Lot #1498
Lot #1500

Lot 1499: Smith & Wesson .357 Registered Magnum Revolver

Auction Location: Rock Island, IL

Auction Date: August 26, 2023

Lot 1499: Smith & Wesson .357 Registered Magnum Revolver

Auction Location: Rock Island, IL

Auction Date: August 26, 2023

Estimated Price: $14,000 - $22,500
Price Realized:

Well-Documented, Identified, FBI Agent and Later CIA Agent Birch O'Neal's Smith & Wesson .357 Registered Magnum Double Action Revolver with Scarce 3 1/2 Inch Barrel, Box, Registration Certificate and Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
Model: Registered Magnum
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 357 magnum
Barrel: 3 1/2 inch solid rib
Finish: blue
Grip: walnut
Stock:
Item Views: 1917
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 396
Class: Curio & Relic Handgun
Description:

This .357 Registered Magnum (reg. no. 4467) has the shortest available factory length barrel, 3 1/2 inches. Short barrel lengths such as 3 1/2 inches were popular with law enforcement as clearly proven on this example as it was ordered for FBI Agent Birch O'Neal, who later joined the CIA and became entangled in the JFK assassination. The accompanying factory letter states the revolver was ordered by noted FBI firearms expert and inventor of the Baughman Quick Draw front sight, T. Frank Baughman, shipped on March 6, 1939, and delivered to Birch D. O'Neal of Memphis, Tennessee (incorrect destination as it was shipped to Charlotte, North Carolina), with a 3 1/2 inch barrel, Baughman Quick Draw front sight, square notch rear sight, Magna grips, and blue finish. The included original registration certificate confirms the revolver's configuration as well as registered by Birch D. O'Neal of Charlotte, North Carolina. Includes the rare original certificate shipping tube addressed to Birch D. O'Neal, Charlotte, North Carolina. The S&W order form and S&W invoice also confirm the revolver's configuration. O'Neal's Memphis address is given on the order form, and his Charlotte address is given as the shipping destination on the S&W invoice. The conflicting addresses are sorted out in O'Neal's included letter to S&W. In this letter O'Neal informed S&W that his mailing address had changed to Charlotte. The build request for this revolver was sent directly to Douglas Wesson by FBI Agent T. Frank Baughman, as indicated by Baughman's included handwritten letter to Wesson. In the letter Baughman named O'Neal as the recipient of the 3 1/2 inch S&W .357 Magnum revolver. Each Registered Magnum was built to the specifications of the buyer, then registered by number to the owner by Douglas Wesson himself, the then Vice President of Smith & Wesson. Baughman was the lead contact for all FBI and individual agent orders of the S&W .357 Magnum. His name will be found on almost all S&W factory documents related to this model linked to the FBI. Shorter barreled .357 Magnum revolvers fitted with a Baughman front sight were popular with FBI agents, and this revolver was ordered for O'Neal shortly after he become a special agent with the FBI. O'Neal (1913-1995) had just over 30 years of dedicated service with the U.S. government which spanned from January 10, 1938 to February 28, 1970. He began his government career as a special agent with the FBI and went on to be employed by other U.S. departments and agencies to include the Department of Justice, Department of State, and the Central Intelligence Agency. He had more than 12 years of foreign service while stationed in Latin America, Europe, and Africa. In 1947, he joined the CIA. He served as the station chief in Guatemala until he was transferred out by director Allen Dulles for objecting to the CIA sponsored coup to overthrow Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz that occurred in 1954. O'Neal went on to work for counterintelligence chief James Angleton's ultra secret office called the Special Investigations Group where he opened and controlled the Agency's file on Lee Harvey Oswald. More than 40 reports documenting Oswald's movements and life were obtained by the CIA from November 1959 to November 1963, but after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, O'Neal told the FBI that the Agency did not know much about Oswald. O'Neal is considered the first Oswald expert. He was the CIA liaison to the Warren Commission and his name is commonly found in JFK conspiracy theories that accuse the CIA of orchestrating JFK's murder. Upon his retirement O'Neal served as assistant to the director of counter intelligence. The CIA recently released a heavily redacted version of O'Neal's 244 page personnel file of which 177 pages contained redactions and three pages remained secret. O'Neal's government service still holds mysteries. A letter from O'Neal's daughter confirming this revolver was owned by her father is included. The revolver has matching serial numbers on the butt, right grip panel, cylinder, and ejector shroud. O'Neal's name is hand marked on the bottom of the grips. Comes with a correct S&W model box. Provenance: Birch O'Neal; The Gary Garbrecht Collection; The Ray Cheely Collection; The Dave Ballantyne Collection

Rating Definition:

Very fine as an FBI .357 Magnum revolver registered to agent Birch O'Neal who later joined the CIA and became entangled in the JFK assassination. The revolver displays the wear and tear of a service handgun, retaining 95% original blue finish with muzzle and edge wear and some pitting mostly on the cylinder. 97% original case colors remain on the hammer and trigger. The grips are fine with a chip near the bottom of the left panel, some minor handling marks, and overall crisp checkering. The box is fine. Mechanically excellent. This is a rare opportunity to acquire a .357 Registered Magnum owned by a noted FBI and CIA agent.



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