A decade or so ago, I was teaching at a conference of ILEETA, the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. They liked as many of us as possible to show up in uniform for the first day, for “Kodak moments” with the press. I was so accoutered, with a Smith & Wesson Model 64 .38 Special revolver on my right hip. That same day, I sat on a panel discussion and was seated next to a gun-savvy police chief who looked down at my wheelgun and said with a smile, “Going retro, huh?”
It should be noted that the chief in question was carrying a customized, cocked and locked Colt .45 automatic (Model of 1911) on his hip, and the guys carrying Glocks might have said the same of him. Oddly enough, the reason I was carrying it was because I was scheduled to go from there to the Midwest Regional Championships of the International Defensive Pistol Association. At the time, I was a “sponsored shooter,” and the sponsor wanted team members to win as many gun divisions as possible. We had other Master-class shooters registered in Enhanced Service Pistol, Stock Service Pistol, and Custom Defense Pistol. The team needed someone to shoot Stock Service Revolver, and since even then I was the oldest on the team and had the most experience with six-shooters, I had become the Designated Dinosaur with the old fashioned gun. The Model 64 is a direct descendant of the Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector Model of 1899, also known as the Military & Police model.
I’m proud and happy to say I won the Stock Service Revolver Championship at that match.
Fast forward to now. I’ve decided to use a double action revolver for the four MAG-40 defensive handgun/judicious use of deadly force classes I’ll be teaching in August, even though I know most of my students will be shooting semiautomatic pistols. There are several reasons why.
One is that bad shooting is often the result of poor trigger manipulation more than anything else. With the short trigger stroke of most semiautomatic pistols, the students can’t really see how the instructor is running the gun. With a revolver they can more easily observe the long stroke of the double action trigger and the smooth uninterrupted rise and fall of the hammer and rotation of the cylinder, and much more quickly grasp the concept of distributing trigger pressure, no matter what the speed of fire or length of trigger press.
Higher ammo capacity has been the big selling point that made the semiautomatic pistol dominant in the armed citizen sector and almost universal in the police sector. I get that. At the same time, I’ve never needed more than six shots to put down any living thing I needed to shoot. “Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum” is almost as comforting to my generation as “Colt .45 automatic,” and more so to some. And if for any reason six does not turn out to be enough, well, it ain’t like that four-inch barrel Model 19 will be the only Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum I’ll have readily at hand…