The Gilmore Gun

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The Gilmore Gun – Echo of Murder by Dennis R. Stilson

five guns that changed history #4

The book about

 “American histories most legally and politically significant firearm.”

“The true story of the gun that brought back capital punishment to America.”

“In 1977, Gilmore was executed by firing squad, the first convict to die after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty.”


FACT-   “No other firearm in ANY CASE has legally affected everyone in America at this level, the return of the most severe punishment for committing the most horrendous crime.” “One of American histories most famous, historical, and valuable firearms.”


January 17, 2016

Marks 39 years since the execution of Gary Mark Gilmore

Gilmore in chair




 July 1976 – Gary Gilmore robbed and murdered a gas station attendant in Orem, Utah.

The following day he again robbed and murdered the manager of a motel in Provo, Utah. The same pistol was used for both murders and is now known as the “Gilmore Gun.”

January 1977 – Gilmore was executed only six months after committing murder. His death was by firing squad making him the first person to be executed in America in over a decade ending a federal moratorium prohibiting capital punishment nationwide.

The firearm used by Gilmore for both of these tragic robberies and murders was returned to the owner from whom Gilmore stole it after the court case and execution. It was stored away for 25 years before resurfacing.

The Gilmore Gun – book

                                Editorial Book Reviews

Larry Pratt – Executive Director – Gun Owners of America

Larry Pratt

The Gilmore Gun – Echo of Murder is a fascinating account of a key crime in American history and the tale of the gun involved. Amazingly, there are times when the criminal has a higher commitment to justice than many in the system. Stilson preserves an important record with this book.

  JEANIE ALMOND –  Director of Education –  Elm Fork Shooting sports – Dallas, Tx.

Jeanie Almond

My favorite quote in the book was ” I didn’t realize how much opinions about guns differ in America. I simply never considered other’s lifestyles.” This book tells a true and tragic story of a failed family and a piece of equipment that became famous because it was used to do a terrible evil.

Toby Dye – Producer –   Has directed an acclaimed catalogue of highly distinctive work, recognised with major international awards for both his long-form narrative films

Toby Dye

The extra-ordinary life story of the Gilmore Gun, a .22 caliber Browning pistol that rose from humble origins to become America’s most wanted firearm, is a fascinating parable for the modern age. –Toby Dye– Award winning documentary producer and director.   Toby Dye said, Quote “This story is extremely rare for two reasons, first; you are trying to do something good with the gun, your experience and story, second; you are still alive to do it.”



“A shocking, but thought-provoking story… well researched and told. The author knows his subject and pries open the reader’s mind for a look into the real world.”       Forrest Bryant Johnson – author of Phantom Warrior and Hour of Redemption. 4.0 out of 5 stars

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and fascinating 18 Sep 2011
By Keri Boda – Published on
I have always known of the Gary Gilmore story since I was a small child. My Mother loved the book,The Executioner’s Song and the tv movie based on it. I had no clue of the interesting story behind the actual weapon used in the crimes. Dennis Stilson has written an interesting book that not only tells the story of the crime and the criminal and his background, but it is also,(and the main story of the book)the weapon used in horrible crimes.
Mr. Stilson knows whereof he speaks. He has personal ties to the crimes and as a firearms dealer and bounty hunter, he is familiar with the law and weapons. He presents the story of The Gilmore Gun thoughtfully and in a way as to not lose readers who might not be interested in weapons.
I found this a very interesting read that was well researched and presented.I am proud to say I own a copy of this book.
If you are interested in True Crime books, this is one you need to add to your collection. If you are a firearms enthusiast, this book will interest you a great deal.
I Learned things I didn’t know.
 By Richie KM on April 6, 2014

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

I found this story to be exceptionally well written and very interesting. I enjoyed the in-depth explanations and appreciate the research that was done on every aspect of the book. Great read!


The “Gilmore gun” is a Browning Challenger II semi-automatic .22 LR


Beginning over thirty five years ago – Dennis Stilson’s ties with one of America’s key historical murder cases continues. He gives a unique and qualified perspective of the epilogue of a murder weapon. As an experienced firearm dealer, bail bondsman, and bounty hunter his background adds to this rare view of the execution that brought back capital punishment to America and the events that surrounded one of history’s rarest collectible firearms. Articles, documents, and court records all solidify the extraordinary tale of the Gary Gilmore murders and the Gilmore Gun.


Gary Gilmore



The chair where Gary Gilmore sat  while executed by firing squad. January 17, 1977.






