We’ve all seen it. We’ve all done it. The excuse is usually some dribbling about “pistol craft,” “winning a gunfight,” or “I want to be faster.” As you can already guess, it’s the last one that is probably the most honest excuse. We all want to be faster than the guy standing next to us on the firing line. But is the desire to be faster and improve our standing among others so strong that equipment alteration is required?
For decades, armorer’s have seen lightened triggers, new-fangled sights, peculiar mag releases, oversized magazine floor plates, shaved trigger guards, tape and glue, de-activated holster safeguards, and other assumed short-cuts to victory. Does the alteration of a fighting pistol improve the chances of one of your students winning a gunfight or is it actually a liability? Are you okay with allowing a Franken-gun among the ranks? These surgical experiments are often the tell-tale difference between shooters and fighters. The answer to improving the chances of winning a life or death gun battle is determination, practice and more practice. Correct practice. Learn to be a handgun fighter not a shade-tree equipment mechanic.
Some instructors are willing to accept the kind of changes made to fighting equipment that may actually increase the likelihood of an officer being murdered. Deadly force instructors have a responsibility which far exceeds the mechanics of the firing range. Turning a blind-eye to the guy who hangs a Pocket Fisherman from his handgun may make you the biggest target in the subsequent storm of litigation that follows many officer-involved shootings.
So why not let officers alter gear to suit personal idiosyncrasies? These improvements allow the officer to perform in his personal safe zone, giving him a false sense of security about their gun fighting skills. Everything works fine until he misses a trigger reset point, the magazine well adapter falls off, the retention holster is actually snapped closed, or the non-factory component doesn’t work like the SWAT officer said it would. Letting them continue results in a false sense of the ability to fight. Instead of being prepared to fight with any tool he is holding when the fight comes, he has rested his faith on his “special” gun. Not being prepared may result in his murder, or that of other officers or innocents.
And what about the instructor who knew that officers were carrying an altered firearm? What happens to the resident “expert” when the lawyers find out that he allowed non-approved, non-issued equipment and/or alterations to deadly force tools without the written permission of the Chief or Sheriff? Really? Even the agency attorneys will let you drift into the murky waters. In other words, you’ll be on your own.
We are not dying because we don’t draw fast enough, reload fast enough, or pull the trigger quickly enough. We are dying because we fail to recognize active threats soon enough. Solid gun fighting skill always trump gun-gizmos.
Malfunctions, slow performance, peculiar and unnatural movements are the common results of alteration attempts. I firmly believe that such mutilation generally does not benefit the shooter but only increases the risk associated with such changes. I have personally not found it necessary to “race-up” a duty pistol in order to develop speed or handling skills. Speed and effective handling are developed through persistent study and practice to develop consistent and repetitive hand and finger control. And this only matters if we recognize potential deadly threats. If we can’t determine if another person is a critical threat, then the fanciest pistol ever created isn’t going to help us.
The professionally minded law officer and student of the fight can accomplish more with an out-of-the-box firearm than most of us can with a tricked-out whiz-bang. Don’t believe it? History is full of accomplished shooters and gun fighters who use firearm as intended from the factory. Examples? You bet! Search Youtube for Jerry Miculek, and read about legends Ed McGivern, Rex Applegate, Dick Fairburn and Border Patrol Agent Bill Jordan. Most modern combat fighters understand that the road to defeat is paved with good intentions, but victory rests on honest training.
As a law enforcement deadly force instructor, others are counting on you to make the right decision. Will it ruffle some feathers? Maybe. Will they thank you? Probably not. But you’ll sleep better at night knowing that you’ve promoted solid training instead of gimmicks. And for that training, you’ll see officers who depend on themselves to win, instead of side-stepping the sweat it takes to be good.
Experimenting with firearms is great fun and may pay dividends in casual shooting circles. And these firearms have a place among us, but being in a duty holster is not one of them.
Corporal Greg Bettis is the Department Training Officer with the Holly Springs Police Department and brings 26-years’ experience. He is a POST Master Instructor and has taught with a variety of organizations to include the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors. Greg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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