Aside from the deterrent effect a police
officer's handgun may or may not
project, the only purpose for the
handgun is the application of deadly
force.  You don't have to be a gun lover
to appreciate the fact that the handgun
is an indispensable tool for a police officer
whether or not that police officer ever
has the occasion to apply deadly force in
the line of duty.

If you're lucky, you'll never have to apply
deadly force, but you must remain
proficient with your handgun from the
beginning to the end of your career.  
Even in police departments consumed
with the "thinking out of box" mania,
they don't monkey around with their
firearms training.  You'll find firearms
training to be the most structured and
no nonsense training you receive.  
Sight Alignment
Trigger Control
Breath Control
The Semi-Automatic Pistol
The Revolver
Firearms Training
Most police departments today are
required to meet firearms training
standards set on a statewide basis.  In
other words, your department will be
required to provide you with a minimum
number of hours of instruction.  Your
department could exceed the minimum
requirements if it so chooses; however,
the costs and scheduling difficulties
associated with additional training are
often prohibitive.

The biggest block of training you’ll receive
will come during your entry level training
where certified instructors will educate
you in the use, care and maintenance of
your firearm.  Thereafter, during the
course of your career, you’ll be required
to re-qualify with your firearm at
scheduled intervals.  Again, the frequency
of training will depend on the size of your
department and its ability to finance and
schedule the ongoing instruction.

If you join a police department of any
size, you may well be required to re-
qualify only once per year.  You may
think that re-qualifying only on an annual
basis would not be sufficient to keep you
at a high level of firearms proficiency;
however, you might be surprised.  When
the time comes for you to use your
firearm in the line of duty, you’ll be
amazed how much your training has
prepared you to utilize the weapon under
stressful circumstances.

Nothing will prevent you from practicing
your firearm skills on your own…I
probably shouldn’t say “nothing.”  When
I joined the Baltimore Police Department
in 1971, every district station house had
a state of the art indoor pistol range.  
The only requirement for using the range
was the presence of at least two police
officers for obvious safety reasons.  Of
course, that time was before all of the
federal and state environmental safety
rules and regulations that would follow.  
Those ranges would eventually close and
remain closed for years while the city
considered funding to meet the
requirements of the ever expanding
regulations.  Before I retired, some of the
ranges were reopened after considerable
expense only to close again, because the
upgrades couldn’t keep up with the pace
of new regulations.  Okay, so you’re
deprived of a departmental facility to
practice.  You can always, at your own
expense, join a gun club or range where
you can practice your shooting skills.
The Wearing and Carrying of Your
While in Plainclothes or Off-Duty
With rare exception, you’ll be allowed to
carry a departmentally approved pistol or
revolver when you’re off-duty.  For
example, a Baltimore police officer may
wear his or her service pistol, or
approved off-duty pistol or revolver,
anywhere in the state of Maryland while
off-duty.  I say “approved” because a
Baltimore police officer must be
departmentally qualified to carry any
firearm other than his or her
departmentally issued service pistol.  Like
Baltimore, your department may restrict
your choice for an off-duty weapon, or a
weapon to carry while working in
plainclothes, by type and manufacturer.  
Whether in plainclothes or off-duty, you
should carry your regular service pistol.  
Here’s why.  Your service pistol is the
weapon with which you are most familiar.  
I mentioned how training kicks in under
stressful circumstances.  Image yourself
in one of those circumstances and you
reach for your pistol.  Instead of drawing
your 9mm semi-automatic Glock service
pistol containing 17 rounds of
ammunition, you draw your five shot
Smith & Wesson off-duty revolver.  While
your Smith & Wesson revolver is a fine
weapon, it is different from your primary
Concealment of Your Firearm
Whether wearing your firearm while
working in plainclothes or off-duty,
concealment of the weapon should
always be a primary goal.  I know, I
know…the TV cops are running around all
over the place in plainclothes with pistols
on their hips and their badges hooked to
their belts in front of the holsters.  Now,
in the movies, these cops can walk
through a crowed mall with rarely a
glance from the public; however, the
public in the TV show is made up of
movie extras taking their direction from
the show’s director.  When you walk
around in public with that gun hanging
out, you’ll get plenty of attention.

I took my wife out to lunch one
afternoon.  As we sat at our table waiting
for our food to arrive, a young couple
with an infant came into the restaurant
and took seats in a booth across from
us.  Even though these people were
complete strangers to me, I recognized
the young man as a police officer
evidenced by the gun and badge on his
right hip.  The officer could have been
working and met his wife for lunch, or he
could have been off-duty…a circumstance
irrelevant to this conversation.  

