The flintlock was the fighting pistol during the American Revolution. It seems appropriate to include them here. George Washington’s sidearms were a pair of flintlock saddle pistols made in 1748 by English manufacturer John Hawkins, who was one of the best-known gun makers at the time. This flintlock pistol shown here was made by David Funk during the first quarter of the 19th century. Funk worked in Strasburg, Shenandoah County, Virginia and built this well-designed pistol, trimmed in brass hardware and silver inlays with well-executed silver wire. It is signed “D Funk” in a silver plate inlaid in the top flat of the barrel.
In 1926, Colt gunsmith J.H. Fitzgerald customized a Colt Police Positive revolver by cutting the 4-inch barrel to 2 inches and rounding the butt. The “snubby” was a huge hit with plainclothes detectives and anyone who wanted to carry a compact revolver concealed. A big selling point of the Colt over similar S&W designs was its six-round capacity. In 1933, Colt produced a round-butt version and then added an ejector rod shroud in the early 1970s. The Colt Detective Special’s iconic snub-nose design has made it a fan favorite to this day.
Developed by German designer Georg Luger between 1900 and 1908, it was the service pistol of the German Army during World War I, and although it was officially replaced in 1938 by the Walther P38, the Luger continued in service through World War II. With its toggle action and elegantly slanted grip, the Luger’s unique profile makes it one of the most recognized pistols in the world, and its history makes it the perfect weapon for movie villains and heroes. In the WWI movie Sergeant York, actor Gary Cooper used a Luger because the studio could not make a 1911 run reliably with blank cartridges.
Famed cowboy, gun writer and hunter Elmer Keith was the visionary who convinced Remington to create the .44 Magnum cartridge for the Smith & Wesson Model 29 N-Frame revolver in 1955. But it was Clint Eastwood, as detective Harry Callahan, who made the 44 Magnum famous in the 1971 film Dirty Harry. In one scene, Eastwood’s character draws down on a bank robber reaching for a shotgun and utters one of the most famous lines in movie history: “Being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’” (<a target=blank href=http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product4_750001_750051_765798_-1_757898_757896_757896_ProductDisplayErrorView_Y>http://www.smith-wesson.com</a>; 800-331-0852)
Few fighting pistols have been the standard sidearm of a major army for as long as Britain’s Webley revolver. A top-break or self-extracting design, the .455-caliber Webley Mark I entered service in the British Army in 1887. In all, there were six improvements to the design, culminating in the Mark VI revolver. After World War I, the caliber was changed from the .455 to a .38-caliber round (Mark IV), which was used extensively during World War II. Webleys were also used in the Boer War, the Korean War and by London, Hong Kong and Singapore police departments. The design was replaced in service by the Browning Hi Power in 1963.
The Broomhandle gets its name from the shape of its wooden grip, and several countries adopted it over a service period of more than eight decades. Winston Churchill carried a Model 1896 in 7.63mm Mauser with a wooden shoulder stock and a 10-round magazine in the Sudan in 1898. In one skirmish, while on horseback, he killed three Dervish army foot soldiers at close range with his Mauser pistol. In 1930s China, Shanghai Police Officers W.E. Fairbairn and E.A. Sykes reported “terrible damage caused by a Mauser automatic caliber 7.63mm” to a man shot in the arm with a full metal jacket round.
Designed by John Browning and built by Colt, the 1911 fired 6,000 rounds without a single malfunction during its initial U.S. Army trials. In World War I, Sergeant Alvin York used his 1911 with one seven-round magazine to kill six German soldiers who charged him from a trench 25 yards away. The 1911 was the U.S. Army’s sidearm until 1985 when it was replaced by the Beretta 92. Meanwhile, the U.S. Marine Corps has already adopted a new 1911, the Colt Close Quarter Battle Pistol. (<a target=blank href=http://www.colt.com>http://www.colt.com</a>; 800-962-2658)
Glock took the U.S. market by storm in 1988 with the G17, a full-sized 9mm service pistol that featured a polymer frame and grip. The G17 has become one of the most successful designs in modern pistols. Used by civilians and police, the Gen4 version was also adopted by the British Army in 2013 and is issued to FBI agents and German GSG 9 counter-terrorism operators. (<a target=blank href=https://us.glock.com/products/model/g17>http://us.glock.com</a>; 770-432-1202)
In 1907, Smith & Wesson built on the incredible success of the K-Frame Military & Police revolver by scaling the design up to the larger N-Frame. The design also included a third locking point to keep the cylinder centered in the frame, hence the name “Triple Lock.” The new revolver paved the way for development of the .44 Special cartridge and ultimately for the .44 Magnum. Early models featured a new innovation—an ejector rod shroud. The company released four models of the Triple Lock, known as Hand Ejector Model 1, 2, 3 and 4.
John M. Browning (aided by Dieudonné Saive of Fabrique Nationale) improved upon some of the features of his 1911 pistol to create the P35 Hi-Power in 1935. Chambered in 9mm, it has been used by the militaries of more than 50 nations, including the British and the Germans during World War II, and remains in many military arsenals today. The first truly successful high-capacity combat pistol, the Hi-Power’s name refers to the 13-round capacity. In WWII, Canadian-manufactured pistols featured a detachable shoulder stock. The pistol was a favorite of the British SAS until it was replaced in the 1980s. (<a target=blank href=http://www.browning.com/products/catalog/family.asp?webflag_=007B>http://www.browning.com</a>)
The brainchild of Border Patrol Officer Bill Jordan, S&W’s K-Frame line of law enforcement revolvers includes the original blued Model 19 Combat Magnum and the stainless steel Model 66. They were popular police pistols until events such as the infamous 1986 Miami FBI firefight forced departments to switch to semi-autos.
A slightly shorter version of the PP, the Walther PPK was introduced in 1931 for service in the German police. The PPK is best known for its association with novelist Ian Fleming’s character, British secret agent James Bond, or 007. For the sixth novel, Dr. No, Fleming upgraded Bond’s service pistol from the original .25 ACP Beretta to the .32 ACP Walther PPK with a Berns-Martin triple-draw shoulder holster. James Bond has used other, larger-caliber pistols over the years, but nothing seems quite as iconic as a tailored dinner jacket concealing a shoulder holster and a Walther PPK pistol.(<a target=blank href=http://www.waltherarms.com/ppk/>http://www.waltherarms.com</a>; 479-242-8500)
Samuel Colt’s single-action revolver is best known for its popularity in the American West in the latter part of the 19th century. But it was also carried by a young U.S. Army lieutenant named George S. Patton on General Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico in 1916 to find Pancho Villa. When three bandits charged him on horseback, Patton drew his Colt and shot the first bandit and the bandit’s horse. Reloading, Patton shot the second bandit and his horse. (Patton’s troops killed the third bandit.) Recognizing the Colt’s limitations for a fast reload, Patton later carried a second pistol on his belt, an S&W .357 Magnum. (<a target=blank href=http://www.colt.com/Catalog/Revolvers/SingleActionArmy®.aspx>http://www.colt.com</a>; 800-962-2658)
The earliest handguns appeared in the second half of the 14th century. There have been a fantastic number of designs and improvements since then. Some designs endured and improved while others were replaced. Some guns were so effective, so popular or played such an important role in history that they have become icons. Others made their owners into icons. Check out the gallery above to see 13 of the most iconic combat handguns in history.
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Ruger introduces a wood stock variant to the already-popular American Rimfire Rifle line.
by Personal Defense World / Jul 30, 2015