In the previous installment of “Sort of off duty” (March 2011), I discussed the growing trend of violence against officers and the minute chance that an off-duty officer may have to quickly transition his duty status. This article is about doing a realistic assessment of one’s capabilities.
One must picture the off-duty equipment and routine as a system where each component has its place. If your system doesn’t meet the minimum standards for off-duty carry, reassess. Have a backup to your backup. Be a sheepdog. If subjects wish harm on someone in your trust, including yourself, their extended reach will be injurious to themselves.
Evaluate your carry system
Most firearms experts will pick strong side carry over any other type of holster. We talk about it and we advocate it. However, when LET writer Dennis Haworth and I met at the range, both of us were carrying the same type of firearm the same way — I’m not shy about that. My No. 2 method of carry is a pocket holster. Dennis had a Smith & Wesson model 638 and I had an S&W model 38, circa 1970, with a Crimson Trace grip (Model LG-305). A lighter and more modern package is the S&W M&P 340 CT. The good news: We both practice with them. I have a good supply of lead, several bullet moulds and acquire powder like most people buy breakfast cereal.
This is about the system of carry, not a single component. I spent about 10 pounds of ballistic gelatin and auto glass figuring out the best combination for my system. For general everyday wear, what one shoots should do several things. If these things don’t exist, one must experiment with new methods. Here are some ideas for evaluating a system.
With or without the laser, I can make a hostage shot at approximately 10 yards with confidence. The “This is a belly gun” line of thinking is flawed. One should be able to fire a handgun in point or modified-point mode by indexing one’s body at contact distances. However, he or she should also be capable of deliberate aimed fire at targets out to 25 yards. As a rule, the officer should be able to consistently hit the A zone on a standard IPSC target, or similar target sheet at 25 yards. This is a rectangular area about 4 inches by 9 inches.
In deliberate fire exercises, officers should practice a 4-inch by 4-inch shot on a “traditional” IPSC or similar target. This is a cardboard outline of a head and torso. Practice shooting the head of this target at 10 yards. A cheaper route is to use paper dessert plates that approximate this size.
The cartridge I use must be effective after auto glass and clothing. There were two bullets that worked in my .38: one was the Cor-Bon DPX 110 grain +P cartridge, which did rather well in after-barrier penetration. The other was Hornady’s Critical Defense +P 110 grain cartridge. The Critical Defense product claims that it does well because the hollow point does not clog from fibers after thick clothing. This is easily proven on any range with a few discarded layers of clothing and a call to Vyse (where I go for gelatin). Critical Defense rounds work. There really isn’t a significant accuracy difference between the two. In case anyone was wondering, my circa 1970 S&W Model 38 can shoot 2-inch groups at 25 yards, exactly where I center the sights or Crimson Trace Lasergrip.
A 110-grain bullet in a .38 has a lighter recoil “feel,” which also makes this system better. If carrying a lot of cartridges (I do), there is a weight difference in carrying the lighter bullets. Not all cartridges are equal or even equivalent. Bear in mind though, that different gun-and-cartridge combinations yield different results. For example, I have two 9mm handguns. My FNH FNP 9 prefers the Remington GS9MMD, a combination with a particularly hard jacket and controlled expansion. The CZ P-01 prefers the Winchester RA9115HP, which opens quicker (it’s slightly lighter and faster) but holds together with the same tenacity. I’d pick either cartridge for a department-wide purchase, after about 20 pounds of gelatin, three separate trips to the glass dealer and several days at the range with my Oehler Model 35 P chronograph. If my department used Glocks, it would be different. Both cartridges behave about the same in a Glock 19. If it is .40 or .45, I like Remington Golden Saber products.