Saturday, September 29, 2007

My Career Firearms

Yes the thought just hit me (after being up for over an hour and a half already and trying to think of something about which to write) that it might be interesting (at least for myself) if I was to list the firearms that I have carried so far throughout my career in federal law enforcement.

I started my career as a Border Patrol Agent, in that garden spot of the world: Calexico, California. That was back in 1979. The first thing I was offered as an issue revolver was a Smith and Wesson model 19 with 4" barrel, blued steel. I did not like it. I wanted one of those wonderfully heavy revolvers I had shot at the academy, a Colt Border Patrol. The guy handing out the guns gave me the hairy eyeball, and probably thought I was crazy, but I got just what I had wanted. (Sorry I don't know which one that is in the pic. My goodness was I ever really that thin, and that young - I guess I was, a long time ago.) The piece was a lot heavier than the Smith, and its trigger pull a lot stiffer, but I liked it. Why? Well because the cylinder rotated along the natural pull of the thumb so as to make reloading more efficient. More efficient because as you loaded, if only part way through and you had to slam the cylinder shut and fire, the next click would likely go bang. Smith cylinders move in the opposite direction. If you look at a Smith & Wesson revolver from the rear, as you would when holding it to fire it, and then operate it so the cylinder turns, you will note the cylinder moving in a counter-clockwise direction. The natural movement of your thumb, when reloading, is to pull the cylinder in a counterclockwise direction. This means that if you close the cylinder before being fully reloaded, as you might in a combat situation, the rounds are likely not going to come up immediately under the firing pin. Instead empty chambers will first pass the firing pin. Not good tactically speaking when a split second could be of the essence to your winning a gunfight. Now when you load a colt, this does not happen. You see the action of the Colt revolver is such that the cylinder moves in a clockwise direction. So when your thumb pulls it counterclockwise as you reload, and you then have to quickly close a partially loaded gun, the first chamber to fall under the hammer would likely be one that you have just loaded. That is good.

Another reason I liked the Colt was that if I ever ran out of bullets, I could use it as a more effective club than I could the Smith & Wesson. Man it sure felt a lot heavier. It was built to last for sure; and at the time, or within a year or two of that time, I discovered that Smiths were not being built that well. One thing not so great abut the Colt, beside the heavy trigger, was the fact that it was unforgiving if you decided that you were going to do something like take it apart and give it a really good cleaning in paces no one had looked at since it was manufactured. I soon found out that putting it back together was nowhere as easy as was reassembling a Smith Wesson. In fact, my first and only attempt to do this resulted in my sheepishly going to see our armorer (or the agent who passed for such) and begging him to make it new again. After he replaced one of the springs I had mangled it was just that good. That was quite embarrassking, as Popeye would have said.

Somewhere along the way, my Colt Border patrol was replaced by a S&W model 19. If I recall correctly, they collected all the Colts to get rid of them, too old or so I remember. The thing was, those Colts would have lasted another 50 years. The S&W 19 turned out okay for me. I actually got to shoot better with it than I did with the Colt, and I could actually take it apart to clean out its innards, and then get it back together and it still worked. I wound up buying a couple S&W model 66's when they came out with a Border Patrol commemorative. I got one with a 4' barrel and one with a 2 1/2" barrel. This was when I discovered that S&W quality control was not all it was made up to be. These revolvers actually clinked when you dry fired them. I took mine and shook them, and pieces of metal shavings fell out of them. What a sorry state for a brand new gun. I sold them quickly.

As for long guns, I was not issued one while in the BP except on a requested daily basis. In other words, I had to ask for one if I wanted it, and had to ask each day then return it at the end of my shift. We had Remington 870 shotguns in 12 gauge. I liked them a lot. I had quite some fun with them at the academy, and when we shot trap (or was it skeet) I hit every clay, even when they did doubles, and I sure don't shoot that well today (ah the adeptness of youth). We also had Remington model 760 rifles in .308 caliber, they were a pump action. They were fun rifles. I took one out now and then, but I preferred the shotgun for the type of work we mostly did, though I will say while out of town in the desert those rifles were my choice. It was sort of a nice thing to see they had the same basic action type as did our issue shotguns. No chance to forget, while under stress, which one you had, and therefore operate it incorrectly.

Now while I was in the Border Patrol, I was not allowed to carry a back-up handgun. I would never intentionally break the rules, so I was sometimes quite upset with myself when I reached into my pocket only to find a Beretta Jetfire in .25 Auto. I guess that happened now and then because I was a gun sort of a guy, but as I said, never intentionally! The slingshot I carried, a wrist-rocket or something with a similar name, now that I carried intentionally, but only for use on animals like sunks or stray dogs that would have otherwise interfered with my duties while out on patrol.

After 4 years in hell Calexico, the garden spot of the world, I was able to land a job with the U.S. Customs Service as a Customs Patrol Officer in new York City. Yes I am a New Yorker, and I wanted to get home, so badly in fact, that I took a job for which by then I was over qualified. In fact I never even looked into becoming a Customs Special Agent at the time, thinking instead the patrol officer job would be my foot in the door so to speak. Well the door slammed on my foot, and it took me many years to become an agent, but that is another story. As for my sidearms when I was a Customs patrol officer, I was issued a Smith & Wesson model 19 for uniform carry. I also got issued a S&W model 36, a 2" snub nose revolver in blue steel. Only a 5 shot, but that was okay by me, a back up piece that was issued was a big change from the Border Patrol. At sometime in my career with Customs I was issued a Colt detective Special, in .38 special, with a 6 shot cylinder. I liked having that extra shot, but that piece was not long lived, it was too old and worn to be shot as much as I liked to practice, so it was back to a S&W, this time a model 60 in stainless steel.

