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Are revolvers obsolete for police work?

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by jski, Feb 11, 2019.

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  1. jski

    jski Member

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    I came across this pithy statement and it got me thinking:
    Which brings us back to the title of this posting. So are revolvers obsolete for police work? Personally, I think I'd feel just as safe with a S&W L frame 7 shot 3" .357 mag. as I would an autoloader 9mm, while walking down an alley in New Orleans red district at 1am ... provided I had 3 or more speedloaders.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  2. Drail

    Drail Member

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    Thje only reasons I have seen for police switching to semi autos are the TV show Miami Vice, Gaston Glock's unbelievably aggressive marketing program and the "belief" that police "need" at least 15 rounds in their sidearm (welcome to the age of SWAT!). If it really is THAT dangerous out there on the streets they should just forget about sidearms and carry rifles and shotguns everywhere all the time. And if it really is THAT dangerous out there on the streets for a patrol officer then it's WAY PAST time to clean our streets up and stop bringing even more criminals into the country because we are creating a society where being a uniformed cop is not worth the paycheck. They may as well forget about retirement because none of them will probably make it that far. We might as well put a glow in the dark bullseye on the front and back of their uniforms. The other big problem with police going back to revolvers is training costs. The Administrators don't want and don't believe they need to spend serious money on training and that IS a requirement - there's just no way around that. They have always been wrong about training requirements because they don't know anything about working the streets. But they call all of the shots. But to answer the question - yeah, I'm all for bringing the DA revolver back for law enforcement but only with very intense aggressive training. I am of the opinion that hitting with a handgun requires considerable skill - hitting with a DA revolver takes even more. I have carried a DA revolver for over 30 years and never have and never will see the need to switch a hi cap double stack magazine fed semi auto.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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  3. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    Right now at least I would say they are bureaucratically obsolete.

    If you look at it purely objectively, autos have way more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to equipping large numbers of officers. Less expensive, larger capacity, negligible differences in practical accuracy, lighter to carry to name a few.

    Plus, there is the looming concern of the exceedingly rare instance when an officer is going to need 40-50 rounds in a prolonged firefight with well armed and seriously bad guys. (Some thing like the Miami shootout of which I would hope rifles and shotguns would also be employed). Or something like an active shooter who must be engaged at longer ranges which may take more rounds and instances in which fire superiority may be a tactic that must be used.

    To add, there are some autos which are also, from a practical standpoint, obsolete for law enforcement. Take the 1911. As Drail points out, there is quite a lack of training in many area of LE. It would take significantly more training to change the typical officer over from a Glock to a 1911. Add in that 1911s are heavier and more expensive and have lower capacity and you start running into the same problem as with revolvers.

    I don't think I would be wanting a revolver myself for police work for all the reasons I just mentioned. Right now the only handguns I own are revolvers so I like them a lot and have a lot of practice with them. Still I would choose an auto loader if it were up to me.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  4. jski

    jski Member

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    In that Miami shootout incident, what surprised me most was the Keystone Cop behavior of the FBI agents. I believe there was an initial encounter with an FBI agent and the one bad guy who did most of the damage with a Mini-14. The FBI agent had a .357 revolver. The FBI agent unloaded at about 10-15 ft. and hit nothing! What the hell is that?

    There was also an agent who lost his glasses sometime in the firefight and couldn't see to engage the bad guy. He had a high cap 9mm autoloader. That agent died.

    The "after action report" should have concluded: WE NEED MORE TRAINING! Not, we need more firepower.
     
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  5. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Member

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    Since there is a significant amount of cops that carry revolvers as BUGs, I won't say they are obsolete, but they definitely are never gonna be the primary duty weapon of most major police departments again either. Higher capacity weapons along with better modern ammo and more reliable platforms for pistols has taken it's toll. Revolvers used to be just fine in shootouts against BGs, when the BGs had revolvers too. Its what the other guy has that has driven the escalation. Used to be, you only saw a 870 shotgun strapped in a squad car. Now its an AR platform with multi high capacity mags. Remember the old westerns when the rifles in the sheriff's office were lever carbines? Even the old "Tommy Guns" of the prohibition days are considered "under-powered" nowadays against BGs with ARs in .308.
     
