“…it can blow your head clean off,” said Inspector Harry Callahan, one of the cultural icons of the 1970s and 80s, in the Clint Eastwood drama Dirty Harry, which started a franchise. In the early 70s Americans were concerned about crime, and they had no way to fight back. Most states and the Federal government were hostile to self-defense; laws passed in the 19th and early 20th Century to disarm free blacks were enforced with vigor against the middle class, while trendy approaches to criminal justice fell far short of inconveniencing, let alone stopping violent criminals.
People felt helpless; the authorities that couldn’t be bothered to protect them would land on them with both feet if they tried to protect themselves. Yep, they couldn’t fight back.
So Inspector Harry Callahan fought back for them, slaying worthless skells with a Smith & Wesson Model 29 and insouciant disregard for procedure and the police hierarchy. “I didn’t know he would get vapor lock on me,” was his disdainful comment to a superior when a suspect he really didn’t have probable cause to hassle had an inconvenient heart attack with Harry’s hand wrapped around his throat. “Go ahead, make my day.,” and “Do you feel lucky, punk?”
Real cops enjoyed the films, but laughed at the idea of such a one-man wrecking crew holding on to a badge, let alone making detective inspector on an ultra-PC force like San Francisco’s. (Although the term “political correctness” hadn’t been coined yet, the reality was on everyday cops in many big cities already). Come to think of it, the idea of a major metro PD letting a cop run around with an M29 was pretty far=fetched itself. Those were the days of the Model 10 or Police Positive .38 Special, with a five-shot Chief’s Special for the plainclothes coppers. The past is another country!
In fact, everyone enjoyed the films, although they were more of a guy than a gal thing. Still, while men and boys wanted to be Harry Callahan, women and girls wanted to have Harry Callahan. He was the essence of aloof cool. And there was always that Model 29. (Actually, he had a .44 Auto Mag in one film, but the 29 was forever asssociated with the character).
The original film Model 29, seen here, resides in the collection of the NRA Museum, and they took it to the National Police Shooting Championships in Albuquerque as part of a display of famous cop and outlaw guns that they thought the attendees would find interesting. The NRA News Curator’s Corner featured the gun on the 8th. (We’re blogging from an airport, and aren’t sure that you can see the piece online. We hope so).
Cosidering the number of unlucky punks who’ve been whacked with that gun, it’s in pretty nice shape.