Some Service Pistols Are TERRIBLE
The gun-buying public often assumes that because a gun is adopted by a military or police force that it has to be good…right? The idea has certainly sold a lot of guns…
But it’s also not really always true. In fact, some are downright awful. Not only that, but a good number of service rifles are downright terrible. Not only that, but a number of service rifles in current issue aren’t as good as you think they are.
Rack-grade M4 carbine with your 2 to 4 minutes of angle, we’re looking at you!
Anyhow, let these pistols be a lesson to you…because they were awful at the time, and they’ve been awful ever since. Just…say…no.
Colt Single Action Army
The Colt Single Action Army (aka the “Peacemaker”) had a lot of virtues for its time and certainly has a place in American culture. However, it had a number of design deficiencies compared to equivalent handguns of the same era, and was technologically obsolete fairly quickly.
The SAA is painfully slow to reload, especially compared to the Smith and Wesson Model 3 (aka “Schofield”) top-break. The Remington 1878 had a stronger action (fewer internal parts, thicker top strap) and a hammer notch between cylinders so you could safely carry 6 with the hammer down.
Smokeless powder and double-action guns hit the market 20 years after the SAA’s introduction, so it was obsolete within 15 years. That’s why it was replaced in 1892 with a double-action revolver with a swing-out cylinder.
The CZ 52 is one of those guns where the manufacturer tried something legitimately interesting, but it turned out to be a terrible idea in practice.
The CZ 52 was chambered for 7.62mm Tokarev, but then-Czechoslovakia always insisted on doing things differently than the Russians. They forwent use of the TT-33 pistol (which wasn’t bad) and instead came up with the CZ-52.
The 52 uses a roller-delayed short-recoil design, a la the FG-42 machine gun, and has a decocking safety, a la Walther PP/P38 pistols. The only problem is that the rollers were never heat treated and broke, as did the firing pin block in the safety mechanism…leading to accidents.
In short, it’s prone to breaking and firing when it shouldn’t. The Czechs, however, stuck to their guns (literally) and only kept this overly complicated, unsafe and ugly handgun (it is) in service for 30 years.
The M13 Revolver
Smith & Wesson and Colt produced some excellent service pistols (the Model 10, the Model 19, the New Service) but the M13, an airweight .38 Special made for US Air Force pilots, was a real stinker. It was made by Colt (based on the Cobra) and S&W, based on the K-frame.
The M13 is a medium-frame snubby revolver with a 2-inch barrel chambered in .38 Special. The cylinder was made of aluminum to save weight, which led to common reports of cylinder rupture shooting standard-pressure ammunition.
The Air Force developed a low-velocity load to compensate, but it barely made a difference and all but a handful were rounded up and destroyed. Collectors are warned to never fire it.
The Nambu Pistol
The Nambu was the sidearm of the Empire of Japan in the early 20th century and…well, they’re just terrible.
The Nambu was designed to look like a Luger…but a Luger it ain’t. The extreme grip angle interferes with the top round being stripped from the magazine, and weakens the magazine spring at an accelerated rate. Feeding issues were common.
The internals are also very delicate, so accidental discharges are easily induced. Literally bumping the bolt (Nambus use a reciprocating bolt rather than a slide, kinda like a Mauser C96) can fire some versions. Unreliable, dangerous, and they were expensive to boot.
S&W Model 27/Highway Patrol
It isn’t that the Model 27 is bad. It’s actually not. It’s that almost everyone who carried one HATED lugging the thing around, and that makes it a bad choice of service pistol.
The Model 27 was the first .357 Magnum revolver, made on S&W’s N-frame…their big, heavy, full-size frame. Even with a 3.5- or 4-inch barrel, the gun is enormous and heavy, at almost 50 ounces loaded and 9 inches long, 6 inches tall and 1.5 inches wide.
The Highway Patrol model was slightly simplified, but no smaller. When medium-frame magnums like the Colt Trooper and S&W Model 19s came out, police took to them in droves. It also helped a Model 19 was actually affordable; a Model 27 cost about $1,000 in today’s money.
Again, it’s actually not a bad gun. In fact, it’s one of the all-time greats…except if you have to have one on your hip day after day.
It shouldn’t be a shock; the problems with the Colt Walker are known about and have been known about since not too long after it was made for use in Texas’ war of independence from Mexico.
They’re prone to chain firing/cylinder rupture if powder gets on the front face of the cylinder. The loading lever is prone to dropping after firing. They’re also ENORMOUS.
In fact, all of these issues were specifically addressed in the successor model, the Colt’s Dragoon. That should be a clue.
Sure, it’s iconic. But they were prone to malfunction and explosions.