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Old April 18, 2019, 11:38 PM   #1
dyl
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Handgun history question

It's my impression that the police force didn't widely issue 1911's as part of their progression from revolver to semi-auto sidearms. It's as if they skipped it. Is that true?
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Old April 19, 2019, 12:09 AM   #2
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Pretty much true. Carrying a handgun "cocked and locked" wasn't in the cards for most L.E. It's not even that common for civilians. DA autos won the day, and for good reason.
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Old April 19, 2019, 12:14 AM   #3
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I'm going to be familiarizing a couple of my friends with revolvers and going over the progression in technology and I thought: wait a minute.... how do I explain this?
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Old April 19, 2019, 03:02 AM   #4
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Well OK dyl, I'll give this a try. When I started in LE, we were issued S&W or Colt 4" .38 Spcl. revolvers. We thought we were cutting edge, because we were issued JHP ammo. The 1911 was considered a big heavy gun, likely unreliable, complicated, and needlessly powerful in any case. I didn't hear anything about "cocked and locked" concerns, early-mid '70s, because if one didn't read Col. Cooper, few considered carrying cocked and locked. And the fact that little in the way of expanding ammo was available in .45 ACP, didn't encourage adoption by LE. The S&W model 59 with it's 14 round magazine had become available, and there was some LE interest because a DA first shot was considered safer than the SA 1911, and the lure of having 15 rounds in one's duty pistol was undeniable. Unfortunately, the S&W model 59 "Wonder Nine" was reported to have functional reliability issues. Most departments, other than the Illinois State Police with their model 39s, were very reticent about adopting any sort of semi-auto pistol for police work. By the mid '80s, the reliable Beretta 92 and SIG P226 pistols had come along, and S&Ws more reliable 2nd. Gen 459/559s, etc. were also available. With reliable DA/SA pistols in production, and expanding 9mm ammo available, LE's watershed transition to semi-auto duty pistols began, then accelerated to where we are today. That is, few officers carrying either a revolver or 1911 as a primary duty weapon nowadays.

FWIW, for my last several years in LE, I chose to carry a Series 80 Colt Government model. It was, and still is, a reliable pistol. But among my Glock and SIG carrying fellow officers, carrying such a pistol was considered a bit odd. Most in LE are not "gun guys", and some didn't even know what kind of pistol I was carrying...
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Old April 19, 2019, 06:50 AM   #5
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With most departments the single action semi auto was a no-no. Where I worked in Ft Worth, Texas as a cop in the 1980's it had nothing to do with "power" of the 45 because every one carried 357 magnums anyway.

The Texas Rangers carried 1911's for many years.

At one point in time I think the 38 Special DA revolver was the most common police gun in the US. My grandfather was a cop in Milwaukee in the 1920's and 1930's. He was issued a 38 Special. One day he walked in a said; "They are shooting at me with 45's I am shooting back with one." He carried a 45 Colt revolver most of his career.

I believe the NYPD changed from 32's to 38's in the 1960's.
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Old April 19, 2019, 07:14 AM   #6
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As I understand it, the Texas DPS never issued handguns to the Texas Rangers until relatively recently (post WW II), and most Rangers simply adopted the 1911 in the same manner that they adopted the Winchester Model 1895 in .30-40 Krag.

Apparently a large part of that was that while the Rangers didn't issue firearms, they did issue ammunition, but only in "standard" calibers, which at various times were the .45 ACP and .30-40 Krag.

Apparently that had to do with the Department of Public Safety getting, at various times, surplus Krag-Jorgensen rifles and S&W and Colt Model of 1917 revolvers from the military.

I posted a really neat photo here a few years ago that showed a group of Arizona Rangers in the early 1900s. About 20 of them were armed with Winchester lever actions and most appeared to be 1895s, but one guy had a Krag.

These days DPS' official issue gun is an S&W 9mm (they went away from the .357 Sig a few years ago), but Rangers are given some latitude in what they can carry, and some choose to carry 1911s.
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Old April 19, 2019, 07:17 AM   #7
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Neat article that talks about the Ranger's use of the 1911...

https://www.shootingillustrated.com/...with-the-1911/
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Old April 19, 2019, 08:07 AM   #8
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Most in LE are not "gun guys", and some didn't even know what kind of pistol I was carrying...
roc185 hit the nail right on the head with his response. It's true, most cops just aren't "gun guys" simply because they're cops. The majority of police carry guns because they have to and it's part of the job. Other than qualifying once or twice a year, most of them never shoot in between. I have a friend who's a detective, and he never shoots his gun.....ever. I don't know how he gets away with not qualifying yearly, but he claims he doesn't do it. He just doesn't like guns. I don't think he's alone. I do know some who shoot a lot, but they're just like the rest of us. They enjoy hunting and shooting.
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Old April 19, 2019, 12:34 PM   #9
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If memory serves me correctly, which it often doesn't, the use of auto pistols didn't become prevalent until the introduction of the S&W Model 39 in 9mm.

