Handguns in the US Army in World War Two

Was the 1911 an emotional support totem or a viable combat weapon? Or both? American soldiers had a bit different take on handguns than soldiers of many other armies, and I think it stems from the American identity with the frontier – the Wild West was well within memory for many people when World War Two broke out. So today, let’s look at the American take on handguns during that war…


    • I think that things haven’t changed much in regards to the U.S. Military ignoring pistol training for those issued pistols. I can’t remember the year but it was when the U.S. was calling up reserves for Desert Storm. I was a police training instructor at the time and the Dept. I was working for issued the Beretta 92. One of the other instructors had a brother whose Marine Corps Reserve Unit was being called up. I had the opportunity to ask him what he thought of the Beretta that he was issued. His words stunned me. He told me that he thought it was ok but he’d only shot 50 rds. through it about a year ago for qualification. A Marine officer going overseas into a combat zone having only fired 50 rounds from his service weapon within the last year! Are you kidding me!

      • I think you’d be horrified to know just how little weapons training actually goes on in the Army and Marine Corps.

        I’d have to go dig up my old range books, but I want to say that the allocation for annual qualification on the pistol for the Army was something like 32 rounds, all inclusive. The qual course was, in my opinion, ridiculously easy.

        It wasn’t much better for riflemen, either. During the mid-1990s, your allocation was basically 9 rounds for zero, and then just enough to fire a qualification course for each man in your unit. Since they still had promotions tied to marksmanship scores back in those days, this created a bit of a problem for getting guys promoted who had “bad range days” or who got screwed by the system. I had one guy where he qualified on the computerized range, where all the scoring was done by the range system, but there’d been some sort of error in the system on his lane for that iteration, and he basically didn’t get credit for hitting a bunch of targets. Since he regularly shot high Expert, I had no problem believing him when he said the targets were malfunctioning. Getting him the ammo to make another attempt was a damn nightmare; I’d already given up my slot for qualification to someone else who’d shot poorly, and what we wound up doing over the course of a week was drive up and down Range Road looking for units that had ammo to spare and who’d let him in on their qual range… Took four days to find him one. Major headache, and then the Personnel jackasses wanted to give us grief because his scorecard wasn’t signed by anyone in our unit.

        And, of course, there’d always be the annual end-of-fiscal-year “EXPENDEX”, where you’d have to go draw whatever there was remaining on your ammo allocation and fire it up, usually without any training value whatsoever, because “Time”. It was usually absolutely ridiculous, because the planners would husband the ammo allocation all year, and then get down to the wire in late August and September, then have you burn all the stuff you’d “saved” up on some stupidity that had to be undertaken by five guys and a truckload of ammo on a back range they’d managed to schedule at the last minute…

        Swear to God, make me king for a day? I could save the taxpayer billions of dollars by doing away with that freakin’ “Use it or lose it” policy for ammo. It’s idiotic as hell; I remember one year where we had a major exercise cancelled because they were sending us up to fight fires at Yellowstone. OK, great… But, when we got back from that, we discovered that they’d brilliantly worked around the ammo policy by having the rear detachment draw all the ammo, hold it in a field AHA until we got back, and then it was “Yeah, send some guys up to shoot the exercise allocation up…”

        Cue two trucks full of soldiers and weapons headed off into the woods, where we spent about three days doing nothing but shoot up training ammo, with no real plan or even ability to do anything productive with it. Totally idiotic, but if we hadn’t have done that, our ammo allocation for the next year would have been cut by a full third, from what it was. Which wasn’t really all that great, to begin with.

        If you’re in the right sort of military skill and unit, you might do a lot of shooting. If not? You’ll be lucky to see your weapon in the course of a year, and you’ll be doubly lucky to ever have the ammo to qualify on it.

        There were reasons I bought my own AR-15, and they had to do with maintaining basic proficiency with a rifle. If I could have, I’d have probably had my own machinegun, as well…

      • The same DoD best known for the $600 hammer has issues buying more than one box of ammo per soldier per year. I wonder how much we’d shoot if Raytheon made ammo.

        • Probably about the same. The issue isn’t who is making the ammo, but who is controlling the purse-strings. Congress loves them some Navy ships that they might get their names plastered on, and is totally enamored of buying all kinds of toys that can be built in their home districts, but readiness? Readiness? Are you kidding? You can’t put a name on that, and nobody but the local contractors providing services like Porta-Johns makes any money off of training exercises…

          Which is why that’s the first thing they cut, and the last thing they fix before figuring out “Shit, we done got us a WAR!!!”

          Training and readiness are all things that get perennially shortchanged. The ammo may be in the storage bunkers, but if they won’t budget for the fuel and the range time, well… It’ll never be drawn, and they won’t have to replace it.

          This is why you don’t see people paying attention to this kind of crap, until it’s Kasserine Pass or Task Force Smith time. Then, they’re all up in arms, blame whoever else there might be available, and never look in the mirror.

          I still have trouble wrapping my head around 3ID doing what it did during the early stages of OIF; nobody that saw those guys at the National Training Center in the years immediately prior to that feat of arms expected anything but an absolute disaster… They somehow pulled it out, though, and managed to gloss over a literal decade-plus of training neglect.

  1. Military discipline was absolutely ruthless in WWI and almost as strict in WWII. This gave geeky officers the wild west’s “Even chances” against their often brutish draft and uncooperative draftees. However, a pistol was a viable weapon for close in fighting wherever there was not a lot of maneuvering room. It still is an excellent alternative to a combat knife. Since the sights on an original Colt 1911 are horrifically, maybe deliberately bad, emphasizing curves and low profile over usability, the pistol probably was not intended to use at any significant distance at all.

    • “…brutish draft and uncooperative draftees…”

      You’re gonna have to come up with some cites on that. I can’t think of too many documented cases that I’ve run across in either WWI or WWII where US officers were forced to shoot their “brutish and uncooperative” draftees with their pistols.

      That sort of thing happens, but usually not due to any “brutishness and uncooperativeness”. When it does happen, the usual run of things is that there’s an unexpected enemy success, a panic, and then someone has to act to put a stop to that panic. This has happened to all sorts of soldiers, from carefully selected and veteran formations to rank beginners who received little or no training. Panic is not at all selective about who it affects; sometimes veteran units that have had too much time on the line are even more prone to it than others, because they know precisely what’s likely coming at them.

      The image of US soldiers requiring a pistol-carrying officer to herd them into combat is laughably delusional. It was also pretty uncommon in other nations, with the possible exception of the Soviet Union with their so-called “barrier troops”. Those formations, however, preferred the interlocking fire of machineguns to “encourage” the troops, not pistols.

    • You ever think of writing a novel? Discipline was on the whole good, notable exceptions being Pima Indians resisting the draft, the black GI riots at Ft. Polk, and Yank/ Aussie clashes in Australia. Add to that maybe depredations by occupation troops in both Germany and Japan. But I have never read of officers coming their men at pistol point. Maybe read before breaking out the Jack Daniels.

  2. Back in the 1970s I went to school with a retired Marine who had been on Guadalcanal, and he told me that the Corps authorized Condition 0(round in chamber rely ONLY on the Grip safety). He said that during one attack by the Japanese on Bloody Ridge (his name for the location) and that he shot an enemy soldier 7 times with his .45 ACP before
    realizing the enemy was hung up on a bush and had been dead since at least the second roundhit him. This was measured at powder burn on the dead body range.

  3. Handguns have a tactical role, if only as “security blankets” enhancing morale.

    The problems stem from an inability to rationally work out when/where they’re appropriate. You’re humping the hills with a ruck that has you cutting the handle off your toothbrush? You might not want a pistol on your load-out. If you’re a rear-area guy, operating on a base camp around Third-Country Nationals you can’t really trust, or the locals are prone to Sudden Jihad Syndrome…? You may want a pistol.

  4. “(…)well within memory for many people when World War Two broke out(…)”
    In 1941 Sergeant York movie was released, which was I presume then well-known user of M1911. Yet it was retconned into Parabellum Pistole. Now I wonder how it did influence need for captured automatic pistols of that type.

    • I recall that the movie used a P’08 because they could work it with blanks. I believe that York had a 1911, but I’m not absolutely certain. Maybe a 1917?

      • All the references I’ve ever seen say “M1911” for the pistol he used defending himself against a bayonet charge by “…a squad of Germans…”

        Could be that they screwed that up, given how often and how badly these things get distorted, but that’s been the conventional wisdom on the matter for as long as I can remember. I do believe he had an M1917, and not a Springfield ’03, but that’s from memory.

        • Sgt York had an M1911 and an M1903 rifle. He had been issued with an M1917 rifle, but did not like the aperture sight. He preferred the notch sight on the M1903, and managed to swap his M1917 for one. As an experienced shot, he found the aperture sight restricted his peripheral vision too much. The M1903 went on the troop ship with him back to the USA, but was stolen en route. Its fate is unknown.

          • Sgt York was a black powder muzzleloader shooter from Appalachia. Open rear sights on those guns are more similar to the 1903 rear sights than to rear aperture sights such as on the M1917. I’ll wager it was a familiarity thing.

          • Schwensen:

            I am sure that is correct. An experienced shooter will prefer the sort of sights he is used to. The M1917 was an excellent rifle, but Sgt York might not have been able to shoot it as well as he could an M1903.

    • The reason Gary Cooper used a P-08 in the scene, was that the armorer could not get the M1911 to cycle with blanks. Examination of cartridge cases recovered from the site of York’s action revealed that there were two M1911’s used there. Presumably there was a second US soldier shooting along side York.

      • I did not know they’d done any archaeological work on those sites… Do you have a cite for that documentation? Sounds like a fascinating read, if they reconstructed that engagement.

          • Nathan Gorenstein’s book on John Browning also mentions a second 1911, from which cases were found, shot on the site of York’s battle. Gorenstein names the soldier who shot it, but I haven’t got the book within reach to look it up and tell you.

    • Some guys shot the M1911A1 very well. The problem with it was that while it was a superbly lethal weapon in the hands of some, it was not consistently lethal across the board when spread out across the entire force.

      You can do really great things with an M1911A1. That fact is meaningless when you’re putting that pistol in the hands of Joe Schmoe, who has minimal skill with it, and you’ve got equally minimal time to correct that deficiency.

      I don’t think any of the WWI or WWII pistols were really ideal for what the actual needs were. If it were me, I’d have specified something like the Browning Hi Power with a striker mechanism and no mechanical safety as the “best thing they could have issued”. Basically, a metal-framed Glock.

      I’ve found it really amazing how so many “gun people” radically overestimate the average person’s interests or abilities, when it comes to firearms. News flash: Average Joe ain’t interested in guns, and likely won’t do well with even the lowest complexity weapons, especially under pressure. The number of times I’ve had to deal with someone flaking out with even an M16, which is (to my mind…) childishly simple is amazing. I’ve also had to deal with highly intelligent and otherwise competent people who could not, for the life of them, manage to make a Beretta 92 (M9 format…) do what it was supposed to be doing for them. I often despaired of them being able to perform basic defense with one…

      • I feel your pain. As an instructor I often ran into this exact problem.

        In police work, there is a tendency toward focusing on “turnout” in the uniform ranks and “processes” in the upper plainclothes echelons. In each case, the objective is that next promotion.

        Uniforms want to be STRAC or at least fake it because that’s what gets noticed with approval by the upper echelons, and Good Notice= Making Sergeant Faster.

        Upper Echelons want to have all their paperwork in on time and in order because that means Pay Raise and maybe a chance at Chief Deputy or etc.

        (Yes, Upper Echelons are primarily experts in Brown Nosing and Ass Kissing. And yes, being outside their chain of command, I generally drove them bugf**k.)

        Yes, it’s almost all Style Over Substance.

        As a result, most officers only showed up on the range when regulations required it. And their “performance” was consistent with their lack of interest.

        I found that the personnel most likely to put in range time on their own time were plainclothes detectives in general, and undercover officers in particular. Mostly the latter, because they tended to end up in situations in which their sidearm and the ability to actually hit something with it consistently, but above all quickly, was often critical to their survival, never mind their promotion prospects.

        A surprising number of the latter used 1911s or the Commander version, often in .38 Super, less for “stopping power” than because back then it wasn’t automatically identified as a “cop gun”. I know that in my own (limited) UC work, my MK IV Series 70 .45 never caused anybody to scream “COP!” if they saw it. My Mauser M1934 .32 ACP even less so.

        I finally sold the latter to a collector because he had to have it due to it having Kriegsmarine property marks. I got enough out of it to buy a brand-new Desert Eagle .357, then just new on the market. That really wasn’t considered a “cop gun” by the sporting gentry.

        As for Jeff Cooper’s old dictum about the .25 ACP (“Carry it if it comforts you but don’t load it”, etc.) two of the only four “one shot stops” I ever saw during PMs were .25 ACP hardball. One punched through the upper left ventricle of the target’s heart, causing basically immediate cessation of action.

        The other hit the victim’s aorta, punching a hole in it just by the breastbone, with the pressure causing it to basically pop open at that point. While the heart kept beating, the blood that should have been going up to the brain instead ended up in the chest cavity.

        On the gurney and table, dependent lividity had turned the back between shoulderblades and waist deep red. Cracking the chest, the doc found that about two-thirds of his blood supply (about three quarts) was pooled there under the vital organs.

        Don’t let anybody ever tell you that little guns can’t kill you.

        clear ether


        • Lethality is one of those things that goes to prove the universe is run by Finagle and Murphy. Or, at least, they were the primary subcontractors.

          I did a bunch of research and reading, back in the day, trying to wrap my head around the ideas contributing to “lethality”. What I concluded was that it boiled down to whether the gods of fortune or misfortune were smiling upon you, the day you were shot. There was the guy whose wife shot him in the head with a .22 Long Rifle, and he didn’t notice until he blew his nose years later, and a bullet came out. Whereupon she confessed to trying to murder him late one night, when he came home drunk and beat her… Dude took one to the head, and never noticed.

          Another guy got shot to ribbons and survived long enough to make the hospital, where they shot him up with tranquilizers and he immediately bled out once all the arteries and veins relaxed…

          There was also the guy who was participating in one of those “Pump up the BB gun and shoot at your buddies” games when he was a young teen. Dropped dead, and nobody could figure out why; turned out, the literal “Golden BB” went into his temple, and that was all she wrote. One pump less by his buddy, and he’d have lived.

          People start talking to me about “internal ballistics”, referring to a projectile’s effects on the human body, and I just laugh. You can predict general trends for a bunch of cases, but the reality is, Finagle and Murphy are in charge of actual real-world individual cases.

          • We called internal ballistics the pinball game. Once a projectile is inside the body cavity with all those bones, ligaments, cartilage and etc. to bounce through, where it ends up is a crapshoot.

            I recall one episode of CSI:NY where the ME found a .22 bullet in a body’s ankle while the entry wound was in the lower torso. it hit the femoral artery “split” and was carried down the artery to the joint.

            Some people might think that was ridiculous, but I recovered a .25 ACP hardball from a corpse’s left calf in just that way, after it had hit the decedent just to the left of the breastbone and just below the heart. CoD in that case was the next .25 ACP FMJ, that hit the decedent in the left eye and went right through the back of the socket, angled right, and hit the brain stem.

            Pretty much what my mother always advised. “Shoot for the center chest twice. If that doesn’t work, shoot ’em in the head.”



          • I like the way your Mom thinks. Thanksgiving dinners must have been a hoot…

            After a fair period of observing things, I’ve about concluded that life is a very unpredictable thing, and the way you exit it is incredibly prone to the “WTF? Seriously, WTF?!?!” factor.

            Friend of mine was this super-athletic sort of guy, kept himself in amazing shape, did martial arts, had all kinds of “healthful life practices” that he followed religiously. He wanted to live forever, basically, and worked towards that. Literally used to tell us that no, he wasn’t going out on a Saturday night, ‘cos that was bad for your health, staying out late and disrupting sleep… Highly virtuous and annoying sort of guy, really.

            How’d he die, you ask? Truly incredible series of misadventures involving some ridiculously contrived circumstances that you’d have never believed could kill someone: He literally fell out of bed, hit his head on something, we presume the nightstand, and then because it knocked him unconscious, he lay there with a brain-bleed until the pressure inside his brain shut down his autonomic nervous system and killed him.

            Fell. Out. Of. Bed. At the age of 28. They found him the next morning, when he didn’t come into work, and the investigating officer that did the welfare check thought he was just asleep, tangled up in his bedding. Nope; deader than a doornail.

            ME had fun with that one. I don’t think they ever figured out for sure precisely what the hell he hit his head on, either… It might have been just the edge of the mattress or bedframe. And, his bed wasn’t that far off the floor, either… Standard height, like maybe 16″?

            I heard about that one, and I just went “Damn…”

          • @ Kirk;

            My mother passed at 84 due to pancreatic cancer. After a life time spent as a mortician’s assistant, sheriff’s deputy, car repossessor, skip tracer, truck driver, school bus driver, and inventor of several confections for a creamery company. Not to mention CPA and college math teacher.

            And yes, she taught me to ride, drive, and shoot.

            And absolutely yes, she scared the Hell out of a lot of people. With or without a gun in her hand.

            I loved her a lot.



        • A .25 in the hand when you need it beats a 44 Magnum back in the gun safe. Some people in some situations just are not able to conceal a large powerful handgun.

          • Author Brian Garfield (in his novel Death Sentence) made an observation I agree with 100% based on PMs I witnessed and coroners’ reports I read.

            Namely that unlike, say, 158-grain JHPS from a six-inch barreled .357 Magnum that will drill holes right through a man, the “little” guns (.22, .25, .32, .380) don’t have enough kinetic energy to go through all the muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and etc. in the torso. Meaning, their bullets go in and stop.

            Which means that unless the target goes to a doctor who goes in, gets the slug out, and more importantly properly cleans out the wound and etc., there’s a high probability that even in the modern day he’s going to get peritonitis (“blood poisoning”) and likely die.

            A halfway-smart person, even a thug, will respect one of those “little” guns when it’s pointed at him.

            clear ether


          • The root problem is that people are really, really bad at “risk assessment”. Particularly the sort of idiots that go in for criminality in the first place…

            A rational person of discernment is going to see “little old lady with husband’s old .25 ACP” as a major risk; idjit likely to go breaking into random houses in order to rob unknown parties…? They’re not likely to have the sense to be able to do that.

            There was this friend of my grandmother’s… Another “little old lady”. She was wont to deal with the gophers and moles infesting her yard and garden with a Browning semi-auto shotgun that she’d take out into the yard and stalk said vermin with… You might drive up on her remote little farm and find her out there, with the shotgun, have her caution you with her finger to her lips, and then observe her standing over the shotgun she’d trigger and get lifted off her feet about six inches… The lady knew her stuff, and was still active enough into her mid-80s that she’d pretty much kept her yard and garden free of vermin.

            At some point, the caretakers her kids hired for her decided to rob her; that did not go over well, at all. They wound up somewhat shot-up, and out in the dykes, on foot, wondering what the hell happened. She’d met them at her front door with said Browning, and then did what came naturally…

            Mrs. Poysky was not someone to take lightly. At all. Even at age 80+.

      • It is obvious that people will have more difficulty to master a pistol vs. rifle. But I fail to see how one would be beter with a Glock vs. Beretta 92. Is it the safety ? There is other options like Sig 226 or H&K with a LDA trigger. Or even Smith and Wesson M&P series.

        • Lallie said:

          “But I fail to see how one would be beter with a Glock vs. Beretta 92.”

          Consider: A Beretta 92 is your classic DA/SA auto with a decocking safety. A Glock is basically the philosophic diametric opposite; when loaded, there is nothing between you and firing, and that firing experience is very, very consistent. One trigger pull to rule them all consistent…

          Beretta 92, in its M9 guise: Two trigger pulls to contend with, dependent on whether the hammer is cocked. The safety can be off; it can be used as a decocker, and if you put it on, it will automatically decock the pistol… And, it’ll fire once you take that safety off, which a lot of people do unintentionally.

          There’s also the not-so-small point, psychologically, that there is a “safety” in the first place, which instills a totally wrong mentality in the mind of the shooter. You tell them that there’s such a thing as a “safe” pistol, even though they don’t understand the safety system itself…? They’re gonna have negligent discharges, due to a false sense of security and an utter lack of understanding.

          You also have the problem of the sort of utter firearms-innocent being totally terrified of “those icky guns”. Also, entirely bereft of any real experience with said “icky guns”.

          I quite literally grew up with firearms in the household; I had access to rifles, shotguns, and pistols from about the time I was eight-nine years old, and was fascinated by them from that age forwards. I fired my first DA/SA “Wondernine” when I was about 15-16, when my stepdad bought himself a S&W Model 39-2. The “intricacies” of the M9 were pretty much something I’d been around for nearly a decade by the time I first handled one, which was, by the way, a private purchase I made through the Rod & Gun Club. I bought two; a compact and a full-size version.

          By comparison to one of my “problem children” for qualification with the M9, I’d had nearly two decades of experience with things like that; it took me a long, long time to wrap my head around the problems that my case-study here, a “Major R”, had with pistols. Her experience of them, before the very tactically-minded G3 we got into our Corps Headquarters mandated that everyone would actually (Dear Lord Above!!!) qualify on their issue weapon (or, else…) was that she’d periodically have to draw the thing from the arms room, carry it around, keep track of it, clean it, and then turn it back in. She’d never, ever fired a pistol in her life; somehow got to the rank of Major in the Army, and her sole experience with a firearm was shooting a .22 subcaliber device in an ancient and very wonky M16A1 back during her days in the Air National Guard. She’d gotten to do that once. First time she showed up on my range, I knew nothing of this, put her out on the firing line with the usual Preliminary Marksmanship Instruction, which sort of assumes you’ve wrapped your head around all the ins and outs of firearms already… You very rarely encounter people who’ve never had any actual exposure to a pistol at the rank of Major, and you’re usually just doing a refresher course for them. Major “R” was a woman trying to “keep up with the boys”, and was probably more terrified of admitting ignorance in front of them than she was of the M9 itself, which she’d suddenly had go from “stage prop” to “OHMYGAWDTHISTHINGCOULDKILL”. I only picked up on the problem when she went out to the firing line the first time, because it was obvious she was terrified almost out of her mind, which if you’d worked around her…? Very out-of-character. Very smart, very competent woman who did things like skydiving on the weekend when someone dared her.

          I was smart enough to work out she had problems, got her off on the end and did the “range coach” thing myself. Dear God, but that was terrifying to me… Major “R”, BTW, was the reason I went out and bought a ballistic vest rated for 9mm for my next range. I’ll let you work out why.

          For someone who is shit-scared of a handgun, an M9 represents being thrown into the deep end of the pool. Too many moving bits, and the qual course required multiple engagement scenarios; some started with the pistol holstered, safety on, round chambered, and you’d have to do a DA and an SA iteration wherein you had to cock the thing. Major “R” had issues with all of that, and with her brain locked up because of “terror”, well… Yeah. Not conducive to learning, at all, let alone the relatively complex motor task of making an M9 work properly enough to qualify with it.

          Had her go through three iterations with the thing, and then just gave the hell up. Poor woman was almost in tears, and given the frat-boy atmosphere of the section of the Headquarters staff she worked in, I was like “Look, you buy the ammo, and we’ll go to the civilian range some night this next week and teach you to shoot…”

          All I had available to me at that time was a Glock 19. Made her buy four boxes of range 9mm, took her out on the firing line in civilian clothes and a pair of earmuffs, and ran her through the same process I’d used to teach “pistol” to others. She “got it”, almost right away: The Glock is stupid-simple, in that if the damn thing is out of your holster, it’s ready to fire and you know it’s dangerous. Got her used to shooting, taught her the basics of hitting the target with the Glock, built up her confidence shooting with it, and that was all it took, once the initial terror-fest was over. Next range we went to, it was “first firing order, high Expert” for her.

          For any reasonably experienced shooter, the M9 is a piece of cake; for a person who has zero experience with shooting a handgun, and who is also terrified of the idea? It’s relative complexity is almost an insurmountable obstacle, and a definite hindrance to learning how to shoot one.

          Someone with experience? You tell them about the safety/decocker, go over the difference in trigger pulls between DA and SA, and they’re mostly good. The inexperienced shooter…? LOL… Yeah, they’re going to have problems, especially if they’re under stress and entirely at sea with weapons. They’re almost certainly not going to be able to hit the broadside of a barn from the inside, with all the doors closed.

          Glocks are stupidly simple, by comparison. No “safe” switch, one trigger pull, only three controls on the damn thing: The slide release, the mag release, and the trigger. It’s always dangerous; you’ve no “safety” crutch that you may be very mistaken about being on; Major “R” nearly shot me in the head because she thought that the safety was “permanent”, in the sense that once you put it on to decock, it stayed that way. I mean, from her perspective, with her understanding of firearms, and all of the background issues? I should have seen that coming. I spent a lot more time ensuring that I identified and gave special treatment to any people in her situation after that; I was used to the idea of a medic private not knowing anything about pistols, but she was the first person of her rank I’d ever run into until that point who was in the same boat. Major “R” is also a reason I’m very much against direct-commissioning people into relatively senior ranks. I can only shudder to think of her winding up in charge of something like 507th Maintenance Company, separated during a convoy movement in combat conditions. I’m sure she’d have gone down swinging, but… She’d have gone down in very short order.

