Continuing The Mystery of J. Edgar Hoover's #1 Registered .357 Magnum - 2015
Efforts by retired FBI agent, Walt Merritt (RIP) and myself have been ongoing for nearly ten years to account for the whereabouts of Director Hoover's #1 registered magnum given to him by Douglas Wesson in 1935. I was deeply saddened to learn that my good friend and partner in this effort passed away on January 12, 2015 after his admirable fight with cancer. Walt will be sorely missed by me and many of our colleagues.
This search is NOT part of any official inquiry of any type. Its actually part of an overall effort to document all of the Director and Tolson handguns known to exist. Although we've made extensive strides in the search for #1, obviously we're not there yet. Candidly speaking, other than mere curiosity, today there is more interest with "outsiders" in this handgun than any current or retired FBI agents. I know that from speaking to many of them over the years, from the Hoover era personnel on down.
If you'd like to see other handguns and more owned by the Director and Clyde Tolson, go to the navigation area and find our listing of the weapons accounted for in this regard. I can assure anyone that our efforts to find and verify the #1's existence is NOT part of any effort to have the weapon returned to the FBI. There are multiple Hoover and Tolson weapons on the outside with collectors and all rightfully obtained, originally through the estates, or in one case, given away by the Director.
The #1 is nothing unusual within the context of Hoover weapons so don't be overcome by some type of "paranoia." Many of the stories circulating by some collectors as to why this search continues are merely opinions not based on any facts. Frankly, I'm willing to bet that our current FBI Director, and those before him, don't - and didn't - know the story of this handgun!
As of 2015 I continue to follow leads and review thousands of FOIA FBI documents and I probably don't have to tell anyone it's like looking for a needle in a hay stack. Frankly, because of his passion with record keeping, I do think that Director Hoover may have very well documented where this weapon ended up. It's just a matter of finding it.
There is precedence for Hoover giving away hand guns. Documents located show that in 1937 he gave New York movie lawyer, Charles Pettijohn, a Super .38 that was recovered from the Dillinger gang belongings after the shootout at Little Bohemia. We have verified as late as 2013 that the weapon is still in the Pettijohn family, along with the original letter of presentation by the Director. There has not been any effort on the part of the Bureau to have this weapon returned, and there won't be any. Pettijohn family members were very cooperative with me regarding the weapon and I am satisfied they do not have the Director's registered magnum.
In addition to speaking to hundreds of Smith collectors and historians, we have checked records with the Hoover Foundation and have determined the Foundation never received any of the Director's guns. We have also eliminated FBI ADIC John Mohr and Richard Mohr (both deceased) as having ever been in possession of the #1. There is no evidence that anyone close to the Director at the time of his death "walked away" with the #1. As a matter of fact, after examining the overall evidence at hand, we really don't believe he owned the handgun at the time of his death in 1972. Including the late #3 man in the Bureau, "Deke" DeLoach (RIP), we've spoken to many ranking FBI personnel who were around during the Hoover years. None of them could provide anything of value on its fate.
We have been painstakingly examining personnel files of the early FBI personnel and others who were close to Director Hoover to determine if a record exists within them of any give-away. And, we're continuing to evaluate his outside contacts too.
According to Smith/Wesson records, the Director's Registered .357 Magnum, is described as: Serial 45768 Reg. No. 1, shipped from the Smith factory and delivered to J. Edgar Hoover in April, 1935. Records reveal it was shipped with 8.75 inch barrel, equipped with a 1/10 inch Patridge front sight, blue finish, checkered walnut grips, with grip adapter attached.
By the way, I am familiar and have seen the photos (see above) of the Director's #1 that circulated in the Smith/Wesson collector community several years ago, originating with some unknown party. The details of those photos surfacing are indeed a mystery right now....as was the timing of it all. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to opine that the originator of those photos knows something of importance about the #1.
If you can help in finding the #1 Registered Magnum, or the original source of these photos, please contact me through the email section of this site. We can keep confidential any information you desire and speak by phone if need be. I am fully aware that the owner of the #1 may desire to remain out of the public limelight...
Thank you for your assistance.
FBI - Ret.