The old west Sheriff was defined by the weapon he carried, and many carried a weapon they liked or desired. Colts were high on the list of what they carried. There’s an old joke that God created man, but Sam Colt made them equal – more or less. It was the Sheriff’s skill with a handgun and his willingness to use it that often made the difference between living and dying, justice and terror.

Like his old time predecessors, Will Diaz carries a Colt. But it’s not the old six shooter, but a Colt 1911, a weapon used by the US Military since World War One. Before entering the US Army as a MP (Military Police), Will had already been a civilian police officer. During that time, he’d carried a variety of weapons to include the Smith & Wesson Model 19, and a Taurus 357 magnum.

He fell in love with the 1911 in the military. While working as a road MP, it was his standard side arm. He carried it through two war zones (Panama and the Gulf), and purchased one the minute he was back as a civilian detective.

Now there’s a lot of open debate about the 1911 being used a duty weapon. One of the problems with it is that like any semi-auto, you have to have a round loaded in order for it to fire. Now one thing they wouldn’t let us do in the MPs was have a round in the chamber. At Ft. Riley we were allowed to have a fully loaded magazine in the weapon.  In 1st Armored, we weren’t even allowed that. Both instances put us at a distinct disadvantage.

Here’s an example. This is a standard patrol situation. You make a traffic contact. The driver of the car is wanted and not to keen on going to jail. He pulls a pistol on the cop. As a police officer, you’re already in trouble. The bad guy has the drop on you. The reflex action is fall back, draw, and defend yourself.

However, if you have an empty pistol, or have to chamber a round on a semi-auto, the process of returning fire just went up. By the time you get a round chambered, you can already be very dead. If you have to load a magazine and then chamber a round, that got even worse.

Now one of the reasons they were afraid to let us carry a loaded pistol was training. Let’s be honest about it. Your basic, everyday MP doesn’t get a lot of training in shoot, no shoot situations. The other is a little more basic. In order to carry a 1911 that’s ready to rock with a bullet in the chamber, you must have the hammer back.

Now with modern day semi-autos, you can carry a round in the chamber, and then pull the trigger without having to cock the hammer. We call this feature “double-action” and basically when you squeeze the trigger, it cocks the hammer and then fires the weapon. In this respect, it’s very much like a revolver.

The 1911 is a little different. Back in the day, safeties were minimal, so it was possible to do something like drop a loaded semi-auto and have it discharge. But since WWI, a number of improvements have been made. One is the grip safety. This is one more safety built into the weapon so if the hammer is back and a bullet in the chamber like we’d want it to be for a tactical situation. In theory, the weapon should not fire UNLESS I draw it,  put pressure on the grip safety which will disengage the safety and allow the weapon to fire.  colt1911

That’s a good safety, but pressure could be placed on the grip strap by routine sitting in a car for instance. This would make the weapon “live” so to speak.

But there’s one other safety, and this is called a “Thumb Safety” and if the hammer is back, this needs to be engaged so the hammer would not fall no matter what (effectively, it locks the hammer back). If the weapon is properly maintained, Will should be able to toss it off a cliff and it would not fire.

So, if Will is in a gunfight, and his weapon is ready to go, he has to draw the weapon. The pressure of his hand around the grip safety disengages that safety. Now here’s the trick. As he draws, he has to come down with his thumb and disengage the thumb safety. With the hammer back, the weapon is ready to go and he can fire until he runs dry.

What we have here is another level of training. This is something Will would have to train for because you have to program the brain to do it automatically as part of the drawing process.

Now that’s one reason a lot of officers won’t carry the 1911 or more specifically, their department won’t let them carry it. The fact the hammer is back, and even if it won’t discharge, tends to scare people. Of course Will could carry a really old Civil War era Colt and his department wouldn’t care.

Sooner or later he’ll have to go to a different weapon. Even he admits it. One of the reasons is weapons throughout the county are all over the place. Some officers carry revolvers, others semi autos. Some carry magnums, some 9mms, and all from different makers and models. This causes issues in really intense tactical situation because they can’t use the same magazines, and may not be able to fire the same ammo. If he had it his way, there would be standardization across the board.

Of course he’s part of the problem, but he’ll have to accept a different solution sooner or later.

But for the time being, his weapon of choice is the 1911.