March 15, 2021
By Brian Beck
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Peaky Blinders Season 6 just began filming in January of 2021, which sadly will be the final season of the show, with rumors of a follow-up movie also in the works (thankfully). This got me thinking how crazy it is that we haven’t discussed the firearms featured in the show yet.
If you haven’t watched Peaky Blinders yet, it is a TV series packed to the gills with amazing firearms and there are certainly a large number of fans of the series amongst the employees here at Rock Island Auction Company. Also, if you’re reading this it is pretty likely you’re a firearms enthusiast, and if you haven’t watched the show yet it really begs the question, why HAVEN’T YOU?
The series follows the Shelby family, of Birmingham, England, between the two World Wars, as they navigate their way through life on both sides of the law. Many of the Shelby men and their associates are World War I veterans, constantly dealing with the seen and unseen wounds of that terrible war. The show encompasses the regional and global politics of the time, incorporating the lit fuse that was the political situation in Ireland, the rise of the Italian mafia in American, the global economic crisis of the 1930’s, and the rise of fascism.
For those of you that have seen the show, you know that it also catalogs an interesting evolution in the arms that are carried by the Shelby clan, as well as those around them, while also showing the differing firearms favored during the period. I will try to continue without too many spoilers for those of you that have apparently been stranded on a desert island for the past eight years, but I can’t make any promises.
The first thing any gun aficionado will notice when watching the early seasons of Peaky Blinders is the prevalence of World War I surplus arms amongst the gangs and other groups of Birmingham. These guns would have been widely available and affordable after the end of the war, so it makes perfect sense that lowly gangs, such as the Peaky Blinders, would desire these weapons when they were first starting out.
In the early seasons you will often see the likes of Tommy and Arthur Shelby (along with their compadres) packing Webley pattern revolvers. This should be no surprise, as most of the characters in the show were British veterans of The Great War and likely had experience using the revolvers. Interestingly, much of the first season also focuses on the acquisition of a large batch of arms from the Birmingham Small Arms factory, and making sure they fall into the right hands—or at least not the wrong ones.
This grouping of guns also contains surplus arms from the war, however they are far more “military grade” than a top break revolver tucked in a coat, including Lee-Enfield No.1 Mk. III rifles and Lewis machine guns. Some of the rival gangs, such as Billy Kimber’s group, and even the Irish Republican Army, can be seen carrying Mauser Model 1896 Broomhandle pistols—some with shoulder stocks, as well as the odd P.08 or Model 1914 Luger.
If you have followed our auctions here at Rock Island Auction Company, you will know that these guns are available in all of our auctions, and in our upcoming Premiere Auction, you will be able to add some of the more rare variations of them to your collection.
One very interesting similar example to the Webley revolvers carries in the show will be available in our May 2021 Premier Auction. This Webley-Fosbery 1902 revolver is a very interesting combination of a revolver and a semi-automatic handgun.
While this specific model of Webley revolver isn't utilized in the show, there is very little doubt that the Peaky Blinders would have used one if they had gotten their hands on it. These revolvers utilize a unique mechanism which uses a combination of the recoil of a fired round and a series of zig-zag grooves on the cylinder to cock the hammer, much like most semi-automatic pistols.
Another example of one of the guns used early on in the show is the Lewis machine gun. These guns were carried by both British and American troops during World War I, and were one of the earliest forms of the "squad automatic weapon," or "SAW," that most people are familiar with today. The Lewis is quite easily identified by its distinctive barrel jacket that looks much like the large water jackets on many other machine guns of the time. These guns, however, were air cooled and this jacket was merely to protect the cooling components.
These guns are pretty rare on today's market, but they do pass through the doors here at Rock Island Auction Company from time to time. Not long ago we had one offered for sale which you can check out here.
As the seasons of the show go on, there is a clear escalation in the guns the gang needs to accomplish their goals; as well as an increase in their means to attain them. In this way, the show mirrors reality—as many of you will know—in the time between the world wars, organized crime became increasingly prevalent. In the show, this is represented through the introduction of even more powerful gangs including exiled Russian Imperials and the Italian mafia.
During these seasons, the evolution of firearms technology during the period can be seen clearly as well, through the more widespread use of semi-automatic handguns. When Tommy Shelby is confronted by Luca Changretta of the Italian mafia, Shelby can be seen carrying what appears to be a Colt Government Model. This would have been the pinnacle of civilian handgun technology at the time, and certainly not cheap to acquire.
However, a Colt 1911 is no match for some of the arms introduced by the mafia who were approaching the height of their power in the United States at the time. With the arrival of these gangsters from “across the pond” comes the introduction of the Thompson submachine gun, making the deadly serious nature of the situation quite clear. The Thompsons they carry appear to be either the Model 1921 variant or more likely, the Model 1928.
In the show, they have these Thompsons fitted with drum magazines, shoulder stocks, the iconic Cutts style compensators, and forward pistol grips, giving them an unprecedented level of handheld firepower. The mafia are not alone in their adoption of the submachine gun to try to get a leg up in the criminal underworld however. In the same gunfight Tommy Shelby can be seen countering the Thompsons of the mafia with another Lewis machine gun as well as a rarely seen Bergmann MP-18, a submachine gun which was employed by the Imperial German army in limited numbers during the later years of World War I.
If you were hoping to add some Peaky Blinders flavored full auto firepower to your collections, then you're in luck! Coming up in our May 2021 Premiere Auction we have exactly what you need to channel your inner Luca Changretta, a Colt Model 1921 Thompson submachine gun. This beauty even comes with two drum magazines, a 50-rounder and a 100-rounder.
All you need to supply is the fine Italian suit, a fedora, and a toothpick for the corner of your mouth and you're set! Oh, and don't fret, if you don't end up with the winning bid on this lot, we have plenty more Thompsons and other Class III firearms available to add to your arsenal in May.
If you haven’t watched this show yet and are a gun enthusiast, you really need to remedy that. It is a fantastic period drama filled with the amazing guns of the time, and if that isn’t enough on its own, most of these guns are available to add to your collection! The great thing about the wide range of arms employed in this show is that adding a “Peaky Blinders” gun is accessible to almost anyone, at any price point!
Popular entertainment has always driven interest in gun collecting, so subscribe to the Rock Island Auction newsletter to receive new gun blogs and gun videos every week. From articles on popular films such as Star Wars, Winchester 73, True Grit, and Quigley Down Under, to television hits like the Walking Dead, Yellowstone, 1883, Outlander, and more, we explore the most popular and intriguing guns of Hollywood.
Anyone thinking about dipping their toe into the world of firearms collecting should visit one of Rock Island Auction Company’s Sporting & Collector
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