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Old May 20, 2010, 09:52 PM   #1
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what revolver did police use to carry?

back in the day when police officers carried revolvers as their service weapon,what brand/model and caliber did most carry?
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Old May 20, 2010, 10:36 PM   #2
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S&W .38spcl
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Old May 20, 2010, 10:43 PM   #3
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I think S&W model 10 or M&P, or Colt police positves were pretty popular.
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Old May 20, 2010, 10:45 PM   #4
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All the models you can see these days going for 2-3 hundred bucks as a police turn-ins.
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Old May 20, 2010, 11:02 PM   #5
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Real Cops Carry Revolvers.

I was a cop in the Revolver days, The day I hired on I was given a wore out Model 15 Smith, which I promply truned in for the New Model 28s the dept got.

We were orginaly issued 158 GR RN Lead cast and loaded by trustees. Needless to say I carried my own Reloads, Cast 150 Grn SWCs (I still use that same mold today). Then they told us we couldnt carry reloads so I bought Winchester 158 Grn SWC, 357s.

I still have my Model 28, I was allowed to keep it when I retired. If I was to go back into police work today, my Model 28 would be my choice of carry.

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Old May 20, 2010, 11:06 PM   #6
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Barney Fife carried a Colt Official Police.
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Old May 20, 2010, 11:21 PM   #7
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kraigwy, are those the original stocks on your Model 28?
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Old May 20, 2010, 11:26 PM   #8
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S&W and Colts in 38 Spcl. I think the most popular was the S&W Mod 10 4" Heavy Barrel model. I believe in my state the Highway Patrol in the 60's were ahead of their times with S&W Model 39 9mm Semi-Autos.
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Old May 20, 2010, 11:39 PM   #9
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kraigwy, are those the original stocks on your Model 28?
No Sir, they are Pachmayr Presentation Grips, they fit my hand and keep the revolver from rolling around under recoil of heavy 357 Mag shells. They also dont get marred by constant carry and use like wood grips.
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Old May 20, 2010, 11:39 PM   #10
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Up through World War II it was pretty evenly distributed between Colt and Smith & Wesson.

After World War II, Colt essentially surrendered the much of its civilian market sales to Smith & Wesson to concentrate more and more on military.

From the 1950s onward Smith & Wesson ruled the roost.
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Old May 20, 2010, 11:51 PM   #11
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The Smith model 19's also seemed to be very popular in the 70's and later. A friend in Wy carried a Colt Python as his duty gun until auto's took over. I don't reall when he said he switched. He still has the Python.
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Old May 21, 2010, 12:48 AM   #12
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revolvers for street duty

My med-large city department did not allow .357's because of the penetration factor so from the 60's to the late 70's it was S&W model 10's and 64's for street duty and model 36 Chiefs for plain clothes and off duty. In the late 70's, 9mm semi-autos were allowed for detectives and off duty but model 10's and 64's only for the street.

County deputy sheriffs and highway patrol carried .357's

Now city cops carry Sig .40's.
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Old May 21, 2010, 02:25 AM   #13
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Mike Irwin is pretty much correct.

Prior to WW-II, Colt and S&W were slugging it out trying to sell guns to police departments nationwide. Colt was the public's favorite but S&W was catching up, especially when people saw policemen wearing them. During the depression few agencies were buying very many guns. In smaller towns during the depression it was a job pre-requisite to own your own revolver. Colt's Official Police and S&W's M&P revolver were typical police sidearms.

In the post WW-II era, Colt focused more on Military production and sales to police departments kept shrinking. Some of those agencies had "old timers" (Chiefs or administrators) who liked dealing with Colt and who continued buying Colts as a "better" police revolver. In the late 50's though, S&W really took over most city police bids.

By the 1970's, this is the landscape I saw...
  • S&W Model 10 - by far and away, the most prevelant revolver, especially for most larger metro PD's. And it was also popular for smaller departments with limited budgets.
  • S&W Model 19 .357 - in agencies where the .357 Magnum was allowed, it was typically the much more popular choice than it's second-place favorite...
  • The Colt Python .357 - had the edge in panache, status and legendary accuracy. But for a $400 price tag in 1974, it was like buying a Ferarri.
  • S&W Model 14 or 15 - With adjustable sights, the K-38 was issued in a fair number of departments. Some agencies reserved them for more senior officers until the older M10's were replaced. LAPD started issuing the Model 14 or 15 in the mid-60's, IIRC. The 6" M14 was favored by motor units and the traffic division, airport & harbor police. The 4" M15 was more common for patrol officers.
  • S&W Model 28 .357 - Many rural deputies and highway patrol agencies favored the heavy Model 28 for its ruggedness and because it could absorb lots of .357 recoil. And in a roadside fight it made a formidible sap too.
  • Colt Lawman .357 - These were still seen being carried by several local LEO's until semiautos came in. Sturdy, well balanced and heavy enough to shoot the .357 well.
  • Colt Trooper / Trooper Mk III - The first wheelgun I carried was a Trooper Mk III because two others carried them. This was when you could still buy your own from an approved list and carry it. The Trooper was (basically) an adjustable sighted Lawman and the Mk III was second only to the Python in .357 accuracy.

