It’s my pleasure to host the first of two posts from “Adam” of Writer’s Detective. He’s an active law enforcement detective in California, hence the quotation marks. When he’s not on duty, Adam offers advice to writers about police work on his website and Twitter handle.
He graciously accepted my invitation to talk about the handguns he uses. Watch for an upcoming post on the firearms criminals use. I think you’ll enjoy them both.
Best Handguns for Police Detective Characters
Every law enforcement officer is bound by his or her department’s policy on firearms. If you’re seeking accuracy in your portrayal, research the firearms issued by the officer’s agency.
While some only allow their officers to carry the government-issued firearm, many agencies will permit officers to carry personal firearms.
For a primary firearm, most agencies require the handgun to be at least a 9mm for a semi-automatic pistol or a .38 caliber for a revolver and made by a reputable manufacturer (Beretta, Glock, Heckler & Koch, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, etc.) for reliability reasons.
If you need to dig a little deeper, try Googling the agency name and the terms “firearm policy” or “Lexipol.” You might even consider searching through city council minutes to look for large police department expenditures, such as the purchase of a few hundred firearms.
In my experience, the most common calibers used by law enforcement are .40 S&W, 9mm and .45 ACP. The police agency often dictates the specific ammunition officers are allowed to use in their firearms. The agency I work for issues Winchester Ranger SXT Law Enforcement ammunition, which is based on the famous Black Talon ammunition design.
Best Handguns for Private Eye Characters (or Police Detectives Carrying a Personal Firearm)
If your detective opts to carry his or her own personal handgun, there is a lot to consider. Choosing a firearm is no easy task and is most often a matter of compromise between many factors. Your detective is likely weighing the importance of stopping power, ammunition capacity in the magazine (not clip), ease of concealment and even the weight of the weapon when loaded (which becomes a factor both in the holster and when you’re keeping your sights on the bad guy…possibly for an extended period…while waiting…for back-up to arrive).
Once you’ve decided on your character’s firearm, you have to decide how he or she will carry it while working in plainclothes. Again, deciding how to wear a concealed handgun is a matter of personal preference and compromise. If you Google “concealment holster” you will see everything from Miami Vice-style shoulder holsters to Thunderwear. From ankle holsters to fanny packs to paddle holsters, it’s just as confusing for new cops as it is for unfamiliar authors to decide on what style of holster to wear.
Many “older” cops will have a cardboard box full of holsters in storage, left over from the learning process of finding the right holster. I freely admit that I am guilty of this.
What I Carry
Rather than go over the pros and cons of a thousand different carry options, it would be easier to explain what I carry and why.
I believe that simplicity is key. I carry my full-sized, department-issued .40 caliber Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol in a Bianchi 6 inside-the-waistband holster. It’s essentially a thin piece of leather with a strong metal clip. It is a simple open-top design. Most importantly, it’s on the “strong side” of my waist (side with the dominant hand), which is where I always carry my handgun. Whether I’m off duty, working plainclothes or on-duty wearing a Sam Browne duty belt, my handgun is always in the same place: on the right side of my waist.
If I need my weapon, I don’t want to be thinking about where my handgun is located. Is it under my left armpit in a shoulder holster or on my ankle?
That said, I do occasionally carry a .40 caliber Glock 27 in an ankle holster on the inside of my left ankle. I carry this as a back-up to the gun on my waist.
I’m six feet tall, so getting to a gun on my ankle while seat-belted into the driver’s seat can be a lot quicker than the one secured in my duty belt’s holster or one sandwiched between my waist and my jeans.
Read part two, “Writing Fiction: Handguns for Criminal Characters,” here.
Get the Book
The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books) comes with everything but the ammo. Pick up a print or digital copy from these fine retailers: