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Jcordell 10-20-2009 07:43 PM

Interesting NY Times article on NYPD revolvers.
 
This was printed about five years ago, but it's an interesting read. For those who are into revolvers and for those with a sense of history. What is even more amazing is that this article appeared in the New York Times.

UPDATE 06/07/2018


Well as of August of 2018 the fifty NYPD officers still carrying revolvers have been ordered to transition to semi-auto pistols. An era has ended and I feel pretty old.

http://forum.imfdb.org/showthread.php?p=44352#post44352
__________________________________________________ _______________

December 16, 2004
In New York, Only Older Officers Pack the Old .38
By MICHAEL WILSON

Roughly 19 out of 20 officers in the New York City Police Department carry the semiautomatic pistols that have been standard issue for 11 years, a boxy handful of steel and polymer as clean and smooth as many of their young faces.

This story is not about them. It's about the 1 in 20, and the old, heavy piece parked on that officer's hip like a jalopy at the top of the driveway. Wow, people say - look at that thing. Does it work?

An older model of sidearm was grandfathered in with officers who are, in some cases, grandfathers. It is thick, but elegant in its way, its grip curling lazily out of the holster, the grooves in the hammer like those around aging eyes.

It goes by many names - thirty-eight, six-shooter, pea-shooter, wheel gun - but the .38-caliber revolver is a dying breed on the belts of New York, soon to go the way of the rosewood nightstick.

Today, a few more than 2,000 service weapons are revolvers, down from more than 30,000 in 1993. Never again, the police said, will new revolvers be issued, and so the number shrinks with every retirement. Many officers own two guns, and some officers continue to carry revolvers off-duty, but again, that choice is no longer available to new recruits.

More than anything else, it is carrying a gun - the daily familiarity of it, the expectation that it must be used on a second's notice - that most sets apart the police from the policed.

And yet, choosing the gun was unceremonial, rushed and uninformed: pick up a revolver off a table, see how it feels, try the next one, then a third, then pick your favorite. Then, during training, the recruits learned to respect this piece of equipment that can take a human life. Now it feels strange to leave the house without it. They have come a long way together, these 2,000 officers and their revolvers. Uniforms have come and gone, and the belly under the belt has grown, but the gun hanging there is not to be messed with.

"Eventually, they'll all be gone," said Inspector Steven J. Silks, commanding officer of the firearms and tactics section of the Police Academy. "It's like people who like to have a stick shift. You take it away from them, they feel like they can never drive in the snow again."

In the early years of the Police Department, officers carried any weapon they chose, until Theodore Roosevelt, as president of the Board of Police Commissioners, ordered the 4-inch, .32-caliber Colt revolver to be the standard sidearm. Training with the guns began on Dec. 30, 1895.

Ninety-eight years later, in 1993, after much debate among the department and the unions and legislators in Albany, the department switched from revolvers to semiautomatics, primarily to meet the advanced weaponry carried by criminals and dispel the perception that the officers were outgunned.

The newer guns were easier to reload and held 15 rounds in the magazine and one on the chamber, almost three times as many as the revolver. Officers with revolvers were allowed to keep them if they chose, while rookies received the new guns.

So, the model of an officer's gun dates him or her like rings on a tree. The outer bands are the semiautomatic, 9-millimeter pistols. The next ring is much thinner, the brief period of the so-called spurless revolver, a gun with an internal hammer that for safety cannot be cocked. Finally, in the center, there is the classic revolver, such as the Smith & Wesson Model 10 or the Ruger Police Service Six, more commonly seen on "T. J. Hooker" reruns or film noir than on the streets of New York.

The grips still echo the earliest revolvers, designed in the 19th century to feel like the handle of a plow in a man's hand. Lt. Eugene Whyte, 45, with 22 years on the job, remembers arriving at a meeting for the Republican National Convention this summer, and men in suits quickly calling him aside, agog at his snub-nosed sidearm. "I had Secret Service guys asking me if they could see it," he said. "It was as if I was carrying a flintlock pistol."

