So you're the curator of a museum and you have a near priceless antique Colt vanish. The police have no leads. No signs of it on Craigslist, Gunbroker, or the local pawnshops. Then late one night almost a year later, while watching TV, in walks your missing gun.
The case of the missing Dragoon
Jim Gordon's Casa Escuela Museum in Glorieta, New Mexico is a small privately run collection of vintage firearms. Like many small museums, the Escuela does not have regular business hours to eliminate overhead and is by appointment only for interested historians and collectors. One Wylie Gene Newton, a 65-year old collector scheduled a private viewing of the museum. After a second visit, in March 2011, a very rare and beautiful 1849 .44-caliber Colt Dragoon revolver came up missing. Detectives soon paid ole Wylie a visit but came up without the Dragoon. The gun had pulled an Amelia Earhart.
What is a Colt Dragoon?
Taking lessons learned in the 1845 Mexican War from users of his Walker series revolver, firearms inventor Samuel Colt produced a modified .44 percussion revolver in 1848. These huge hog legs were used to arm the US Army's new Mounted Rifles regiment (known as Dragoons) and the revolver became forever known by the designation. The six-shooter was 68 ounces (over four pounds) and almost 15-inches long with a 7.5-inch barrel. The Dragoon cemented Samuel Colt into modern history and set the stage for the later Colt 1851 Navy as well as cartridge designs such as the Peacemaker.
The Dragoon has been a favorite piece of hardware in hundreds of movies. It was the Desert Eagle .50 of its day. (IMFDB photo)
Only 18,500 were manufactured and many were destroyed. Later in the 19th century, those still around were often broken up for parts or converted to fire cartridges. It’s thought that fewer than 200 of these historically important hand cannons survive in original, functioning condition. The missing New Mexico Dragoon was valued at over $40,000.
A year after the Dragoon came up missing; Escuela museum Curator Jeff Hengesbaugh was watching the program American Guns on the Discovery Channel. A reality-TV show set in a Colorado gun shop, the program has a large and growing fan base. On that night's episode, in walks ole Wylie with (you guessed it) the long lost Colt Dragoon for sale.
What an amazing coincidence.
After urgent phone calls to police in both New Mexico and Colorado, an undercover sting buy, an arrest, and an extradition, Wylie now sits awaiting trial.
"Do you think I am stupid enough that I would take a gun I stole on TV?" asked Wiley G Newton....(KDVR photo)
The Dragoon is safe inside the evidence locker and the Escuela looks forward to getting him back.
So remember gang, when visiting a museum, look but don't touch and never ever take stolen firearms on national TV, no matter how cool the show is.