Tuesday, 20 April 2010

A Tale of Derring Don't

I was stood second in line behind a mate of mine, Sgt. Pete, ex of Met and a really good guy. Pete was not a `natural` with anything, although his wit was razor sharp and his brain was the size of a planet. On this occasion he was attempting to re-qualify on the mighty 9mm Browning, standard issue to the County force in which we now served, as well as the British Army. The training pistols were so knackered that, when gently shaken, they would actually rattle like an old Ford, such was the sloppy fit of the moving parts. Stoppages were frequent and as with all SLP's there is a strict drill that must be followed to the letter, lest bullet holes start to appear where they shouldn't.

Pete was under instruction from "Nutty", another larger than life civvy instructor. Nutty was a great raconteur and could hold us spellbound with his tales of derring-do in the wartime Royal Navy including when, as a boy seaman on HMS Sheffield, he was involved in the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck. On one fateful incident during the pursuit, HMS Sheffield was almost torpedoed in a `blue on blue`, when a flight of RN Fleet Air Arm Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers mistook her for the Bismarck, swooped down and promptly attacked her. Nutty regaled us with a blood chilling account of how all the torpedoes, equipped with new fangled `proximity detonators` blew up as soon as they hit the sea. Fortunately, this incident of two-fold serendipity meant that not only was HMS Sheffield spared but also the Swordfish squadron could return to HMS Ark Royal and be re-equipped with conventional `contact` torpedoes. Re-armed, they took off in appalling weather, found and attacked Bismarck and crippled her by damaging the rudder. It was an attack of incredible bravery and determination, not least because, on the second attempt, they flew their slow moving, obsolete biplanes into withering German anti-aircraft artillery fire. Absolute, bloody heroes.

With instructors like Nutty we felt incredibly lucky, although one of his other instructor colleagues had heard it all before and didn’t feel quite so impressed. Ges was a former Colour Sergeant in the Royal Green Jackets and therefore a top rifle shot as well as an excellent tactical instructor. Having heard Nutty’s Bismarck story` ad nauseum, he once rather unkindly suggested that the Fleet Air Arm probably tried to torpedo the Sheffield just to shut him up, ether way, Nutty was used to being shot at by accident and deaf to all forms of verbal abuse, two essential qualities for a police firearms instructor.

Back on our range there was no German battleship to shoot at, just 6 paper targets. Sgt Pete had already successfully loosed off 6 rounds and was required to do a magazine change, which he completed after much shouted `guidance` by Nutty. A fresh mag of 10 rounds was slapped into the pistol and he resumed shooting. After 4 rounds there was the usual stoppage, but he froze. One could almost hear him thinking, `Er, Now what happens next`? Nutty stood and watched, hoping against hope that the penny would drop and the stoppage clearance drill would flow like clockwork, but no, not on this occasion. Nutty stepped in and shouted, "Mag off, Mag off" into the Sgt's ear - Nutty was formerly a Naval gunner and so had the voice that was developed as a necessity of that particular discipline.

Pete winced at the instruction and removed the magazine. What he then should have done was to place it on the deck, pull back the slide of the Browning, check the breech was cleared of the blockage, replace the mag, make ready and carry on shooting. What followed seemed to take place in slow motion, which is usually an indication that you’ve had an adrenaline injection. He stared at the magazine in his left hand (still with 5 rounds therein) stared at the Browning in his right hand, noticing the partly open ejection port containing a badly fed, live round sitting there menacingly. Having both hands full, he worked out that he needed to free up one of them to complete the drills. He got confused as Nutty bellowed even louder instructions to, "CLEAR STOPPAGE, MAG ON, MAKE READY, CARRY ON".

Pete then developed a drill all of his own, tucking the Browning under his left armpit and then transferring the magazine to his right hand. At this point another Pc and myself found ourselves staring down the barrel of a smoking 9mm Browning Hi-Power, with a badly fed live round up the spout, from a distance of about 3 feet. At such a range the muzzle resembled the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel without the traffic jam. The Pc dived left and I dived right, which from our positions resulted in a mid air head-butt, temporary concussion and much swearing.

