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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.

  • F28ddc7de67b8e78_max50


    over 7 years ago



  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 7 years ago


    The "COMMANDER" and " BIG AL' clearly possessed common sense.

  • Photo_user_banned_big


    over 7 years ago


    This article has provided me with perhaps the most important insight to the concealed carry concept, and probably one of the most important and interesting insights of my life. This is an excellent piece. (pun)

  • Larrylooby2003ecpd_max50


    over 7 years ago


    I have known Frank for several years and one thing frank is never short on is an interesting story. Well done.

  • 084652_max50


    over 7 years ago


    Well said, thank you.

  • Donutcop_max50


    over 7 years ago


    Great Article. Thanks!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 7 years ago

    Great article!!!

  • Bulldogdep_max50


    over 7 years ago


    Great Article..Thank your for sharing it.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 7 years ago

    That is the best advice I've heard in a long time! With my military background, I believe in that statement 100%.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 7 years ago

    Words of wisdom! This story makes you think.

  • Marie2008_max50


    over 7 years ago


    Nice Job Frank!
    Another great article.

  • 1979_max50


    over 7 years ago


    Another great article Frank! Outstanding my friend! I wish you had said his name to see if I remember him. Very bad with names thought but I have a high suspicion that I would recognize both the "Commander" and "AL" The one thing that SD had was a excess of great leaders. I know I learned most of what I brought to the table from those I was fortunate enough to associate and work with in that city.

  • Pic8983_max50


    over 7 years ago


    Great article Frank!!!!
    if anyone would ask me why I carry guns, I would have echo the above article and add the fact that it is my GOD given right because it was writen in our constitution by some very intelligent man whom are been desicrated by our politicians and politically motivated lawmakers and arguers. GOD BLESS THIS GREAT NATION!!!! THEY CAN HAVE MY GUNS ... WHEN THEY PRY THEM FROM MY DEAD COLD HANDS!!!!

  • 014_max50


    over 7 years ago


    This article will be considered BAD and in poor taste by the liberial, tree hugging, flower child, dope smoking, no working skells that we are sworn to protect.... Oh forgot to ad most of the media.... I thank God every day for the Frank's, the Commander's & of course Big Al. With out these guys and many others that have influenced some of us over the years, it scares me to think where we would be. I myself live by the Boy Scout motto of Be Prepared, thats how I justify to my spouse, my need to carry.{why I have several weapons and all of the gear to go with them, hmmm} To my Officers I preach safety,safety,safety as well keep your head out of your ass. All of this means nothing if commen sense is not applied in all aplications. I hope that the next generation of Law Enforcement Officers will look back on the words of wisdom that Frank took the time to tell us, as well what about Jeff Cooper, The N.Y.P.D. "Stake out" squad and all of the other salty dogs who provide us not only with war stories, but w/ ways to keep our fat outta the fire..
    Thanks, Frank

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 7 years ago


    Nice Job Frank! For all of us who have spent time either in the military or long enough in law enforcement we may all have a "Commander" that touched our lives in a special way. I just wish that they were not so scarce. Commanders are a rare (and unfortunately disappearing) breed that I beleive is parelled wtih the diminishing concept of common sense. Many good officers have the unique quality of being able to think on their feet in a given situation and call on experience (aka a well remembered event that went wrong at least once before) to survive and help others control a problem. The truly great officers have an ability to think about situations BEFORE they hapen and thus can educate themselves on what to do IF something occurs. So instead of sitting around B-S-ing about who is doing what to whom or what union rule prohibits them from actually doing the job, leos wold be better served to challenge each other with a form of mental gymnastics like "Hey.... I read about an incident that went wrong in Whereeverville USA and the result was tragic. What would we do to achieve a better outcome if that happened in our jurisdiction." The union talk will always be there for gossip, however, maybe a few minutes per shift of challenging one another to keep sharp about situations that haven't occurred yet just might save a life or enable everyone on your shift to go home safely at the end of the day. Unlike Friday afternoons at the academy... "what if? " questions can be useful to stimulate some interesting discussions that can produce solutions that even some of the naysayers might buy into for a change. Thanks Frank!

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