This Is Doggone Interesting! Read It.
The General's Personal Sidearms
General Patton, in December of 1944, explained to Major-General Robert M. Littlejohn that, "I want the men of Third Army to know where I am, and that I risk the same dangers that they do. A little fancy dress is added to help maintain the leadership and fighting spirit that I desire in the Third Army."
Over the years, that "fancy dress" included a number of personal weapons definitely not government issue.
The best remembered "trademark" of General Patton is the ivory handled Colt .45 Peacemaker that he wore.
During the early days of WWII, when the news media was discovering that Patton was good copy, Patton was often referred to as "two-gun" Patton, alluding to the suggestion that Patton wore two ivory handled Colt .45's all the time. These reports are not wholly correct on two counts.
First, Patton neither owned nor wore two "matching" Colt .45's. The pistol commonly thought to be a Colt was actually a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum. It was never worn as often as the Colt.
Secondly, the "two-gun" image of Patton is largely a creation of some inventive reporter. According to extensive research, there exists only one photograph of Patton wearing two ivory-handled revolvers at one time. Of course, Patton never said anything to hamper the image created by the media, since it served his purpose. The photograph spoken of was taken of Patton standing on the beach on the day of his landing at Fedala, North Africa with his Western Task Force in November of 1942. It was the first major American naval invasion in the history of the United States.
It has been reported that another photograph of Patton wearing two pistols does exist, taken during maneuvers at the Desert Training Center in California in 1942, but that photograph has yet to be located.
Periodically, Patton would wear the Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum in place of the Colt .45, but it was an exception rather than the rule. As proven by "wear marks", the Colt .45 was the usual weapon worn in the right holster of the set. The Smith & Wesson .357 fits the left holster exactly.
Although the Colt .45 and Smith & Wesson .357 are the so called "favorites" worn by the General, over the years Patton collected and used many different pistols. In Europe during WWII Patton had a small .32 caliber Colt automatic pistol which he called his "social pistol". He usually wore this .32 in a small clip-holster in his right hand trouser pocket when he was in the rear areas. He wore it inside his jacket as an additional "safety precaution" when he was in the front lines. On rare occasions, such as the formal ceremony when Patton turned over the command of the Third Army to Lt. General Lucian K. Truscott, Patton wore a more "subdued" weapon; a Colt .38 snub-nosed Detective Special with black, hard rubber grips.
Being a General when he entered the action of WWII, Patton had the prerogative of "designing" his own uniform. This privilege allowed him to wear the pistols and any accoutrements as he desired.
As a captain at the outbreak of WWI, the "Great War", Patton was required to wear a regulation uniform. Accordingly he sailed to France aboard the liner Baltic with the Army issue Model 1911 Colt .45 automatic pistol. The pistol was "regulation" with one exception. Patton had managed to replace the issued grips with ivory grips in which his initials were deeply engraved.
This same Colt .45 automatic was often worn by Patton during the Army's preparatory maneuvers and war games which took place in 1941 and 1942 in both Tennessee and Louisiana.
On the cover of Life Magazine's "Defense Issue" dated July 7, 1941, Patton is seen in the turret of his command tank. He is wearing the M1911 Colt .45 automatic in a government issue shoulder holster. The tank is adorned with red, white, blue, and yellow stripes along with two flags attached to the front sides; one flag with the two stars of a Major-General; the other is a flag of the Second Armored Division.
According to his planning, it was impossible for Patton's troops not to know who or where he was.
A photograph of Patton in front of his Desert Training Center command tank appears on the cover of Newsweek Magazine dated July 26, 1943. In this photograph Patton is wearing yet another of his pistols. Another Colt, this one is a semi-automatic .22 "Woodsman" target pistol, with a long narrow barrel which required a special holster.
While at the Desert Training Center in California in 1942, Patton seems to have favored this .22 pistol, probably because he was not in actual combat and in the desert he could use it as for "plinking". There is also an abundance of jack rabbits, varmints, and rattlesnakes in the desert to keep a shooter's eye and hand in practice.
The Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum that Patton owned was shipped to him from the Smith & Wesson factory on October 18, 1935. It was a newly developed gun manufactured especially for the new cartridge that Smith & Wesson had created. It was the most powerful handgun in the world at the time. Although Patton's Colt .45 was chambered for a special large revolver cartridge weighing 255 grams with enormous shocking power, he purchased the Smith & Wesson as a "killing gun", as he termed it.
