Guns, Gear & Skills

The Fifty Dollar Colt

I’d never realized how thick the curtain was that separated the cockpit from the passenger area on the Dassault Falcon. When the pilot pulled it back to go use the head, the early morning sun seared my eyes till light was the only thing you could see. Had Jesus suddenly appeared inside the airplane I wouldn’t have been surprised. So bright the light of the morning sun. The curtain closed and the darkness once more enveloped us.

Trying to settle back to sleep was no use, the raw sunlight had proved to be the ultimate alarm clock, albeit after being awake since Friday and, it now Sunday morning, it was the most unwelcome of all alarm clocks. Checking my chronograph, it was in the 7:30s. Trying to calculate when we had left Las Vegas I had us somewhere over Colorado, or possibly Kansas.

I looked around the darkened interior of the private jet and could make the outline of my Principal on one couch, his executive assistant on the other. I fished around for my Surefire 6P flashlight in my pocket until I remembered that it now resided in Vegas having fallen out of my pocket somewhere in the last fifteen to twenty hours. No doubt making some bouncer in a strip club happy. It seems ridiculous now, in the age of all things tactical but, in 2000 tactical lights didn’t come equipped with pocket clips. I fished around in my bag for a minute and found a small low powered pen light and made my way to the galley to get a cup of coffee, moving quietly as not to awaken he-who-paid-for-my-services.

Coffee in one hand, a bagel between my teeth and an apple in my hand I made my way back to the seat and opened up Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and once more attempted in vain to read the Englishman’s prose. Eventually closing the book and letting my thoughts drift. A couple of weeks prior to the trip I had been in my local gun shop and had spied a 1991A1 Colt Combat Commander in 45 ACP. 

The price tag on it was $550.

Not unreasonable, but still pricey enough for a twenty-five year old in the corporate executive protection game to give pause.

As the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was in mid-stride the 9mm had struggled in the market, as the 40 S&W began it’s rise in earnest and the 1911 and the 45 Automatic cartridge was once more center stage for the personal defense pistol. Regular Colt Commanders had a steel slide with an aluminum frame, something that did not interest me. The Combat Commander was all steel and, that did. They just were not common to find in the used handgun market, at least locally. I had two other 1911s, one was a very reliable 1911A1 complete with those bitty little GI sights. Not really something you want to be relying on given the fact that protection work generally meant, if you were going to get in a gunfight you were going to be in a gunfight around bystanders. My other 1911 was my much beloved Colt Combat Elite, with it’s blued slide and stainless frame (something from an earlier gun trend you may or may not have been around for) Somewhere along the line someone told me I needed to safe queen the thing so in the late 1990s I stopped carrying it, opting instead for, what I thought at the time, a perfect marriage of gun and cartridge in the form of a 9mm Kahr. That was often carried in Thunderwear. 

So lest you ever think that I have never carried a sub-compact 9mm in the appendix position I did. 

In 1998.

The Combat Commander that laid under glass in the local gun shop seemed to beckon me more than most any other handgun before or since. There was nothing fancy about it but, it also wasn’t some ugly, utilitarian thing. Just good old American steel, in the old war horse cartridge.

“What are you thinking about?” said the voice of my principal through the darkness, “A 45 automatic that I’m wanting.” he himself was a bit of a gun aficionado, only without the budget constraints, as they were. Soon enough a voice crackled over the planes intercom that we were about twenty-minutes out. The shades went up, the chatting soon began and the dark and quiet solitude of flying was over.

Loading bags into the bag of the Range Rover parked on the tarmac I remember feeling toxic, not wanting to be awake and planning on sleeping until Monday if I had anything to say about. A short time later we pulled into the driveway of the Principal’s home, I was slightly thrilled that I had managed to not wreck the expensive SUV by falling asleep at the wheel, though I wasn’t quite sure how we had got from the airport to the house.

After making sure all was right, correct and positive in so far as my responsibilities went I started making my way towards my Jeep that was parked in what I called “the servant’s driveway”.

“Plan on being back around 4:30. We’ll get an early dinner and call it a night.”. Suddenly Paradise Lost was more than just a book and through the thousand yard stare I looked at my Client and said 

“Never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep…”

“…..Okay so plan on being back around 5.”

I was now approaching 40 hours without significant sleep and wondered if I should just sleep in the Jeep, shower with a garden hose worrying about all of it later. Somehow I managed to home and into bed. When my alarm went off at 3:30 that afternoon I rolled out of bed to discover I still had a shoe on. That shoe had been on since Friday and I could feel the laces piercing into my foot.

Despite the fact that the gravity seemed excessive in the afternoon, I showered, shaved and suited up and made for the door, not before swapping out the Kahr 9mm for the 1911 in the gun safe. If I wasn’t going to be buying that Combat Commander anytime soon I could at least still slide a rampant Colt into the Galco shoulder rig.

Fortunately, dinner did prove to be a relatively quiet affair, albeit it wasn’t exactly an early evening but, I had long dismissed that idea with this Principal. Eventually the restaurant closed and, the hand was forced. 

I had concluded in the drive back to the residence that if the “Ninjas in the trees”, as one of my instructors had once referred to as imaginary threats, actually decided to attack us this night, we were all dead. I was physically and mentally exhausted. 

Finally the black SUV found it’s way up the driveway and into the parked position. We often times like to rage against the idea of routine, that it can lead to complacency, which it can least one take their eye off the ball for too long. It can also see you through when you bear the minimum capacity to function. After clearing the house to ensure that anything that went bump in the night was visiting elsewhere, I wondered outside to make sure all lights were lit. 

The grounds secured I returned inside to, hopefully, be dismissed for the evening and then sleep. Wonderful, beautiful, the much denied, sleep.

My Principal was standing in the kitchen, the house quiet and dark. We made brief small talk about the weekend and, cut me loose. As I headed for the door he said, “Oh…I have something for you.”, I turned around and saw him fishing through his small black bag that lay on the kitchen counter. Handing me a small fold of bills he said “Thanks for the work, thought this might help with that new .45 you were talking about.”. 

Things, such as that do not happen much in the Executive Protection world. Even with the really good clients, which he was. I was truly grateful, saying as much to him.

Tossing my work bag into the Grand Cherokee’s passenger seat I sat there for a couple of minutes, before finally pulling the folded bills from the breast pocket of my shirt. 

And then there it was. 

Five, one hundred dollar bills.

Glancing at my watch, I saw that it was going to be a long ten hours before the gunshop opened in the morning. Now how was a guy supposed to sleep with that on his mind. ~~