Home News NYPD forces remaining officers using .38 caliber revolver to update sidearms

NYPD forces remaining officers using .38 caliber revolver to update sidearms

Smith & Wesson Model 642 .38 Special Revolver. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

It’s official – the revolver is dead. Well, at least for the NYPD.

Much like the wooden nightstick and the custodian helmet, the six-shot .38 caliber revolver is no longer on the authorized list of sidearms, marking an end of an era for an iconic firearm that still sees use in the NYPD.

Interestingly enough, only 150 officers still carry Smith & Wesson .38s, all of them with career histories that date back to at least 1993.

The revolver was more than a sidearm, it was a cultural icon. Seen in films like The French Connection  and shows such as NYPD Blue, the revolver was the long-running weapon of choice for detectives and seasoned veterans.

The NYPD has set a mandate for the 150 officers to switch to a New York-Approved nine-millimeter semi-automatic handgun by summer of 2018, be it a dated S&W 5946, the double action only (DAO) variant of the Sig Sauer P226 or the Glock 17/19 series of handguns, which are plagued by the dangerously heavy 12-pound “New York” safety trigger, which many say is a major player in the NYPD’s reputation for poor marksmanship.

Opting to cut down on negligent discharges in the early-issue years of the Glock pistol by attempting to substitute better training with mechanical tweaking, the NY trigger takes the standard 5-6 lb Glock trigger and doubles the weight of the trigger to around 10-12 pounds- making accurate shooting a nightmare, particularly under stress. These complaints, as well as those concerning lack of training, weapons maintenance woes and the fact that many officers don’t even carry off-duty, have been well-documented over the years.

With such issues plaguing the most recognizable department in America, one has to wonder, wouldn’t revolvers be a good idea?

Not quite. Given that the semiautomatic handgun is the weapon of choice for most criminals, officers who are limited to six shots of the anemic .38 SPL cartridge and slow reload times would find themselves at a disadvantage carrying a dated revolver in the modern world.

According to the New York Daily News, the department-wide push for semiautomatics took place around In 1986, rookie Officer Scott Gadell and his partner chased a gunman (armed with a semi-automatic) into a Queens alley and was fatally shot while he was attempting to reload his revolver.

Despite the bloody circumstances prompting a change over three decades ago, the number of shots fired appears to have decreased for New York’s finest. In 2015, police officers fired 65 rounds in the line of duty the entire year- a large leap from 122 in 2005.

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