Hello all. I recently found out that my Great Grandfather was a police officer in Boston in the 1920's and 30's. I was wondering what type of pistol he may have been issued (brand, caliber, barrel length etc.) Thanks for any help!
Hello Armyrat. Would it be safe to guess that it might have been a S&W M+P? Were there any other model Smiths at that time? Thanks.
The Colt Police Positive was also widely used during that time period, in .32 and .38 so just guessing S&W might be incorrect.
Why not phone or email the Boston PD? A big department like that must have a PR person. You may well get a 'duh?' answer--but one never knows until one asks.
FWIW, I glanced through my copy of Sutherland & Wilson's THE BOOK OF COLT FIREARMS, and they mention that Colt Police Positives (.38S&W, not .38 Special) were rollmarked B.P.D. for Boston Police Dept. These revolvers were made from 1905 to 1943.
Sutherland and Wilson also state the Colt Police Positive Special, in .38 Special, was rollmarked B.P.D, but in this instance they cite the abbreviation as standing for Boston Police Dept, Beverly, MA PD, and Bristol, CT PD. They don't elaborate if all three of these agencys used Police Positive Specials, or if they simply don't know which one. Police Positive Specials were made from 1908 to 1970.
Whatever weapon great grandpa carried, I imagine that during that era his trunchon saw a lot more use than his sidearm.
Considering the era and the East coast location, I'd bet the issue gun was a Colt double action revolver, most likely either an Official Police or a Police Positive Special.
Bit your tongue.
AMERICAN cops didn't carry "trunchons".
American cops carried night sticks and blackjacks, as in "Give up or we're comin' in with the sticks and jacks".
Last edited by dfariswheel; 02-16-2009 at 08:40 PM.
Boston and Detroit were the first departments to request and test a 2 inch barrel version of the police positive special (.38 spl) revolver that was to become the Detective Special.
I have also examined a Colt .32 Automatic pistol with Boston markings.
Hello all. Thanks for the further info. I like both the Smiths and Colts of that era. The Colt Police Positive is a nice little piece, well balanced. The .38 S&W are usually more available in my area. EL Bibliotecario. You're probably right about the "truncheon." From what my Grandfather said, he was a VERY cold, individual, who usually only spoke once! So I have no doubt that he was "free" with the use of his nightstick! Then again, in those days I suppose that you had to be! Thanks again for the info.
Last edited by Snowman; 02-18-2009 at 03:36 PM.
The Boston PD must have a Police Museum...I'd start there. Here in NYC there is an large NYPD museum with an extensive collection of equipment. Brett
For detectives they issued Colt bankers specials in .32 up to the 70's!!!!
Many years ago my father inherited a S&W M&P (10) from a friend; it was marked "BPD" on the grip strap and was an old ex- Boston PD issue revolver.
My Great-Grandfather became Boston Police Officer after World War I, he was an officer till the late 60s-early 70s I believe. In the 1920s he was one of the founding members of the shotgun squad.
you might try the balistics lab or whatever they call it.I dont remember a museum.and colts were the popular police guns.small depts use H&R break action 38 S&W.I have been in the balistics dept.they have quite a collection of guns hung on wall,BARs lugers ect.the state police used to be 1010 commonwealth ave but moved into boston proper.and before the war crooks did not shoot cops if they could avoid it.mostly they just gave up. it was much easier as the police would then treat them gently .
Here are some Boston police from the 1950s. The officer on the right appears to be carrying a Colt Polcie Positive while his partner has a shotgun. Note the early "bullet proof" vests.
"For no one - no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts.
[Points to sword] But this....this you can trust!"
