Q&A #16: Lightning Round!

Today we are doing a slightly different Q&A format, because I ran a bit short of time to do my usual background research on questions. So instead, we have a Lightning Round of short questions…7 pages of questions. Please et me know what you think of this format – I don’t plan to use it frequently, but if you do like it I will occasionally throw one like this into the mix.

As always, questions came from Patrons at the $2/month level and above. Thanks to all of you for the support!


  1. “Bottled out” is British slang for “Changed your mind and decided not to try something that looks dangerous.”

  2. Hey Ian, I think I can shed some light on why American police were so slow to go wholesale into auto pistols. The easy answer is the ammunition. It really wasn’t until the the 1970s that reliable expanding ammunition was developed for most popular semi-auto cartridges. Also remember that even when reliable expanding bullets became available the semi-auto pistols available would, generally, not reliably feed such ammo. Revolvers, almost exclusively .38spl or .357mag, already had ammunition that would expand decently, and as the old saying goes, you had “six for sure”. When high capacity semi-auto pistols that were designed to feed expanding ammunition came into being in the 1980’s, the day of the revolver in police duty basically died.

    • And one must remember that American police didn’t deal with bomb-throwing anarchists on a daily basis prior to the 80’s. Semi automatic weapons were better for gendarmerie units in Europe, many of which encountered terrorists or rock-throwing mobs unwilling to listen to “state sponsored reasons to disperse.” Beat cops generally dealt with small time crooks like purse thieves or graffiti artists. Not much firepower needed to tell a guy to put down the paint brush. I could be wrong.

      • In the 1970s the question was whether the .357 Magnum was too powerful for regular US police use, or if it should remain mostly a highway patrol cartridge.

      • When did the US police have to engage
        “bomb throwing anarchists” in sustained gun battles? You mean David Koresh? The religious nut?

        • the weather underground in the 1960’s had gun battles with the police.. ask Bill Ayers, obama’s mentor. the SLA (the group that kidnapped patty hearst) also had gun battles with police in the early 70’s. there were others, but that’s just off the top of my head.

          3 of the 4 ATF casualties at waco were friendly fire, so it wasn’t exactly a “sustained gun battle”. using armed helicopters to fire into a church full of women and children (and killing some of your own in the process) shouldn’t really be law enforcement procedure, “religious nut” or not. the real reason for the raid was a box of dummy hand grenades, which they turned into “complaint department-take a number” paperweights to sell at gun shows. I have one..it’s stamped “mt carmel” on the bottom of the wooden base.

      • Ironically, the original Gendarmerie (it’s a French word) adopted a revolver in the 1970s (the Manurhin MR 73) and continued to use it all the way to the 2000s. Admittedly the French “Gendarmerie nationale” was an exception in Europe. Handguns were not very important for their more serious tasks in any case, as for example the name of the Italian “Carabinieri” alludes.

        On the other hand the standard service weapon of regular European police officers was from the 1920s to the 1970s, and in some cases even longer, a straight blowback semi-auto pistol chambered in .32 ACP with a 7 to 9 shot magazine. Typical weapons were FN 1910, 1910/22 and Walther PP or PPK. Only the rising domestic and Palestinian terrorism in the 1970s prompted a switch to larger caliber pistols as regular service weapons for police. I am not saying that the .32 ACP pistols were useless, far from it, but given a choice a would probably prefer a decent six gun in .357 Magnum or even .38 Spl over something like a Walther PP in .32 ACP.

    • As somebody who was there at the time and carried both revolvers (.38 and .357) and autos (.45, 9mm, and 10mm) on duty, I can tell you the main issue was cost. Not just of the guns, but training, maintenance, and attrition in service.

      For instance; a revolver will work with any reloaded ammunition that will fit it and is within SAAMI pressure limits, thus the classic .38 Special Mid-Range Wadcutter that many departments reloaded themselves for practice. We carried factory-made ammunition on duty, mainly for legal liability reasons.

      An automatic has to have ammunition loaded to very specific pressure levels and etc., not to mention bullet contours, to operate the action, feed from the magazine, eject and reload. This generally means factory ammunition. That right there puts costs up.

      Second, autos are more complicated than most revolvers. That means there is more to go wrong. I never had a spring related failure with a DA revolver, but I had several different ones with various autos, notably a broken trigger-return spring on a Beretta M92FS 9mm that kept the trigger from resetting, effectively jamming the piece. Fortunately, it happened to me on the range, not on the street, but it’s one reason I grew to distrust the Beretta 92.

