One advantage you can get from reading out-of-date books is insight to what was current thinking many years ago. Looking over L.R. Wallack’s American Pistol and Revolver Design and Performance from 1978 (one of a series of four books Wallack produced beginning in the seventies: Rifle, Shotgun, Pistol & Revolver, and a combined sporting arms Design and Performance) reminded us of what it was like to live the transition from revolvers to automatic pistols.

It didn’t happen all at once; instead, different groups of shooters transitioned at different times or in different phases. These phases were defined less by nation or area of the world, and more by the functional purpose of their firearms. The phases went approximately like this:

  • Phase I: First tier armies chose semi-autos to replace revolvers as service pistols.
  • Phase II: Bullseye target shooters embrace semi-autos for competition.
  • Phase III: Police transition from .38 or .357 revolvers to semi-autos as service pistols.
  • Phase IV: Private-Sector shooters follow, mostly, those three groups, which are more or less influential on informal sport shooters and those who purchase firearms for self- or home defense.
  • Phase V: The last group to transition are criminals, who depend on weapons stolen or otherwise diverted from the streams of lawful commerce.

Three of these phases deserve a little more explanation, for each of the first three phases was keyed to a specific need of those particular shooters.

Phase I: Militaries

Colt 1905 pistol from the US Army 1907 trials.

The armed forces of the world, often reviled as backward and hidebound, were by far the first to transition to auto pistols, most of them beginning in the fifteen years from 1899-1914. Most of these services had adopted cartridge revolvers in the 1870s, so their previous service sidearm was barely more than two decades old. (The US, for example, adopted the Colt revolver in 1873, but by 1903 was experimenting with auto pistols and by 1906 had selected a cartridge and shortlisted three pistol designs). By 1907 the Colt was nearly final, and by 1911 it was adopted and in production.

What drove the military adoption of the auto pistol was the same thing that drove the adoption of Col. Colt’s own magnificent invention fifty years earlier: the advantage more portable firepower gave to the army’s scouting, screening, and shock arm, the horse cavalry. The auto pistol trumped the revolver by providing not only more shots without reloading, but also rapid reloading, via the clip of Steyr or Mauser, or the detachable box magazine of Luger or Browning designs.

Sure, the gallant mounted branch was due to be rendered obsolete by both the superior scouting and screening that could be done by the airplane, the superior shock that came from tanks, and the increased lethality that modern machine guns and artillery brought to the battlefield. But in 1907 (Steyr), 08 (Luger), and 11 (Colt 1911) military planners expected the cavalry to be as vital as it was in the American CIvil War or Napoleonic Wars, and their preferences in a sidearm not only helped select those pistols, but also drove some of their detail design (the Colt’s grip safety was one such horse-soldier request).

Having bought the guns with cavalry in mind, services worldwide continued to use them even after the last cavalry mounts had been put out to pasture (literally or figuratively.

Phase II: Bullseye Shooters

We hadn’t thought much about why paper-punchers transitioned from revolvers to autos in the sixties and seventies of the last century. But Wallack did, and had a pretty good explanation (pp. 194-195).

Most target shooters use autos in preference to revolvers. There are several reasons. A revolver poses more problems in target shooting because it must be cocked for each shot, has a longer hammer fall and thus longer lock time, and, many shooters claim, is not as well-balanced for target work.  These are not factors for any sporting use. the point is that if your interest is purely target shooting, your choice ought to be an autoloader; but if it’s a sporting gun you have in mind, then you may choose either one according to your personal likes. ….

 The big advantage autoloaders have over revolvers would seem to be that there is only one chamber rather than the revolver’s cylinder with six to nine charge holes. This doesn’t necessarily mean better accuracy, but it does mean that it costs more to machine all the parts necessary to perfect alignment in a revolver. That means that dollar for dollar you have a better chance of getting a more accurate gun at a lower price with the auto simply because there’s less manufacturing time involved.

Autoloaders do not require you to recock the gun each time it’s fired, which is a big advantage for the target shooter, because he doesn’t have to change his grip, nor does he have to take the time to cock, but gets back on target quicker. More or less in the same breath it should be mentioned that the longer hammer fall of the revolver produces slightly lower lock time. on the other hand, it also provides a heavier and more consistent hammer fall with corresponding better indignation ignition. I suspect these to might cancel each other out.

Which gun provides a better grip is purely subjective and need not be a consideration, except that it is frequently given as a reason by many top target pistoleers and so cannot be ignored completely.

These advantages were tangible enough that a strong majority of ranked bullseye shooters were using automatics by the late seventies.

