The FBI Has Almost Every Gun Ever Manufactured

If every gun tells a story, the FBI’s reference firearms collection could fill a very, very large book. The inventory of more than 7,000 firearms — curated over 80 years — contains just about every make and model, from John Dillinger’s Prohibition-era revolver to the modern battlefield’s M16 and almost everything in between. Housed at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, the racks of weapons are not a musty exhibit of museum pieces, though some rare items would certainly qualify. Rather, the ever-expanding collection is a hands-on reference catalog for the Lab’s firearms examiners to study, take apart, reassemble, and test fire to support investigations. By maintaining a working library of virtually every handgun and rifle — along with a database of their unique toolmarks — examiners are able to identify and substantiate for investigators what weapons may have been used in criminal acts. Most of the firearms come from closed investigations, though some are purchased and still others arrive as donations. The gun collection was created in 1933, a year after the FBI launched the Technical Crime Laboratory, a forerunner to today’s FBI Lab.