RIA: Dutch Police Revolver (with safety!)

This Dutch police revolver is an interesting example of technology being used as an element of police policy and procedure. The Dutch police administration in the late 1800s/early 1900s decided that officers should carry a blank round in the first chamber of their revolvers, a tear gas round in the second chamber, and actual live bullets only in the 3rd-5th chambers. This led to a problem of ensuring that officers were able to easily confidently know which type of ammunition they were firing at any given time – what if a cylinder happened to rotate while being drawn, holstered, or otherwise handled without the officer noticing? He might fire a live round when intended to use a blank, or vice versa.

The solution was to add a large manual safety that would lock the cylinder in position, and add large marking to the outside of the first two chambers indicating which was which. Setting aside the wisdom of this sort of progressive cartridge selection, the mechanical adaptation of the police revolvers is an interesting thing to see, and one of a relatively small number of revolvers to have manual safeties.

38 Comments

  1. The late crime novelist Tony Hillerman routinely had characters taking revolvers off safe. This is the first one I have seen that actually had a safety catch.

  2. The blank round being mandated first was probably more for civil liability reasons.

    Holland has had a legal tort structure we’d recognize for literally centuries. even the government can be sued for civil damages.

    Police there as in most places back then were instructed to fire a warning shot up in the air before bring sights on target and getting down to business. Of course, firing an actual bullet at a high angle carries with it the danger that it’s going to come down somewhere you’d rather it didn’t. So firing a blank makes perfect sense from a legal POV.

    Tear gas rounds for revolvers were quite common in the Netherlands back then. In fact there were special revolvers made with short, smoothbored barrels for the express purpose of firing tear gas rounds. The were sold to the public as “non lethal” defense weapons.

    In fact, they fired the standard 9.4mm Dutch service round, and were perfectly safe to fire with a standard “bulleted” cartridge. Since the bullet was mot spun by (nonexistent) rifling, it wasn’t very accurate beyond a few yards, but for the purpose that hardly mattered.

    As for the revolver itself, other than the external cylinder lock it’s a typical Belgian made Webley copy, specifically a copy of the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) model.

    Cheap RIC copies from Belgium were about as ubiquitous as cheap “British Bulldog” copies from there back in those days, not only in Europe but here in the States as well. They were generally made of iron and/or “potmetal”, rather than steel, although a government contract from such a litigious lot would tend to dissuade any corner-cutting.

    About the best that can be said of these revolvers is that they didn’t generally blow up in the shooter’s face. Or at least, not right away.

    cheers

    eon

    • I suspect the gas was supposed to disperse after the projectile hit its intended victim or if it’s just gas in the casing, the gas forms a cloud right in front of the police man (if the bad guy is getting personal, perhaps the gas will do more than cloud his eyes).

    • It was an extended cartridge case with a wax seal rather like a shot-loaded “snake cartridge”. The lacrimator (“Chlorampheton”, which I suspect was actually plain old chloropicrin)was in powder form on top of a bottom wad and an 8 grain charge of black powder.

      When fired, it was blasted out the front in a sort of
      “cone” of lacrimatory “dust”. Range would have been less than ten feet, probably a good bit less.

      Here’s a web page on Dutch 9.4mm revolver ammunition of the time;

      http://www.militarycartridges.nl/dutch/revolver/9,4mm.htm

      It includes photos and specs on the tear gas rounds.

      cheers

      eon

  3. Admittedly, the loading policy was stupid, but I doubt there were many John Wesley Hardins running around for the Amsterdam cops to deal with in the 1890s.

    • Actually, the “Gay Nineties” were the heyday of the anarchists across Europe, who would walk up to you, shoot or stab you, and then go publish a broadsheet announcing that your death had been the righteous execution of a member of the bourgeoisie. Ypur crime? Existing in the first place.

      There were also footpads in practically every city in Europe. Who liked to rob people and then beat them up and/or kill them “just because”.

      Street crime, political or otherwise, was as common then as now, in all parts of Europe. See The Dynamite Club by John Merriman.

      cheers

      eon

      • I suspect though that they were more on the level of your typical modern liquor store holdup man than an old west “regulator”.

  4. I don’t know if the old “two shot rule” was any kind of universal police revolver training, but I’m going to assume that the Dutch police may have been trained to fire their guns only when lethal force was warranted. Maybe the theory was that having the first two shots non-lethal would give an unruly offender a chance to change his mind and quickly surrender by putting the fear of God in him.

    It’s interesting how the police in Europe have generally taken a much less aggressive attitude toward the use of deadly force (and perhaps less confidence in a cop’s ability to remain cool-headed) than their US counterparts — as illustrated with this “forgotten weapon” revolver.

    • Looks like the Dutch got it right in terms of compensating for a rookie cop’s lack of discipline (especially when it comes to an itchy trigger finger). At least they didn’t allow rookies to get their hands on Gasser-Montenegrin revolvers… And if you kill the offender, perhaps one of his friends will claim that you goaded him into attacking (through means of very offensive language) and then shot him in cold blood (no body-cams available in 19th Century Europe).

  5. I used to have a cheap .22 LR revolver with a safety. It was so cheap that even with the safety on it would fire if the trigger were pulled hard enough. Too many years ago to remember the brand or model.

    • “Too many years ago to remember the brand or model.”
      If it was in/circa 1960s I would bet for Röhm Gesellschaft and its RG series of revolvers:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Röhm_Gesellschaft
      I’m not sure whatever they produced revolver with manual safety, but they produced really cheap guns (including .22 revolvers) with proportional quality, which lead to RG become bacronym for Rotten Guns.

      • HEY… My RG14S was a sweet little $39 NIB Walmart turd. It’s 1.25 inch barrel was between-the-eyes-snakes-head accurate at 6 feet with a .22 CCI CB cap. (which was all I required of it..) – and would easily make cans dance at 25 feet… (which was a pleasant bonus) add that to the fact it was near rustproof (painted) small and very handy (tackle box friendly) and replaceable cheaply (also functioned as a fishing weight) and it was just ideal for what it was.. A workhorse nothing-special you wouldn’t cry over if the boat capsized. RG’s got a bad rap during the Reagan administration as Saturday Night Specials. Perhaps this was deserved in the pre-68 days of the RG10/ Clarke .22’s but the later ones sucked much less, which is not to absolutely say they didn’t suck at all… I readily admit they did suck a bit.
        Ugly as sin for starters…
        “featureless” was an understatement…
        ergonomic was a dirty California word..
        but they were legitimate, and if they were all you could afford, they beat the heck out of no gun at all. I kinda miss having bargains like that on gun store shelves.

      • And I always thought RG stood for “Real Garbage.”
        It turns out the major value of the RG line of fine firearms was the $100 per no-questions asked buy-back that some municipalities think is a good idea. Years ago a city that shall remain nameless also thought prostitution was a “victimless” crime. Among the miscellaneous victimless drug and other paraphernalia I would regularly find in my front yard were a steady selection of RG revolvers.
        Nice to know there is some profit to be made in “victimless” vice.
        And yes, I became disgusted with the clueless city leadership and left, taking my tax paying business with me.

  6. Hi Ian. Thank you for putting a little bit of Dutch gun history on the table, and thank’s for your explenation. These revolvers where imported by the “Nederlands wapen magazijn v/h S.de Jager”, Haarlem. This can be best translated as “Dutch Arms store, formaly owned by S. de Jaber” This was a commen way in these day’s of giving a kind of formal name to a company or store. They had stores in Den Haag (the Hague, the “Den” is missing in front of “Haag”), Amsterdam and Anrhem and also in Batavia, now called Djakarta, Indonesia.

    Gerald, Amsterdam The Netherlands.

  7. Forget about legal issues and tear gas ammunition. Dutch police in the first half of the 20th century consisted of many different entities. Cities purchased their own guns, of whichever model they wanted. The revolver pictured is the so-called ‘Rijksveldwachtrevolver’, which you might translate as Constabulary Model. It was used next to a model of L. Ancion-Marx, both having slight differences. The safety was common for police use. Other models have the safety in the grip, whereby turning the lanyard ring blocks the hammer. Some of these revolvers are marked RV (Rijksveldwacht)other DvF (Departement van Financien – Treasury Department). The police revolvers were supposed to be loaded with two blanks, and the numbers on the cilinder indicate where these are suppose to be. Tear gas cartridges were developed simply to test gas mask and train troops in uding them in gas chambers, which at the time was an innocent word. There were fired from special tear gas revolvers, with a shortened barrel, as the small amount of tear gas would not disperse properly from a normal barrel. Small amounts of these tear gas revolvers were used by the military police.
    There wil be a great book about Dutch police armament later this year, and the information above has been published in my arms magazine and books – sorry these are in Dutch.

  8. Today in Germany, gas pistols are one of the few legal self-defense tools citiizens can own and carry. As a U.S> military service member stationed here, I was also able to apply for and receive a permit for one. They sell both pistols and revolvers. Mine is a Walther P-22. It’s identical in size and function to a regular P-22, but it takes 9mm cartridges. You can get blanks for noise or to launch fireworks, and also CS gas or pepper cartridges. I carry the pepper cartridges, as they told me that CS is ineffective against someone who’s drunk. The range is advertised as 5m, or about 25 feet. SO you get a bit more standoff distance than pepper spray, plus a loud noise and the appearance of a gun.

    If nothing else, it’s keeping me conditioned to carrying a gun all the time, so when I finally get back home it won’t feel strange.

  9. Were all of the five cylinders machined to accept live bullets or would cylinder no. 1 only accept the blank and cylinder no. 2 the tear gas round?

  10. My Grandfather brought back what I believe to be a Belgian knockoff Bulldog-style revolver in .320 revolver (I think). It too has a safety, which actually falls in a position convenient for the thumb. I kind of like it on a vest pocket sized gun.

    It’s a cherished momento, but come on Grandpa! You couldn’t have picked up a Luger???

