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Police using autos before the 80s?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by monotonous_iterancy, Mar 17, 2013.

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  1. 2zulu1

    2zulu1 Member

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    I believe Salt Lake City PD transitioned to M39s ~mid 70s, with reported reliability issues.
     
  2. Jim NE

    Jim NE Member

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    Always wondered why the military had carried semi-auto auto handguns long before police dept.'s did. I think the answer is in the nature of the work that military organizations do in contrast to the work that police departments do.

    Rifles were, and are, the primary small arms weapons for military use. Handguns are more or less relegated to the role of "back-up". As a back-up weapon, reliability may not have been as important a consideration. Also, most soldiers were assigned to platoons or outfits and were typically covered by a fair amount of "friendly fire" during an engagement.

    Police officers walking beats, however (especially before the days of radio communications), were more likely to be alone or in pairs when called upon to use their guns. Their side arms were their primary weapons, so reliability was of greater importance. In the early to mid 20th century, S&W or Colt revolvers were probably more reliable than semi-autos.

    As Alan Ladd said (in the mid 2oth century): "Love is what goes on between a man and a .45 automatic that doesn't jam."
     
  3. monotonous_iterancy

    monotonous_iterancy Member

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    I'd imagine that reliability was just as important to the military. That's why they always look for the most reliable guns. They have to survive mud, dust, extreme temperatures, rain, snow, and so on. I vaguely recall a memory that I read regarding revolvers not being good weapons for trench warfare and other messy conditions, because the cylinder could freeze up. That's part of the reason the US switched to the 1911. That gun is built very solid, and is very reliable.

    So it makes me wonder why, with the massive numbers of WWII and Korea vets, officers in large numbers didn't stick with what they were trained on, and knew worked, which was the 1911.
     
  4. Jim NE

    Jim NE Member

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    That's a very good point. That certainly would make the 1911 better suited to military use. It's a great gun.

    But for police use, I still think that what I said is true:
     
  5. razorback2003

    razorback2003 Member

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    I went to a temporary exhibit of Arkansas LEO and prison history at the Old State House in Little Rock a couple of years ago. There were mostly revolvers on display, but there were a couple 1911's of police from all the way back in the Depression. I have family that were LEO in Little Rock way back in the 50's and forward and in those days they could carry whatever they wanted (they had to buy their own guns) as long as they qualified with it. Kin have told me a few officers did carry 1911 45 autos. Most carried S&W revolvers.
     
  6. charlie fox

    charlie fox Member

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    Bellevue WA carried S&W M-39's in the late 70's - early 80's. Many small WA departments carried 1911's. My first department allowed M-39's until the Chief had to shoot a suspect 12 times to put him down (FMJ's - go figure)...it wasn't until many years after he retired that auto were even considered (then they chose the Beretta 92:rolleyes:).
     
  7. Bill4282

    Bill4282 Member

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    My grandfather was a cop from the '20s through the 60's. carried a 1911 as a Major in the MPs but chose the Colt .38 spl over " one of those jamamatics"
     
  8. FuzzyBunny

    FuzzyBunny Member

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    My dad in the 60s carried a 1911. He was not a cop long, found a better job.
     
  9. F-111 John

    F-111 John Member

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    My guess would be the military would carry their sidearms condition three until they were in a combat situation, then go to condition one, whereas there were a lot of nervous nellies wetting themselves over over the thought of officers carrying a 1911 cocked and locked day in and day out.

    It wasn't until the appearance of the DA/SA semiautos that departments began to switch in earnest.
     
  10. Mp7

    Mp7 Member

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    In Germany use of revolvers for police ceased before WW1.
     
  11. PRM

    PRM Member

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    We had the option (at your own expense) depending on assigned duties. A lot of investigators and plain clothes officers (narcotics and vice) carried the 1911s and Browning High Powers. Even saw a few S&W Model 59s.

    Uniformed officers were pretty much saddled with the revolver. Had to be a Colt or S&W, .38 or .357 with a four inch barrel. Off duty or special assignment, you could pretty much carry what you wanted. We really didn't have the option of semi-autos in uniformed patrol until the 80s.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013
  12. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    Colt was the main manufacturer of semis in the U.S. up till the second world war. While Savage and Remington made pistols in 32 acp and 380 acp they were short lived. It was Colt that dominated the market. No American manufacturer produced a gun in 9mm till after the Second World War. S&W produced a few pocket semis in 35 S&W but they flopped. The Colt M1903 and M1908 in 32 and 380 were very popular with law enforcement and the general public. They were issued to Officers in the military up through the 1980s I believe. At any rate Colt dominated the market for semis in the U.S. It was not a big market.

    In the U.S. if the round was shot from a semi it was usually followed by "acp" for Automatic Colt Pistol.

    In the prewar period Colt sold more revolvers than they did semis. They fought neck and neck with S&W for market share.

    It was not till 1954 that S&W introduced a semi in a service caliber, the single stack 9mm M39 at first with a steel frame and later with an alloy frame in 9mm. Colt produced it's first gun in 9mm in 1948, The alloy framed Commander model of the 1911.

    The U.S. was a nation of wheelgunners. The pistol, other than as a pocket gun, was generally considered a military weapon. The semi has a military handgun was considered superior due to it's rate of fire and fast ability to reload. It was also durable and reliable. The 1911 passed service tests that were tougher than those given for revolvers at the time. But at the time U.S. cops did not need or want that rate of fire.

    When you read old gun mags and authors writing from the 50s through the 70s they often refer to semis as "jam-o-matics", "ammo burners", the "military weapons", etc. They did not often consider them all that useful for civilian use or law enforcement.

    Cops back then did not wear "tactical" vests, there were no SWAT Teams, They had no armored vehicles. Some individuals and departments did authorize carrying semis. In 1979 the Connecticut State police ordered 709 M39-2s from S&W. In 1971 S&W introduced the M59, the first double stack 9mm da/sa pistol made in the U.S. (other than experimental M39s).

    The BHP was not widely known in the U.S. till after the war.

    Some depts. authorized them but they were not that common. Some individuals used them. But again not that common. All that changed in the post war period, slowly at first, then in the 80s almost overnight.

    tipoc
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013
  13. jon_in_wv

    jon_in_wv Member

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    Actually I think it has to do with the fact revolvers are much simpler to use with blanks than semi-autos and most movies made during those time periods probably shared weapons from movie to movie also. Its a lot cheaper and easier to use the blank firing revolvers you have around the studio than to buy and convert the latest autos for the job.
     
  14. BlindJustice

    BlindJustice Member

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    I bellieve the Illinois State Police were the first as a unit to convert over
    to a Semi-Auto - S&W M39 - initial use though revealed some problems
    but it was worked out, and the S&W 39-2 was used and have good rep today
    on the used market for excellent examples.


    Randall
     
  15. Dr.Rob

    Dr.Rob Moderator Staff Member

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    I recall seeing the occasional SW auto back in the 80's ALL stainless--never saw a blue one. It was rare to see a 1911 outside Denver, though I remember a Arapahoe County Sherrif's Deputy in a Denny's in Littleton sporting one.

    I know a Denver cop that carried a Python almost his entire career and he was working into the 90's. Denver has allowed the 1911 a long time--not sure when that started but cops -- not just detectives, street cops carry them.
     
  16. postalnut25

    postalnut25 Member

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    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    My first father-in-law was a Denver bubba that carried a 6 inch S&W 686 until the day he retired. I think his retirement was less than a year ago. Never felt the need to take vacation to do a conversion to a semi-auto. Felt Denver should pay him to attend training if they wanted him to change.
     
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