After 1970, when stainless K-frames started being produced, coastal and southern states started buying them in droves to reduce the corrosion from humidity and salt air. It would be almost 5 years before you could walk into a shop and buy a Model 66 4-inch .357 without paying a huge mark-up.

Sadly, the Colt Police Positive Specials were slowly phased out of most police services by the middle 60's. So too were the S&W Model 30 and 31 .32 Longs with which some agencies armed their "matrons" who served mostly in auxillary roles.

You can find exceptions to the rule too. Smaller towns with only a few officers might have a mix of revolvers, based on what each man personally owned. Some town might own only 3 revolvers in various conditions as issue guns. One of the small towns in California's Sierra "Gold Country" issued their six officers S&W revolvers in .44 Special until 1980.

The oddest one I saw was a "town constable" in a NW Arizona town about 1979. He was carrying a S&W .32-20 M&P revolver! Not much crime there, so no need for much gun.
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Old May 21, 2010, 03:25 AM   #14
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I began my career as a Police Officer in 1973 Back in the day when cops carried revolvers.

At that time my department authorized several revolvers.

1) S&W model 10 (heavy or pencil barrel)
2) Colt Official police
3) Colt metropolitan MkIII (.38)

Originally police women werent assigned to patrol duties. They mostly worked in the women bureau, and were assigned to various juvinile enfocement jobs, and in the detective bureau. At that time "POLICE WOMEN" wore a uniform consisting of a tunic, and a skirt. They carried their revolvers in a purse with a built in holster. I believe they carried S&W terriers in .32 cal. At some point (before my time) the POLICE WOMANS bureau was intergrated into the patrol bureau and the detective bureau. Women were put out on patrol along with men. These women were authorizd a "female officers revolver" This was a S&W J frame model 36. 5 shot blue steel revolver. It had a squair butt (handle), and a 3" heavy barrel. In appearance it looked like a small model 10 heavy barrel. Many women opted for a regulation service revolver, and the Female officers revolver was discontinued as a service revolver, and women carried the same revolvers as the men.

Any revolver could be submited for individual appoval. It had so meet specs. Be a Blue steel,6 shot revolver,of a medium frame, with fixed combat sights, and a 4" barrel. It also had to properly fit into a regulation holster.

Off duty weapons also had to be approved. We were allowed any blued revolver, with fixed sights.
When the department went from standard velocity ammo (158 gr SWC lead) to +p ammo (158gr SWC lead +p, then 158gr SWC lead nyclad +p) The aluminum frame off duty revolvers were condemed for police work. (Many assignments allowed an officer to carry his/her off duty gun instead of his service revolver)

Although the department transitioned to the semi-auto pistols in the early
90's... Any officer who carried a revolver is still able to qualify with that revolver, and carry it on patrol. In fact some guys are qualified, and authorized for both Auto, and Revolver. Off duty revolvers are still popular.
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Old May 21, 2010, 05:27 AM   #15
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I have my Grandfather's S&W .38-44 Target Model that he carried for the Borger, Tx PD in the 50's and 60's. My Mom used that weapon in her academy in '75 or '76. I'm kinda irked they won't let me carry it here where I put in my time. Talk about a piece of art! It doesn't look like much by today's standards and it's had a less than cushy life- but I'd trust it 100%.
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Old May 21, 2010, 08:36 AM   #16
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When I started in the 80's I carried a S&W model 686 for three years. When the semi-autos became main line I switched to a 92FS and still carry it. I'm really thinking hard on getting a new 96A1.
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Old May 21, 2010, 09:11 AM   #17
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Once I met a Border Patrol officer (in missouri?) in uniform and carrying. he was carrying a smith (dnk model) .357 magnum and a belt full of speed loaders, he was using what appeared to be remington 158 grain JHP.

My father in law told me years ago that our PD carried smiths. he bought a k38 so that he could enter service revolver matches with them. I own that pistol now.
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Old May 21, 2010, 09:20 AM   #18
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Before they went to semi-autos, the US Park Police carried S&W Model 10s loaded with 158-gr. +P+.

Washington, DC, Metro and the Virginia State Police were also armed with Model 10s for many years.

I don't know what the Metro police carried in their guns, but the VSP were, for the last few years, issuing Winchester 158-gr. LSWCHP +Ps, which had a VERY good reputation as a fight stopper. The FBI also issued the same load for many years.

