Danny’s first day: An argument against ankle holsters

Early .38 S&W Safety Hammerless in ankle holster %copy digi-shots

Early .38 S&W Safety Hammerless in ankle holster %copy digi-shots

Editor’s note: This article was written by Claymore. His previous blog posts can be read here.

Steve has given his blessing to this article on one of my “adventures” this time in the good old USA. It has some advice on the use of an ankle holster but I have to set the mood so to speak on the events leading up to the holster advice.

If you are one of the people that dislike reading anything that is not strictly firearms related skip way down to almost the bottom and I will give you notice where to pick up reading again when it comes to the holster choice advice. The rest of you hold onto your hats for a good police story.

We are going back in time to 1988 and there was a trial ongoing for the puerto rican terrorist group “Los Macheteros”. This particualr group had caused havoc on the island of puerto rico putting down bombs, shooting up US Navy vehilces, and other mayhem. (there are plenty of links in a search it you want to read more)

My unit got involved when one of their members, Victor Gerena, robbed a wells fargo depot where he was working as a guard with the help of other Los Macheteros and absconded with $7 MILLION 1988 dollars (worth about $14 million today) . I was assigned to work with the FBI on this case during the investigation and the court case.

During the court case there were small protest marches at the Federal courthouse almost everyday but one weekend a huge march was planned with estimates of up to 10,000 people showing up. More bad news was received from the people I was working with in the Joint Terrorist Task Force in New York City (JTF-2) that members of the FALN, another terrorist group blowing up things for Puerto Rican independence, were planing to be at this march. Some of the FALN members coming from New York included people thought to be involved with blowing up Fraunces Tavern in New York City in 1975 (to date nobody has ever been prosecuted for the bombing).

I was assigned to cover this Los Macheteros rally but I had a big problem: we were a small unit of about 6-8 people and there was also a huge KKK rally on the same day. The leader of the KKK in Connecticut had made threats against Jesse Jackson so everybody else was assigned to the KKK rally and I was on my own.

Normally when one is undercover in situations like this there is an intelligence gatherer and a cover officer. The cover officer’s only job is “watching the back” of the one gathering intelligence.

I had been covering the small rallies, of mainly local relatives and supporters of Gerena, by myself but with the expected numbers in the thousands and the FALN people coming it would have been a real bad idea to go it alone to this rally. I needed a cover officer so if I went missing at least he could tell everybody what happened to me and and I wouldn’t just become one of “The disappeared”.

I had been working closely with the US Marshals SOG team that had been called in to provide extra security during the trials and had gotten to know the local Marshals pretty well. I asked the Head Marshal if he could spare one Marshal for 1/2 a day to be my cover man.

He hemmed and hawed a bit because he also needed every man on deck to protect the courthouse. The SOG team told him of the good intelI I had been providing to them and that it would be to his advantage to have one of his own Marshals in the crowd.

Finally his eyes lit up like he had a great idea and he said “sure I can let you have one man”. I should have known something was up but I was desperate and thanked him and we made plans for me to meet with my “cover” Marshal in two days.

I started the day by cruising the area looking for intel on the out of state people by myself because in a vehicle I was pretty safe. I got some intel then had to break off and go to the nearby State Capitol for a press conference with the KKK because my bud who normally would have been at the meeting was tied up at the KKK rally site. I went to the KKK news conference and reported the intel to my bud, didn’t think anymore about it, and then went to collect my Marshal for the day.

I knew I had been set up when the head Marshal had a shit eating grin on his face and introduced me to my cover man for the day. Danny was on his VERY FIRST DAY AS A US MARSHAL and had just graduated from their academy. He looked about 12 years old, had on chino pants, a dress shirt, nylon windbreaker RayBans, and loafers … like he had just stepped of the cover of GQ magazine. This is the guy I would be going into the heart of the beast with!

I said to the boss outside “You got to be shitting me?”, and he replied  “look I need every man I have so take him or leave him.” I was in a quandary and really needed a cover man but not someone I would have to be looking out for while doing my own job. When we went back inside I explained to Danny this was a very dangerous job that he might not come home from and I couldn’t guarantee his safety. He said “I still want do it”. So we were now a team, at least for today.

