Richard Pittenger was 16 years old when his Remington Wingmaster 20-gauge shotgun, a gift from his father, was stolen from his truck.
37 years later, long after the man accepted that he would likely never see the shotgun again, Salt Lake police have gone to extraordinary lengths to track down the firearm and return it to him.
According to Deseret News, Pittenger had a copy of the gun's serial number and gave it to the police in 1977. The gun was recently sold to a sporting goods store in Oregon, which checked the serial number and was saw it had been reported stolen. The store contacted police, and Salt Lake police detective Rod Van Scoy scoured old microfilm police reports before finding Pittenger's case.
"This is by far the oldest [piece of recovered stolen property] that I've ever come across. It's just a cool story," Van Scoy remarked.
Pittenger said he was extremely grateful for the detective's work.
"Thirty-seven years, talk about a cold case," he said. "The detective having to go through the microfilm, that's got to be a tedious process. To put in the time to do that, that's really cool of him."
Though the shotgun is in "unbelievable" condition, Pittenger said he likely won't take it shooting anytime soon.
"I don't know the history of it. I don't know if it was used to hurt somebody over the years. So there's a little bit of a weird feeling about that. So eventually I'll take it out, but it's going to be a long time before I do something like that."
Even so, Pittenger said that being reunited with the shotgun, a gift from his now-deceased father, reminds him of a different time of his life.
"It's good to go back and relive some of that," he said.
More on the story via KSL-TV: