Revolvers are “outdated”

Think revolvers are “outdated” and gone for good? Or will they make a big comeback?
It’s often said by most people, cop and civilian alike, that revolvers are “outdated” and are “a thing of the past”. Most of these people don’t realize that the Double Action Revolver Pistol and the Semi Automatic Pistol are not too far apart in terms of age. Furthermore, many of these same people will respond by saying “well we have high capacity guns now” not realizing also that high capacity guns have been around since 1935 with the Browning Hi Power (and it didn’t even have any kind of market in the US until the 1950s and didn’t gain any kind of real following until the 1980s). They’ll then say “well criminals are better armed now” forgetting that criminals have been armed to the teeth in the past with gangsters like John Dillinger, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow and mobsters with Al Capone and other mafia thugs armed with BARs, Tommy Guns and 1911 pistols. Much more than I can say for the average crackhead of today.

All things considered, nothing has REALLY changed in terms of weapons technological effectiveness. Bullet designs have improved….but, even among the improvements, the “old school” FBI Load, the 158 gr Lead Hollow Point in .38 Special produced by Remington and Winchester ammo companies is still is considered by many to reign supreme compared to “modern” .38 hollowpoint bullets. Buffalo Bore has seemingly succeeded in turning the .38 Special into a low level .357 Magnum. Buffalo Bore .38 Spl+P But these improvements only add to the value of the “old school” guns and ammo.

The only thing, as I see it, that has really changed is the culture. This mindset of “more means better” and that the style needs to look “new” and we take our model off of what we see and experience in movies and television. If an idea is over 20 years old, it’s “outdated”. Doesn’t matter if it’s right, just that it’s “old”.

Well, the debate can go on, but I think one day the world will swing back the other way and realize that speed kills, old people are wiser, history has more to teach than we think and revolvers mean Six for Sure and the polymer semi-automatic fad will die out or at least retract into moderation.

“The .38 Special”

Remember when the term “.38 Special” meant a serious service revolver?
And a snub nose J frame or D frame mean’t a snub nose?

Most young people like me hear the term “.38 Special” today and they think of a small compact pistol that carries 5 shots in the cylinder (maybe 6 if they happen to know what a Detective Special is) and is used by non-gun people who just want “something” to have in the drawer or a cop or civilian might have as a “backup” gun. The round itself that the gun shoots is deemed “just a .38 special”

But in my dad’s generation. (wartime babies and Baby Boomer gen) a .38 Special wasn’t “just” anything and it was considered a front line service gun that the average policeman and civilian alike depended on for an all around fundamental defense weapon that had either a 4, 5 or 6 inch barrel.


FBI training film on use of the .38 Special

Before I even bought my first gun my dad had been saying for years that he always wanted “a .38 Special. The old policeman’s revolver.” Didn’t even say a brand name. Plain Jain gun. No bells and whistles. No overbearing grips.

One day, about 9 years ago, I went out bought my first handgun. I had always thought I would get a 1911 .45. Looked cool. But there was something about that plain jane “.38 Special” that dad always talked about that just jumped out in my mind. Used S&W M-10s were here and there under the gun counter at the local gun store. Looked like what I thought of as “A .38 Special.” but then I saw a single gun next to them that looked the same only a little better somehow. Maybe it was the straight barrel rather than the tapered pencil barrel. Maybe it was the slightly larger cylinder. It was a Colt Official Police 4 inch that I was told was made in 1944.

I bought it for about $275. Wasn’t sure what condition it was. Except the bore looked good. I wasn’t very knowledgeable about guns at the time. Didn’t know how to check for timing and such. My first gun. And I was excited.

Took it home. Dad was out somewhere. I put it on the stool of his chair in the den for him to see when he walked in.
I heard him come back about 20 minutes later. Walked into the room to see him starring down at it. “That’s a .38 Special” he said.

As much as dad admired my first piece, he said he identified more with the S&W version as that’s what he remembers the police in Jackson, MS carrying as a boy. About a month later I went back down to that same gunstore, as it was his birthday, and bought a S&W M-10 4 inch pencil barrel like new with the original box from 1971. Wrapped it, put a bow on it. And on his birthday, he was proud to get that. And to this day, everytime I say “your Model-10” he looks at me funny and has to think about it, “Oh my .38 Special?”

(as a side note, I later got him a Post 1972 Colt Agent, yet to this day he still calls it his “snub nose Detective Special”)

I later got another Colt Official Police postwar from 1961, had it refurbished and is in better condition. I’ve gone through a lot of other guns. But it always comes back to that Colt Official Police, that .38 Special that always winds up in my holster, suitcase or on the firing line with me. Much as I love that 1961 gun, I still wish I could restore that 1944 version to prime condition even though it’s still a good shooter (it’s one flaw is that the bolt can go back up the ramp on one of the notches because the notches are so worn). The .38 Special is not too heavy, not too bulky, no adjustable sights to get knocked out of alignment, no rubber grips to bulge, nor is it too small or too weak and has a sturdy enough frame to handle more than adequate loads. Simple fundamental weapon that becomes a part of my hand.

(Top) 1961 Colt Official Police (Post-War) (Bottom) 1944 Colt Official Police (Pre-War
(Top) 1961 Colt Official Police (Post-War)
(Bottom) 1944 Colt Official Police (Pre-War
Colt Python .357 Magnum (bottom) built on the same frame as the Colt Official Police .38 Special.   The magnum gun is noticeably bulkier with heavier barrel, full underlug, vented rib, adjustable rear sights and target grips compared to the simpler .38 Special service revolver.   The Colt Trooper .357 Magnum looks more like the Official Police with a heavier barrel, adjustable rear sights and usually with target grips.   All the extra weight and bulk is appreciated when the gun fires powerful magnum loads.
Colt Python .357 Magnum (bottom) built on the same frame as the Colt Official Police .38 Special. The magnum gun is noticeably bulkier with heavier barrel, full underlug, vented rib, adjustable rear sights and target grips compared to the simpler .38 Special service revolver. The Colt Trooper .357 Magnum looks more like the Official Police with a heavier barrel, adjustable rear sights and usually with target grips. All the extra weight and bulk is appreciated when the gun fires powerful magnum loads.