US Air Force To Retire Remaining Service Revolvers

    USAF retire service revolvers

    Image from

    The United States Air Force has officially begun to retire their remaining inventories of Smith & Wesson Model 15 (M15) service revolvers.  TFB reported in early March that the new Sig Sauer M18 service pistol would be phasing out all previous service pistols, which include the M15’s, Beretta M9’s and Sig M11’s.

    USAF retire service revolvers

    An Airman checks ordnance with an issued revolver at his side. Image from

    According to that article, the M15’s still in use were strictly used for training Military Working Dogs (MWD’s).  The primary reason for using the .38 special revolvers was to use blank ammunition to familiarize the dogs to gunfire so that they can continue to work under the stress of a gun battle.  The fact that the M15 could fire blank cartridges without any modification has been the driving factor to keeping the revolvers handy and still in use.  However, with the adoption of the Sig M18, blank conversion barrels are already available and the Air Force plans to purchase them to continue the same training with the dogs.

    USAF retire service revolvers

    A Military Working Dog handler during a training exercise with a S&W M15. Image from

    Interestingly, the Air Force even researched the feasibility of converting the M15 revolvers to 9mm for the eventual, all-branch switch to that caliber. You can read that study here.  The 9mm cylinders provided by S&W were relief-cut to accept half moon clips.  S&W provided two thicknesses of moon clips, .038″ and .031″. They noticed a 28.6 percent failure to fire rate with the thicker moon clips, but the thinner clips provided the right spacing for firing pin to primer contact. The ejection of the 9mm cases was more difficult.

    USAF retire service revolvers

    Screen capture from the 9mm M15 study. Standard configuration on the left with the conversion parts on the right.

    As much as a revolver fan as I am, I’m still surprised that revolvers officially made it well into the 21st Century in the armories of the US military, even if it was only in a training capacity.  Have any of our veteran readership been issued a revolver? What make and model did you carry?  Are any of you surprised it took so long to retire the last remaining revolvers?

    Doug E

    Doug has been a firearms enthusiast since age 16 after getting to shoot with a friend. Since then he’s taken many others out to the range for their first time. He is a husband, father, grandfather, police officer, outdoorsman, artist and a student of history. Doug has been a TFB reader from the start and is happy to be a contributor of content. Doug can be reached at battleshipgrey61 AT, or battleshipgrey61 on Instagram.