      Third, there are magazines. The auto is a two-part arm, gun + magazine. The surest way to tie one up is a magazine with damaged feed lips that don’t present the round to the breech correctly. One reason the M1911 .45 has always been popular is that it’s about the most feed-reliable auto ever designed. The Browning P35 High Power 9mm is tied with it. “Feeding” is not an issue with a revolver; as long as the round can be loaded and doesn’t protrude beyond the front of the cylinder, it will work.

      Fourth, and this is the critical one to a uniformed officer at a 10-65 (armed robbery), is that a dud round (and yes, they do happen) requires more manipulation to bypass in an auto than in a revolver. In the auto, you do the Tap (smack the bottom of the magazine with your off hand to ensure it is seated) Rack (rack the slide to feed the next round) BANG (pull the trigger to fire) ritual.

      With a double-action revolver, you just pull the trigger again. The dud can darned well sit there in the chamber you just bypassed until you get everything else sorted out.

      Altogether you can still make a very good, sensible argument for the basic, fixed sight DA revolver in a decent caliber (I prefer .357) in police work, uniformed or plainclothes. The main problem today is, again, cost. Revolvers like those from S&W and Colt, designed around the turn of the last century, take a lot of hand-fitting to achieve their durability and reliability. A .38 M&P revolver costing over $600 (department prices are lower than retail) isn’t going to be a big seller; they have to get the prices down at least to Ruger or preferably Taurus/Rossi’s range (under $400 dept. price).

      High-quality autos can be built more cheaply than high-quality revolvers, unless the revolvers are designed for mass production by modern methods, something Colt is just getting around to, S&W haven’t tried yet, and Ruger and Taurus/Rossi have been doing for nearly half a century.

      The whole “counter-terrorism” thing is BS, period. You may need multiple hits to bring down an armed “tango”, but if you can shoot straight, you can probably get by with about two. (Statistically, before the advent of the high-capacity auto in U.S. police work, the average number of shots fired by police in an action was, in fact, two.) It’s really not how many rounds you fire, because only hits to vital areas matter. (See the post Ian did years back on the 1986 FBI Miami shootout and how it ended- and my post there.)

      When teaching police handgun, I taught what Jeff Cooper called the “Mozambique drill”- two rounds to center of mass, and if the target was still upright and active after that, elevate front sight and put two more into the target’s head. It doesn’t make any difference if the target is a jihadi, a drug-crazed MS-13er, or just a crazy with a weapon and a yen for destruction; nobody keeps operating with one or more bullets in the brain.

      As Bill Jordan said, speed is fine, but accuracy is final.

      For the record, even when carrying an auto on duty, my “reload” (the fastest reload is a second loaded gun) was a DA revolver, usually a .357 Colt Lawman MK III snub. If you need more than the number of rounds in the primary, reloading, whether with the pre-loaded magazine in the auto or the speedloader in the revolver, always takes more time than simply drawing a second handgun and continuing as before.

      Those situations don’t happen often (and frankly, if you’re in one, you should have been using the shotgun or AR-15 carbine in the cruiser to begin with), but when they do, the old axiom about the towboat captain and high water under the low bridge applies.

      You might be in a situation in which “The music is playing faster than you can dance to.”



  3. As John Dallman succinctly explains “Bottle” references resolve. I have heard a couple of explanations: Cockney rhyming slang “Bottle of Beer” – “fear”, and a reference to the well-known (in England) John Courage Brewery.

  4. I do not mind this format, but prefer the ‘longer’ version. There were a few Q&A’s here where I just didn’t have the knowledge and time to understand, whereas with the long version there’s more contex,t and time to absorb. So I’d be happy if this style was repeated, just not every month please.

  5. A minor point. I’m old, old enough to remember when the “wonder nine” tag started. It referred to a SA/DA pistol with a magazine capacity noticeably greater than a single stack auto. In the US the S&W M59 was the lead. The CZ75 was, for a time, the ultimate “wonder nine”. They had metal frames, although often aluminum. When the polymer frames rolled in they were “plastic fantastic” pistols.
    Eon is right on the technical aspects of the revolver vs auto divide. I would add that there was a strong cultural norm (in the US) that cops should carry “Cop guns”, namely revolvers, and not “Army guns”. This distinction has pretty well faded away.

    Wafa Wafa, Wasara Wasara.

    • Here to confirm Mr. F’s comment above from the point of late middle age: I heard the terms “Wonder nine” and “Super nine” bandied about before Glock hit the US civilian-sale scene, and any high-capacity auto, even the Browning P35 in SA, could join the band, though the DA automatics had precedence. Along with the items mentioned by Mr. F, my 1982 Gun Digest notes that the Steyr GB, HK VP70, and 15-shot Beretta were also available back in the days before Glock; though my memory is that the CZ75 did not really arrive in the US until after the Cold War ended, but 15-shooters from Llama, Astra, Star, and Benelli were imported beforehand. My memory is also that the term “Wonder nine” was also bandied about internationally, so I suppose the CZ could make early qualification.