It is not only fellow law officers who notice. Officer Andrew Cruz, 41, was posted in Times Square recently when a tourist did a double take at his revolver. "He said, 'Old school,' " the officer recalled. They get that a lot: "You're a real cop," or, "You must have seen a lot," or, "You must be getting ready to retire."

"They say, 'What are you, an old timer?' " said Officer Mark Steinhauer, 41, who joined the department in 1991. "My answer to them is, 'It worked for John Wayne.' "

The guys with revolvers, they say, are the same guys who married their high school girlfriends. Dependable. No surprises.

"It's put me through 20 years, and I'm still alive," said Officer Gregg Melita, 41, who not only carries a Ruger Police Service revolver, but the old "dump pouches," two leather carriers that hold loose cartridges. "This is when guns were guns, and cops were cops," he said. "The new guys don't even know what dump pouches are. They go, 'Hey, what's that hold?' " He chuckled. "'Bullets, kid.'"

The design of a 9-millimeter magazine, with a spring pushing cartridges in single file into the chamber, makes it susceptible to malfunction, to jamming. With a revolver, there is always another round ready to fire, no matter whether the one before it did.

"These aren't Ferraris," Inspector Silks said. "These are Chevrolets."

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly ordered the switch to 9-millimeter pistols 11 years ago, and learned to shoot one himself. But it is his revolver, a Colt Detective Special, that he carries today, under the slight break in his trouser leg at the left ankle.

"It's easier to carry, for me, anyway, the revolver. I've carried it for a long time," he said. "I actually won it in the Police Academy, many years ago," graduating first in his class. It is inscribed: "Bloomingdale Trophy won by Probationary Patrolman Raymond W. Kelly. May 15, 1967."

As for the decline of the revolver, he said, "I don't think it means very much, tactically. I don't see that much difference in shooting a semiautomatic handgun or a revolver. The difference, people will tell you, is dependability. You take a revolver that's been in a drawer for 100 years, take it out, pull the trigger, and it's going to go off. Automatics have the potential, probably more so than revolvers, for jamming. At least, that's what people think."

Officers with revolvers say that yes, they feel more comfortable with a gun that is virtually malfunction-proof, and that six shots at a time, along with their extra six-shot speed-loaders, ought to be enough. "After 18 rounds, if I can't hit him, I'm in big trouble," said Officer Sean Murtha, 40, who carries two speed-loaders. (And he would be a statistical aberration. To date in 2004, the average number of rounds fired by a single officer in a police shooting is 2.8, down from 4.6 in 2000 and 5.0 in 1995.)

But there is something else about the gun. It makes a statement.

"It has to do with identity," said Officer Cruz, from the 88th Precinct in Fort Greene in Brooklyn. "You see someone with a .38, you know they've got some time on them."

Officer Melita, with his dump pouch, joined in 1986 and patrolled in Harlem for 18 years. He believes his gun shows younger officers that he was at work when times were different in New York. "That's how you can tell who's been on the job awhile," he said. "Back when it was, you know, wild."

Officers must appear twice a year at the firing range in Rodman's Neck in the Bronx. Detective Tomasa Rodriguez, with the Midtown South precinct, remembered the announcement for everyone with revolvers to step aside to a separate range. "It was embarrassing. All the young kids were looking at us like, 'Oh my God, these people, they're emotionally disturbed, they still have a .38,'" she said. "Before you know it, you're out of there. There's, like, two or three people. I told my partner, 'I was embarrassed at the range.' But I don't care. I like my weapon, I know how to use it."

The department had 2,367 revolvers in service in 2003. At last count this fall, that number had dropped to 2,019. Wait, make that 2,018 - Marty Paolino, 42, retired from the 88th Precinct a few weeks ago. ("I never wanted to go for the special training," he said on his last day of work. "They don't pay you enough.") Next year, with the expected retirements of officers who joined in 1985, a relatively large class of recruits, hundreds of revolvers will disappear from service.

