How did LE set-up thier leverguns for duty in the old days?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by jf89, Mar 12, 2021.

  1. jf89

    jf89 Member

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    Just curious if you guys know much about the leverguns used by lawman in the early 20th century?

    I have been getting into reading old gun books from guys like Charles Askins Jr., Bill Jordan , Skeeter Skelton, etc and I find myself curious about how LE set up thier leverguns in the old days? I know there were semi autos around but the levergun still seemed pretty popular especially among the border patrolman.

    What were the general views on ammo carriers ,slings, optics vs irons ,caliber & loads etc?
     
  2. kBob

    kBob Member

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    If by early 20th Century you mean pre 1974 or so, yeah a Winchester 1894 or Marlin 36 was likely the most common Rifle used by LEOs out side major metro areas.

    Most were cleaned occasionally, lubed and once in a great while maybe the wood touched up with maybe furniture polish.

    Fancy was adding a sling. The vast majority had no on board spare ammo supply and those that did usually consisted of those with a sling that also held maybe two spare rounds.

    Sheathed or wrapped levers? Nope.

    A scope? Unusual but some after 1960 or so.

    Organized training? Say what? Shoot, everybody knows how to use their "Deer Rifle", the data for such is right there on the Y chromosome.

    Ammo carriers were called pockets and were found on trousers blouses and jackets and coats. Why would you need more than whatever the tube magazine held?

    Remember this was the days of six shot revolvers and other than what was in the cylinder few police carried more than 12 additional cartridges and those usually in individual loops on the gun belt. Them high speed boys and "advanced" departments might have had "dump pouches" and towards the end of revolver days Speed loaders were coming in. Deputies in Lawton OK were still wearing ammo looped gun belts in 1981 and the most popular "trunk guns" as back up rifles were even out there '94's and 36's. Usually '94's as the police supply houses had them very cheap and new so departments bought those usually to cave a nickel or a dime.

    Keep in mind that for most non metro departments in most states there were no "Police Standards" for training or "Police Academies". Well sure the State Police like say the highway patrol might have an academy and Federals after WWII might have an Academy but Barney never went to any sort of police specific school and neither did Andy. Most training was On The Job (OJT) for smaller departments and into the 1980s a high school diploma was all the education required for a patrol officer.

    "guys like Charles Askins Jr., Bill Jordan , Skeeter Skelton, etc" got famous for being the guys that shot on their own and figured out their own needs for equipment and training. They were hardly realistic examples of the run of the mill LEO.

    I got my AA centralized in Law enforcement in 1979 and rifles were almost not mentioned in the two years. I did a paper on the AR180 after "The Blue Line" (remember that old guys?) did an article. I also covered the need for a back up rifle. I have to say I was a Vet and was Infantry and the Instructors to a man (and they were all men) poked at me about needing anything more than a lever action for police work!

    Two years later there was a 100 yard range at the Local State run Academy once Florida adopted a 12 week Police Standard course. In those first two years very little rifle instruction was given and I was told by the director that the ROTC students I brought there to use the range had much more rifle training than he had for Police Cadets.

    In 1984 I asked in Ocala at another state run Police Standards school and even though they concentrated on Prison guards that might be assigned to a guard tower there was very little actual rifle instruction. One of the big bits of news later that decade was the State FDLE abandoning the M19 S&W .357 Revolvers and going to Beretta 92s.

    About the only LEO vehicles in Florida ( outside the Lauderdale-Miami corridor) NOT to have a lever gun in the trunks into the mid 1970's was the Florida Highway Patrol. Many of their cars featured a Thompson SMG in the trunk. Others (big suprise) a 1894 .30-30 or Privately owned hunting rifle. In 1976 FHP became the first large agency in Florida to adopt the Colt AR15 (SP1) as a standard department supplied "trunk Gun". Soon everybody had to have a semi auto rifle just to catch up with the Joneses.

    Yes as a rural Deputy I would have loved dealing with an enraged bull or injured crazed horse or bear that got side swiped with a Mini-14 because the department took away my Winchester '94....NOT.

    Dumping those lever guns you asked about was one of the main factors leading to today's Militarization of Police. I still think most officers, even in metro areas would be better served and the community better served with those old lever guns. Today those lever guns can have better sighting options, better usable slings, and even inexpensive on board spare ammo like a $7 elastic butt cuff.

    "But kBob, then police would be out gunned by the street gangs!" It ain't the tools, guys, it is the carpenter. I would like to think the average LEO is more self disciplined and better trained than the average gang banger or nut with a bullet hose. I would like to think that the average LEO can be trained to use his rifle more like a scalpel than a weed wacker.

