28 Nov 20 “Some have faced the mortal threat who came prepared – they’re with us yet. Others choose to go unarmed and hope that they’ll return unharmed. A few have failed nature’s test and entered their eternal rest. So good fellows, I suggest today bring pistol on your way. That’s my advice, if you would heed it – You never know when you may need it!” Ed Harris Handguns and World History! Prior to the War Between the States, muzzle-loading pistols were mostly confined to a single shot and were carried by some military officers, but were rarely used, and used effectively even less often! They were mostly used in duels, again largely ineffectively! Sights were rudimentary, mostly an afterthought. In active fighting, pistols were considered an unessential supplement (also mostly an afterthought) to sword, cutlass, or saber. However, with the advent of the multi-shot revolver in the 1850s, military interest, particularly by cavalry troopers, suddenly awoke! Six-shot revolvers quickly replaced sabers, which had been the cavalry’s signature weapon. During the American Civil War years, cavalry troopers on both sides acquired every revolver they could get. Most carried several when going into battle! Sabers were left behind by a growing majority! In the post-war years of western expansion, revolvers continued to be popular, with both cavalry troopers and civilian settlers, soon supplemented by repeating rifles (using metallic cartridges). With the development of smokeless propellant by the French in the 1880s, self-cycling (autoloading) pistols and rifles suddenly became possible, and pistols led the way! By the first decade of the Twentieth Century, the market was awash with autoloading pistols in a host of new calibers. The personal-security market, in the UK, Europe, and the USA was hot, and autoloading pistols found a whole new generation of enthusiastic consumers! Shortly after the end of the end of the first decade, the US Army had a new autoloading pistol, the Browning-designed 1911. Germans had the Luger Pistol. But, there was still much push-back within the US military, with many officers accustomed to revolvers and distrusting of the new technology. Then in 1914, WWI breaks-out. For the first time, global war consumed virtually every continent simultaneously! Arms of all kinds were instantly in high demand, particularly among the Great Powers, but the nature of warfare had changed, and continued to evolve at a dizzying pace during the war years!  Belligerent nations were furiously acquiring rifles and machineguns, but now, as had never been the case before at this level, pilots, tank crewman, logistical units, rear-area support units of all kinds needed to be armed, even when far removed from the “Front.” No place was safe from rapid enemy advances, nor invasion by enemy irregulars! Military rifles of the era were mostly unsuitable for this personal-defense task, being heavy, long, unwieldy, and not designed to repel sudden, close attack. Thus, pistols and revolvers were suddenly in great demand once more, and any manufacturer who was in a position to fabricate and ship them (often to both sides!) without delay, found themselves inundated with frantic orders from all over the world! Since the USA was at least officially “neutral” until 1917, American arms manufacturers were overwhelmed with orders, manufacturing and shipping arms to the UK, Russia, and others during the early war years. During the inter-war years, the WWI Allies slept! Available data at the time indicated to war planners that the 1911 pistol was responsible for almost no enemy casualties, but innumerable UDs, many resulting in self-inflicted wounds and unintentional injury to innocent bystanders! It was obvious that we were using this pistol to injure ourselves far more often than to injure the enemy! By this time horse-cavalry is long-gone, so there is no branch of the military actively lobbying for pistols. Of course, precious few in active service had the foggiest idea of how to carry and deploy the 1911 pistol for rapid self-defense (the ostensible reason it was issued in the first place), save some savvy police officers of this “Gangster Era.” Most military “trainers” were naive competitive target shooters who didn’t, and had never, carried a pistol for serious purposes on a regular basis. Thus, pistol training was inadequate and inexpert (much as it still is today), and when these poorly-trained troops actually handled the pistol during active deployment, UDs were a common result, and still are! “PDWs” (Personal Defense Weapons) were proposed just prior to, and after, WWII as a way to get rid of these annoying pistols! Contemporaries understood that “PDW” actually meant “Anything but a Pistol!” The M1 Carbine project, started in 1938, was actually designed to replace the 1911 pistol! The M1 Carbine, submachine guns (like the Grease Gun, Sten), even shotguns were imagined as fulfilling this new “PDW” role Yet, by the Vietnam Era submachine guns were mostly gone. Pistols suddenly became popular, once more, particularly after Jeff Cooper showed us all how to correctly carry and use the venerable 1911, and stop being so afraid of it! Simultaneously, state-passed, shall-issue concealed-carry laws became universal, and carrying pistols concealed concurrently became a common and accepted practice. Relevant training became available toLEOs and non-police alike, greatly reducing gun-accidents. And today, pistols also have a secure place within our military establishment, as relevant pistol training is found in at least a few remote corners! What we are seeing now is pistols, once again, heavily involved in personal, close defense, and rifles splitting into a two-tier system, with 5.56×45 rifles involved (along with pistols) mostly in rear-area defense, while heavier (6, 6.5, 6.8, whenever the Pentagon finally makes up its mind) rifles are found closer to the “Front,” if that term even has meaning today! Modern pistols on the Glock pattern (polymer frame, striker-fired, captured mainspring, no “decocking lever”) are extremely reliable, durable. Modern pistol ammunition is far more terminally effective than ever before. And, modern pistols have useable sights. In fact, many now have optics! Modern pistols are as effective, carryable, and safe is it is possible to make a serious gun, and they enjoy immense popularity in the USA and most everywhere else in the world where people can get their hands on one! Their vital role in close, personal defense, be it in a military, LEO, or citizen context, has not changed in a century, or two! “You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’?” From “Eve of Destruction” written in 1964 as a “protest song” by P F Sloan. Best-known rendition is BarryMcGuire’s, from the same year. /John