Today's feature is from our companion service, The Tactical Wire.
The trend toward smaller pistols carrying a greater quantity of ammo gives this elderly type pause. As one who’s derisively called “boomer” and “Fudd,” I remember a time when the first newsstand publication specifically covering handguns started – and it was some years after I first went on the job. Before that, the paltry few gun magazines were mostly centered around hunting, rifle and shotgun competitions and reloading. Very little was devoted to the police/defense handgun.
As “the police,” I remember when “service revolver” meant the gun with the round thing that held ammunition carried in your leather holster on a 2 ¼” wide belt known by the name of someone called “Sam Browne.” A rectangular nickel or brass buckle backed by two hooks provided some adjustment to the belt and early versions had the “D” rings for the “suicide strap” that went up over the right shoulder.
When I started, it was generally the "round gun" in the holster. I worked for an enlightened outfit, and the revolver quickly gave way to a 1964 vintage Colt National Match (below).
While troopers are fond of those shoulder straps and flat hats, the rest of us didn’t like the ‘grab’ point for suspects and wanted to avoid getting snagged by a moving automobile by the suicide strap.
But now we have the era of the “wonder-nine,” first named in the 1980s when it became a “thing.” Now the preferred poison is the 15+ capacity 9mm – after a flirtation with the 40 Auto.
For me, the early shifts caught me with a Ruger Security-Six in the Don Hume (nominally K-Frame S&W) holster issued by the outfit with a double ‘dump pouch’ to carry spare ammo. These hinged creations were named for the likelihood they’d dump six rounds of your total 18-round loadout on the ground when some idiot in rollcall would flip the snap flap open on your gear. That caused the cartridge box to flop down, dumping the rounds on the deck. Some hilarity and considerable foul language followed.
Bless their hearts.
I quickly elected to go to speed loaders or cartridge loops and by the end of my first year of service, I was carrying a cocked and locked Colt 45. Purchased from a previous member of service, the finish was a disaster but it was easy to shoot. With a pair of spare “gun show” magazines, the loadout increased from 18 rounds with the wheelgun to 22 rounds with the 45.
Still, I’d read Skeeter Skelton and others. I determined that a small, spare gun was the way to go. In 1978, I purchased a S&W Model 60. A five shot 38 with a 1 7/8” barrel, it was modified only with a Tyler T-grip grip adapter until a fellow cop excised the hammer spur. The gun is still so equipped today.
Off-duty, I carried that Smith & Wesson Model 60 from October 1978 through July 1980 in a Bucheimer suede clip-on inside the waist holster in front of my right hip.
This Bucheimer suede IWB holster has a long, thin clip that never seemed to allow the holster to come out with the S&W M60 I wore "off-duty" (a quaint practice in those old days. The gun only carried five rounds of 38 Special. Compare that with the Ruger MAX-9, below - a subcompact 9mm that carries up to 12+1 rounds ...(Ruger image)
In those long since forgotten days, the suede clip-on inside the waist holster was commonly and cheaply made by various holster manufacturers. The advantage, an ability to remove gun and holster at the same time to lock in your desk before you went into the interview room with a suspect, was also its major disadvantage. With many of them, drawing the gun meant drawing the holster too – not ideal.
With the suede rig, re-holstering one-handed by feel (something not widely understood as desirable these days) was impossible.
As a young off-duty cop in t-shirt and blue jeans, the S&W Model 60 worn right up front – you’d call it ‘appendix’ these days – was easily hidden. I also realized that if I drew the gun, I’d have to remove the holster to replace the gun; it’s the cost of doing business. Notably, the long, thin clip of the Bucheimer held onto the belt and I never had it come off during a draw.
Still, the gun would shoot. Recently, I found range notes from 1988 – 1996. There was a record of a “left hand qualification” shot with that Model 60, my first backup gun, habitually carried on duty in a pocket accessible to my left hand -- hence the reason for shooting it from that side. In my notes from April 1988, I find that I fired qualification strings from 25 yards up to three yards on a B-27 repair center, left-handed using +P ammo. The scoring, on the NRA repair center, showed four rounds in the “8” ring, with the remainder in the “9” and “10.”
It wasn’t one of the new polymer, striker, multi-capacity pistol, but it was what I relied on back in those frontier days of the Carter Administration. I still find considerable use for the small 38s and even shoot a 45 auto on occasion.
I guess that’s what it means to be a ‘boomer.’
-- Rich Grassi