and they fit into what is the likely date of the image itself. We know when the man became a DOI agent (1934), we know when the DOI became the FBI (1935), we know when the S&W .357 was introduced (1935 also). We know when the Myres holster took on that final style (1938).

And the Thompson? The Wiki entry states that the DOI began acquiring these submachine guns in '33 after the Kansas City Massacre in June that year (in which another man nick-named "Jelly", a bank robber, was killed by his fellow crims; he was so-named for the gelignite he used to blow open safes)(you Thompson experts were going to point to the Cutts Compensator for a date, weren't you?). I was surprised to read there that the Thompson (a) was not ready in time to be used in WW1 and (b) it is in .45 because no other caliber was suited to its blowback action (and all this time I thought it fired from an open bolt like the UZI, which I have fired; one really can't miss a target with it, eh?).

Jerry Campbell's skywriting appears in a December 1939 newspaper column (shown at end of this post), and D.A. Bryce (he does not ever appear in print as 'Jelly' Bryce until just at the end of WWII with Germany, May of 1945) appears soon in another column, June 1940, doing the same demonstration. So, the Campbell image is from these appearances in '39.

And this is all part of Hoover's aggressive publicity campaign about arming the FBI. Hoover himself publishes an article about the FBI's weaponry in The Leatherneck that same year, 1939, that is followed by its publication American Rifleman in 1945 (a hard copy around here somewhere; not in my image files for you today, tho).

Recall that at the time of John Dillinger's death, where Jerry Campbell was one of 21 officers and agents present including DOI, State, and local P.D.s, Hoover's agency was the D.O.I. (Department of Investigation) and not the FBI yet; that happened in mid '35. Campbell had just joined from Oklahoma City's P.D., and Jelly would follow but after Dillinger's shooting -- and was not there despite his much-later claims that it was at his shooting of a notorious gangster in a theatre in the early '30s who gave him his 'Jelly' nickname.

Jerry's Threepersons, although the Myres 614 appeared in 1930, was not that early model. Instead the style changed to this one by the 1938 Myres catalog. The .357 itself appeared in 1935; is the revolver in the image his 38/44 instead? Nope, his was gold plated and engraved -- and had pearl grips. So the revolver in the image is one of his .357s; and here it is with his Myres holster. His other is that highly decorated version at right:

All of these facts are not necessarily probative of each other; on the other hand they also ALL fit together. So I'm happy to call the Campbell image 1939, as a press photo: these events were staged for the press themselves -- the author of the column didn't just hear about it, he was there.

In noting the cost of the flares above, be aware that in 1939 the price of gold until 1967 was U$35/oz; with that in mind we should realize that gold touched U$2,000/oz last year -- so each flare was about U$600 each today. FF -- Fun Fact.

Above is Jerry's 'early' Brill holster; belts such as his Brill usually don't survive for the collector because they 'shrink' and get tossed. Here's what the Brill belts look like, this one draped over the shoulder of N.J. Rabensburg who made the 'late' Brills; notice the long, distinctive tapered billet that is showing near Jerry's holster):

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