M1917 revolver

A common sidearm used by both the miners, US military, and police.

The M1917 Revolver (formally United States Revolver, Caliber .45, M1917) was a U.S. six-shot revolver of .45 ACP caliber. It was adopted by the U.S. Army in 1917 to supplement the standard M1911 .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol during World War I. Afterwards, it was primarily used by secondary and non-deployed troops. There were two variations of the M1917, one from Colt and one from Smith&Wesson.

Colt had until recently produced a revolver for the U.S. Army called the M1909, a version of their heavy-frame, .45-caliber, New Service model in .45 Long Colt to supplement and replace a range of 1890s-era .38 caliber Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers that had demonstrated inadequate stopping power during the Philippine-American War. The Colt M1917 Revolver was essentially the same as the M1909 with a cylinder bored to take the .45 ACP cartridge and the half-moon clips to hold the rimless cartridges in position. Later production Colt M1917 revolvers had headspacing machined into the cylinder chambers, just as the Smith & Wesson M1917 revolvers had from the start. Newer Colt production could be fired without the half-moon clips, but the empty cartridge cases had to be ejected with a device such as a cleaning rod or pencil, as the cylinder extractor and ejector would pass over the rims of the rimless cartridges.

The Smith & Wesson Model 1917 was essentially an adaptation of that company’s Second Model .44 Hand Ejector, chambered instead for .45 ACP, employing a shortened cylinder allowing for use of half-moon clips, and a lanyard ring on the butt of the frame. Smith & Wesson had recently (c. 1915-16) produced the Hand Ejector, which uses their heavy .44 caliber frame, for the British Army in .455 Webley caliber due to shortages in British production facilities of standard-issue Webley Mk VI top-break revolvers.

The S&W M1917 is distinguishable from the Colt M1917 in that the S&W cylinder had a shoulder machined into it to permit rimless .45 ACP cartridges to headspace on the case mouth (as with automatic pistols). The S&W M1917 could thus be used without the half-moon clips, though the empty cases would have to be poked-out manually through the cylinder face, since the extractor star cannot engage the rimless cases.

After the First World War, M1917s became popular on the civilian and police market. Some were military surplus. Others were newly manufactured. Smith and Wesson kept their version in production, for civilian and police sales, until they replaced it with their Model 1950 Target.

Many civilian shooters disliked using half-moon clips. Loading and unloading the clips is tedious but obviates refilling the chamber with single rounds. Bent clips can cushion the firing pin strike and cause ignition problems.For these reasons, in 1920, the Peters ammunition company introduced the .45 Auto Rim. This rimmed version of the .45 ACP allowed both versions of the Model 1917 revolver to fire reliably without the clips.

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Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm  Comments Off on M1917 revolver  
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Sorry for the lack of posts lately! We’ll get back to posting on a more constant basis starting in 2012. For more up to date discussion about Blair Mountain’s history and upcoming events, Be sure to like us on Facebook!

Published in: on December 9, 2011 at 7:40 pm  Comments Off on Like us on Facebook  
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91 Years Ago Today

Published in: on May 19, 2011 at 10:00 am  Comments Off on 91 Years Ago Today  
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Harry Hill Bandholtz

Major General Harry Hill Bandholtz (1864 – May 11, 1925)was born in Constantine, Michigan and a graduate of the United States Military Academy. In 1902 he served as Provincial Governor in Tayabas Province in the Philippines. He was promoted to Brigadier General and served as Chief of the Philippines Constabulary between 1907-1913 supporting America’s colonial government in the Philippines during the Filipino-American War. He served in NY as Chief of Staff in the NY National Guard and went with it to the border in Mexico during the Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villia in 1916. In 1917 he became commander of the 58th Brigade of the 29th Division. He went with his unit to France in June of that year and served with it for three months. On September 27 he was named Provost Marshal General to General John J. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force in France serving through the end of hostilities and beyond. In 1919, he became the US representative of the Allied Military Mission in Hugary in 1919, making sure that the Romanians and Serbian armies left in a timely manner.

