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S&W Hand Ejectors: 1896 to 1961 All 5-Screw & Vintage 4-Screw SWING-OUT Cylinder REVOLVERS, and the 35 Autos and 32 Autos


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Old 12-29-2007, 04:56 PM
Curt Dawson Curt Dawson is offline
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What were the most common carry guns and holsters of the differnt federal agencies during the time of 1920-1950?Photos from the era will be greatly appreciated.
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Old 12-30-2007, 07:05 AM
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The Colt Official Police (and its earlier version, the Army Special) were probably the overwhelming choice, but some S&W's and military surplus .45 revolvers saw some use, too, especially in the Border Patrol and the US Postal Service. Park Rangers also used some M-1917's.

I used to read those books by C.B. Colby about various cop shops, and these were the overwhelming choices.

I have also read books on the various agencies, confirming this info.

After the early 1960's, S&W began to dominate the game. Colts just had too many cylinder timing issues, and S&W often had a price advantage, and the guns had actions that many preferred.

This is the easiest to answer of all those impossible "which cops used what" questions. Usually, there is too much variance to give simple answers. This time was an exception.

I know that it isn't all-inclusive, but will cover most of what you asked.

Some Detective Specials and snub S&W's were used for plainclothes and backup needs. (The S&W Bodyguard was developed to meet the needs of an unspecified US Agency. However it appeared a few years after your time frame.)

The .357 magnum was popular with the FBI for years, but most revolvers they issued were still .38's.

Keep in mind that in those days, personal guns were common, too. Not everyone carried the official issue piece.


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Old 12-30-2007, 09:42 AM
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Gnerally, I agree with the remarks of TexasStar. I would add that the 1911 auto was also popularly carried by many Fed's, in particular the U.S. Dept. Of The Treasury, Bureau of Narcotics. The predecessor to the modern DEA. A number of noteable FBI agents also preferred the Colt .45 ACP for obvious reasons and they were easily available. Most Fed's I knew back in NYC were packing S&W or Colt .38 Specials. A few carried autos before the popular transition to autoloaders which by that time (late 70's early 80's) became the order of the day for most law enforcement agencies. I think it would be fair to say that classic revolvers like the Registered .357 Magnum, .44 Hand Ejector's and the like were certainly carried by some Federal agents, the Registered Magnum in particular by the FBI guys. But I think overall, that would be an exception in contrast to the rather common service type weapons most other Federal agents typically carried for work. After the Chief's Special was introduced, Colt's Detective Special remained popular right through the 1960's. In the end though, the little Chiefs Special offered compact convenience, concealment and adequately effective performance. I think it became the preeminent choice of most lawmen in plainclothes, particularly in large cities across America for those reasons.

The M&P 1905 Hand Ejectors S&W's and the Colt models in comparable frame sizes like the Army Special and Official Police models probably made up the lionshare of what they were issued and/or carried c. 1920-50. I think that would be a fair assertion.
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Old 12-30-2007, 12:15 PM
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My dad started with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1950, retiring in 1972. He started off carrying a Colt Detective Special, went to a Colt Cobra and finally ended his career carrying a Colt Agent. The Agent, and he thinks the Cobra, had the factory hammer shroud installed. He can't remember about the Detective Special. He carried a Heiser holster early on (which I still have) and a Bucheimer at the end, which I also still have. When he retired agents weren't allowed to purchase or take their service weapons with them. I do have a Colt Agent and Cobra in the same configuration as he carried.
Near the end of his career, the BNDD (Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs) allowed agents to carry any weapon they qualified with. He was Agent in Charge when he retired.
Agents under his command carried some of the following for duty and back up:
Browing HP
S42 Luger (honest!)
S&W M60, 36
S&W M39
Mauser HSc
Walther PPK/s
And some others I can't remember. FWIW, I found the last cylinder full of ammo that my dad carried when he retired. It consisted of 5 rounds of Winchester 158 gr. Lead RN and one round of Super Vel 110 gr. "Police Only" load.
As for long guns, the two that I rememeer were a 1897 Trench Gun (in the Denver office) and right before he left the Cleveland office, a M1A1 Thompson. In the office safe in Cleveland they also had a unfired (until I got to shoot it) Ithaca 1911A1 and a M&P, 6" Blue unfired in the Gold Box....again until I shot it. We tested the new Super Vel ammo in it.
I remember my dad shooting his Colt Agent with 148 gr. wadcutter ammo. One handed, he would put 3 consecutive shots in a 4" bullseye at 50 yards.
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Old 12-30-2007, 12:45 PM
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I've heard that several of the old Feds during the gangster era carried Colt 1911 .38 Supers because of their penetration qualities against automobiles. I remember reading about one of the famous gangsters that was shot at by the Feds with a Thompson as he was speeding away. They later found the car with bullet hits all over it but none of the .45 ACP rounds penetrated the cabin. Those old car bodies had some pretty thick skin!
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Old 12-30-2007, 03:16 PM
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Lefty made a good point about the .45 auto being popular among BNDD agents. I recall a Colt holster catalog of the 1960's mentioning that in the copy for one .45 auto holster.

