Colt Trooper .357 revolver
By Hmaag via Wikimedia Commons
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By Bud Harton

I became a cop in the spring of 1969 after returning home from Vietnam. It’s hard to imagine now, but returning Vietnam veterans weren’t really appreciated by the American public at the time. I quickly learned that I should avoid the subject of Vietnam altogether and if questioned whether I had been there, mumbling an answer and walking away was usually a good idea.

If there was any profession more intensely disliked than returning combat veterans, it was probably law enforcement. So already being an outcast, I decided to become double-shunned by joining a suburban Chicago police department as their newest probationary patrolman.

So I traded one uniform for another. But, wow, what a uniform! My department wore dark blue pants with a light blue shirt and a sheriff’s hat. Ohmigosh, I loved that hat. It wasn’t quite as cool as a drill sergeant’s flat brimmed style, but it really added to the swagger.

You used the strap across the back of your head and that meant you could cock the brim of the hat down over your eyes. Coupled with cool dark sunglasses, I was really something.

But even cooler was the fact that our uniform included carrying our duty weapon cross draw. It was supposedly to facilitate drawing the weapon while seated in a patrol car, but I didn’t pay any attention to that because when I saw myself fully uniformed in a mirror for the first time, I almost couldn’t breathe. I just looked so cool.

My firearm of choice at the time, was a Colt Trooper.

So six months later, fully trained at the police academy and finally released by my field training officer, I was out on my own. There wasn’t a lot of crime in our town. It was primarily a ‘bedroom’ community without many businesses or industry.

The very first homicide in 25 years of the town’s existence had just happened after I was hired and while there were frequent burglaries, I didn’t see one single armed robbery while on duty the entire time I was employed there.

But I didn’t care. I consciously patrolled my assigned patrol area with strict attention to detail. I stopped and helped kids and old ladies across busy intersections, rounded up stray dogs and took them home and wrote a lot of traffic tickets. I liked working traffic because I got to turn the ‘reds’ on and there was always a chance that a pursuit might ensue.

When stopping a violator, I recorded his license number on my note pad in case something happened, advised my dispatcher of the location and the vehicle description and usually had most of that done just as the offender slowed his vehicle to a stop.

I carefully pulled up behind just a little to the left of his bumper so that I had a protected zone to approach him. Keeping my eye on the vehicle I would pop my door open and carefully step out to approach the car.

After a while I got so good at this I was able to carefully position my chrome plated spotlight mounted on the pillar of the door frame so that I could check the angle of my hat and make sure that I was looking good. I really liked how I looked in that uniform.

One bright, sunny Saturday afternoon, I got a radar clock on a car doing 10 miles over the posted limit. That was enough to trigger my predatory instincts and I quickly pulled out from where I had concealed my car, flipped the reds on, and hauled after him. He must have noticed me pulling out because he pulled over almost right away.

Mirror Police side rear view rearview mirror

I quickly notified my dispatcher of my location and the vehicle description and popped the door open with my left hand as I grabbed my Sheriff’s Stetson and quickly tipped it on with the chin strap firmly across the back of my head.

I stepped out on the pavement while carefully checking my appearance in my cleverly positioned spotlight and looked up at the offending car…only to find that the driver was already out of his car and approaching me. And he had a pistol in his hand.

Time stood still as I started to back myself behind my car door, but I decided I didn’t have time, so as my left hand released the restraining strap on my holster, my right hand found the grip of the Colt Trooper and I ripped it out of the holster. Then, as I drew, I proceeded to throw it across the hood of my squad car, into the ditch on the other side of the car.

As often happened when I was terrified in Vietnam, time stood still and all of my senses were focused on what was in front of me. I could see my gun sailing through the air and the driver quickly approaching.

As my vision and hearing seemed to clear and refocus, I could hear him saying, “Officer, I was just on my way to the station, my son just found this gun behind my house.”

It took me a moment and I’m pretty sure I was able to conceal the violent tremors in my knees and he probably thought that I was doing a pretty good job of controlling my stutter as I said, “Great, sir. I’ll follow you to the station and take your report. I’ll just block traffic here for a moment so you can get back safely on your way.”

He nodded his understanding and said he’d go straight there.

I have often wondered if he saw me in his rear view mirror as I frantically groped and splashed around in the ditch trying to find my Trooper. I’m pretty sure he was too far away to see me holding it up to let the ditchwater drain out of it.



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  1. not the first time this article has appeared? or perhaps I read it elsewhere.

    no matter. some good lessons here.

    • “not the first time this article has appeared?”

      If it was, it’s been a few years, most likely.

      Shows just how fast ordinary and boring can turn into stark fear…

      • TTAG mngt., is this the same Bud Harton (I thought his name was Horton) who posted awesome stories here years back?

        The guy who won a gun contest story?

        He wrote some seriously good stuff…

        • I ran a search and yes, the same guy. Located numerous articles that he wrote for TTAG and other gun sites.

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    • Pretty sure it’s been here before as a story contest submission. IIRC the guy got torn up a little in the comments for his honesty about liking the uniform a bit too much.

