With "John Wick: Chapter 4" scheduled to be released this week, we thought it would be interesting to show just how far the tactical-practical shooting concept has come in the past 40 years. 

If you go with the aspect of mid-1980s staples, take a look at these pro-tips and mods from yesteryear that often still make their rounds today. 
 

Grip upgrades


Mr. Melvin Tyler of Oklahoma City in the 1970s introduced his T-Grip, a simple cast aluminum grip adapter that modified the angle of common S&W and Colt revolvers. These grips added an easy finger groove, filled the palm, and forced the user to have a higher purchase on the back strap. By the early 1980s, guys looking for an edge were installing them left and right. 
 

S&W 64 with Tyler grips
Today, Tyler's grips still accepts orders via mail – check and money order only – although others such as Robertson Trading Post in Tennessee make clones. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Smith & Wesson Model 36 Chief's Special J-frame revolver
You often find T-grip-equipped revolvers on the secondary market, such as this Smith & Wesson Model 36 Chief's Special J-frame revolver with a coveted 3-inch barrel. (Photo: Guns.com)
S&W Model 28 Highway Patrolman
And trigger shoes, which gave the user a broader pad on the base of the trigger, were popular about the same time. Tyler made both T-grips and shoes, with the latter seen on a vintage S&W Model 28 Highway Patrolman above. These days, it is generally just advisable to run a shoe on target/range guns rather than one used for self-defense, as the shoe can work loose and lock the trigger at inopportune times. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)


For over 50 years, California’s Frank Pachmayr turned out high-quality custom rifles with Old World craftsmanship. Of course, he also upgraded 1911s into his Pachmayr Combat Special grade and invented a sweeping line of hard rubber (elastomeric) handgun and revolver grips that endure in many ways today.
 

Pachmayr's
Pachmayr's "Gripper" rubber combat grip was the gold standard for fighting revolvers in the 1980s and 90s.  (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Colt Agent & Colt Detective revolvers
Pachys made a quick upgrade on a Colt D-frame, moving from the standard wooden grips to something a bit more hand-filling. Speaking of snub-nosed revolvers, the practice of carrying two of these abbreviated wheelguns – or the "New York Reload" – dated from this same era, and, for some, is still used today. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Colt Agent hammer shroud
As did hammer shrouds on small carry revolvers. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Street Loader ad
Other, hokier, grips floated around in the 1980s and have not stood the test of time. 

 

Faster Loading


Speedloaders for revolvers date back to at least the 1880s, but it wasn't until the 1970s that the modern plastic variants hit the scenes and saw more widespread adoption. 
 

FBI shooting range 1976
As witnessed by this classic 1976 FBI Quantico shot from the National Archives, besides the Puma flippers and teacup grip, you'll notice the S&W Model 10 M&P .38 along with its Hank Sloan leather holster in the 4 o'clock position. For a reload, the agent would have a 2 + 2 + 2 ammo pouch, shown at the 2 o'clock. Not fast, but better than just having bullets floating around in a pocket. 


Then came the Kel-Lite – the people who made the first heavy-duty aluminum-bodied flashlight long before Maglite – Dade Six plastic speedloader. By 1977, Safariland of Monrovia, California, did it better with the new J-K2 "one-motion" speedloader, which didn't require the user to push a button or turn a knob to drop six rounds into a S&W K-frame .38/.357 within a second or two after a bit of practice. 
 

Smith & Wesson Model 64 with Safariland speedloaders
The smart patrolman – and savvy consumer – by the late 1970s and early 1980s had started to carry a speedloader or two for quick reloads. 
Assorted speedloaders
Today, speedloaders and speed strips are still common tools for wheelgun aficionados. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

 

High Speed, Low Drag


Besides revolvers, autoloaders were often in use, although they typically had a steeper learning curve. In the early 1980s, pre-Glock and SIG P226, the pistol market was dominated by early double-stack 9mms, such as the S&W Model 59, Beretta 92SB, and Browning Hi-Power, augmented, naturally, by the staple M1911 .45 ACP. It just made sense for many, as these semi-autos gave the user a faster reload in most cases, as well as a higher magazine capacity when stacked against any revolver. 

