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.38 Caliber Pistols

The .38 caliber revolver is a pistol in which a rotating cylinder presents six loaded chambers to the barrel for discharge in succession. There are several models with 2-inch and 4-inch barrels in service. At least one of each barrel length is made by Colt, Ruger, or Smith and Wesson. The 2-inch barrel weapons are used by CID and counterintelligence personnel, and the 4-inch barrel weapons are used by aviators. The 4-inch barrel models are by far the most common in the Marine Corps.

All revolvers are cylinder-loaded, exposed-hammer, selective double-action, hand weapons. This weapon can be fired by cocking the hammer (single-action) or with a trigger pull that brings the hammer back before releasing it (double-action). The revolving cylinder with 6 chambers permits firing 6 shots without reloading. The action of cocking the hammer causes the cylinder to rotate and align the next chamber with the barrel. At the full cocked position, the revolver is ready to fire in the single action mode by a "light" squeeze on the trigger. If the hammer is not in the full cocked position, the revolver may be fired "double action" by a longer, heavier squeeze on the trigger.

Modern .38 caliber revolvers have been in service since World War II (Colt and Smith & Wesson). Ruger revolvers entered service during the 1970s. During the mid-1980s, the M9 9mm semiautomatic pistol began replacing revolvers. Commercial cal. .38 Special six-round revolvers that were purchased for use by air crews, general officers and security personnel were the Colt .32 and .380 automatic pistols, Colt .38 Detective Special Revolvers, Colt .38 Police Positive Revolvers, Colt .38 Special Official Police and Smith & Wesson .38 Military and Police Revolvers. These pistols all used cal. .38 Special cartridges, with exception of the Colt .32. The M1917 revolver was issued in 2-inch, 4-inch, or 6-inch barrel lengths. Although commercial pistols were purchased and issued to General Officers, some standard Army issue Colt Cal. .38 Special Revolvers were specially modified for use by General Officers.

Combat at close quarters against the fierce charges of the Moros in the Philippines demonstrated the need for a hand weapon less cumbersome and having greater impact than the .38-caliber revolver. The Army found the answer in the recently developed .45-caliber Colt automatic pistol, adopted in 1911, that was to remain a mainstay of the Army for most of the rest of the century. Accounts abounded of seemingly peaceful Moros suddenly drawing kris or barung and killing multiple American Soldiers or civilians before being killed themselves. Replacing the .38-caliber U.S. Army revolver with the harder-hitting .45-caliber automatic was in part a result of the difficulty in stopping juramentados.

The creation of the Air Force as a separate branch of military service presented the challenge to be identified by a unique uniform. Although the Air Force uniform initially consisted of minor modifications to the Army Air Force uniform, eventually changes have been made that set it apart from any other branch in military service. While changing right along with Air Force uniform standards, the Air / Security Police made unique changes of their own that distinguished them from all other Air Force career fields. In 1962 .38 caliber revolver holsters were phased in to replace .45 caliber pistols.

  • Revolver, Cal. .38, Smith & Wesson model 10, 2-inch Barrel
  • Pistol, Cal. .32, Automatic, Colt, General Officer's (Standard until 1972)
  • Pistol, Cal. .32, Automatic, Colt, General Officer's

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:41:31 ZULU