Behind the Gun: Pistol Training vs. Pistol Choice

posted on July 15, 2018

A while back I was reading “FBI Miami Firefight”, by Ed Mireles ( which told the story of the 1986 FBI shootout with bank robbers in Miami, Florida. Mireles was the agent who, though seriously wounded, walked up on the two killers and stopped the fight by making head shots on both of them. 

As a result of this shootout, the FBI seriously reevaluated its handgun choices. In its view, a 9 mm hit on one of the robbers should have stopped the fight. When that didn’t happen, the bureau decided that its agents needed something more powerful and went to the 10 mm and then, shortly thereafter, to the .40 S&W. Most recently, the bureau decided that it will go back to the 9 mm. What is most interesting to me is the fact that Mireles, the man who ended the fight, did so with a .38 Spl. Smith & Wesson revolver.

Texas Ranger Captain Frank Hamer (1884 - 1957) was another man whose choice of handguns might have alarmed some folks. Although in later years Hamer matched his wits and guns against the gangsters of the 1930s, his favorite handgun remained a Colt .45 single-action revolver. In spite of hanging on to an old-time sixgun, Hamer was known to be an excellent pistol shot who survived numerous gunfights during his long career. I once asked his son if Capt. Hamer really carried that old revolver all the time and Frank Jr. told me, “Daddy wouldn’t even walk around the dinner table without Old Lucky stuck in his waistband.”

I once heard from a Gunsite Academy graduate who took a Heckler & Koch P7 to Arizona for his first class with Col. Jeff Cooper. The P7 is an interesting 9 mm pistol that has a squeeze-cock device on the front of the grip strap that must be squeezed in order to cock and fire the pistol. 

This former student told how, on the first day of the class, Col. Cooper informed him that he should have brought a real gun in a real caliber to the class. He said he got the distinct impression from the good colonel that Cooper was not at all impressed with his choice of weaponry. As luck would have it, at the end of the week, it was this same student with the same P7 who won the shoot-off, an accomplishment which is not an easy task. When presenting the appropriate certificate at class end, Cooper told those assembled what he thought of the P7 but complimented the student on his ability to run the gun. 

We often spend a lot of time urging defensive shooters to carry a quality handgun in whatever caliber we happen to think is the best for stopping fights. While I will continue to do that, it is important to remember that the person, and not the gun, is the critical factor in winning against a criminal attack. 

Don’t waste time telling me what you carryjust show me what you can do with it.


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