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US Military, Sidearm Issue Question

675 Views 18 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  cxm357
When was the last time that the US military issued a sidearm to pretty much all soldiers in addition to their long gun in a combat situation ?

I'm thinking that during the Civil War, only officers were issued the Colt 1860 (at least the Union Army) but not long afterwards with the introduction of cartridge revolvers, but when the rifles were still single shot trapdoor Springfields, all soldiers were issued a revolver. I'm excepting personnel who manned artillery for example and thinking along the lines of infantry and cavalry soldiers.

Were all soldiers in the Spanish American War issued sidearms ? I understand that by WWI handguns were in a shortage situation but the average doughboy private wouldn't have been issued an M1911 or Colt of S&W M1917 correct ? So maybe it was during that period between the end of the Spanish American War and WWI when the general issue of sidearms to privates and above was discontinued ? Could that have been due to the fact that by then they had repeating rifles rather than single shots, or due to a very restrictive military spending budget at that time ?
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Most general officers wore uniforms to some degree or another, such variations were usually minor in nature, but they were not unauthorized... GOs were allowed to make modifications to uniforms if they felt it was indicated.

I recall around 1970 is was pretty common for Air Force GOs to wear Allen Edmon shoes in black but a scotch grain finish rather than the standard smooth finish... You also saw variations in rank insignia fairly often... usually in the size of the insignia.

Old time pilots would frequently remove the grommets from their hats a'la WWII... Some changed tha angle of the front of the top half so it was more at the angle of the German WWII officer's hat... looks better than the standard Clothing Sales Store hat.

During the Viet Nam war, a lot of senior officers in the AF had their 1505 uniform shirts embroidered with their rank, ratings etc. rather than wear pin on insignia. A few wore the black/silver buckle general officer belts with their uniforms as as well too...

Pilots in the 1970 time frame often replaced the low powered S&W 38 Specials with a personally owned revolver or pistol because the military 38 Special ball load was so weak... Conveniently the S&W M19s sold at the BX would fit in the issue leather gear... You also saw, S&W M39s, Colt's Government Models and Commanders as well... I even saw a few S&W Model 58 41 Magnums being carried by B52 crews... One elderly Colonel wing commander carried a Single Action Army in 44-40 when flying combat missions... Odd choice, but doubtless would work.



Outside of cavalry troopers in the 19th century, military troops got a rifle/carbine or a sidearm. Prior to the 20th century, officers could carry personally owned handguns and this tradition continued on in certain units [a friend who was a Phantom II driver in Vietnam carried a S&W highway patrolman] and nearly everyone is aware of certain Generals wearing non-standard uniforms and handguns.

Some company/field grade officers felt better wielding shoulder fired weapons and would acquire them in theatre, often seen during WW2, Korea, and Vietnam. Enlisted soldiers/Seabees/Marines picked up war trophy handguns in the past, but rarely were allowed handguns unless mandated by their MOS/rating and their officers allowing it.
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