After the hiatus had died down and Nutty had recovered the situation with an up and down bollocking, the shoot moved on to prone position firing. Once again Pete was on the point and two other likely victims were waiting in that most dangerous of places, behind him, for their turn except this time everyone was extra specially alert. The drill this time was that on appearance of the target, one was to draw the pistol, get quickly into the prone position, then make ready and fire all 12 rounds. As the target appeared, Pete blanked again and promptly drew the Browning and cocked it whilst diving to the floor in one simultaneous `Hollywood` movement. As he hit the deck he knocked the wind out of himself and let go of the pistol which, in its cocked state, slid down the range spinning like a top, while the rest of us did a sort of Sammy Davis Junior tap dance routine.

I believe Nutty may have shouted, `take cover` but by then him and the still prone Pete were the only ones left in the range.

Poor old Pete, now sadly departed this earth to the ravages of cancer. May his God care for his soul.

34 comments:

Blue Eyes said...

"Not a natural at anything". I can relate wholeheartedly to that. If only I also had the razor-sharp wit and planet-sized brain to compensate...

Mr Hogday, in order to put small minds at ease can you please tell me something that you *haven't* done?

Hogday said...

I've never kissed the Director General of the BBC, never been a Dog Handler or a detective, never been a firearms instructor, never been completely naked whilst on duty (I was down to my shreddies once, but that was for a bet that went horribly wrong - I was tricked), never planted evidence on anyone, never committed perjury, never assaulted anyone (without justification), never shot anyone, never received a commendation......

sparkflash said...

No matter the instructor or the instructions, some lessons just don't take - I've got a friend who is to cars what your friend is to firearms, and have elected to walk four miles in the rain, rather than accept a lift with her.

Nice to see they're not scrapping the bottom of the barrel and giving you top-notch equipment!

A friend of mine, after leaving the army, did some mercenary work in Africa, training some anti-poacher units. They'd been given some awful brand of canadian shotguns that rattled when you touched them. Effective range, maybe 50 yards, up against poachers with AK-47's. Effective range well over 400 yards, the poor bastards.

Blue Eyes said...

Aha OK I feel a lot better now. Although not sure why you turned down the Beeb man, might have been a great career move!

Hogday said...

Sparks`: This was a long, long time ago. 9 mil Brownings were withdrawn - not `safe` enough - replaced by Smith and Wesson revolvers, then back to SLP's (Smiths) then, at last, SIG's which were coming in about the time I left 8 yrs ago.

Blue: I won't go there.

Blue Eyes said...

Shepherd's Bush isn't that dodgy!

TonyF said...

Do you remember the old 'blow-back' .22 SLR? On basic recruit training at Swinderby we had to shoot the damned thing as a familiarisation before using the 'real' thing. A bit akin to practising with pints of water before drinking pints of vodka. It looked the same and felt the same until you squeeze the trigger.

To speed things up, we were formed up in two ranks behind the firing points inside the range. I was No2 behind the left hand most point. (the best slot on the range with the SLR, you didn't get hot cases going down your neck, in your left ear, or stuck in your clothing, making your declaration at the end (I have no live rounds or empty cases in my possession, Corporal!)a bit of an unintentional fib...)
The chap in front of me had a stoppage. Not unusual for the .22, but it could misfire, where the pin had not quite struck the cartridge hard enough to fire it immediately. He panicked and turned around with his finger tight on the trigger. Fortunately, if it had gone off, there was something in the way that would have absorbed the round. Unfortunately it was me. Before I had time to react, a HUGE Rockape landed on me and took us both out of the line of misfire. Another one reached over the culprit, removed the weapon, and literally kicked him out of the range. Never to be seen again. From Rookie to Civvy in less than 2 seconds...

On a different note, I fired the Browning Hi power just before I went down the Gulf, The one I fired was quite new, and surprisingly accurate, at 25 meters.

De Campo said...

And may God please issue Kevlar to the rest of heaven.

I do love a good range story. Hate hearing about another good guy taken by cancer.