The-Gilmore-Gun Ammoland

The Gilmore Gun – Browning Challenger Two .22 LR semi-automatic pistol

USA –-( With any collectible items we all have our favorites be it cars, coins, art, guns or whatever it may be. And as with any of these objects we all have our favorite maker, model, year of production, artist, etc. Whether it’s because grandpa, grandma, dad, mom or some other person’s influence in our life may have had this similar interest and perhaps sparked the beginning of ours. Our interests may be sentimental, historical, etc. but we generally consider the value as one of the most important factors.

This article is about one rare and unique firearm which has been tagged the Gilmore Gun.                                                                        

      It takes time for a historical event to become well known throughout the country or the world. Many times the person involved with the event is deceased, which increases the collectible’s value even further because we know there will be no other such items. Collectibles involving famous people and events increase in value over time—more than items without this verifiable type of recognition. When a collectible has intriguing historical recognition and connection, along with absolute documentation, then the collectible is “the best of the best.” There are a limited number of items that are historically significant and, at the same time, are positively documented.

These types of collectibles are rare, desirable, and valuable. The Gilmore Gun has all of these attributes.

In the spring of 1976 Gary Mark Gilmore was released from an Illinois prison on a parole agreement to the care of his relatives in Provo, Utah. He was thirty five years old and had already spent the majority of his life incarcerated. A few months later in July 1976 he robbed and murdered two young men on consecutive days. He was quickly apprehended denying his guilt but shortly after confessed to his crimes, later stating if he had not been caught he would have killed again.

Two weeks prior to Gilmore’s terrible crimes the Supreme Court had reinstated capital punishment after ten years of no executions in all of America. This tragedy has an inimitable place in American history for multiple reasons. Gilmore refused all appeals for the murders he committed insisting on the death penalty which he received by firing squad, his choice over hanging, within six months of his trial making him the test case to bring back the death penalty the only time it had been halted nation wide in American history.

He used the same pistol for both murders and after the case and execution the court returned the murder weapon to the store owner Gilmore had burglarized.

Which in most rational peoples opinion seems fair and logical, but has seldom happened throughout our history.

The store owner hid the pistol away for 25 years before asking a local gun dealer and long time friend to sell the gun for him. After some research the pistol was placed on a popular internet gun auction receiving a bid for $500,000.00 but did not meet the reserve or asking price. A few months later the gun was first shown at a Las Vegas gun show.

The Gilmore gun at a Las Vegas gun show.

The Gilmore gun at a Las Vegas gun show.

The gun dealer, Dennis Stilson later purchased the pistol from the original owner. In 2008 the pistol was again listed on an internet auction reaching $780,000.00 but was still insufficient to reach the asking price. Stilson had numerous personal and professional ties with Gilmore’s family and others involved with the Gilmore case. He wrote a book titled “The Gilmore Gun – Echo of murder.” Articles depicting the Gilmore account covered the world in such magazines as Time, New times, Criminal Mind, Playboy, Rolling Stone, People and many more. There were also the books and movies solidifying both the unique and bizarre aspects of this memorable case. The most prominent book is by Norman Mailer titled “The Executioners Song” and won the Pulitzer prize. A TV movie by the same title starring Tommy Lee Jones won him an Emmy and a nomination for his co-star Rosanna Arquette. One of the cover photos used for the movie shows Tommy Lee Jones holding and pointing the Gilmore Gun.

The case that reinstated capital punishment in America should be remembered. It is a shame that this historically rare and important story is not part of our general educational history books and makes a statement of our lack of the pursuit of truth. The fact remains no other gun has been involved in any case that legally affected so many at such a legitimate level affecting laws that we still live by today. Committing the most horrendous crime resulting in the most severe punishment.

Other guns have certainly been used to murder more prominent historical or recognized victims but that is a bit of a different niche, this pistol reflects more of the legal or law affecting and social-political ramifications making it a very rare firearm indeed.

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“Five Guns That Changed History” by  Craig Gottlieb



five guns that changed history #1

#1  The rifle said to be used for the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  

five guns that changed history #2

#2 The pistol used for two assassinations which ultimately touched off the First World War.

five guns that changed history #3

#3 The derringer used for Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.


five guns that changed history #4

#4 The Gilmore Gun – The weapon that reinstated capital punishment in America.

So far the guns on this list are famous for who they killed, not who used them to kill. This gun is different. Gary Gilmore used it in two 1976 robberies to murder a gas station worker and a motel manager.

