Saturday Night Special RIP?

I was schmoozing with a Providence Police Department homicide detective a few weeks ago. I asked him what kind of guns he encountered on the mean streets of the Renaissance City. He didn’t hesitate for a second. “Glocks. Nine mil. That’s their favorite gun.” Why wouldn’t it be? Setting aside the role Hollywood’s played in Gaston’s popularity amongst gang-bangers (and police officers), the Glock is light years ahead of the gun control-era weapons that went by the intentionally incendiary name “Saturday Night Specials.” In an otherwise deadly dull article at gothamgazette.com (which talks about .9 mm guns), a Baltimore Police veteran and proclaimed “gun expert” rings the death knell for the cheap, nasty ass guns amongst America’s criminal class, despite his colleagues willful ignorance . . .

Many of the guns most commonly used in street crimes are what Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of law and police studies at John Jay College who previously served as both an NYPD officer and criminal prosecutor, and other cops call “Saturday night specials”: small, cheap handguns that are generally easy for buyers to get their hands on. “Less sophisticated, cheap guns that are easy to use have been the coin of the realm,” O’Donnell says.

But not too cheap, according to Charles Key, a gun expert who spent nearly 26 years with the Baltimore Police Department. “There is a myth about Saturday night specials. The old Saturday night special was some sort of cheap knock off, made of less than sturdy steel that you could buy on the street corner from some rat faced guy selling $2 pistols,” says Key, who served as an expert witness in the civil case filed against New York City by the family of Amadou Diallo, the 23-year-old Guinean immigrant who was shot and killed by four NYPD officers in The Bronx in 1999.

“In actual point of fact, criminals don’t want cheap knock offs.” According to Key, there is no inherent quality – price or ease of use, for example – in Smith & Wesson and Ruger firearms that would make them more attractive to criminals than other handguns. “It really depends on the model,” he says. “The easiest gun to use on the market is a double-action, semiautomatic pistol, which simply means that when you pull the trigger, the weapon fires.”

Especially if it’s a Glock.