Last week, the Grand Traverse County (MI) Sheriff’s Office donated a unique collection, which includes a handcrafted contraband weapon confiscated from an inmate at the Grand Traverse County Correctional Facility in 1971; a makeshift bullet; other accessories and design sketches; and a print magazine with a bullet hole.
At the correctional facility, these items were voluntarily given up to corrections officers after an inmate test-fired the weapon into a magazine (an issue of Argosy, an American pulp magazine published from 1882-1978). After drawing up plans on scrap paper, the inmate crafted the body of the weapon out of paper, including cigarette paper and gum wrappers. A piece of his bed frame made the weapon’s barrel. The bullet is the metal, eraser-end of a pencil, and match-heads were smashed up to provide gunpowder. The bullet could be loaded into the barrel using a paper casing like a wad, similar to the way muzzles are loaded. When the inmate test-fired the “gun,” the “bullet” nearly punctured all the way through the magazine.
R0291.2 Pistol; handmade contraband weapon made mainly of paper
|R0291.3 Bullet; metal eraser-end of a pencil used as bullet in handmade weapon|
|R0291.1 Sketches; pencil drawings of weapon design|
R0291.6 Serial: Argosy with partial bullet-hole at center
It is interesting to note that Grand Traverse County Correctional facility became a non-smoking facility in 2000; matches and cigarettes are no longer allowed.
This fascinating collection is one example of how the corrections profession will be highlighted in the National Law Enforcement Museum.