Hogday said...

TonyF: Yes, having a few zaps with a .22 wrapped in the frame of a full bore was a dirty trick. A bit like the rest of the uninitiated population thinking that firearms just go `bang`like they do on TV dramas, rather than the bone shaking, ear shattering explosion of reality. Gotta love the Rock Apes, who can do more than just lift heavy weights! I keep trying to remember the time when a Greenjacket trainee let a Gimpy get away from him. He enfiladed our end of the butts, when I was marking targets, with 7.62 ball and tracer. I said I was trying to remember it, but my brain won't allow it. In trying to explain the experience one has to refer people to the opening sequences of Saving Private Ryan :-/ The 9mil Browning was good kit and our operational pistols were in top condition - unlike some of the people who were issued with them, hence their ultimate withdrawal due to the job not wanting to invest in the extra training time required over the revolver. Circle's turned again though.

DC: Thanks. Most of my range tales (like most range tales) have to be toned down or folks just wouldn't believe them :)

Blue Eyes said...

"the rest of the uninitiated population thinking that firearms just go `bang`like they do on TV dramas, rather than the bone shaking, ear shattering explosion of reality"

I was horrified by the behaviour of the only proper gun I ever fired. Put me right off.

Hogday said...

I'm not surprised Blue. As they say, the most dangerous part is `the nut on the butt` ;)

Blue Eyes said...

:-)

JuliaM said...

"The training pistols were so knackered that, when gently shaken, they would actually rattle like an old Ford, such was the sloppy fit of the moving parts..."

That sounds like serious brown-trouser time..! Were you never worried?

JuliaM said...

I mean, surely the whole point of firearms is that they are most dangerous to the person they are pointed at, not the chap holding them?

TonyF said...

Julia M, Good point, well presented.

The NRA in the U/S of A like to point out that 'Guns don't kill people, only people kill people' this is not true. Some people like, and want, to have firearms because it makes them feel 6'6" and covered in hair. These are idiots. They think they are good with guns, but I can assure you they are not.

I learned weapon handling from the best instructors in the world. Rockapes. They know that techies and things that go 'bang' are uncomfortable bed fellows at best. And they also knew that to prevent themselves being shot they had to teach us properly. Even they knew there were some that should never, ever get let loose with a firearm. But still managed to train them to a safe standard. I knew more than one person who really should only hold the weapon by the thin end and hit the enemy with the thick end.

On another note, I was in the local police HQ and saw the firearms unit seriously (in my mind) mishandling firearms. There was one chap with a HK, if my instructor had seen him, would have had it taken off him and stuffed up his arse. I saw him do that to someone with an SA80, and was so glad that it was not me.

JuliaM said...

"Some people like, and want, to have firearms because it makes them feel 6'6" and covered in hair. These are idiots. "

Probably the same type that, over here with no access to firearms, has a 'status dog' instead. That if they are unlucky, will end up killing one of their own family.

"On another note, I was in the local police HQ and saw the firearms unit seriously (in my mind) mishandling firearms."

Ah. Not the same force that thought mixing the live and dummy ammunition together in a Quality Street tin was a good idea, I hope?

Hogday said...

TonyF and JuliaM: Thanks for the comments. Yes Tony, I was always sceptical about any officers who seemed to be busting their chops to get into the tactical unit. I would ask them on interview, `why do you want to do this, put yourself on offer for a whole world of shit if, as may happen albeit rarely, that you have to shoot someone and have your world turned upside down`? For me there was only one sort of answer to this question and it certainly wasn't about how much they knew about `guns and ammo` or how good a shot they were at their pistol club or old regiment.

Julia; Our training weapons were well worn because they had thousands of rounds fired through them. Our operational weapons were on the whole very good. The one major exception, in my case, was when the Met issued my unit (Diplomatic Protection) with a snub nosed, 5 shot revolver, the sort I'd imagine a US hick town sheriff would have as an off duty weapon, tucked in his belt and covered by his huge belly. They were utterly hopeless for the task we were expected to perform and I always wondered how on earth this was selected. As for the staus dog comment, how relevant. Someone I know has just suffered an attack by three such dogs as their pond life owners did their low-life incompetent mediocre, to help get them off her and her poor spaniel. They then scooted when she asked them to identify themselves. Insult to injury was having to suffer the offhandedness and sheer lackadaisical attitude of the local plods. I am guiding her through the process to get some service and have her faith partially restored. Perhaps another blogpost in due course.

