Before 1983, officers of the Knox County (TN) Sheriff's Department where I worked were required to wear a certain type of leather -- and weapons had to fire ammunition that fell within the range of .38 special and .44 magnum. There were a wide variety of weapons out there -- and those were only the ones you could see.
In 1983 we were issued standard .38-caliber hollow point ammunition with no metal jacket and were told to carry a weapon that would fire that round. We didn't like being restricted at all so we complained about the "Nerf" bullets. Our accessories, such as holsters and ammunition carriers were still optional.
I had a holster that would have made Wyatt Earp envious; it rode low and stuck out to the side, prominently displaying my Smith & Wesson Model 13. I only kept the ivory grips on it one night after my captain told me it looked like the kind of pistol that would be carried by a security guard in a New Orleans bordello, or words to that effect. I went back to the standard grips but I kept the holster.
During a joint in-service with the Knoxville Police Department in the mid-1980s, the chief training officer at KPD made a comment about how we should all carry holsters that rode close to the body so we could protect our weapons and suspects couldn't easily get at them. He didn't mention me by name but he was looking at my gunslinger holster when he said it.
Out of range of his hearing -- I was well familiar with his almost legendary status as cop and former Marine -- I made some kind of rookie comment about how I wasn't worried about anyone taking my weapon because I didn't think there was anybody who could take my weapon. Oh the folly of rookies and other fools.
That very weekend, I rolled into a fight call on the parking lot of a strip bar on Highway 25 W called "The Happy Bottom" and waded into the fracas to assist two officers already there. Minutes later, I was down in the gravel with a big, big man who apparently didn't know he was supposed to do whatever I said.
Suddenly I became aware that my pistol was no longer in my holster. When you carry a weapon regularly, it becomes as much a part of you as the wallet you sit on. When it turns up missing, you know it immediately. And, of course, I thought the big brawler I was scuffling with had taken it.
I had the mother of all adrenaline rushes. The fear of imminent trauma alone would have caused that reaction, but I was also thinking of the humiliation I knew I would have to live with if I he shot me with my own weapon.
In a few moments, I had him cuffed and had collapsed on top of him in exhaustion and relief. Of course, I knew by that time he didn't have my Smith & Wesson, It was in the gravel beneath us where it had fallen when the strap came unsnapped. I quietly retrieved it and nobody else noticed what had happened.
When I returned to work the following week, I had the best safety holster money could buy. In order to even draw my pistol, I had to memorize a series of movies and execute them perfectly every time. I knew I had lost a little on the quick-draw but that was a good trade-off because I never again wanted to go through the sheer terror of thinking my pistol was in somebody else's hand.
I became a zealous advocate of safety holsters. I never lost a weapon again during a struggle. I completely forgot to take my pistol to work once, but that's another story....
Coming, on Monday, Dec. 18 ... Read, "If they gave awards for stupidity, I'd be a winner." David Hunter doesn't straddle the fence long in this column.
David Hunter's column, "The Beat Goes On," appears exclusively on the Internet at PoliceOne.com. For information on purchasing Hunter's latest novels, "A Whiff of Garlic," and "The Dancing Savior," or where to obtain Hunter's other works visit his Web page: hometown.aol.com/tnbard/index.html. You can contact David Hunter directly by writing him at P.O. Box 1124, Powell, Tenn. 37849. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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