December 16, 2004
The .38: now that's a gun
Excellent piece in the Times today about the NYPD gun of yesteryear, the .38, also known as a six-shooter. Common models still carried by older NYPD officers include the Smith & Wesson Model 10 or the Ruger Police Service Six. The article notes these guns are now "more commonly seen on T. J. Hooker reruns or film noir than on the streets of New York."
These revolvers were NYPD standard issue until 1993, when semi-automatics were brought in to arm cops with the same guns that criminals had. After that year, rookies were given the new guns, while existing officers could keep their old revolvers if they wanted to. These days the older guns tend to be carried by old-timers, cops who have been around the block a few times, and now they serve as an identification with an earlier era: a time "when guns were guns, and cops were cops," as a 41 year-old officer says. Even Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly still carries his Colt Detective Special revolver, strapped to his left ankle, according to the article.
As the Times writer says, the cops who carry their old .38s are the guys who married their high school sweethearts. Here are a few of their comments on why they keep the old guns:
"They say, 'What are you, an old-timer?'" said Officer Mark Steinhauer, 41. "My answer to them is, 'It worked for John Wayne.'"
Officer Melita joined in 1986 and patrolled in Harlem for 18 years. He believes his gun shows younger officers that he was at work when times were different in New York. "That's how you can tell who's been on the job awhile," he said. "Back when it was, you know, wild."
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