Good Idea At The Time?: Metropolitan #J92121
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    Good Idea At The Time?: Metropolitan #J92121

    This is a brief synopsis of an article I wrote on the Colt Metropolitan and my theory about it's design and marketing.


    The Colt Metropolitan Mark III
    and the
    New York City Police Department

    As can be imagined, Colt firearms have played a very large role in the New York City Police Department. A preliminary review of police records from 1896 forward shows that tens of thousands of Colt guns have been purchased by the police department.

    Probably the smallest handgun contribution by Colt, has been the Colt Metropolitan MkIII revolver. This revolver saw a limited production and short market life, and had an even shorter run with the NYCPD. Even the Colt Model M Hammerless, purchased exclusively for detectives, and a small order to boot, was purchased in larger quantites than the Metropolitan, and that was in 1914!

    When the Colt Official Police was introduced in 1927, it came on the scene shortly after the departments switch to a .38 Special cartridge; upgrading from the .38 S&W cartridge that had been in use since 1901. The Official Police was a sturdy and well liked gun, and was a signifigant presence on the streets.

    With the discontinuance of the Official Police in 1969, the NYCPD was left with no approved Colt revolvers for on duty use. The Trooper was available, but was chambered in .357 Magnum. The police preferred .38 Special, and running .38 Special ammo through guns labelled .357 Magnum was not considered an option.

    For reasons that are unclear, but rather compelling, Colt introduced a .38 Special version of the Trooper with a Heavy Barrel and fixed sights and called it the Colt Metropolitan MkIII. The MkIII designation indicated it used a Trooper frame and lockwork. The Metropolitan monicker was meant to help market the gun as an urban law enforcement weapon

    Lack of proof to the contrary, it would be very easy to speculate that the Metropolitan was conceived with an eye specificaly at the NYCPD market. Colt had lost a bit of ground with the police department, with much of its Detective Special market falling to the S&W Model 36. The Model 10’s had already been biting into Colt sales for several years.

    During this time frame, many large police departments were adopting heavier weapons, mostly in .357 Magnum or automatics, as the lessons of the riots and Long Hot Summers started sinking in. To market a revolver for fading .38 Special might not seem prudent. However, when one notes that the Metropolitan was offered with a heavy barrel and fixed sights, it seems perfectly designed to meet the NYCPD firearms criteria. The heavy barrel is the most especially telling part, since all on duty revolvers had to have heavy barrels, and the Metropolitan offered it ‘standard’.

    This is simply educated speculation. I would say that, if the NYCPD was not the reason for the creation of the Metropolitan, it was certainly a signigant factor in its creation.

    It’s difficult to say why the Metropolitan model had just a brief tenure with the department, and why it was sold in such small quantities.

    Certainly price was a consideration. Officers are required to purchase their own weapons, and the Metropolitan at that time cost about %35 more than the S&W Model 10. The cost to the department (who generally had a miniscule markup) for the Model 10 in 1971 was $51.05. The departments cost on the Metropolitan was $68.80!

    Someone at Colt must have realized that this was a problem, because in 1972 (the last year of production) and 1973, the departments cost dropped quite a bit to $59. The Model 10’s for the same time frame cost the department $56.65.

    One of the interesting things is that the department took delivery of 75 Metropolitans in 1973, even though the production was stopped in 1972.

    The police departments guns were shipped in 1 piece reddish/burgundy colored shirtboard sleeves, with flapped openings. The revolver was held within a 2 piece tan/light brown styrofoam insert . There were no special markings to indicate that these were NYCPD guns. Some guns may have had the individual officers shield number stamped on the backstrap, but this practice was beginning to fall from favor when the Metropolitans were made available.

    A surprising number of these guns are still on the streets.

    In 1986 when speedloaders were authorized, a quantity were ordered to fit the Metrolpolitans even though they had not been sold in more than 12 years! The Metropolitan speedloaders from HKS were color coded by means of a blue (I think) aluminum knob to differentiate them from Ruger and Smith & Wesson speedloaders.

