Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guns, guns, guns !!!!

I was going to blog about an often over-looked aspect of writing: Work space. I had a couple of ideas and questions to ask other writers but two things happened.

First, I discovered I was too lazy to take the photos of my chair on my porch for the post. Then I got a memo at work that the end of an era was approaching. It had meaning to me, if not many others. It also gave me a chance to show you guys a little, odd thing that can cause feelings of loss in police or military personnel. My agency is retiring the Beretta.

Beretta 92F

It sounds like an administrative, minor decision but to those of us that use firearms and appreciate the artistry of their design, it marks a sad day.

That's me, second in line, with my Beretta 92 F during a training seesion at Turkey Point power plant.

I’m no gun nut, or we call is here in Florida, a “Fred Rea”. Sorry that’s an inside joke to both gun nuts and Florida writers. But the Beretta holds a special place in my heart. I carried a model 92 F compact while an agent with the DEA and then a full-size Beretta model 92F for the majority of my career with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That included the years I was on our Special Operations Team. Just like a mechanic gets used to a certain wrench or a writer likes a particular computer, a cop becomes attached to his duty weapon. I had it every day, except when I let my son use it for “show and tell” one day. Man, that was a poor decision. Well, live and learn.

In my first book, Walking Money, the main character, Bill Tasker, carried a Beretta. By the time I wrote the second novel, Shock Wave, I had started carrying a Glock and inadvertently had Tasker carrying a Glock. I corrected it before publication. It seems

minor but cops would never let me hear the end of it.

I also have characters use the Sig Sauer P 230 which I carried off-duty for years. I converted to a small model Glock, the model 27, as an off-duty weapon. I have a

Glock model 27

SIG P-230
tendency to put them in my books as well. There are real, tactical

reasons for the switch that gun guys would find interesting but everyone else would find wildly boring.

Of all the questions writers ask me about police work, questions about guns are the most frequent. Many authors say that they hear the most comments when they make a mistake with a gun in a book. They can write that Peru is in Africa and no one will say “boo”. But put a safety on a revolver and you’ll know you screwed up. You can gloss over it by using the nebulous “pistol” or “gun”. But in the effort to be realistic most writers are being more specific in their books.

I fully understand some people’s reluctance to firearms. I also, less frequently, understand gun collectors. I don’t get spending all the money to build a collection, but I appreciate guns. C’mon, I’m a guy from the south; the two biggest factors affecting a love of guns. I’m tolerant of both types of people but I’ve noticed they don’t seem to show much insight into each other. I’ll stop now before a vicious debate breaks out. No one ever seems to argue gun control calmly.

Back to my original post. I bought my Beretta from the state when I was issued a Glock several years ago. But now the department has decided to require all agents to convert to the use of Glocks. I’m not saying it’s a bad decision. They think these things out very carefully. There are considerations from legal to financial that I never worry about. I just liked the idea that if I wanted to, I could carry my trusty Beretta on duty. At least for another few weeks.

It’s the end of an era. Like when Chevy made the Impala so small. Or when Clinton left office.

On an unrelated note

Yesterday I read this post from my friend Wallace Stroby. It's an essay he wrote for the Newark Star-Ledger in 2005. It reinforces my belief that he is a fine writer. A personal story told in such a vivid manner that I read it twice.

Next week I’ll get back to writing posts instead of gun posts. Just thought I do a change up.

See you next week.

Jim B


  1. Hi Jim,

    I gotta smile at the memory of being forced to change or retire a trusted friend, a tool: even if it is a gun. :-D My Dad gets sentimental over guns too: he's been competition shooting since I was about 10 years old, and every so often, he trades one of his pistols in or shock-horror, sells one. Mum just rolls her eyes and gives the nice policeman a cup of tea when he comes out to the house once a year to inspect Dad's police approved lock up.

    There's something romantic about the Beretta, but the Glock is typically modern-trendy with every one, who's anyone, in modern crime, having one.

    Anyway, I gotta go chase, er research dinosaurs for my editor...


