I recently passed through Waco, Texas and had a chance to kick one more item off the bucket list: a visit to the Texas Ranger Museum there.
As a little boy in the 1950s one of my favorite TV shows was “Tales of the Texas Rangers.” I can’t remember a single plot-line now, but I do recall the strong emphasis on old-fashioned ideals of justice…and I thought it was pretty cool that each Ranger carried a pair of fancy Smith & Wessons.
Live and learn: I hadn’t known until the visit that some two dozen Texas Rangers died at the Alamo in 1836.
I expect the many horsemen and horsewomen among the Backwoods Home readership would have spent more time than I did on the fabulous display of saddles. In my case, the only bronco I ever owned was a Ford product. As you might imagine, I spent more time among the impressive gun collection.
These brave men started out with single-shot muzzle-loaders for both their rifles and handguns, which shows how far back the organization goes. They were the first to use revolvers, the Patterson Colt of 1836. Its rapid fire capability proved to be a force multiplier, and Ranger Samuel Walker convinced Samuel Colt to make a larger and more powerful one, the legendary Walker Colt .44. In the latter 1800s, they all but standardized on the Colt Single Action Army revolver and the lever-action Winchester rifle, and when the more powerful box magazine 1895 model came out, they flocked to them so fast that they are prevalent in pictures of Rangers during that period.
The Texas Rangers may also have been the first law enforcement agency to (unofficially) adopt the Colt 1911 semiautomatic pistol as soon as it came out, and it remains hugely popular among the Rangers even today.
Even before that, they were buying semiautomatic rifles as soon as they were introduced, the Winchester 1907 and the Remington Model 8 which dates back to 1906. While today’s Rangers are issued .357 SIGs and 5.56mm autoloading rifles, they still follow the tradition of carrying privately-owned, department approved handguns, and the 1911 remains a trademark of the Rangers.
More than perhaps any other agency, the culture of the Rangers encouraged fancy, personalized weapons. Perhaps it was an extension of their historical emphasis on individuality as a means of encouraging superior performance.
In Rifle, one of my favorite gun magazines, I always enjoy reading Terry Wieland’s thoughtful column, “Walnut Hill.” In the May 2014 issue, he cited an important quote from a great authority on firearms, Bob Hagel.
The quote was, “You should not carry a rifle that will do the job when everything goes right; you should have one that works when everything goes wrong.”
Words to live by, and they don’t apply just to rifles.
It’s looking as if the FBI is going to scale down from .40 caliber Glocks to 9mm, starting next year. The 9mm has long been approved as an option for agents, and a recommended one for those who find the recoil of the .40 too difficult to manage in training and qualification, even though .40 Glocks have been standard issue for the Bureau since the late 1990s. The .45 caliber Glock 21, if privately purchased, is also approved, and I can think offhand of at least three agents I know who carry them, all “gun guys.” I hope that option remains for field agents if and when the Bureau goes to 9mm as its primary caliber.
It comes at a time when, as discussed here, there’s a push in the military to go back to .45 from the 9mm that has been standard issue for most elements since the mid-1980s. Non-expanding ball ammo being the norm for military pistols, I can certainly see the .45 argument: it’s what I’d definitely prefer if I suffered under the same limitations of bullet configuration. With law enforcement hollow points, current ammo has made the 9mm a much more viable defensive choice than it used to be. Of course, the same new designs make .40 S&W and .45 ACP more potent than they used to be, too.
Lower ammo cost, and smaller rounds allowing more cartridges on board, favor the 9mm over the .45 in a pistol, and the 5.56mm over 7.62mm in the rifle. Yet if there’s time for only one shot – whether it’s the winter venison or your own life that’s at stake – all of a sudden, more powerful cartridges seem more comforting.
Each of us has to assess our needs and our abilities, balance them, and make the right decision.
It seems to me that there’s little wrong with Beretta M9 performance that better 9mm ammunition (i.e., police-type high performance hollow point), MecGar magazines, and maintenance can’t cure. (Yes, the trigger reach is long for small-handed personnel. There are some mechanical fixes to help that, too.)
But I’m not military. Many of you reading this are, or have been.
In keeping with the last post here, regarding small self-defense revolvers, let me flag you to something an old friend of mine recently came up with. Roy Huntington spent 20 years as a cop on the mean streets of San Diego, and today is one of my editors. We both started at a time when cops carried service revolvers, and detectives and off duty officers traditionally packed .38 snubs. Handguns with lights attached were not a practical reality.