Phase III: Police Forces Transition

The police were not influenced rapidly by military or target-shooting trends, but by the late 1970s some departments were issuing auto pistols and more of them were authorizing privately-owned ones. But one particular incident out of many created enough of a stir in the law enforcement firearms community that pistols (mostly in 9mm) began replacing revolvers in a huge preference cascade that shows the inflection point being 1986.

What happened in 1986? A black day for the FBI, known forever as The Miami Shootout (it was actually in Homestead), in which a squad of FBI special agents thought they brought overwhelming force to bear on two fugitive bank robbers, only to have the robbers see their force and raise them long guns. The Bureau won the gunfight, killing both robbers, but it was a Pyrrhic victory,

Here is a clip from a TV movie that depicts this shootout with considerable accuracy. We do believe the Ruger that one robber was carrying was semi-automatic, not automatic as depicted here. In addition, the three revolver rounds a mortally wounded robber fires at wounded FBI agent Ed Mirales were fired from behind his back, and he never knew the bandit was behind hi shooting (other eyewitnesses saw this). Apart from those two details, it’s pretty close. (We’ll post an FBI training video about this shootout down below so that you can see for yourself).

Here’s the FBI training video. It doesn’t have the production values of the Hollywood version, but it’s official. Make sure you get through the full-speed re-enactment to get to the slowed-down, annotated version with narration by a surviving (wounded) agent.

The FBI was transitioning to 9mm Smith & Wesson Model 459 automatic pistols at the time of this shootout; but the shootout drove a stake into that gun’s future with the Bureau.

This shootout drove the auto pistol transition faster, encouraged many other departments to follow the lead of the FBI, and also was instrumental in (1) the creation or adoption of more powerful police rounds (first a hotter 9mm for the FBI, then 10mm auto, .40 S&W), and (2) the provision of patrol carbines and training on them to law enforcement officers.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

58 thoughts on “Three Important Phases of the Revolver-Automatic Transition


Looks like the autocorrect played a game on you:

“on the other hand, it also provides a heavier and more consistent hammer fall with corresponding better indignation.”

I feel it should be a capital “O” at the beginning, and probably “ignition” at the end.

Hognose Post author

That’s one to laugh at… I’ll fix it after the gym this morning. Thanks, Simon.

Haxo Angmark

I liked “indignation”. In context, made sense.

Tennessee Budd

I thought so, as well, but I think that a more consistent hammer fall would result in less indignation. The question is, does “better indignation” mean one is less indignant, or does “better” indicate that one’s indignation is greater?


I would not split hares over the difference, so long as panes are taken to ensure that no indigestion follows….


The “lessons learned” from the “Miami shootout” and much later “North Ridge shootout” were lost on both the FBI/LEO community and the public at large as well as the bulk of the shooting community. That lesson is as true now as it was in 1917 (or 1717). Its not the weapon. Its the determination of the man to kill his enemy. It is the use of aggressive action applied ruthlessly, and the willingness to fight to the death to kill your foe. If you have that in your heart then your “weapon system” is irrelevant. You will attack your opponent and kill them until you fall or win. EVERYTHING ELSE is an excuse.(don’t believe me then look up, Alvin York or Roger Young) The second lesson WAS learned by the LEO’s/FLEA’s (sort of) LONG GUNS ALLWAYS TRUMP HANDGUNS. But it is the warrior heart that fights. Every thing else is just a tool.

Boat Guy

Beg to differ as to “irrelevance” There are a couple of hard lessons that were resolved with “tools” – reloading revolvers with blood and bits of bone under the extractor star proved to be impossible. Far less so with magazine-fed firearms. There were mistakes aplenty on that day but the heart was certainly there; certainly Ed Mireles exemplified it.


Nope. You are confusing the tool with the man. The “bad guy” in the Miami shootout killed or wounded six men AFTER he was shot repeatedly and did so WHILE “bleeding out” with a hollow point millimeters from his heart. NOTHING that the agents did or did not do had anything to do with stopping his attack after that. His partner in crime never got out of the car and died where he was first hit. The “Reloads” were meaningless. The “killing wound” happened in the first volley. He had already craped out(he had retuned to the getaway car and was slumped behind the wheel) BEFORE the agent(s) shot him again. His autopsy showed that he would have died within a few moments of that no matter what else happened. The “revolver Vs. Semi-auto” crap had nothing whatsoever to do with the outcome. All the “Gun and Tactic” crap that came later was the FBI making excuses for a weeks long string of fuck ups that ended in a cow boy shoot-em-up in a suburb. Semi-auto hand guns wouldn’t have changed what happened in Miami in any way. Just like they were completely irrelevant at the north ridge shootout. As I said. It is the willingness to fight that kills. The rest is just tools and how to use them. The tool you chose (or are stuck with) has nothing at all to do with how well you use it or how well it kills. Use what makes you happy. You and luck make the outcome. Not the tool.