In a junior high school class visit to the FBI field office here, I recall a M-27 or pre-27 with five-inch bbl. and a VERY smooth action among the .38's. The only handgun I owned then was a Webley MK. VI and I was impressed by the slickness of that .357's honed (?) action.

A few years later, in high school, a Special Agent addressed us on Career Day. He carried a Bodyguard. Don't recall if it was steel or Airweight framed. I suspect that he wanted a small, handy gun for what he thought would be a light duty day.

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Old 12-30-2007, 03:56 PM
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The Post Office had surplus M1917 Smiths and Colts as well as Colt Banker's Specials. I'm not sure who got which gun and under what circumstances.
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Old 12-30-2007, 04:16 PM
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delete, off thread, sorry.
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Old 12-30-2007, 04:54 PM
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In the 1930s, when Charles Askins was in charge of their firearms training, the US Border Patrol carried Colt New Service revolvers, chambered in .38 special.
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Old 12-31-2007, 01:36 PM
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The first FBI Agent I ever met was in 1964 and was in charge of the firearms segment of the police acadamy class that I was attending. He was carrying a pencil barrel M&P 4" carried in carved tan holster with a hammer protector. He carried 3 Remington Hi-way Master 110 gr (1330 fps) Metal Penetrating rounds followed by 3 Winchester 200 gr. (730 fps) rounds. He told us he always used factory loads. I always wondered how far apart those two rounds grouped. He said that he figured that the odds were that his first shots would be at a vehicle and if he were to fire more than three rounds he would be shooting at a man and he believed that the 200 gr was best manstopper in a 38 special.
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Old 12-31-2007, 02:23 PM
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Photog

I very much enjoyed your story.
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Old 01-01-2008, 03:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by n4zov:
The Post Office had surplus M1917 Smiths and Colts as well as Colt Banker's Specials. I'm not sure who got which gun and under what circumstances.
An old timer friend of mine (RIP), worked for the Post Office during the 1920s-30s as a Special Delivery messenger, delivering on a motorcycle. He said he carried a 1917 Smith while working there. The postal system doesn't really have a service like that anymore. He said he handled a lot of diamonds and securities because it was the most secure way to do it.
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Old 01-01-2008, 03:53 PM
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During the 1920's and early 1930's a known Federal Agent of the period (who's name eludes me at the moment) used to carry a S&W .32 Hand Ejector of the period. He was purported to have been an excellent marksman. He engaged in a number of gunfights and won each and every one of them. This goes to illustrate that it's not the gun that wins the fight, but the man holding it.

