As always, it’s important for you, dear reader, to understand that we are all aware that blanket statements like that in the title have exceptions. Yes, there are cops and Soldiers who do know a thing or two. The point here is that we often run into a conversation that goes something like this: “Well, my uncle was a Soldier and he says that the Mini-14 is the bestest killin’ stick in all time because it shoots .223 Rem which tumbles in the air and tears people’s arms off as it passes.” Listening to this account, you may become suspicious of whether that favorite uncle exists and, if he does, whether he actually served. But you are painfully aware of how inaccurate the statement is. In this hypothetical case, the particulars are fairly obvious, but that is not always the case. Just because a person served their country and/or their community doesn’t mean that they automatically become an expert in all things that go “BANG”.
It doesn’t even necessarily mean they are particularly knowledgeable about the weapon systems to which they are assigned. To be sure, if you ask most Soldiers, they ought to be able to tell you the unloaded weight and the maximum effective range on a point target for the M16A2 rifle. But I’ve heard many Joes repeat that line above about bullets tumbling in flight or the myth that the 5.56x45mm cartridge was designed to wound. Rank and occupational specialty are no guarantee of knowledge, either. While we were preparing for a mission, a SFC in 3rd Group assigned me to the M240B on the back of a truck and asked if I had qualified recently. I advised him that I was qualified, it had been a while but that I was very familiar with the M249 and the manual of arms was about the same. He agreed, except that the M240B fires from an open bolt. Of course, most of you probably know that the M249 also fires from an open bolt, but I wasn’t inclined to argue the point.
Like Soldiers, many law enforcement officers are not really “into” guns in the way that readers of this blog likely are. Guns are just another tool they use to do their jobs. Unfortunately, police officers often have need to know a bit about guns that they are not issued. Many years ago, when dirt was new, I was camping and hiking with a friend when we decided to walk into the town of Safford to get some booze and use a payphone (yeah, it was that long ago) shortly before we arrived at a convenience store, we heard some firecrackers go off. Someone called the police, and they arrived while we were on the phone. Ultimately, it was no big deal as another officer found the remains of the firecrackers and it was obvious that our own guns hadn’t been fired, but while the supervisor was attempting to “render safe” our guns, he muzzled my friend and I multiple times trying to figure out how to pull back the slide on our 1911s. After telling him several times that he had to disengage the safety, eventually I had to point to it for him to figure it out.
Again, there are many cops and Soldiers who do know guns well. A close friend of mine is a sheriff deputy, former Marine, and current Soldier. He’s a better shooter than I am by a fair degree and his historical knowledge of guns dwarfs my own. And obviously there are many others that know what they’re talking about. But the mere fact that someone carries a gun for a living is really no indication that they are particularly knowledgeable. So where does that put me? Same as when I told you that you shouldn’t think I know something just because I wrote an article, you shouldn’t conclude that I know anything just because I wore a pickle suit. More to the point, the next time somebody tells you that their uncle’s best friend’s coworker was a ranger so he knows all about the FAMAS, feel free to roll your eyes. There’s a good chance that he never served anyway and if he did, that doesn’t necessarily make him an expert.