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DEPUTY’S OBSERVATIONS: Why Do We Carry Handguns?

DEPUTY’S OBSERVATIONS:  Why Do We Carry Handguns?

The Commander’s weapon of choice was a .38 S&W Chief Special wearing a Barami Hip Grip.

Frank Hinkle

Why do we carry handguns? It was a question asked of me many years ago while I had the honor to serve as the bailiff to a judge of the Superior Court. He was a remarkable man who spent most of his career as a top prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office, but for three-years he served as one of the most respected judges of our criminal courts. It was one of the most interesting times in my career.

We called him “The Commander,” a nickname that had been pinned on him by his colleagues in the DA’s office. Many of them served as officers in our nation’s military reserves, and at the same time that he became the chief-deputy of a branch office he also attained the rank of Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He eventually retired at the rank of captain, but there was just something about the moniker “The Commander” that fit him and it stuck with him for years.

“The Commander” was an exceptional leader. His Navy service had all been in “line units” in Naval Aviation. He was an electrical engineer by training and had served as a Naval Flight Officer on antisubmarine bombers, including an assignment to Vietnam immediately after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident.

“The Commander” was a common sense guy. No matter how complex of a legal issue that faced him, he always broke it down to its core elements, applied the applicable law and moved forward. I don’t ever recall him having to stop and take an objection under advisement and research it later; he just used common sense and made a ruling.

One of his most remarkable qualities as a leader was that he dedicated himself to teaching us on his staff something everyday. He had no obligation to do so, but everyday he tried to teach our clerk and court reporter and myself something. It might be a complex legal issue, Oriental philosophy or something of a mechanical nature, but everyday we learned something from him, and we were better employees and people for it. In later years I tried to do the same for the young deputies that I worked with.

“The Commander” was a life-long “gun guy” and carried a concealed weapon most of his adult life; a fact that his flight crewmembers appreciated. Flying patrols from Japan out over the open ocean they found it reassuring that “The Lieutenant” had a snub-nosed .38 in his flight suit pocket. Later when they were assigned to Vietnam all of the flight crewmembers were issued WWII era revolvers. While they were all gathered in the barracks being briefed, “The Lieutenant” was selecting which old revolvers his crewmen were going to carry, and he selected the best of the bunch. “The Lieutenant” looked after his crew.

One day “The Commander” accosted me with the question, “Why do we carry handguns?” I was stumped for an answer and muttered something feeble, like “Because they make us look sexy?” Being a gentleman he let that go. He did not expect me to answer his question, and we both knew that he was only couching a statement in the form of a question to encourage me to think about it.

“We carry handguns,” he told me in his crisp, precise way of speaking, “because we do not expect trouble.” That was my lesson for the day: We carry handguns because we do not expect trouble. To my credit I was able to extrapolate that out to the next level: If we expect trouble then we bring a long gun. But since we don’t expect trouble but are aware that trouble might still visit us, we go armed with a handgun.

That was one of the most important lessons that I ever learned during my law enforcement career. Of all of the classes I took in Criminal Justice, starting in high school and through community collage, the academy, Advanced Officer schools (aka “retread school”) and later “Regional Officer Training” (aka “Rot,” which it usually was) plus all of the seminars and survival schools that I attended on my own, that one observation about carrying a handgun made the biggest impression on me of all. Not to say that I did not learn important things from all of my advanced training classes and survival seminars, because I did. But that one basic rule about defensive handguns and offensive long guns opened my eyes and made me think about what I was doing and how to view a situation. I had always been pragmatic about my assignments, expecting and planning for trouble even when the sergeant, who was not going to be leaving his office and going with me, was sure that “Everything would be OK and everybody will get along and we will sing ‘Kum ba yah’ together afterwards.” Funny, beforehand they always had the utmost confidence in my abilities to bring a situation to a peaceful resolution while afterwards they exhibited no confidence in my judgment, expected numerous complaints & law suits and bemoaned the day that I had been assigned to their quiet and peaceful world in Neverland. Until the next time that they assigned me to deal with a potentially dangerous assignment and still did not volunteer to go out into the field to cover me.

