My Father's Gun
By Bob Cohen
This title has already been used by another author, Brian McDonald, who wrote a book that was made into a History Channelä special. His tale was about three generations of NYPD cops in his family. I'm sure he'll forgive me for borrowing the title--I'm third-generation myself.
However, I'm not so much writing about that as I'm writing about my father's gun. The actual gun, no allusion, no metaphor. He had a Colt Official Police revolver chambered for .38 Special, manufactured in 1953.
This wasn't what he carried when he was a cop though, and that's also what this story is about. I suppose I could've called this a "Tale of the Gun" but the History Channelä beat me to that one, too.
My grandfather carried two pearl-handled Colts as a patrolman in NYC through the 1930s and 1940s and he left them to my father when he died. Dad liked the ponies more than guns, so he sold them. All that remains in our family are the cracked, broken grips.
My father retired from the NYPD in 1974. Two years later, he sold his own Smith & Wesson revolvers and moved our family to Florida. A year after that, he realized that he liked the ponies more than Mom, and he moved back to New York City, where he found himself in need of some hardware.
A buddy of his, 'Patch,' had an old revolver he didn't want anymore. He was relieved of his service gun during an off-duty mugging sometime in the early 1970s. The gun was subsequently used in another robbery and in a homicide. Understandably, when Patch was ultimately re-united with his gun, he didn't want any part of it. Bad karma. He gave it to my father for free.
Anyway, I inherited the revolver from Dad, and although I dearly love shooting .38 revolvers, I never really warmed up to this one. It took a while for me to figure out what I didn't like, and it wasn't the karma: the barrel, along with the front sight blade, was turned about a degree off where the sight blade would be vertical. Nothing that you'd detect by looking at it, unless you were looking down the sights. The sight picture was almost imperceptibly cockeyed. In addition, this was definitely a Colt revolver. Colts and Smiths have different lockwork, and their triggers feel very different to those attuned to such things. Neither is right or wrong, just different. Either you like Pepsi or you like Coca-Cola. My own service guns were Smith & Wesson.
So, I finally sent the old gun out to a gunsmith, coincidentally enough, in Florida. I suggested that if he was able to successfully straighten out the barrel, that he'd then work on the action to make it "as close to a Smith as possible." The gun came back this week and I took it out for a test drive today . . ..
The second six rounds fired double-action unsupported, at a distance of fifty feet measured just under three inches across. (The first six was to see where they'd land.) Although I was using 158-grain +P service ammo, this is still really nothing to brag about. It's more of a string than a group. And, while the trigger seemed to be improved, it was unmistakably Colt, stagey and stacking toward the end of the pull. The more I shot, the worse the groups became. My Smith has a trigger like glass; I can only hope that this revolver, post-action job, will improve if it likewise has thousands more rounds run through it.
The verdict? Hung Jury. As I said to the rangemaster, "The sight picture's fixed, but it's still a Colt." My wife questioned the logic of putting money into a fifty-year-old police revolver. I told her, "It's my father's gun."
Copyright 2003 by Bob Cohen. All rights reserved.