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Re: [Rollei] Re: OT 1911

- ----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Eric Goldstein" <egoldste  >
To: <rollei  
Sent: Saturday, May 24, 2003 2:38 PM
Subject: [Rollei] Re: OT 1911

> > Jeffery Smith wrote:
> >
> >> I should have known that this group, who values the
simplest and best,
> >> would know what a 1911 is. Weren't both the Rolleiflex
and 1911 designed
> >> around the same time with WWI in mind?
> >>
> >> Jeffery
> >
> >
> > Hi Jeffery -
> >
> > The first F & H products were stereo cameras designed
and produced post-war
> > in the 1920s... As for the .45 ACP, lore not
withstanding, I don't know if
> > every GI who actually shot them in combat would agree
that they were the
> > simplest and the best. My own father, who was an
ordinance and supply
> > Sargent in WWII, certainly would not... but perhaps you
mean for the time,
> > turn of the century?
> >
> >
> > Eric Goldstein
> >
> Expanding upon this a bit, my Father relayed several
stories of officers
> regularly replacing .45 ACP with revolvers (.38 I
think)... Reliability,
> accuracy and handling taking priority over brute force and
rapid reload...
> Anyone know what revolvers were standard issue at the late
stages of WW II?
> Eric Goldstein
  I think the automatic was adapted as standard issue
because of fire power and speed of reloading. Previously the
USA had used revolvers taking .45 Long Colt amunition. These
are shells about twice the length of the ACP, designed
originally for black powder.
  The revolver took six shells, the automatic took seven,
eight if you cocked it and then added a shell to the
magazine. Changing magazines takes only a couple of seconds
where reloading a revolver takes the better part of a
  The main problem with the ACP, and some other Browning
pattern automatics is that they are vulnerable to jamming
from weak springs in the magazine. If a new shell is not
pushed up completely when the gun attempts to reload the
entire mechanism jams and must be unjammed to continue
firing. Not what you want in combat.
  Police have replaced revolvers in the recent past for much
the same reason; fire power. Current automatics can take
magazines with anything up to around 14 or 15 shots.
  The 9mm has become a NATO standard and is a defacto police
standard. The ACP actually has greater muzzle energy and
stopping power, but not enough to compensate for the better
design of the newer guns.
  The Los Angeles police department used .38 Police Special
revolvers until about a decade ago. There were constant
complaints that the guns had no stopping power. Unless you
managed to hit a fatal spot the bad guys would just keep
  Automatics are generally a little harder to learn to shoot
accurately. There is a lot of machinery moving when you
shoot it. But, there are plenty of champion shots with even
the lowly 1911 Colt. The design of this gun was improved
many times since it was first produced. Some wartime models
were made in a hurry and by companies who didn't normally
make firearms. They were often loose and not very accurate.
However, the intended use was for very close combat
conditions, perhaps ten or fifteen feet between you and
whoever you were shooting. The main virtue of the .45 ACP
was that it would knock the victim down almost no matter
where he was hit.
  My memory is that the old .45 Long Colt had even more
muzzle energy than the ACP but again not enough to
compensate for its slow reloading.
  My favorite is the gun Dashiell Hammet gave to Bridget
O'Shaunesey to kill Sam Spade's partner with in the Maltese
Falcon. Its mis-described in the movie. In the novel its a
Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver, 38 caliber, eight shot.
They don't make them anymore.
  This is an amazing bit of tripple trickery on Hammett's
part. Many readers will believe that Hammett didn't know the
difference between a revolver and an automatic. No way, he
had been a Pinkerton detective and knew firearms. The gun
was exactly as described. A revolver because the shells were
in a cylinder which revolved, and an automatic because the
gun was reloaded and cocked by recoil action. The cylinder
and upper body of the gun was pushed back on its frame by
the recoil operating the turning and cocking mechanism.
These are very rare guns, perhaps no more than a couple of
hundred being built. A much more common version was a
British .445 caliber six shot, made for the English military
for a brief time before WW-1. This is the gun shown in the
  Hammett's choice of this weapon was no accident. Like the
Maltese Falcon itself the gun is a rare bird. Secondly, and
of importance, it is like everyone and everything else in
the story, not quite what it seems. This equivacation is a
basic ingredient of all of Hammett's writing; the story
Spade tells Bridgit about the Seattle man who disappears is
the kernel of this, expoounding the uncertainty of life
which is the basis of the story. It is intresting that
Wilmer, Gutman's tough boy, carries plain old Colt .45
Automatics (and does a lot of shooting with them too).
  Of course, the "automatic revolver" is also a joke on the
reader, another instance of things not being what they seem.
In this case, the idea that the reader knows more than the
author where its actually the opposite. Hammett found a way
to give a little real life practical demonstration of the
theme of his story.
 It is this complexity which IMHO is one of the main reasons
Hammett must be considered above the general level of
mystery-detective writing.
  Another couple of tricks he plays are terms used by Spade.
One is in his confrontation with Wilmer in the hotel lobby.
"...say, how long have you been off the strawberry lay?"
What is _that_. It sounds like some sort of strange sexual
deviation. In fact, its ninetheenth century criminal argot
for stealing laundry off a clothes line, an indication of
the distain Spade has for Wilmer. In the same scene he
speaks to the house detective pointing at Wilmer; "How come
you let these cheap gunsels in here with their tools bulging
their clothing."  Well, gunsel is an old yidish word for a
young male homosexual prositute. Tools may mean guns to some
readers but I don't quite think that's what Hammett meant.

   Now, how about another off topic topic: how is it that
the Chicago and New York gangs understood the value of the
machine gun when the U.S. Army did not?  I leave you with
Raymond Chandler's advise to pulp writers: "When in doubt
have a mand come through a door carrying a gun."

 At some point I will come up with some Rolleiflex content.
- ---
Richard Knoppow
Los Angeles, CA, USA