Can I take a little from Column “A”, and a little from Column “B”?

It’s not just the problems with weapons selection or in mindset, it’s baked into the culture of law enforcement in this country.

The problem actually begins well before the weapons selection even happens. All too many cops and FBI agents go into work every day expecting that it will be another routine of traffic stops, investigations, and shuffling paper. They do not, and we might perhaps be grateful for this, go into work expecting to have to fight for their lives. This mindset leads to a certain… Ah… Complacency? Disregard for the potentials, of meeting that lion-in-the-morning?

It goes to selection, it goes to training, it goes to preparation, and it goes to weapon selection. Most FBI agents, as proudly boasted by J. Edgar himself, start out as lawyers or accountants. It’s the rare guy who comes aboard from some semi-tactical realm, and that shows in the whole of the so-called “FBI shootout” in Miami. They knew that the subjects they were trying to stop were guys who had been conducting armed robberies of armored cars and banks, and yet their preparations were laughably inadequate for taking on a guy who’d been a Ranger in Vietnam. They did not know who they were targeting, that morning, and had not one clue that Platt was literally that “lion-in-the-morning”. They weren’t expecting the two to go “off-script”, and actually effectively return violent resistance with a rifle. Between the two of them, Matix and Platt damn near managed to eliminate 8 FBI agents that had surprised them, leaving only one unwounded, and nearly escaped from the situation. Whatever weapons were used were immaterial to the issue, because the whole thing was predicated on piss-poor training and unrealistic expectations. You can see similar issues arise in the North Hollywood situation-Nobody in US law enforcement is really expecting to find themselves dealing with these kinds of situations, and the few that are…?

Likely won’t encounter them. It’s probably a coincidence bordering on the miraculous that the San Bernardino shooters happened to flip out and make their attack only a few blocks away from an active training event that morning, and I think that made all the difference-All of the meat-eaters in the local area were concentrated and ready to go, already. Odds of that happening again? Probably fairly slim. Your typical cop or FBI agent has no visceral expectation that he’s going to find himself engaging with trained, effective, and properly-prepared opponents-And, it shows.

All too many of the police officers that I have encountered really have not a fucking clue about the realities of these things-The majority of the people they encounter are on-script, and even the criminals cooperate, to a degree. All it takes with most engagements is to display a weapon, fire a few times, and then call for either an ambulance or backup; rarely do they encounter truly effective tactical countermeasures to the routines they’ve been trained on.

One of these days, the US is going to experience a Beslan or Mumbai on US soil; the first responders to that are statistically likely to be in the same state of mental and physical unpreparedness for what they’re encountering that the FBI team was in on that morning in Miami. It’s damn near a “fer shure” thing, and it’s probably unavoidable.

John M.

“One of these days, the US is going to experience a Beslan or Mumbai on US soil; the first responders to that are statistically likely to be in the same state of mental and physical unpreparedness for what they’re encountering that the FBI team was in on that morning in Miami. It’s damn near a “fer shure” thing, and it’s probably unavoidable.”

I, for one, would like an accounting of what Orlando PD was doing for three hours while Americans were bleeding out on the floor of that nightclub. The Orlando shooter was not operating at the tactical level of the Nairobi attackers, and way, way more people died than needed to that night.

And I’m with you on taking from both column A and column B. It’s notable that the fellow who showed up to the Miami shootout with a will to win (Platt) also showed up with the best equipment.

-John M.


It’s also interesting that the FBI guys knew he had that rifle, and did not prepare for it. Or, so I’ve been told-I have seen it both ways, that the rifle was not a known thing, and expected vs. they knew about it, from the previous robberies they were tailing these guys for.

Either way, they were not prepared to be going in after lion, that much is plain.


John M. said:

“I, for one, would like an accounting of what Orlando PD was doing for three hours while Americans were bleeding out on the floor of that nightclub. ”

Probably exactly the same thing the SWAT Team and sheriffs were doing outside Columbine High School between 12 and 1 PM: waiting for the shooting to stop so they’d be safe.

Jim Scrummy

Look what happened to the Dallas PD this past summer. The perp, out manuevered (button hooked around the pillar) the one officer, and shot him in the back with his rifle. One highly motivated individual (who hated the police) with some military training (he wasn’t 11B, but rather a 12W) took out 5 LEOs plus wounding 9 others. The perp used cover, concealment, and movement, while on his rampage, which really doesn’t jibe with his MOS 12W…? Just food for thought.

Hognose Post autho r

Everybody’s had more combat training since the massacre of the patriot repair company in 2003.


To be charitable, I don’t think that the cops in Orlando or Columbine were necessarily “bad cops”, or incompetent. The real root of the problem is that they’re neither selected or trained for handling those situations very well, and when they run into them…? It doesn’t go well, for anyone.