I asked him where his firearm was and if he was allowed to carry one. He pulled up his pant leg and there it was a 5 shot Smith & Wesson Model 36 “Chief Special” revolver in an ankle holster. My heart dropped knowing this was going to be a very long morning. As politely as I could I explained that ankle carry was not a good idea in a large crowd and asked if he could get a different belt holster. He proudly said this is how they taught him in the academy and he was sticking with it.

Turns out Danny was a good kid. He had applied to the State Police and was waiting for his results to come back. His uncle was a trooper in a different state who I knew from regional State Police Swat team training. Danny had always wanted to be one and thought this would be a good way to find out just what being a trooper was really like….. he would find out before the day was over in spades.

I gave him a short course on what his job was because when I would be busy using a camera, focused on doing the job, and liable to get caught up in the shooting and forget to watch the surroundings. I told him where to stand, what to look out for, what not to do including NOT to shoot anybody unless I told him too. We were off the Lone Ranger and his trusty novice sidekick.

We went back to the State Capitol to attend the press conference this time with the Marchers doing their thing and disaster was in the making.

When we were walking up to the capitol one of our own troopers was standing there talking to a woman I recognized as a member of the May 19th coalition a radical commie terrorist group that had been involved with bank robberies, bombings, etc and were the real deal. I had seen her in NYC while working with JTF-2 and knew right then we were in for a bad time.

This was compounded when I heard the Trooper say to the May 19th lady “watch out for him he is with the KKK I saw him this morning” THANKS A LOT TONY. one of our own guys just outed me to the enemy.

But we had a job to do and went into the news conference, gathered intel and left to start the big job ahead.

Normally I would have some photos for you to illustrate what I’m talking about but I couldn’t find any without paying for images from the local papers so I will just have the describe what we were walking into.

Imagine if you will over ten thousand (yes they met and exceeded the expected attendance figure) pissed off people carrying signs on HEFTY STICKS, that can be used as weapons, yelling and screaming and me and Mr. GQ having to walk among them.

The crowd was so thick (this will play into the advice at the end) that one could hardly move. Normally I would move on the fringes of the crowd doing my thing while trying to be inconspicuous but help was at hand.

While I was standing there deciding how we were going to do this I noticed 6 of the marchers heading our way with the May 19th lady directing them where to go. They were rather large gents and I thought to myself that we were in deep shit and I was desperately looking for an escape route because she thought we were KKK members.

To my surprise the gents cleared people away from us and created a “box” around us and keeping people away. They had on red arm bands identifying them as “Parade Marshals” and I found that quite ironic with Danny the Marshal being my cover man.

I recognize three of them as local Los Macheteros supporters and we discovered later that the other 3 were FALN members. They were all ARMED they were “printing” badly and kept going to the firearms like they were not used to carrying them.

Danny’s eyes were as big as saucers and I had no idea what was going on so I signaled him to move with me. I moved slowly to the left and the box stayed right with me, so I went forward and they moved with us again. I then had a brilliant idea about using this unexpected “Help”.

Normally I would stay on the fringes and try and get photos of what I could see but sometimes you just had to take what you could get.  Today with the help of the box I could move anywhere I wanted and they cleared the way. Turns out they were like an armed “force field” for us. Thanks dudes.

So there we were in the middle of ten thousand screaming people in chaos, that hate our guts, surrounded by 6 big armed dudes that didn’t look at us and did not say anything, just kept us surrounded.

And I was in my element I told Danny to try and keep up because I was going to take advantage of the access our force field provided. We would worry about getting out alive later.

This was the best day I ever had taking photos of these people. I got everybody and more just moving any way I wanted when I spotted someone I needed to shoot and then moving on. All the time the force field would just look at people and they would move out of the way.

Good things have to come to an end and the march was moving into a large park surrounded by a 10 foot high cast iron fence like you would see around mansions of the rich with pointed “spears” on the top.

