RM Vivas
PO Box 900 • Philmont • New York • 12565
Email: robert@vivasandson.com

The Arms Of Law & Order:
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 gun was the Colt M1908 Hammerless. For reasons that are still unclear, these guns were withdrawn from service in 1918 or so.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    My theory is that the M1908's were withdrawn because of a high incidence of accidental discharges relating to their hammerless (actually concealed hammer) design.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 training 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 suspect)?
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 sexist/misogynistic/demeaning/etc.?
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 Officer.

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 document. 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 in?
A: Generally speaking, firearms that are seized or taken in are turned over to the Property Clerks office where they are held until no longer needed (such as for use as evidence in a criminal proceeding). They are then destroyed. This used to be accomplished by dumping them into the Atlantic; it is now done by smelting the guns down.
In  some instances, guns that are slated for destruction are 'converted' to police use. Usually this is for training purposes, although some seized guns have wound up on the street in emergencies. One example would be M1 carbines that were quickly 'converted' to police use and put on the streets during the late 1960's during the riots. Also, provisions are occassionally 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 the roll call room probably thought "That sucks, I'm carrying something else.". Cops do sometimes carry unauthorized weapons for one reason or another.  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 jogging. He was referring to his Glock which at the time was not only not permitted for NYCPD use, it was not allowed in NYC civilian hands either! It's good to be the king/PC!

Back to: Index Page
Return to: NYPD Guns Page - Main