My kids like to think my police career began in a year that ended with the initials, B.C. Actually, it was 1988, an era of heavy metal and parachute pants, when coffee was still Folgers and the B.C. stood for Before Children.
Much has changed in my profession since then: Lawsuits and liability issues, court rulings and legal precedents, gang violence and synthetic drugs. Nothing, however, has altered the landscape more than the ready availability of massive firepower.
I was barely 23, wet behind the ears and all nervous energy when a grouchy old sergeant marched me into the armory and started handing me the tools of my new trade. First came the Remington 870 shotgun, a law enforcement staple since before I was born (though not that specific weapon, I’m fairly certain). Next up was the duty weapon, a Smith and Wesson .357 revolver (inset), the most aesthetically pleasing and accurate weapon I have ever used. Its only drawback was a six round capacity and a reloading issue that required a time-out call.
Then technology caught up to us. More and more, semi-auto pistols and assault rifles with high-capacity magazines became the “guns du jour” for criminals who loaded up with “cop-killer” rounds. Slow to adapt as always, the law enforcement community endured several high profile fatal incidents before most agencies finally decided the revolver and the shotgun were obsolete.
The saying, “out with the old and in with the new” took on new meaning the day I was issued the latest in high-tech weaponry, a semi-auto pistol known as a Glock. On the day I turned in my revolver and two speed-loaders and picked up my new Glock and two magazines, it effectively multiplied the rounds available on my gun belt by a factor of 2.8. (18 for the revolver and speed-loaders vs. 52 in the pistol and 34 in two magazines; feel free to check the math).
Carrying almost triple the rounds that first day, I felt invincible. Then a buddy told me about a retrofit known as a magazine extender, which would allow me to carry two more rounds on each magazine. I’m missing six rounds, I thought, suddenly feeling inadequate.
Of course I went right out and bought the extenders. I slapped them on the next day and, with my newly amassed firepower, I walked into work engulfed in a cloud of testosterone.
Like an answered prayer, a bank robbery in progress was broadcast in my beat. I blew through town, pulled into a nearby parking lot and reached for my shotgun out of habit.
Then I remembered the 58(!) rounds currently riding my hip, so I left the shotgun in the rack, slammed the door and pulled my new Glock out of the holster. I hunkered down and raised the pistol up.
The rest plays out in slow motion. I hear a sound, like “Piff,” and the plastic bottom of the magazine extender shoots off, never to be seen again. Next, the rounds tumble out one at a time, slowly enough that I could have counted each one up to 19 (I didn’t bother), and making a “Plink, plink, plink” sound as they hit the ground. Save for the round in the chamber, the gun was as empty as my hopes.
The moral of the story? Always have a shotgun handy.
Nope, that doesn’t work. How about this one: If you can’t use a tool effectively, maybe you’re the tool.
Seriously, it can be all too easy to get fixated on a gizmo. Lessons like these have taught me that good judgment, training and safe practices are a much better fixation. Fortunately, this one came without a cost (other than my pride…oh, and $20 for the extenders).
Not that this matters to my kids. They still think I’m a dinosaur.