Semi-Auto Pistol or Revolver? It Can Make a Big Difference

Colt-Model-1911-captionby Dana King

Nick Forte, the protagonist of my PI series, has a bit of a military background, and is old school to boot. His weapon of choice is a classic M1911 .45 caliber Army Colt Pistol (ACP). Nick figures, if it was a good enough sidearm to be standard issue for 74 years and five wars, it’s good enough for him. (Some U.S. troops still use the M1911.)

A problem arose for me when I had a scene firm in my mind, a good combination of action with dark humor built in, but it depended on Forte not being aware he had run out of ammunition.

The M1911 is a semi-automatic; the slide locks open when the last round in the magazine has been fired. How to get around this?

Smith-Wesson-Model-25As luck would have it, I had decided to expand Nick’s detective agency for this story. The new employee is Delbert McCall, a retired second-generation Texas Ranger who’s even more old school than Nick: he doesn’t trust automatics, ever since his daddy had one jam on him and had to beat the suspect into submission with it.

Nick being a Colt man and all, Delbert tries to talk him into an Anaconda revolver, but Nick isn’t comfortable carrying three pounds of .44 Magnum under his arm. They compromise on a Smith and Wesson Model 25, a .45 like the M1911; even takes the same cartridges.

Now, when Nick has fired all six rounds, he is unaware, and the scene works. This had the added benefit of allowing me to write two nice scenes around it: one when Delbert talks Nick into the revolver; the other when Nick gets rid of it.


Get the Book

The Writers Guide to WeaponsThe Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books) comes with everything but the ammo. Pick up a print or digital copy from these fine retailers:

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