Instead of taking a seat on the right side
of the booth where his weapon would
have been concealed from public view, he
seated himself on the left side leaving his
weapon in open view to the public.  When
you become a police officer, you should
get into the habit of seating yourself in
public places where you have a good
overview of everything around you.  In
this instance, the officer’s wife had the
overview while the officer’s view of his
surroundings was severely restricted.  It
was interesting for me to watch the facial
expressions from the waitress and
patrons whose attention was attracted
by the officer’s gun.  Except for some
expressions of surprise or curiosity,
lunch time was uneventful.

Now…imagine yourself as that officer.  
Your gun and badge are on display, and
you’re seated where you can’t see much
of anything.  Two men enter the
restaurant.  Both men are armed with
guns, and their intention is to rob the

First Scenario:  The hold-up men survey
the restaurant, and they spot you.  They
leave the restaurant and no robbery

Second Scenario:  These hold-up men
are pretty cool.  They rob the cashier
without causing any disturbance, and
they escape before anyone in the
restaurant, including you, becomes aware
of what just happened.  It’s unknown
whether or not the robbers were aware
of your presence.  If they were aware of
you, and they went ahead with the
robbery anyway, it’s probably better for
you and your family that you remained
ignorant of the event.

Third Scenario:  The two hold-up men
enter the restaurant.  Before they go for
the robbery, they spot you.  They walk
out of the restaurant to the parking lot
where they revise their game plan.  
Again, these guys are cool.  When they
reenter the restaurant, they enter by
another entrance where they can
approach you from behind.  One of the
men puts his gun to your head while the
second man puts his gun to your wife’s
head.  The first guy takes your gun,
before both men, along with your wife,
heads for the cashier’s desk.  
Fortunately, following the robbery of the
cashier, the robbers just take the money
and your gun leaving your wife behind.

Fourth Scenario:  This time, the hold-up
men are young, inexperienced and
anything but cool.  Their clumsy robbery
attempt is quickly noticed by patrons and
screaming ensues.  One voice stands out
as it shouts, “Officer, officer!”  You turn
toward the commotion, but one of the
hold-up men spots you first.  He begins
firing round after round from his semi-
auto pistol.  The second hold-up man
begins firing at you as well as you finally
identify the threats and begin returning
fire.  Your training kicks in as you engage
the suspects alternating your shots
between the two gunmen.  Dozens of
rounds are fired among the three guns,
before the gun battle ends.  Finally, both
gunmen are down and incapacitated.  
Unbelievably, no one other than the
robbers is hit by any of the gunfire.  Your
wife and child are covered with food,
beverage, and broken glass and
dinnerware as the robbers’ bullets
smashed every plate, dish and glass on
your table.

Everything gets eerily quiet for a few
moments as everyone picks themselves
up from the floor while checking
themselves for bullet holes.  As the
realization beings to sink in that only the
robbers are down, the silence is broken
by a few hand claps that quickly
crescendos into loud applause and
cheering.  Yeah…right.  If you buy into
this scenario, you’re watching too much

Fifth Scenario:  This scenario is identical
to the fourth except for the aftermath.  
Along with the robbers, two patrons are
dead with four others wounded…two

All of the bullets you fired found their
mark.  The shots that killed and wounded
the patrons all came from the suspects.  
Your defense will be that you had no
choice but to return fire since the
suspects were trying to kill you.  Your
defense for your action is absolutely
correct and justifiable.  However, this
question will inevitably be asked, “Why
did the suspects begin firing at you?”  

Alright…you say to me, “In the first
scenario, I prevented the robbery.”  My
response to you is another question,
“How do you know you prevented the
robbery?”  You see, that’s the problem
with deterrence.  When something doesn’
t happen, there’s no way to prove that
you deterred anything.

Let’s go back to the fourth scenario with
the clumsy robbers.  This time, however,
your weapon is concealed, and you’re
seated in a position where you can
quickly identify the events unfolding.  You
draw your pistol and hold it against your
leg so that you can readily engage the
suspects if – and this is a big if – your
inaction to engage would mean death or
serious injury to yourself or others.  This
time, you’re not advertising yourself as a
police officer, and the suspects won’t see
your gun and badge, and no patron is
likely to shout, “Officer.”  The robbery
goes a little rough, but the suspects don’
t shoot or otherwise hurt anyone before
they escape with you in pursuit.