The .45 Government Model had to be carried cocked and locked if any speed in deployment was to be expected, and most police departments were uncomfortable with that.

At one time the Memphis Police SWAT teams carried S&W Model 25 revolvers loaded with .45 Colt Winchester Silvertip cartridges.
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Old April 19, 2019, 01:15 PM   #10
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My son was a cop for 10 years and he claimed he wasn't a gun guy. His department gave some latitude towards guns carried. He carried a Glock most of the time, I saw one guy with a 1911, and another with a Beretta 92. Only revolvers were back up guns.
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Old April 19, 2019, 01:22 PM   #11
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Some small depts used the 1911. Pomona PD (Calif) used EXCLUSIVELY 1911’s in the 80s-90’s. Then they authorized a small list of other guns. Glock 21’s and Sig 220’s.

The S.O. I worked for had a long list of approved pistols. I chose a 1911, both for patrol and SWAT use. The dept issued Glock 21 just didnt fit my hand
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Old April 20, 2019, 04:29 PM   #12
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I sold guns to the small PDs around my area from 70-90. These are 10 cop towns and are tight with police budget. Sold M19 S&Ws at first then 686s. Would sell a stub nose or two in case they had a detective or chief wanted one. Same with 1911s only sold a few. Then 9mm
DA autos came in as I was going out. M39 S&Ws.
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Old April 20, 2019, 07:05 PM   #13
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It's my impression that the police force didn't widely issue 1911's as part of their progression from revolver to semi-auto sidearms. It's as if they skipped it. Is that true?
In a way, its true. But there was never anything saying "you go from a revolver to a 1911A1, then to whatever you wind up using..."

There are a number of reasons why most police depts. "skipped" the 1911, one that is most overlooked was explained once by Mas Ayoob, in a discussion over 1911 vs Sig P220 for police use.

In a nutshell, he said that while the 1911 was a premier arm for soldiers, and civilian self defense, the DA was superior for police work. Not because of the speed or simplicity of getting it into action, but for another reason, one that applies to DA revolvers, as well. And that is that while the function of a military arm and the soldier is to shoot the enemy when they see them, that's NOT the purpose of police.

Police, frequently hold a suspect at gun point. The threat is real, but the intent is not to shoot, unless forced to. For that, the long DA trigger pull was better at reducing the number of accidents in those situations.

Another factor was simply cost. During the 70s, a S&W police service revolver cost about $150. The 1911A1 cost $234 and change.

Cop depts. never have "enough" money, and if your revolvers are adequate, its tough to justify replacing them with a pistol that costs half again as much.

Lots of police depts. didn't switch to semis, until GLock came along and essentially cornered the market for a while, by offering sweetheart deals. Not only did Glock price lower, they also BOUGHT the guns they were replace from those depts. who bought Glocks.

There's a lot more to it, of course, but those are a couple factors to consider. Another thing that played a part was simply the personal viewpoints of those people who decided what to buy, and when.
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Old April 20, 2019, 09:23 PM   #14
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The .45 Government Model had to be carried cocked and locked if any speed in deployment was to be expected, and most police departments were uncomfortable with that.
Many people are not comfortable with cocked and locked if they can see the hammer. However, if an auto has an internal (not visible) hammer, many of the same people have no qualms about carrying those guns in cocked and locked condition. However, most of the hidden hammer guns are chambered in .22 Long Rifle, which I do not think is a factor in their apparent inconsistent reasoning. I do not know of anyone who carries a Ruger .22 auto, Browning Buckmark, etc., around in the woods with them that is not cocked and locked. Therefore, If the .45 1911 had sported a hidden hammer, it would have likely been utilized more by law enforcement in its heyday.
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Old April 21, 2019, 02:28 AM   #15
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it is an interesting thing, about people's reaction to a visibly cocked gun. We have a few centuries of historical "tribal" knowledge that says if the hammer is cocked, the gun is ready to fire, and there were no safeties. Also that many if not most of the older guns, particularly muzzle loaders weren't even close to "drop safe" if cocked.

Move ahead to the 1890s, and you find the very first safeties on exposed hammer semi auto pistols, but never on revolvers. You also see the advent of internal hammer rifles and shotguns in the early 1900s. And with internal (concealed) hammer guns, what takes over is pretty much "out of sight, out of mind".

Nobody (except people who actually know firearms) gives a second thought to the AR, AK, M1, Win Model 12 Rem 870, Mossberg etc., or many, many being "cocked and locked" because they can't SEE the hammer.

The 1911 design isn't any less safe than any of those designs, (actually more so than some), but because people can SEE it's cocked, they freak.