Scott
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Old 01-01-2008, 05:40 PM
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I seem to recall Elmer Keith mentioing a FBI agent he knew carring a short barreled Merwin & Hubert 44-40.How did the 38 super 1911's compare in popularity to the 45's?
Which was more popular back in the day iwb or shoulder holsters?Strong side or cross draw?And did barrel length affect the choice?
I have seen photo's of 6" revolvers carried in both strong and cross draw holsters of plain clothes leo's.
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Old 01-02-2008, 08:07 AM
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Curt - I know the FBI used to issue Colt .38 Supers, because there were a couple permanently welded into a display case in the New Orleans Field Office in the 90s.

I know a guy who was helping move a Field Office from one building to another. He found an old case of .38 Super ammunition in the gun vault. Since we hadn't issued Supers for about 50 years at that point they told him to keep it. I've been trying to get it ever since.

I think most agents carried issued Colt and Smith .38s, with a wide leeway for personal guns. If you find the thread by retired FBI SA Larry Wack there is a link to his website where there is a great story about a Bu-agent popping away at some whiskey thieves with his issued Smith and Wesson .35 auto!
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Old 01-02-2008, 11:10 PM
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I think that G. Gordon Liddy mentioned having an uncle in the FBI, who carried a .38 Super.


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Old 01-03-2008, 08:23 AM
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Here's a pre-war Super .38 presented to Daniel Milton Ladd (Assistant to the Director) by none other than Delf "Jelly" Bryce. Bryce was SAC of the El Paso office at the time, which probably explains the Mexican grips. The engraving was done by Wilbur Glahn. Ladd's initials are inscribed on the backstrap in addition to being on the grips.
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Old 01-03-2008, 07:39 PM
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Kevin,

That is a "SUPER" Super!! And what a provenance...Ladd, Bryce and Glahn! Bryce became SAC of the El Paso office on April 29, 1941. What was the date of the presentation Colt?

On a related subject:

On page 97 of "Jelly Bryce-Legendary Lawman" the following statements are made:

"Another legend has it that because of his firearms prowness, Bryce had one of the first .357 Magnum revolvers produced by Smith & wesson. Some say he purchased it and some say it was presented to him. ...If D. A. Bryce purchased or was given one, the records do not reflect it. A letter in Smokey Hilbert's OCPD peronnel file shows that he and Lt. Newt Burns ordered two of the new guns for official duty purposes through the OCPD on Febuary 10, 1936. One of the guns was blued and one was nickeled, each costing $48."

Have any of these RM's shown up in your database?

Bob
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Old 01-03-2008, 08:01 PM
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I know you've all seen this picture of Jelly Bryce showing his form with his RM:




What do you make of the odd positioning of his middle finger?
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Old 01-04-2008, 07:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by sigp220.45:
I know you've all seen this picture of Jelly Bryce showing his form with his RM:




What do you make of the odd positioning of his middle finger?
The gun could have had the factory grip adapter installed.
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Old 01-04-2008, 08:13 AM
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Bob,

The Super .38 was shipped on May 27, 1941. I wished I owned it!

Regarding Jelly's grip--it is unique.
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Old 01-04-2008, 08:47 AM
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Great multiframe exposure. His grip is definitely "unique".

He apparently had very large hands and exceptionally long fingers, especially the middle one. I have large hands and long fingers but when I try to grip a Magnum, with a grip adapter attached, as he is holding his, my fingers still don't come to the points on the gun or to each other as his do. ( To say nothing of the fact that it feels very insecure and unstable to my way of training.) It obviously worked for Jelly though.

His grip is the only one that I've seen that looks like it would benefit from a trigger spur.

In addition to the position of his middle finger, the web of his hand is well up on the frame knuckle and it appears that his ring finger is up against the grip adaptor. This high grip puts the forearm much more in line with the bore and would certainly aid in recovery in fast double action shooting.

Bob
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Old 01-04-2008, 08:53 AM
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Bob,

I forgot to answer your other question but, no, none of these RMs are in my database. I hope to get them in there someday.

It is interesting that Jelly chose a Colt Super .38 as a gift to Ladd, rather than a S&W Magnum.