JuliaM said...

"Insult to injury was having to suffer the offhandedness and sheer lackadaisical attitude of the local plods."

Interesting you should say that. I've a post queued up for Tuesday on the difference in attitudes of some police forces to dog-on-dog attacks.

And yes, attacks seem to be becoming far more frequent - I witnessed the tail end of one just a street away from me last week (the windows were open and we heard the noise caused by the people trying to get this thing off an elderly collie walked by a couple minding their own business).

And yesterday I heard that an elderly lady at my mother's bowls club had her dog set upon by one of these damned things - the woman opened her front door as she was walking past and it shot out like a bullet and attached itself to her dog, going straight through a hedge to do so. It took three women from the dog's house to pull it off.

I do believe it's the owners that are at fault - the dogs are just doing as they are bred and trained - but I'm worried that the answer will be a fudged crackdown on ALL dogs.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

When I went through the Academy, we trained on S&W 439 9mms. My duty weapon is a HK USP45F. Here in Wisconsin we are guided by the Force Option Continuum, and when at the Deadly Force Level, we shoot to stop the actions of the offender. I personally feel much happier with a .45 ACP, than with a 9. A 9mm pointed at you has a hole that looks a foot across, while a .45ACP looks like the end of a 55 gallon drum. It is extremely intimidating, and that is a usefull force multiplier, which can help you encourage the bad rabbit to put his hostile actions aside, and cooperate, and allowing the Continuum level to be dropped down to Closed Hand Level control holds. Which is always the prefered option. But if worst comes to worst, .45 ACP hollowpoints do a very competent job. I have only had to fire my duty weapon on the road to dispatch deer hit by cars, and I hope that remains the case.

What long arms did you train on? Here, we use both the AR-15, and the 12 Gauge pump, usually a Remington 870, a Mossberg 500, or a Winchester 1300. It's amazing how racking the action of a 12 gauge will calm the most agressive person down.

Hogday said...

Scott: My personal choice of handgun would always be a 1911 ACP or the modern equivalent. I totally concur with your comments re the 45ACP round and all that goes with it, which I won't turn into a debate here, other than to say I always wanted something that would blow them over by the rush of air if I missed (my little joke, as I would never miss lol), or keep them down and out if I was unfortunate enough to have to fire in the line of duty. Your issue H&K has much supporting evidence to say it does both very well and is IMHO a very good choice. As for your question: Accuracy International PM; H&K G36, SIG 556; Ruger 5.56 are the types I used to work with. All 43 Brit forces are different and have their own choices but tend to be of the type mentioned, the Steyr AUG in 5.56 also being popular. The Ministry of Defence Police are now issued with the H&K MP7 :-/ In my days as a tac team officer I would usually carry a Remington 870 for entry work.

Julia: E mail if you want any advice. My little job may run and run.

Blue Eyes said...

Julia, round my way there is a concerted effort to get "illegal" dogs off the street. The cops have seized hundreds and the operation continues. Given the amount of coverage the campaign is getting in the council freesheet I think I can guess who is behind the drive and who the "targets" are.

I don't know about anyone else but it makes me very happy to read about that kind of stuff.

JuliaM said...

Hogday: Cheers. I think - since I haven't seen the monster in the next street since - the owner was genuinely shocked by its behaviour and her priomise to one of the people who stopped his car to gelp to have it destroyed might have been kept. Not sure if the elderly lady wishes to go further yet.

Blue Eyes: The police do seem to be taking a toughter line in human attacks - witness the immediate arrest of the owner of the dog that mauled the 18-month-old to death a few days ago, and yesterday's rottweiler savaging.

Not sure they are all on board with the potential warning signs of dog-on-dog attacks though...