It is too soon for eulogies, but not much. For an epitaph on the revolver's tombstone, consider two statements from two officers, six little words for why they kept their six-shooters.

"I hate change."

"It looks cool"

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AdAstra2009 10-20-2009 08:46 PM

Very interesting story, I also did not know that commissioners even carry guns.

MT2008 10-20-2009 09:22 PM

Very interesting. Though I personally don't remember seeing too many revolvers the last time I was up there.

The irony is that this author doesn't seem to realize it, but the fact that the "young guns" are carrying 9mm Glocks, SIGs, and S&Ws shows how far behind the times the whole department really is. When Commissioner Kelly ordered the switch to 9mms in 1993, many federal, state, and local agencies in the U.S. were starting to ditch 9mms and adopting .40 S&W pistols. It was a trend that was only just starting (and didn't really complete itself until about 2000), but it's the kind of thing I would figure that a big, well-funded department like NYPD would adopt sooner rather than later (or never). My own local PD, which has a pretty small operating budget even for its size and jurisdiction, was adopting the Glock 22 and 23 in 1993 (though to be fair, this was after 30 years of using S&W revolvers, so they were LONG overdue).

So the veterans in the NYPD may be carrying revolvers, but the new recruits are still behind the rest of the country to this day. :D

k9870 10-20-2009 10:23 PM

And NYC issues double action only, FAIL.

Jcordell 10-20-2009 10:44 PM

MT2008

Quote:

The irony is that this author doesn't seem to realize it, but the fact that the "young guns" are carrying 9mm Glocks, SIGs, and S&Ws shows how far behind the times the whole department really is. When Commissioner Kelly ordered the switch to 9mms in 1993, many federal, state, and local agencies in the U.S. were starting to ditch 9mms and adopting .40 S&W pistols. It was a trend that was only just starting (and didn't really complete itself until about 2000), but it's the kind of thing I would figure that a big, well-funded department like NYPD would adopt sooner rather than later (or never). My own local PD, which has a pretty small operating budget even for its size and jurisdiction, was adopting the Glock 22 and 23 in 1993 (though to be fair, this was after 30 years of using S&W revolvers, so they were LONG overdue).

So the veterans in the NYPD may be carrying revolvers, but the new recruits are still behind the rest of the country to this day
Ahhh the 9mm debate. I don't think it will ever end. When I was hired by my department in 2000 we could carry any type of semi-auto pistol we wanted as long as it was 9mm, 40 S&W or 45 acp. If your choice was GLOCK, Beretta, S&W, Colt/Kimber/Springfield 1911, Ruger, H&K, Browning Hi-Power or Sig Sauer your were good to go. Other choices had to be approved by the Lt. in charge.

Our city continued to grow as did our manpower. For some reason as departments grow admin eventually feels like it's a good idea to go to a uniform issue and a single caliber if possible. In 2006 we got a Federal grant and went with GLOCK. The decision was to go with the G21 (45 acp) but we (the firearms instructors) met with admin and told them that we should have a smaller frame for those already hired officers to go with. That's fairly standard now all over the country. Evidently there were some lawsuits and so on.

Anyway the Chief agreed and the Glock 19 was offered as the alternative. Alot of folks don't like the 40 S&W. That load beats up on frames and the barrels supposedly don't last as long. Whatever the reasoning the boss made the choice and I went along because I'm not the boss. I carried a Sig Sauer P245 (45 acp) before the switch, but I opted for the G19. I don't like that big old chunky grip and I don't have big hands. Simply put I don't trust my ability to get a good grip on the model under stress. No matter how much I practice so I went with the 9mm. Now all officers hired after the transition get the G21 and that's it. I teach them and most of them do well, but I'm going to stick with the G19. I like it and I shoot it well. I don't feel like I'm behind the times at all.

For what it's worth we carry the Federal +P 124 grain HST hollow point load. It's been tested in many real world police shootings and has proven it's worth.