Regards,
Kevin
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Old 01-04-2008, 09:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by kwill1911:
... is interesting that Jelly chose a Colt Super .38 as a gift to Ladd, rather than a S&W Magnum.

Regards,
Kevin
Kevin; In those days the .38 Super was viewed by many as the "Gunmens' Gun" being much better than the .38 Special and also having more rounds that the .45 ACP version. Automatics were still looked down on by many because of 'too many things to work and thus too many more things to have go wrong.' Without a doubt the automatics are best in the hands of serious shooters and not the average Joe.

MAK
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Old 01-04-2008, 09:15 AM
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Kevin,

I thought the same thing about the choice of the Colt over the Smith, however as we know, the Super .38 preceeded the development of the .357 and it was very popular with lawmen of the era. Maybe he knew that was what Ladd wanted as a "Bar-b-cue gun".

I think it's instructive that the Colt shipped less than a month after Jelly became the EP office SAC. Nice "Thank You" gift, I'd say!

It would also be interesting to know if the gun shipped to the FBI office or to Bryce and how long it took Glahn to do the work. (I'm guessing that was the date shipped from the factory and not the day of the presentation.)

Bob
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Old 01-04-2008, 09:27 AM
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Mark,

Re: Your comment about the .38 Super being the "Gunman's gun".

I hope it isn't too much of a thread drift from "Federal Lawmen" to show this one. It was shipped in November 1936 to my wife's grandfather who was the Sheriff in Titus County Texas. Sorry that I don't have a good picture of just the gun but this shows his badges (Sheriff and Cotton Belt Special Ranger), along with his diamond stickpin, back up Smith with pearl grips, holster and his desk name plate. The gun shipped with the ivory grips and I still have the original box with the tiny IVORY label on the end.
Bob
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Old 01-04-2008, 11:09 AM
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Bettis,Wow that is awsome!
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Old 01-04-2008, 02:29 PM
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KKG/MAK (?),

As a long-time Colt Auto collector I'm pretty familiar with Super .38s and their history. But it still seems strange to me that Bryce chose one as a gift since, AFAIK, he never carried one--may not have ever owned one. Perhaps he knew what Ladd would like.

BTW, J. Edgar Hoover's Super .38 was just auctioned off last month.

Regards,
Kevin
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Old 01-04-2008, 03:16 PM
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Those Supers and their provenance make me weak kneed!!!!! They are pretty much kooler than KOOL!!!!!
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Old 01-06-2008, 12:24 PM
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Neat thread. My father entered on duty in the Border Patrol in 1940. His duty weapon was one of those Colt New Services in .38 Special. The family story was that in an effort to take the mystery out of it and make me less curious about his gun, he unloaded it and gave it to me to play with until my interest in it faded. It probably weighed more than I did at the time. As one of my friends once said, the experiment obviously failed and all it did was produce a monster. I wouldn't mind finding on of the original "USIS" marked guns or even a civilian version, but needless to say they aren't too common.

When he came back from WWII he and all the other retreads requalified with S&W M1917s; I have a picture of them on the range with the guns and military holsters. Not sure what they used thereafter but think they were Colts, possibly the OP-framed Border Patrol 4" .38 Specials.

I was privileged to know one of the original agents in Ness's Prohibition squad, an old geezer named Al "Wallpaper" Wolf. Met him and got to know him a little in Chicago in the mid 60s. He told me about shooting a guy above him on a flight of stairs with a Colt .45 auto. He said he hit the guy who then hollered, "You killed me!"; whereupon Wolf hollered back, "That's what I'm trying to do, you ***." (Obviously a different time. Wolf was credited as an adviser on Costner's "Untouchables" movie.)

For the first half of my career you could carry just about anything as long as it was "American made"., .38 caliber or larger, and blued finish--no ivory, pearl, thumbrest, or otherwise conspicuous stocks." My impression then and now was that most federal agencies with pistoleros in them were equally relaxed in those days. Nowadays with "one size fits all" things may be easier for instructors and management weenies--but a helluva loss for some of us.