I actually refined that lesson one more step: But because we are aware of the sudden and violent nature of criminal attacks we carry .45s. I don’t mean that only those of us who carry pistols chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge can call ourselves “warriors.” I mean that you should carry the largest pistol of the largest caliber that you can conceal, and shoot competently. For some that is a small 2” revolver or a compact .380 ACP pocket pistol. It is more important to have “some gun” than “no gun.” “The Commander “ always preached to me, “A hit with a .22 is more important than a miss with a .45.” His weapon of choice was a .38 Smith & Wesson Chief Special wearing a Barami Hip Grip. ( He always carried it, and he was an expert shot with it.

My first partner in Fugitive Investigations, “Big Al” Culbertson, carried a Charter Arms Bulldog 5-shot .44 Special revolver. He was a competitive shooter and our range master & armorer. He was our “one-man SWAT Team” and he could shoot circles around me, literally. I was carrying so many guns and so much extra ammunition that I could hardly make it out of our unmarked car, and my biggest fear was of being attacked by a magnet. Had I ever fallen down I would probably have to low-crawl around until I found something to pull myself upright. “Big Al” also carried a .357 Magnum revolver and 500 rounds along with a sawed-off double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun in the trunk of our “cool car,” but he knocked on doors with just the five-rounds of .44 Special in his weapon and none of us quibbled with him about it. For him with his skill level, that was “enough gun” for just about any situation that he could expect to face. What was in the trunk was for when “Big Al” expected trouble.

Stay safe, and stay alert.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    awesome article! opened my eyes a little more

  • Crest_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Great article.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago

    One of the better articles that I have read lately. Most of all, thank you for sharing it with us

  • 76964_10150298975190654_841400653_15506749_4289029_n_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Excellent article, I never thought of it like this. I look foreword to taking it in, using it, and passing it on in the future.

  • Badge_with_black_stripe_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Awesome article, really makes you think. This is an overlooked obvious. I think too often we do things because "that's how it's always been done." This makes you think about WHY we do what we do.

  • Lion_cub__masai_mara__kenya_max50


    over 3 years ago


    great Info, I've always answered that i carry a gun for the same reason i put on a seat-belt, I don't intend to crash the car and i don't intend to be in a gunfight, but things happen in life and it is better to have that safety device in easy reach.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago

    "His weapon of choice was a .38 Smith & Wesson Chief Special wearing a Barami Hip Grip. ( He always carried it, and he was an expert shot with it."

    How could anybody be an expert with a revolver that has a 1 1/2 inch barrel?

  • Just_me_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    I couldn't have said it better!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    Excellent! Very well written and definitely states why our Founding Fathers thoughtfully included the Second Amendment. As a Desert Storm Veteran, I came to respect and love my Glock, and carry a model 17 as my backup, with a model 33 as my main line of defense. I could not help but smile when I was in class for my CCL, and my instructor (a Former Arkansas State Trooper) said, "A handgun IS NOT an offensive weapon, it is only there for you to slow down the attack of your assailant, until such time you can retrieve your rifle and/or shotgun, to finish defending yourself"!

    This article should be required reading prior to any weapons certification.

  • Img_8446_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    When I started my career in law enforcement 7 years ago I was told by a 39 year veteran in law enforcement said “ you carry a pistol to get to your long gun and pray you never need it”. I use his quote in my fire arms class. I liked the article well done.

  • Img_0006_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    A lesson that should still be taught to every officer, regardless of tenure! Well done!

  • Dad_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Insightful and well written!

  • In_remembrance_of_oakland_pd_max50_max50_max50_max50_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Food for thought.

  • Img_2238_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Nice article. Makes you think.

  • Img00033-20091202-1845_1__max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Great article, as a LEO myself, I enjoy carrying a Kimber Warrior II both on duty and off duty. My vest cover has five magazine pockets in which I carry ten eight round magazines and two AR-15 magazines with four more pistol magazines on my duty belt. As a firearms instructor I shoot weekly ,practicing both on duty and off duty situations. Being 6'5 and three hundred pounds, I have enough surface area on my vest cover to carry all of it along with few extras I did not name. Active shooter situations can appear anywhere and without notice. When I exit the squad car, its just me unitl the rest of the troops arrive. My Chief does not share the same sentiment he feels that I am "going overboard." I politely told him that at the end of the day and he will likely be either in his office or at home and will not be there to engage the enemy or to back me up. I make it a point to be a survivor and to stay in the fight regardless of the odds and circumstances. So should you!!

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