FBI Agent Mirelles ended the Miami Shootout in 1986 by killing Platt and Mattix with those rounds fired from a Smith & Wesson Model 19.
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Old May 21, 2010, 09:50 AM   #19
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My old Dept. carried the Colt New Service .45 Colt until the late 50's. Then tey went to the 6in. Official Police, then the 4in. OP. The first S&W's were a Model 10 in .357 Magnum, later the M0del 13. In the 70's they went with the Model 28 Highway patrolman. Plain clothes officers carried Colt Detective Specials and Undercover carried Walther PPK's. When I started In '83 we carried the S&W 681 .357 with 158gr Magnum softpoints and plainclothes carried S&W M65 3in. revolvers.
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Old May 21, 2010, 12:16 PM   #20
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BillCA is right about small towns, but the diversity was greater than he indicates. I grew up in an area in PA that had dozens of small towns, and each usually had only one or two cops. The assortment of guns would have made a collector ecstatic.

The cop in my hometown carried an S&W .44 HE, with a split chamber; he kept a wood plug in it so he wouldn't load it. Another cop carried a Mauser HSc, another a Luger, another a P.38, and one an old Colt Lightning. In a larger town, the chief of police (he had two cops under him, one part time) carried a Colt in .22 WRF, which looked more impressive than it was.

And the sole officer in an adjacent town did not carry or even own a gun. He said he saw no need for one, and truth be told at that time, he was right. In those days, it was rare for any police officer to actually fire his gun. Cartridges turned green in belt loops, and I saw police revolvers with cartridges so corroded they had to be hammered out of the chambers.

I think it was a better time.

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Old May 21, 2010, 12:43 PM   #21
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The variety of handguns will always be far greater in areas where police have to arm themselves. Moose, the jackass short-term chief of police in my hometown in Pennsylvania carried a Colt SAA in .45.

In the late 1980s I went to work in Lewistown, county seat of Mifflin County, which had a dept. of about 12 full-time officers. There were a number of smaller township and borough forces around Lewistown anywhere from 1 to maybe half a dozen officers. I got to know many of them well as I was a reporter for the local paper.

Most commonly carried was a 1911. Several others carried Beretta or Smith 9mms, one carried a Colt Double Eagle in .45. Those who carried revolvers invariably carried S&Ws, mostly .357s; one carried a .44 Mag. The most interesting of all was the one who carried his Father's Colt New Service in .45.

Mifflin County has now gone to a regional police force, which standardized on Glock 9mms.
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Old May 21, 2010, 01:24 PM   #22
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Detective Specials were carried by the Detectives of the Palisades Interstate Parkway Police. This one dates from the early 30’s.

The man who sold me this pre War 32 S&W Long informed me that his Uncle carried this as a Reserve Policeman. Apparently these revolvers were popular with law enforcement prior to WWII. I suspect it was due to the revolver being so lightweight and small. It is not much larger than a kid's cap gun.

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Old May 21, 2010, 02:52 PM   #23
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NYPD used S&W M&P, then model 10's from the 50's through the early 80's - still have my dad's
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Old May 21, 2010, 03:43 PM   #24
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The answer will depend heavily on what department and what specific time period you're referring to. Up until WWII, Colt and S&W revolver in .38 Special were in heavy competition with each other with Colt probably having a slight lead. After WWII, S&W began gaining a greater and greater lead over Colt.

Beginning in the 1960's and continuing on through the 70's, the .357 Magnum began to become the preferred cartridge for law enforcement although many large departments (most notably the NYPD) chose to stay with the .38 Special. In the 80's, Ruger revolvers began to take a large part of the LEO market to the point that they were only slightly behind S&W in the late 80's and early 90's when revolvers fell out of favor for LEO work.

Up through at least the WWII, the New York State Police issued Colt New Service revolvers in .45 Long Colt and in the 1930's the Border Patrol issued the New Service in .38 Special. The NYPD issued S&W Model 10's and 64's until 1992 when they switched to the Glock 19. At that time, officers had the option to keep their revolvers if they chose though newly hired officers were (and still are) required to carry the Glock. The first police agency to use .357 Magnum revolvers in any great number was the FBI who approved their agents to carry S&W Registered Magnums in the 1930's though .38 Special revolvers remained standard issue. The last revolvers to be approved by the FBI were S&W Models 19 and 65 with 2 1/2" and 3" barrels respectively. The first large police agency to switch to semi-automatics en masse was the Illinois State Police which adopted the S&W Model 39 9mm in the 1960's
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Old May 21, 2010, 04:00 PM   #25
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I started out in 1980 with a S&W mdl 19, then later on was issued the S&W 686, then the dept transistioned to auto's. Still love my 19!!!
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