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Tales of a Law Enforcement Armorer

By: Friedrich Seiltgen

One of the more fun parts of my law enforcement career was being selected for armorer duty.

In a previous life, I assembled components for the Martin Marietta TADS/PNVS Night Vision & Targeting System mounted on the AH-64 Apache Helicopter Gunship, so I was familiar with assembling small parts into tight spaces.

In all, I was certified as an armorer on the Sigarms P226, Colt M4, H&K MP-5, G-36, and UMP45, Remington 870, and Glock. The Instructors were top-notch and had to know the product lines inside out. They told us the do’s and don’ts, and inevitably would tell us tales of other students. Things that make you go, “Damn that’s stupid!”
Whether you’re a law enforcement armorer or gun store armorer, you’re gonna see and hear the same things. People will disassemble firearms and then can’t figure out how to re-assemble them. Then they will bring it to you and say, “I found it like that.”
Even the people at the factory warranty station receive guns assembled incorrectly or with missing parts. Folks, believe me, it’s much better to tell the truth from the start. Guns are test-fired prior to leaving the factory. If there were parts missing or assembled improperly, it wouldn’t go bang.

Glock
One time, a police department armorer decided to take all the departments’ new Glock pistols and place them in a dishwasher in order to clean out all the “packing grease.” New Glocks come with a “little” extra grease.

Gunpowder readers who deal in vintage guns know that some may be packed in a heavy grease like Cosmoline, as they have been put in long-term storage. These guns must be cleaned properly to remove the grease. Apparently, this rocket scientist thought he was working on a WWII Garand or something. When this armorer took them out of the dishwasher, all the pistol slides had a white color to them. The instructor explained that the metal slide has pores, and they were now filled with dishwashing detergent.

Another Glock owner decided to test Glock’s Cerakote finish toughness and proceeded to take a piece of emery cloth to the slide. He polished the slide to a shiny finish and then wanted a new gun. He was told the slide is designed for normal use and sanding it voids the warranty.

And finally, with Glocks, in order to remove the slide, you must depress the trigger. Altogether, GPM readers, what’s the first rule of firearms safety? “Treat all firearms as if they are loaded!”

There have been several incidents in which officers or armorers went to remove the slide for cleaning and maintenance and removed the magazine, but didn’t clear the round in the chamber prior to pulling the trigger. They then had a hole installed in their hand because it was in front of the muzzle!

What’s the second rule of firearms safety, folks? “Never let the muzzle cover anything that you are not willing to destroy.”
Please make sure the gun is unloaded!

Heckler & Koch
While learning the complexities of the H&K MP-5 SD, “SD” meaning “suppressed,” we were told that the suppressor equipped with the gun had a lifespan measured in rounds fired. Once that number was reached, the suppressor was returned to H&K and a new one installed.

The suppressor was “cleaned” by simply tapping it in a hard surface to allow some of the soot out. One SWAT operator decided he was going to clean out the suppressor his way by washing it out with gasoline!

As suppressors go, they generally fall into two types: baffles or wipes. The H&K is manufactured with baffles, and there are all kinds of areas where liquid can hide. After installing it back on the gun, the operator fired the weapon, and there was a loud bang. After the smoke cleared, the suppressor was peeled back and looked like an exploding cigar! Doh!

The MP5 also has a unique operating system using roller delayed blowback. The cyclic rate is determined by the locking piece in the bolt carrier assembly. These pieces are specific to each model, determined by barrel length, and are not interchangeable.

The SD has a shorter barrel than a standard MP5, so an SD locking piece will not work on a Standard MP5. When SWAT operators are done with a training session, it’s time to clean guns.

The guns are disassembled and usually put in a cleaning tank. Sometimes, parts get switched, and the wrong timing pieces end up in the wrong guns. Next time they train, some guns only fire once and stop. Hopefully the next time the gun is fired, it’s not during a search warrant! There’s a saying in law enforcement: “Click is the loudest sound you’ll hear in a gunfight!”

Making mistakes is normal, but if you have an issue with a firearm, please get a professional to fix it. Do not use a firearm if it’s missing parts or parts are broken. There was an incident near Orlando International Airport when a hunter, carrying a Remington 700 in .308, put a round through his thigh. He accomplished this when the trigger brushed up against his body because the trigger guard was broken off the rifle. While he suffered major trauma to the leg, we were told he didn’t lose it.

Regardless of what you’re shooting, do it safely!

Friedrich Seiltgen is a retired Master Police Officer with 20 years of service with the Orlando Police Department. He currently conducts training in Lone Wolf Terrorism, Firearms, First Aid, and Law Enforcement Vehicle Operations in Florida. His writing has appeared in The Counter Terrorist Magazine, Homeland Security Today and The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International. Contact him at polizei22@msn.com.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons: By Francisco Infante, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6206399

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.