Craig police donate two historic firearms to Museum of Northwest Colorado
As Director Dan Davidson finished signing his federal paperwork Friday, Feb. 15, the Museum of Northwest Colorado officially acquired two new additions to its already extensive firearms collection.
The weapons — a bolt-action Gewehr 88 rifle and a modified Stevens 12-gauge pump-action shotgun — were given to the museum courtesy of the Craig Police Department, which had the rifle locked and lonely in evidence and the shotgun collecting dust in the police armory.
“I just hate to have them sit there when the museum can have them on display,” said CPD Capt. Bill Leonard.
Leonard signed the weapons over to the museum on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, Feb. 14. The Craig Press was able to accompany Davidson to pick up the firearms the following day at PJ Nichols’ Northwest Pawn. Nichols waived their usual $40 firearm transfer fee as a donation to the museum.
Guns of all types line the walls and display cases of Northwest Pawn. Nichols said he’s been building, dealing in, and researching firearms his whole life.
As he laid the rifle on a glass countertop, Nichols explained the Chinese markings and what looks to be a swastika engraved on the barrel.
“What looks to be a swastika is actually not a swastika,” Nichols said Friday. “But the gun was built in Germany. So what you’re looking at is an 88 Gewehr. It predated the Mausers. Mauser, in fact, never built any of them. Their production was 1888 until 1899. This particular series of 88 Gewehr, in 1907, they sold a bunch to China. They sold them to several countries, to India, China, Russia, all over. You can still find them out there today.
“The Gewehr was in German service from 1888 until 1901. Then, they brought them back out again in World War II, 1944 to 1945, because they were scraping up anything they could shoot with.”
Leonard said the rifle has been in evidence for many years, but he wouldn’t elaborate on how it came to be in Craig police custody.
“Because of the circumstances, we’ll just say it was recovered,” Leonard said, adding the rifle’s owners never came to collect it.
Nichols said the rifle was in rough shape and might not fire or have much monetary value, but the historical value is certainly there.
“That’s a cool museum piece,” Nichols said. “It’s not necessarily relative to cowboy history in this area, but it’s an important piece of gun history, even if it is kinda obscure.”
The old Stevens
As for the Stevens, a model 820B, Leonard said it has been in the CPD armory for decades.
“That’s been in the police department armory for longer than I’ve been here — probably 30-something years,” Leonard said.
The shotgun likely had its barrel modified — shortened — to accommodate use in and out of police vehicles. Leonard said federal law prevents CPD from using modified weapons such as the donated shotgun.
“We were cleaning out the racks and whatnot, and that one had been converted to police use, which the ATF used to allow, but they don’t allow that anymore,” Leonard said.
The shotgun came into the police armory one of two ways, according to Leonard. It could have been purchased new or confiscated and later converted for police use.
“It was probably one of two things,” Leonard said. “It was either originally bought for police use or back in the day several years ago when they didn’t require that we dispose or donate them, we could convert them to law enforcement use. So the police department could have converted it to law enforcement use.”
Nichols said the Stevens shotgun was probably produced between 1912 and the 1940s.
“This one is actually prior to serial numbers,” Nichols said of the shotgun.
Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1790 or cthorp@CraigDailyPress.com.