The G21 officers use the Federal +P 230 grain HST hollowpoint load. Another excellent load.

We also carry Federal 00 buckshot and slugs in our Remington 870's and Federal 5.56 mm in our various AR-15 rifles. As you can see Federal ammo has a big fan in my department.

I don't consider using the 9mm to be behind the times as long as you carry good ammo. The most important thing is can you hit what you are shooting at and are you using a quality pistol? It isn't my favorite but I trust GLOCK QC. Now when the NYPD restricted it's officers to hardball ammo the department was absolutely behind the times. 9mm hardball is only good for target shooting. That was a braindead act and I believe has since been reversed.Mind you I said believe. Handgun ammo has come a long ways since the 1986 Miami shooting between the FBI and Platt and Matix.

P.S. I actually think the .357 magnum is a great load. Very accurate and powerful, but I don't ever see that coming back into police usage with the exception of backup pieces. However I have a Ruger GP100 and a S&W Model 28 at home. Great models that shoot a great load.

Excalibur 10-21-2009 03:11 AM

I live in Lake County Indiana and I've encountered a lot of cops who were allowed to carry their own on duty pistols. So far, I've encountered guys with Kimbers, USPs in .45, I forget which SIG was it, but it was in .40 S&W. I found out that a lot of the East Chicago's issued sidearm was a Beretta M96 in the .40 S&W, the same for the State troopers, too. Lake County Sheriff's department has Glock 22s as the standard. A lot of departments apparently has Glock 22s.

MT2008 10-21-2009 03:24 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Checkman (Post 7727)
Ahhh the 9mm debate. I don't think it will ever end.

Actually, I'm more of a 9mm guy myself. In other topics, I've expressed a preference for 9mm over .40. It's partially because I'm a SIG guy and their .40 magazines only hold 12 rounds, but also because 9mm is cheaper anyway.

I just couldn't help but feel a tiny bit of irony that this clueless NY Times writer doesn't seem to understand how behind-the-times he's making the NYPD look.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Excalibur (Post 7730)
I live in Lake County Indiana and I've encountered a lot of cops who were allowed to carry their own on duty pistols. So far, I've encountered guys with Kimbers, USPs in .45, I forget which SIG was it, but it was in .40 S&W. I found out that a lot of the East Chicago's issued sidearm was a Beretta M96 in the .40 S&W, the same for the State troopers, too. Lake County Sheriff's department has Glock 22s as the standard. A lot of departments apparently has Glock 22s.

The G22 is by far the most common LE sidearm in the U.S. Glock dominates about 2/3rds of the domestic LE market, and of that, I'd guess probably 90% of the departments that use Glocks issue/authorize the G22. Glock's web site even calls it "The U.S. Law Enforcement Pistol."

Also, what's a Beretta M96? Do you mean 96F? There is no "M" before the 9 in the Beretta 92/96-series pistols.

Excalibur 10-21-2009 04:47 AM

Sorry, I forgot about the M designation. The ECPD detective that guest lectured said it was a 96. Didn't say if it was an F model or not

Yournamehere 10-21-2009 04:57 AM

All I can say is that NYPD guns suck. They have about 5 or 6 9mm DAO guns approved for duty carry and and only a few more for off duty, and they all have 12 pound trigger pulls, including the Glock 19. The only one that would be even remotely comfortable is the Smith and Wesson Model 64 in .38 Special, the topic of the article. By design it's DA so it's not gonna feel messed with, and it would be comfortable to shoot. Of course you've lost the firepower you get with a double stack automatic in 9mm, but like I said, they suck.

k9870 10-21-2009 01:38 PM

I'm a .45 guy, it has low recoil and muzzle blast (I feel the .40 is snappy and lod) and 45 is a very powerful defensive round. Besides, the 9mm fans cant make fn of capacity when you bring out an FNP-45 with 16 rounds of Hornady 230gr JHP.


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