The following information on revolvers, pistols, and their uses comes from Section 1 of Shooting by J. Henry FitzGerald. Shooting is also available to purchase in print.
Many people have compared shooting with other sports such as baseball, tennis, etc. To my mind it is vastly different from any of the other outdoor sports; for instance, in baseball the muscles are tensed for the instant when a certain amount of strength must be exerted and this is true of most of the other sports. In shooting this is not so; shooting requires perfect control over the nerves and muscles of the body and quietness instead of tenseness. From the time the revolver or pistol is raised with the intention of firing a shot, this control or mastery over the body must be maintained until the shot is fired.
Shooting may be compared more correctly with the work of doctors, dentists, and surgeons, and incidentally in the above professions we have hundreds of expert revolver shots. A very noted surgeon told me that he never operated without first taking a pen in each hand and with the arms free brought the points together. (Try it.) In the medical profession this body control is necessary and it is just as necessary in shooting. It is lack of this control which discourages the beginner and only by practice can it be attained.
We have several legitimate uses for the hand gun, and first, and most important, is—protection. Police departments, banks, trust companies, mills, factories, the home, and, in fact, everywhere that anything of value is stored the revolver and automatic pistol play a very important part. In fact, it would not be a very safe procedure for any officer or guard to advertise the fact that his revolver was at home on the piano.
The remark is often heard, “Down with the ‘Gun-Toter.’ We should have a law to stop gun-toting.” I wonder if the reader can recall an instance where a habitual “Gun-Toter” (one who carries a revolver around in his pocket or traveling bag because of his love for firearms) ever got into any serious trouble with it. Of course if he should get good and plastered, as one of our misleading ladies of recent fame would put it, I wouldn’t even trust him with a sash weight. Personally, I can see no reason why a respectable citizen should not be allowed to carry a revolver if he wishes. I do believe, however, that if anyone is going to carry a revolver he should know how to use it, because if he does not know how to handle the arm safely and how to use it properly, it is far better that he should leave it at home until such time as he shall have become proficient in its use.
And here is where the Pistol and Revolver Club becomes useful. Practice makes perfect, and practice will enable the firearm lover to enjoy his pets. Target practice is the foundation for protection as it is for hunting and fancy shooting. Many good prospects are lost to the sport because they did not get the proper start. The purchase of a pistol or revolver, and a few shots fired from it with no knowledge or instruction, is bound to bring forth the remark: “It is of no use, I never would be able to shoot.” The man might become a world beater if given the proper instruction, but he will never know it unless he starts properly.
If the good citizens of our country knew how to handle firearms properly crime would decrease by half. Our present firearm laws in many states so restrict the use of firearms that the honest, law-abiding citizen does not care to comply with the regulations and the red tape required to own a revolver or pistol, yet how else can he protect his home? What greater assurance does a crook need than the fact that he knows not one house in fifty is protected. He carries a revolver to protect himself against the honest citizen and the police, and he will continue to carry a revolver as long as he has his liberty regardless of any law that will ever be passed. Many of our known gangsters are carrying around permits to carry firearms. “How come” that our respected citizens cannot get permits as easily as the crook? However, that is another story.
Protection and target shooting are two very good reasons for learning to shoot. Then trick shooting is a very pleasant sport not indulged in by the majority of shooters. This may be explained by lack of open space at the ranges and lack of competition. All shooters have a desire to beat some one, therefore the love for competition and target shooting.
Hunting with the revolver is a very fascinating sport and not so hard after the art of target shooting is mastered. This brings up the question as to what is the extreme range of the revolver, which all depends upon the ability of the shooter. I have seen a good per cent of hits made up to three hundred yards and even at a greater distance; however, three hundred yards is out of the question in hunting, for many shooters, even with a rifle. Deer are usually killed at a distance of thirty to fifty yards, which is well inside the range of the average revolver shot: The one little fly in the ointment is shooting at moving game.
Another use for the revolver or pistol is as a vacation recreation. Tin cans, sea shells, and thousands of other targets are waiting to be punctured, so taking everything into consideration murder is not the only thing that the much abused revolver is capable of.
As I am writing I glanced at the New York Daily News, which every day tells the amount of deaths in greater New York; from January 1, 1928, until October 15, 1928: guns—251; booze—428; automobiles—815. You can readily see that guns are a poor third and many of those are shots fired by the police to preserve law and order. This same average will be found to exist all over the country.
There are many cases of “I didn’t know it was loaded,” not only by children but by those who are old enough to know better. However, I have visited many families where the father is a gun crank and found that the little ones in the family are taught to keep their hands off guns laid on tables or benches. Many of the youngsters not over six or seven could pick up the arm, unload it and load it again when they were through looking at it, and could take it to the cellar range and shame some of the grown-ups.
Several years ago I visited the home of Major Harker in Baltimore and, of course, the first place we visited was the cellar range. Miss Ellen and Miss Mildred Harker went with us. Miss Mildred was then just able to hold up a .22 Colt Police Positive Target Revolver, but she could hit the bull’s-eye and gave her older sister a battle for first honors. That same little girl visited Camp Perry in 1929 and captured honors many of the older shooters might well envy. She is, without doubt, the best shot with pistol, revolver, and rifle for her age in the United States. This shows what a little interest and the proper training will do.