    Metropolitan records are seemingly intact, however there seems to be some small gaps, as I can account for 672 guns by specific serial numbers, but can only find invoices for 525 guns. I do not think the total purchased is much higher than the 672 figure, and am very confident that the actual number purchased is below (possibly well below) 1,000.

    Total Purchased: 672 (some purchases are not reflected in figures below)

    1971 - 150
    150 Inv# 12-2967 PO# 141

    1972 - 300
    300 Inv# 1075167 PO# 135

    1973 - 75
    75 Inv# 1588177 PO# 50

    Unit Cost: 1971 - $68.80
    1972 - $59.00
    1973 - $59.00


    This particular gun, J92121, was shipped to the NYCPD on 24NOV72. it was shipped to the Equipment Bureau, NYPD, 400 Broome Street, Manhattan, and was one of 300 guns in the shipment. Colt factory order #12441. Special features include Target Hammer and grips are described as ‘Target Configuration”.



    The NYPD EB then re-sold the gun to Probationary Patrolman Robert J. Sibbering Shield #6535 on 9MAR73. By this time the practice of stamping an officers shield number on his gear was falling from use, so this gun has no markings other than those applied at the factory. Other than a factory letter or check of NYPD records, there is no way to identify it as an NYCPD gun.

    Best,
    RM Vivas www.vivasandson.com

    [This message has been edited by rm vivas (edited 03-23-2004).]
    Best,
    RM Vivas
    RM Vivas & Son, LLC
    Purveyor's of Fine Small Arms


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    Re: Good Idea At The Time?: Metropolitan #J92121

    Great article!! Very informative. Thank you.

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    Re: Good Idea At The Time?: Metropolitan #J92121


    RM

    With all the data you are obviosly privy to, you should be writing a book (on Colts) so this data and useful information is not lost forever. I, for one, would buy a copy.

    ------------------
    Dick

    IN GOD WE TRUST,
    BUT HANG ONTO ONE GUN,
    JUST IN CASE!
    Dick

    If life was fair, the horse would get to ride half of the time.

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    Re: Good Idea At The Time?: Metropolitan #J92121

    I have the manuscrpt for the book pretty much done. Just have to get off my duff and tighten it up, get it organized and try to pimp it out to a publisher.

    I think the best part of the ook, if it ever hits the streets, is that it will have tens of thousands of serial numbers.

    What really kicked my butt was the 2 years it took to type all the serial numbers into my database. Has about 100,000 entries or so.

    Best,
    RMV
    Best,
    RM Vivas
    RM Vivas & Son, LLC
    Purveyor's of Fine Small Arms


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    Re: Good Idea At The Time?: Metropolitan #J92121

    Nice reading guys!

    Thanks for taking the time to type that up for the rest of us to enjoy & learn.

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    Re: Good Idea At The Time?: Metropolitan #J92121

    I never appreciated any difference between the MarkIII Metro and the MarkIII OP other than a difference in roll marks. Your remarks make complete sense. Thank-you

    [This message has been edited by webley455 (edited 03-24-2004).]

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    Re: Good Idea At The Time?: Metropolitan #J92121

    GREAT readng, RM! Many thanks for the effort to post this. I read a book called, "Chief." It was about Albert Seedman, once the Chief of Detectives on the NYPD. He's become a hero to me. (Some STRANGE cases!) What kind of gun did he carry? I was very interested to hear about the dep't buying/issuing automatics!? That's a new one on me, too.

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    Re: Good Idea At The Time?: Metropolitan #J92121

    The name doesnt ring a bell, but I'm not all knowing. If you can look in the book and tell me what month and year he became a cop/graduated, I can probably find his purchase records.

    I have lots of stuff on the auto's, but since no Colts were adopted, I'm not sure it should go on this forum.

