Did you know that the Smith & Wesson .38 Model 10 revolver was not the first choice to replace the .32 Webley and Scott semi auto pistol in 1963?
With the murder of Constable Cyril Howe on the 20 December 1963, the inadequacies of the standard issue police firearms could no longer be ignored.
In particular the Model 1913 .32 Webley & Scott pistol ( unaffectionately known as the “Wobbley and Scatter” ).
Whilst it was a relatively good pistol in its day, the Webley & Scotts in NSW Police service were worn out by 1963 and had a bad habit of jamming. It was this factor that led to the death of Constable Howe.
The first choice of the Police Association of NSW in 1963, as a replacement was the 9mm M1934 Beretta semi automatic pistol.
In a newspaper article published in The Age on December 28 1963, the then Secretary of the PANSW, Mr F. Laut, called for the replacement of the Webley & Scott and that the PANSW particularly wanted the 9mm Beretta pistol.
The Italian Beretta was a very well known and reliable pistol that had seen combat usage in WW2 and had emerged with a very good reputation. A number were already on issue to the NSW Police Force, along with a number of other pistols including the 7.63mm German Walther PPK ( the future Commissioner John Avery carried one of these in the 1950s-60s and was very fond of it. )
In the end, after a range of exhaustive tests ( which returned to the old argument of which is more reliable and easy to use in policing situations; the pistol or the revolver ) the S & W Model 10 .38 revolver became the standard issue in 1967. But even this was not without controversy.
Whilst the S&W was an outstanding revolver design, it had first been designed in the 1890s and the NSW Police decided to issue it with a 3 inch barrel instead of the standard 4 inch version on offer from the manufacturer.
The NSW Police Force was the only police force ever to adopt this barrel length, which had to be made to a special order.
The idea behind this was so that the pistol could be issued to plain-clothes as well as uniform police.
The reduction in barrel length affected the muzzle velocity and accuracy of the revolver as the shorter barrel prevented the round burning all its powder load on firing. These problems were never truly resolved, despite changes to the issue ammunition in the 1980s, until the adoption of .40 Glock semi automatic pistol in 1997.
If the NSW Police Force had gone with the original 1963 PANSW request, maybe a whole part of its history may have been different.
Author: David Aspland # 19310
10 March 2019