I still have a printout from the late 70s showing weapons in inventory, and it was a real Heinz 57 listing. Probably better than the average Cabela's "gun library".
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Old 01-07-2008, 10:49 PM
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According to a book I read recently about the attack on Blair House in 1950 in an effort to assassinate Harry Truman, the Secret Service presidental security detail carried Colt Detective Special revolvers with a Thompson locked in a cabinet in the basement of the residence. The White House police carried Colt Official Police revolvers.

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Old 01-09-2008, 03:40 AM
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How about back up guns? I have to believe that small autos were probably carried for reserve weapons. During that time 1920's - 1950, hell, I wouldn't be shocked to learn that some of those fellows were packing top breaks for a backup piece either. There was an old time detective I once knew, he retired around 1955 or so. By 1975, he was pushing 80 + years old and took ill one afternoon. He called and asked me to drive him to his Doctor, so I obliged.

When we arrived sitting in front of the Doctor's office in the car, he handed me a .38 M&P, a pair of brass knuckles, a small blackjack and said "oh, I almost forgot" as he handed over a Colt New Line .22 single action he had concealed in his shirt pocket. That ole' boy went about pretty well heeled.

I suspect an awful lot of LEO's from that era did likewise. I have always carried 2 and on "high risk" occasions, 3.
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Old 01-09-2008, 07:17 AM
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I know this doesn't fit into the Fed area but thought I would throw it in as a point of interest. During the time frame 0f 1920-1950 there were still quite a few Texas Rangers carrying Colt SAA in 45 colt and a few with Colt 1911's. Also One I know of carried a Luger 9mm.
Just thought I'd throw my two bits in.
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Old 01-09-2008, 07:55 AM
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Did anyone mention that some Texas Rangers used S&W .44 Specials? Lone Wolf Gonzuallas (sp?) was one, and they were so well known on that force that the Rangers on a TV show carried them, Model of 1950 Military, I believe.

T-Star
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Old 01-09-2008, 01:12 PM
Curt Dawson Curt Dawson is offline
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Well this weekend I picked up a 2" square butt M&P to go with my 6" M&P.Now I ust need a 1911 and a Thompson to go with my fedora.
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Old 01-10-2008, 11:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Curt Dawson:
Now I just need a 1911 and a Thompson to go with my fedora.
Now, don't make fun of me! I wear a man's dress hat every day! Men dressing as men, instead of little boys... WHAT A CONCEPT!

Scott
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Old 11-10-2015, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by bettis1 View Post
Kevin,

That is a "SUPER" Super!! And what a provenance...Ladd, Bryce and Glahn! Bryce became SAC of the El Paso office on April 29, 1941. What was the date of the presentation Colt?

On a related subject:

On page 97 of "Jelly Bryce-Legendary Lawman" the following statements are made:

"Another legend has it that because of his firearms prowness, Bryce had one of the first .357 Magnum revolvers produced by Smith & wesson. Some say he purchased it and some say it was presented to him. ...If D. A. Bryce purchased or was given one, the records do not reflect it. A letter in Smokey Hilbert's OCPD peronnel file shows that he and Lt. Newt Burns ordered two of the new guns for official duty purposes through the OCPD on Febuary 10, 1936. One of the guns was blued and one was nickeled, each costing $48."

Have any of these RM's shown up in your database?

Bob
Newb here. I was researching Hilbert. He ordered a 3.5" blue and it was delivered in Dec. 1937. I have it. Received my letter last night. Very interesting man. I thought about sending it to the big gun show this weekend. What say you?
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Old 11-10-2015, 12:16 PM
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Default You have a true treasure there.............

...........do some good research on value before putting it on the market if you haven't already.

Love to see images of it. Do you have the holster, badges or any associated items from his career?

