Hamer’s Hammer: The Remington Model 8

Dinosaurs were presumed to have died out due to some sudden cataclysmic event many years ago.

Scientists would have us believe that the dinosaurs died out some 65 million years ago. The Cretaceous-Tertiary (Abbreviated K-T—the German word for Cretaceous is “Kreidzeit”) Extinction Event is postulated to have been responsible for the mass die-off of countless dinosaurs, mammals, amphibians, and plants.

There are a great many theories concerning what ultimately led to the demise of the dinosaurs. However, it seems one example actually lived well into the 20th century.

Paleontologists theorize that the cause might have been some planetary plague, climate change, or a catastrophic meteor strike. However, I would assert that all that is wrong. Disputes regarding the relative age of the earth notwithstanding, the last surviving dinosaur actually passed away in 1955. His name was Frank Hamer.

Origin Story

The young Frank Hamer was the product of some rugged frontier upbringing. He was shot for the first time with a load of buckshot at age 16. The timely intervention by an African-American friend saved his life.

Francis Augustus Hamer was born in 1884 the son of a blacksmith in Fairview, Texas. Young Frank was one of five sons, four of whom ultimately grew up to become Texas Rangers. He was devoutly Presbyterian and spent many of his formative years in the Texas town of Oxford in Llano County. Oxford eventually dried up into a ghost town. Frank in his later years described himself as the only “Oxford-educated Ranger” in Texas.

At age 21 Hamer undertook a citizen’s arrest of a man who stole a horse and found that he was pretty good at it.

Frank never made it past sixth grade. However, he was a naturally intelligent man with an analytical mind and a near-photographic memory. He worked in his father’s blacksmith shop as a youngster as well as on a local ranch. In 1905 at age 21 he apprehended a horse thief.

Frank Hamer’s successful Law Enforcement career spanned decades.

The local sheriff was so impressed with Frank’s abilities that he recommended he apply for the Texas Rangers. The following year Hamer did just that, launching himself on what would become a legendary 40-year career in Law Enforcement. He has been subsequently described as “The Greatest American Lawman of the 20th Century.”

The Professional Peace Officer

Hamer is the fresh-faced kid on the left, and he was stone cold in a fight. The first criminal he killed was a bloodthirsty murderer named Ed Putnam holed up in a brothel. Hamer killed the man with a single round to the face from this Winchester Model 94 rifle.

Hamer served as a Ranger for decades, leaving the service to take other jobs in Law Enforcement before coming back for varying reasons. In 1908 he served as City Marshal in Navasota, Texas, a riotous boom town veritably awash in violence. During the course of two years, more than a hundred men were killed in brawls and shootouts. Hamer waded right in and started cracking heads.

Frank Hamer’s Law Enforcement career began on horseback and extended into the modern era.

Hamer worked the Texas border battling arms smugglers and bootleggers grown rich off of Prohibition. Sundry gunfights cemented his reputation as a frontier lawman with whom one should not trifle. In 1917 Hamer married Gladys Sims.

Frank Hamer (left) was legendarily courteous, respectful, and polite around women. However, he was a holy terror in a gunfight.

Interestingly, Gladys was the widow of one Ed Sims. Gladys and her brother had been charged with Ed’s murder the year before. On October 1st, 1917, Frank and Gladys were filling up their car in Sweetwater when they bumped into Gus McMeans, Ed Sims’ brother-in-law and himself a former Texas Ranger.

Hamer is shown here standing on the left after he killed Ed Putnam. Putnam, an inveterate career killer, had been packing the newfangled Luger pistol the Ranger Captain in the foreground is now brandishing.

Words were exchanged, and the two men slapped leather. When the smoke cleared Gus was dead–shot through the heart. Hamer was wounded, but the shoot was deemed righteous.

Texas in the early 20th century was awash in guns. In the aftermath of a lethal gunfight with his wife’s ex-brother-in-law the cops confiscated a full dozen firearms from the men’s vehicles.

