Sheriff’s department gets custom case for 101-year-old gun

After sitting at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in Brownstown through decades of new sheriffs, officers and administrators, a 101-year-old Thompson submachine gun is safe and on display inside a custom case.

The case, with gun included, and a commemorative plaque with information about the gun were presented to Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer on Tuesday at the end of the Jackson County Commissioners meeting.

Rick Steward, the father of Chief Deputy Dustin Steward, built the display case using quarter-sawn white oak.

He said the conversation about building a case for the gun started in May 2019 during a meeting where Meyer told him to “build a box for it.”

“After I became sheriff, this gun was just sitting in the armory and nobody could ever see it because it was in a case and locked up,” Meyer said. “I brought it up that it would be awesome if it could be displayed everywhere so people could see it.”

The plaque includes information about the gun, which was manufactured in 1921 by Colt’s Patent Firearms in Hartford, Connecticut, and acquired by Sheriff Meredith Kay Stewart in 1932 to counteract crime during Prohibition and the Great Depression.

The gun was originally sold for $200, which was a lot of money in those days, due to the high-quality wood and parts used for it.

From 1921 until the 1950s, the Thompson machine gun was used by both law enforcement and outlaws. The U.S. military also used the gun from 1938 until 1971.

Notorious criminals who used the gun, such as John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson, have their names on the plaque with a description of their crimes, the years they were alive and their causes of death.

Also, the law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty during that time period are commemorated on the plaque.

Steward said he loved having the opportunity to build the case. He said the gun is in excellent condition, shoots very well and is accurate.

One bit of information not included on the plaque, Steward said, is that mail carriers carried the gun for around 15 years so people wouldn’t rob them.

As for the gun, Steward said it far exceeds $75,000, and he has seen some sold for more than $200,000.

If a gun expert wants to inspect the gun, Steward said they will have to look through the glass.

County Commissioner Drew Markel said since he was a child, he had heard about the gun and that it was being sought out by gun collectors and dealers.

Every sheriff since the gun’s purchase has declined any offer made for it, Markel said.

Some offers included outfitting the sheriff’s department with new handguns and rifles.

The public may view the machine gun in its new case by calling the sheriff’s department at 812-358-2141.