The fundamental problem is, when the bad guys do their thing, they know when and where they plan to strike; as such, they are always going to have the advantage and initiative. Since clairvoyance isn’t a valid law enforcement tool, well… We are almost always going to be at a disadvantage, and for every time where the cops should have gone in with guns blazing, there are going to be times when that was the absolute worst thing they could have done.

The oppobrium we all feel ought to be reserved for the guys that investigated that particular loon, and left him running loose. The beat cops who rolled up on that whole deal? I’m not so sure about that. We’re not paying these guys to be Delta Operators, nor are we training them for that. You get what you pay for, I’m afraid, and the real solution to things like that Orlando nightclub shooting lie in hardening the targets by allowing the victims to defend themselves. As well, I think that the building codes need to be revised, badly, because with the way a lot of these places are laid out, they’re basically slaughterhouses waiting to happen. When you’ve got bathrooms that have one entrance/exit, and they’re deep in the venue? What the hell do you expect to have happen? Hell, in a fire those places would be death-traps, and I would love to know why they allow those cul-de-sac designs in the first ‘effing place…


“…massacre of the patriot repair company in 2003.”

Mmmmkay… Not getting this reference. At all…

Hognose Post author

507th Maintenance was a Patriot missile maintenance unit. They were the folks who took a wrong turn, got separated, the leading element bugged back to the MSR while the trailing element with the 1SG got ambushed and cut up pretty badly.


Should have gotten that one… I was thinking “…patriot repair company…? WTF? What the hell did I miss, were there some killings at a company named “patriot repair” in New England, or something…?”.

Totally out of context for me-I was thinking you were referring to something local. Now, if you’d have capitalized the “P” in “patriot”, I’d have probably made the connection… 😉

John M.


“To be charitable, I don’t think that the cops in Orlando or Columbine were necessarily “bad cops”, or incompetent. The real root of the problem is that they’re neither selected or trained for handling those situations very well, and when they run into them…? It doesn’t go well, for anyone.”

Cops keep telling me they want respect for the risks they take while doing their jobs. There’s an entire swag industry built around the cult of respect for cops. IMHO if cops want respect for risk taking, they need to actually take risks on behalf of the people they serve. I recognize that every traffic stop is a risk for cops, but standing around while people bleed out isn’t brave and isn’t respectable.

And yes, I recognize that it wasn’t the beat cops or the SWAT grunts who made the decision to stand around. That was a decision made somewhere by somebody who wears a lot of brass. But AFAIK nobody is holding the person who made that decision responsible, which is a whole ‘nother issue I have with cops as a group.

-John M.

Boat Guy

Not arguing that the wheelgun reloads had no impact on the outcome of THAT fight; it was a lesson to be learned for those who will pay attention and do the mental work BEFOREHAND.


Matix did not die where he got initially hit. After taking a round to the neck and head, he went unconscious. Waking up shortly, he exited the vehicle and had the SA to find his partner and get into a new vehicle. This is after being shot in the head.

M. Sage

Dude, the tools let the cops down. The ammo used was not up to snuff, and what should have been fight-stopping hits ended up being merely annoying. IIRC, the guys with the revolvers were carrying the 110 gr “Treasury” load in .38 spl. It’s a garbage load from the days when the thinking was that light and fast was best. That thinking still can be found today, to be sure, but these days it’s easy to spot people who are clued in by their choice of heavy-for-caliber bullets.

Raoul Duke

I would add that the seed was planted for agencies to transition from shotguns to rifles in 1986, but the movement didn’t pick up any real momentum until after the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery shootout.

Up until that incident, most local departments viewed rifles as “too militaristic”, or only for special personnel, such as tactical teams.

There are still holdouts. On occasion, someone will sidle up to me and engage in the old-fashioned “why cops should still carry shotguns” routine- usually someone who shoots less than a box of buckshot through one in a year.

Daniel E. Watters

FWIW: The S&W 459 wasn’t being considered for Bureau-wide adoption. Rather, it was just being used by FBI SWAT.

Did you see my article on the FBI’s transition to semi-auto pistols over at LooseRounds?

Hognose Post author

Sorry for this getting stuck in the mod queue. Wish I could whitelist guys whose comments are always worthwhile. That said, ISTR that three of the street agents in the fight had the 459s.

Daniel E. Watters

Yes, those three agents were FBI SWAT. It would not be the first agency to deploy part-time teams for manpower reasons.

Daniel E. Watters

Actually, if you look at the FBI’s webpage for their Critical Incident Response Group, the Bureau’s SWAT teams still appear to be part-time. The SWAT-trained agents retain their standard duties as investigators.

