Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I Was Born, Six Gun In My Hand..............

Today was day two on the pistol range with my old department. I am very pleased with how everyone has done so far. I can remember not so long ago that I couldn't say that, but the folks have worked real hard and it shows on their targets.

I was sitting here thinking how shooting and qualification has changed since I first started in Law Enforcement. Let me share what was considered adequate training not so very long ago.

My first weapon that I carried on duty was a Model 28 Smith & Wesson revolver. It was in .357 cal. and was a BIG weapon. (The Model 28 is built on the same frame that the .44 Magnum is built on, you non-gun nuts, remember Dirty Harry's weapon?) My duty ammunition was .357 magnum 125 gr. J.H.P. Now this is a pretty good load for that day and time, but I never shot it to qualify with. Are you kidding? That stuff was too damned expensive to shoot that many rounds. Besides that, my department furnished ammunition to qualify with. Good old 148 gr. hollow base wad cutters in .38 spl.

Our qualification day was considered a sort of holiday. Off duty officers would bring a grill, coolers, various odds and ends and have a cookout when the shooting was over. (On duty officers could come by and get something to eat, but nothing to drink, if you know what I mean) Since our range was a gravel pit with a couple of heavy steel cables to hang targets off of, no matter what we did down there would disturb anyone. I drank my first legal beer after a firearms qualification.

We didn't shoot on time, loaded from our pockets, (Dump the whole box of 50 rounds in your front pants pocket) and dumped our empty shell casings into large cardboard buckets thoughtfully donated by the local KFC. We also didn't take very many safety precautions either. No hearing protection, (Unless you either used empty shell casings or cigarette buts, but if you did, the old timers considered you a "candy-ass") no eye protection, there was smoking and tobacco chewing on the line and I don't even think that anyone even washed their hands before eating.

Now before everyone freaks out, at that time there were no standards for law enforcement training or even firearms qualification. Departments could and did set their own standards and if there was someone "progressive" in management they might have some requirement for officers to shoot to a certain level. A lot would depend on the chief, or more importantly the budget. You know what they say, No bucks, No Buck Rogers. Our chief was a NOT a bad guy, he got us what he thought he could. But he DID know which side of the bread his butter was on.

However, in my department there were a few "gun nuts" who read the gospel according to the prophets, Jeff Cooper, Elmer Keith, "Skeeter" Skelton, Bill Jordan and other such writers, fellow law officers or others who had "seen the elephant". They told me about the Newhall, California shootout where 4 C.H.P. officers were killed in a brutal four and a half minute gunfight with 2 highly motivated and well armed criminals. They were the ones shooting "hot loads" to qualify with, who carried speed loaders and wore ear muffs or plugs when shooting. Luckily, those were the folks that I hung with. I learned a great deal from those folks, my friends and brother officers who I never really thanked for taking me under their wing and teaching me how to survive as a law enforcement officer. I do think that their time and efforts paid off however. I think that one of the reasons that I went into firearms training for was to save all today's young pups from making all the mistakes that I made, when I was first starting out. (and maybe to keep them safe, so they can go home at the end of their watch) Maybe my old friends and fellow officers, (some of whom have passed on) can consider what I do today on the range as a trainer as a small tribute to them and as a thanks for the time they invested in me so long ago. I sure do hope so.

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