While on vacation, I’m reading Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough; this is the factual accounting of the exploits of Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie & Clyde, etc on which the Michael Mann movie of the same name is loosely based. The book itself is quite good, as Burroughs does an excellent job of weaving the patchwork of witness accounts and FBI files into a compelling narrative. I for one had no idea that Bonnie and Clyde were active at the same time as Indiana’s most infamous son, nor did I realize the amount of interconnectivity between the various V-8 bandits of the time.
However, what’s interesting about the book from a gunnie perspective is the firearms selection by the criminal class. While virtually everyone carried a pistol, if they knew they were headed for a shootout, they would always take a rifle, a shotgun, or an SMG. Long guns were the weapon of choice when violence was certain.
The same holds true for the lawmen hunting the criminals. When they knew a fight was coming, they’d always be kitted out with rifles, SMGs, and shotguns. Despite the prevalence and concealability of handguns, it seems that what the old cowboys knew in the 1800s was still true – pistols are for fighting your way back to your long gun.
That’s still true today – the role of a pistol for the armed citizen hasn’t changed from the ’30s. Valuable for its portability, it behooves us to remember that the real fight stoppers are fired from the shoulder.