I’ve worked the better part of the last two decades in law enforcement. One of the worst parts of it has always been hearing about cops killed in the line of duty. We have studied the details of officer deaths with the interest of never repeating them since the beginning, but the information age takes it to the next level. When a cop gets killed in the line of duty, I now get an email. Every single time.
One particularly bad notification wasn’t an email. I was in a training class at one of the state academies when I was informed a student was killed in a classroom demonstration using live firearms. It hit home. I was in a class, surrounded by other cops, in a place where you had to be a staff member or a cop to even be within a hundred yards of where I was. In a line of work that keeps me more alert than the average bear I was in the safest place I could be. Yet here I was being notified that a student at another class had been killed. I suddenly did not feel as safe.
In the interest of NEVER repeating the mistakes that cost a young police officer her life, we look at the situation, and we talk about it, and we learn from it. What could we have done to prevent that tragedy? It is absolutely a preventable, senseless, tragedy.
OBVIOUSLY, we could have followed the basic safety rules of firearms. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded. Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire. THE MOST BASIC RULES. It took breaking all three rules. Now, every single one of us has muzzle swept SOMEONE or SOMETHING. That’s why the rules are layered. You gotta break two at least. Roman Philosopher Seneca stated, “Constant exposure to dangers will breed contempt for them.” We have to remember that firearms are, by design, dangerous and deadly.
The Samurai of Japan faced the same problem. They spent their lives practicing combat with swords. They moved to using the boken, a wooden sword that simulated both the weight and the rigidity of the sword. A boken strike to an arm would result in a broken bone as opposed to a severed limb if one was to use a live sword.
Every martial art has found a way to use simulators. The use of a simulator or a dummy gun in a classroom is now common practice. I know of at least one police academy which has basic students wear dummy guns in gun belts through a large portion of the police academy.
Dummy guns used to be just plastic molds that roughly simulated the shape of a particular gun. At first, they wouldn’t even fit tightly fitted holsters such as level 2 and 3 holsters. Some were badly molded metal (for weight) and were coated in brightly colored paint. Some were made of brittle plastic that broke. Some weighed nothing compared to a live firearm.
This isn’t your regular dummy gun!
Now ASP is producing their Enhanced Red Gun line. They have made firearms simulators for years and I’ve used ASP’s products. They make good stuff. So, when my editor called and asked if I was interested in trying out and writing about an ASP Red Gun, I quickly said yes and asked for a model to match the Beretta M9 which was a current project gun.
The Red Gun arrived, and I was immediately pleasantly surprised. It certainly lived up to its name with the bright red color clearly indicating it is a safe training tool and not the deadly weapon it stands in for. It’s spot-on exactly the same shape as the Beretta, and the weight, while lighter than a loaded live gun isn’t so light as to be distracting.
Then I hit on the NEW feature. The ASP Red Gun includes a removable magazine and a spare magazine so you can practice reloads. It’s a BIG step up for providing demonstrations, for training as a group, and for self-training. ASP put a lot of work into making this a simulator for as much use as you can squeeze out of it.
ASP really did hit the details.
They made the lanyard workable (some places use a lanyard especially militaries!), they made the safety in the up/hot/fire position so when you practice draws you can sweep the thumb up while repeating in your head the old training mantra for the Beretta M9 “If it’s not UP you can’t get it ON”. It also means that this works as a stand-in for the Beretta 92FS and the 92G. The G version is a decocker only version where the decocker/safety won’t stay in the down position. If they molded the safety as down it just wouldn’t be as nice.
ASP made sure it fits just right in holsters so there is no adjusting. You just drop the Red Gun into your carry holster and go back to training. They also were smart enough to make sure REAL mags don’t fit into the Red Gun and Red Gun mags don’t fit into your real Beretta. SMART!
ASP did miss on something I really would like to see in a simulator.
I want to see a rear sight notch and a front sight. I want to be able to draw and present to a proper sight picture with my dummy gun. I want to work on that front sight focus. ASP’s mold has a rear sight with no notch. No worries. I’ll head down to Gunsmith ED’s shop and we will either use a lathe or just a file to cut the right-sized notch. I’ll paint the front sight to match my M9 and I’ll get another use out of the ASP. They probably don’t cut it to keep it stronger. I understand.