As Mr. Browning's 1911 design incorporated both a manual frame-mounted thumb safety and a rear grip-mounted beavertail safety, it was common in some circles to pin the latter closed to be able to get into action faster. This was often done via the use of a few elastic bands, a trick that dated back to the days of Texas Ranger Charlie Miller, a 1950s Lone Star State lawman of great repute. 

 

M1911 with rubber banded grip
While we wouldn't recommend it today, a frequently seen trick on 1911s back in the day was using rubber bands around the grip to pin the beavertail safety shut. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)


The practice even bled over to period films and TV shows, such as Michael Mann's 1980s neo-noir cop show "Crime Story." It featured Donaldo Gugliermo "Dennis" Farina in the role of Chicago Police Lt. Mike Torello, which wasn't much of a stretch as Farina had been an actual CPD member from patrolman to detective, with 18 years carrying a badge. Of note, Massad Ayoob observed at the time that Torello was "well and truly portrayed" and some 1,300 Chicago cops in 1986 alone were authorized to carry the Colt .45 Auto.
 

Dennis Farina screen capture
Mann was a stickler for realism when it came to firearms use in his productions, as seen in "Thief," "Heat," and "Miami Vice." Here is a screen cap of Dennis Farina's Chicago Police Lt. Mike Torello with a rubber-banded 1911. (Photo: IMFDB)
Smith & Wesson Model 1917 revolver
Other, more pedestrian handgun hacks were to paint the leading edge of a pistol or revolver's front sight post, typically with some sort of high-glo nail polish. An example of the "Revlon" treatment is seen on this S&W 1917 N-frame .45. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)


When it came to backups, besides the New York Reload, tactical knives first started gaining a lot of traction in the 1970s and early 1980s. While some domestic makers such as Randall and K-Bar had a solid reputation in an "if you know, you know" kind of sense, the availability of high-quality but low-cost blades from Italy, Germany, Japan, and Taiwan was new and commanding. 
 

1980s knives
Some common knives of the era included the Rigid RG-26 boot knife -– made in Taiwan in the 1980s for United Cutlery, Italian "city marked" stiletto knives, and Cold Steel's tantos, exemplified by the Kobun at the top. A similar Kobun is in the CIA's museum, carried by an officer in Operation Jawbreaker.
S&W knife and Model 645 pistol
You can almost hear the Reaganomics in the distance. Smith & Wesson in the 1980s marketed a line of “American Series” knives produced by Vermont Knives that were sold through their dealers, often in combos with the guns. At the same time, Smith also had offers for a free Member’s Only-style windbreaker ($49.95 value!) with the purchase of a Model 645 or similar. Miami Vice fans will note the big stainless .45 would appear on-screen as the carry piece of the fictional Detective Sergeant James “Sonny” Crockett, as portrayed by Don Johnson in Michael Mann's original "Miami Vice." (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Remington 870s
When it came to shotguns, Remington's 870 series was made in several super sweet scattergun styles in the 70s and 1980s, as seen in this catalog shot paired with National Archives image of a Navy SEAL Team 8 operator in an exercise. 
Franchi SPAS 12
Or you could go with a more exotic import such as the Italian-made Franchi SPAS-12, which was blocked from import after 1994. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Ruger Mini-14 GB with folding stock
Although the Colt AR sporter began production in 1963, in 1983 it was Ruger's Mini-14 that had a larger market share with consumers. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Ruger Mini-14 against book detailing the spider drop method
It was in common use at the time with both individuals and law enforcement – with police training to "spider drop" over walls with the little carbine if needed, as shown in this circa-1986 edition of "The Tactical Edge." (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)


In the end, while Mr. Wick's choices in 1983 would have been different than what we see on-screen today, odds are he could make do.

revolver barrel loading graphic

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