In 1977, Gilmore was executed by firing squad, the first convict to die after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty after a five-year pause. Although not the first murderer to be sentenced to death after the ban was reinstated, Gilmore, a criminal since his early teens, demanded that the sentence be carried out as soon as possible.

When the state obliged, he told his executioners “Let’s do it,” and created huge cultural waves. The case inspired a book by his writer brother Mikal, “Saturday Night Live” skits, movies, plays, songs and possibly even some portion of Nike’s “Just do it” slogan.

five guns that changed history #5

#5 The AK 47.

More information of the five guns that changed history. See  –  


 GARY MARK GILMORE  was born on December 4, 1940 in McCamey, Texas. He later lived in Utah and Oregon while growing up and was too often in trouble.

It is said while Gilmore was living in Oregon he started and operated a car theft ring at the age of fifteen.Gary spent the majority of his troubled life incarcerated from a teenager in detention to an adult in multiple prisons.  




      Harry Houdini,  the famous escape artist, is said to be Gary Gilmore’s Grandfather. Apparently none of his skills were passed on.  


Spring 1976  Gary’s uncle Vern Damico and cousin Brenda Damico helped arrange a parole / probation agreement bringing Gary to Utah providng him with a job and a place to live.

Vern Damico

Brenda Damico




Gilmore met Nicole Baker Barrett while she was living in Spanish Fork,  Utah and their unusual romance began.

            Gilmore had potential as an artist. This is one of his drawings of Nicole.
Two weeks prior to the first murder Gary burglarized Swan’s Market in Spanish Fork, Utah stealing eleven guns while the owners Gordon and Barbara Swan were out of town on a camping trip. After the trial and execution the court returned the stolen firearms including the murder weapon to the store owner.

Max Jensen



July 19th, 1976 Gilmore robbed and murdered Max Jensen while working at a gas station in Orem, Utah.

Max Jensen

The following day he robbed and killed Bennie Bushnell the manager of a motel in Provo, Utah.

                                                                                  The night of the second murder Gary was apprehended and arrested.



At first Gary denied his crimes but soon admitted his guilt. He refused all available appeals to prevent his execution. Later, when convicted he was given the choice of hanging or firing squad, “I prefer to be shot” he said.

    Gilmore attempted suicide while an inmate at Utah State prison and influenced his girlfriend to do the same simultaneously by overdosing on drugs she smuggled into the prison, they both failed.


Coincidentally, Barbara Swan, the store owners wife who was burglarized by Gilmore was also one of Nicole’s nurse’s during her recovery at Utah Valley Hospital.

 After the dual suicide attempt Nicole was placed in a mental institution and no contact between the two was permitted. Gilmore began a hunger strike in revolt.
Gilmore  attempted suicide a second time by overdosing on drugs acquired in the prison but again he failed.
            Gilmore’s death  was set for three different dates before he was finally executed.
                                                                                                                                            More plea’s, rescheduled executions, dates, suicide attempts, and stays than any other case in history made world news again and again.
Gary’s  birthday Dec. 4th 1976  was spent at the Utah State prison where he became 36 years old.
                                 Gilmore pic             
 Gilmore fired three of his five attorneys during his prison stay.

  Gary’s mother got involved against his wishes bringing another delay for execution.

 Gary Gilmore and his mother Bessie.


  Truman Capote was a well known author who had a few thoughts to add to this story. He suggested televised executions.
This legal and political battle brought the civil liberties lobbies, such as the ACLU, and individuals to Utah and the State prison in protest fearing the possible return of capital punishment.
The execution was set again at daybreak January 17, 1977. This time he would be shot.
Gary drinking whiskey from a mini bottle in Utah State prison. The night before his execution alcohol was smuggled in and a farewell party commenced.


Gary finally got his wish and was executed by firing squad only six months after committing two murders.








Gilmore’s famous last words are said to be “Let’s do it” but in fact he then said “Dominus vobiscum” Latin,translation: “The Lord be with you.” in which the priest replied,“Et cum spiritu tuo”  translationand with your spirit.



  Most major publications such as Newsweek, Life, Criminal Minds, Rolling Stone, Playboy, People, National Enquirer and many more world wide ran stories of this bizarre case that brought back capital punishment.


