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Old 08-26-2008, 02:33 PM   #1
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Something to think about:

With the introduction of the revolver early in the Nineteenth Century, the military forces of most nations adopted large caliber revolvers, .40~.45 caliber. These armies continued with large caliber through the early cartridge arms. Then, in 1892, the United States went to a .38 caliber revolver, and most European powers selected revolvers as small as .32 caliber, in the 6.5mm~7 mm range, up to about 8mm. England was the lone holdout, maintaining its .455 series until after WW I.

How do ya'll account for this?

Bob Wright

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Old 08-26-2008, 04:23 PM   #2
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Hidebound British traditionalism?

I also wonder what ballistics information they had. We know today how detailed handloaders are, I would assume governments would have had the same data. I would guess that hand to hand combat or close range combat wasn't the main type of fighting in the late nineteenth century, so the governments decided that cost was too high for seldom used firearms.

They may have started the "lighter, faster is better than heavier, slower" debate that rages on today. Which we found out in the Philippines wasn't always true. The europeans have always seemed to use smaller calibers. Maybe it's genetics.....

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Old 08-26-2008, 04:28 PM   #3
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Just a guess here but I think the popularity of the larger calibers here in America had to do with the predators we still had an abundance of especially west of the Mississippi river . I've heard of Wolves in Europe and I think one species of bear about the size of our Black Bear but never of Big cats "other than the Siberian Tiger" or any Bear that compares to our Grizzly , I also think the American Gray wolf is much larger than the European species .

I bet smaller calibers were popular even in America in the far eastern cities for law enforcement use much earlier than the 1890's .

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Old 08-26-2008, 07:14 PM   #4
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I believe it was a good idea, but bad execution. I don't believe they realized at the time it would take considerably more speed from a .38 caliber projectile to obtain satisfactory results.

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Old 08-26-2008, 07:27 PM   #5
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I account for the fact John Moses Browning wasn't done with his design(s) yet.

Wasn't the small cartridge idea supposed to be more effective = less recoil, and cheaper? Didn't we buy a bunch of import models in smaller calibers, then we bought a bunch of Luger's that didn't work out, so we were back to the .38, was it the long Colt, or straight .38?

Anyways, didn't we get the collective VETO on that weapon during the Phillipine Invasion/War/Supression?

History is a little hazy, and I am no means a revolver expert at all, but I seem to remember something along those lines....

JD

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Old 08-27-2008, 02:44 PM   #6
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Thanks for your responses. Here's my take on the subject, just my thinking, nothing official.

By 1892 the U.S. Army was winding down its Indian campaign. Only the United States and England fought the "savage wars" campaigns after the 1870s or so. Since European armies assumed conflicts would be between "civilized" nations, the need for powerful handguns seemed unlikely. England continued in its frontier wars in Africa and India.

Further, mounted warfare was winding down. U.S. Army cavalry officers emphasized that the carbine, not the revolver, was the weapon of choice for the cavalry. The horse was used for rapid troop deployment to the combat zone, whereupon the cavalry dismounted and fought as light infantry.

This just my surmise, you understand.

Bob Wright

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Old 08-27-2008, 02:52 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dillinger View Post
Didn't we buy a bunch of import models in smaller calibers, then we bought a bunch of Luger's that didn't work out, so we were back to the .38, was it the long Colt, or straight .38?

JD
The .38 cartridge to which you refer was initially referred to as the .38 Army, later commercially known variously as the .38 Long Double Action (.38 LDA) and finally as the .38 Long Colt.

The .38 Army had a reduced diameter bullet seated in the case and was inside lubricated. The .38 Colt Navy had the heel crimped bullet, and was the basis for the commercial .38 Short Colt.

Smith & Wesson lengthened case of the .38 LDA and el;iminated the hollow base bullet to make the .38 S&W Special. The .38 Special was designed as a successor to the .38 Army round, but the Army was no longer interested in a .38 caliber anything.

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Old 08-27-2008, 10:11 PM   #8
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I wonder if it may have had something to do with the development of smokeless powder in 1884? It may have been believed by the brains of the day that the higher pressure alone would improve ballistic performance of small bullets. That's only a guess.
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Old 08-27-2008, 11:20 PM   #9
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Didn't Teddy Roosevelt have problems stopping drug-crazed enemies with the .38 revolver? I believe the Colt SAA in .45 LC received high honors during that campaign.

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Old 08-29-2008, 02:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pioneer461 View Post
I wonder if it may have had something to do with the development of smokeless powder in 1884? It may have been believed by the brains of the day that the higher pressure alone would improve ballistic performance of small bullets. That's only a guess.
Smokeless powder did indeed come into use around 1884, and the .30-40 Krag was the first military cartridge taking smokeless powder to be used by the U.S. Army.

But, smokeless powder didn't work too well in the revolver, and blackpowder continued to be used in revolver cartridges after the turn of the Century. In fact, semi-smokeless powders were developed for revolver cartridges and used up until just befor WW I.

Revolvers were made with greater tolerances, to allow for blackpowder fouling. When smokeless powder was substituted, the cartridges cases set back to hard, tying up the cylinder rotation. The early .44-40 cartridges got a really bad reputation about that time.

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