Note: This is the first of a series of interviews with former operators who have lived and breathed guns for most of their lives in different ways. These occasional interviews will be a mash-up of tall tales, personal musings and boisterous unchallenged opinions. The intermittent nature of these articles is solely due to the fact that chasing down operators and getting them to talk is a lot like trying to convince Sasquatch to a sit down afternoon tea with you. Have fun and fire away in the comments, folks.
Today’s Interview with an Operator is with a 55-year-old fellow who chose the handle “Male Concubine” for our time together. MC began hunting at the age of 8. He entered the Army at 19, was a military policeman for a year, then was seconded into the being “guy Friday” for the commanding general of the criminal investigation division.
He has attended FBI training programs in short-barreled weapons seven times and twice through their automatic weapons program. He has also completed their intermediate and advanced handgun programs and their shotgun course.
After the military, he did drug interdiction work under the supervision of the U.S Marshals. MC has been and still is a competitive shooter and has been since age 8, becoming competent at trap and skeet shooting by the time he entered the military. When he’s not training or competing he still enjoys shooting skeet with a double action revolver.
Male Concubine generously agreed to a short series of interviews about random gun-related topics before jetting off to Kandahar for a year or so. Today’s topic: shooting under water.
ED: Thanks for joining me today and giving TTAG readers some of your time
MC: You’re welcome. In order to prepare for this interview, I got on TTAG and read through a bunch of articles, including yours. Nice work there, especially the piece on finding a boyfriend, but wow, what a bunch of keyboard commandos in the comments.
ED: Well, thanks. We strive to have a little bit of everything for everyone.
ED: So today’s question I have for you is about shooting underwater, since this is something you have experience with. Obviously there’s a backstory, which is how you ended up with a gun underwater in the first place, so please include that if you would.
MC: How I learned that 1911s could shoot underwater was…remember my description of that Para-Ordnance that I was carrying against all regulations and permission?
ED: Go ahead and describe for the readers:
MC: It was essentially a beefed-up Browning Hi Power, is what it looked like. But it was a 1911 platform; most of the parts were interchangeable. Some things weren’t because of the width of the frame. Regardless, with this weapon, when I was doing my overt drug interdiction, we had an issue where there were some individuals where we were operating that had targeted us because we were taking so many drug plants off of their fields. So, with my previous gentleman’s agreement and beer drinking experiences with some of the Special Operations guys, a Special Operations team came up to help me.
There was some mechanized equipment that we couldn’t get out of the area, so we decided to blow the place. So, using two remote command detonated anti-tank mines (laughing)…
We were hung over. We were drinking till about 3 in the morning. We were inserted into the area by aircraft. We were carrying about 57 pounds of different kinds of high explosives. So, we were screwing around, the SF guys placed the explosives since they wisely didn’t trust me with that.
But when we were running away, and everyone was giggling like hyenas, when the first mine went off, it blew parts of a tractor about 100 meters, and we were already about 100 meters away from the device when we ignited it. So we took refuge, and in my case, I ended up sliding down the bank into a river and going submerged.
When the pieces were falling around me, I thought I was getting shot at. So when I surfaced and everyone was laughing at me, I started shooting at them with the 1911 up the bank. Happily they dove for cover and my rounds went over their heads.
The first four rounds came out with the weapon held close to contact range on my chest. I was still treading water trying to get to the bank. The weapon was underwater tilted slightly up. I was worried that there could be an atmospheric breach, that there could be air trapped in the muzzle or the chamber. The first four rounds came out pretty well. Then I realized that submerging non-weatherproof ammunition wasn’t going to work. Out of a 14 round magazine I probably only got 8 or 9 rounds before the rest of the ammo became defunct due to being submerged.
ED: So that first time was a happy accident, essentially.
MC: Yes. And then, because I was trained by Smith & Wesson as a revolver armorer, I did some selective trials for a different type of Special Operations committee. After treading water, when I went into the exercise, I’d forgotten I had a non-standard weapon in my pocket, which was a five-shot Charter Arms.
ED: What kind of environment were you in?
MC: I was actually in an indoor pool on a military base in the United States going through this selective process. After being suitably disoriented, you had to tread water in the pool for 30 minutes. The exercise wasn’t about being armed, but I had forgotten that the gun was in my pocket.
When I got out of the pool and realized the weapon had been completely immersed, I wondered if I could do the same thing as before. So, later that night, I jumped a fence and went back into the pool and commenced to fire underwater both the Charter Arms and a Smith & Wesson.
The good thing about that 130 grain ammo was that it did fire under water, but I was too close to the side of the pool and put a hole in the liner. I had been drinking, but I wasn’t drunk. I do know the difference.
ED: Did you tell on yourself?
MC: Oh hell no.
ED: So can any handgun fire under water?
MC: As long as there’s not any kind of atmospheric breach, meaning as long as you don’t have an air pocket in the barrel. Your grip is more important under water than on dry land, mainly because of the parasitic drag of the water and the environment of the slide.
They will typically go off. You’ll get better horizontal travel with a FMJ round than a hollow point, obviously. But with a 9mm or .38 FMJ round shooting underwater, 15 to 18 feet will penetrate. .45 FMJ has about a maximum range of about 15 feet that it will shoot and still keep some kind of horizontal directive motion before the hydraulic forces will make it veer to one side.
ED: So what you’re saying is that if TTAG readers find themselves in an underwater gunfight, they should know that if they’re carrying the right kind of round, that gunfight’s going to need to be inside of 15 feet.
MC: When you get into a gunfight and you end up in a pool, most civilian pools are not more than 15 feet wide, so if you fall in, you can still eliminate the threat.
ED: Thank you Male Concubine for these tips. Is there anything else you’d like us to know? Where are you headed after this?
MC: I’m going down to the Buck and Doe range near San Antonio for a bowling pin shoot. I don’t imagine you have many ladies reading TTAG, but just in case there are, I’m 55, single, straight, available, and I make house calls.