Immediately after the execution Gilmore’s body was rushed to a Salt Lake City hospital where body parts were removed and donated. An autopsy was taken and his body cremated. His ashes were scattered from an airplane over Spanish Fork, Utah.
A hit song was written by a punk group called the ” Adverts” titled “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” inspired by his donated corneas.
A book about this case titled “The Executioners Song” by Norman Mailer won thePulitzer Prize.
A movie also titled “The Executioner’s Song” starred Tommy Lee Jones winning him the Emmy award.  Co- star  Rosanna Arquette,  was also nominated for an Emmy. Other cast members included Christine Lahti, Eli Wallach, Steven Keats,Jenny Wright, Richard Venture, and Pat Corely.

                                                              The ten years prior to Gary Gilmore’s execution was the only time in American history capital punishment was halted nation wide.  This case officially reinstated the death penalty in America.


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In the Immortal Words of Gary Gilmore and NIKE, “[Just] Do It.”

Posted on June 20, 2010 by David Greene

“Just do it.” This is one of the world’s most famous trademarks, and any reader will know that products bearing the phrase are NIKE products. However, not many people know where this phrase comes from.

The phrase, “Just do it,” was thought up by the advertising agency, Wieden and Kennedy. Wieden and Kennedy is an independent ad agency, started in 1982. It is located in Portland, Oregon, and is famous for its work for NIKE. Dan Wieden, one of the founders of Wieden and Kennedy, credits an interesting source for the creation of the phrase, “Just do it.”

On a not so unrelated note, a man was executed in Utah last Friday morning. Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad on Friday, June 18, 2010. When asked if he had any last words, he replied, “I do not. No.” Does anyone think that the last words of a condemned murderer are ripe grounds for trademark goodwill? In Ronnie Lee’s case, perhaps not. But Utah’s death row is the source of the NIKE trademarked phrase, “Just do it.”

In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional. In 1976, the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in a case called Gregg v. Georgia, and Utah immediately wanted to put down one of its inmates who had very recently been convicted of armed robbery and murder. This man’s name was Gary Gilmore, and he would be the first to die under the reinstated death penalty.

Gilmore murdered a gas station employee and a hotel manager. The murders took place after car thefts, assault, and robbery. Growing up, he struggled. His mother and father told him that he was illegitimate, and that he was actually the son of Harry Houdini. His father earned a living selling advertising space in magazines, perhaps helping to secure Gilmore’s place as the source of a world famous trademark.

On January 17, 1977, Gilmore was executed by firing squad. He requested that, following his execution, his eyes be used in corneal transplants. It is rumored that Gilmore’s uncle smuggled some Jack Daniels whiskey into the prison for Gilmore to imbibe prior to execution.

After Gilmore was shot by the firing squad, his brother reported that five holes were left in the body, rather than four. Thus, the firing squad did not have the traditional “blank” loaded into one of the guns. In the memoirs of the brother, titled Shot in the Heart, “the state of Utah, apparently, had taken no chances on the morning that it put my brother to death.” When Gilmore was asked for his final words, he said, “Let’s do it.”

This phrase became famous in pop culture. Gilmore’s life (and death) became the basis for a movie, where Gilmore was played by Tommy Lee Jones. Gilmore inspired one of Jack Nicholson’s performances, in a movie called The Postman Always Rings Twice. An episode of Saturday Night Live featured a skit with a Christmas song satire called, “Let’s Kill Gary Gilmore for Christmas.” Gilmore inspired a UK top twenty hit, called “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes.” In a deleted scene of an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry says, “Well, in the immortal words of Gary Gilmore, ‘Let’s do it.’” In an episode of the television show Roseanne, Darlene is asked if she is ready to get married, and she says the same thing that Seinfeld said, quoting Gilmore.

While this list of references to Gilmore is not exhaustive, it is certainly highlighted by Wieden and Kennedy’s use of the phrase, “Let’s do it,” when crafting NIKE’s “Just do it.” Gary Gilmore, the convicted murderer and armed robber, who gave away his corneas, got drunk before getting shot, and was lucid enough immediately before being shot to use a very catchy phrase, would live on in the goodwill of NIKE.

When an article about Gilmore’s death caught the eye of Dan Wieden, he changed the contours of the phrase slightly, and it became, “Just do it.” Thus, a condemned man, who was drunk, who donated his eyes, and was in a rush to just do it (i.e., be shot by five bullets), inspired Dan Wieden to create NIKE’s famous trademarked phrase. One of the most popular phrases in the world has a dark pedigree that seems to have faded over time. The “goodwill” attached to the phrase is likely worth billions.



04.25.10 4:52 PM ET

Eyewitness to the Firing Squad


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