    -kBob
     
  3. Tommygunn

    Tommygunn Member

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    Cleaned 'em, oiled 'em, loaded 'em. Ready. ;)
     
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  4. Robert

    Robert Administrator Staff Member

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    Set up? Cleaned, lubed and loaded with ammo they probably bought themselves.
     
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  5. entropy

    entropy Member

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    The pics I've seen of Texas rangers from 1895 on show they favored the Winchester 1895, I would presume in .30 Army.
     
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  6. jf89

    jf89 Member

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    Thank you for that response. Definitely cleared up some questions and misconceptions I had.

    Considering I am just a hair over 30 years old the era of Bill Jordan,Charles Askins, Skeeter Skelton etc is long gone so I never had very much exposure to this sort of stuff. Even the books from these old lawmen are mostly out of print , think I paid $120 for "Unrepentant Sinner" lol
     
  7. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    I think they just loaded them and wiped them off occasionally. Maybe added a sling.
     
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  8. Riomouse911

    Riomouse911 Member

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    One of my second cousins was a deputy in a county near Bexar in Texas. About 20 years ago he responded from home to assist on a domestic/shots fired call with his lever .30/30 after hearing the call on his radio. It ended in a shootout, with the suspect dead from a .30/30 to the chest. He carried it in a trunk-mounted scabbard with the magazine loaded, chamber loaded, hammer down. That was his chosen method.

    I bought my M1 carbine from a former deputy who worked in a mountain county in central California. He carried it in a case with magazine loaded, chamber empty, hammer down. It was his trunk gun for a long time.

    Now I don’t know if these Counties still allow their people to supply personal rifles... but back then they did.

    Stay safe.
     
  9. Boattale

    Boattale Member

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    Augustus McRae had a tang mounted peep sight on his rifle that he used to good advantage out on the Llano.

    Edit: Just watched that scene on youtube. I was wrong, not a tang mounted peep on his Henry. It was a receiver mounted ladder sight. But with the same results as mentioned. What a great mini-series!
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
  10. joed

    joed Member

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    I have a Win 94 that was carried by a mounted police unit in Ohio. This gun was traded in and the mounted unit disbanded in the early 70s. I purchased it from the company that supplied arms to the police in the area.

    There was no sling or anything on the gun and it was carried in a scabbard on the horse. It has been neat owning a piece of history.

    tny8ocph.jpg
    FoHGb7nh.jpg
     
  11. ExAgoradzo

    ExAgoradzo Member

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    I have been saying for years that the lever gun is the AR of the 19th century.

    FWIW: Watch Longmire. It’s a lever, not an AR, that he uses. But a Brownie is not out of the question for him...

    Loved reading these responses...
    Greg
     
  12. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Might be a little later, but a retired National Park Ranger here was issued an M14 to patrol the Natchez Trace with.

    TVA had a duke's mixture of 1897s, 1912s, lever actions, Reisings, and Thompsons plus an assortment of sporting arms confiscated from hunters on the reservation. Until they traded them all to a dealer for uniform equipment in the form of Ruger AC556 and 870s.
     
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  13. mac66

    mac66 Member

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    I worked as a LEO from the mid 70s until 2010. Mostly suburban PDs but one rural dept. Never saw a lever gun used. Mostly shotguns in the patrol cars. An occasional M1 Carbine, then later ARs.

    Edited to add....In most departments if you wanted a rifle, you brought one from home. On the more rural departments, 22 rifles were common for shooting rats, cats, raccoons, rabbits, pheasants etc on the night shift. One rural department I worked for part time carried Remington Nylon 66s to dispatch injured animals hit by cars.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
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  14. joed

    joed Member

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    And that is why I have 2 lever action rifles. The 94 which was issued to LE and a 336 that I got from a friend. The lever is the AR of the 19th century and that is why I keep them.
     
  15. ExAgoradzo

    ExAgoradzo Member

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    Yep.
    It may in fact be that one or two of them have found their way in to my home as well.
    As I still live in CA I can neither affirm nor deny the factuality if that statement.

    Greg
     
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  16. Armorer 101

    Armorer 101 Member

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    The pump 12ga is a real attention getter, walk through the door with an empty chamber and jack a round into it and all goes quiet.....

    The first cartridge the Model 94 was made in was the 38-55 not the 30-30. The 30-30 came about later for more distance. Most of the early LEOs in the west carried a 73-92 Winchester for a rifle in 44-40 and a 44-40 revolver. Cartridges were very expensive in the era and two boxes of shells could easily cost more than the gun. When arresting a perp, the first thing confiscated was the ammo.

    I was lucky to count as a friend, the grandson and the son of “Shotgun“ Jack Ingram, US Marshal, Oklahoma Territory out of Ft Smith, Arkansas in the latter half of the 1800s. He carried a 44-40 Colt and a sawed off 12ga. Killed a desperado on the main street of McAllister, OK with the 12ga. Interesting folks to talk to about the Territory when it was a haven for every manner of bad actor in the old west. The US Marshals traveled the territory, alone, trying to keep some semblance of law and order in a huge area assigned to them. He was as hard as woodpecker lips.
     
