Friday, January 20, 2012
Much of the time, police officers don’t get to choose their duty pistols. The agency issues the gun, and you carry what you’ve been given. In those agencies where street cops do have a choice, they probably get to pick from a short list of makes and/or calibers—most likely 9 mm, .40 S&W caliber or .45 ACP.
When my former agency in upstate New York transitioned from wheel guns to semi-autos, we bought Sig Sauer P226s. A whole lot of Sig Sauer P226s. Everybody was issued the same piece. This made for easy training and qualifications. But, there were a few exceptions.
Back when your humble author had a full head of dark brown hair, from time to time I also sported a mustache. Or a goatee. Or a full beard. Sometimes I wore an earring, sometimes I didn’t. If you haven’t guessed by now, this piece is heading in a specific and unique direction—undercover (UC) duty guns. This theme suits me because a good portion of my time on duty was spent undercover.
I must admit, there were certain scenarios when I was undercover where I just couldn’t hide a piece on my body. While assigned to the N.Y. State Narcotics Bureau, I had to pose as a junkie trying to score dope or scripts from less-than-honest physicians. And some of these docs had rather large, ugly office staff (read: bodyguards) just waiting to see if any potential patients were there to make an unofficial withdrawal. But most of the time, I carried.
So what are some options in UC guns?
A Few Considerations
An important issue: You don’t want your UC gun to look like a cop’s gun. The primary factor for this is that neither your clothes nor your gun should yell “I’m a cop!”
I’ve gone on record in past articles advising Law Officer’s readers to make sure their backup pieces or second guns are of the same caliber and function as their duty guns so that new psychomotor skills don’t have to be learned.
Example: You carry a Glock 17 as a uniformed officer. You might carry a Glock 19 if you’re riding the pine or working admin. In those cases, your choice for a second gun or an off-duty piece may be a Model 26. In a perfect world, your second gun would function the same way and accept the same magazines as your duty pistol. But when working undercover, that may be a secondary factor. The guns I discuss in this article take that into consideration and aren’t typical cop guns. (For more on this topic, see Dave Spaulding’s “A Slim Companion,” pg. 38.)
However, one thing you may not want to compromise on is firepower—especially if the defecation hits the ventilator and you’re working solo. UC work usually doesn’t lend itself to carrying two pistols so your UC gun is going to be it.
Based on appearance/concealability and firepower, here’s my short-list of pieces that should fit the bill.
Grossi’s Top Choices for UC Guns
Diamondback DB380: No one’s going to mistake the Diamondback DB380 for a cop’s gun. That’s not a slam; it’s just that not many street cops carry Diamondback pistols as their duty gun. Many cops pooh-pooh the .380 caliber, but as my old firearms instructor used to say: “It ain’t what you hit with, it’s where you hit that counts.” This 6+1 double-action-only beauty is under an inch wide, weighs less than 9 oz. without the mag, and is just a shade over 3.5 inches high. Diamondback Firearms is based in Cocoa, Fla., and the DB380 is designed for UC or backup carry.
Glock Model 39: If you’re looking for maximum firepower in the smallest package, take a gander at this baby. Glock’s .45 G.A.P caliber holds 6+1, two more than a standard J-frame S&W, but weighs in at just over 19 oz. with an empty mag. However, when Mr. Badguy looks down the barrel of this pistol, he’ll think he’s looking at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. The gun’s overall length is a hair over 6 inches, and it stands only 4 inches tall and about 1 inch wide. They’re rare, but if you find one and practice with it regularly, in my opinion this pistol makes an ideal UC carry option.
Let me see, do I want five rounds of .38/357 or seven rounds of 45 G.A.P.? Hmm. I’ll take option B, please.
Ruger SR9c: The SR9c is about 1.25 inches wide, 6.5 inches long and a hair over 23 oz. Sure, it’s heavier than the others, but this pistol holds a whopping 10+1 in 9 mm. This gun is also available in both blackened alloy and brushed stainless versions. For those who want the extra firepower of a 9 mm, as opposed to .380 caliber, plus the added benefit of 11 rounds, this should fit the bill. It comes standard with two mags, the aforementioned 10 rounder and a 17-rounder that can transform this pistol into a neat 18-round duty gun. The 1911-style ambidextrous safety and visual and tactile chamber-loaded indicator are a nice touch, too.
Smith and Wesson Model 340PD: It’s one of the lightest double-action-only five-shot revolvers out there. The frame is a Scandium alloy and the cylinder is made of a Titanium alloy. This puppy weighs in at 11.4 oz. and will hold both .38 S&W Special and .357 Magnum rounds. The matte black finish is perfect in low-light conditions and is available with either a red ramp or light gathering HI-VIZ green dot sights. It comes standard with Hogue Bantam grips. Built on the Centennial frame, this hammerless revolver is perfect as a pocket pistol or inside-the-waistband carry piece for either off-duty or UC cops. Yes, I know it looks like an older cop’s gun, but, at $1,000 or more a copy, not many street dogs can afford one.
Walther PK380: This 8+1 single/double-action pistol is available in both black and nickel two-tone, making it one of the most “non-cop” looking pocket pistols out there. Features include an ambidextrous safety and a three-dot sight with the rear sight being wide adjustable. Just over 6 inches in length and a hair over 5 inches tall, I’m told this lightweight .380 auto pistol is a honey to shoot. “You just can’t beat German engineering,” they say. It comes in at about 19 oz. with an empty mag. The trigger pull is about 10 lbs. in DA mode and 4 lbs. in SA mode. It fits fine in the front pocket of your jeans and isn’t something instantly recognizable as a cop’s gun.
Please know that this list isn’t meant to be all inclusive, and I know I probably left many great pocket guns off the list. So please, no nasty letters from Sig or Beretta users. Two other things: First, this list isn’t in any particular order. I went alphabetically. And second, price wasn’t a consideration.
I actually had about 10 guns on my UC short list, but time and space just didn’t permit me to list them all. Kel-Tec makes a great pocket pistol in the P-3AT, which weighs an incredibly light 8.3 oz. Charter Arms puts out a neat .38 Special, the Model 13820, that will only set you back $350. The Beretta Tomcat (.32 ACP) boasts a weight of only 14.5 oz. in a 7+1 capacity that only runs $50 more. Do some searching at your local gun shops. You might find a used piece, maybe even one of my top choices, for a lot less.
You may not agree with my picks. I tried not to focus on just the “Baby Glocks” or the J-frame Smiths. When I was working UC, the most popular gun was the J-frame Smith. But the selection of “non-cop looking” pistols wasn’t as varied as those available in today’s market. However, my “Top Picks” meet the important criteria of not looking like a copper’s piece and having sufficient firepower and ammo capacity to fit the needs of today’s UCs.
Dave Grossi known as Dave Graziano during his UC days, has been Law Officer Magazine’s Tactics columnist since 2007. For years, Dave carried a Titan Arms .25-caliber pistol. Never confused with being a cop’s gun, an alert NYS Trooper once found it during a pat-down frisk of Mr. Graziano’s denim Nomad’s MC vest. The trooper “accidentally” dropped it in a mud puddle.
Dave’s Top Five UC Guns
1. Diamondback DB380
2. Glock Model 39
3. Ruger SR9c
4. Smith and Wesson Model 340PD
5. Walther PK380
1. Kel-Tec P3AT
2. Charter Arms .38 Special
3. Beretta Tomcat (.32 ACP)