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Sat Apr 9, 2016, 11:04 AM


Can Our Society Implement a De-Escalation of Force? Part One

Last edited Sun Apr 10, 2016, 12:15 PM - Edit history (3)

Can Our Society Implement a De-Escalation of Force? Part One of Four

By CompanyFirstSergeant

Part One - The Escalation of Force - 1970s and 1980s



NICOLI staggers down the stairs to the street, unarmed.
DOYLE is waiting at the foot of the stairs.
NICOLI sees him, turns in desperation to run back up.
DOYLE has his .38 drawn. He fires three shots into NICOLI's back.
NICOLI stiffens and falls backward coming to rest at DOYLE's feet.
DOYLE collapses next to him.


I know what you’re thinking: 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do you, punk?

The 1970s

The Godfather. All The President's Men. Dog Day Afternoon. Serpico. Jaws. Arguably some of the best films ever made were made in the 1970s.

Directors and cinematographers used new small, light, hand-held cameras, and had as much disdain for rules of on-location film-making as their on-screen characters had for the rights of the accused.

Does anyone old enough to have seen The French Connection when it first came out not remember having an ‘I’ve never seen anything like this’ reaction to the chase scene? Did you also know that there were no permits for that scene? And that many of the vehicles in the background were part of normal traffic? (Don’t worry, the baby carriage was empty and pushed by a stunt person.)

Does anyone old enough to have seen Dirty Harry when it first came out remember thinking: 'there should be at least some cops around like Inspector Callahan?'

From the streets of New York City to the hills of San Francisco...

and everywhere in between this beleaguered nation of the 1970s...

it was cops…

…gritty, street-smart, rule-bending cops...

that created that thin line between the bad guys and the rest of us.

Or at least that’s what Hollywood wanted us to believe.

And there is the crux of the question at hand…

Does: 1) Popular imagery in media, and 2) the weapons commonly carried by law enforcement…
…have a ‘normalizing’ effect on our perception of which firearms do and do not ‘belong’ in society?

THE 1970S AND 1980S

Murderers, robbers, rapists, pimps, pushers. High quality heroin from south-east Asia flooding the market. Targeted assassinations of police officers. Double-digit unemployment and inflation devastating the economy for the nation’s poor.

Crime was rampant, and the cop’s job was a tough, thankless task.

During that time, the revolver was king.

Police officers throughout the eastern United States were issued, by and large, six-shot fixed-sight .38 Special revolvers. Police officers on the west coast of the United States preferred the option of adjustable sights on their .38s. In the mountains, where four-legged critters outnumbered the two-legged variety, the .357 Magnum was the cartridge of choice.

Sure, military guys had an affection for the Colt 1911 semi-auto handgun - ‘the .45’ - and some old timers still even carried single action revolvers in some western outposts.

But for the most part, the .38 Special revolver was the go-to sidearm for our nation’s law enforcement, and that set the tone for our nation’s firearms enthusiasts, and the media, as well.

Civilians purchased so many revolvers back then, that both Smith & Wesson and Colt were chronically backordered. Snub-nose five-shot .38’s were carried by detectives, Model 10’s were carried by beat cops, and six-inch barrel .44 Magnum revolvers were carried by… well… nobody.

And also, incidentally, the biggest ‘bragging right’ of police officers back then was that ‘I never fired my service revolver outside of the range in 20 years on the job.’


The 1986 FBI Miami shootout was a gun battle that occurred on April 11, 1986 in an unincorporated region of Dade County in South Florida between eight FBI agents and two serial bank robbers. During the firefight, FBI Special Agents Jerry L. Dove and Benjamin P. Grogan were killed, while five other agents were wounded. The two robbery suspects, William Russell Matix and Michael Lee Platt, were also killed.

The incident is infamous in FBI history and is well-studied in law enforcement circles. Despite outnumbering the suspects 4 to 1, the agents found themselves pinned down by suppressive rifle fire and unable to respond effectively. Although both Matix and Platt were hit multiple times during the shootout, Platt fought on and continued to wound and kill agents. This incident led to the introduction of more powerful handguns in the FBI and many police departments around the United States. (Wikipedia)

Actually no…. more powerful handguns were not the ultimate result of the Miami shootout.

