A Change In The Wind

The Illinois State Police had just become the first agency to adopt a semi-auto pistol as standard issue in the S&W Model 39 9mm. Texas Rangers, and a few forward-thinking California police departments, had the Colt .45 1911, which was also popular as a second gun among Chicago cops. Nationwide, though, the standard was the Colt or S&W sixgun, normally in .38 Special, with some state troopers and rural lawmen using the .357 Magnum.

Among armed citizens, the sixgun was still the standard home-defense handgun, and the snubnose .38 Special the most common gun carried on a concealed weapon permit — again, usually a Smith or a Colt, though the lower-priced Charter Arms .38 Special Undercover introduced in 1964 was making inroads, underselling the S&W Chief Special by $6.50.

Many WWII and Korean War vets who had learned to trust the 1911 kept them at home and even carried them. They would soon be joined by a generation of Vietnam veterans, one of whom was cited in that ’68 Gun Digest as owing holster-maker John Bianchi his life. He had been able to clear his .45 auto from John’s superb X15 shoulder holster in time to outdraw and kill an enemy soldier about to shoot him.

Many folks swear by the X15 to this day, including me. By the way, in 1968 most states were “may issue” as far as carry permits, and in seven states there was no option for concealed carry at all. There weren’t any magazine limit laws, and a Colt AR-15 was less than $200.