US Caliber .38 Revolvers in WW II

American-made .38 caliber revolvers arrive in  England from the United States under Lend-Lease.  They are being unpacked at an English ordnance depot early in World War II
American-made .38 caliber revolvers arrive in England from the United States under Lend-Lease. They are being unpacked at an English ordnance depot early in World War II.

During World War II the U.S. government purchased many tens of thousands of .38 caliber pistols from Colt or Smith & Wesson. All these weapons were chambered for the .38 Special cartridge.

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US Caliber .38 Colt Revolvers in World War II

Flying equipment includes  rubber crash suit, Mae West life preserver, dye marker, flashlight with red lens, very pistol, .38 revolver and a sheath knife.  Bar Harbor, Maine. Civil Air Patrol base, June 1943
Flying equipment includes rubber crash suit, Mae West life preserver, dye marker, flashlight with red lens, very pistol, .38 revolver and a sheath knife. Bar Harbor, Maine. Civil Air Patrol base, June 1943.

Colt was the favored supplier of .38 pistols to the U.S. Army prior to World War II and that role continued during the war. The Colt Official Police model (updated Colt Army Special) was procured at first, followed by the Colt Commando, the primary pistol procured, which was a cost-reduced version of the Official Police model. The 2-inch barrel Colt Detective Special was also procured.

Most of the Colt Commando pistols were purchased by the Defense Supplies Corporation (DSC), which had the role of supplying weapons for guards at defense plants and other police or security jobs. There was some use within the Army and intelligence agencies, however, with an estimated 12,800 ordered for use by the Counterintelligence Corps, Military Intelligence and the Office of Strategic Services. The total number of Colt pistols procured during WW II was over 50,000, through the DSC or by the Army Ordnance Department.

Colt pistols may have a parkerized finish with brown plastic grips and the Ordnance bomb symbol on the left frame, but other styles and markings were procured.

US Caliber .38 Smith & Wesson Pistols in World War II

While the Army was buying pistols from Colt, the Navy favored Smith & Wesson. The S&W Military and Police models were initially purchased followed by the S&W "Victory" model, adopted as standard for Naval air crews and shore-based personnel. The Navy also purchased Colt pistols directly or through the Army and would have bought more from Colt if production was available. Colt, however, was producing huge numbers of the M1911A1 .45 Automatic pistol and often ran late on contracts. About 70,000 S&W pistols were procured by the Navy during WW II.

Recommended Books about .38 Cal. Military Pistols

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