Within a few years, my job with Customs had changed to that of a Customs Investigator, basically the same job as a Customs Special Agent, but at lower pay that the high grade for an agent (later this job as found to be an illegal position by the OPM and all of the CI's had a position change to special agent). I was issued a S&W model 459. It was, in my opinion, apiece of junk, they all were. Later on (maybe when I became an agent) we were issued S&W model 6906's. (My backup with those was a S&W model 60, and the primary was the S&W, that is until they allowed us to carry personally owned firearms.) The 6906's were an improvement, but not by much as far as I am concerned. We had catastrophic failures with those that likely would have gotten you killed in a shootout.
Somewhere in there, I think when I was a Customs Investigator, they allowed us to carry our personally owned firearms at work. I decided it was time to take out the Beretta 92SB in 9mm. This was the precursor to the 92F series later used by our military. It was and is one heck of a great firearm. In fact, I owe my life to it. It is the only pistol with which I ever shot someone, and that guy was someone trying to mug me when I was off duty (again that is another story, and if you want to read it, go to the links on the right side of my page, for the article about Ballseye - What is in a Name (or just click on this link). Later on, while still authorized to carry personally owned firearms, I bought a brace of Beretta 92F's. I carried both of them for awhile, then decided to carry only one, and preserve the other for my retirement gun.

Of course my love for the Remington 870 was not abated by the fact I now worked for the Customs Service. I shot one at every qualification, and I shot one whenever I had a chance as range officer. Yes Customs sent me to an NRA Firearms Instructor school and gave me those duties as collateral duties. I was a firearms instructor for about 14 years, and enjoyed the heck out of it, until they punished me for something and told me not to report back to the range. Nothing to do with the range as far as I am aware, but they will not tell me what it was for which I was being punished, so I think it was my big mouth with a boss. Oh well, I again digress, so let's get back to the long guns I used while in Customs. As to the 870s, I often carried one from work, but I also was able to carry my personally owned one for quite a few years before they changed the firearms policy. (The pic is of my son shooting the personally owned one I used to carry at work, yes we still have it and shoot it frequently.) It was nice to be able to carry my own since I knew my own gun was in excellent repair, and shooting it as much as I did kept me in good shape for the hunting season.

The other long guns I shot while in Customs were the Colt Ar15, the Ruger Mini14, and H&K MP5. As to the rifles, I much preferred the Ruger. It was a simpler rifle, much more reliable than the AR15, easier to disassemble and reassemble, and therefore easier to clean and maintain. Don't get me wrong though, I liked both of them very much. Now I cannot recall if it was while I was a customs investigator or as a special agent, that I was invited to attend H&K MP5 training; and after which I was immediately issued an MP5 sub-machine gun. I also became certified as an MP5 instructor. What a fun gun, and it is one heck of a weapon.

Sooner or later, Customs decided that personally owned firearms were not a good thing. I was then issued an 870 shotgun, and I was issued a Glock model 19, and later a backup of a Glock model 26. Of course I had to give up my issued S&W model 60 for the Glock 26, but it was well worth the change. The Glocks were much easier to shoot with more accuracy that any issue revolver I ever shot. Those extra rounds were also a plus. I wound up turning in the Glock 26. To this day I do not know why I turned it in and just held onto the model 19, but at least I do have the MP5 or shotgun if I am going out on an operation.

When I was transferred to ICE (Customs Agents and Immigration agents were all brought under DHS when that department was created, and they were combined into one agency under Immigration and Customs Enforcement - egad what a mess), I brought my assigned weapons from Customs with me. As for the MP5, I still carry that - well sort of anyway. I had the original issue they gave me for several years, turned it in after I was in ICE, then missed it so much that I had another issued to me. The shotgun I had under Customs was traded in a few years ago for a newer model 870. The newest Remington 870 I was issued has ghost ring sights. Man they are sweet. I do love the 870, but I think I said that already. I would have a rifle too, except you cannot be issued 2 long guns at the same time under current ICE firearms policy. For some reason, the MP5 is not within that restriction, and that is good for me. I would hate to have to decide between having only an 870 or an MP5 for a long gun. I still carry the Glock 19, I guess I've had that over 10 years now, maybe 12 or more. I do not carry a back-up handgun nowadays, but as I said, when I go out on an op, I can take either the MP5 or 870 in addition to my sidearm. That is a comfort to me.

Where does that leave me right now; well the pic at the left shows what I carry on a daily basis right now. The shot includes my issued Glock 19. I am also left at the point where the issued firearms I have now are probably the last firearms that I will be issued as a government agent. We are due to start being issued Sigs sometime in the future, but that could be as far as two years away. I doubt very much I will still be in government service in 2 years as I plan to retire in January 2009. I think I have covered all the firearms they have issued me in my 28 years and one day (so far) in government service, and all the firearms that were personally owned which they allowed me to carry. Of course, I have owned and shot many other types in all that time, but I'll save those for another rant.

All the best,
Glenn B