Originally blamed was the supposed inadequacy of .38 Special ammunition, and later, the inability of the six-shot revolver of any caliber to keep up with the increased firepower of the criminal element. As a result, the FBI led the nation on a ‘one size fits all’ quest to upgrade the firepower for their agents, and ultimately, the nation’s allegedly ‘outgunned’ police officers.

At first, the FBI explored the possibility of more powerful handguns, but ran into similar problems as to why the ‘.45 Colt’ was never adopted by law enforcement.

Large caliber semi-automatic handguns are tough to shoot. At first, the ‘ten millimeter’ was seen as an upgrade in power, but officer trainees developed ‘flinches’ that would interfere with accuracy, and more importantly, simply hated shooting guns that big.

From there, the FBI went to the .40 S&W (for Short and Wimpy) and many departments took a cynical view of this untried specialty cartridge and settled for…

The 9mm (nine millimeter) semi-automatic handgun.


The 9mm cartridge – originally known as the Parabellum – was invented in 1902 by George Luger, a German inventor. It has marginally more power than the .38 Special, so over the next few years of the mid-to-late 1980s, it will take a panel of experts to distinguish this new technology from the old school hardware.

That’s why the world called upon an Austrian curtain rod manufacturer with an expertise in polymer technology to solve its most pressing problem in the war on crime.

Gaston Glock’s handgun was supposed to appeal to law enforcement agencies as being a dead-nuts basic firearm – or in the vernacular of the time ‘revolver simple.’

Ugly as a bar of steel, and made half of ‘plastic,’ Glock’s new development appealed to no one, and satisfied pretty much everyone. It had no external safety to flick on-and-off, field-stripped to a few basic parts, and was cheap. Police departments love cheap.

It also – in its most popular law enforcement model (the Glock 19) held sixteen rounds without reloading. Nearly the same amount of ammo was onboard a Glock that used to be carried in the gun and on the belt of a police officer with a revolver. And the typical officer carried two extra 9mm magazine of ammo, each carrying 15 rounds apiece.


In training, officers (and armed civilians) who carry revolvers are taught that ammo conservation is paramount. After six shots, your gun is ‘dry’ and will require a reload. Even with the advent of speedloaders, reloading a revolver – especially under pressure – is a stressful event. For those precious seconds, the gun is useless, the reload procedure is filled with audible clicks of the gun opening and closing, and worst of all - six 'bangs' is not a very big number to count to, even for bad guys.

With the Glock (or any other semi-auto, for that matter) the reload process is only required after fifteen or so rounds are expended, and a reload can be accomplished with a loaded gun.

Training- and culture – changed.

No longer was ammunition conservation of paramount importance. Getting lead downrange was.
Nor was marksmanship stressed much either. The old style of training was to start off close-up to a target, and only after proficiency was developed at short ranges, would the officer trainee move to greater distances.

Following the Miami Shootout, training, or so it seemed, was designed to re-fight that very battle.

Trainees would begin in a vehicle. Shots (in the form of banging on the car’s roof) would be fired. Suppressive fire over the fenders would come next. Then the trainee would move ever closer, for more and more accurate shooting, until the final shots – two to the body and one to the head – would be administered for a definitive kill.

To be continued...

EDIT: Please note I have re-formatted this essay to be spread over 4 installments, not 3.

Link to Part Two: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1172189973

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Arrow 7 replies Author Time Post
Reply Can Our Society Implement a De-Escalation of Force? Part One (Original post)
CompanyFirstSergeant Apr 2016 OP
jmg257 Apr 2016 #1
jimmy the one Apr 2016 #2
jimmy the one Apr 2016 #3
CompanyFirstSergeant Apr 2016 #4
DashOneBravo Apr 2016 #5
Eleanors38 Apr 2016 #6
DashOneBravo Apr 2016 #7

Response to CompanyFirstSergeant (Original post)

Sun Apr 10, 2016, 01:14 PM

1. Overall not too bad...a bit off on the rise of the 9mm, and its giving way to the very popular .40

after the FBI went with it...all stemming from the "failure" of the 115gr Dove hit Platt with.

Anyway, these days new ammo sees the 9mm coming back into favor again - even with the FBI.