          Also, please note that Major “R” was a highly competent person, very intelligent, and otherwise an accomplished human being very much worthy of respect. She just didn’t know squat about weapons and was very, very disturbed by the idea of killing someone. She got better, but… I’m kinda sad that I was part of that, turning a really decent person into someone who could kill with a weapon, and who had to think hard about doing it. I don’t much like taking someone’s innocence, but… Had to be done.

          • Kirk:

            She joined the army, of course it had to be done. There are plenty of civilian jobs out there for the gun phobic.

  5. Well…
    Ian explained quite convincingly why he looked so unconvincing at the shooting range with the 911…
    Because even medics and mortar attendants don’t know how to do this. LOL

  6. One guy I went to school with was a Navy Corpsman with the Marines in Vietnam. He told me he carrying a sawed off Browning Auto-5 with buck shot. Sold it to another corpsman when he rotated out of country.

  7. In my stupid civilian opinion, a gun similar to the French contract Gabilondo Ruby (maybe the Beretta Cheetah) would have sufficed as a “self-defense” pistol for a “get your mitts off me” situation. Trying to shoehorn a Colt M1911A1 (let alone the Beretta M9A1) into that role is pretty dumb (how would you quick draw that out of your holster?). And seriously? Too many idiots trying to go for the mythical one-pistol-shot-stop at 50 yards (too much “Call of Duty” gaming, I suspect) will probably fall victim to a human wave attack (either that or they’ll get mauled by a rabid grizzly bear).

    I could be wrong.

    • Bryce Towsley (Prepper Guns) observed that the guy in the TV show The Walking Dead who faced down a “zombie horde” with a .357 Colt Python would in reality have ended up as their lunch.

      Anybody in LEO who has ever been on the wrong end of a riot or “peace march” (Or “Devil’s Night” in Athens OH every Halloween back in the 70s and 80s- BTDT) knows that not ending up as a statistic starts with numbers, goes up to water cannon on fire trucks, and from there on you hope and pray you don’t need to call in CAS.

      Handguns are largely useless in that situation. Self-loading rifles and shotguns (pump or semi-automatic) are what is required, and they’re more for display than actual use. (For a failure in such scenario, look up “Kent State 1970”.)

      Generally, big-bore Magnum handguns can be useful if you are in an area likely to be frequented by four-legged apex predators (bear, cougar, etc.) and for other reasons a rifle or slug-loaded shotgun is not a viable option.

      Just keep in mind that most such are “protected species”, which means that if you shoot one, DNR is going to want to have a few words with you, and if you don’t have a good reason (and a good lawyer) there will be Hell to pay.

      Of course the other side of that coin is that over the last couple of centuries here in the United States, apex predators learned from experience than humans were dangerous to them. So they avoided contact.

      Since they have been “protected”, over five or six generations those apex predators have lost their fear of humans.

      Meaning, as far as they’re concerned, humans are now officially back on the dinner menu.

      As Col. Cooper said, never forget that wild animals are exactly that. Wild.

      And not particularly “reasonable”.

      So, your choice is all too often between “facing the music” or ending up as
      bear scat.

      Choose wisely. Or just stay out of the woods.

      clear ether


  8. Stebbins and Florich wrote a book on handguns around 1960 called Handguns a modern encyclopedia. In it was a chapter written by someone else on the handgun in military service by someone with ww2 a d Korea experience. He stated that a soldier’s primary handgun was a small concealed revolver or automatic, tucked into a field jacket pocket as you always had it with you, even in the latrine. Recounted one story of a guy being suprised taking a dump in the woods by a north Korean and promptly shooting him with his trusty concealed gun.

    • A friend of mine was an F-15 maintenance tech at Rhein Main in (then West) Germany in the 80s. Back then with the German left feeling their oats, attempted incursions and infils were frequent, with the flight line being the main objective. (He said if they’d had any brains they’d have gone for the fuel facilities.)

      In case of anybody getting too close and the alert APs not being there in time, they were issued S&W Centennial and/or Bodyguard .38 snubs. Either one could if necessary be fired from inside the pocket of a parka in winter or jacket in spring rain. And while they were issued FMJ rounds, most of them bought and loaded commercial hollowpoints or Glaser or Magsafe ammunition.

