Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Once upon a time in a parking lot…

Post by Brian O'Neill on Feb. 5, 2013 at 8:06 am with 7 Comments »
March 27, 2013 8:41 am

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.

My old .357 magnum with speedloaders/ courtesy
 .357 revolver with speedloaders/ courtesy

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.

Never enough ammo/ courtesy
Never enough ammo/ courtesy

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.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. I think everyone that takes up a new hobby or whatever experiences the same feelings. But as you’ve discovered, over time, your attitude changes and treat the item in question as a tool. Take getting your drivers license, for example. When you’re sixteen year old male, stupid and invincible, 2,000 pounds of steel represents a dozen different things. Masculinity, speed, freedom, rebellion, etc. A decade later, for most people, the car is a means of transportation, a tool to get from point a to point b. Some people outgrow that new car smell syndrome, others don’t.

  2. notSpicoli says:

    Thanks for the article. I enjoy when you write about your experiences as a police officer.

  3. Brian,

    thanks, i enjoy your insights and stories.

  4. The bank robber could have walked by and laughed.
    No, I think you’re right. Everybody has a love of gizmos.
    And that love of gizmos could cost us our planet home.
    I got a close up view of a police bicycle on the back
    of a patrol car. Now I’m in love with that.

  5. wyecoyote says:

    Newest is not always the best. Made me snicker a little. Had something similar hunting. New Browning 30-06 took it out hunting. Shot a deer. When I went to rack a new round in the chamber the entire magazine was missing. I hadn’t properly seated it, something I found necessary with that particular rifle. Least I can say it only took one shot on that deer. Though in my case it wasn’t a potential life or death situation.

  6. vonnieglen says:

    My wife still prefers her revolvers over our semi-auto handguns. She has a laser on her favorite. She has demonstrated over the years that she reacts calmly and deliberately in stressful situations. That along with a lot of practice makes up for a great deal of fire power.

    I think that the proliferation of very realistic violent video games, movies, and television shows helps put the psychos among us in a very dangerous mindset. Personally that scares me more than their weoponry.

    Of course the public has a completely unrealistic view of the capabilities of the firearms actually available to the public and even criminals. One would think that every gang member has access to selective fire guns and that the thirty round magazines can fire for minutes at a time.

    Statistically we live in one of the most violent areas in the country. Tacoma has worse crime rates than Los Angeles in most categories, yet in nearly 25 years working in public safety I have never seen or even heard of a selective fire weapon being used by a criminal in our area. I have been to many shootings over the years. In nearly everyone incident that I have been to a handgun or shotgun has been used in the crime. I believe that the local and national statistics back this up.

  7. elmerfudd says:

    It seems that not all of those +2 followers were created equal.

    When I bought my Glock years ago it came with two high cap mags with +2 followers. Those mags were terrific for the most part, very reliable and rugged. The only problem was that they weren’t drop free.

    Latter on I bought a couple of the followers to retrofit to two other mags and had the same experience you did. They were just loose and sloppy and if you looked at them wrong they would fall apart. I quickly went back to the original floor plates.

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