The Arms Of Law &
New York City Police Department Small Arms
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: When were automatics first used?
A: Surprisingly, the Department was rather progressive at one
point and authorized automatics in 1916 for Detectives. The authorized
was the Colt M1908 Hammerless. For reasons that are still unclear,
guns were withdrawn from service in 1918 or so. No automatics were
authorized after that until 1993. Naturally, there were some case by
case authorizations of automatics before 1993, but blanket approval
wasn't until 1993.
My theory is that the M1908's were withdrawn because
of a high incidence of accidental discharges relating to their
hammerless (actually concealed hammer) design.
While I have not found any internal documents that
specifically mention accidental shootings with these guns, there does
seem to have been a rather intense effort to improve handgun safety
shortly after these guns came out. Some support may be found for this
in the departments retaining of Alfred P. Lane, a notable Olympic
shooter of that era, who was described as "..the man who taught the
NYPD how to shoot..." and in the photo that accompanies the description
is shown with a Colt M1908.
Q: How can I find out if my gun is an NYPD gun and can I find out
who it was issued to?
A: The best way to identify a gun as having seen NYPD usage is
through a factory letter. Second best is through a search of surviving
NYPD gun records. Third way is to try and trace the shield number
thatis -sometimes- stamped on the gun.
Q: Why was (name of suspect) shot? Why did cops kill (name of
suspect)? Was it necessary to shoot so many times to kill (name of
A: I don't get into the right and wrong of who gets shot or who
doesn't get shot, and don't get me started on who -should- get shot! I
simply look at the tools, not the reasoning behind their use.
Q: Why do you call female police officers Policewomen? Isn't that
A: Note that prior to 1973, women employed as police officers
were officially title Policewomen. Male police officers were titled
Patrolmen. If I am referring to a period before 1973, I use those
titles. If it is
after 1973, I use the less colorful and somewhat banal title of Police
Q: Does the NYCPD ever sell it's old guns?
A: NYCPD never sells it's handguns simply because they don't
own very many. Handguns are usually the private property of the
officer. I have found only one instance where the NYCPD publicly sold
off it's surplus guns and that was in 1953 when the old Winchester
Model 1892's and some 1894's were sold to the general public. I suspect
there may have been one more
sale in the early 1920's, but the 1953 one is the only one I can
That particular sale put 307 ex-NYCPD guns into private hands.
The gun trade being what it is however, departmental
guns do occassionally make it out the door into the hands of
manufacturers who then re-sell to the private market.
A good example would be the Department buying new
custom Sturm, Ruger & Co. Mini-14 carbines (contract model Mini-14
GB/NY). The Department traded in 100 of it's old Mini-14's as part of
the deal for the new ones. The old one's were dumped onto the used gun
market and are seldom seen today.
Q: What happens to guns that are found/seized/confiscated/turned
A: Generally speaking, firearms that are seized or taken in are
turned over to the Property Clerks office where they are held until no
needed (such as for use as evidence in a criminal proceeding). They are
destroyed. This used to be accomplished by dumping them into the
it is now done by smelting the guns down.
In some instances, guns that are slated for destruction are
to police use. Usually this is for training purposes, although some
guns have wound up on the street in emergencies. One example would be
carbines that were quickly 'converted' to police use and put on the
during the late 1960's during the riots. Also, provisions are
made for rare and valuable specimens (cased Borchardts, etc.).
Q: My (relative/friend) was a NYC cop and he carried an
(Uzi/flamethrower/Stinger missle/etc.). How come you don't mention it
on your website?
A: It is human nature to never be satisfied with what you have. On the
day the NYCPD authorized it's first handgun, some guy in the back of
call room probably thought "That sucks, I'm carrying something else.".
do sometimes carry unauthorized weapons for one reason or
I've interviewed Patrolmen who carried .45's, detectives who packed
magnums, etc. One fellow relates how his grandfather who was a high
ranking individual carried a Colt .38 Super during the Depression.
Certainly there have been some officers who may have been involved in
special projects and were authorized non-typical arms, but these were
special instances and not a common or widespread practice. My
observation is that the higher up the chain of command you go, the more
likely you are to find someone
packing unauthorized heat. A prime example of this was when PC Ben Ward
publicly admitted to packing a "..little machine gun..." when he went
He was referring to his Glock which at the time was not only not
for NYCPD use, it was not allowed in NYC civilian hands either! It's
to be the king/PC!
to: Index Page
Return to: NYPD
Guns Page - Main