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American Handgunner May/June 2012 Digital Edition - Page 38
WINNINGEDGE solidadVicetokeepyouaheadofthecompetition daVeanderson DA Auto evoLution What’s Old Is Often neW f GettinG MoDern D irearms design takes odd twists and turns along the way. Sometimes better technology comes along, sometimes buyers decide another design concept better serves their needs. The evolution of the semi-auto pistol is an interesting one. We don’t have to rely on myths or hearsay since auto pistols have been around not much more than a century, and developments have been well documented. A very influential development was the double-action (DA) concept. The Walther PP series that fathered the idea garnered a lot of publicity. The DA auto seemingly combined the greater capacity, faster reloading, and flat profile of the auto pistol with the “point gun – pull trigger” simplicity of this is a competition version of the beretta 92, the revolver. functionally identical to the M9 evolution in action. the p-38 design (bottom) We won’t reopen the endless debate on pistol adopted as a uS of the 1930s led to the S&w 39 of the ’50s, whether the concept was needed. In fact service sidearm and in revised form, to the S&w 6906 (top). there was great interest in the concept of an auto pistol, which could be fired simply in 1985. by pulling the trigger, rather than having to release a safety, cock a hammer, or cycle a slide. The Walther P-38 adapted the DA concept to a locked-breech, full-size military sidearm. A great many P-38s t the same time police departcame to America as war trophies. The US ments were moving decisively military did a lot of evaluations of enemy ordnance from revolvers to auto pistols. after the war, and evidently found things about Departments wanted autos, and the P-38 they liked. One was the ability to lower they wanted high capacity. S&W the hammer on a loaded chamber by using a lever responded with an array of options rather than a thumb. Armed forces hate having so vast it took a guide to keep track their personnel killed or wounded, and they really of the models. They had single hate having them killed accidentally. Most uninstacks and double stacks, traditional tentional discharges with handguns happen during DA and DAO, carbon steel, stainless routine loading and unloading. steel, and alloy frames, 9mm, .40 I know, I know, it’s all about training, but the S&W and .45 ACP options. The reality is there isn’t always the time, budget, or indioldest man in the world couldn’t vidual motivation available. During WWII, soldiers have kept track. One thing they had walther p-38, pp: the first in common: these “Third Generawent into combat with handgun training limited to firing one or successful dA auto pistol was tions” were some of the best auto two magazines. It’s hard to fault ordnance people for looking the walther pp (bottom), a pistols made by S&W or by anyone for ways to make firearms easier and safer to manipulate. blowback design. the walther else at the time, for that matter. p-38 (top) used the same Currently the traditional DA concept on a locked-breech, with slide-mounted lever seems service-size sidearm. to be fading in popularity, in favor uring the 1950s, the US Army began to seriously conof polymer-framed, striker-fired sider a new service sidearm. They wanted a lighter pistol, preferably one with a designs such as the Glock, S&W DA mechanism. S&W designed an auto pistol along the lines requested. It would M&P, Springfield XD and others. So be assigned model number 39 in 1957. When the military lost interest in a new sidearm, what’s my point? One: We shouldn’t S&W made the pistol available for commercial and police sales. let a successful concept fade without The Model 39 operates differently than the P-38, using the 1911-style tilting barrel at least a nod of respect. lockup instead of the P-38’s separate locking block. That aside, the M-39 strongly And two: Just as the switch to resembles the P-38. It uses a slide-mounted lever as a hammer drop/safety, the grip shape auto pistols resulted in bargain is very similar, and in fact P-38 magazines fit M-39 mag wells (they won’t lock in place prices on police trade-in revolvers, unless cut for the M-39 mag catch). the switch to striker-fired autos Sometimes things don’t happen quickly in the handgun world. In the 1970s, the M-39 is resulting in some great buys in began to be accepted by police agencies, notably the Illinois State Police. Extensive use auto-pistol trade-ins. Everyone by ISP uncovered a few weaknesses in the M-39, and S&W made use of ISP experience is looking for value these days. I in making improvements. In the 1980s and 1990s, the basic “P-38” concept achieved its bought a very nice S&W 6906 from greatest success, when combined with high-capacity frames. a detective friend who now carries Forty years after WWII, in 1985, the US military adopted the M9 Beretta. It had the an M&P. A lot of really good guns slide-mounted hammer drop/safety, the DA first shot/SA subsequent shot, even the same are coming on the market, often at locking block design as the P-38. It added a high-capacity frame and a trigger-actuated really good prices. Oh firing pin lock. happy days — again. CoP-Driven MArket A * 38 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MAY/JUNE2012