  6. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

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    Even though I really like revolvers, and I know they can be reloaded very quickly with practice, I question whether or not most cops would practice enough to actually perform reloads quickly in a shootout.

    Semiauto’s reload speed alone makes revolvers obsolete for police work IMO.
     
  7. JONWILL

    JONWILL Member

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    Revolvers require more training than a semi automatic. Harder to shoot (trigger has a tendency to pull to the right, semi today have light crisp triggers) harder to reload and have more recoil in a cartridge with similar ballistics.

    The other thing behind the scenes the armorer has a much easier job. A Smith/Ruger/Colt revolver requires a lot more training and skill to repair than, lets say, a Glock which you can learn in a day
     
  8. Fine Figure of a Man

    Fine Figure of a Man Member

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  9. JamieC

    JamieC Member

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    I believe revolvers are still being used in SWAT, specifically the TR8 model. For the first guy in, holding the shield in one hand, revolver in the other, no worry about a 'jam' of people, having a semi auto muzzle jammed into a body, pushing it out of battery.
     
  10. John Joseph

    John Joseph Member

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    My experience in LE was back when revolvers were still the norm, and I never felt under gunned while carrying my .357
    Shrouded/hammerless Snubs today are still preferred back ups, and for good reason
    Semi-autos of course are the norm for duty weapons now, and they are without a doubt better suited than revolvers in today's narrative if we ignore outcomes where an innocent is mistakenly filled with lead.
     
  11. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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  12. mavracer

    mavracer Member

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    While I'm a huge revolver fan and carry a LCR most of the time, I live a very mundane low risk life. I see absolutely no advantage of carrying a revolver as a belt carried duty weapon, why would I walk down an alley in New Orleans red district with a 686 limitedto 28 rounds when for no penalty I could pack my XDm 40 compact with 3 reloads and have 45 rounds.
     
  13. GunnyUSMC

    GunnyUSMC Member

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    Sometimes people think they know a lot about things they don't know much about.
    Is it dangerous out there? Yes. I have been a LEO (city cop) for just over 18 years. In the last 14 years my Dept. has lost 10 Officers in the line of duty, one just last week. Several others have been shot at and three of my close friends have been shot.
    We are no longer in the days where the bad guys carried cheap guns. What we see the most of today is Glock, S&W and Taurus semiautomatic with high capacity extended mags. If an office working the street today was armed with a revolver, he would be out gunned by even the low level criminal.
    Back when I came on many officer carried snub nose revolvers as backups, but times have changed. The most common backup gun today is a Glock 42 or 43. A few years ago it was the small Ruger semiautomatic.
    And that stuff about law enforcement following the FBI trends is not true for a lot of Departments. My Department went from S&W revolvers to Gen 3 S&W pistols in 9mm and 40 S&W. One reason we stayed with S&W is that the guy that ran the range and had the major say in what we carried, was looking to land a job with S&W. God how I hated the 4046 or as I called it , The Boat Anchor.
    Sixteen years ago we went to Glocks. I carried a Glock 22 Gen 3, Glock 22 Gen 4, Glock 17 Gen 4 and we are getting ready to go to the Gen 5. We will dropping the 40 S&W and just going with 9mms. This is not because the FBI or someone else is saying that this is what we should do. It is because it's a fact that officer involved shooting on my dept. have done better with 9mm the 40 over the past 20 years.
    How does an officer miss his target? I bet your groups would be pretty bad it your paper target started moving and shooting back at you.
    Is the revolver obsolete? No, just inadequate for today's police force.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
  14. IdaD

    IdaD Member

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    I'm not a cop and never will be one, but I can't see how a revolver offers any significant advantages over a good modern duty pistol like a Glock or M&P or similar. A 357 would have a slight power advantage but I think that would overwhelmingly be outweighed by the capacity and fast mag change capability of a semi-auto. So in my non-professional opinion a revolver is obsolete as a military or police sidearm.

    I think the area where revolvers still have a legit place is woods carry or hunting. Capacity isn't as big of a deal in those settings and you can bump the power level significantly.
     
  15. Madcap_Magician

    Madcap_Magician Member

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    Other serious questions should include whether the .32 New Police is obsolete as a law-enforcement caliber, since it was good enough for Teddy Roosevelt when he was New York Police Commissioner.

