One of the many problems some small departments face is the officers might carry a variety of different weapons. If they’re revolvers, and chambered in .357, that’s not an issue. If during a firefight an officer runs out of ammo, all that has to happen is for one his buddies to toss him some and he’s back in business. But while a .357 will fire 38s, the reverse isn’t true. This level of complexity goes up if you have a lot of officers carrying a variety of weapons, and all in different calibers.
Large departments may issue the weapon to the officer. Small departments usually can afford to a standardize weapons and as a result, the officer or deputy carries whatever they wish. During my first tenure with the Sheriff’s Office, I carried a US Army Colt 1909. This was chambered in .45 Caliber Long Colt. A powerful weapon to be sure, but there was a disadvantage. My rounds were too big for everyone else’s weapon. Theirs were too small. Trading ammo during a firefight wasn’t an option. As a result, I ended up carrying not two reloads for my weapon, but four.
Now somebody that had a little common sense in that department was JR. He carried the Smith and Wesson Model 39. In the novels, the character RJ is of course based on JR Madrid, my Partner in Crime as I like to refer to him. In my next novel, Dead Friends, he get’s promoted to Detective.
Following World War II, the German Double Action Semi-Autos impressed the US Army enough that they started trying to find something to replace the single action 1911. What Double Action means is you have a round in the chamber, but you don’t have to cock a hammer to use it. It self cocks when you pull the trigger. If you read my blog about the Colt 1911 that Will Diaz carries, you can see this is a distinct advantage. He had to carry his with the hammer back and safeties on.
That said, anytime you carry a pistol, the safety should be on. It helps to prevent accidental discharges from dropped weapons. Again, know where it’s at and how to turn it off and on quickly.
Back to the S&W 39. While the military didn’t pick up the weapon, several state law enforcement agencies did. In turn, large metropolitan police departments began using it, and there was a trickle down effect. Where revolvers were the weapons most police officers carried before, today that’s changed and revolvers are definitely in the minority. Most officers carry a 9mm pistol today though they might come from a variety of manufacturers.
Now there’s three other deputies on the department in my novel who all carry 9mms. In the case of RJ and the under-sheriff, they carry the same make and model, the S&W Model 39. RJs lady friend carries one. So not only can they use each others bullets, they can even use the same pistol magazines. So we have three deputies that can swap ammo at the very least. Additionally, other officers in different departments carry the Model 39, or different 9mm pistol. The advantage of such a practice is obvious.
One reason semi-autos have become so popular is that they’re easy to shoot. That said, there are still some physical factors that will influence how well you shoot with any firearm.
Top of the list is size. A small person may not be able to grab and hold a 45 or 44 as easily as a large person. The reverse is also true. I have absolutely no problem using my .45 or my .357. But let me try to shoot my wife’s Lady Smith, and it feels like a toy in my hands though it just right for her. Let’s be honest about it, if you can’t hold the weapon properly, you’re not going to shoot it well.
The S&W 39 is one of those weapons that seems to fit everyone.
Strength is also important. If you’re not a very strong person, that will effect how you hold weapons. For instance, someone who isn’t very strong may not hold the pistol out at full length. This is a rather easy thing to fix. It’s done with pushups.
The fact the S&W 39 isn’t that heavy of a weapon makes it almost perfect for routine use.
Ability or a disability can factor in how well you might use something. If the shooter has an injury, it might impact their stance. That in turn will effect their shooting.
Visual Acuity: Pistol shooting demands you be able to see your sights and your target. You might have to hold the weapon a little closer or further away.
Comfort is something a lot of folks don’t think about when purchasing a weapon. If it doesn’t feel good in your hand, it’s not going to feel good when you’re shooting it. Also, if you’re uncomfortable in a stance, that will impact your shooting.
When you’re creating a character and that person is supposed to pack a firearm, those are all points to look at. Make sure you give them something they can handle well and makes sense for them. A man might carry a 44 magnum but unless your female heroine is the She-Hulk, she might not wish to carry such a thing. She’d probably be more comfortable with a 38, .357, or a 9mm simply because of weight of the weapon, the grip, and recoil. In the world of defensive shooting, sexism is a concept best left home.
Oddly, the Smith & Wesson Model 39, or a weapon very much like one, might be a good choice for several characters or different sexes to use. It’s big enough for a man to handle comfortably, and small enough for a woman to be able to handle easily. Very little kick to it, but big enough to get the job done. The S&W 39 has been referred to as “A Goldilocks gun.” And as we recall from the story, Goldilocks was happy when it was just right.