      Incidentally it was pubicized criminal use of these pieces that escalated the arms race between police and criminals, contributing to the eclipse of revolvers — don’t know how actual the danger was, but the press kept quoting police officers complaining that they were “outgunned” by bad guys. Mr. eon’s comments above are accepted gratefully in entirety, with the addition that I know from both reading and observation that in Chicago and NYC in the 1970s, revolvers were the required carry and many officers chose an optional P35 as their concealed back-up — and sometimes the automatic was drawn first. Frank Serpico started carrying one when he began to fear the twin threats of criminals to his front and corrupt friendly fire from behind.

        • The FN Barracuda was probably intended to compete with the Manurhin MR 73 primarily in the European police market. The Barracuda was cheaper but still “good enough” for normal police use. As the MR 73 was not adopted widely outside France, the Barracuda did not sell well, either.

          In the early 1970s many European police forces started to transition away from the .32 ACP pistols they had used for 50 years or more in many cases, and looked for something more powerful. It was not immediately obvious that they would choose 9mm Parabellum semiautos, and US style .357 Magnum and .38 Spl revolvers were briefly an option (and adopted by the French Gendarmerie). In Germany the 9mm Police cartridge enjoyed some popularity as well, so it wasn’t a straightforward transition from .32 ACP to 9mm Parabellum semiauto pistols.

  6. Corey presented the question “Pistol caliber carbines in the era of the SBR: useful or range toys?”. You basically answered, “useful AS range toys”. No offense, Ian, but I don’t feel you answered the question. The way “range toy” was separated out from “useful” I think the question was meant, “Given the availability of short barreled rifles, are pistol caliber carbines really useful as tools/weapons, as opposed to useful as just range toys?” I realize for these rapid-fire Q&As you have to go through the questions and come up with answers quick, but in this instance I feel you missed the mark, unless you were being flip and really answering “only use-able as range toys.”

    • If the pistol-caliber subcarbine is a “range toy” someone better let a great many European law enforcement agencies in on that fact… Yes, there are a great many–and growing number–of rifles and carbines in police hands, but for a long time, and in many areas, the semi-auto-only MP5 9mm was the armed response, or an actual submachine gun in certain locales… Albeit many with strong discouragement to use the full-auto setting.

      • There are a few different weapons you might call “pistol caliber carbines”. I think the semi-auto SMGs you are talking about have somewhat limited utility in the civilian market, myself. In order to comply with US laws, they either have to be stock-less so that they qualify as pistols (not relevant here), or the barrel must be lengthened to at least 16 inches. The lengthening of the barrel can actually reduce muzzle velocity. Auto-pistol cartridges are typically loaded for shorter barrel lengths. The pressure peaks before the bullet exits the barrel, and the extra length induces friction and slows the bullet back down. One episode of American Guns clearly demonstrated this when shortening a Thompson barrel increased bullet velocity.

        • The FBI brought out fixed stock 9mm MP5s as a weapon agents could use in addition to the service pistol. Of course, not long after the supposed failings of the 9mm led to the 10mm and even various SMGs and so on to use the larger caliber. Fast forward, and now with improved bullet design and greater testing and new protocols for testing service ammunition, see eon’s points re: police armament, the FBI conceded that the 9mm is less expensive to use, easier to qualify with, and less taxing on the arms themselves, and have gone back to 9mm. Trauma surgeons report that they simply cannot distinguish the difference in handgun bullet wound channels until the bullet is cleaned off and analyzed.

          While the GIGN in France have have announced they will acquire fewer than a hundred 7.62x59mm rifles produced in the Czech Republic, my understanding is that the Beretta M12, and MP5 continue to be used and the most recent tender was for some kind of newer 9mm subgun. Lots of U.S. police agencies threw over the MP5 that often had the selector lever blocked for liability reasons, in favor of ARs and M4s and so on. Similarly, police departments that have tried to introduce pistol caliber subcarbines have seen officers–many ex-military, and in the U.S. definitely “gun guys”–that’s why they joined the police–have seen that choice utterly derided and rejected by the individual officers.

          I notice that the Thompson you mention uses the .45 acp cartridge. Small wonder it slows in a longer barrel. 9mm is satisfactory from an 8-in. barrel, and velocity gain is not increased all that much, yet there continues to be incremental gains in barrels as long as 18-in.