  2. Okay, Jim, since we're on the topic of guns. I willingly admit that my knowledge of firearms is slim to none, but...

    Okay. I just read Robert B. Parker's latest Sunny Randall novel, "Spare Change" and there's a serial killer who shoots people in the back of the head. They recover the weapon at one of the crime scenes and it's a .38 revolver.

    Now, like I said, I'm not expert, but the cops and Sunny et al go on and on about whether the killer picks up his brass (only one bullet in this case) and who's going to go diving into the duck pond they found the body in looking for the discarded brass.

    Please, please tell me that I'm wrong, but I thought the "brass" stayed in the revolver. It was semi-automatics that (usually) ejected the "brass."

  3. Unless you are the world's dumbest killer you would not empty the brass from a revolver unless you were going to reload.

    Mark, you have proven one of my points.

    Having been a devoted Beretta man for years I can assure you there is nothing trendy about a Glock. It is an excellent hand gun. Better than the Beretta in many ways. Modern yes, trendy, not at all.


  4. I have to admit, I have a grudge against the Beretta because it replaced my beloved 1911 as the military sidearm.

    I've owned several pistols in my life and I'm down to just two: My Colt 1911 and a Browning .22. If I had the notion, I'd buy a .357 revolver, just because I like revolvers.

    So it's no surprise that my people carry guns that I've owned, primarily the .45. There's just something about that ugly old slab-sided hunk of industrial magic that I love.

    When my Spec Ops nephew or my retired career Army brother-in-law come by, we hit the range. My sister refers to these sessions as TBEs, or Testosterone-Based Events.

    As part of my research, I got to shoot at the range at Quantico and had the opportunity to fire an Uzi, a Mach 10 and an MP-5. I fell in love with that H&K.

    My wife once said, "I don't get it. They're loud, smelly and dangerous" to which I replied, "And what don't you get?"

  5. But you still love your Beretta though, huh?


  6. You're right about readers who know about guns freaking out over errors. I don't blame them. Goofs like that take you out of the story. I feel the same way when a writer makes a mistake about something I know about.

    I avoid all that gun business because my character is not in law enforcement and doesn't own a weapon (at least not yet), so she wouldn't know the difference between a Glock and a Beretta. If I need to know more later, I'll just ask James O.

  7. Stroby's piece, as always, is awesome.

  8. I used to target shoot with my Beretta 92 on the Tamiami Range in Miami. Without a doubt, I am a worse shot than even Dick Cheyney.

    My house in Coconut Grove was burglarized in 1998, and among the items stolen was my Beretta. Two years later, I'm living in L.A., and I'm awakened one morning by a call from Broward County Homicide. The detective wanted to know where I was on a particular evening. A Beretta registered in my name had been used in a fatal shooting. I told him the gun was stolen and I'd reported it to the Miami Police.

    I also expressed my personal sorrow that my weapon was used in a homicide.

    "Don't sweat it," he said. "The guy who got shot was a piece of shit drug dealer."

  9. Now that's good police comforting skills.

    The real trouble with gun violence is never the collector or person who shoots for sport. Penalties have been enhanced for crimes committed with gun and it has had an effect.

    I never recommend a gun for personal saftey. The chances of you being hurt with it are greater than you defending yourself with it. The training associated with gun permits is useless.

    There are a few instances where people have heard an intruder, found their gun, kept calm enough to use it to defend themselves. But those instances are greatly outweighed by people inadvertantly shooting themselves or relatives and by gun being stolen.


  10. Agree with Jeff about Wallace Stroby's piece. Wonderful heartful father/son piece.

    As for Jim's last comment, it reminds me of a news account some time back. A man was sleeping with a gun under a pillow. He thought he saw an intruder at the foot of his bed...and shot his big toe off.

  11. Jim, your statement that "No one ever seems to argue gun control calmly" had me nodding my head.

    I teach a writing course at a local college that requires students to write a persuasion paper for one of the assignments.

    After suffering through horrible papers for a couple years, I now flat out forbid students from writing about three things: gun control is one of them.