Sunday, June 03, 2007
Sunday Smith #4: .32 Regulation Police, 1918
In the early 20th Century, police forces were still a fairly new concept in most of the United States. In much of the rest of the Western world, military or paramilitary forces were used to keep order, but the American distrust of standing armies and the posse comitatus act prevented that in the US. Sheriffs backed up by hired deputies and with the power to raise posses from the general populace had kept order in the USA since the nation's founding, but the idea of permanent municipal police forces gradually spread across the settled regions of the East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Large belt revolvers were seen as uncouth artifacts more appropriate to the unsettled West; an Eastern policeman's gun was as much a badge of authority as it was a weapon. In 1917, Smith & Wesson released a new adaptation of their diminutive I-frame revolver with a four inch barrel and a modified grip frame that allowed the use of wood grips with a squared-off profile to the butt. The new pistol was called the "Regulation Police" and was fairly popular, with many thousands shipping between 1917 and 1942, when the model was discontinued.
The gun in the above photo is a nickeled .32 Regulation Police, holding six rounds of the then-new .32 S&W Long cartridge, probably built in 1918 or thereabouts. While the nickel finish shows some signs of wear and pitting, the grips are worn nearly smooth, perhaps from where an officer rubbed it like a worry stone in the pocket of his frock coat as he made his nightly rounds of Main Street, ensuring that all the doors that were supposed to be locked actually were, and that all was quiet on his watch.