  2. Mr. Harton, I commend you on your honest nature in telling this story. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a true slice of life when there’s a good helpin’ of comedy involved. I thoroughly did enjoy that.

  3. Never launched mine but did walk out of the house, got in the patrol car, headed out on patrol and stopped to get the first coffee of the morning at a stop-n-rob. Headed inside and while standing in line to pay my elbow didn’t feel the familiar placement of the grip of my handgun in its usual place. Looked down and realized I had walked out without holstering the dang thing.

    • ken,

      While I am not a law enforcement officer, I do carry my self-defense handgun with me every day for the last several years. On one particular day (perhaps I was sleep deprived and particularly rushed) I left home and went to a store–and promptly noticed that I had failed to put my handgun in my holster before leaving my home.

      I imagine it happens to nearly everyone (who carry every day) at least once.

  4. The suspect approached my police cruiser with a gunm in his hand. I quickly pulled out my Glock and emptied the magazine, reloaded and shot him 15 more times..That’s when I gave him the command , Put your hands in the air. Dont move. Get on the ground. Dont move. Get on your stomach. Dont move.
    Backup arrived in less then 30 seconds and then we shot the suspect some more. After we ran out of bullets we tazed him until our tasers batteries died so I had to stand on his back while the backup patrolman chocked him into submission. While we were trying to subdue the perpetrator resisting arrest the K9 unit arrived and he released his German Nazi Shepherd. Officer Nazi dog captured his right leg and was trying to chew it off to keep from getting kicked all the while the criminal resisted and kept moving.
    We eventually subdued the violent individual by running over his head with the K9′ F150.

    • “I quickly pulled out my Glock and emptied the magazine, reloaded and shot him 15 more times.”

      How could you shoot him with an empty magazine — magic bullets?

      • With the Possum, you gotta imagine you’re talking to an actual marsupial. Then what he says makes more sense… 🙂

    • “…stand on his back while the backup patrolman…”

      “…stand on his back with my hobnail boots while the backup patrolman…”


      Can’t forget the hobnail boots.

  5. A LEO once told me that 5 years was the important thing. All the nasty stuff happened most often in the first 5 years as a LEO.

    • There’s an old aviation saying, the most dangerous pilot is the one with a thousand hours or so of total time. They begin to think they know everything there is to know about flying, and get complacent. That gets them killed… 🙁

  6. Long ago, well before certain movies came along an older NCO noticed my actions and demeaner and told me” Don’t get cocky, kid.” Wasn’t until a few years later I understood what he meant. Or as some younger folks say today, “Keep it real.”
    I sometimes wonder how I survived my first several years in the Army. While I was good at what I did, I was still a dumbass at times.

    • LOL. Could be worse, I was pulled over for failure to use turn signal then the officer said my DL was expired(it wasnt) said he could search the car because I didnt inform him I had a firearmn(Ks has no duty to inform unless asked) then I was handcuffed taken to jail booked in, bailed out, went to court plead not guilty, however the court refuses to appoint me a lawyer because the court says an expired DL is not a jailable offense? [$500 fine and up to 5 days in jail]
      And the cool thing was going to jail the officer drove 70 in a 65 when I mentioned “Oh, so you guys get to break the speed limit ” his reply ” I wont give someone a ticket for 5mph over the limit.” ???
      Next night followed officer around, he made 8 traffic stops in 2n1/2 hours in a town with a population of 980. Left of center, speeding, failure to signal turn within 500ft, roll through stop. I saw the role through stop. The rest was bullshit.

  7. Here in Ohio the Nut Case Republicans are trying to change the age when hiring cops from 21 to 18. Even the Police Departments are against it.

    None of this is surprising when it comes to the infinite stupidity of Republicans. Full male maturity does not even start until age 25 but what would the Republicans know about science.

    Everyone knows that the insanity of hiring 18 year old’s would result in more senseless and unnecessary cop killings.

    It seems for the first time in the history of evolution we have Republicans evolving back in time to the stupidity of the Neanderthals. As a matter of fact science has already proved that compared to Republicans the Neanderthals’ were geniuses.

    • So, what you’re saying is that age 25 should be the legal age. No voting, drinking, signing contracts or military service until 25.

      Explains why folks like you are still living at home with your mom. You ain’t adult enough to make it on your own.

    • So you’re saying no legal age until 25. No contract signing, no voting, no military service.

      Your comments will be popular amongst the young.

  8. I am still around although much older. I won a Henry 22lr in what was TTAG’s last writing contest for a free firearm. It belongs to my Granddaughter now.
    I am quite fortunate to have enjoyed a very event filled life. I am long escaped from Illinois and living in liberty loving Missouri now.

    • Thanks for checking in, Mr. Harton. We enjoy your articles! As for me, I’m reading them for the first time.

  9. Glad to hear, Bud.

    Don’t be a stranger… 🙂

  10. Only one incident of leaving w/o my firearm and I was lucky.

    After that, whenever I store my firearm in a lock box, or with a cable lock, my car keys stay with it. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to forget , but I would say that it makes driving away without my firearm quite a bit less likely.

  11. time was you’d pull over before the blues came on and hand your license [or the ticket(s) you were driving on] to him through his window…
    now they double flank you with torches.

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