On the other hand I have visited police departments to instruct the new men, many of whom have told me they never fired a revolver. These men at the end of the school were to be placed on the street. In my instruction I may probably see each man about two hours and in that time he must learn not only how to handle a revolver safely but learn how to shoot to protect his life. A lecture to a body of men who have never used firearms will not teach them how to shoot. They must have the practical experience, get on the range and shoot, and after the school is over they should shoot at least every month or every two weeks if possible.
One of our greatest troubles is getting banks and trust companies interested in shooting. One reason for this is that usually some retired peace officer of twenty years ago is in charge of the guards and he was an officer at the time when revolvers were not as important to protection as they are today. Times have changed and we must change with them.
Never in the history of the United States has the knowledge of firearms, and good firearms themselves, been so essentia1 as it is today. Even in this day of machine guns, steel vests, and other playthings, the revolver expert has the edge. He doesn’t have to spill a peck of bullets down the street to salivate one lone pilgrim. He fires one shot and says: “There, damn you, I guess you’ll be good now.”
While we have been so interested in revolver shooting we have neglected to mention the pistol. I am often asked what use a pistol is to a revolver shooter and this is it. It teaches the revolver man how to squeeze the trigger and to quit flinching. Learn the pistol thoroughly and you can do tricks with the revolver after practice sufficient to accustom yourself to the change of grip, recoil and trigger pull. My good friend, Sergeant J. H. Young of the Portland (Oregon) Police Department, will put his O.K. on this. He says if a man cannot shoot a pistol he is hopeless. And he is right. When the pistol is mastered you are ready to give a good account of yourself with the revolver in slow fire. Then comes the hardest of all, which is rapid fire, but still the pistol has taught you to hold and you can speed up and still hold.
To the men who have shot very little or to those who have not shot at all, I can hardly describe the sense of security you will feel when you know that you are capable of protecting your home, or the pleasure you will get out of target shooting when you begin to make your share of bull’s-eyes at the target range. Shooting in the United States today is showing a big increase over even a year ago. Why not join the multitude? If you were to gaze on the solid firing line at Camp Perry you would say there must be something in it after all.
If one is to take up this fascinating sport the first essential is to purchase the best arms obtainable. It is money thrown away to purchase a cheap pistol or revolver for target shooting, for how may one determine his own ability if he is using an arm which will not shoot accurately. The best shot in the world can only prove himself to be such by using an arm that is extremely accurate. The man cannot correct his own shortcomings if the arm he is shooting is inaccurate. If he is shooting a .22 caliber pistol the sights must be of a size and shape best suited to his eyes, with proper amount of light and proper depth of rear notch, and sighted so that he may hold, at a point on the target, sights just touching the bull’s-eye, or with a wide or narrow white line between the top of sights and bull’s-eye, or as some shooters prefer to hold in the center of the black. Whatever ideas the shooter may have, can be carried out after he has acquired the skill necessary to make a fair score and to name his shots.
High-grade target pistols and revolvers are furnished with target showing where the arm grouped the shots at the factory and, while shooter’s eyes may differ, the arm should group in some part of the bull’s-eye when received. The range usually used for testing is fifteen yards and the arm at this distance should be held in at the bottom of the nine ring on a twenty-yard target. If it is to strike center at twenty yards, hold at the bottom of the black.
The .22 pistols or heavy .22 revolver are recommended for beginners because of the slight recoil, for if the beginner should start with a heavy caliber revolver he would be very liable to develop flinching, which would spoil his score. For rough and tumble police shooting it is not necessary to start with the pistol, for speed is more essential than placing the bullet inside a one-inch circle.
I believe we shooters are all handicapped because we set ourselves up as one hundred per cent perfect, while gun and ammunition are all to blame. I believe with our present perfection of arms and ammunition that all persons who aspire to become good shots may safely lay all alibis on the shelf and place the trouble where it belongs. I may mention a case where I personally targeted eight revolvers for a police department and a few days later I was notified that all the arms shot to the left, three to five inches at twenty yards. I visited the department and they told me their troubles. I asked each one of the men to shoot a target for me and the first man to shoot verified my suspicions; he shot with the right hand and the thumb at right angles with the revolver. With the proper instruction as to thumb pressure this officer made a good score and the arm did not shoot to the left. The others were all corrected in the same way.
No one revolver or pistol may be named as an all-round weapon. For a light target arm, where excessive noise may annoy the neighbors, and for camping trips the following arms are best suited: .22 target pistol; the .22 target revolver, both light and heavy models, and the .22 automatic pistol. For a medium-power hunting and target arm the .38 caliber revolver, with adjustable sights and 6″ or 7 1/2″ barrel, the police revolver, with stationary sights and 4″, 5″, and 6″ barrels, have no equal. For a heavy target revolver and hunting arm the .45 caliber, .44 Special 7 1/2″ target revolver with adjustable sights, and the new service revolvers with stationary sights, 5 1/2″ barrels in the .45, .44/40, .38/40 and .44 Special calibers may be used. The new Super .38 and .45 caliber automatic pistols have earned an enviable position in the heavy caliber arms.