    Revolvers may have very specific law enforcement applications, but are no longer suitable for general issue.

    Further, you'll get no argument from anyone that more and better firearms training would lead to better shooting outcomes. But it's not just that simple. First, all of that training is applicable to modern double-stack semiauto service pistols in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, so saying that training is the answer is not an argument in favor of returning to the revolver as a police sidearm.

    Second, better training in every facet of law enforcement would make cops better at their jobs, but there are so many areas that need training and so little time or money to accomplish it all that police training, like most other professions, is largely a matter of 'good enough.' Time spent training for firearms use is time not spent on staying current on state/local laws and department procedure, training on emergency vehicle operations, first aid, crisis intervention training, sexual assault victim advocacy training, human trafficking recognition, DUI training, drug recognition, and any of the dozens or hundreds of other important topics that cops need to know.

    Third, it's a gross oversimplification to say that law enforcement agencies pick their weapons based on what the FBI does. Some large metro departments and sheriff's offices have as many sworn officers as the FBI does (~15,000). Many others follow state guidelines, and many more pick their weapons based on some combination of local departmental leadership and preference in conjunction with the opinions of their firearms training officers and range officers. Many departments allow or even require their officers to purchase their own firearms from a list of approved makes, models, and calibers. The FBI's ammunition testing is one helpful data point in that choice, but far from the only one.
     
  16. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    There realistically wasn’t a good reason to go away from them with the exception of maintenance being a bit more complicated. Popularity of bottom feeders drove the price down so there is a slight benefit on cost now to stay with a semiauto pistol.

    That said.....

    There is not a single thing a service revolver can do that a semiauto pistol can’t do. Good ammo in a 9mm or 40sw will do just as good as a .357 mag if it comes down to that. Realistically, other revolver calibers are out because 38 is weaker and weighs (in felt weight) no less than .357. 44mag is too big, 41 mag is too expensive, 327 is too small.

    The big question for me is why they feel a need for 874 rounds of ammo on a belt to weigh them down and cause back problems. A single stack pistol will be thinner, lighter, and will be just as effective. Think Glock 19 profile at 2/3 thickness holding about 9 rds. That officer is carrying less weight and it’s easier to get in and out of the cruiser with the reduced bulk. But I’m not in LE and I don’t make those decisions. Just don’t let the beurocrats involved find out that there are snail mags for duty guns or the beat cops will be carrying 3 of those on their belt and adding another 4 pounds to what they already drag around.
     
  17. BobWright

    BobWright Member

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    With most police departments today, revolvers won't meet training requirements. Potential officers are taught to use the pray and spray technique as they approach the target.

    I have observed some film footage of police shootings, in most cases the first two or three shots hit the ground between the officer and the criminal.

    Bob Wright
     
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  18. 627PCFan

    627PCFan Member

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    Absolutely not disparaging any LEO's on here but what I have noticed is two components. Number 1 train to the lowest common denominator which follows suit from the military. There is a higher learning curve with a revolver, ammo is more expensive and with shortages of available officers in the current landscape, none of the above are conducive to training for revolver carry. The second is we (as gun folks) regularly practice because we are gun people. I have no stats for what percentage of officers consider themselves "gun people," but I'd hazard a guess most officers don't pursue range time outside of basic qual and evaluation.
     
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  19. bbqreloader
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    bbqreloader Contributing Member

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    For duty carry..yes. However, for a back up or off duty carry, some people still carry them (the specific model escapes me). The crime climate, the criminal is the victim attitude and more importantly the SEVERE LACK of mental health programs to identify, treat and continued therapy to help people are SOME of the issues that have forced the revolver to the way side and made it a semi auto environment
    There are POST training requirements for our state and those requirements all focus around the semi auto. I am not to sure about other state requirements. The training dept has armorer's checks every year and has whittled down the on duty and off duty carry list to some of the major brands and calibers due to the expense of training armorer's and the availability to get commonly used parts.
    With all that being said...there are additional months of in service training besides just the annual qualify that exist. Multiple platforms, active shooter, etc. It's my belief that a number of departments do not get that additional training due to budgets, lack of personnel to conduct it or spending valuable time on the plethora of hug a crook classes that are being required or other accreditation stuff to save the department money from lawsuits.
    A majority of the new recruits are having a hard time with anything over 9mm and really it all boils down to getting out to practice. Whether you have a private range membership or you use the almost monthly range day thats offered on a Saturday just to get out at hone your skills and get some trigger time...(henceforth why I reload..because I do practice and keep practicing, practicing practicing and reloading more:)), it is up to that officer to get out and do it.