Conan the Barbarian, 1982
In response to your questions here, I want to believe in or around the Boston Area The Most Popular Revolver that was carried by Police agencies back in the 1920'-1930's time span would have been the S&W Revolver. The chosen Caliber back then was the .32 S&W Long Caliber. Most revolvers chambered in it were small in size and S&W Made a special "Regulation Police" model Revolver for that Purpose. Colt did offer revolver's as well, but most Police agencies Bought from Gun Manufacturers that offered special offer Police agency Prices back then, and S&W was very competitive with their prices compared to Colt's back then with it's Law enforcement sales, so their weapons were far more Popular among Police departments than Colts were, as Colt was trying to Captivate the Millitary sales more so than the Public Police agency sector. Some Police Forces Did issue the larger M&P style S&W revolver's which are the K-Frames and chambered in the .38 Special round, but that style and Model revolver became Far more Popular in the Mid to later 1930's time span, and after World War II when Consumer Production resumed More were seen as daily carry weapons by Police agencies & The Popular M&P became the Model 10 after 1957
Shown Below is a Police issued revolver of mine, that shipped in April 1927 to Harry Anderson who was The Evansville, Indiana Police Chief. He was in charge of & riding in an Experimental Motorcycle Brigade which consisted of 13 Indian Motorcycles to answer calls in the Evansville city area. Prior to 1927 all City Calls in The Evansville, Indiana area were answered by Police riding Bicycles. This Gun is chambered in the Then Popular .32 S&W Long Caliber and is the "I Frame Regulation Police Model " that S&W Built & Offered as a standard issue to Most police department's as their daily Carry weapon's back in that time frame. By the Middle to late 1930's Crime had risen much with the Likes of Bonnie & Clyde, Al Capone, John Dillenger, Baby Face Nelson and others, and with them using such weapons as The Tommy Gun, Shotguns, BAR's, & Colt 1911's in .45 ACP, and it was evident that Police agencies were very, very out Gunned as Most Police agencies of that Time Frame were only using the standard .32 S&W Caliber hand guns.
After Much thought and Prompting by The Famed Wild Cat Cartridge re-loader and well respected Philip Sharp who had been experimenting using a S&W 38-44 Large-N-Frame Outdoorsman Target revolver of which he used a Highly advanced .38 Special round which in Essence equaled the Power and Velocity of the Later .357 Magnum Cartridge. Sharpe sent may Letters to Joseph Wesson attempting to prompt him to Build a hand gun to harness the Power of this experimental .357 Magnum, so In Late 1934 Joseph Wesson Took Sharpes suggestion & decided to offer The Most Powerful Handgun ever made as he Built , which was a Hand gun to handle the Very Potent .357 Magnum Caliber by Modifying the length of the cylinder throats of a special Heat treated prepared 38-44 Outdoorsman revolver Like sharpe had been experimenting with. Wesson had Known for some time, that Police agencies needed Guns with more power as even the .38 Special was not as Powerful as it once was when it was Loaded with Black Powder Prior to Smokless Powder, so he knew it was high time for some change. Wesson at First contacted Remington Arms and asked them to build the .357 Magnum Cartridge of which he claimed his revolver could handle the extra pressure and Velocity of the .357 Magnum round. They Promptly Blew him off and said that this experimental round was far too powerful in any revolver and was not needed, Nor did they feel it would be accurate at Velocites of 1450 FPS so he commissioned Winchester Arms to Build the round and they accepted after he shipped them this special Heat treated .357 Magnum revolver to fire it in. Wincester Built a special Bullet with More gas checks of Copper Jacketed design with more agle to these gas checks to meet the new Higher pressures of the .357 magnum round and Marketed it as such & Remington Arms would not be called upon again from S&W for any experimental hand gun Offering calibers Until 1956 when S&W asked them to Build the .44 Magnum Caliber for the famous Pre-29 Hand guns which was prompted Heavily by Elmer Keith.
This .357 Magnum Caliber was able to shoot straight through Window Glass, doors, and even Pierce and Disable an Engine block if needed to. This was the exciting New Magnum caliber that for ever changed the way hand guns would be viewed by her Buying Public. The New Hand Made Custom order Gun was Called "The Registered Magnum". Douglas Wesson's Vision was Indeed quickly accepted by the Buying Public, and no Other Gun manufacturer had ever offered a Customer special order hand gun to the general Public the Likes of this before. It was offered in Blued or Nickel finish's with Barrel lengths from 3-1/2" to 8-3/4" in 1/4" Increments. It had 7 front sight blades offered with 6 Rear Blade configurations. You could have ordered the standard service stocks with a Grip adaptor to fill in the Place between the rear trigger Guard and frame, or had they Offered the new then, Magna style grips of larger Proportions. The company also offered Stock's made from out side Vendors such as Pearl, Stag, Mother of Pearl, or The elaborate " Walter Roper" Hand made Custom Target Grips shown on my 1935 Registered Magnum Below.
To Obtain one of these Custom hand guns , the perspective buyer had to fill out a S&W Custom Built Registered magnum order form which asked what Finish, Barrel length, Sight Configuration, and stocks were wanted on your gun. They also asked what ammo you wanted used in it when it was sighted in at the Factory with along with the distance shot ,at as all handguns were Test fired before leaving the factory to assure top quality, they had to meet S&W's expectations. Upon receiving the weapon, there was an owners registration Warranty card to be filled out and sent back to the factory by the Owner. This card was the Owners way of assuring that they Now had a Full life time warranty on his Custom Built .357 Magnum, and S&W In Turn returned an owners Registration certificate Suitable for framing by the owner, which showed the owners name, address, and ammo used to sight the weapon in along with the Guns Registration number and serial number.