About the Beretta M9
I chose the Beretta M9 as the gun I wanted a Red Gun for because I recently picked up another M9. The second handgun I ever bought was an Italian-made Beretta 92 FS I picked up for $300. Back in the grand old days of great prices. To add insult to injury, that 92FS only had one single shiny spot on it. It was as close to a brand-new gun as could be. Unfortunately, I traded it off to a friend when I wanted a different gun.
So, when another friend recently had an M9 he wanted to trade for something I didn’t HAVE to keep, I snagged the M9 from him. I got the gun, a stack of mags, a Kirkpatrick leather holster (I really like their work), a Blackhawk holster, and a stack of parts to upgrade the Beretta to a more optimal setup for a defensive handgun.
I swapped out the trigger to the short-reach trigger. I swapped out the recoil spring guide rod to the metal version. I swapped the hammer spring for the D spring which significantly lowered the DA trigger pull weight and the SA weight to workable standards. If you own a Beretta in the M9 family, YOU OWE yourself a D spring swap. It becomes a new creature. The DA pull is as good as any of the revolvers I own and the single action holds its own too.
The deal also included the new Beretta G kit. I got my friend Victor to swap out the kit for me. Now my Beretta is set up as a decocker only, which fixes one of the few issues an M9 has. When you vigorously rack a Berretta M9 you can inadvertently activate the safety. If it’s a decocker only, it just pops back up. Before the G conversion kit from Beretta, you had to send your slide off to get it milled and set up as a G version. Or you had to buy a G version. The G version has a quiet but serious following, and they don’t make as many. Plus, the guys (and
gals) who have them rarely sell. So, the G kit really fills the niche for the average guy who wants to improve his Beretta.
This may come as a surprise but the Beretta M9 family is currently rising in popularity among serious shooters. Custom Gun Makers like Ernest Langdon and Wilson Combat are doing everything you can do to them to make true custom guns that run like a house afire. Langdon
even has an option now for RDS mounted and co-witnessed sights. You will see much more about this in the near future, and I expect companies like Magpul will be doing grips and possibly magazine floorplates soon for the M9 family.
My Beretta M9 runs 100% even with some sketchy mags I got with it (I’m surprised). It feeds every kind of 9mm ammo I have on hand or can get locally including ball, hollow points, soft points, and even odd ammo like the Lehigh penetrators which are shaped like Phillips head screwdrivers. The short reach trigger was a little improvement, but the D spring swap was magic dropping the trigger weight to very smooth workable weights. The G conversion, while not as nice as a factory or custom swap to a true G setup as it sticks out a little more, gives the
same function. I used ye olde paint pen to make the fixed sight white dot front sight a bright ORANGE dot for a more visible sight for me.
I now have several holsters, a handful of mags, and a proper trainer to demo the gun for students as well as personal practice. The trainer even allows me to demo mag changes and comes with a spare mag. I traded a gun and now I have a whole kit for both concealed carry and for training. The ASP Red Gun with a mag is a great tool for a shooter to work and train on a proven and generally underrated platform.
Back to the beginning of the article.
With properly made tools for training like ASP’s Red Gun Series, there are few reasons EVER for classroom demonstrations to be done with a real firearm. In fact, if you walk into a class and you DON’T see dummy guns laid out for demos, or you see unsafe practices such as the instructor violating the basic rules of gun safety consider walking out. SERIOUSLY consider walking out. FUCK THAT….SPEAK OUT AND WALK. OUT. If students walk out of classes because simple safety methods like the use of training simulators such as ASP Red Guns are not being used, then EVERY trainer will use them EVERY time.
The entire time I wrote this article I kept her name in my mind. She was Officer Tara Drummond of the Kennesaw Police Department. Officer Drummond was twenty-three and had just started her career in law enforcement just four months prior to her death. She left behind her parents and siblings. She is only one of many, but she is the one I will always remember. I did not have the pleasure of meeting her, I never served with her, but it bothers me to this day. If I ever go to a class where unsafe practices are happening, I will not be quiet, I will not stay in the class, I will speak up, and I will walk out. For ME. For my FAMILY. And in part, for Officer Tara Drummond.
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