Handguns choices in the French Police Nationale have always been strange, even for neighbours...
Till the 60s, the PN used different SA autos in 7,65 - Unique, Browning 1910 and 1910/22, and so on. A star policeman - commissaire Raymond Sasia, who had been the personnal bodyguard of De Gaulle - followed the FBI Academy in Quantico. He came back very impressed by the shooting method of the FBI and the use of the .357 magnum revolver. So he introduced a new training and lobbyed for the replacement of the various autos by .357 magnums.
On request of Sasia and the Police Nationale, Manurhin developped a very fine .357, the MR 73. As it turned to expensive, it went only to selected units like the Groupe d'intervention de la gendarmerie nationale (GIGN, french national SWAT team). Manurhin turned to Ruger to develop a cheaper model, the Special Police, based on the Security/Speed Six serie.
These Special Police have been bought in great numbers by the Police Nationale. Later, as things turned to vinegard between Manurhin and Ruger, the French had to develop another model, the MR88 which is a design mixing Ruger (cylinder lock, action) and SW (action plate) features. Then Manurhin made a really original revolver MR93, with a very special lock... and look
Back to the Police Nationale and the SP101. The Special Police was considered to heavy and the .357 magnum to punchy for female officers. So the Police Nationale bought SP101s in .38 special by Ruger. Now that a SIG Sauer 9 mm auto has been chosen, revolvers are being retired from the holster of the french officers.
I had heard that until the 70s Italian police agencies issued different pistols to women too. In central Texas gun shops I've seen some of those MAB 9mm autos turning up. First time I'd seen those. I don't know if they are military or police surplus. I had read about the GIGN and the Manurhin revolver, but was unaware of the collaboration with Ruger.
Question: Do the French SP101 revolvers have 3 or 2 inch barrels (erm, 102mm or 63.5mm)? Also, did the French ever use 9mm revolvers? Finally, are the CRS similarly equipped as the agencies you mention?
For the lengh of the SP01 barrels in France, I just don't know as I didn't have the honor to see one unhostered...
The Manurhin MR73 and RMR Special Police were intended to have an interchangeable cylinder to shoot 9 mm para ammo. But it didn't work well and the idea was abandonned. For a long time, you could order a 9 mm cylinder by Manurhin. Other makers like Astra did offer that option.
French choices might not be very representative of other european countries! France has no longer any handgun tradition. Since the 1892 revolver, which was a very fine piece, innovative in many aspects except for the 8 mm caliber, that land didn't adopt anything worth. Wrong conceptions among uninspired civilan and military officials played havoc on the ordnance industry. If the SACM 1935A pistol was not bad - it lead to the SIG P210 - the MAC 1935S and MAC/MAS 1950 were obsolete from the beginning. Recently, no national design could challenge the Beretta 92 and the SIG Pro.
The only exception was the Manurhin MR73 revolver, reviving the fine tradition of the St-Etienne 1892, which was sadly much to expensive to see large use in LE.
Thanks all round. Very informative.
govteach: I'll keep an eye out for those.
Larry: Thanks for the correction on the MAB vs. MAC/MAS mistake....I guess the MAB is a 7.65mm pistol but the MAC/MAS was the 9mm I had seen. Looks heavy for a 9mm. As for the CRS switching from the P-38 in the 1960s, I wonder if political invective after 1968 had anything to do with the new choice?
Like many Americans I find French small arm choices quite different. I hadn't frankly thought much of the old MAS 36 bolt action rifle, ("what? no safety!?") but after handling one owned by an acquaintance, the ergonomics seem good.
Nothing wrong with a ruger revolver that's for sure.
Thanks so much for your observations from a perspective different than what we are used to! Would you please start a new thread about shooting in Suisse and also about police firearms and training there?