The newly introduced Smith & Wesson firearm was a double action revolver with a special chrome-nickel-steel alloy hammer and cylinder which were necessary to withstand the great pressure of the cartridge explosion. Because of the two types of metal in the gun, the originals were unique in that they were "two-tone", with the frame a blued gun metal and the hammer and cylinder an almost white alloy. They originally retailed at $60.00. It was offered as the most powerful handgun ever made. Today it is still advertised as one of the most powerful in the world, but the price has risen astronomically.
Upon leaving the factory, the revolver had standard walnut stocks, but they were soon replaced with the initialed ivory grips so loved by the General.
Throughout WWII, Patton had predominately worn the Colt .45 Peacemaker, but at the start of 1945, it seemed to be headed for retirement.
General Kenyon Joyce, a longtime friend of Patton, acquired and sent to the General a pocket-type pistol. It was a Remington Model 51 .380 automatic. It had been a difficult gun to locate as it had not been manufactured since 1935, but one was found by the Remington firm. It was re-conditioned and engraved on it was, "To George Patton/From his shooting partner of many years/Kenyon Joyce." Patton wore it from time to time.
Patton's "special" weapons deserved other than average accoutrements, so "special" belts and holsters were selected that would enhance the appearance of them, much the same as a beautiful setting displays a precious gem.
The belt and holsters for Patton's Colt .45 and Smith & Wesson .357 were made by S.D. Myers of El Paso, Texas. S.D. "Tio" Myers had started his leather business as a saddle manufacturer in Sweetwater, Texas in 1897. In 1920 he moved his business to El Paso where it remained until his death. His son took over the business and ran it until he retired in 1978.
The belt and holsters are made of light brown hide. The holsters have flat, closed tips with a safety strap to fit around the hammer of the pistol to prevent accidental discharging.
The belt is 1-15/16 inches wide and the buckle on it has a convex brass disc marked with the letters " U S ". The buckle was taken from a Model 1910 Officer's web belt.
Other items made to fit the belt are a "#4 Hand Cuff Case" in which Patton carried a lensmatic compass; a "#19 Belt Slide Loop" which holds 12 cartridges; and a small leather "box" used as a first aid kit.
These pieces of equipment, along with the Colt .45 and Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum, fell into disuse when Patton began to favor a smaller, lighter Colt .380 automatic.
In the book "Patton and His Pistols" it is reported that Patton began to favor the small Remington that General Joyce had sent to him. According to that book, it is the Remington that replaced the Colt .45 revolver as Patton's favorite. That, however, is incorrect. Upon very close examination of the photos available of Patton wearing an automatic pistol, some discrepancies are noted in the claims made by the authors.
Plainly visible are features of the Colt .380 displayed on the automatic with the inlaid ivory stars which are discernibly different from the Remington .380. The butt is straight; the grip rivets are of a light color and are located at the rear, middle portion of the handle. The clip catch is located on the bottom, rear of the pistol. The "wear marks" of the filled holster indicate, in a very pronounced way, a fully extended barrel of the same size as the portion near the trigger housing. These features are indicative of an exact description of the Colt .380 automatic pistol.
Conversely, the Remington automatic has a curved butt; it's grip rivets are of a dark color and are located at the top and bottom of the handle. It has a longer, tapered barrel which would not completely fill the bottom of the holster used by Patton, therefore not being of sufficient size to create the wear marks which are shown on the holster.
For carrying the Colt .380, Patton used the new "General Officers" belt, sometimes called the "Marshall Belt", because General George C. Marshall personally had them created for general officers. This belt, like the stars of rank, were and are today, considered as part of the insignia of a General Officer in the U.S. Army. It is made of soft rolled leather 1-3/4 inches wide and the buckle is convex bearing the U.S. Army eagle with laurel wreaths curving up either side.
Along with the belt were issued two holsters. One made to fit the M1911 Colt .45 automatic and one made to fit the newly issued Colt .380 automatic. The Colt .380 automatic greatly resembled a small version of the M1911 Colt .45, which it was since it was designed from similar specifications.