Hognose Post author

A lot of the Feds do that. While FBI has the centralized HRT, they are too high-speed to deal with local stuff; for that, there are volunteers/selected personnel in every field office who are trained in a boiled-down set of standard TTPs. ICE, ATF also have similar things, smaller agencies have to pull regionally or team up.


Wikipedia says that Platt was an infantryman in Vietnam and served in a Ranger unit, if true he wasn’t a stranger to gunfights. According to the same Wiki page his partner was a former Marine cook and Army MP.

I remember (sort of) the write up Ayoob did in American Handgunner years ago on this one.


One of the interesting takeaways I have from working around Rangers (ones from Regiment, not just the tab-wearing type) is that there are a whole bunch of them who have done an awful lot of thinking about how to pull off criminal acts. As in, I swear to God, about every other former Ranger I ever worked around had some not-so-half-baked plan for how they’d do shit, if they ever decided to “go off the reservation”. Up to, and including a guy who had served as the CSM for 2/75…

For awhile there, I think they actually used to use “plan crime” as a training event, as kind of a joke. That sorta stopped back in 2006, though…

Anyone unfamiliar with Luke Elliott Sommer might want to Google the name, and do some thinking, especially if you’re in law enforcement. Yeah, that dipshit you’re pulling over for the expired tags might be your average mook, but he may also be someone given extensive and expensive training in inflicting violence on others. You never know when one of these guys is going to turn out to be someone who should have never been taken into the fraternity of soldiers, or when one of us may have slipped the surly bonds of sanity.

I have some rather… Mmmm… Interesting memories of watching an impromptu MILES-gear force-on-force event between a couple of Ranger fire teams and about a platoon’s worth of Northwest SWAT cops who were out on a range we built for the Rangers to use. The fire team rolled up the SWAT guys in about five-ten minutes, and that was without having use of their automatic weapons. To say that enlightenment occurred for the cops and my guys? Yeah. The Rangers already knew that they were going to overwhelm the cops, and it was all plain fire-and-movement fire team coordination that did the cops in. Even the better SWAT teams aren’t ramped up and prepared, mentally, equipment, or training-wise to take on truly proficient and prepared opposition working as a team using modern technique.


IIRC a few years back some Batt guys (could of been active/not active seem to recall both involved) hit a bank or something like that. I think a license plate got them busted.

More people than the Rangers plan those kind of ops. Not that I ever personally heard anybody of course it was all second hand.


That was the case I’m talking about.

Batt guys were always going on about their felonious post-military career plans, as kind of a huge in-joke. After that happened? LOL… Mention something about tactical criminal planning, and you got these really harsh, tight-lipped looks from all of them. Wasn’t funny, any more-I gather life got really hard over in 2/75 for a certain period of time, and even making a joke about that shit was enough to get thrown out of Battalion for awhile. Some guy came in all unknowing, made a joke about it, and he was over working at I Corps the following day. He’d been on leave when all that happened, came in to 2/75 either First or Third Batt, and the guys at 2/75 were not playing…

Hognose Post author

I have a great story about an SF demo man’s brilliant extortion plot.



Haxo Angmark

they sometimes do ask the question. Several years ago I was riding my bicycle across a highway overpass, c. 1 AM; ex-messenger bag on my back with part of black tire pump sticking out. CHP pulled up behind me, flashers + siren. I stop, look back. Side door opened, one LEO out and behind door, weapon pointed at me, other LEO inside on the radio. I froze, nothing was said. Seconds later another unmarked car pulls up behind the HP. Plain clothes guy LEO out and behind the door and yells, “do you have military training?” I answer, “No”. Situation thereafter de-escalated.


Another reason for target shooters, Bullseye shooters in particular, to switch to a semi – auto is the rules. If I am required to shoot a service pistol, in this case a 1911, and a centerfire and a rimfire, it makes sense that the 1911 and centerfire be the same gun. It cuts costs, time reloading for a second cartridge and increases familiarity with the manual of arms. And if my first 2 guns are the same (a match grade 1911) it makes sense that my rimfire be as close to the grip, weight and sights of the 1911. Then I have one sight picture, one grip, one stance, one manual of arms. High Standard saw that and offered target pistols with the same grip as the 1911 (as Ruger does today with the 22-45); others saw this and made match-grade 22 conversion kits.

Buy a good 1911, pay for 1 trigger upgrade and a Marvel 22 conversion and you are in the game. Even if the revolver was a bit more accurate, and I am not claiming it was, going with 1 gun would still win over many shooters.

(And as an aside, I have shot Bullseye with a S&W K22)


My dad was a big bullseye shooter when he was younger and sometimes used the 1911 for both service and centerfire but he also had the S&W 38 Special Semi Auto (can’t remember the model) developed especially for centerfire matches that he used. He also shot revolvers for the matches sometimes.