After Sid Hatfield’s murder, the Mine Wars grew into the Battle of Blair Mountain. With a 2,000-man detachment from four U.S. Army regiments and 14 bombers commanded by the military aviation pioneer, Gen. Billy Mitchell, Bandholtz quickly reestablished law and order in the coalfields without firing a shot. Bandholtz’s smoothly executed double envelopment on September 3 and subsequent disarming of the combatants at the Battle of Blair Mountain effectively ended the Mine Wars. Neither side wished to exchange fire with federal soldiers. Bandholtz expressed disgust that West Virginia state and local government in the aftermath.

Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm  Comments Off on Harry Hill Bandholtz  
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Battle of the Tug

The Tug River Valley just outside of Matewan

“In January 1920, the United Mine Workers of America launched a campaign to unionize southern West Virginia, including the Tug Fork coalfield. The local coal operators were determined to keep the UMW out. Miners who joined the union were fired, evicted from their company-owned houses, and replaced by nonunion workers. Many fought back with guns in what developed into the Battle of the Tug, or the Three Days Battle of May 1921. Violence usually involving gunfire from the mountains at working miners in the valley, erupted sporadically through much of 1920 and into the spring of 1921.

On May 12–14, 1921, bullets peppered down on about a dozen mining towns in the Matewan-Williamson area, and nonunion miners fired back. Deputy sheriffs, mine guards, the recently created West Virginia State Police, and Kentucky National Guardsmen joined the fray. Thousands of shots were fired from rifles, pistols, and even machine guns. Bullets clipped telephone wires and ripped through homes as families cowered in fear. Bridges and tipples were dynamited. Businesses and schools closed. Three people were shot and killed. Sid Hatfield was involved in the battle, though he was noted as punching one of the coal operators adding yet another charge against him.

The Battle of the Tug ended on May 15 when State Police arranged a truce, with the aid of a physician who crawled under fire through the Kentucky mountains to make contact with the insurgents. During the fighting, Governor Ephraim Franklin Morgan asked President Harding to send federal troops ‘‘to prevent wanton slaughter of innocent citizens.’’ Although Morgan’s request was denied, it set the stage for sending federal troops into West Virginia in September.”

From: “Savage, Lon. Thunder in the Mountains. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990.”

Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 11:16 pm  Comments Off on Battle of the Tug  
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Sid Hatfield

Plaque at Matewan History Society

Sid Hatfield was one of the key figures that led up to the eventual Battle at Blair Mountain. Sid Hatfield may not have been a member of the Hatfield family involved in the famous Hatfield-McCoy Feud though he boasted that he was. He received his nickname, ” Smilin’ Sid” Hatfield because of the gold caps on every one of his teeth.

Sid Hatfield (1893–1921) was Police Chief of Matewan, West Virginia during the Battle of Matewan, a shootout that followed a series of evictions carried out by detectives from the Baldwin-Felts agency. On May 19, 1920, thirteen detectives, including Baldwin-Felts president Thomas Felts, younger brothers Albert and Lee, arrived in Matewan to evict miners and their families from their homes in the Stone Mountain Mine camp. Sid Hatfield protested their arrival. No one knows whom started the famous gun battle but it ended with twenty people seriously wounded or killed, including the mayor of Matewan. There were rumors that Sid, himself, had shot the mayor in order to marry his widow. However, this is more likely a rumor.

He was put on trial several times, including in front of the US Senate. However, he proved to be a difficult man to charge due to his overwhelming popularity from the media and miners. He was also present during the 3 Days Battle, which occurred several months later in Matewan in which miners fought against the Coal Operator’s private militias for several days along the Tug River in West Virgina and Kentucky.

Fifteen months after the gun battle, Hatfield was indicted on murder charges stemming from the shootout but was later acquitted by the jury. He was sent to stand trial with Ed Chambers on conspiracy charges for an unrelated incident and was set to stand trial in Welch, West Virginia. Hatfield was unarmed when several Baldwin-Felts men shot and killed him on the McDowell County Courthouse steps.

Reports from that time say that the unarmed Hatfield had seventeen bullets in him. None of the Baldwin-Felts detectives was ever charged in Hatfield’s assassination. This caused an outpouring of grief for the fallen local hero at the funeral. It was one of the causes of the stem of outrage that led to the Battle of Blair Mountain.

Hatfield was buried in a plot across the Tug River in KY.

Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm  Comments Off on Sid Hatfield  
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