Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Philosophical differances

So, catching up on the RSS feeds I've neglected for over a week1, I see that, in No, Children, A .32 “Mouse Gun” Isn’t Really Mousy, Bill commented
Isn’t it weird that in those days, people considered a .32 perfectly sufficient as a military weapon?
I think he misses what today's military would refer to as a difference in doctrine, but which has it's root in philosophy:  Americans were used to the thought of a pistol as a combat weapon, and they expected their officers (and pistol-armed specialists,  AND law enforcement personnel) to actually use them that way.  Europeans, on the other hand, saw pistols as badges of rank, to be used, if at all, to enforce discipline.  Note British officers who "went over the top" in WWI equipped with nothing more dangerous than a swagger cane and a stiff upper lip.

That, in part, is what made the US Military deciding to adopt a 9mm pistol "for caliber commonality with NATO allies"  such a joke:  Not only do you have to be sharing a fighting position with a NATO ally for it to matter, he has to have a pistol.

1.  A lot of the blogs I read, I access directly. 
2.  Which links to View From The Porch: They don’t make ‘em like they used to…  by Tamara.


drjim said...

I'm of the opinion that you never take a pistol to a fight where the caliber doesn't start with a "4".
And preferably end with a "5".

Firehand said...

I have no idea where I read it a few years back, a guy commenting on this subject told of a German officer in the POW camp where he was held who liked to threaten prisoners with the pistol he carried, who the prisoner overheard one day yelling at the armorer to find him something lighter than the nasty, heavy .32 he currently was forced to lug around all day...

AMB said...


I'm of the opinion that, if you know there's going to be a fight, you shouldn't be bringing a pistol at all. Long guns are for the fight you expect, pistols are for the fight that finds you unawares.

Jim said...

You are in good company. From Col. Cooper:

"...the Europeans retain their preoccupation with the 9mm Parabellum cartridge ... the Europeans as a group are not interested in stopping power. As one Frenchman once told me, if in Europe you shoot a criminal, he sits down on the curb and bursts into tears. In America he will shoot back and kill you if he can."

drjim said...

Yes, I agree. If you *know* you're going to a gunfight, either take your rifle or DON'T GO.
My instructors have always told me that you use your pistol to fight your way to your rifle.
I keep my Sig P226 in the nightstand, right next to my Remington 870!

Anonymous said...

I agree that as Clint Smith’s axiom: “The only purpose for a pistol is to fight your way back to the rifle you should have never laid down.”

I just know I'm going to face a flame for the rest though :-)

I hate to remind you but it wasn't the 'Europeans' who insisted on calibre commonality. That would have been the US. Remember we here in the UK had developed a new rifle and calibre (a weapon which worked which would be a novelty to current UK military, and a calibre superior than that currently issued). Then the US insisted on commonality and unilaterally decided on 7.62.

Then of course, as soon as everyone re-armed with suitable weapons - the US did a U-turn and went the 5.56 route. So don't blame us for that bit of thinking please.

As to pistols, my own limited understanding is that the calibre used in military pistols here has reflected the philosophy and the enemy more than the idea (based I suspect on an era slightly before ww1, although definite in the Russian military).

An example? British WW1 officers were issued with Webley V (although a lot still had Mark IV as my grandfather did). These were still chambered in .455. A round developed for similar reasons to your .45 (for us it was Afghans and Zulus, for you the Moro). The change? because the new enemy were Europeans and with the Geneva convention, and the tactic of wounding as preferable to use more resources and manpower.

My own experience of 9mm and seeing the elephant? it was adequate with correct shot placement, but then that's the same whether a 9mm or a nuke.

Just my two-peneth worth, YMMV

Anonymous said...

Oh, and to really infuriate some people, have a look at the comparative tests performed on the .455 and your own ,45

Ducking and covering as I type :-)

Drang said...

Ooooh, Tamalanche! Must. Not. Get. Big. Head.

I carry a .45 by preference, but with modern ammo, especially the premium stuff, a 9mm will certainly Do The Job we hope doesn't need doing. My backups, depending on weather and (therefore) attire, are either a 9mm pocket rocket or a .38 Special J Frame.

Abel: ISTR that the M1 rifle was originally intended to be chambered in a .270-ish calber, but we had all these .30 rounds laying around. Don't remember exactly, but I want to say that the Enfield round pushed by you chaps post-WWII was something similar. I have some documents on disk somewhere...
And note that I did not actually say that the Euro-weenie contingent on NATO pushed 9mm.

Justthisguy said...

As a notorious 7mm crank, I heart the original Pattern 14 Enfield. A little bit smaller than .30 caliber seems to be the technical "sweet spot" for smokeless rifle cartridges, in terms of what you can carry, power, and range. Pederson was on to the same thing, but yes, we already had all of those .30-06 cartridges.

Anonymous said...


Noted! ;-)

An interesting article on the development of the .455 round at:


Interesting from the point of the 'fixation with stopping power' in 1897 and the resultant developments and debates which mirror those today.

Still all in all that was relatively painless - thank you (and I didn't even need the nomex underwear).

Firehand said...

From what I've read, the original M1 Garand design- with the ten-round box mag and .280 cartridge- was lighter and better balanced; but someone in the War Department didn't like that ugly magazine sticking out the bottom, and "We don't want to add another cartridge", etc., so back to the drawing board.

What always amused/pissed hell out of me is that after that they decided they needed a carbine for support troops, so a new cartridge, etc....

Bram said...

You know why you never hear Soldiers and Marines debating pistol calibers? Because they don't care even a little. A pistol really is nothing more than a badge of rank - or something to fiddle with if you don't rate a real weapon.

I can hit a man-sized target every time from 500 yards with a zeroed M16 (not an M4). I can't hit the same target every time from 20 yards with a pistol. If I'm using a pistol in combat, something has gone horribly wrong.

I'll debate all day about rifle cartridges (something like the 6.5 Grendel would be a vast improvement over the 5.56) - but I just don't care about pistols in combat.

Justthisguy said...

Bram, pistols are for the nightstand, in case somebody comes through your bedroom window at 0300. The breaking glass should wake you enough, assuming you remembered to latch the window.

Justthisguy said...

P.s. I have read that most pistol shootings happen at, umm, "conversational" range, anyway.

Firehand said...

Well, during his second deployment son wound in in an area/job that included 'Don't carry your rifle, you get a pistol and one loaded magazine.' Which made it a comfort knowing he'd learned handguns from me, not the Army, as that's all he had with him when on duty.

markm said...

If you think there's no military use for pistols, except as a badge of rank, I suggest you look up the "tunnel rats" in Vietnam. That is, our guys who volunteered to crawl down tunnels and eliminate the VC hiding in them. Their equipment was a pistol, a flashlight, and a knife - and the .45 was definitely the best pistol for that job.

OTOH, the best men at that job used the knife far more than their other tools. There were valid military reasons for that - firing the pistol, or even using the flashlight, dulled your senses and might reveal your presence - but I also got the impression that most volunteers for this job had a particular reason for liking to get up close and personal when killing commies. Many were Cuban refugees.

Drang said...

MarkM, I don't see anyone here suggesting that a pistol is properly "just" a badge of rank. It gets used as such in many armies, but when I was issued a pistol as aircrew, I argued we should have M16s in the birds--EH60s have no provision for door guns--because the bad guys were going to have AKs. When I was issued a pistol as a First Sergeant, I made sure there was at least one M16 with my name on it for when the balloon went up--and I knew several Company Commanders and First Sergeants who didn't even bother with the M9.

Drang said...

(And if I'd been the HHC 1SG, I would have snagged one of the guard force's shotguns.)