A total of ten rounds had been fired. Police later confiscated seven revolvers, two semiautomatic pistols, and three rifles from Hamer and McMeans’ two vehicles.

Finding His Stride

Frank Hamer had a reputation for honesty and integrity. However, he did not suffer foolishness lightly.

In 1918 Texas State Representative Jose Tomas Canales was chairing an investigation into allegations of the abuse of citizens by the Rangers. Hamer stalked Canales around the Capital building and threatened to kill him. Canales reported this to the Governor, but Hamer was never disciplined.

Hamer had little use for the KKK and saved some fifteen African-American men from lynch mobs during the course of his storied career.

In 1922 Hamer launched a crusade against the Ku Klux Klan. Along the way, he personally saved fifteen men from lynch mobs. In 1928 Hamer also put the collar on a murder-for-hire racket.

Frank Hamer (right) had a reputation for doing the right thing no matter the consequences. He suffered multiple attempts on his life as a result.

The Texas Bankers’ Association had grown weary of bank robberies. They posted a bounty of $5,000 for “dead bank robbers—not one cent for live ones.” Lawmen with flexible morals began whacking sundry ne’er-do-wells and cashing in their cooling corpses at five grand per. Hamer exposed the undertaking as “the bankers’ murder machine,” and heads rolled. This earned Hamer few friends among the banking clans.

Governor Ma Ferguson was a genuine piece of work. She ascended to the Texas Governorship after her crooked husband was impeached.

Texas politics was a sordid thing in the early 1930s. The Governor, “Pa” Ferguson, was impeached and removed from office for sundry maleficence. His wife, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, was later elected. Frank Hamer then quit the Rangers stating, “When they elected a woman Governor, I quit.”

Frank Hamer’s Masterwork

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow ultimately killed nine law officers during their reign of terror.

In the early 1930s, the lurid exploits of the Motorized Bandit captivated the country. In a nation torn apart by the Great Depression, impoverished Americans lived vicariously through the likes of John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and Al Capone. Among the Tier 1 gangsters were Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.

Bonnie and Clyde killed wantonly and had to be stopped.

Bonnie and Clyde’s exploits have been explored here previously. Here’s the link: Bonnie and Clyde article

Don’t let the care-free visages fool you. There is some debate as to whether or not Bonnie ever actually shot anybody, but Clyde was an undeniably cold-blooded killer.

Suffice to say that these two love-struck outlaws tore across the country stealing money and shooting their way out of trouble. The American public was actually fairly taken with the two right up until they undertook the execution-style slayings of a pair of Highway Patrol motorcycle officers on a rural Texas highway on Easter Sunday 1934.

Though Frank Hamer looks like a sensitive introspective soul here, he likely set out to kill Bonnie and Clyde.

Eliminating Bonnie and Clyde became a crusade for American Law Enforcement. Multiple LE organizations established task forces to neutralize the pair. Meanwhile, Hamer was brought out of retirement, commissioned as an officer in the Texas Highway Patrol, and given the mandate to stop Bonnie and Clyde by any means necessary. His specific directive was “put ‘em on the spot, know you’re right—and shoot everybody in sight.”

Maney Gault was Frank Hamer’s friend and fellow Ranger. He was later described as being “As taciturn as a turtle in a drought.”

Alongside his old Ranger friend Maney Gault, Hamer hunted the couple for some 102 days. Accompanied by five other heavily-armed lawmen, Hamer set up an ambush for the pair near Gibsland, Louisiana. Hamer arranged a ruse to get the outlaws to stop their car thinking a friend needed help.

  The Remington Model 8 was the first successful autoloading rifle sold for public consumption. It was a popular Law Enforcement weapon as well.

A local Deputy Sheriff named Prentiss Oakley initiated the ambush by shooting Barrow through the head with a Remington Model 8 rifle.

Here are a few of the weapons used in the Bonnie and Clyde ambush. The Monitor BAR at the top was wielded by Ted Hinton. Maney Gault fired the Remington Model 8 below it. The cut-down Remington Model 11 shotgun at the bottom was rumored to have been Bonnie Parker’s Whippit.

