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American Handgunner Nov/Dec 2012 Digital Edition - Page 34
COPTALK opINIoN AND FActs FroM tHe MeAN streets reloAdinG sPeed: A Police survivAl skill otice the title of this month’s column doesn’t have a question mark after it. That’s because there’s no question about it. The ability to reload swiftly is a well-recognized survival skill — for cops, military personnel, armed citizens or any of the other Good Guys and Gals who might be involved in a protracted gunfight. Gun-savvy officers on NYPD begged for more firepower than the standard 6-shot .38 revolvers and dump pouches, but it wasn’t until the death of Officer Scott Gadell in 1986 they got speedloaders for their six-shooters and finally, less than 20 years ago, 16-shot 9mm semi-automatics. Caught up in a shootout with a fleeing felon, Gadell ran dry and was trying to reload his revolver from a dump pouch when the suspect, still with plenty of ammo, scuttled up and killed him execution style. Some 3,000 miles away, in Newhall, California, West Coast cops had seen it happen earlier. The 1970 cataclysm in Newhall is discussed in this month’s MAssAD AyooB Speed reload of auto (Springfield range Officer shown) is much faster than a “tactical” reload in which the partially depleted mag is saved. n Ayoob Files section of American Handgunner, and revisits among other things the question of whether or not one of the four California Highway Patrolmen slain that April night in Newhall had put his spent casings in his trouser pocket. James Pence was just closing the cylinder when his killer closed in, snarled, “Got you now,” and shot him in the brain with a .45 auto. As you’ll see elsewhere in this issue, whether or not the martyred Patrolman Pence put his spent casings into his pocket before trying to reload has been a matter of debate. What is not debated is that (a) he ran out of ammo after six shots; (b) he had to take individual cartridges out of a dump pouch to reload, after already having been shot three times with a .45; (c) he reloaded a full six rounds as trained and (d) was just closing the cylinder when he ran out of time and was brutally murdered. For 42 years now, it has been suggested in such a situation, a good guy with a revolver might be better served to just load a couple of rounds, close the cylinder, and get back into action. That became standard doctrine after Newhall. It was suggested if Pence had speedloaders, his cylinder would have been closed much earlier and about the time his killer was starting to say, “Got you …” Pence could have put a .357 slug through his head and changed the outcome of the incident profoundly. Subsequent to the Newhall Incident, CHP authorized and then issued speedloaders, and in 1970 adopted the 12-shot .40-caliber S&W 4006 auto, an updated version of which remains standard issue with that agency. the relevance today ShAving SecondS he semi-automatic pistol has long since replaced the revolver in American police service, but the fact remains an officer caught with an empty gun can be fatally vulnerable, and the ability to reload swiftly is still critical. How long does it take to close the cylinder of a Colt Python revolver such as Pence’s, swing it perhaps 90 degrees to engage the oncoming attacker, and fire? I tested that with a Colt Python and an electronic timer for this article. It averaged about .86 of a second. The investigation shows Pence was in the act of closing the cylinder when he was killed. This means a one second faster reload could have saved his life! “But that was revolver speed.” How does it relate to the autoloaders we wear to protect the public and ourselves today? Are your spare magazines in flapped pouches that have to be unsnapped, or in open-top, friction-tight pouches? I just took the same electronic timer to the range with my department issue duty belt. Reloading time from slide-lock with flapped pouches was more than a whole second (1.046) slower than from an open-top mag pouch in the same location. Think about it. t re you using a speed reload or a “tactical” reload, dumping the depleted magazine in the first case, or saving it in the second? With a Springfield Armory 1911 .45, the timer showed I was almost a full second (.858) faster with the speedload than the tacload to the next shot, firing 1-handed before the depleted mag was stowed. Waiting to secure the partial magazine and return to 2-hand hold would have been much slower yet. If your service auto has run completely if James Pence could have dry to slide-lock, do you recharge the reloaded his chamber by tugging the slide to the rear, Python one or thumbing down the lever, releasing the second faster, slide? For me, the timer showed I was an he might be average of .6 of a second faster with the thumb on the lever than manipulating the alive today. slide with the whole hand. With yesterday’s revolver or today’s auto pistol, a second — or even a fraction — can mean the difference between life and death. The lessons we all learned from that tragic night in Newhall still resonate today, even if the hardware has changed. A * 34 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER2012