Saturday, January 8, 2011


30 years ago, I was about to become a police officer in Houston. I worked at that profession for a number of years after that, finally finishing college after seven years. I then, as the Beatles once said, quit the police department to get a steady job, and went to law school.

My wife says I make myself sound prematurely old when I say things like this, but "back when" I was "the poh-lice" in Houston, Texas, the standard weapon for an officer was some sort of .357 revolver. Probably 75% of the uniformed forces in Harris County carried .357's back then, either issued by the department or bought by the officer from an approved list of firearms. Also, a lot of plainclothes officers carried snubnose or 4" .357's as well.

As far as what the other officers were carrying, by and large the Colt 1911 variants were the most popular. Every now and then you'd see an officer with a Browning Hi-Power or an HK P7 or P9S or S&W M39, and there were those wheel gun uniform guys who carried 6 1/2" S&W Model 25's or 29's. Most of the uniform guys carrying revolvers were carrying them in 4" barrel lengths, but there were a few who were tall enough to pull off carrying a 6" barreled revolver working what was then called Radio Patrol.

Pretty much everyone carrying revolvers used speedloaders, at least in uniform, and many departments issued ammo in different calibers to folks to fit their guns. My department used .38 Special +P instead of full on .357 Magnum loads, as did most departments. Houston being a big urban town, over penetration of your target was always a concern. We were allowed, however, to carry one speedloader full of a magnum load in case some kind of barricade needed to be shot through.

At the time I was an officer, our department did not provide weapons, and this was usual with just about every agency in Harris County except the State and the Feds, who issued their troops weapons. My sidearm was a Colt Python in nickle finish with a 4" barrel. A great gun. A legendary gun. Unfortunately, although it had a great trigger and shot .38 +P's and even +P+'s very well, it was a booger bear shooting .357 Magnum loads.

I have to admit that during this time developed an aversion to shooting Magnum loads out of the Python, and on several occasions was made at the range to qualify using Magnum ammo (our rangemaster had a sadistic streak and a lot of control over how you would qualify with your various weapons) and I found the whole prospect of shooting the Python, well, painful.

I think I've figured out now that even though the Python always sported Pachmayr Presentation grips, the gun just didn't fit my hand. I say I think I've figured it out now because in shooting another .357 I picked up years ago on a range outing a few months ago, I found shooting some .357 Magnum volleys incredibly fun.

At the same time that I was shooting and carrying the Python, I had a bunch of other guns. I've always liked the way the .45 ACP shoots and at that time, owned several .45,s, a Model 29 and a Model 25-5, both with 6 1/2" barrels, an HK P7 and several snubnose revolvers. I had no problem with the recoil from the Model 29 when using Magnums while hog hunting, so I guess the frame of the Model 29 fit my hand better than the Python.

I've written about this experience elsewhere, but the gun was a Ruger Security Six 4" revolver. It is outfitted with the same Pachmayr grips as the Python, yet felt recoil is significantly less and in fact it's downright pleasureable to shoot. There is no pain in my hand or in my wrist as when I shoot a Python.

I found the gun so fun to shoot that I proceeded to burn 100 rounds of some Golden Sabre ammo that my friend Max had given me, 10 year old ammo he had bought in anticipation of Y2K like everyone else I knew, and was burning it up. Trust me, I've never shot three speedloaders full of .357 ammo at one outing, unless qualifying as a police officer many years ago. And here I was, with a big smile on my face, blasting away with the Ruger Security Six like I was shooting .38 low power indoor range reloads. Yee haw!

So I guess I really didn't really rediscover the .357, I guess in my advanced age, I FINALLY discovered the virtues of the right handgun shooting the cartridge. Way back in my youth, somewhat misspent I might add, I should have taken the opportunity to more extensively shoot all of those other great .357 magnums, like the Smiths from the N frame Highway Patrol to the K frame Combat Magnum and Model 13. Even though I've shot some of those guns, I didn't shoot Magnums out of them because I figured they'd be just as unpleasant as the Python was.

I know that over the next couple of years I'm gonna make up for lost time on shooting some of these other .357's that I shoulda been shooting. And maybe I need to give the Python another chance with .357's...

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