I told Danny there was no way we were going in that trap as we couldn’t get out and nobody could get in to rescue us from thousand of pissed off screaming marchers.

I suggested we try and move away from the crowd and see how our force field reacted. So we moving toward the edge of the crowd toward a convenience store on the other side of the road and sure enough when we got to the sidewalk our force field just melted away into the crowd never having said a word.

OK, you folks that came just for the holster advice can start reading here:

It had been a long three hours so we went in the store and got cold drinks and we deciding what the best way back to my car was and decided to cross the road. Being good citizens after crossing the road we started toward the entrance of the park to throw our soda cans in a trash barrel at the entrance of the park when the Big armed dudes were back with a bunch of pissed off people along as helpers…. we were in deep shit and were quickly surrounded and driven by the force of the crowd into the fenced park.

I have always appendix carried my Browning BDA-380 when undercover just the the right of my belt buckle and had put on rubber Pachmayr grips that work perfectly to prevent the firearm from slipping down from the belt.

The big dudes were kicking us in the achilles tendon, and calves, while wearing heavy work boots, and pinching the back of our arms. Let me tell you when a large full grown man pinches your muscles it hurts like hell.

We were in deep deep shit but fortunately we had stopped right before the May 19th lady and I quickly got my firearm out because I could still move my forearms and it was a simple matter to just move my hand to my belt buckle area to draw. Danny on the other hand had seen me going for my weapon but when he bent over to get to his ankle mounted weapon they “bucked” up against his extended rear end preventing him from bending over and when he tried to lift his leg to get to it they jostled him so he couldn’t stand on one leg.

HE COULD NOT GET TO HIS WEAPON TO SAVE HIS LIFE.

I took my weapon out from under my shirt with just and inch or so of the barrel showing, so the rest of the crowd couldn’t see it, and told the May19th lady “I know who you are and you know who I am. Look down (she did) and in three seconds I’m going to start shooting, starting with you right in the stomach if you don’t get your goons off us” I told her “we are leaving so just get them off us and we are out of here” All this time they keep up the pinching and kicking and I could see Danny was having a hard time of it.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the boss of the local police intelligence unit and the assistant Special Agent in charge of the local FBI office, I knew both of them well, standing on the other side of the road laughing.

Well she gave a nod and the goons backed off and we slowly backed out of there. I was HOT. I walked over to my alleged friends and said something like “WTF is wrong with you assholes why didn’t you send us some help?”

They were grinning and and in unison they came out with a line, stolen from the Texas Rangers, and said “one riot one trooper” we knew you could handle it.

I was floored and when I said “I had drawn my weapon and was one second from shooting”. They lost their smiles quickly and explained that they did not see that and thought I had it handled.

I calmed down a little but I could see Danny was a little unnerved by the whole thing.  I got him back to my car and drove back to his office. I asked him “how did you like that day in the life of a trooper?” He said “does things like that happen very often?” I said “not too often that bad but working rallies either KKK, commies, or whoever is part of the job.

He said “I have changed my mind” and he never became a trooper but went on to a long career with the Marshal service.

So my advice is that an ankle holster is the very last place you want to carry your primary weapon if there is any way to avoid it. There are a multitude of other carry positions that you can come up with that are much better. That being said I did carry a SECOND firearm in an ankle holster while working in uniform, but never a primary.



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Axel

    7 million 1988 usd is way more than 2 million 2014 usd.

  • Apeman

    I think 2 Billion was meant. Great story.

  • K.T. Huskyberg

    $14,097,633.14 in 2014 dollars

    • That was my fault (the editor) not the author. I calculated 1 million, and forgot to multiple it by 7

  • Tyson chandler

    That was an awesome story..thanks for sharing!

  • Bill

    I can’t imagine carrying a primary in an ankle rig, the one possible exception being while on off-duty road trips, driving for hours.
    Didn’t Gene Hackman carry in ankle rigs in The French Connection?

    • Gallan

      Well Cash in tango and cash carries a backup revolver in his boot, and at the end of the film does quick draw headshot lying on the floor with his leg pointed at the bad guy.