Roy has come up with a new product via Hyskore. The Griplight fits any round-butt J-frame Smith & Wesson revolver, replacing the grips. Grasping pressure of the firing hand activates 100 plus lumens of white light, much the way Crimson Trace LaserGrips send out a red aiming beam. Light is more important, IMHO, since it lets you identify your target. To give you half an hour of running time, it uses a CR2 battery which, storing more juice than flat batteries, needs to be put in the butt area. This lengthens the grip accordingly.
Left, with Gunlight installed J-frame 5-shot S&W .357 is similar in grip profile to standard K-frame 6-shot .357, right.
This brings grip configuration to about the size of a service revolver with good, hand-filling combat stocks. No longer an ankle holster or concealed-in-the-pocket proposition, but hell, folks of Roy’s and my generation and older have been concealing full-size service revolvers under sport coats and even un-tucked polo shirts in good hideout holsters for many decades.
On the farm or ranch, open carry is no concern, and the J-frame so equipped carries nicely tucked in the hip pocket or the front pouch of bib overalls; when you’re on your own property, concealment isn’t mandatory. Right now, my test unit is on a Model 340 Military & Police .357 Magnum. The big grips really attenuate the recoil of a sub-fourteen-ounce super lightweight revolver with a full power Magnum load.
A lot of the vermin that needs to be shot in the countryside can be handled with a .22. I’m thinking seriously of putting these grips onto my sweet old Smith & Wesson .22 Kit Gun, which is more accurate than a 2” barrel revolver has any right to be. The last animals that had to be killed on my rural property – a rabid fox, and a water moccasin – were shot with Glocks in calibers .45 GAP and .357 SIG respectively, and both in poor light. A .22 would have been easier on the ears. The white light from the Griplight would have been perfect under those conditions.
The Griplight is an excellent value, I think, at approximately $130. They can be ordered from another old friend, Bill Laughridge at Cylinder & Slide, be sure to click on “new products.” A very useful product, designed by one good man who knows his stuff, and sold by another…what’s not to like?
The Evil Princess pierces the darkness with white light and orange fire from Griplight-ed S&W.
Ultralight S&W 340 M&P at height of recoil; Griplight absorbed recoil of full power Black Hills 158 grain .357 Magnum rounds very well.
The “snub-nose .38” revolver, dating back to the Colt Detective Special of 1926, is a standard prop in noir movies. Most see it as an urban gun, something to hide under the suit in the dangerous streets of the big cities. However, country folk like ‘em too. Where I live nowadays, I often spot one in the jeans pocket of a workin’ man, or even the front chest pouch of a farmer’s overalls (where it’s pretty handy to get to, actually).
A general rule of little guns is that “they’re easy to carry, but hard to shoot.” A Google or Amazon search should get you to some useful advice, such as the book “The Snubby Revolver” by my old friend Ed Lovette, who has “been there and done that.” Now we can add a small but meaty booklet by an old friend, Michael deBethencourt.
A lifelong martial artist, Michael is best known for his expertise with two weapons: the knife, with which he has developed his own simple, primal, and highly effective series of techniques, and the short-barrel revolver. The reading matter in question is titled “Thirty Eight Straight Tips for Better Snub Shooting.” The short-barrel Smith & Wesson .38 depicted on the cover sits under a fedora from the snub-nose .38’s heyday, appropriately enough.
While Michael and I differ on some things, as all instructors do – speed reload techniques for the revolver, in this case – brother deBethencourt gives you advice you can take to the bank. I’ve been in this game for a long time, and I learned some new stuff from “Thirty Eight Tips.” For instance, I hadn’t realized the JetLoader people (Buffer Technologies at www.buffertech.com) were making their super-fast loader for the J-frame Smith & Wesson. I immediately ordered three, and they’ve become my new favorite speedloader for these little five-shot .38s and .357 Magnums.
You can order Michael’s monograph at http://snubtraining.com/thirty-eight-straight-tips-for-better-snub-shooting/, and you can get info on his excellent training at snubtraining.com. In addition to knowing his stuff and imparting it superbly, Michael is a funny guy who uses his humor positively as “enter-train-ment,” and genuinely cares about his students. He embodies something I learned from one of my mentors, the supercop Col. Robert Lindsey, and have shared with instructors I’ve trained ever since. “We are not God’s gift to our students…our students are God’s gift to us.”