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Response to CompanyFirstSergeant (Original post)

Mon Apr 11, 2016, 11:59 AM

2. rise of the semi-auto handgun

sarge: 1970S AND 1980S .. During that time, the revolver was king. Police officers throughout the eastern United States were issued, by and large, six-shot fixed-sight .38 Special revolvers.. military guys had an affection for the Colt 1911 semi-auto handgun - ‘the .45’ - and some old timers still even carried single action revolvers in some western outposts.

I know you're focusing on police transition from revolvers to semi-auto handguns, but I will digress a bit & focus on the concurrent development of the semi-automatic handgun in civilian land. Related and all that you know. Often using past posts.
My main point, as hypothesis, is the concommitant rise in violent crime & murder rates, with the rise in production & development of the semi-auto firearm, specifically semi-auto pistol, from the early 60's.

DoJ/BJS, note that post 1986 dates coincide with what your essay noted: During the two decades from 1973 to 1993, the types of handguns most frequently produced have changed. Most new handguns are pistols rather than revolvers. Pistol production grew from 28% of the handguns produced in 1973 to 80% in 1993.
The number of large caliber pistols produced annually increased substantially after 1986. Until the mid-1980's, most pistols produced were .22 and .25 caliber models.
Production of .380 caliber and 9 millimeter pistols began to increase substantially in 1987, so that by 1993 they became the most frequently produced pistols.

violent crime rate ..... murder rate {US}
1964 ... 190 ............ 4.9 -nat gunstock doubled by ~1975, as did murder rate
1973 ... 417 .............. 9.4
1980 ... 597 ............. 10.2
1985 ... 557 ............... 8.0
1987 ... 610 ............... 8.3 see BJS above on semi-auto pistols prod rise
1988 ... 637 ............... 8.4
1989 ... 663 ............... 8.7
1990 ... 732 ............... 9.4
1991 ... 758 ............... 9.8
1992 ... 757 ............... 9.3 Gun ownership rates start dramatic fall ~35% thru 2000
1993.... 747 ............... 9.5 Rise from '87 along with semi-autos
2000 ... 506 ............... 5.5

Today, the proportion of all revolver-stock vs. semi-auto handgun-stock evidently isn't that much different, due to pre existing revolvers; what I mean is about the same total number today, despite the increase in popularity & production of SA.

jul 2015, jimmy the one's hypothesis: semi-auto handgun production increased dramatically from the early 60s' thru the early 90's, and contributed to the concomitant rise in violent crime rates.
Reviewing population stats & approx. gunstock totals:

...... population ........... nat gunstock ..... nat handgunstock (estimates)
1960 .. 189,323,175 .. ~'64, 75 mill .......... ('64) ~25 mill
1970 .. 213,302,031 .. ~'76, 150 mill ........ ('76) ~50 mill
1990 .. 258,709,873 .. ~225 mill ..................... ~75 mill


JTO wrote: The doubling in both the national gunstock & homicide rate, as well as concommitant near tripling the nat violent crime rate between early 1960's & mid 1970's, helps refute that guns were bought to defer violent crime, but were likely a contributing cause of it, since the steep rise in violent crime couldn't be foreseen at a concomitant rate with semi-auto (or any) gun purchases. Doesn't work that way.
Of course there could've been some influence due violent crime rate rise, but came several years later, & was instigated by emboldening criminally minded which semi-auto possession provided.
Also, if it were true that violent crime created handgun demand there wouldn't've been semi-auto demand in low populated low violent pro-gun crime states.

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Response to CompanyFirstSergeant (Original post)

Mon Apr 11, 2016, 12:24 PM

3. semi-auto pistol addendum

some addendums, if interested:

sophisticated semi auto pistols did not achieve widespread acceptance until after wwII: During World War II, revolvers were still issued by various major powers, but their use was decreasing.. After World War II most nations eventually adopted 9mm caliber pistols >> for their standard-issue military pistols ..
After {wwII}, the almost universal trend has been for semi-automatic pistols to replace revolvers for military use, although the transition has been slower in police and civilian use.