All Registered Magnums were Hand Built and Hand Made by Skilled Gun smith's and With it costing $60.00 back in 1935 it was the most expensive hand gun ever offered by S&W so at first sales were slow with only 718 Being made in 1935. The 3-1/2" Barrel as mine shown was made in Rather small quantities with only 408 Total being made in their 4 year run of The Registered magnum series, which ran from 1935-1939, and the Most common Barrel length of these Registered magnums was the 5" Configuration. On these hand Built Guns The factory stamped the crane area with a Reg-Number as well, indicating the stamped Registration Number of each gun. Once the weapon was sold and the factory got the total price of $60.00 to Build the weapon the Owner would be sent and Instructed to fill out his Owner Registration form, and to send it back to the factory. This Registration Card served as the owners Life time warranty and S&W sent back in it's place, a Registration Certificate with the owners name, address and what distance and what ammo the Buyer requested to be used to sight it in when it left the S&W factory.
By 1939 The Orders were Pouring in at such an alarming rate, S&W Ceased the registration process and made the .357 Magnum a Catalog item, and those handguns were called Non-Registered magnums being exact to the Registered ones only lacking the Registration process and the Frame stamp of Registration-Numbers. In 1940 S&W stopped making the .357 Magnum for the World War II effort. The Registration process stopped in 1939 and would never be offered again with a Grand total of only 5224 ever to be made, and to me, it would be Interesting to know just how many of them have survived as Many of them were destroyed by police agencies along the way due to high wear Deeming them unsafe and not suitable for service any more. Production of the .357 Magnum resumed in 1948 and in 1957 They Became the Model 27 revolver. The Registered Magnum which started life as a custom Built hand gun later became the model 27 which to me, was theMost elaborate revolver S&W ever Built. Regards, Hammerdown
My S&W 1927 Regulation Police I Frame Revolver Owned by Harry Anderson The Evansville, Indiana Police Chief, which shipped with the special order 3-1/4" Barrel and Mother Of Pearl grips.
A First year 1935 Registered Magnum in .357 Caliber. Shipped to Bowen Brothers Hardware company of Augusta, Georgia on December 3 1935 and was sold to an FBI Agent, shown with a set of Rare "Walter Roper" Custom Target grips.
Last edited by Hammerdown-7; 07-04-2009 at 10:06 AM.
Interesting post and a couple of rather interesting guns. As many know, George S. PAtton had an ivory-gripped Registered .357 Magnum, which went to North Africa with him, along with his engraved, ivory-gripped SAA in 45 LC.
I don't think that the mention of the 38 Special being originally loaded with black powder is correct. Introduced in 1902 along with the M&P, it was, as far as i know, always a nitro powder round and was intended as a military round to replace the 38 LC which, introduced to the military with the Model 1889 (adopted by the Navy, then by the Army in the 1892 Colt), had proved - less than satisfactory in service once combat experience in Cuba and (especially) the Philippines was gained. Instead of the 39 Special, of course, the US adopted the 45 ACP in 1911.
Absent comrades (sound of breaking glass)
Hammerdown - I'm green with envy, exceptionally nice guns.
Clyde - the .38 S&W Special Cartridge was introduced in 1899 with the .38 M&P 1st Model, aka Model of 1899 Army-Navy Revolver. IIRC the the original load was indeed 19.5 grains of black powder - I have tired to duplicate this load but can never get that high amount of any grade BP into a .38 Special case, even using a drop tube and old Peters ballon head cases.
I have to correct myself - Jinks indicates in his book the original .38 Special load, introduced in 1899, had a charge of 21.5 grains of black powder under a 158 grain bullet - I don't think I was ever able to come near getting that much BP in a .38 Special cases, even compressing the powder.
Last edited by will5a1; 07-04-2009 at 05:34 PM. Reason: add/correct
Be bleeped - and i have a copy of Jinks right here, to check something else.
I'll have to correct Barnes on the 38 Spl.
They may have loaded using the sort of compressed pellet that the British did with the original BP load (soon abandoned for cordite) in the 303 back in 1888-1889.
Absent comrades (sound of breaking glass)