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1969

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UD with a 9mm Pistol

John Stachan, 1968-1969


What not to do with a 9mm Pistol

On 23rd May 2006, I read a story on our message log concerning a 9mm pistol UD which occurred in the C Sqn 1 Armd Regt lines. This prompted me to recall a 9mm pistol incident which I know occurred within the 106 lines but was never "officially reported". For history sake, I have decided to recount the details of this incident.

This is not the story about Milton Pearson losing his pistol during a patrol – that was official. I, as the QM, had to organize the write off of that pistol as an operational loss!

This was a 9mm pistol UD incident that occurred in the Q office tent erected as a temporary office adjacent the HQ building in the early days before the new buildings were erected.

In early 1969, an Army Reserve (then CMF) Captain, whose name I cannot remember, had arrived for a two week familiarization visit. I was required to brief him on unit matters from an equipment perspective and issue him with a 9mm pistol during his stay. He advised me he had never used a 9mm pistol before and was only familiar with the .38 cal revolver which was still in service with the CMF and some ARA units in Australia.

I gave him instructions on handling a 9mm pistol –

  • use of the magazine,
  • loading,
  • unloading,
  • safety,
  • implications of cocking the weapon,
  • clearing the weapon,
  • stripping and cleaning, and so on.

I demonstrated everything to him using my own pistol (unloaded) and got him to run through all the drills a number of times.

When it seemed like he had an understanding of the pistol, I re-emphasized all the matters relating to SAFETY and SOPs — things like:

  • Know the clearance procedure —
    1. magazine off,
    2. make sure the magazine is empty,
    3. safety off, activate the slide and check the breach to make sure no round is chambered,
    4. release the slide (which cocks the pistol);
    5. reinsert the cleared empty magazine;
    6. with pistol pointing down engage the trigger to release the firing mechanism;
    7. with the pistol now un-cocked reengage the safety,
  • Whenever the pistol is handled for cleaning always go through the formal safety clearing procedure even if the pistol is supposedly unloaded and in safe mode. When the pistol is reassembled the firing mechanism has to be cocked so the un-cocking procedure using the empty magazine has to be followed to return the pistol to a totally safe mode.
  • The SOP for the pistol — when worn in the workshop and TF area, the pistol was to be uncocked with empty magazine on, the loaded magazine was to be secured separately in the holster magazine pouch.
  • Outside the wire - holster the pistol with a loaded magazine on, pistol uncocked, and safety on and never holster a loaded and cocked pistol , even with the safety on.
  • Only cock a loaded pistol for an engagement or an authorized firing activity.

My intention was later to take him to the unit test range to fire off some familiarization and practice rounds.

Sgt Noel Crawford, the Q SGT, issued him a holster, two empty magazines and a number of live 9mm rounds. The CAPT loaded all the rounds into one of the magazines. He was handed an uncocked pistol (no magazine on) with the expectation he would clear the pistol before holstering it.

Without Noel or I having time to realise what he was about to do, this bloke slapped the loaded magazine into the pistol, cocked the pistol, pointed the pistol at the floor and pulled the trigger.

The bullet went neatly through the tent floorboards between Noel Crawford's feet.

Bloody hell! The man was given a pistol which he was asked to clear. He'd done all the drills a number of times and I had re-emphasised this to him just minutes earlier. What happened to the empty magazine and checking the breach?

Noel and I were stunned (change of underwear later I think).

The CAPT was visibly shaken as well coming to the realisation of what he had just done and was now waving the pistol around not thinking about the next round which was already chambered and ready to go.

I calmly told him (I might have been yelling) to point the pistol away from us, take his finger off the trigger, place the pistol on the floor and step away. Fortunately, he did just that. I then removed the magazine, cleared the chambered round and made the pistol safe.

The next action was for this 2LT to give the CAPT a thorough spray — I said quite a few choice words; imbecile and some other stronger expletives come to mind. I think he said something about it being out of place for a junior officer to talk like that to him so I told him I couldn't care less or words to that effect. I reminded him of the consequences of a UD and if he were to be charged the effect it would have on his reputation/career etc in the CMF. I think I also may have asked him if he had a ticket for the flight home because I suggested he might need it very soon!

Immediately after the UD, a couple of the orderly room staff came out of the HQ building because they heard a noise which sounded "something like a shot being fired". Noel and I told them we didn't hear anything.

In the end, we issued him with a pistol so he could be seen to be carrying a sidearm where and when required, but I refused to give him any live rounds. I suggested he stay out of harms way in the TF base area.

I later made CAPT Bob Stuart, the Adjutant, aware of the incident and I think Bob determined to let sleeping dogs lie after he "had a chat" with the officer.

The Capt obviously said nothing and apparently word didn't spread around the unit as is the want with incidents of this type.

I was so appalled with this bloke's recklessness and lack of common sense I kept my distance from him after the incident and I cannot recall seeing him around a lot. I do not know what he did or where he went during his stay. I suspect Bob Stuart may have "sent him to Coventry" by arranging detachments to other RAEME elements in the TF - for him to experience some 1st line repair tasks activity first hand, but not on our patch!

I know we got the pistol back and we didn't have to account for any lost 9mm rounds.

I have spoken to Claude Palmer who was the OC at the time. Claude has confirmed Bob Stuart didn't brief him about this UD nor did he hear about it from anyone else.

I also spoke recently with Noel Crawford, 35 years after the event, to make sure that it was OK to mention his name in this article. Noel recalls the incident very clearly and he confirmed that he kept the matter under wraps at the time and he had not spoken about it to anyone since.

As 106's daily log supposedly recorded all the matters of significance that occurred around that time, this incident never happened

John Strachan

25th May 2006