The following information on special handguns for quick-draw work comes from Section 28 of Shooting by J. Henry FitzGerald. Shooting is also available to purchase in print.
Ever since the introduction of revolvers for defense purposes certain enthusiasts have demanded special arms to gain that fraction of a second so necessary in quick-draw work. Perhaps occasionally a revolver is spoiled in carrying out the ideas of the owner; if so, mark it experiment number one and recall the pleasure attained in the wrecking of a perfectly good revolver.
Many of the ideas carried out are very practical, for instance, the cut-away .38 and .45 models with the two-inch barrels. No claim is made to beauty in these arms but they will deliver the goods. I believe I am the pioneer butcher of revolvers for quick draw, for thirty-two years ago I tried out my first two-inch barrel and this was followed by the cut-away trigger guard, cut-off hammer spur, rounded butt, cut-off ejector rod, straightened trigger, etc. I choose the .38 Colt Police Positive Special in the small model, because it is the most powerful revolver of its weight and a very fine balanced arm. I choose the .45 New Service because it is the most powerful hand gun, and with a two-inch barrel and cut-away in the same manner as the light model it is the king of them all. Two of these arms can easily be carried in the trousers pockets or overcoat pockets.
Perhaps some one would like to ask why do we cut up a good revolver and here is the answer: The trigger guard is cut away to allow more finger room and for use when gloves are worn. The .45 really has plenty of finger room without cutting the guard, but I prefer my own cut away and it does decrease the weight and change the balance. The hammer spur is cut away to allow drawing from the pocket or from under the coat without snagging or catching in the cloth and eliminates the use of thumb over hammer when drawing. The ejector rod end and part of the ejector rod is cut away to prevent rod end from catching or wearing through cloth in pocket. The butt is rounded to allow the revolver to easily slide into firing position in the hand. The trigger is straightened as far as rear of guard will permit and cut off at the bottom to allow it to swing inside the guard to give a flatter surface for the finger to rest on. The front of guard is sloped inward so that finger will roll toward trigger if guard is struck by the finger in a hurried shot.
The top of the cut-away hammer may be lightly checked to assist in cocking for a long range shot. In this operation the trigger is started backward until cut-away hammer can be reached by the thumb, then hammer is brought to full cock as in the original model. This should be practiced with the revolver EMPTY until one is sure that it can be accomplished without the hammer slipping from under the thumb.
In rounding the bottom corners of the grip where front and back strap join the bottom plate allow rounded corners to extend one-half inch upward all around both wood and steel leaving the surface smooth. This may be changed slightly for different size hands.
In cutting away the trigger guard use a metal saw and first cut the front end of guard where it joins the frame. Then cut the bottom of guard one-eighth inch in front of the bottom of trigger WHEN THE HAMMER IS DOWN.
The hammer may be ground off on an emery wheel until it is of the required shape to prevent catching. It is best to remove the mechanism from frame when making the changes. A fine file and fine emery cloth will smooth the parts; if, however, the owner insists on a perfect job, of course, it would mean having the arm being reblued at the factory.
In regard to cutting-away process and other changes which gun cranks require, I do not blame any factory for refusing to accept such orders. If the shooters who lean toward freak arms were familiar with factory routine and the trouble encountered by a factory in producing freak arms they would hesitate before ordering. This does not mean that a factory may not be induced to make a two-inch barrel for a forty-five New Service and they may be induced to cut away the trigger guard and hammer or blue the arm after these changes. This, of course, is special work and the charges may seem excessive unless one knows the time and trouble caused by such work. Rounding the corners of the frame and grips would probably not be attempted by a factory, because such a process would ruin the original lines and also the checking on the grips.
I have been asked many times if cutting away the trigger guard is a safe procedure and if there is any danger in carrying a revolver cut in this manner. I may repeat the number of years that I have carried this combination and up to date I am still walking without a limp. But at this point I wish to state that I take no responsibility for any accident which may happen to my readers or their friends who try the different branches of shooting mentioned in this book. I am stating my experience in hand gun work and if the rules laid down in this book are followed we will all live to a ripe old age, or at least die of some other disease besides lead poisoning.
The main springs in arms changed as I have described should be lightened to the extent necessary for a fast, smooth action but they must not be lightened to a point that will cause a misfire either in single or double action. If any revolver will shoot double action without misfires it will never fail in single action shooting as far as the revolver is concerned for the hammer falls a greater distance from the full cock notch than from the double-action feature.
I suggest many hours of practice with the Fitz Special or cut-away model with the revolver empty, drawing and snapping before actual firing. When any revolver or automatic is carried in the pocket be very careful when placing the hands in that pocket and do not place the finger on the trigger when walking or running for a misstep or stumble would be very liable to fire a shot. The danger in a holster is not so pronounced for the trigger and guard are at least partly covered, but the natural inclination with many people is to put the hand in the pocket, especially if some foreign substance, such as a revolver, is carried occasionally. It calls attention to that particular pocket.
The arms pictured in this section are accurate and powerful enough to take on a hunting trip in the big woods or for protection in the more thickly populated districts. Of course the two .45 caliber two-inch New Service are the most powerful, but the .38 caliber might be taken on a hunting trip to use on small game and it makes a light arm to carry for protection.
When shooting these arms be sure the revolver is clear of the holster or pocket and pointing toward the target before completing the operation of firing the shot.