    P.S. Bob, there is no spray and pray course curriculum, it's pure and simple training issue.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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  20. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    For police work, the revolver has one advantage over modern semi-autos - a long, heavy trigger pull and tactile-and-visible hammer travel. AD/ND's would be reduced by going back to revolvers.

    In every other way, they are worse for typical cop use. They are heavier, they are actually more susceptible to disabling damage, they have lower capacity, they require more skill and practice to shoot competently, they require vastly more skill and practice to reload competently, they are generally more expensive, etc. I say this as someone who has more than one revolver and who loves shooting them. But this isn't really even an interesting question.
     
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  21. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Utter nonsense. What police officers are often trained to do is so slow and deliberate that it simply goes out the window in a gunfight. I say this having watched a lot of cops come into the time-pressured practical shooting games, like USPSA. They are usually pretty accurate in terms of ability to hit their target, but tend to be glacially slow. Most LE training teaches nonsense like "slow is smooth, smooth is fast," and other things that work well for having a synchronized firing line of qualifying officers... but are lousy at generating actual speed on demand. So, when enough pressure is applied, that stuff gets tossed overboard, and there go the rounds into the pavement (if we're lucky) and bystanders (if we're not).
     
  22. GunnyUSMC

    GunnyUSMC Member

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    You are correct that many officers are not gun people. Hell, we had one that took a handgun off a drug dealer. He placed the gun in Evidence as an unknown make and model Glock. The gun was a Glock 22, just like the gun he carries and qualifies with each year.
    About 10 years ago my dept. put into effect remedial firearms training. The post course for the state says that you have to shoot a 98 out of 120 to qualify. My Dept makes officers take a two week remedial course if an officer shoots below 105. What the teach in the remedial course would cost you $200 to $300 for a private course. But not all departments have the money to spend on extra firearms training.
    I have a friend that has been in 4 on duty shootings. On one he killed the bad guy, one he hit the guy in the neck but he survived , one he missed and on the last one he was to busy trying to get as low as he could in his car as the bad guy unloaded his gun into my buddy's windshield. My buddy will tell you that qualifying at the range and being in a shooting is like night and day. My buddy is also a firearms instructor for our dept.
    If you want some real answers to the OP's question, ask a few of your local LEO's.
     
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  23. WrongHanded
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    WrongHanded Contributing Member

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    Disclaimer: I'm not currently in Law Enforcement, nor have I ever been.

    It seems that if a department is going to standardize and issue a duty weapon, that weapon must fulfill certain criteria;
    1) Be reliable.
    2) Be in an effective cartridge using effective ammunition.
    4) Be fairly user friendly within the conditions the officers are likely to use it (darkness, all types of weather, in confined spaces such as a vehicle, etc).
    5) Fit everyone well enough that all potential users can operate the weapon with a decent degree of competency, accuracy, and speed, after minimal training (because not all LEs are shooters).

    I don't see how a revolver fulfills #5 in any way.

    I really like revolvers, but I would choose a semi-auto if I knew I had to respond to a potentially dangerous situation. For the average CCW permit holder, I think they're a great option. People looking for a handgun to legally protect themselves, are not generally headed towards trouble intentionally, and are often best avoiding it if they do find it. LEOs don't have that option.
     
  24. TRX

    TRX Member

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    See also: North Hollywood Shootout

    Unfortunately, it's cheaper and faster to throw new hardware at the problem than it is to address training issues, which can often be political as well as financial.

    A common excuse is that the gun is only one of the officer's (or agent's) tools, and it's hard to justify extra training for that single aspect of an officer's duties. After all, driving is also a requirement, and few departments have any training at all on that... [sigh]
     
  25. John Joseph

    John Joseph Member

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    I'll disagree. A DA revolver is no more, and likely less complex than a DA semi auto in use.
     
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