Best to you.
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Old 11-10-2015, 02:56 PM
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No badges, holsters. There are so few on the market, where do I start? It may have more local value than regional or national. Rock Island Auction?
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Old 11-10-2015, 03:49 PM
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Default Colt Official Police and killed in the line of duty

My uncle was a St. Paul Police Officer and later a Detective. He carried a Colt Official Police 6 inch, even when in his plain clothes assignment. (Probably due to financial factors in buying another sidearm.) In 1949 he was shot by a liquor store robber. My uncle, Alan Lee, was at the front door of the perp's girlfriend's residence when the perp emerged from behind the door and shot Det Lee twice, killing him instantly. The perp, James Hatcher, then leaped over my uncle's body and fled on foot to another building.

Officers later located Hatcher in this tenement, hiding under a mattress. They order him to surrender. Failing to do so, officers stepped back and emptied their guns into the mattress. Fifty years later, the Minneapolis paper ran a story about this tragic event. A day or so later, Det. Lee's son received a call from the emergency room doctor who both attended my uncle and James Hatcher, when each had been brought to the ER. The doctor assured my cousin that his father did not suffer from the wounds, that he was killed instantly. Further, that when examining Hatcher, he (the doctor) stopped counting after reaching 14 bullet holes in the body.
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Old 11-10-2015, 04:27 PM
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Hoov I sent you a PM.
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Old 11-10-2015, 05:38 PM
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8 yrs old...not bad. What exactly is the standing record for a thread brought back to life?
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Old 11-10-2015, 06:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoov View Post
Newb here. I was researching Hilbert. He ordered a 3.5" blue and it was delivered in Dec. 1937. I have it. Received my letter last night. Very interesting man. I thought about sending it to the big gun show this weekend. What say you?
What an entrance! We would love to see pictures of this gun and here the full details of the letter! I would never sell it at a gun show. JMO.
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Old 11-10-2015, 08:04 PM
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From reading Skeeter and others, it appears that the 38 Super was always very popular along the border.
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Old 11-10-2015, 09:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boykinlp View Post
What an entrance! We would love to see pictures of this gun and here the full details of the letter! I would never sell it at a gun show. JMO.
Well, stand by. I'm backing up my crackberry right this minute. You'll have to wait on the pics. The letter says Hilbert ordered one and it was shipped from Smith on Dec. 14, 1937. He was an OKCPD detective at the time. Shipped with a 3.5" barrel, Marble gold bead sight, U notch rear, hump back hammer and checkered Magna grips. It was sighted in at 25 yards with 38/44 Supper (misspelling is Roy, not me) Police .38 Special ammo using a dead center hold. Shipment was for a single unit.
The only thing different is the addition of a Tyler T-grip, which has obviously been there awhile.

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Old 11-10-2015, 10:25 PM
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I'm glad it was resurrected, as I didn't catch it earlier. I really enjoyed it, THANX.
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Old 11-10-2015, 10:33 PM
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Try these.
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Guns of the Fed's 1920-1950-img_0993-jpg   Guns of the Fed's 1920-1950-img_0994-jpg   Guns of the Fed's 1920-1950-img_0999-jpg  
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Old 11-11-2015, 08:42 AM
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Another very interesting thread from the past. Thanks for restarting.
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Old 11-11-2015, 08:57 PM
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Too cool for school, Hoov!! Thanks for sharing this awesome piece of history!

PM sent

Last edited by Mike Conti; 11-12-2015 at 10:03 PM.
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Old 11-11-2015, 10:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Conti View Post
Too cool for school, Hoov!! Thanks for sharing this awesome piece of history!
Turns out, Hilbert was involved with Wade, Frey and a bunch of the other big gamblers from my brief research. Seems there is a book out there that tells the story of those men and that era. I have had several members here tell me a little history and lead me down another path I did not know existed. Some of whom, their parents or grandparents served with Hilbert. For those of you not from Oklahoma, the story of Cattleman's Cafe is folklore that is actually truer and larger than the legend. Liquor by the wink pretty much sums up our state. Google it. It's funny.
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