Yep that’s it, thanks. I couldn’t remember for the life of me. It was a great shooting pistol.


> it does mean that it costs more to machine all

> the parts necessary to perfect alignment in a revolver

Unless you’re using the Systeme Delvigne, which counterbores the cylinder and slides it over a spigot on the back of the barrel for each shot. No precision indexing, closely fitted cylinder latch, etc. No forcing cone, either.

The Delvigne is most commonly encountered in the US in the form of the Russian Nagant revolver, where the sliding cylinder is lumped in as part of the “gas seal” arrangement the Nagant used. However, that was pretty much the only Delvigne-pattern revolver to do that.

The “gas seal” wasn’t to get extra velocity from a weak cartridge; if the Tsar’s commission had wanted more power, they would simply have specified it, since the cartridge was designed along with the gun. The true purpose of the seal was to keep all the nasty powder and corrosive primer residue confined to the barrel instead of blasting it all through the gun’s naughty bits. Cleaning a gas-seal revolver is trivially simple to cleaning, say, its S&W predecessor.

Cap’n Mike

Semi Auto Pistol trumps Revolver

Shotgun trumps Semi Auto Pistol

Rifle trumps Shotgun

One thing missing from the discussion is lack of training.

I would challenge anyone to find an organization that does as little training as a Police Department.

Most departments train 5 days a year, out of 365. One day is CPR/First Responder, One day is legal update, one day is Range qualification with some active shooter stuff thrown in and some defensive tactics, then you have the flavor of the year days (Elderly issues, Dynamics of addiction, Youth interactions, Trans-gender outreach etc..)

Everything else is based on experience, which for stuff cops see all the time, they are very good at.

The active shooter stuff and some stuff based on mindset has improved things in the past few years, but training for the kind of firefight that happened in Homestead is so far down the priority list its a joke.


Man I read this early this morning and had pleasant memories of growing up shooting my revolvers. Still have some and love shooting em.

I was working as everyone transitioned to semi- autos.

I was not working when the FBI was involved in that incident but was shooting way more than now and carrying a S&W .44 3″ Lou Horton special. I remember with fondness Mr. AYOOBS write up in AMERICAN Handgunner.

Think i’ll go strap on a Ruger single action now.


I had a Colts Match Target,key word being had.

That along with about 20 other high quality weapons were stolen from me in 1985.

Still to this day I keep an eye b out for them daily while reading local sales.

People may have forgotten but I sure haven’t considering the Ins.Co gave me a small fraction of what things were worth.

I was young and trusting,live and learn.


Today cops are told over and over that the gun is absolutely the tool of last resort unless there is a clear and present danger to themselves or others. They are told to go through the full panoply of the levels of violence that start at voice and presentation with firearms at the very bottom. It’s one of the issue’s I had with becoming an armed contract security officer. I have perhaps more awareness of the continuum from family history than the average person. But all I have on the job is voice, presence and firearm.

The militarization of civilian law enforcement has long bothered me. And I think it largely comes from 1986 and 1997. I mean I was and Explorer for many years. We would go to national conventions and there would be officers and Explorer’s from across the country. You would see a wide variety of brown, green, gray, black and white uniform’s with strips and long and short sleeves. If that convention was held today I suspect you would see a sea of tactical black. And in there holsters high capacity pistols and in there trunks M4/M16 rifles/carbines.

At the same time of course they want to take our pistols/carbines/rifles away from us citizens but that’s a different conversation.

Raoul Duke

You’re painting with a very broad brush, and not very accurately.

Most departments still have their distinctive uniform colors: City Blue, County Tan, etc., etc… most of them now wear useful cargo pants, to carry stuff in, but some places are still stuck in the Barney-Fife polyester sack uniform, with thirty-one pieces of shiny flair pinned to them.

Some places have transitioned to some kind of load carrying vest for the thirty pounds of crap they are mandated to carry, including a high-capacity pistol, but most are still inflicting that weight on their officers’ hips, lower backs, and nerves.

As for cops and gun control, look up the poll done by Police One, where the vast majority of police officers (not political creatures like chiefs) were absolutely against it, and heartily supported law-abiding citizens carrying firearms for self-defense.

Don’t let your personal biases blind you.

Hognose Post author

I don’t delude myself that the cops I know (most of whom are SF vets) are a true sample of the country’s millions of cops, but most of them see an incident where a citizen nailed some skell as a win for the home team. -1 if the skell lives to commit more crimes, +1 if he gets to suffer on as a quad. Like I said, might not be typical, and those attitudes are never going to wear the chief hat with all the oak leaves, swords and diamonds.


