Military Firearms -- US Caliber .38 Revolvers

.38 caliber revolvers have a long history with the U.S. military. During World War II they were made by Colt and Smith & Wesson. Ruger revolvers entered service during the 1970s. During the mid to late 1980s, the M9 9mm Beretta semiautomatic pistol generally replaced revolvers in the U.S. military.

General Otto P. Weyland, presents the Bronze Star to Lt. Col. Byers, AC of S, A-1, XIX Tactical Air Command, Rear Headquarters, Chalons, France, November 1944.  Sidearm is .38 Cal. revolver.
General Otto P. Weyland, presents the Bronze Star to Lt. Col. Byers, AC of S, A-1, XIX Tactical Air Command, Rear Headquarters, Chalons, France, November 1944. Sidearm is .38 Cal. revolver.

Today in WW II: 21 May 1942 Sinking of the Mexican tanker Faja de Oro by German submarine U-160, off Key West, precipitates Mexican declaration of war against Nazi Germany.   

US Caliber .38 Revolvers

From about 1890 until the adoption of the M1911 Colt Automatic Pistol, the Colt .38 revolver was the standard sidearm of the U.S. military. During the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1913) the Army found the .38 had inadequate power to stop determined fighters, a finding that led directly to the more powerful .45 ACP ammunition and the M1911 Pistol. After the M1911 was adopted, the .38 cal. revolvers became secondary, but continued in use, while the primary pistol was the Colt Automatic or the M1917 .45 Pistol produced during WW I.

Although superceded as the standard firearm, the .38 cal. pistols were widely employed by guards, CID, intelligence and counterintelligence operatives, Navy Shore Patrol, pilots and some officers. The 2-inch barrel weapons were used by CID and counterintelligence personnel, while the 4-inch barrel weapons were commonly used by aviators, guards, U.S. Marines and others. Six inch barrel revolvers were procured and employed, but relatively few.

Tens of thousands were procured during World War II. The pistols continued to be procured at least into the 1970s and were not phased out until the adoption of the M9 9mm Beretta semiautomatic pistol, starting in the mid-1980s.

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Characteristics of the .38 Cal. Military Revolver

.38 Cal. Revolver training for Shore Patrol trainees at the Negro Service School, Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, IL, November 1943
.38 Cal. Revolver training for Shore Patrol trainees at the Negro Service School, Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, IL, November 1943.

A .38 caliber revolver is a pistol in which a rotating cylinder presents six loaded chambers to the barrel for discharge in succession. 2-inch and 4-inch barrels have been in U.S. service along with a limited number with 6-inch barrels.

All revolvers are cylinder-loaded, exposed-hammer, selective double-action, hand weapons. The revolving cylinder with 6 chambers permits firing 6 shots without reloading. The action of cocking the hammer causes the cylinder to rotate and align the next chamber with the barrel. At the full cocked position, the revolver is ready to fire in the single action mode by a "light" squeeze on the trigger. If the hammer is not in the full cocked position, the revolver may be fired "double action" by a longer, heavier squeeze on the trigger.

Recommended Books about .38 Cal. Military Pistols

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