  17. Random 8

    Random 8 Member

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    When I worked in a forestry job in Upper Michigan in the late 90's, I had the opportunity to talk with a large number of retired LE and prison guards who ran the local shooting club as state max security incarceration was a local industry. As far as I could gather, any rifle used in duty other than some surplus M17s, Springfields and Krags was either brought from home or was a rifle confiscated during operations that was commandeered by the local LE jurisdiction for duty use up until sometime after the Korean war. At that point, they tended to drift towards surplus M1 Garand or Carbine rifles procured from the Natl Guard armory, although some deer rifles were still kept in inventory even during the time I was there for wildlife work, although they were all bolt action .308 or .30-06 at that time and likely seized by Fish and Game. The M1 and M14 surplus were also inventoried, the M1 carbine had just gone out of service. Nobody talked about any accessorizing other than perhaps a bandoleer or shell wallet. They did have some special ammunition though. It was still inventoried when I did my LE range qualification for wildlife work, and was in the process of being phased out of service so was available to check out for range duty as well as the rifles to fire it. There was an enhanced penetration load available for .30-30 and .300 Savage. Winchester LE marked (1950?s) with a sort of flat pointed FMJ looking bullet. The .30-30 rifle was a well worn generic Marlin...sears or stevens or some other jobber with no modifications and lots of wear from patrol car hangers. The savage (I saw the picture) was an early M99 and "on loan to a superior" at the time I did qual. The .30 cal military surplus rifles had military AP inventoried, and I got to rock and roll some with an M14.

    The local shooting club had a picture on the wall of several guards, some were present at the club, guarding a POW camp during WWII (apparently there were several in the area), and all of the guards had either a sporting lever or a Krag, and one very menacing individual in a buffalo plaid Mackinaw with an M97 and short barrel. They said they had the choice of a Krag from the State's armory or a personal rifle, and most just brought their deer gun. Saw no evidence of mods, but most had a sling of sorts. One guy had a big Pancho Villa style bandolier slung over the shoulder, likely posed for the photo.
     
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  18. shafter

    shafter Member

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    Get a copy of Texas Ranger by John Boessenecker. It's the story of the legendary Texas Ranger Frank Hamer who hunted down Bonnie and Clyde. The Netflix movie is fairly decent as well if not completely accurate.
     
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  19. CraigC
    • Contributing Member

    CraigC Sixgun Nut

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    I would venture to say there was no "setup". What would they have been able to set the up with anyway? There were no applicable optics. Maybe a sling, maybe a peep sight. I don't think a peep would've been much help for a law enforcement fighting rifle. I'm sure that ammo carrying was a holdover from the late 19th century, though I doubt it was as popular as it is today. I recall a quote from either Skeeter or Jordan, that an officer carried a Colt single action and no reload. That if he needed any more than that, he'd be guilty of "sloppy peace officering".
     
  20. Speedo66

    Speedo66 Member

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    Barney only needed one.
     
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  21. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    I once read that in Custer's day, a cavalryman typically carried 20 carbine and 18 revolver rounds.
     
  22. 3Crows

    3Crows Member

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    Well, Sheriff Andy of Mayberry had a rack full of levers.
     
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  23. hps1

    hps1 Member

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    In the early 50's the wife's 2nd cousin was a county highway patrolman. He carried a Reising Mod. 50 SMG and a double barreled chrome plated 10 ga. hammer gun w/the barrels cut to about 10-12" in the trunk of his unit. He was regularly called to help break up fights at a certain bar almost every Saturday night and he said that his handgun and even the Reising was mostly ignored by the miscreants. When he brought in the 10 ga. it always quieted down forthwith. That chrome made the bores look twice their actual size.

    Regards,
    hps
     
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  24. M1key

    M1key Member

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    Well a good scope would have come in handy.

    EMMETT BROWN'S LEVER RIFLE.jpg

    Sorry, couldn't resist

    M
     
  25. jf89

    jf89 Member

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    Fair enough question that has mostly been answered above but I shouldve been more clear with what I had in mind when I asked that.

    What calibers were commonly used?

    Were slings or sheaths common?

    Did they use ammo carriers? If so, how were they carried?

    What modifications were common with thier rifles ( cut down stocks ,etc.)?

    Were scopes common?

    I think much of what I had in mind was either stuff used by very specific people or Hollywood. Interesting information though.



    I did run across an article from a Texas sheriff that says the samething as the posters above though.
    http://sheriffjimwilson.com/2012/04/10/lawmans-carbine/
     
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