I shoot a lot of PPC (or WA1500 as it’s known in the rest of the world) and related “police qualification” style matches. Maybe it’s because we’re upside down here in Australia, but everybody I know consistently shoots better scores with their revolvers than their semiautos. My 9mm is an STI Targetmaster with a bull barrel and an Aristocrat 3-position sight, so it’s no Saturday Night Special, and the other semiautos in common use are of similar quality but the revolvers always end up shooting better.

A part of it is that I’m a lifelong revolver guy, but even noobs who start off with a semiauto eventually discover that the path to happiness lies with a revolver as their scores improve. They’re obviously harder to shoot and reload initially, but seem to produce better results in the long run with a little training.

Has anybody else noticed this, or are we just odd down here?


“Has anybody else noticed this, or are we just odd down here?”

I’ve only shot a little PPC. My limited sense was that the revolver scores are a little higher. Part of the reason for that might be the ginormous bull barrels on the revolvers – more mass means slower frequency wobble. I’ve never seen a semi with anywhere near that kind of mass.

And that matters for Bullseye (now called Precision) pistol, because unlike PPC you have to shoot it one handed. Shooting my PPC gun one handed would take a pretty strong wrist. Bullseye revolvers are normal weight K-38s and things like that (I started with a Single-Six :-), but those don’t have the massive barrels.

Later on for the 22 matches I’d use either a K-22 (revolver) or an S&W model 41 (semi). I usually scored rather better with the semi.

Another factor, if you’re shooting bullseye slow fire in single action – most people have to either disturb their grip to cock with your strong thumb, or disturb their stance to cock with their off hand. With a semi, you can keep the grip and stance static. I had to cock the single-six, of course, and you couldn’t always get your grip set back exactly right in rapid or timed fire. With the K-22, I shot double action for everything – slow, timed, and rapid.

cm smith

“In addition, the three revolver rounds a mortally wounded robber fires at wounded FBI agent Ed Mirales [sic] were fired from behind his back, and he never knew the bandit was behind hi[m] shooting (other eyewitnesses saw this).”

As I recall the reports and videos, the other agents didn’t see this either, but a civilian witness made the claim. The description of the BG walking stiff legged, etc toward Mireles also matched the general description of Mireles final walk toward the BG’s in the FBI car. I’ve long guessed that’s what the witness actually saw.

I’ve never seen other speculation on that, so I may be totally in left field. Either way, the TV movie version was an insult to Mireles. Not as bad as the Texas Tower movie that depicted the cop who actually shot the sniper as frozen in fear, but that’s another story.


One more consequence from Miami. The Bureau forced ammunition companies to rethink their designs re expansion and penetration. Prior to Miami, expansion was the key metric. SA Dove carried 9MM Silvertips which did expand. However forensics showed that more penetration would have helped. Dove, an excellent shot, made one nice one early in the encounter. Yet after going through Platt’s arm and entering his torso, the light Silvertip came up a little short. So later, the Bureau made a requirement of minimum and maximum penetrations under a variety of test environments (bare gelatin, denim covered gelatin, wallboard then gelatin, auto glass then gelatin, etc.)

The FBI report also tried to bury the myth of “knock-down power.” However this work seems inconsequential, based on comments common on many internet forums.


A police friend of mine was part of a search team. Cordon established, helo up, dog, the whole circus. Digging out a home invasion crew. First one was found, called out, surrendered. Next two were found, one ran away, one charged shooting at the dog handler and my friend. Who had a rifle. Bad guy down.


Uncle Sugar sent me around the world. I didn’t get dead. I’m not stupid or lazy. I also didn’t write 20 paragraphs. Let me tell a very simple USMC type story.

There was an angry man. After being mortally wounded he decided to kill all the men who tried to kill him. His name was I FUCKING MEAN WHAT I SAY. At this point we should be on the same page. He won, he lost. The moral of the story is don’t be there.

All things tools wise, a dead man on his feet who is filled with nothing but hate in his hard heart has nothing to fear and only glory to be gained by smoke checking dipshits who suddenly can’t find the breath say help me.

Don’t talk about it, be about it.

Facta non verba? Deed not words? Did I get that correct?

The world is a dangerous place.


My takeaways from the “Miami” FBI gunfight are:

Distance and cover are better protection than hits on the threat

Elapsed time after hits on the threat, is as important as the hits on the threat

Immediately disabling hits are more important than hits which are eventually fatal

Hitting the brain of the threat is the best way to be sure of stopping the threat

Practice one handed and off handed operation of your defensive firearm


Concur. Though initially trained as a tank crewman in 1966 and finding myself most comfy in the gunner’s seat behind the 10x after that, I have also pounded ground and grunted up the gomo, rifle and/or other novelties in hand.

