Book Review (Historical Handgun) – Manual of Police Revolver Instruction (1932, R. M. Bair)

I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that work includes reading as many old books on shooting technique as I can find.

The Manual of Police Revolver Instruction is a short book written in 1932, reprinted in 2014 by the Sportsman’s Vintage Press.  My review copy was loaned to me by KR Training assistant instructor Ed Vinyard.

The author, R. M. Bair, was the revolver instructor and ballistician for the Pennsylvania Highway Patrol, and the book was originally published by the NRA.


  • Position
  • Grip
  • Sighting
  • Breathing
  • Muscle Strain
  • Squeeze
  • Flinching
  • Safety Rules
  • Care of Revolver
  • Dry Shooting
  • Qualification and Match courses

The techniques shown are typical of other books from the 1930’s: one handed bullseye shooting, mostly shot on the Standard American Target (NRA B-6) and the Colt Silhouette (B-21).

Each chapter ends with review questions. A few examples:

  1. What is meant by firing line? Line of fire? (Position)
  2. How should the hammer be cocked, between shots, when firing with the right hand? left hand? (Grip)
  3. What is the difference between blade and patridge type sights? (Sights)
  4. How would you sight a revolver at night to hit a man-sized target at 50 yards? (Sights)
  5. If you take a deep breath and hold it until the shot is fired, what will be the result? (Breathing)
  6. When firing with the right hand, why should the left hand never be placed on teh hip? (Muscle Strain)
  7. What will be the result when firing if the thumb pressure is not equalized with the trigger finger? (Squeeze)

The review question answers are found in the text of each chapter.

The chapter on sighting includes many well drawn examples showing the effect of incorrect aiming on a 25 yard target. In these pictures, the black dot is the bullseye center, as it appears to the shooter firing at that target at 25 yards.

15 Safety Rules

The book lists 15 different safety rules – far more complicated than the current NRA 3 rules or Jeff Cooper’s 4 rules, or the 2 rules I teach.  The 15 rules were very specific to the type of training the author conducted, both for range qualification and firearms handling on duty.


  • #1 NEVER handle, point or look over the sights of any firearm handed to you without opening the arm to be sure it is not loaded
  • #4 NEVER turn around to talk to any person behind you when at the firing point without first lifting out the cylinder of a revolver or locking back the slide of an automatic pistol, and laying either one down on the shooting bench before turning around.
  • #8 NEVER talk to a shooter when he is at the firing point.
  • #10 The revolver should be loaded with the muzzle pointing toward the ground about a yard away from the feet. NEVER load a revolver if anyone is standing in front of you.
  • #13 A shot should never be fired while the officer is running.  In the case of a running gun fight, the officer should stop and fire deliberately.
  • #15 In a running gun fight where the fugitive turns to fire at the officer, the officer should fall to the ground (where he makes a very small target), grip the revolver with both hands, rest both elbows on the ground and fire deliberately.


The use of reduced scale targets for dry practice is recommended, as is doing dry fire practice with a partner that can observe shooter errors.  The author suggests the following:

The officer should practice drawing the revolver from the holster with the right hand, firing one dry shot at the target, and then passing the revolver to the left hand, firing the second shot, being careful to assume the proper position in each case and to see that the proper grip has been taken.  He should continue this practice with the empty revolver until it feels natural in either hand.

Similar to today, instructors had to address bad ideas students learned from entertainers that use guns as theater props.

After drawing the revolver from the holster, the officer should never raise the revolver over his head before bringing the sights into alignment with the target. This is wild west hokum, and if his adversary were a good shot it would be entirely possible for him to fire two shots at the officer before he could bring his sights into alignment.


During a recent private lesson, my student and I shot a few of the drills from this book.  The first one is 25 rounds and requires one handed bullseye shooting at 15, 25 and 50 yards using right hand only.  The fastest string in this course of fire is 5 shots in 15 seconds, same as required by the current Texas License to Carry shooting test. The Texas LTC test uses the giant B-27 target, scored with the 8, 9 and 10 rings (11-3/4” wide by 17-1/2” tall) counting 5 points, but this drill is shot on a bullseye target with a 3.36″ circular 10-ring.   Unfortunately, the book does not state what a passing minimum score on this drill is. 70% of possible points is typical of other similar courses from this era.

Some pics from the 15, 25 and 50 yard strings.  I’m shooting the smaller bullseye target on the right.

One challenge in shooting these older drills is par times longer than 99 seconds.  I had to dig my old PACT timer out of the storage closet, because it could handle the 300 second (5 minute) par time for the slow fire (1 shot per minute) strings.  Shooting that slowly is a very different skill from modern training. Going as slowly as I could go, my slowest time for the 300 second par time was just over 100 seconds to fire 5 rounds.

This drill was tough – one of the hardest I’ve shot in my historical exploration thus far.

I shot the drill cold without doing any dry fire runs on it, using my S&W 686 revolver, one handed, thumb cocking each shot as they did in the 30’s.  My score was 186 out of 250 possible.  I used the FBI-IP target, which had bullseye dimensions matching those listed in the book, but lacked the 5 and 6 rings the book described. I drew in a rough 6 ring, which allowed me to pick up the two 6’s and one 5 outside the printed target.

I had my student shoot another drill from the book that used the Army L (NRA B-22) target. It’s quite a bit larger, with bigger scoring rings, than the FBI-IP, but the 15 yard string has a shorter time limit (11 seconds) than the 15 seconds used in the previous test.

The drill was:

  • 25 yards, slow fire (5 rounds in 5 minutes), 2x, right hand only
  • 25 yards, timed fire (5 rounds in 20 seconds), 2x, right hand only
  • 15 yards, quick fire (5 rounds in 11 seconds), 2x, right hand only

I had him shoot my 686 revolver, also shooting the drill cold with no dry fire warmup.  He shot over 90% on the Texas LTC test, and passed my “3 Seconds or Less” test with a score over 80%, using an M&P Shield.  On this drill, he shot 64% with a lot of low-left hits, likely due to the very different feel the grip and trigger of a 6″ barrel DA revolver (shot single action) has compared to a polymer striker fired subcompact semiauto pistol.


This book is yet another example of the many books written about shooting during the early 1930’s. Not particularly influential, but certainly another record of what was considered conventional wisdom of that era.  My main takeaway from it is the collection of drills that I can incorporate into the Historical Handgun course and in my own practice, as I work toward being able to shoot 90% or better on every drill, from every era.  I plan on putting some additional dry and live fire time in on additional runs on these drills over the next few weeks, and students in the October 2017 Historical handgun “one day part two” course will shoot a few of them in that course.