      He said that if they wanted to Article 15 him after the fact, he didn’t have a problem with that.

      clear ether


      • I wish I had been able to keep a copy of it, but it was on the “high side” of the classified network. There was an AAR (After-Action Review) written up by one of the participants in that incident where the Afghan Army guy experienced “Sudden Jihad Syndrome” while working with a squad of German infantrymen who were out doing maintenance on their combat vehicle in Afghanistan. None of them were all that switched-on, and he was able to kill or wound nearly the entire squad because their rifles were carried around unloaded, and I want to say that the command also had the ammo for said rifles maintained under the control of the NCO, who was also nearly the first casualty… This Afghan Army guy was basically able to eliminate or wound an entire squad of combat infantrymen because they were, frankly, not really all that switched-on. They trusted the guy, so they thought they were safe… If any of them had had a pistol concealed about their person, it would have ended a lot sooner and a lot differently.

        I never saw that incident written up in full depth outside of the classified network, so I don’t know if all the details were ever released to the public. All I’m repeating here is what I remember reading in the news about the incident, but the gist of it was “Yeah, not even combat-trained infantry are all that good when unarmed…”

        The Brits wound up doing an emergency purchase of Glocks and then doing a bulk-issue to all and sundry, which drastically reduced the incidence of “Sudden Jihad Syndrome”. That’s the sort of role a pistol is appropriate for, really: Force protection and preservation in those circumstances. You can find incidents going back as far as WWII, with North African Arabs going after isolated Allied troops and Germans both… Pistols, I fear, do have a role. Although, I’d rather have a carbine if I have to pick just the one weapon…

        I forget what ended that incident with the Germans; I want to say that a passing German Military Policeman with an MP7 put paid to our Afghan “hero”, and punched his ticket for his 72 virgin raisins.

        Stay alert; stay alive. Stay armed, at all times, in a combat zone. You’re never safe, even sitting in the latrine with some reading material…

        • I guess the Germans were so keen to show that they were not like their grandfathers that they forgot the basic function of an army is to kill the enemy.

          • That, and the conscious forgetting of everything the Heer learned on the Eastern Front.

            Rear-area security is something that everyone in the West completely ignored after WWII, despite having the Germans tell them nearly everything they’d experienced in the East. Then, having experienced the exact same thing in Korea, Vietnam, and every other “War of National Liberation” sponsored by the Soviets, they still don’t “get it” to this day. The linear battlefield is dead, and has been since about 1941-42. We just don’t pay attention to that fact… Note how they shut down all the hastily-improvised Personal Security Detachments that we had to stand up out of hide for every major unit working in Iraq and Afghanistan. As soon as they came home, those went away… Instead of rationally recognizing the necessity going forward, and then making them a part of the force structure.

            The only good humor here is that the Soviets apparently failed to recognize the fact that by training all those Arabs and Muslims on their rear-area warfare doctrine, that they’d need countermeasures of their own, should they ever have to fight their students. The Soviets went into Afghanistan with no more idea how to deal with the issues of rear-area battle than the United States had in Vietnam, and did not expect to have their own techniques and doctrine thrown back at them. I have no idea why that happened, but I’d surmise another case of the Soviet left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing. From what I’ve been able to work out, the GRU was in charge of all that, and they didn’t seem to have too much influence or cross-fertilization with the regular line troops in the Motorized Rifle and Tank Regiments…

            About the only people who’ve done well against these forces in the rear areas were the Rhodesians and South Africans, both of whom mechanized and armored their route clearance assets, along with up-armoring all their logistics transport.

            Something we didn’t get around to doing until quite late in the game in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you keep up with the field reports from Ukraine, the Russians are finding that they’re reduced to running around in those little carts towed by the one-eyed waterbuffalo equivalents any Korean veteran from the old days could describe. It’d be funny as hell, were it not so damn tragic… They’re literally pissing away a generation with the stupidity. And, they keep right on doubling-down…

  9. The Canadian Army issued 9mm Browning High Power pistols made in WW2 by Inglis, until recently. The life-cycle material managers moved the worst condition guns to the training establishments, which was where every officer and most NCOs had to fire an annual qualification. Until Afghanistan, the typical magazine was an equally tired WW2 production Inglis magazine. They failed continuously, because the welds on the feed lips cracked. As well, no one liked cleaning oily guns after the range day, so the standard was to oil sparingly. Little machines need lubrication, but without slipperiness, they jammed often. Consequently most soldiers had a very low opinion of the Brownings and resoundingly badmouthed them. Funny thing though, when push came to shooting back, new old stock guns from War Stocks were issued. Not a single problem! And new production MecGar mags were available. No problems with the handgun fleet, except the available supplies eventually ran down to nothing.

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