    • Pete

      Never mind Gene Hackman, the real Eddie Egan allegedly carried his revolver in his sock. Who needs a “rig?” Of course, he also forgot to load his revolver one day and went on a serious raid with an unloaded weapon. Not someone to emulate…

      • Bill

        The rumor I heard was one on each ankle, for that “New York Reload.” I doubt those guys did a lot of running.

  • Deareborne

    That was some cool-headed thinking — very commendable. I wonder how many LEOs have that kind of training and presence of mind today.

    • It all depends on what their job is.

      • VaMtns

        Hey Phil, how about sponsoring a site for Claymore where any of his stories fit? Claymore thanks for all your service and I enjoy all your posts.

    • claymore

      This opportunity with having a “force filed” worked out fantastic. When the photos were circulated to the feebs and other agencies the first question out of their mouths was “how in the hell did you get such great shots?”

      Normally shooting photos in situations is kind of hit or miss and most are taken with a long distance lens so they end up blurry and not very clear. With the force field I got to go right up to people and get in their faces so the photos looked like the jerks posed for them.

      We used slide film back then because you could project them on a big screen or enlarge them real big so you could pick out people in the background. When we blew this set up they were so clear and close you could count the pores in their skin.

      If the morons only knew LOL.

      The story continues at the KKK rally but no firearms were involved so the rest of the story may not fit in this site.

  • dan citizen

    Great read!

  • Fruitbat44

    Interesting story. Thanks for sharing it.

  • claymore

    One thing I should clarify is that I forgot to mention that I’m left handed so that is why the carry is just to my right of my belt buckle.

    • Dallas Doc

      Since your appendix IS on (in) your (and all of our) right abdomen(s), appendix carry does require your piece to be in place to the right of your belt buckle. Does this mean you draw and recommend “cross-drawing?” My good friend (Israeli reserve Colonel) forbids me to so do, claiming that in close quarters my (right) hand, while reaching for my Sig 238 on my left side, can be grabbed, along with my piece. He says while I’m drawing from my (right side) appendix carry holster, I can push away a bad guy with my LEFT hand, thus permitting my continued draw with my right hand. TFB readers have thoughts on this negative approach to crossdraw (my usual comfortable and very concealable location)?

      • claymore

        The firearm body is just maybe 1″ to my right of center line just so it doesn’t get behind my belt buckle but the grip is less than the body so there is maybe 1/2″ of my left hand going to my right not a full cross draw.

  • Blake

    Awesome story Claymore. Would love to hear more of them (to the detriment of my productivity :-).

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    Great story, Claymore — thanks for writing this! It’s always interesting to read or hear of an event as seen from the “inside”, where the perspective can be very different. I’m really glad that you and your erstwhile partner came out of it unscathed. Mob-driven collective emotional energy is so unpredictable and often dangerous, and you never know in what direction it will go once triggered.

  • “Dr.”Dave

    Cool, neat story. I’ll be sure to check back here more often when I’m in need of 20+ year old advice handed out by spys from the police state.

    • claymore

      Give it up dude the advice still applies and always will.

  • machodog

    Check out the cool, concealed carry bra holster for the ladies at cozeeholsters.com. It hides in the armpit and nearly undetectable. You don’t have to wear a jacket over it. Comfortable for all day wear.

  • Mike

    Good article. How did you get used to appendix carry while sitting. I like appendix but hate the discomfort factor.

  • Will

    As a firearms trainer for a major sheriffs department I was very concerned about the use of ankle holsters by our deputies.
    I never discouraged them but I did develop a training plan that involved scenarios that included drawing and firing while standing, walking, running forward and retreating, in a crowd and while being jostled. I also had them draw and fire while on the ground, sitting at a table and inside a vehicle.
    Many, many eyes were opened by the scenarios. The video of the Ohio(?) trooper fighting in a ditch and only winning by using the revolver in his ankle holster was also included.
    I never discouraged the use of ankle and pocket holsters for back up weaponry, NEVER PRIMARY, but simply wanted the deputies to understand the limitations.
    Great article. Thanks