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A Basic Guide to Weapons

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Weapons I've Carried: Part Two

At the DOJ Academy, which was only eight weeks long, Fridays were dedicated to firearms training. I mentioned previously my apprehension of semi-automatic firearms. Several factors were at the root of my worry. 

First and foremost, I am left handed. Most firearm safety is geared toward right handed people. So going from a revolver with no safety to a weapon with a safety in an awkward position made me think: Great. After eight years I’m going to have to become a right-handed shooter.    

That response is not nearly as flippant as you may think. A lot of left-handed people who entered a police academy became right handed shooters at the ‘encouragement’ of trainers coupled with the influence of equipment manufacture. In fact, I remember being told to find a way to make it work or switch hands. Initially I thought what unflexible buttheads. Then, when I stopped and thought about it, I realized all the shooting courses I’ve done involved times where every participant had to shoot with their non-dominate hand. After all, what happens when in the middle of a gunfight if you get shot in your gun hand? No, calling a timeout is not a viable option, at least that’s what my instructor told me.

Fortunately, for me the Glock only has a trigger safety. Point and shoot. Simple enough. The magazine release gave me a little bit of trouble because it’s on the left side of the gun and I had to learn how to cant my gun and push the release with my index finger to release and remove the empty magazine while still aiming at the target. Took some practice but I did learn how to ‘make it work’.

The Glock was such an easy weapon to transition to. My confidence bolstered, I began carrying my Walther PPk/s. Only problem, well in truth there were several, the first being my Walther was not a Glock. It had a safety. Next, all the guys thought my Walther was a sissified gun. I won’t tell you what they had to say about James Bond. What I will tell you is they made lots of references to kitty cats.

The positive about the Walther was it was easily concealable and the .380ACP ammunition was closely comparable to 9mm ammunition. I carried my Walther as a back-up weapon, because it was so light weight and easy to hide.

Did I ever mention how thrifty (my nice way of saying cheap) most cops are? Two words no cop can resist: Discounted Gun. One of my co-workers (Tim) wanted a Glock 26, which is a scaled down version of the Glock 19 – it’s also called a Baby Glock. Well Tim did some research which included brokering a deal for a group discount. So a group of us (yes, I’m thrifty too) decided to purchase Glock 26’s (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzj14q7nBJ0&feature=related), Initially, the Baby Glock was going to be my undercover and off-duty weapon only.  Problem was even for me, a woman, my pinky finger could not fit on the butt of the weapon.

Most of the guys I worked with modified their Glock 26 by adding an extended magazine. The extension gave you a place to rest your little finger, but it also extended the butt of the weapon which (in my mind) defeated the purpose of the smaller version. Because my Baby Glock did not feel comfortable to me in my grip, I regulated it to the position of back-up weapon only. You know that weapon that might be awkward, but is compact and hidden for that Oh Sh#t! moment.

Right around this time Walter – our Head Range Master -- introduced me to the concept of carrying the same weapon on-duty/off-duty/under-cover, basically at all times. His argument: muscle memory and familiarity could save our lives.

Walter believed switching back and forth between weapons undermined all our training and preparation for the unexpected and terror filled events that come with drawing and firing our weapon in the line of duty. Yes, our duty weapons were somewhat large and a bit awkward, (especially for undercover work). However, as with anything, practice, training and a lot more practice made carrying my Glock 19 and later my Glock 23 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3H93SMqVLu0&feature=related) comfortable and invisible. 

So even with several weapons at my disposal I pretty much carried my Glock 23, 40cal handgun on my person on-duty/off-duty and undercover. For two years I was assigned to a Task Force in Palm Springs, California. Palm Springs is arguably one of the hottest places on earth, six months out of the year temperatures exceed triple digits on a daily basis. Wearing shorts and t-shirts I was able to wear my Glock 23 in an approved on-duty holster, attached to my left side where no one was the wiser.  

I liked my Glock 23 so much that when I was retired I purchased it from my department.       

This video gives a comparison of Glocks and it shows how some of the attachable lights and lasers work. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_ruaWNaWMs&feature=related)

STTA: Today there many weapons, pistols and sub-machine guns that have transitional safetys or ambidextrous safetys. The best way to find out if a weapon’s safety can be modified for a left-hander is to look at the manufacturer’s website.

I will be posting Part III in a few days. There I will cover shotguns, and sub-machine guns.


  1. Margaret--Thanks for the links!


  2. Good information, Margaret. I hadn't even considered that which "hand" you were would make a difference.

    When I qualified on the 9mm at Air Force training, I was annoyed because I had to sight with my right eye since I'm right-handed, but my left eye is dominant. If I ever shoot again, maybe I should try switching hands instead.

  3. Gwen, I'm glad the info is giving you something to think about.

    Isn't it amazing all the nuances that go into weapons training. In the future I may tackle the issue of eye dominance here.