          For U.S.-shooters, the features of the “range toy” ensure that the carbine comes along to pistol or rifle ranges. The additional points of contact ensure generally better accuracy from an average shooter as opposed to a pistol expert–which really is a species of martial art–and the pistol caliber ammunition tends to be less expensive as far as centerfire ammunition goes.

          Basically, the problem with the PCC is that it is “too much gun” for the casual plinker for whom the .22 works just fine–the original “range toy” after all… and is not enough gun for people considering a rifle to do what rifles are good at. So it is a “niche.” I tend to think a good many firearm consumers/owners would be well served to explore that “niche” but it is unlikely that most will do so.

          • SMGs have after WW2 been generally less popular in the US than in Europe. In Europe many armies continued issue SMGs for regular infantry together with battle rifles until the adoption of assault rifles. The role of the M3 Grease Gun in the US military was much more limited.

            For police use the SMG became popular in the 1970s due to terrorism. Currently SMGs are still widely used by European police as a “standard” long arm. Assault rifles are usually reserved for SWAT type special units, who have the necessary training for using them effectively but responsibly. Typically the use of full auto with SMGs is either strongly discouraged or simply not possible due to semiauto only trigger group. (Even if that’s the case, a full auto trigger groups are sometimes available for emergency use, but of course they need to be installed by an armorer first.)

            For example Finnish police recently decided to equip every police patrol with an SMG (MP5) due increased threat of terrorism, and also an incident in summer 2016 where a police officer was killed with an assault rifle, while the two officers had only their Glocks (suspects actually shooting aimed shots at police is quite rare in Finland).

        • “There are a few different weapons you might call “pistol caliber carbines”.”
          Important question is: what cartridge such weapon use?
          Low-velocity, like say .45 Auto, are poorly suited for that purpose as “rainbow” trajectory is obstacle when used at longer ranges.
          On the other hand, faster are more suitable, for example 9×23 Largo was used in Destroyer repeating carbine (Spain).
          7.62×25 model 1930 cartridge was used in prototype Mayn carbine: https://sovietguns.blogspot.com/2014/02/mayn-762-mm-carbine.html
          From more recent development .22 TCM cartridge is worth noting, although it might be called just carbine cartridge, but it can not be ignored, that it was design, so .38 Auto automatic pistol can be altered to fire that cartridge.

          • The Auto Ordnance Company in the United States tried for a longer barrelled semi-auto Thompson as an “anti-bandit” gun, and also a longer barrelled version with a more powerful cartridge than the .45acp and with a bayonet lug to interest foreign military purchasers. The British apparently experimented with one shorn of its pistol grips in the 9x20SR Browning long cartridge. Ultimately, later experiments with the Finnish kp31 Suomi led to an appraisal of the 9mm Parabellum/Luger cartridge, but designs languished from the failed S&W “light rifle” as a semi-auto-only pistol-caliber carbine, the copy of the German/Spanish MP28.II/naranjero, and then the “breakthrough” Sten design…

            Postwar, it was my understanding that even with the Em-2/No.9 rifle as a sort of all-purpose infantry arm: “It’s an SMG, it’s a rifle, it’s an LMG…” supplemented by the belt-fed .280/7mm TADEN as an LMG/MMG that the Madsen M/50 was considered as a “PDW” avant la lettre.

            In an urban setting, and with short ranges, the pistol caliber carbine will likely continue to see ample police usage. In the USA, the shotgun was cheap, simple, reliable, and easy to use and so that was more often than not the chosen “heavy artillery” for police use. That started to change to a degree in the 1960s, what with M1 carbines, a handful of SMGs, etc. but the shotgun usage only increased during the high-crime 1970s and appraisals of urban rioting in the late 1960s.

            These days it is an awful lot of rifles, although much training employs them as if they were basically pistols. “Serious gun people” almost all deride or disparage pistol-caliber carbines as not really rifles and an “answer to a question no one asked” and so on… Very short-sighted (I think there may be a pun there…) in my opinion. At the time U.S. SWAT teams used SMGs–at least Uzis but especially MP5s–there would often be specialized mechanisms to switch to full auto so it had to be a very deliberate act. Urban police departments like St. Louis that used Beretta 9mm pistols and PCCs found that this armament was very, very unpopular among personnel… And yet, here we are with a great many departments switching from .40 S&W or .357 SIG or .45 acp _back_ to the impugned 9mm! From .38 to .357–even .41 in San Francisco–to 9mm to .45 or mostly .45 and back again.

  7. As for me its just easier for some one who is not a good pistol shot to shoot a revolver accuratly
    No recoiling mass/slide

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