    Colt did make a special run of Colt 2000's for testing by the NYCPD, but they went nowhere.

    RMV
    Best,
    RM Vivas
    RM Vivas & Son, LLC
    Purveyor's of Fine Small Arms


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    Re: Good Idea At The Time?: Metropolitan #J92121

    Excellent article.
    Of all the books written about the NYPD, none do more than make a passing reference to the guns used over it's history.
    This is a shame, since the major influence on American police departments, was the NYPD, at least until the FBI became the influencing factor.

    The history of the NYPD's guns is a history of the changing attitudes and techniques of American policing, and should be a valuable insight.

    As for the Metropolitan being heavily influenced by the NYPD, that only stands to reason. One of, if not THE major user of 4" .38 "service" revolvers WAS the NYPD.
    Colt often took the needs and wishes of the NYPD into account.

    The old Army Special was renamed Official Police because no army ever bought it, but the NYPD did.
    The Official Police WAS THE "official" police revolver for most American police agencies for a good part of the 20th Century.

    To be fair, the Metro was also just a part of the major reorganization of the Colt line up in 1969.
    The older guns were just too expensive to build, due to the extensive hand labor required to build them.

    Colt intended to make a complete product line up switch from the old E&I guns to the new "J" guns, and the Metro was just part of that.

    Like the old line, the new one would be complete with a premium gun (Trooper Mark III), a service Magnum (Lawman), a target model (The rare Officer's Model Match Mark III) and for the .38 only departments, the Metropolitan.

    Unfortunately, Colt was overtaken by events about this time. Most American departments were issuing adjustable sight equipped Magnum revolvers by this time, and the auto pistol was just beginning to be accepted by more progressive agencies.

    Also playing a part, were the troubles at Colt, from strikes to financial troubles, to the abusive corporate MBA attitude that did so much damage to the company.

    Things began to "give", and the product line was one. Colt just couldn't make the Metro cheap enough to be priced at a S&W price, and the NYPD alone couldn't make up the difference, even if they were willing to make heavy purchases of the Metro.

    The NYPD is the biggest police department in America, but even they couldn't totally support the Metro.

    The Metro is so rare today, because other than the NYPD, very few, if ANY other departments bought it, certainly not in any quantity.

    The simple fact is, America had changed, and no longer had need of a fixed sight .38 service revolver that sold at a premium price.
    Prior to the 1950's the average cop carried a Colt Official Police. After this, the average cop carried a S&W Model 19/66.
    Soon they would be carrying an auto.

    That's a shame, since the Metro was probably the strongest, most durable service revolver ever built.
    Unfortunately, that was something like building the world's strongest and most durable buggy whip.

    Nice, but no longer needed.

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    Re: Good Idea At The Time?: Metropolitan #J92121

    RMV, Thanks so much for your reply! I loaned the book to my son - who's a policeman! When I see him and it again, I'll try and get a real date. From what I recall, Seedman would have been Chief of Detectives in the late 50's, early 60's. I'm guessing he came on either during WWII - '41-'45, or shortly after. I don't recall mention of his being a vet, so the early 40's is probably about right. My favorite case, from memory, was about a homicide with absolutely NO leads and very odd - almost impossible. Some poor duffer got shot, just in back of the left ear, while driving on the Long Island (?) expressway with a .30 caliber British Army round. 100's of detectives are canvassing the world and stumble across a guy who was fishing and always took along a surplus British .303 as anti-shark medicine! He fired at a shark and the bullet ricocheted like a mile, went through the poor duffer'partially opened driver's side window and, of course, killed him. A pure fluke. RIP. What a way to go!? I recall a picture of Seedman when he got in the emerging, "Great Society," nevoux Political-Correctness-of-it-all, by grabbing some suspect by the head and holding him for newspaper pictures - which he didn't want taken, for some reason. The suspect, that is ... Seedman didn't mind. But it almost wrecked his career, ala Patton.


 
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