Mftrs introduce more sophisticated semi-auto pistols... In 1971 Smith & Wesson offered a safe double-action, high-capacity pistol, the Model 59. CZ-75 in 1975. Beretta introduced the Beretta 92 also in 1975.. groundbreaking Glock 17 in 1982, and SIG Sauer model P226 in 1983. Walther introduced their high-capacity P88 in 1988. In the early 1990s Heckler & Koch combined what they considered to be the most desirable attributes of semi-autos.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-automatic_pistol

year.....................violent crime rate
1960: ...................... 161 ..
1966: ..................... 220 .. Semi-auto coming into vogue
1976: ..................... 468 .. Semi-auto en vogue
1980: ...................... 597 .. Semi-autos in full swing {wiki above}.
1986: ....................... 620 - '87, 610 - '88, 637 - '89
1990: ...................... 732 -- 91, 758 -- 92, 758
~1993: gun ownership rates begin to decline to year 2000
2013 ......................... 368 .. still TWICE the 1960's rate

wiki - spurred later civilian attraction to semi-autos: The M1911 is a semi-auto, magazine-fed, recoil-operated pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. It served as the standard-issue sidearm for US Armed Forces from 1911 to 1986. It was first used in later stages of the Philippine-American War {~1900}, widely used in WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War.
.. By the beginning of 1917, a total of 68,533 M1911 pistols had been delivered to US armed forces by Colt and Springfield Armory. .. WWII and the years leading up to it created a great demand. During the war, about 1.9 million units were procured by the US Govt for all forces, production being undertaken by several manufacturers, including Remington Rand (900,000), Colt (400,000), Ithaca (400,000), Union (50,000). . The M1911A1 was a favored small arm of both US and allied military personnel during the war

<img src="" border="0">

General Social Survey (GSS), conducted roughly every two years ... The GSS data show a substantial decline in the shares of both households and individuals with guns... 1973, 49% reported having a gun or revolver in their home or garage. In 2012, 34% said they had a gun in their home or garage.
.. personal gun ownership in 1980, 29% said a gun in their home personally belonged to them. This stands at 22% in the 2012 GSS survey. http://www.people-press.org/2013/03/12/section-3-gun-ownership-trends-and-demographics/
... The Pew Research Center has tracked gun ownership since 1993, and our surveys largely confirm the General Social Survey trend. In our Dec 1993 survey, 45% reported having a gun in their household; in early 1994, the GSS found 44% saying they had a gun in their home. A Jan 2013 Pew Research Center survey found 33% saying they had a gun, rifle or pistol in their home, as did 34% in the 2012 wave of {GSS}.

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Response to CompanyFirstSergeant (Original post)

Fri Apr 29, 2016, 01:21 PM

4. Move to top...


...as part of a series.

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Response to CompanyFirstSergeant (Original post)

Fri Apr 29, 2016, 03:02 PM

5. Somewhere I saw a report

That the average number of shots used by police was 12 or 16 per shooting.

Now one could argue that it's poor marksmanship or it's an example of the need for high capacity magazines.

I'll try and find it.

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Response to CompanyFirstSergeant (Original post)

Fri Apr 29, 2016, 03:39 PM

6. An excellent background text for this discussion: Rose's "American Rifle: A Biography."


Pub. by Delacourt Press.

Interlaced throughout this text is the centuries-old debate among military people between conservation and markmanship on the one hand, and copious firepower on the other. Certainly, the debate was pitched during the Civil War as the marksmen were challenged by the new Henry, Jennings and Burnside repeaters, but it continued on through WW II; the Marines used the slower turn-bolt Springfield rifle, the Army got the all-new Garand auto-loader -- more lead downrange. Eventually, all forces went semi-auto, though the U S. during the Cold War was a late-comer to the next armament escalation: Full auto fire.

It seems the culture of accuracy and conservation within the military establishment and civilian LEO has given way to firepower, first and foremost. Curiously (as some DUers have asserted), armed citizens may be the last reserve of the "old school" approach, though criminal elements and their firepower are seen as the instigators of bigger & better LEO guns: the .38 begat the .38 Sp begat the .357 Mag.

Still using a .357 revolver.

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Response to Eleanors38 (Reply #6)

Fri Apr 29, 2016, 08:24 PM

7. Shoot and scoot

The US Army Infantry training is based on Fire and Maneuver tactics. Which is basically pinning an enemy down with suppressive (full auto) fire while another element maneuvers closer to them. That unit will then suppress the target while the other unit maneuvers in.

There are assigned machine gun slots. So not everyone is running around shooting full auto because someone has to hump the ammo. So you don't want to waste it.

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