The posse fired about 160 rounds total through a variety of weapons to include a Colt Monitor BAR. When the dust settled the two criminals were cut to pieces. Locals could hear the gunfire for miles and presumed that loggers were clearing trees with dynamite.

Frank Hamer’s Rifle

This ornate engraved Model 8 was a gift to Captain Hamer from the Remington Company after a shooting exhibition.
Captain Hamer’s Model 8 included an extended magazine.

For the Bonnie and Clyde ambush, Hamer was packing a customized Model 8 chambered in .35 Remington. His rifle was serial number 10045 purchased through Petmeckey’s Sporting Goods Store in Austin. Hamer had replaced the standard fixed magazine with an extended twenty-round version he had obtained through Peace Officers Equipment Company in St. Joseph, Missouri.

The Remington Model 8 was a sleek and effective rifle that was popular with both cops and civilians alike.

The Model 8 was the product of the inimitable mind of John Moses Browning. Browning patented the design in 1900 and sold the US production rights to Remington. Essentially the same gun was produced by FN in Belgium for international customers marketed as the Model 1900.

As the Model 8 operates via the long recoil system the barrel slides rearward inside a drawn steel tube.

The Model 8 was the first successful semiautomatic rifle sold to American civilians. More than 80,000 copies were produced. The Model 8 operated via the long recoil system philosophically similar to that of the Browning Auto-5 shotgun. In the case of the Model 8, the recoil spring wraps around the barrel within a steel shroud.

The action of the Remington Model 8 rifle was mechanically elegant. Note the cutout in the top of the receiver cover for stripper clip loading from the top.

The bolt locked to the barrel via a rotating bolt head. Upon firing, the bolt and barrel recoiled back as a single unit. At the rearmost point of travel, the bolt was held to the rear, while a separate spring system returned the barrel forward into firing position. This separation extracted the empty case. Once the barrel settled into place the bolt was released to pick up another round and lock it in position for firing. Here’s a cool video of the gun in action—

The right-sided ranch gate safety lever is strikingly similar to that of the Kalashnikov rifle.

The Model 8 was sold in .25 Remington, .30 Remington, .32 Remington, .35 Remington, and .300 Savage chamberings. Potential finish options included Standard, Special, Peerless, Expert, and Premiere. I bought my .32 Rem Model 8 at an obscure little auction and was thrilled to find it. The gun was made in 1914 and looks new. The long recoil mechanism is fascinating, and the ranch gate-style safety just screams Kalashnikov.

Ruminations

This is Frank Hamer and his posse. Back row, left to right, are Prentiss Oakley, Ted Hinton, Bob Alcorn, and Maney Gault. In the front row we see Frank Hamer (Left) and Henderson Jordan.

There were conflicting stories regarding whether or not Hamer and Company attempted to confront Bonnie and Clyde prior to cutting them down. These two bloodthirsty outlaws had a penchant for killing cops. They had admitted that they would shoot their way out of any encounter with Law Enforcement.

The cops fired their 160 rounds in about sixteen seconds. Clyde was likely killed by the first shot.

This was a different time, so nobody really griped much that these two criminals were essentially executed on a rural Louisiana road.

Frank Hamer is shown here on the right alongside his friend Maney Gault and two of the Bonnie and Clyde guns–an M1918 BAR and a Remington Model 11 Whippit shotgun. Hamer kept the weapons as partial payment for the operation. Clyde’s mother unsuccessfully petitioned to get the guns returned to her, arguing that as he had never been convicted of a crime they were still her son’s property.

Hamer was ultimately stiffed out of most of the reward money he had been promised for neutralizing the pair. However, he did keep the two miscreants’ firearms. Hamer went back later with his posse to recreate the shooting on the actual site.

Like George Patton, Frank Hamer would not have thrived in the 21st century. However, in his era he was a legendary lawman.

