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.
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. (www.baramihipgrip.com.) 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.