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American Handgunner May/June 2011 - Page 22
COPTALK Massad Ayoob OPINION AND FACTS FROM THE MEAN STREETS 30 YEars xcept for communications/electronics, little has changed so radically in the way of law enforcement gear as the weaponry. As a fledgling cop in the early 1970s, it wasn’t unusual to have other officers look at the cocked and locked Colt .45 Auto in my duty holster and mutter, “He’s a radical! He’s a maverick!” I lived long enough to see the reversal of the paradigm. Today, the rare old harness bull still carrying a sixshooter to work is seen as … quaint. A year or two ago, a young SWAT cop training on my range spotted the Ruger .357 Magnum on my hip and asked, “Where’s the powder horn?” The same year, I was on a police training panel, and the uniformed chief on my right caught sight of the K-frame S&W in my holster. He raised a quizzical eyebrow and asked, “Going retro?” Sigh … Back then, such major departments as NYPD, LAPD and Detroit PD refused to issue or even allow hollow points. “Dum-dum” bullets were a hot button issue, and in a word-association test would connect to “police brutality.” It took a long time for reason to prevail, but it’s doubtful you’ll find a domestic law enforcement agency today not issuing some sort of expanding bullets for duty carry. Of ChangE E Then/Now Stuff THEN: Only SWAT had autoloading rifles, and perhaps some conservation officers and some rural cops. NOW: The patrol rifle seems to be a staple with more departments than not, and training in immediate response to mass murders in progress is commonplace. THEN: What was called at the time role-play training was limited to toy guns, or .38s loaded with cotton balls instead of bullets. It didn’t take place often. NOW: Thanks to Simunitions technology, what we now call “force-on-force” training is much more realistic and almost universal. THEN: Some departments had batons, and law enforcement was coming to appreciate the new level of suspect control offered by the Monadnock PR-24 and the splendid training By the Nov/Dec 1977 issue, Mas had a column and accompanying it. But there it was called Cop Talk. Until the early 1980s, Cop were still departments where a Talk was a “now and again” feature of the magacop went on the street armed zine, becoming a regular column in 1984. with a .38 and nothing else. As one wise cop put it, “Nothing in that Some agencies — US Border Patrol and vast gray area between a kind word and LAPD come to mind — still have topa bullet.” flight pistol teams, but in a great many Chemical Mace had been out for a departments, that was among the first while, but many in law enforcement had things to go when a budget crunch hit. become disenchanted with its effective- Today, with some departments actually ness. NOW: The coming of the tele- laying off patrol officers due to lack scoping baton has made it much easier of funds, their chiefs will tell you they for every officer to carry an impact simply can’t justify a pistol team in the weapon constantly for intermediate force budget. THEN: We’d see throngs of a needs. Pepper spray proved more reli- hundred, even hundreds, at a state-wide able than tear gas spray, and has stayed. law enforcement handgun competition. The TASER reached a level where it TODAY: I’ve seen such matches draw could be relied upon, and has become only 20 or 30 shooters. virtually standard. Today’s officer has THEN: It was common for officers a much better repertoire of “less-lethal to proudly wear a medal on their uniforce options” available on the duty belt. forms proclaiming them to be Pistol The result has been less death, and less Master, Revolver Expert, etc. Excelinjury, on both sides of the fight. lence was encouraged in this critical law enforcement skill. NOW: MarksEmphasis On Training manship medals are seen much less Editor Roy Huntington reminded me often on police uniforms, and many my very first Cop Talk column, more agencies have gone to pass/fail qualthan 30 years ago, touched on the rele- ification scoring, in deference to the vance of PPC training and competition. lowest common denominator. Indeed, It was too slow and regimented then, some have been mandated to do so by and is so now, though it remains useful their state’s POST (Police Officer Stanfor instilling pure marksmanship, dis- dards and Training) authority. tance shooting, and conditioning to stay behind cover (i.e., “the barricades”). Overview In sum and substance, some of these Back then, it was about the only game in town for a police pistol team besides things have changed for the better, and bull’s-eye shooting. Today, cops com- some have slid a bit toward mediocpete in USPSA, IDPA, and three-gun rity. Overall, I have to say, practical (rifle/shotgun/pistol) competition, and survival-oriented training is better by far than it was when Handgunner a PPC match is downright hard to find. Even small departments often came into existence. I’m proud this fielded police pistol teams, of which magazine has been there to report on their communities were justly proud. those changes the whole way through. And I’m looking forward to remaining a part of the Handgunner team as we continue to do so. Ayoob’s first Cop Talk column in Handgunner in the Sept/Oct 1977 issue wasn’t even called Cop Talk but “The Combat Course — Part 1” and Mas talked about the police PPC course. Handgunner was about one year old at the time! * 22 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MAY/JUNE 2011