Aside from all the scenarios I just
described, carrying your gun exposed in
public while in plainclothes is just stupid.  
It doesn't serve any purpose other than
making you look immature.  A lot of
people get freaked out by guns.  While
most may not confront you with their
displeasure, there will always be some
who will readily voice their objections.  
While you’ll encounter people who will
engage you in stupid debates about
anything, this is one debate you can
easily avoid.
As a police officer and a first responder,
you already know that you'll be required
to possess and use a multitude of skills
and knowledge associated with other
professions.  The one thing those other
professional practitioners do not include
in their tools of the trade is a handgun.
Technology has also improved the quality
of firearms training.  Depending on the
police department and its level of
commitment, you could find yourself
experiencing some interesting and
realistic training.  Shooting at stationary
targets is find for developing your basic
shooting skills, but training under
controlled induced stress is becoming
more popular and doable.

Just remember...never fear your service
pistol and always treat it with the respect
it deserves.
The semi-automatic pistol has been
around for a long time, but during the
heyday of the revolver, few police
departments issued semi-automatic
handguns.  The ammunition capacity of
the semi-autos were not more, or that
much more, than the six shot revolver.  
The semi-autos either had to be cocked
before firing or a safety device would
have to be released before firing.  
Additionally, the trigger pull was usually
much lighter than the double action
revolver increasing the possibility for an
accidental discharge.  Further,
semi-autos were prone to jamming if a
shell casing was not fully ejected.

Things do change, and technology
marches on.  My Smith & Wesson
revolver served me well for twenty years,
before the department changed over to
the Glock 17 - 9mm semi-automatic
pistol.  The first time I fired the Glock, I
fell in love with it.  I found the weapon to
be easier to keep on target after recoil,
and the simplicity and speed of reloading
a semi-auto far surpassed that of a
revolver.  The department would
eventually move on to the Glock 40mm,
and the love affair continued.  Like the
revolver, you can simply draw the Glock
and pull the trigger.  The double action
mechanism is contained within the
weapon.  A qualified armorer can adjust
the weight of the trigger pull if the
department chooses a further safeguard
to prevent accidental discharge.   

I describe the Glock, because my
expertise is confined to the Glock.  Police
departments choose various makes and
models of semi-auto pistols.  The quality
and dependability of modern semi-auto
pistols has made any drawbacks of the
past a thing of the past.  

Today, the semi-auto pistol is the
preferred handgun of most police
departments.  The majority of police
departments would probably still be using
revolvers were it not for the vast
improvements in semi-automatics.  The
single most desired feature of the
semi-auto is its ammunition capacity.  It's
just simple math...15 to 17 bullets that
can be reloaded in just a few seconds,
versus 6 bullets that take considerably
longer depending upon the method used,
is more desirable...particularly under
stressful situations.  It goes beyond
preferred choice since criminals have
acquired high capacity semi-automatic
pistols.  The change over was necessary
to prevent police officers from being out

Before I joined the police department, I
had no real experience in firing a
handgun.  I simply listened to the
instruction, and I had no problems
whatsoever.  But...you'll be amazed how
many people will have problems.  Some
police officers will struggle their entire
careers to achieve passing scores at their
annual or biannual qualifications.

This really isn't a comforting thought for
you, but if you ever have to use your
service pistol, it will probably be in a very
up front and personal confrontation.  The
good part of this is --if you're one of the
poor marksmen -- the normal skills
required for qualification won't be that

You really have to make every effort to
master your shooting skills.  You're going
to hear these terms often:  
Prior to 1990 the vast majority of police
departments issued revolvers as the
primary service weapon.  Colt and Smith
& Wesson had the lion's share of the
police market.  These weapons were
excellent in their operation and
dependability.  Over the years,
improvements in ammunition; speed
loading devices, and safety holster
technology only enhanced their suitability
for police work.  The most ideal feature
to the revolver was its double action.  All
you had to do was pull the trigger.  The
cylinder would rotate a live round in front
of the hammer as the hammer retracted
before falling forward causing the firing
pin to strike the round.  The double
action weight of the trigger pull
prevented you from accidentally
discharging the weapon.
"Aside from the deterrent effect a
police officer's handgun may or may
not project, the only purpose for the
handgun is the application of deadly
force." ~ Barry M. Baker
Police Service
Copyright © 2016  Barry M. Baker