Note that the military "back in the day" not only used full flap holsters as their standard, but also forbid carrying cocked and locked for safety reasons.

The safety of the service, NOT the safety of the person wearing the weapon. The Military's rule for carry with the hammer down on an empty chamber had nothing to do with the mechanical safety of the 1911 design.

it had everything to do with the people who carried them. Young men. young men who, absent "adult" supervision (NCOs and Officers) PLAY with things. No military has ever trained the rank and file with handguns to the level of police, and police don't train to the level of a civilian enthusiast.

So, bored young men, on guard duty, where the Sgt of the guard nor the Officer of the Day can watch them every second, and indeed they might have long boring hours to spend, essentially unsupervised, will amuse themselves, somehow. IF loaded chambers were allowed, the risk factor for accidents goes WAY up.

I've known those guys, I've BEEN one of those guys. Don't think it doesn't happen. It does.

Maybe the 1911A1 would have been more accepted by police if it had a concealed hammer, but I doubt it. Despite the mythical power of the .45ACP round, the 1911 was bigger and heavier and more than a bit more expensive than the usual police service revolver. Speed of reloading was a plus, and holding one more round than a revolver, but in general those benefits did not outweigh the drawbacks for police use.
Especially the cost.

By the time police (in general) felt they needed something more than a .38 (or .357) revolver, the 1911 was an "ancient" design, and many depts. felt that if they were going to get something new, it should be..well,...new, not a pre World War I design.
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Old April 21, 2019, 09:44 AM   #16
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Another few points to consider.

The extended beavertail safety and the extended thumb saftey of the modern 1911 were much less common in the '80s. They seemed limited to the realm of IPSC and like competitions, and your average 1911 was nearly identical to the WW2 pistol.

Out of the box, stock variety 1911s left a lot to be desired in the accuracy and reliability departments, because this was an era when the very good 1911 magazine was also hard to come by.

By comparison, the Beretta 92 for example, was reliable, accurate , held twice as many cartridges and had less recoil. It seemed like a Ferrari racing against a tired pony that was prancing into the sunset.

Magazine restrictions of the AWB in 1994 was a big reason for the rebirth of the 1911.
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Old April 21, 2019, 11:56 AM   #17
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Interesting take

The AWB being at least part of the reason for the 1911's popularity today is interesting.

I think the biggest reason is thanks to the SA trigger a 1911 is an easy pistol to be accurate with. It's not just the trigger, it really feels right.

I resisted the 1911 craze for years. I recently fixed that, and really enjoy the 1911. It's very much a momma bear big bore, it's just right.
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Old April 21, 2019, 12:05 PM   #18
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Out of the box, stock variety 1911s left a lot to be desired in the accuracy and reliability departments, because this was an era when the very good 1911 magazine was also hard to come by.
I disagree, a bit, some details are needed for better understanding. First, the Colt Govt model "out of the box" was every bit as good as it always had been (other than the series 70 finger collet bushing idiocy. Second, good 1911 magazines existed in the tens of thousands, if not millions. The standard GI 7rnd mag.

Where the problems, and the poor reputation came from was a combination of gunwriter hype and gamesmanship changing people's expectations, combined with multiple civilian companies now producing their own 1911 or parts, with many altering the GI specs to "improve" the gun. People were led to believe that the 1911 should, out of the box be flawless at doing things it was not designed to do. Because the demand was there (and still is there) lots of different folks got into making 1911s and did so without the Govt inspectors enforcing specs that the WWII contractors had. And the civilian aftermarket designed 8 rnd magazines that became popular had their own share of problems and teething troubles for a while as well. Listen to some, they still do...

Accuracy with proper spec guns was as good as it always was, the tales of 1911s not being accurate were a myth, founded in undertrained GI's problems accurately shooting the GI guns in the service during the 60s 70s, and 80s. The newest 1911A1s in govt service were bought in 1945.

The combination of Gis who were not, by and large, firearms enthusiasts or skilled marksmen, given a day, perhaps two of training and range time, shooting guns that had been in service for 30 to even 60+ years, often their first time shooting any pistol, AND the military standards for serviceability, which DO NOT include any accuracy requirement, and you get a lot of people who can't hit the proverbial bull in the ass.
For which, they, naturally, blame the gun they are using, not themselves, and since their gun is "crap" ALL 1911s MUST be exactly the same. Of course they weren't, but stories like this, once started, never seem to die, and usually get bigger and stronger the more times they are told.

Quote:
By comparison, the Beretta 92 for example, was reliable, accurate , held twice as many cartridges and had less recoil.
I would point out here, that opposite of the 1911 situation, the only people making Beretta 92s was Beretta. The Beretta didn't have everybody and their Uncle Max making 92s and aftermarket parts to what they felt the specs ought to be.

