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Knowledge of agencies and organizations that went with the .38 S&W/.38 Colt New Police. It seems easy assume a number of Colt's especially were exported to Commonwealth countries. I know Postal Service, Railway Express Agency and I believe some big cities like Boston and NYC had them for a time. There are a fair number of Regulation Police and Police Positive revolvers floating about.

Who can tell me something?
 

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Just after the turn of the century when the . 38 special round started to become popular and Law Enforcement was jumping on the .38 revolver band wagon Colt and Smith Wesson began to dominate the market. Smith Wesson with the M & P .38 and Colt with the Police Positive and Colt New Service. Even Colt made the SAA in .38 special . The model race heated up with Smith Wesson making more models of the .38 in more barrel configurations. Colt lagged along but became to catch up with new models. Like the Detective special , Cobra , and Diamond Back.

Agencies went for bids on vast numbers of guns. NYPD was first issued Colts in the 1899 Colt D.A. .38 Boston soon followed. . Most of the preference came down to price per unit and of course kick backs to political figures from the companies. Smith Wesson was liked because it felt better in the hand according to some older officers . Colts seemed to have better triggers . . Postal Inspectors , REA agents , Wells Fargo and several other companies also dominated in Colts and later Smith Wessons.

Between 1915 and the mid 1950's almost 90 % of all armed agencies carried either a Smith Wesson or Colt . The Colt .45ACP started to gain some acceptance and the SAA Army was still very popular in the Western States up until the late 40's By the mid 1950s is was just about a 50 50 split between Colt and Smith Wesson .

the auto pistol/ wonder 9 rise in the late 1960's by Law Enforcement began to spell the death of the revolver in the LEO circles and agencies with the Illinois State Police being the first LEO agency to issue the 9mm Smith Model 39 as their issued side arm. Agencies began to follow with Colt taking a back seat to the Smith Wesson 39 59 pistols . DSCF3600.JPG DSCF3599.JPG DSCF2930.JPG DSCF2929.JPG

Colt 1899 D.A. .38 special and a Smith Wesson Forth change Circa 1929 change M & P
 

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Let me offer a somewhat different perspective, focused on the .38 S&W:

Before the early 1900s, the vast majority of American policemen, who were urban cops, not movie-type frontier sheriffs, carried personally purchased pocket pistols, usually topbreaks in .32 and .38, literally in their pockets. If you study photos of 19th and early 20th century policemen, duty belts with holsters are uncommon; guns were carried somewhere under the tunic.

Teddy Roosevelt’s tenure as NYC police commissioner saw the first major agency adopting a standard service pistol in 1896/97, the Colt New Police in .32 New Police (same as .32 S&W long). At about the same time Jersey City and Newark adopted the S&W Model 1896 also in .32 S&W.

When the Colt Police Positive became available in 1907 as the New Police’s successor, NYPD started having their officers buy that model. The PP Special became available a year later, and so did the Army Special on a larger frame, both in .38 Special, but at least NYPD officers continued to prefer the standard PP. Into the 1920s there were still no duty belt holsters, and the guns had to be pocket-sized.

In 1917 S&W tried to compete with the PP 38 by introducing the Regulation Police 38, as a compact .38 S&W-calibered police gun, but Colt had that market cornered, and the RP never really got off the ground as a service gun. The PP in .38 NP (=S&W) was produced until the beginning of WWII.

Colt pretty much dominated the law enforcement market before WWII. With the three sizes, the PP, PPS, and Army Special, plus since 1927 the snubnosed Detective Special, it had everything covered. That doesn’t mean S&W didn’t also sell to police, but they didn’t really become competitive, and ultimately beat Colt, until the 1950s/60s.

So the .38 S&W was certainly primarily an American cartridge, that first gained widespread use in the blackpowder era as a topbreak load. I also think that’s when it migrated to Britain and Webley used it as the basis for their .38 cartridge. And it was a standard police load, used by many police officers, alongside the .38 Special, until the 1940s. If you watch Gunbroker, Colt PP 38’s with all kinds of stamps from agencies, banks, etc. pop up regularly.

Below: A Police Positive 38 from 1915 with NYPD shield number and engraved officer's name on frame.
 

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Before the early 1900s, the vast majority of American policemen, who were urban cops, not movie-type frontier sheriffs, carried personally purchased pocket pistols, usually topbreaks in .32 and .38, literally in their pockets. If you study photos of 19th and early 20th century policemen, duty belts with holsters are uncommon; guns were carried somewhere under the tunic.
Better than still photos are movies made in the '20s & '30s which almost invariably show uniformed cops reaching into their back pockets, under their tunics, for their revolvers. Plain-clothes detectives will have shoulder or waistband holsters, & MC cops have their Sam Browne belts & holsters, but ordinary city patrolmen make do with their pockets. Possibly they're using those square pocket-holsters shaped to fit a back-pocket.
 
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