Frank Hamer suffered a stroke in 1953 at age 69. He never recovered and died two years later. Over the course of his Law Enforcement career, Hamer had been wounded seventeen times and had killed somewhere between 53 and 70 people. He had himself been left for dead after shootouts on four occasions. Frank Hamer was simply a product of a different era.

Frank Hamer carried this engraved Colt 1873 Peacemaker in .45LC throughout his Law Enforcement career. He called the gun “Ole Lucky.”
Captain Frank Hamer is shown on the top right. That is one seriously bad man.
Hamer was a smoker and had lived a hard life before dying at age 69. Note the cartridges left on his gravestone by admirers.

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About the author: Will Dabbs was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, having been immersed in hunting and the outdoors since his earliest recollections. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mississippi and is the product of a traditional American nuclear family. Where most normal American kids get drunk to celebrate their 21st birthday, Will bought his first two machineguns. Will served eight years as an Army Aviator and accumulated more than 1,100 flight hours piloting CH47D, UH1H, OH58A/C, and AH1S helicopters. He is scuba qualified, has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning, and has summited Mt. McKinley, Alaska–the highest point in North America–six times (at the controls of a helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains). For reasons that seemed sagacious at the time he ultimately left the Army as a Major to pursue medical school. Dr. Dabbs has for the last dozen years owned the Urgent Care Clinic of Oxford, Mississippi. He also serves as the plant physician for the sprawling Winchester ammunition plant in that same delightful little Southern town. Will is a founding partner of Advanced Tactical Ordnance LLC, a licensed 07/02 firearms manufacturer and has written for the gun press for a quarter century. He writes solely to support a shooting habit that is as insensate as it is insatiable. Will has been married to his high school sweetheart for more than thirty years and has taught his Young Married Sunday School class for more than a decade. He and his wife currently have three adult children and a most thoroughly worthless farm dog named Dog.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Tony April 28, 2021, 8:26 am

    My calculations indicate that Hammer was age 71 at his death, not 69.

  • Shanz April 26, 2021, 3:30 pm

    Highway Men.

  • Kent April 26, 2021, 3:09 pm

    Another masterfully told tale, Doc! This has been told many times, but you always manage to insert tidbits of the tale that I haven’t heard before. Love your writing! Always worth the read. You are without a doubt the BEST gun writer extant today.

  • Russell Chicoine April 26, 2021, 11:42 am

    A wonderful accurate story about Frank Hamier but just wanted to add in picture number 11 from the top down is Tom mix along side of Frank he was one of the Roosevelt San Juan Hill cuba troop also was part of the 101 Ranch Oklahoma show weird way to go he died traumatic brain injury in a accident driving his cord automobile that had tires that will imprint his TX mark in the thread woulld Imprint in the ground so they knew that Tom Mix was there

    • kc April 27, 2021, 1:44 pm

      I remember seeing that picture years ago. Tom Mix was an early silent film cowboy hero, and was made an honorary Texas Ranger in 1935. The caption of the photo was “The Reel Thing and the Real Thing”.

  • Hilbilly April 26, 2021, 9:23 am

    In today’s world their actions would cause mass riots and condemnation per police brutality

  • Charlie Erb April 26, 2021, 9:01 am

    Thank you so much for the great story of Frank Hamer. They don’t seem to make em like Frank anymore! Your story is worthy of a movie production. I watched the Highwaymen three times with Kevin Cisneros and Woody Harrelson that portrays the taking down of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. I enjoy shooting my Remington Model 81 a later version of the Model 8 that the Texas Rangers used!

  • Frank April 26, 2021, 8:49 am

    I second the sentiment that “we need more like him”. Perhaps the marxist-driven “social-justice” criminals wouldn’t be able to so freely flout the laws and peaceful, free citizens of this country.

  • Ross April 26, 2021, 6:51 am

    Cool Story Bro!

  • Stan April 26, 2021, 6:02 am

    Thank you once again for a great article. I really enjoy reading your articles.

  • Tim Cook April 25, 2021, 6:03 pm

    awsome story we need more people like him

  • Tim Cook April 25, 2021, 5:59 pm

    awsome story. we need more people like him

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