One day back in the 1980s, I stopped for a bite to eat at the Burger King in Brookfield, CT, and was astonished to see a local cop tricked out with an enormous Model 92 Beretta (the US service pistol) and carrying on his belt five 15-round magazines. We’re talking 91-rounds here altogether and a ton of weight to be lugging around all day. Such was the result of the police fashion that took hold in the latter decades of the last century, in which law enforcement agencies all over the country read up on two rather unusual (and very bloody) shootouts and responded by retiring all their six-shot .38 Special and .357 Magnum revolvers and switching over to Glocks and other semi-automatic pistols with large-capacity magazines.
You never know. A Zulu impi might show up at any time and you’ll need 91-rounds.
But not everyone thinks that way. It turns out that the deadly and elite French Groupe dâ€™Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN), the French tactical counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, and government official protection unit, sneers at semiautomatic pistols and makes a point of using .375 Magnum Manurhin MR 73 revolvers.
The Groupe dâ€™Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, better known by its abbreviated name GIGN, which translates to National Gendarmerie Intervention Group in English, remains France’s premier counter-terrorism and hostage rescue unit. Since its founding shortly after the terrorist acts in Munich in 1973, GIGN has risen to prominence among the world’s counter-terrorism community. But one piece of gear in particular not only differentiates the unit from others, but it is also deeply ingrained in its lore and traditionâ€”the revolver, and in particular, the French-built Manurhin MR73. …
The revolvers are issued to each GIGN member for symbolic reasons as well as utilitarian ones. A passage from a 2014 issue of the official Gendarmerie information magazine states:
“Respect of human life and fire discipline have always been taught to group members since inception, and each new member is traditionally issued with a 6 shot .357 revolver as a reminder of these values.”
GIGN’s deep relationship with the revolver gets pretty intense beyond any outright symbolism. Apparently, the unit still practices a ‘trust shot’ as part of new member initiations where a team member wearing body armor puts a clay pigeon over their center of mass and the newly minted GIGN operator shoots the disc from 15 yards.