  11. Definitely outside the box thinking and a noble effort at trying to meet the standards of the day. I am guessing this one did not become popular because once the local criminals found out the first two were warning shots, that would put the office at great disadvantage. However still a good try.
    As for outside the box, my Mechanical Safety Pistol concept (name taken from the Safety Bicycle that replaced the Penny Farthing by the 1890’s is going to take a government mandate for agency use to get any traction although I think that law enforcement agencies overall will like it. I hope to do some video to show why this pistol is needed on several levels and how it is better than the current military style pistols used today by law enforcement as well as civilians who actually want a loaded but safe gun in the house. Retirement is coming up at the end of the month and this is one of my to do in the first year projects.
    Not trying to make money from it but I want to make a little contribution to civilization rather than just be a consumer…not that consuming is not fun.

  12. Okay, here’s a weapon of choice scenario for you, now that I’ve thought about it…

    How would you arm a squad of rookie policemen in some pre-Great War small town? Remember that you can’t send out beat cops with nothing more than sticks or tanto-length knives, since anarchists (or drug runners) might be around the corner with guns themselves…

    Current loading sequence is as follows: one blank cartridge, one or two of tear gas, and the remaining rounds in the firearm must have lethal projectiles (and by that I mean you will be permitted to reduce the offender to hamburger).

    1. Gasser-Montenegrin
    2. Henri Pieper Mexican contract revolver (combines best traits from Pryse, Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Nagant 1895)
    3. Rast & Gasser 1898
    4. Steyr M1912
    5. Colt 1908 Pocket Hammerless
    6. Campo Giro
    7. Francotte semi-automatic rifle in 6mm center-fire
    8. Winchester Model 1892 chambered for .44-40 or Model 1897 with birdshot
    9. Vetterli Police Carbine
    10. Mauser C96 stocked carbines with 20 round detachable magazines
    11. Or per the usual, screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list

    This activity is completely voluntary. You are not required to chase purse-snatchers if you do not wish to do so. Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

    Thank you,

    Cherndog

    • I want the in-the white .44-40 birdshead grip DA WINCHESTER PROTOTYPE REVOLVER as featured in one of today’s posts over on Forgottenweapons friendly site Weaponsman . com (check it out and give Hognose a grin)
      Why? Just LOOK at the thing…it’s BEAUTIFUL!!!
      Anything that nice has gotta put you in an undefeatable frame of mind.

    • “one blank cartridge(…)Steyr M1912(…)Colt 1908 Pocket Hammerless(…)Campo Giro(…)Francotte semi-automatic rifle in 6mm center-fire(…)Mauser C96 stocked carbines with 20 round detachable magazines”
      If you want to use blank cartridge forget about self-loading weapons, blanks don’t function properly with such weapons.

      “11. Or per the usual, screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list”
      Get Remington Model 14-1/2 chambered in 44-40 and some revolver for it.

      • Hmm, I completely forgot to mention that you could also say “Screw policy, shoot to wound or kill and load only live rounds…”

    • I’ll say a double action pinfire lemat with the shotgun barrel being the less lethal but also incendiary payload and probably dispense with the blank round as the incendiary payload discharged into the air should be sufficient to put the fear of God into the belligerent. Also, if lethal force is immediately required, the hammer selector is the only thing standing between the officer and his opportunity to fill out extra paperwork.

  13. Tanarmi / F.I.E. T-76 Buffalo Scout (and similar models).22 single action revolvers of the 1980’s Were 2/3 scale Colt SA replicas that had a simple manual hammer block safety in the form of a swiveling plate on the left side that could rotate to the right with the thumb to manually prevent the hammer from impacting the firing pin. Unfortunately on many, the safety plate’s ball detents were often missing or drilled too deeply, and the safety could “flop off” back to the left while the hammer was cocked.
    —(Google Tanarmi/F.I.E. .22 single action safety, select “images” see first picture)
    Other than that, these were a superb value, originally retailing around $69 and being surprisingly accurate and reliable – after removing the hokey safety and adhering to the century old “empty chamber” Single Action safety rule. I wish I’d bought and kept a pile, instead, I’d keep a new one around a few weeks then toss it in on a trade and replace it with a new one…until they dried up at $69 anyway…Ah, Youth.. when NIB H&R Toppers in any gauge were $59 all day at Walmart.
    **SOBBING**

    • “H&R Toppers in any gauge were $59 all day at Walmart”
      When? $59 then is equal to how much $ now (adjusted to inflation)?

      • The Late 70’s to early 80’s… and “adjusted for inflation” doesn’t mean a lot, as the state of the economy back at that time made affording to spend that $60 a lot easier than it is today, – in my part of the country anyway…
        I don’t make a LOT more today than I did back then… but it sure went a lot farther back then than it does today. Inflation rate growth outpaced wage rate growth a long time ago.

        • There are many items in Wal-Mart that cost less today than they did 40 or 50 years ago, but the true cost of inflation (or lack of it) gets complicated when American factories close down due to the flood of dirt-cheap imports from third-world countries.

          However, the one industry that will absolutely never be replaced by cheap foreign competition is the weapons industry — and for multiple reasons, ranging from government contracts to gun control measures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*