Wheelgun Wednesday: Police Revolvers In South Korea

Doug E
by Doug E

Welcome to TFB’s 136th edition of Wheelgun Wednesday, where we explore all things related to revolvers. Last year, I began to explore which pistols police are currently issued around the world, a series I need to get back to. However, during that research for the first article in that series, I learned of the Carabineros of Chile who are issued Taurus Model 82 revolvers in .38 Special, and if there’s one country, perhaps there’s more. The South Korean National Police Agency (KNPA or KNP) is probably one of the most well-known countries to currently issue revolvers, albeit in smaller numbers than some would expect. Let’s take a look at police-issued revolvers in South Korea, and potential changes for the future.

Wheelguns @ TFB:


Even before the wildly popular series Squid Game from South Korea aired on Netflix, South Korean Police were already known in the firearms community for carrying revolvers, however, it’s possible that the policies that govern how their revolvers are carried are what made the usage more well known, rather than the revolvers themselves. It’s all true, well, not the Squid Game part, but numerous sources have confirmed that the Korean National Police require that police give three chances for an armed perpetrator to give up their weapon before the Police may use their firearm. The first resultant trigger pull by the police officer will be a warning shot with a blank, which can then be followed by up to three or four .38 caliber projectiles. Some information claims that officers carry two blanks, while most sources state that the hammer rests on an empty chamber.

S&W Model 60 Image credit: Smith & Wesson

The most current model carried by the South Korean National Police is the Smith & Wesson Model 60, which is a five-shot revolver chambered in .357 Magnum and .38 Special. S&W Model 10’s and some Colt’s were previously issued, which were both six-shooters. Due to the lack of general firearms ownership in Korea, finding an open-source look at the KNP’s revolvers took some time, but I found one video from the KNP’s YouTube channel that grants us a quick peek, one that actually begs more questions than it provides answers for. I don’t speak Korean, so perhaps the answers are hidden in the audio, so if you speak the language, feel free to translate the context in the section that shows the wheelgun and share it in the comment section.

For those that didn’t watch the video, the following images are screen captures from it.

Image credit: Korean National Police Agency educational use
Image credit: Korean National Police Agency educational use
Image credit: Korean National Police Agency educational use
Image credit: Korean National Police Agency educational use

There are a couple things to unpack there. It appears that the trigger either has a plug that must be pushed out before the trigger can be pulled, or that the plug is attached to the trigger to require more force to pull the trigger. Secondly, what the heck is attached to the right side of the frame? It almost looks like there are some diagonal wear marks above and below the circular… thing. I actually asked Smith & Wesson about whatever this feature was, and they didn’t respond to that particular question, which means it could be a contractual facet that they’re not able to disclose, or it’s a modification made in Korea. If you have answers or speculations, please share them in the comments section! One wild speculation I have is that it could be a secondary cylinder release.

FUTURE REVOLVERS FOR THE police of South Korea?

In 2017, TFB’s Miles V. broke the news that S&T Motiv of South Korea and a division of Daewoo, now known as SNT Motiv, had developed a 9x19mm six-shot revolver that features “smart gun” technology that tracks the firearm and documents each shot, and when it’s reloaded. The brains of the STRV9 revolver are housed in the bottom of the grip. SNT Motiv’s promotional photos of the new revolver are shown with standard live rounds, less lethal, and blank ammunition.

Thus far, it appears that despite its production five years ago, the STRV9 has not been formally adopted by the KNP, and there’s been little news about it since 2019. It should be noted that the image of the 9mm revolver is most likely reversed as the cylinder below would swing out to the right side, however on the production models seen in Miles’ article and THIS VIDEO, the cylinder swings to the left side.

Image credit: SNT Motiv
Image credit: SNT Motiv

You can view SNT Motiv’s website, SNTMotiv.com, to view the STRV9 slides, and other small arms they produce. If you missed my other articles about the Current Police Issued Pistols of South America, you can check out PART 1 and PART 2. I’ll be tackling Europe next when we return to that series.

What do you think contributes to the use of the Korean National Police using revolvers, blanks, warning shots, and trigger blocks? Any speculation about the button on the right side of the KNP’s S&W 60s? What do you think about the SNT Motiv STRV9 9mm revolver, either regarding its smart tech, or the caliber?

Doug E
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 gmail.com, or battleshipgrey61 on Instagram.

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3 of 78 comments
  • Gunsandrockets Gunsandrockets on Jun 25, 2022

    What a fascinating story. It seems that South Korean and Japanese police thinking about armament is pretty unique and exotic. To think that both of them are using small frame S&W .38 revolvers, carried in full flap holsters!


    As for that weird thingy behind the trigger of the Korean revolver, I bet that is a push-out rubber trigger-blocking manual safety. Note the key-ring piercing the block, which encircles the trigger guard. Why is that there? Probably so that when the trigger-block is pushed out of the trigger-guard, instead of falling away it is still attached to the revolver, preventing loss of the safety.

    Adding such a clumsy manual-safety to a modern S&W DA revolver, convinces me that the rumors of leaving an empty chamber under the hammer are probably true. Safety paranoia run amok.

    I could see the key-ring attachment jamming up between the bottom of the trigger and the trigger guard during the trigger stroke, as well as the problem of the manual safety dangling underneath the trigger guard during fire. Wacky wacky wacky.

  • Moobly Moobly on Jun 26, 2022

    re: Translating the context

    The revolver isn't addressed in her narrative, it's only shown - though you'll notice that the S&W emblem is covered.

    That may be customary, because the revolvers aren't addressed directly in this video covering a KNP night shift's patrol activities either. Though their use of 'weapons' is mentioned and it appears one is shown being holstered at ~1:42 along with others in the holsters of officer's shown in the station prior to that.

    But here are comments by a retired KNP officer concerning their use, role, and why they are supposed to reserve the first two chambers. He also addresses the KNP's typical arsenal management procedure in his posting history.

    FWIW - I wouldn't be surprised if their loaded-revolver policy is actually the result of a political compromise, due to Korea's history under martial governments perhaps.
    - i.e. that standard issue of loaded firearms to Police is/was controversial and they arrived at that strange load-out by negotiation / appeasement.

    Because you'll see from his explanation that it doesn't even make sense by the official justification - either factually or practically.

    • Moobly Moobly on Jun 26, 2022

      @moobly BTW - to get a translation, click the Watch On YouTube icon - when on YouTube, click the '... 's next to Save, below the video. That will open an option to Show Transcript.

      A transcript will be presented in Korean, to the right of the video. Now you just need to learn to read Korean - or select the English translation option at the bottom-left of that panel ;)