Why did US law enforcement stick with revolvers? - Gun Hub
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Old 12-23-2020, 04:51 PM   #1
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Why did US law enforcement stick with revolvers?

Even when I was a little kid and revolvers were prevalent everywhere, I have always wondered why? Why did US law enforcement stick with revolvers when most everywhere else in the world issued auto's.

I think a big part of it was effective sales and marketing by Colt and S&W. They were the two biggest makers of revolvers in the world, and after militaries stopped using them, they had to sell them to someone.

I think there are a lot of reasons, but that seems like a good start. What say you guys...ya'll have the rest of the pieces of the puzzle.
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Old 12-23-2020, 05:15 PM   #2
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I think a lot of people thought revolvers were more reliable, not as likely to jam etc.
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Old 12-23-2020, 05:54 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by bearcat6 View Post
I think a lot of people thought revolvers were more reliable, not as likely to jam etc.
Something tells me slick salesmen played heavily on that.

Although it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. The result was some really wonderful revolvers, so I'm glad it happened.
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Old 12-23-2020, 05:56 PM   #4
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Maybe for the same sort of reason that lever action rifles were huge here, and bolt-actions ruled the roost in Europe.
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Old 12-23-2020, 06:51 PM   #5
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What you do when a semi-auto fails to fire? Rack the slide.

What you do when a re4volver fails to fire? Pull the trigger again.

Lawmen were packing .44s or .45s while Bobbies were unarmed.
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Old 12-24-2020, 11:41 AM   #6
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Think about the round fired. The .38 Special in various loads was the most common round. It is powerful compared to the rest of the lot around the turn of the century. It is a considerable step up from the black powder revolvers and the Colt Police Positive and S&W Military and Police (Model 10) compact easy to carry and long lasting. In Europe the .32 ACP, aka 7.65mm was the most common smokeless powder round for self defense and Police use. Some militaries issued the .32 ACP as official sidearms. FN Browning 1900s and 1910s were common and competitors worked hard to improve on those guns.

In the 1970s the .38 Special was suddenly "underpowered" and Police moved to the .357 Magnum, same manual of arms, .38 special practice rounds and the guns, with care and a bi-annual professional inspection and cleaning would last a 25 year career easily.

Now the plastic fantastic and it's competition are standard. Truly all commerce is based on marketing.
Who would not feel disarmed with his Ruger Security Six, Colt Mk. IV S. 70, S&W M&P 9c or the Glock 19 residing in my desk. I admit having a few qualms about the .380 LCP I use for EDC.
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Old 12-24-2020, 11:50 AM   #7
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I think the "threat" level has gone up considerably over the past century. A rapid reload wasn't even much thought of in the 1910's...in the 2010's its essential to life.

The .38 Special was adequate when most opponents were carrying the same or less. These days, your chances of carrying a .38 Special and having the confidence you have MOST people out-gunned is lunacy.
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Old 12-24-2020, 01:51 PM   #8
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"Tradition", AKA sloth, had a lot to do with it. As did budget. There have always been a contingent of politicos, in and out of LE, who are, at best, uneasy with the concept of armed police. To be fair, the revolver worked pretty well if you're not dealing with terrorists or would be revolutionaries.

It's been more decades than I want to remember, but Pittsburgh's most famous gunfight was the "Battle of Chicken Hill". IIRC, botched robbery and fire fight that ended when the bad guy(s) ran out of ammo. Don't believe anyone actually got hurt.
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Old 12-25-2020, 05:05 PM   #9
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Tradition played a big part, the revolver was seen as a primarily law enforcement pistol, as it had always been, and the auto being military.

A major reason for the revolver was the perception that it was simpler to operate, less likely to have an accidental discharge, and more reliable.
Then too, like the military going back to the first repeating arms, was the idea the soldier or cop would "spray and pray".
The military worried about wasted ammo, the cops about wild, stray shots.
It was felt that the revolver encouraged more deliberate aimed fire.

Another factor was that auto pistols were used with full metal jacket ammo, and there was worry about over penetration compared with the lead bullets fired in revolvers.
The available auto pistols were large guns (1911), the revolver was smaller.

The idea of the revolver being more reliable was based in fact, due to the early auto pistols and ammo being less reliable then revolvers, and today we see too many cases of police spray and pray shootings in which dozens of rounds are fired in seconds.

As a law enforcement weapon the revolver was extremely well proven, simple to operate and easier to teach then the more complicated manual of arms of the auto pistol.
Until the 70's the usual auto pistol was a 1911 type and more prone to cops without the extensive training on the 1911 having accidental discharges.

With the development of the modern automatic safety system pistols the manual of arms was only slightly more complicated then the revolver, and by that time the auto pistol was seen as a way to even the arms race with criminals.

From the 1850's to the 1980's if you were a cop you carried a revolver. That's a tough trend to break.
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Old 12-26-2020, 07:25 AM   #10
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All of the Above Plus...

Keep in mind that. in most cses, these decisions are typically made by administrators - some of whom are overseen by police commissions - and not by individual officers.
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Old 12-31-2020, 06:30 PM   #11
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Check out Paul Harrell and Military Arms Channel on YouTube (he just posted a video on why he thinks they carried them for so long). Paul Harrell has tons of revolver vs. auto loader videos and is the King of GunTube!
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