One of the most probable reasons that Patton liked the small Colt was because of it's size and weight. It was a mere 13 ounces, as compared to the Colt .45's 38 ounces and the 41 ounces of the Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum. Though small, it was a hard hitting pistol.
Patton liked the Colt .45, but it was a very heavy sidearm. To his nephew, Fred Ayer, Jr., he explained, "People ask me why I swagger, swear, wear flashy uniforms, and sometimes two pistols. Don't you think these guns get awfully heavy, wearing them all the time? Well, I'm not sure whether or not some of it isn't my own fault. However that may be, the press, and others have built a picture of me. So, now, no matter how tired or discouraged, or really ill I may be, if I don't live up to that picture, my men are going to say, 'The old man's had it. The old son-of-a-***** has had it'. Then their own confidence, their own morale will take a big dip."
With the "Marshall" belt and the Colt .380 adorned with three stars, Patton had a classy, effective, and attractive combination. It could easily supersede the Colt .45 revolver and at the same time it was a complimentary addition to Patton's colorful, cavalier uniform.
Most people, and especially Patton fans, are aware that Patton hated for his pistols to be referred to as "pearl-handled".
Of the 1,500 Colt .380's obtained by the Army for issue to General Officers, only one of them was different. Someone along the supply line had removed the standard grips from the pistol to be issued to General Patton and had replaced them with pearl grips, undoubtedly in an attempt to please the general.
In it's original condition, the pistol had black, hard rubber grips. Patton replaced them with grips different than the usual ivory grips with his initials. This pistol had black stocks with three large ivory stars inlaid. Upon his promotion to full General in 1945, Patton again replaced the grips. These new ones had four large stars inlaid.
In photographs of Patton after acquiring this pistol, he is rarely seen without it.
Patton took violent offense at any reference to his pistols being pearl handled. He said, "Only a pimp in a New Orleans whorehouse or a tin-horn gambler would carry a pearl-handled pistol." In no uncertain terms he would have the offender know that his revolver was indeed "IVORY-GOD-****ING-DAMN-HANDLED" and with that he would turn on his heel and leave.
There were two very plausible reasons for Patton's disapprobation toward pearl. One was that Patton, being a firm believer in luck, considered pearl to be unlucky, and consequently refused to wear it. The other was that Patton, as a young lieutenant, spent many years on border patrol in Texas and New Mexico. That territory in those days was still the "old west" and many a time personal opinions were assisted with a few ounces of hot lead. Patton personally knew and associated with many of the types about whom movies are made today. One of them was a town marshall named Dave Allison who had, while Patton was stationed at the town of Sierra Blanca, killed a gang called the "Orozco outfit". With no help and from a distance of 60 yards he had shot all six of them squarely through the head. Patton often went hunting with the marshall and they were quite good friends.
Truthfully, in those "old days" only pimps and tin-horn gamblers did carry pearl handled sidearms.
The Colt Revolver
Name: Colt Single Action Army Revolver Model 1873
Barrel Length: 4-3/4 inches
Overall Length: 10-1/4 inches
Weight: 38 ounces
Stocks: Ivory, Carved Eagle, left hand stock. GSP in black enamel, right hand stock
Purchase Date: March 5, 1916
Serial Number: 332088
The Smith & Wesson Magnum
Name: S & W Double Action Revolver Model 27
Caliber: 357 Magnum
Barrel Length: 3-1/2 inches
Overall Length: 8-7/8 inches
Weight: 41 ounces
Finish: Blue / Nickel Alloy
Stocks: Ivory, GSP in right hand stock
Purchase Date: October 18, 1935
Serial Number: 47022
The Colt Automatic
Name: Colt Automatic Pistol Model 1908
Barrel Length: 2-1/4 inches
Overall Length: 4-1/2 inches
Weight: 13 ounces
Finish: Deep Blue
Stocks: Black / Inlaid Ivory Stars (4) on right grip
Serial Number: 135170
Other Patton Pistols
Colt Match Target Automatic .22
Colt 1903 Pocket Automatic .32
Colt 1908 Hammerless Automatic .380
Colt Detective Special Revolver .38
Colt Army M1911 Automatic .45ACP
Remington 1908 Model 51 Automatic .380