TonyF said...

Re the 'dangerous dogs'. Lets be honest, what really need to be done is for their owners to be put down. Easy criteria to look out for; Does owner work? No? Instant execution.

TonyF said...

To Scott, My weapon of choice would be the English Electric Lightning. F56 export version :-D

Hogday said...

TonyF: No doubt with Red Tops and the Adens? Great argument stoppers.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Tony F: Well, being from Wisconsin, I guess my choice of serious weapon would be The Big Badger Boat:
http://www.usswisconsin.org/

Hogday: Here in the States, we tend to leave the ampersand off, when refering to the products of Heckler & Koch. I wooder why? I shall keep my HKs, the Germans do have a talent for that sort of thing. I know that as far as numbers in use is concerned, GLOCKs rule the roost, but I find the grip angle of the GLOCK to be such that i would be more likely tro hit my target if I threw the GLOCK at him.

I opted to buy my own sidearm, when I was a LTjg in the USN, ( I paid my way through the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps ), and still think my MK IV/Series 70 is a superb weapon. HK even implies that the USP45 is what they believe John Browning would have made, if he would have had access to the materials of today.
I know that the grip angle is the same.

Do you think that you fellows will ever go hald red on your light bars? I sure like having a multi color signal, it makes one stand out more. Esecially with the new Federal Signal Arjent LED lightbars. Federal apparently has an optional "burn the other moterists retinas " setting on the Arjent, because, man those things are bright.

TonyF said...

ADEN 30mm *2. A great Equaliser.. Redtops or the rocket pack + a couple of 500lb irons..


That's one fine ship, USS Wisconsin!

Hogday said...

Scott: Glock did a good sales job in the UK, too as they're pretty common police sidearms. Not my cup of tea, plus there seemed to be an increase in negligent discharges with it, but don't quote me as my unit didn't buy them and when i was in charge of the purse I pushed for SIG's which we eventually got to replace our S&W 9mm double action only's. The MkIV series70 was a very popular `club shooters` pistol over here. My last experience of handling them was in my previous job, where I signed off literally dozens of them to the metal foundry for melting down after our last major change in the law that banned all handguns from the UK
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunblane_massacre.

These and at least 40 mint condition Broom Handle Mausers were amongst some very historic stuff sent to be melted along with thousands of other types of all shapes and sizes. There was even an amazing SIG 9mm with blue enamelling, a gold trigger and encrusted with hundreds of diamonds (made for an Arab - who else? I posted pics of ths once) For Law Enforcement handguns I have always favoured big, fat and slow over the high velocity stuff, but in the UK all ammunition must be approved by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch and they went for 9mm/95grain jacketed semi wadcutter for handguns :-/ but then I don't think their scientists actually had to use them in the streets. But the UK is not a `gun culture` country. Even our Olympic Pistol team now has to travel to Germany or Latvia to practice.

JuliaM said...

They surely didn't melt down the one with all the diamonds..!?

Hogday said...

JuliaM. No! It was actually valued in excess of 30 grand (they were tiny diamonds). Probably the grossest piece of bling I've ever seen. It now resides in a museum. There were literally thousands of claims for compensation from former owners who had rare or valuable handguns that they were compelled to surrender. The standard Govt rate was as you'd expect it to be!

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

They expect you to defend yourself with semi wadcutters? Whose side are they on?

Hogday said...

Scott: read this

Stressed Out Cop said...

As the worst shot in the army (did well to see the number on the range)I was the gunner with my LMG.

Was rather proud to see my target splattered all over with holes top to bottom.

Why all the fuss over groupings?

Hogday said...

Stressedout: Absolutely sir! Unless of course you are into economy. [An American study revealed that in WW1 it took about 7,000 rounds to kill a single enemy soldier. By the time of the Vietnam war, this had risen to around 25,000 rounds. The average sniper requires 1.3 rounds]. Apart from zeroing your weapon I always felt groupings were for Bisley-buffs :)) As long as one shot puts the X-ray down and the others don't kill passing pedestrians WTF?