Thursday, May 24, 2012

Magnum Force 1973

The best double action revolver movie of all time is Magnum Force made in 1973. The second installment of the “Dirty Harry” movie franchise stars Clint Eastwood as a tough cop, Inspector Harry Callaghan, confronted with a string of vigilante killings. Of course Harry has his trusty S&W Model 29 44 Magnum, and all the bad guys, who turn out to be traffic cops use Colt Python .357 Magnum revolvers, even the bad cops ringleader, played by Hal Holbrook, uses a S&W Model 19 .357 Magnum.
This movie is great because of the action, writing, and of course the revolvers. It was made in the time when the revolver was king; power and reliability were the most desired characteristics in a side arm. Magazine capacity was an afterthought and American police departments all preferred the revolver. Civilians were revolver crazy also. In the rural county where I grew up I did not see a semi automatic handgun until I was about 15, and that was a Colt woodsman 22 that belonged to a friend’s father. I remember all the peace officers carrying Colt Troopers or Smith & Wesson revolvers. Men in business suits routinely carried a snub nose revolver for protection.
I started shooting in the waning days of revolver dominance. Smith & Wesson and Colt were the big dogs in the double action revolver market. Their guns were beautifully fitted, sometimes by hand with forged steel parts. The exterior finish was almost a work of art with the surfaces polished and given a deep blue or nickel finish. In a few years t a variety of semiautomatic pistols largely replaced the revolvers in police use. Many police officers went from the revolver to the Glock seemingly overnight. There may even be a few hold outs today, but I doubt it. On the other hand, lightly used police revolvers were sold at reasonable prices during those years, and they depressed the prices in the used revolver market. It was really a great buyers market.
Magnum Force has one of the most disappointing lines in any Dirty Harry movie, when asked what load he uses in his Model 29, Harry replies “A light special, gives me better control in a gun this size, like wad cutters in a .357 Magnum.” Oh my, he’s not really shooting a 44 Magnum! But a cartridge from 1907, the 44 Special! I guess this came from all the critism that a 44 magnum revolver was too powerful and uncontrollable for police work. Of particular note, Harry does a lot of shooting with one hand during the movie, another great vintage touch. Be all that as it may, Magnum Force is a great movie and a great homage to the 20th century police revolver.

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