As to the 9mm having less recoil than the .45ACP, I've never bought into that story. The math says the recoil energy is approximately the same (ball ammo). There is a different in FELT recoil, for some people, but I've never noticed it being much, if any. Everyone is a bit different in that. Likewise, in over 40 years of 1911A1 ownership and use, I've never been "bitten" by a stock GI gun's hammer, and never had a failure to depress the grip safety correctly. So, for me, beavertails and speed bump grip safeties are useless cosmetics, On the other hand, a good friend of mine is almost always bitten by the hammer of a stock GI 1911A1, due to the difference between our hands, and the way we shoot. For him, the beavertail is a very useful thing.

I've got a Govt Model that will put 5 shots in one ragged 2.5" hole at 25yds. I also had a 1943 Remington Rand gun that was barely minute of man (torso) at that same distance (6-8in groups). Individual guns may or may not be as accurate as desired, but don't tell us the 1911A1 design, or 1911s s a group aren't accurate, that's simply not true.

I would also note that I've seen a LOT of 1911s turned into bullseye match pistols. Can't remember ever seeing that done with a Beretta 92.
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Old April 23, 2019, 12:56 PM   #19
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"...police force didn't widely issue 1911's as part of their progression from revolver to semi-auto sidearms..." Nope. By the time that was going on, around the 1980's (the U.S. military dropped it for general issue in 1985.), the 1911/A1 was an antique. And they were never marketed to PD's. Lotta municipalities and States had legislation regarding what a cop could carry too. That varied a lot from place to place though, but in a lot of places a copper was not permitted to carry anything but a Department issued firearm.
"...the Beretta 92..." It was adopted for political reasons. Just like the M-14 and 16. Far too big for normal sized hands too.
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Old April 23, 2019, 01:12 PM   #20
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Far too big for normal sized hands too.
Everyone's hands are normal..for them.

Did you, perhaps, mean "average"??
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Old April 23, 2019, 02:34 PM   #21
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Mike Irwin pretty well nailed it.

As for background history, my take, as cops are not necessary gun people (its a tool they need to carry) that applies to chiefs and selectors of the arms as well.


The 1911, cocked and locked is something to get used to. I have issues with it.
You need to do two actions to deal with it and one is a distraction (taking the safety off) and then its truly a very dangerous SA gun (instead of full focus on a suspect and the trigger) Combat is one thing (mostly you either shoot or don't care if someone gets an ND you are aiming the gun at) - I disagree its a good SD or a police gun.


Glock sold a bill of goods that they were the answer to everyones prayers, safe and effective. Glock Butt and Let and innumerable NDs have proven otherwise. 9mm did lend itself to the non gun guys and gals who were coming into the forces. GIs had built up a history with the Beretta. SD ammo was improving.

And the not so reliable S&W 59, it saved two troopers lives in a shootout in our town. Nut case wound up with a lot of 357 and 9mm lead in him but the 9mm got him by nicking an Aorta.
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Old April 23, 2019, 05:29 PM   #22
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Out of the box, stock variety 1911s left a lot to be desired in the accuracy and reliability departments, because this was an era when the very good 1911 magazine was also hard to come by.
I have never had a problem with standard G.I. magazines (with the dimple [Sic, "tit"]). However, the one no dimple, eight-rounder marked "Colt" that came with my XSE Colt Combat Commander was troublesome as was other eight-rounders sans dimple. I ended up converting all my eight rounders to seven rounds with dimpled followers...no more problems.
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Old April 23, 2019, 06:59 PM   #23
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I was responsible for the firearms training in our department for approximately twenty five years, I carried them through individual purchased carry firearm to issue of Model 15, 19, 66, 686 in conjunction to introducing the 39 for duty use and shortly thereafter the Model 59. The early 59’s had extraction problems which was quickly addressed and S&W provided me with replacement extractors which I installed in our pistols. No further function problems were had with first, second and third generation pistols. Prior to my retirement a transition of the entire department to the Glock 22and 23 Pistols was initiated and all other pistols were withdrawn from service and offered to officers at trade price.
Although we had a small cadre of individuals who resisted firearms training the majority enthusiastically participated firing over 100,000 rounds of pistol ammunition each year. Pretty good for a department of approximately 125 officers.
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Old April 25, 2019, 07:45 AM   #24
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We should also note that in much of the world the police handgun was a semi-automatic long before the trend was seen in the US. 7.65 & 9mm (in all it's lengths) were quite common as the police (and often military) handgun.
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Old April 25, 2019, 11:05 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Ibmikey
Although we had a small cadre of individuals who resisted firearms training the majority enthusiastically participated firing over 100,000 rounds of pistol ammunition each year. Pretty good for a department of approximately 125 officers.
Are you saying that each of your officers fired 100,000 rounds per year, or are you saying that the department went through 100,000 rounds to feed 125 officers?
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