Internationally recognized as an authority on weapons and tactics, and the author of 49 books, Leroy Thompson has trained military and law enforcement personnel from around the globe in hostage rescue tactics, close protection and counterinsurgency. Look for his review of the Bushmaster ACR elsewhere in the June issue of Gun World!
Question: Mr. Thompson: I know you’ve written about counterterrorist units in books and magazine articles, so I have a question. Do any of the elite units still use revolvers? (Steve C., Scottsdale, Arizona)
Answer: As might be expected, most of the special operations and CT units have switched over to automatic pistols, but revolvers have seen usage until very recently.
Probably the best-known users of the revolver have been France’s GIGN (Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale). GIGN used the Manurhin MR73 revolver (see photo) for years, with operators normally carrying versions with a 5.25-inch barrel. MR73s with 3-inch barrels were issued for missions where concealment was important and some scoped MR73s with longer barrels, bipods, and optical sights were used for urban countersniping missions. Two other elite French units—RAID, the CT unit of the Police Nationale, and GSPR, the French unit that protects the French President—also used Manurhin MR73s.
When SEAL Team Six was formed, they originally used S&W stainless steel .357 Magnum revolvers for some missions. Austria’s GEK COBRA CT unit originally used MR73s with 4” barrels, but these were replaced by Glocks some years ago. The Dutch UIM (Unit Interventie Mariniers), the CT unit drawn from the Dutch Marines, originally used Colt Lawman .357 Magnum revolvers. These have been replaced with Glock 17s. In the early days of its existence, Germany’s GSG-9 also used S&W revolvers, including the compact Model 36.
There are probably still revolvers in some special ops armories around the world, but few remain in daily use. The French units loved their MR73s, but I believe they have been replaced for the most part as well, but I might be wrong on that.