Military Arms.—The revolver and the magazine pistol are used for military service. To fulfill the requirements these arms must be strong, very durable, and withstand a great amount of hard usage without becoming disabled. The effectiveness, or " stopping power," is of prime importance. The caliber should be large, the bullet should have a blunt point, and the powder charge should be sufficiently powerful to give a penetration of at least six inches in pine. There was a tendency some years ago to reduce the caliber of military revolvers. While this resulted in increased velocity and penetration, and reduced the weight of the ammunition, it did not improve the stopping power of the arms.
The ineffectiveness of the .38-caliber service revolver charge was frequently complained of by the officers and men serving in the Philippine Islands. This was due to the light powder charge and the conoidal shaped point of the bullet. To remedy this weakness .45-caliber revolvers were issued for the Philippine service, and a new .45-caliber cartridge designed to which magazine pistol manufacturers were invited to adapt an arm. Unfortunately this new cartridge, which is now the service ammunition, has also a conoidal pointed bullet, is not well proportioned, and consequently develops only a part of its stopping power possibilities.
The sights must in all cases be very substantial, and solidly fixed to the frame or barrel. The trigger pull varies from 4 to 8 pounds, the barrel from 4 to 5 inches in length, and the weight from 2 to 2 1/4 pounds. Ammunition loaded with smokeless powder is now invariably used for military service.
The Service Revolvers still in use in the U. S. Army are the Smith & Wesson and Colt, both .45 cal. By the use of a special clip fitting the crease in the shells these arms have been adapted to the rimless ammunition of the Service magazine pistol. These arms are enlarged and heavier counterparts of the .38 cal. models of the same makers, and represent, without doubt, the highest development of the military revolver. See Figs. 1 and 2. They have solid frames, and the actions of both are almost identical, the cylinder swinging out to the left, on a hinge, when released by a catch. The shells may then be extracted simultaneously by pushing back the extractor rod. The Smith & Wesson has an additional hinge-locking device in front of the cylinder. The Colt has an automatic safety lock between the hammer and the frame, permitting discharge only when the trigger is pulled. Apart from these features there is very little difference between these arms.
The Smith & Wesson .44-caliber Military Revolver is the latest model of the large caliber revolvers. Its action and general lines are the same as the .38-caliber military, but it is a larger, heavier, and more powerful weapon.
Other excellent military revolvers are the Colt New Service and the Smith & Wesson Russian model, usually in .45 caliber and .44 caliber, respectively. The ammunition for these arms was formerly loaded with black powder; but smokeless cartridges have been adapted to them, which give slightly increased velocity and the same accuracy.
The Smith & Wesson Russian model has a hinge " tip-up " action, with an automatic ejecting device. The action is operated by raising a catch in front of the hammer. It is easy to manipulate and, on account of the accessibility of the breech, the barrel can be readily inspected and cleaned. This arm is single action.
The action of the Colt New Service is similar to that of the .38-caliber revolver shown in Fig. 2, with a solid frame. It is double action.
The Colt Officer's Model is identical in every respect with the Army Special except that it is fitted with adjustable target sights and may be had with lengths of barrel up to 7 inches.
The foregoing arms, with good ammunition, are capable of making groups of ten shots on a 3-inch circle at 50 yards.
The Colt single action Army is the most popular belt or holster weapon among ranchmen, cowboys, prospectors, and others. It has a solid frame, simple mechanism, and is exceedingly durable and reliable. The arm is operated by opening a gate on the right-hand side, back of the cylinder. The cartridges are inserted in the cylinder through the gate, the cylinder being revolved by hand until the respective chambers come opposite the gate. In the same manner the shells are ejected by pushing the extractor rod back into each of the chambers.
The Smith & Wesson Schofield Model, .45 caliber, was formerly a United States service weapon. The ammunition for this arm, while less powerful than the .45 Colt, was admirably adapted for military service, and had much less recoil.
The Webley & Scott W. S. Model revolver is an English arm of much merit. The caliber is .455. It has a hinge "tip-up " action, with an automatic extractor very similar to the Smith & Wesson.
The service weapon adopted by the Joint War Office and Admiralty Committee for the British army and navy is the Webley & Scott Mark VI revolver. This model is almost identical with the "U. S." model except that the barrel is 6 in. long and the weight is 2 Ibs. 6 oz. The Service Cartridge is .455 cal. and the charge 6l/2 gr. Cordite and a conical bullet weighing 265 gr.
Another English arm is the " Webley-Fosbury" automatic revolver. The recoil revolving the cylinder and cocking the hammer, it can be fired as rapidly as the automatic pistols. It is chambered for the .455 service cartridge loaded with $y2 grains of cordite. This arm has been introduced since 1900.
Among the leading magazine or automatic pistols used for military service are the Colt, Luger, Webley & Scott, Savage, Mauser, Knoble, Bergmann, White-Merrill, Steyr, Mannlicher, Mors and Bayard. Most of these arms were tested by the United States govenment previous to the adoption of the Colt as the service weapon of the U. S. Army and Navy.
The Luger has been adopted as the service weapon by Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Bulgaria, Holland, and Brazil.
The Webley-Scott (.455 caliber) was adopted as the service arm by the British navy in 1911, and the .32-caliber (weight 1 Ib. 2 oz.) is now the adopted arm of the London City and Metropolitan police forces.
In most of these weapons, including the Colt, Webley & Scott, Luger, and Steyr pistols, the cartridges are inserted in magazines which feed them into the breech through the handle. In the Mauser pistol the cartridges are supplied through clips from the top and forced into a magazine located in front of the trigger.
The magazine pistols can be fired at the rate of about five shots per second. These arms equal the best military revolvers in accuracy.
Many persons believe that the magazine pistol will soon supersede the revolver for general use. While this may be the case eventually, it is not likely to occur within the next few years. The magazine pistol is more complicated, and consequently more difficult to learn to shoot with and care for, than the revolver. On account of the special problems to be solved in the mechanism, many of them balance poorly and the trigger pull is almost invariably long and creeping. The novice will also find it difficult to avoid flinching in shooting these arms, on account of the recoil mechanism, louder report, etc. The line of sight being considerably higher than the grip, if they are not held perfectly plumb, or in the same position at each shot, the shooting is liable to be irregular. The cost is more than that of a good revolver. Until these undesirable features can be remedied or eliminated, the revolver will probably remain a popular arm.
Himmelwright, A.L.A.. Pistol and Revolver Shooting. New York: MacMillan, 1922.
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