If a trip to Camp Perry is contemplated the following arms may be used: The .22 single shot pistol; the .22 automatic pistol; .38 caliber revolver, 6″ barrel, with stationary sights; the .38 caliber target revolver, 6″ or 7 1/2″ barrel, and the .45 Colt automatic pistol.
For police work and protection the scene changes to the lighter weight arms, with shorter barrels for the men on foot, such as .32 and .38 caliber with 2″ or 4″ barrels. For the mounted men, the heavier arms, .38 caliber, with 4″, 5″, and 6″ barrel, and .45 caliber, with 5 1/2″ barrel.
The small caliber arms, such as the .32, are fast being discarded for the heavier calibers, .38 or larger. The reason is that bootleggers and gunmen, in general, are now carrying .38 and .45 caliber arms; and the officer is badly handicapped if armed with the smaller calibers, for unless the bullet is placed in a vital spot the prisoner or prospective prisoner is still dangerous and capable of returning a larger caliber bullet in exchange.
The pocket model automatics, .25, .32, and .380, are extensively used for home protection and for pocket use. They, of course, must live down the feeling created by arms of cheap foreign make that jam, but this trouble has been overcome in the well-made American automatics of late years. Troubles may now be traced in many cases to a cartridge becoming oil-soaked by an excess of oil in the chamber, thereby causing a misfire, or by the bullet stopping in the barrel, or by the point of the bullet becoming jammed in the runway. Another cause of jams in the automatic pistols is rust or corrosion in the chamber. If the arm is cleaned thoroughly and fresh ammunition is used very little trouble will be encountered.
Soft point bullets are of no advantage in any of the low-powered pistols because the velocity of 900 feet or less is not great enough to spread or mushroom the bullet; therefore greater surety of fire and corresponding striking force can be obtained from the metal-cased bullets.
We could not get along without the automobile now; neither can we get along without the revolver and pistol if we are to protect life and property. We can increase our chances in case we are at any time called upon to protect our own lives or the lives and property of others by learning to use the weapons which are our only means of escaping with life and property from the gentleman who prefers to live upon the efforts of others instead of working for a living.
How helpless a man must feel who is awakened in the middle of the night by a noise in the lower part of the house, his wife and family to protect, and no revolver or automatic at hand. The old alibi given at many police stations, “No, you don’t need a permit to buy or carry a revolver; if you have any trouble call us up,” does not apply. In the first place ninety-five out of every hundred telephones are downstairs and, in the next place, give the crook of today credit for having some sense. The first thing he will do on entering a house is to cut the telephone wires and he will not enter a house until the officer is at the other end of his beat; then where do we get help? We must stand on our own feet and help ourselves.
How can we accomplish this unless we know how to shoot and have something to shoot with. A householder may have the courage to throw out his chest and boldly walk downstairs to be killed by some cigarette-sucking, dope-crazed crook, and his friends will say, “Wasn’t John brave and doesn’t he look natural.” I call such a man the biggest kind of a damn fool or any man who will walk toward a man with a revolver and his own hands empty. The householder has the advantage if he is armed and moves quietly for he knows the lay of the house, position of lights, stairs, etc., but the last ten or fifteen feet is best covered by a bullet if the crook cannot be taken alive.
Instead of discouraging this practice of home protection one hundred dollars reward should be given by the town or city to any householder who will turn over, dead or alive, a burglar caught in the act of robbing a house. This would soon discourage many of our present-day amateur crooks.
Valuable heirlooms, silver, and money may be saved by the outlay of a few dollars and a few hours of practice. Many times I hear from some of my gun-loving friends: “Well, Fitz, I was awakened by a noise the other night and you know that pair of .38 revolvers of mine; I took one in each hand and started downstairs to find it was only the cat, but I sure would have salivated anyone I found trying to walk off with any of my goods.” I then might write and ask: “How about leaving your wife upstairs alone?” The answer will come back like this: “Oh! she was all right; she had my pocket revolver and she can shoot as well as I can; she can take care of herself.” And this is the story of a well-protected home and of a woman who need not fear if she is left alone either day or night.
I have found that it takes very little encouragement to interest every one in the art of shooting. Whether man, woman, or child, they are all interested if the subject is properly submitted to them and they enjoy it as much as the gun-addict. Protection of self, family, and property is a very good reason why every American citizen should learn to shoot. The fear of revolvers and pistols arises from ignorance of their manipulation and use; fear of accidents with firearms arises from the same source. The man who knows how to use a revolver has no fear of it and feels a sense of security in his home that cannot be derived in any other way.
Should the time ever come when the law-abiding citizen, those in good standing at their local police department, could obtain a permit to carry firearms, and the crook caught with a revolver or pistol in his possession in the commission of a crime was due for a life sentence, what a wonderful world this would be. However, so much pleasure may be derived from target shooting that we forget the serious side of shooting and look only upon the recreation side and we get a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that we can shoot quickly and accurately. We have a certain feeling of pride in the fact that our nerves and body are in a condition that will make this result possible.