Category Archives: Cop Talk

Caliber Choice:

A Question Of Confidence.

In a world where one size does not fit all, standard issue police handgun choice can be controversial. This has certainly been true of the Indiana State Police, with more than 1,300 armed and sworn personnel in the ranks of its uniformed troopers and plainclothes detectives.

In the last quarter century, the ISP has gone through half a dozen different types of handguns. The old standby .357 revolver with 125-gr. magnum loads was replaced in the ’80s by a double-action 9mm with 147-gr. subsonic ammo. In the ’90s, there was a switch to the same pistol in caliber .40 S&W, with 180-gr. subsonic hollowpoints. Time went on, and in the new century a striker-fired, polymer-framed .40 replaced the older style. Various issues caused another change, to the same model in 9mm. Toward the end of 2012, the department adopted a striker-fired .45 auto.

This was the situation faced in 2013 by newly appointed Superintendent Doug Carter, when it was determined it was time for the agency to review its sidearm policy and start with the proverbial new sheet of paper. An Indiana state trooper in his younger days, Carter had become famous as the elected sheriff of Hamilton County, and one of his hallmarks had been responsiveness to his personnel on the street. Bringing the same approach to the Superintendent’s office, he created an enhanced planning team to study the issue. Input encompassed the agency’s firearms instructors, both at headquarters and post level, as well as the Emergency Response Team, ISP’s full-time SWAT entity. Moreover, Carter made sure there were representatives of rank and file troopers and detectives from all five of the state’s areas. “Our core tenet,” the superintendent told American Handgunner, “is troopers first.”

After their initial transition from the well-performing .357 Magnum in revolvers,
the Indiana State Police tried the 9mm, .40 and .45, never quite being completely
happy with any of the auto rounds.

Sides of THE Debate

For ISP, the choice came down to 9mm or .45 ACP. When the agency first adopted autos, the troopers certainly appreciated soft recoil and 16 rounds instead of six, but many were doubtful about the smallest caliber service pistol after the 125-gr. .357 Magnum hollowpoint had proven itself spectacularly well on the street. That residual desire for more power had led to ISP’s adoption of the .40 in the last decade of the 20th century. The subsequent return to the 9mm had drawn complaints from many troopers who had found a larger-caliber pistol round comforting.

One point to which both sides stipulated was the 147-gr. Gold Dot 9mm duty load had not been a failure. There had been no horror stories of outlaws soaking up bullet after bullet and staying on their feet shooting at troopers. For this reason, and because the 9mm offered softer recoil and slightly higher cartridge capacity, there were some voices in ISP advocating for the smaller cartridge.

The ERT, and many of the individual troopers who were into guns, took a different view. They felt with the 230-gr. .45 Gold Dot giving essentially the same tactical penetration as the 147-gr. 9mm, but with a larger bullet, the .45 offered more of the same good thing. They saw all upside and no downside to a wider bullet impacting more tissue. In a world where doctors often say a tenth of an inch makes the difference in whether a major organ or artery is damaged or not, the wider .45 slug was seen as a clear advantage.

What was the perception of the rank and file? “Many of the troops said they didn’t care about the caliber, they just wanted a pistol that worked every time,” one instructor told me. “But the ones who did care all seemed to want .45s. No one told us, ‘.45s are too powerful, we want something smaller.’” ISP’s second in command, Col. Mark French, told me the Superintendent “felt that most all the rank and file guys he spoke to wanted a .45.”

Confidence Vs. Competence

Confidence is inextricably intertwined with competence. One long-time Indiana trooper familiar with the controversy told me, “In the end, it was pretty clear what it came down to was the Superintendent wanted that trooper out there alone to have maximum confidence in what he or she was carrying.” When I asked Superintendent Carter about that, he smiled and nodded in the affirmative.

Which, in the end, is why the .45 won out for the Indiana State Police. The contract has not been signed at this writing, but by the time you read this, the ISP is expected to be issuing the new SIG P227, its double-stack magazines loaded with 230-gr. .45 ACP Speer Gold Dots. A quantity of subcompact P224 9mm SIGs will also be ordered for those personnel, such as the executive protection unit, who require an extremely concealable duty pistol.
By Massad Ayoob

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Lessons From the Polite Society Tactical Conference

Many years ago, ex-cop Tom Givens founded a training center in Memphis, Tenn. called Rangemaster, and some years after that, created the Polite Society event. (As per the Robert Heinlein quote: “An armed society is a polite society.”) The organization’s annual conclave came to be known as the National Tactical Conference. Though the event is open to all law-abiding armed citizens, it’s heavy with cops, and its instructor staff is particularly so.

Guns And Fights

hen you get into the topic, one of the first things you realize is “gunfight” is a misnomer. The guns don’t fight, the people do. Ohio cop and tactical trainer Greg Ellifretz did a splendid presentation on integrating hand-to-hand work with belly-to-belly death duels, including how to stall the other man’s draw in time to get your own gun into play; and how (and why) it’s sometimes best to flow from your blocking of his gun into a disarm instead of a draw-and-shoot tactic. The circumstances dictate the response.

If you’ve been studying the tactics of police use of force for a while, the name “Southnarc” will ring a bell. It’s the nom de guerre of a cop I’ve known for 20 years or so, and who finally upon retirement can come out from undercover work and reveal his true identity: Craig Douglas. A compact man who learned to win bare-handed against men twice his size, Craig is a gunfight winner, whose learning credentials include a deaf ear from a near-miss gunshot by a would-be killer, and a skull fractured with a socket wrench by a scumbag trying to rip him off in a buy-bust. His “management of unknown contacts” program should in my opinion be taught in every police academy in America. He integrates body language with action/reaction paradigms and shows you how to keep from being outflanked.

There were people who taught how to get into the mind of the perpetrator. One was psychologist William Aprill, who has psychoanalyzed many killers. We can’t defeat an enemy we don’t understand. Dr. Aprill, a master competitive shooter by the way, understands the enemy and shows you how to do the same, citing study after peer-reviewed study. Skip Gochenauer, who used to run the National Tactical Invitational event, demonstrated how to teach the same with videotaped role-play training.

Problem One, Problem Two

The late Col. Jeff Cooper famously said Problem One was surviving the gunfight; Problem Two was surviving its aftermath in court. Chuck Haggard of the Topeka, Kan. PD is one of our leading tactical police trainers, and his topic was the “active shooter.” Taking a moment to agree this “term of art” is what we’re currently stuck with, and we’re really talking about “active murderers,” he supported the current theory of Ohio SWAT trainer Ron Borsch, a single well-trained and committed officer can stop mass murders by himself with swift, positive intervention. He speaks from experience: Haggard himself has responded to two such incidents, both of which ended in the suspect’s death upon his first confrontation with a resolute police officer. Haggard’s presentation also included the single best debriefing on the Columbine incident I’ve experienced.

Part of any deadly force encounter is the opponent is killing people, or trying to. The ability to deliver effective first aid for life-threatening wounds, including self-treatment, is priceless. This was addressed at Polite Society by multiple MDs with directly relevant hands-on experience. It’s not about shooting bad guys (though that may certainly be necessary) so much as it’s about saving good guys, and that takes place in many ways, none of which can be neglected.

If you don’t know for sure you can face the Problem Two aftermath, you may hesitate fatally when dealing with Problem One. My topic was lessons learned from recent homicide trials in which I’d participated, both criminal and civil, and encompassing both officer-involved and armed citizen shootings. We won them, but there were lessons learned from those “fights.”

We barely touched the surface of the three intense days of real-world expertise and collected experience presented to 150 students, by 25 vetted instructors at this conference. The 2014 Polite Society event is scheduled for February 21-23 in Memphis. Information is available at www.rangemaster.com.
By Massad Ayoob

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Handgunner Sept/Oct 13


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AWB Impacts Cops Too

On Dec. 14, 2013, a mentally disturbed man shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. When police approached, he shot himself to death, but not before he had murdered 20 little children and half a dozen helpless adult school personnel. It was an atrocity that shook the nation, and it triggered the most vehement spate of gun banning legislation in the history of the long and bitterly polarized gun control debate.

Within weeks, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ram-rodded a Draconian gun bill through his state’s legislature. It was literally put through in the dark of night, and literally unconstitutional, because it bypassed the New York State Constitution’s requirement of a 72-hour debate period. With a stroke of the pen, Cuomo signed a bill, which limited people to seven cartridges in a magazine.

It was a classic “canary in a mineshaft.” Assembled hastily and with little significant research, the bill neglected to exempt the Empire State’s law enforcement community. Overnight, almost all the cops in the state were criminalized, unless they downloaded their magazines. Rectifying that was high on the list of what one state representative counted as 60 amendments put on the table within a week of the law being made.

Other Ramifications

At the national level, Dianne Feinstein’s AWB quickly followed, still in many ways as unclear as the abysmally crafted New York law. The semi-auto .223/5.56mm patrol rifle, normally in the AR-15 format, is a cornerstone of the modern law enforcement armory. However, the difficult economic times of the last several years have devastated police department budgets. Layoffs are rampant, countless departments are far below authorized manpower and some departments have literally been shut down by communities which could no longer afford them. Therefore, many LE agencies — Florida Highway Patrol, for example — can only get AR-15s in the patrol cars by giving troopers permission to purchase their own.

If the Feinstein AWB passes in a way allowing only police departments to purchase such arms, the rank and file will at best be told, “Well, you can buy your own rifle through the department for a thousand or two thousand dollars and protect the public with it, but when you leave the job, we’ll confiscate it.” The result will be cops and citizens less well protected, or cops who are unjustly penalized for doing the best they can to protect the public.

“NY compliant” for visiting out of state officers. From top, Glock 36 (6+1 .45 ACP),
Springfield XDS (5+1 .45 ACP) and Glock 39 (6+1 .45 GAP).

Retired Or Out Of Jurisdiction

It took more than a decade for HR218 to become LEOSA, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act signed into law by then-President George W. Bush. It has enabled off-duty cops to carry nationwide, and retired cops who keep up their qualifications to do the same. However, LEOSA has put out-of-jurisdiction or retired cops on the same footing hardware-wise as law-abiding armed citizens. Unless you’re a Fed or on police business, if you’re in California, Hawaii or New York or some other state with its own 10-round magazine limit, the visiting or retired officers are likewise limited.

An AR-15 with a 30-round MagPul mag. A staple of law
enforce-ment, often “privately owned/dept. approved.”

Macroeconomics Of The AWB

One reason that Florida Highway Patrolman could afford to buy his own AR-15 — and departments, of course, could do the same — was that millions of those guns were being sold to private citizens too, keeping the cost affordable. If the civilian market dries up some of those gunmakers will go out of business, and others will have to raise their prices to keep paying their employees to produce them. The result will be fewer, more expensive guns, which fewer communities can afford to buy for their cops. The net result of that is a public less well protected by its police.

Since the first election of President Obama in 2008, the well-grounded fear he would restrict ownership rights of guns and ammunition fueled panic buying reaching a peak shortly after the Newtown atrocity. Nationwide, police find themselves unable to purchase training ammunition and even fresh duty ammunition in a timely fashion. The pending AWB legislation has thus severely impacted police training, police skill maintenance and police ability to protect the public — and even themselves — from violent criminals.

The criminals, who shoot at cops, by definition, don’t obey laws. Weapon bans and restrictions are likely to be obeyed only by the law-abiding. The AWB’s impact on actual criminals was proven in the last 10-year experiment to be negligible. Off-duty cops outside their jurisdictions, retired cops and police family members at home and in danger from the vengeance of those the family cop has arrested will be hampered more by an AWB than the criminals we’re told the AWB is aimed at. And, as we’ve seen, even currently serving on-duty cops will feel a negative impact from the “assault weapons ban” hysteria.
By Massad Ayoob

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When Cops Compete

In his book Guns, Bullets and Gunfighting, Jim Cirillo made it clear why men who had distinguished themselves in shooting competition were prized by the legendary NYPD Stakeout Squad: they were already accustomed to shooting straight under pressure. The two men on that high-risk unit who won the most gunfights were Cirillo’s partner Bill Allard and Cirillo himself. Allard, who racked up the most shootout victories and never missed a shot he fired at a man in combat, explained the importance of competition experience when I interviewed him for the ProArms Podcast (downloadable to your computer or iTunes for free at http://ht.ly/fFdIO).

Allard, now retired, won a National Championship in conventional pistol shooting at Camp Perry, among his many titles. Cirillo shot mainly PPC during the time he was on the Stakeout Unit, but later became a big fan of IPSC, and had become a fan of IDPA as well before his untimely death in a traffic accident. Irrespective of which discipline they preferred, each had learned to make perfect shots under time limits “when the pressure was on.” Jim and I were on the same squad at the first Bianchi Cup match in 1979, and at one point in the tournament he told me he was feeling more pressure than he had in any of his gun battles. When I asked him why, he explained there had been a lot of time for the pressure to build at the match he knew was certain — and the fights happened so fast he was often able to run on auto pilot.

Nothing New

In my book Combat Shooting With Massad Ayoob (F-W Publishing), I compared Cirillo with Wyatt Earp and Col. Charles Askins, Jr. and the gunfights he experienced during the Depression years with the Border Patrol, through his WWII combat time, up to the 1950s when he won his last known shootout. I had the privilege to know and be friends with Charlie and Jim. I only look old enough to have known Wyatt Earp.

Askins won hundreds of shooting medals over the years — all in bull’s-eye, “the only game in town” — insofar as pistol shooting, during his heyday. Most famously, he won the National Championship of the United States in the 1930s. The point is he also won many a shootout with armed men. The confidence he had earned with a gun in his hand at the “match wars” stood him in good stead during the real battles, both police and military. Shooting fast and straight under pressure had become second nature for him.

Earp told his biographer Stuart Lake he competed in the informal shooting matches in the cow-towns he policed, long before the epic series of shootouts that began near the OK Corral in Tombstone, Ariz. in 1881. Earp had made a point of picking the brains of gunfight survivors as soon as he pinned on his first badge, and testing his skill against others with his firearms was something he learned early could give him a leg up when fighting for his life.
By Massad Ayoob

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When Cops Shoot Dogs

Scope Of The Problem

Police defense attorney Laura Scarry noted this year in an excellent presentation at the annual conference of ILEETA, the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, negative publicity and lawsuits over police shootings of aggressive dogs are on the rise. I sat in that large class and noticed how many cops in attendance nodded affirmatively as she spoke. “Backlash” against police use of deadly force on canines is definitely increasing. There’s at least one website devoted to us evil JBTs (“jack-booted thugs”) who supposedly murder beloved family pets.

In the year 2010, there were 30 incidents in which New York City Police Officers used their guns to defend against animal attacks, in comparison to 33 incidents in which they had to defensively fire at human beings. The figure comes from that year’s SOP-9 report, Standard Operating Procedure Number Nine being the intensive analysis of every discharge of an officer’s weapon outside of the training range; a study that has been in effect for more than four decades. Twenty-nine of those 30 cases involved dogs, and the remaining incident involved a raccoon.

In several of those incidents, someone was bitten before the shots were fired. Sometimes an innocent citizen, sometimes a cop. When cops shoot dogs there is generally a very good reason.
By Massad Ayoob

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Reloading Speed

A Police Survival Skill.

Notice the title of this month’s column doesn’t have a question mark after it. That’s because there’s no question about it. The ability to reload swiftly is a well-recognized survival skill — for cops, military personnel, armed citizens or any of the other Good Guys and Gals who might be involved in a protracted gunfight.

