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Monday, January 24, 2011

Weapons I've Carried: Part One

Which firearm (model and caliber) did you carry on the job? Is it very different from your personal firearm?

Melisssa wow, that simple question had my mind take off in ten different directions at once. So I decided to blog on all the weapons I carried on and off the job and why. Earlier, I gave you my abridged answer, here is the expanded version.

Back in 1983 I was issued a Model 67 J frame Smith and Wesson six shot revolver that shot .38 rounds. Back then the CHP had a policy all officers had to carry the same weapon. (see: http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product4_750001_750051_764935_-1_757787_757787_757787_ProductDisplayErrorView_Y) In the academy, just prior to graduation, we impressionable cadets were given the opportunity to purchase a Model 60 five shot revolver that also shot .38 rounds (see: http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product4_750001_750051_765498_-1_757910_757787_757787_ProductDisplayErrorView_Y )  We were told it would make an excellent off-duty weapon. AND if we purchased it right then we would get the side plate engraved with the CHP logo at no charge.

Yep, I and most of my classmates bought one. I won't tell you how those chuckle-heads cooled my weapon after engraving with water and never cleaned and oiled it. I also won't say how they managed to fully rust up a stainless steel revolver. Nope not saying a word about that.

This was one of those times the CHP policy of having all officers firearms annually inspected by the Range Master probably saved my life. During the inspection he (the Range Master) noticed rust on the screws and completely disassembled my weapon finding my real nasty, I mean rusty, surprise. My issue was quickly taken care of, but I learned several life lessons before stepping foot in my newly assigned CHP Field Office:

1) My safety is paramount to me, never assume it's that important to anyone else.
2) If my life depends on a piece of equipment the more I know about how it works the safer I am.
3) A lone twenty-two year old female can intimidate a gun shop full of men with the right look and mannerisms. – twitching is highly underrated.

Back to weapons.

So for the first few years I carried a six shot on-duty and a five shot scaled down model off duty. The five shot fit very nicely in my rear jean pants pocket.        

After I was pretty sure I was not going to get fired and for tax purposes (well, it's not like I was a gun nut or anything) I bought about one gun a year. My second off-duty weapon was a Walther PPK/s .380 semi-automatic pistol (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enM_F7rfnNY ) . I had absolutely no training on automatic weapons, but James Bond carried one so that was good enough for me.

I carried it two maybe three times afraid every single second the mysterious automatic hand pistol was going to go off and shoot me in the arse. Didn't matter it actually had a safety switch. I knew nothing about them so I locked it up and put it away. And went back to my trusty, more familiar, Model 60 - five shot.

When the CHP finally allowed officers to carry something other than a .38 I went out and purchased a .357 Model 686 six shot revolver (http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product4_750001_750051_764964_-1____ProductDisplayErrorView_Y). Initially those of us carrying .357s had to load it with .38 ammo while on-duty. A .357 revolver with fire .38 ammo or .357 rounds. A .38 revolver will only fire off .38 rounds. A few years later the CHP relaxed its stand and allowed officers to carry either .38 or .357 ammo.

When I left the CHP and went to the California Department of Justice, we were given the choice of Colt .45 (http://www.rc-trucks.org/colt-45.htm) automatics or 9mm Glocks, either the Model 17 or 19 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZAervPTtvo&feature=related). When the Glock was described as an idiot proof semiautomatic I raised my hand.

I will continue Weapons I’ve Carried, which will cover my DOJ years, in my next blog post.


  1. Margaret,
    This is exactly the sort of information I love learning about. Thank you for the links, too. And I love the three rules you listed. How true that we must assume, especially with firearms, that no one else is as concerned about our safety as we are. My husband accidentatlly shot himself in the hand several years ago with a hunting rifle because he'd assumed the last person to use it (his brother) had double checked that the magazine was empty. Not so, and he's never made that mistake in judgement again. I can't wait to read your next post.


  2. Margaret,
    I love this! Like Melissa said, it's exactly the sort of information we, as writers, can use.

    Looking forward to more....


  3. It's tragic but many people are killed by 'unloaded' firearms. Your husband did good. That may sound weird but it was in the hand so no vital areas were compromised.

    During training if Officer #1 needs to point his weapon at Ofcr #2. Ofcr #1 clears his weapon and demonstrates the weapon is empty to Ofcr #2.

    Every time I train I check my weapon to make sure it's clear. And if someone hands me a weapon I either check to make sure it's loaded or empty, whatever I need it to be. Most officers will recheck a weapon handed to them. It's the safe and smart thing to do.


  4. I've added that detail in my manuscripts. When a character works with guns regularly is handed a firearm, I have him or her double check it every time. Not just the chamber, but the magazine, if there is one. I think, for that type of person, the double check becomes automatic. In my husband's case, he hunts once a year and got complacent. The rifle fired upward, missing his head by a matter of inches, and lodging in the ceiling of our garage. I picked shrapnel from his eyebrow that night and thanked the universe that he only lost one finger and not his life.

  5. Melissa, you are so right. For me, checking my weapon has become completely automatic. In MHO that's where I started down the path to OCD.

    We all get complacent from time to time, but I believe your husband's respect and caution prevented any critical damage that day.