But the best advice I ever got as a young sniper filling in for the guys off to 9th Infantry Div’s school was that if I thought I had a really easy target it was likely bait, and the smart move was to call in artillery fire and then hit my targets during the resulting distraction and confusion.

And that’s what I did. And I’m still around to pass the advice along to the new guys.


I’m pretty sure I’m asking to be dressed down, but somehow I think Fleetwood would have some zen warrior shit to say like “the confidence of a warrior is inverse to the determination of a man fighting for his home”


The military adoption of the auto pistol at the close of the 19th century had more to do with the perceived ease of rapid fire (since accurate double action revolver techniques were unknown at the time) than it did with the desire to give the horse cavalry a “better” handgun to use on horseback. The handgun was at best secondary weapon for the mounted man, with the primary weapons being the saber and or the lance. Late 19th and early 20th century articles in the Cavalry Journal demonstrate this. The handgun was not considered appropriate for use in the charge (which was, after all, the offensive forte of the cavalry) until the twilight of the horse cavalry, about 1910 or so. To be sure, some individuals used the pistol from the saddle in lieu of the sword (Winston Churchill, Jack Hays, the Texas Rangers and the southern Missouri guerrillas come to mind) but they were the exception rather than the rule. The efficiency of the pistol, on horseback, whether revolver or autoloader, was at best controversial as far as the military establishments of the era were concerned.

The revolver, specifically the Colt Officer’s Model (and its bigger brother the Shooting Master) owned bullyeye shooting from its inception in the 1920s until the 1950s. In the 1950s two things happened which helped to displace the revolver in the bullseye world; the NRA rescinded the “no alibi rule” and the cops went their own way with the Practical Police Matches. With the “no alibi rule gone” shooters who used the cranky 45 auto no longer had to worry about malfunctions and with the cops gone the only big money backers of the National Matches was the military, who weren’t interested in perfecting the target revolver. If anything, the Officer Model Colts were far more accurate than were the auto pistols of the day (or today for that matter).

The fundamental truth lost in all of the analyses of the 1986 FBI shootout, was that it was the 38 Special cartridge, in revolvers, which won the day for the Bureau. A 38 fired from SSA McNeil’s M66 caused a basilar skull fracture in Mr. Matix at the opening of the fight, rendering him “combat ineffective” and Mr. Platt was finally done in by 38s fired from SA Mireles’ M586. If there was a “failure” of a weapons type demonstrated in the 86 shootout, it was the failure of the 12 gauge shot gun and the 9mm auto pistol. But the cops love their shotguns, the 9mm M59 was a Bureau approved “state of the art” system in the mid 80s (ironically, had SA Dove been using the “state of the art” FBI handgun of the prewar era, the M27 with vintage 357 ammunition, he and Grogan might have been able to make it to retirement), and the FBI plan was terrible so another culprit had to be found to explain the fiasco: the hapless 38 Special revolver. The FBI then spent some millions of the taxpayer’s money reinventing the 38-40 to delight of the domestic arms industry and gun writers everywhere.

John M.

“ironically, had SA Dove been using the “state of the art” FBI handgun of the prewar era, the M27 with vintage 357 ammunition, he and Grogan might have been able to make it to retirement”

.357 is an awesome cartridge. The ’86 FBI could’ve learned something from the ’30s FBI, I guess.

“The FBI then spent some millions of the taxpayer’s money reinventing the 38-40 to delight of the domestic arms industry and gun writers everywhere.”

Not to mention ruining the perfectly wonderful 10mm Auto cartridge in the process. Go ahead and try to find full-house 10mm Auto ball ammo at any kind of a decent price today. It’s like 10mm -P now. And I blame the FBI.

And in fairness, nobody was going to jam a 38-40 into a Glock 19-sized pistol. OAL of 38-40 is ~8mm longer than 10mm and ~12mm longer than .40 S&W.

-John M.


“…but also drove some of their detail design (the Colt’s grip safety was one such horse-soldier request).”

Actually, no. JMB put a grip safety on lots of his gun designs. Essentially it is an ambi safety, as informal photos of JMB holding and shooting guns generally show him doing so as a left-hander. Posed photos show this as right-handed.

The much adored thumb safety of the 1911 cultists was added after the successful conclusion of the Army tests, at the request of the Army. It’s unclear if JMB had input into that add-on, or if it was entirely the work of Colt’s engineering dept. And then the military pretty much eliminated it’s use by mandating the gun be carried empty chamber, hammer down. Typical.

Trivia: JMB kept one of the Army Test guns for personal use.

I would like to see a 1911 made without that thumb safety. A grip safety, with firing pin safety, is quite adequate.