Gun-savvy officers on NYPD begged for more firepower than the standard 6-shot .38 revolvers and dump pouches, but it wasn’t until the death of Officer Scott Gadell in 1986 they got speedloaders for their six-shooters and finally, less than 20 years ago, 16-shot 9mm semi-automatics. Caught up in a shootout with a fleeing felon, Gadell ran dry and was trying to reload his revolver from a dump pouch when the suspect, still with plenty of ammo, scuttled up and killed him execution style.

Some 3,000 miles away, in Newhall, California, West Coast cops had seen it happen earlier. The 1970 cataclysm in Newhall is discussed in this month’s Ayoob Files section of American Handgunner, and revisits among other things the question of whether or not one of the four California Highway Patrolmen slain that April night in Newhall had put his spent casings in his trouser pocket. James Pence was just closing the cylinder when his killer closed in, snarled, “Got you now,” and shot him in the brain with a .45 auto.

As you’ll see elsewhere in this issue, whether or not the martyred Patrolman Pence put his spent casings into his pocket before trying to reload has been a matter of debate. What is not debated is that (a) he ran out of ammo after six shots; (b) he had to take individual cartridges out of a dump pouch to reload, after already having been shot three times with a .45; (c) he reloaded a full six rounds as trained and (d) was just closing the cylinder when he ran out of time and was brutally murdered.

For 42 years now, it has been suggested in such a situation, a good guy with a revolver might be better served to just load a couple of rounds, close the cylinder, and get back into action. That became standard doctrine after Newhall. It was suggested if Pence had speedloaders, his cylinder would have been closed much earlier and about the time his killer was starting to say, “Got you …” Pence could have put a .357 slug through his head and changed the outcome of the incident profoundly. Subsequent to the Newhall Incident, CHP authorized and then issued speedloaders, and in 1970 adopted the 12-shot .40-caliber S&W 4006 auto, an updated version of which remains standard issue with that agency.
By Massad Ayoob

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Glock 21 Gen4

Service Pistol

In 1990, the SIG P220 and the S&W 4506 were neck and neck as the most popular .45 ACP police service pistols in the US, the 1911 still being a regional oddity and a SWAT gun rather than a rank and file duty sidearm. That year, visiting the Glock plant in Smyrna, I saw an early sample of the Glock 21, the large-frame G21 made originally as a 16-shot 10mm, re-conceptualized as a 14-shot .45.

Within a very few years, the Glock 21 had become America’s most popular police .45. It was light for its size, soft-kicking for its caliber and actually more accurate than most of the smaller-caliber Glocks, perhaps because of its 8-sided rather than 6-sided polygon rifling. Once some early magazine problems were sorted out, it quickly proved itself reliable. “Keep it simple, stupid” was the dominant philosophy in police handgun training, and this Glock .45 had no de-cocking levers or safety catches.

And, of course, it had 14 rounds, literally twice the capacity of the World Wars-era 1911 .45. Two spare 13-round magazines on the duty belt sent the cop onto the street with 40 .45-caliber cartridges. What wasn’t to like?

In the more than a score of years since, the G21 has become the standard service pistol for lawmen from the Anchorage (AK) Police, to the San Bernardino County (CA) Sheriff’s Department, to LAPD’s elite Special Investigations Section, to the Orange County (FL) Sheriff’s Department, and countless points in between.
By Massad Ayoob

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Carry By Retired Cops

Shortly before this past Christmas, two incidents involving retired peace officers made the news. Both experienced violent home invasions. Box score: retired cops 2, home invaders 0. WWII vet Jay Leone was long retired from his post-war career as a deputy sheriff in California when a man on parole after convictions for multiple home invasions decided to return to his old ways. Unfortunately for him, he suffered what I’ve come to call a sudden and acute failure of the victim selection process. He broke into the old cop’s home with a gun. The retired warrior was 90 years old, but he hadn’t forgotten how to fight. Wounded in the face by the perpetrator’s first shot, the grizzled hero responded by pumping three bullets into his attacker, who fled. The suspect was soon in custody, however, and survived to face trial. More important, the nonagenarian sheepdog survived also, to testify against the SOB. The story was reported by Joe Wolfcale of Marinscope Newspapers.

In roughly the same time frame in Warren, Michigan a 26-year-old home invader found himself facing an armed householder: a retired cop, according to the Detroit Free Press, which did not name the retiree in its story. Once again, the ex-lawman shot his antagonist three times and won the fight. This time, the good guy emerged unscathed. The retired officer was 62 years of age.
By Massad Ayoob

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When Police Must Shoot Animals

In many police departments, particularly the smaller and more peaceful ones, most of the rounds fired in the line of duty involve “humane destruction” of injured or dangerous animals. The rabid skunk reported by a homeowner, the deer lying plaintively in the road with its spine shattered after it ran in front of an automobile, or the snarling dog charging a cop who is serving a warrant.

In the Ayoob Files column in this issue, it discusses the Zanesville, Ohio incident in which the local sheriff’s department had to euthanize 49 exotic animals that had been released upon their community by an angry man just before he blew his own brains out. Some of those officers were hunters — one responded to the scene with his personal Remington 700 in 7mm Magnum — and did good work with it.
However, the cops found no sport in it. I spoke to the Sheriff who ran the sadly necessary containment operation, Matt Lutz, and several of the deputies, and to a man they found it grimly depressing. Not to mention dangerous. There were 35 lions and tigers that had to be accounted for. A male Bengal tiger can reach 580 pounds, and a male African lion averages 400. When I was in lion country in Africa, the professional hunters I was with favored the .458 Magnum with 510-grain softnose bullets. The lawmen that dealt with the Zanesville situation primarily had 55-grain .223 ammo. These cops definitely got their daily adrenaline requirement — but they didn’t get any sport out of it at all.

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Modern Is Better

The 9mm’s long-standing reputation for sub-optimal power came mostly from older loads. Los Angeles County Sheriffs and LAPD are reportedly both using Winchester 147-gr. Ranger for their issue 9mms and are happy with its street performance. The confidence is not 100 percent across the board, however. Many LASD deputies have bought optional .45s, and many LAPD officers have likewise voted with their wallets so they can carry their own .40 or .45. Portland (OR) Police Bureau reports high satisfaction with their standard issue Federal HST 147-gr. subsonic 9mm rounds.

This topic came up at the Panel Of Experts session I chaired at the 2012 conference of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers. The panel all but unanimously agreed they were comfortable with modern 9mm ammo. The favorite loads most often cited were the Speer Gold Dot 124-gr. +P, which has been used with great success by NYPD, Chicago PD and Las Vegas Metro. They also cited the Winchester Ranger-T 127-gr. +P+, which has performed spectacularly in dozens of shootings for the Orlando, Fla. Police Department. I couldn’t help but notice, for what it’s worth, many of the experts endorsing the 9mm were carrying .40s or .45s themselves.

Going in the opposite direction, we now have five state police agencies which have adopted the .45 GAP (Glock Auto Pistol): Florida, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. None are reporting any dissatisfaction with street results of this round, which is functionally identical to standard pressure .45 ACP in ballistics, but with shorter overall length to allow pistols narrower in girth which will fit a wider range of hand sizes. NYSP traded up from 9mm, while the other four agencies swapped .40s for their .45 GAPs.

No Pat Answer

There is no one sidearm perfect for the locally-identified needs of all of our myriad law enforcement agencies, let alone one sidearm that will be absolutely ideal for the perceived needs of each and every one of America’s 800,000 or so serving police officers. Working alone or in small unit strength, police don’t need the ammo and magazine interchangeability that comes with a single standard gun so much as they need the absolute confidence and competence that comes with carrying what the individual officer can shoot the best under pressure.

So, is it 9mm to .45, .45 to 9mm, or something in between? It’s simply not an issue on departments like Chicago, Las Vegas or Los Angeles where working cops have a broad choice of makes, models, and calibers. The one thing certain in the matter is the debate as to what’s the best police gun or cartridge is probably never going to end.
By Massad Ayoob

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