Stop me if you’ve heard this favorite tale of the Tactical Timmy. It generally goes like this: “cops that trained on a square range were found dead after gunfights with brass in their pockets, because their square range training had always had them picking up their brass. So when the REAL FIGHT(tm) happened, they picked up their brass and were killed.”
I’ve heard this tale so many times I can’t actually recall where I heard it first. It did however come up again recently in a discussion of Tactical Timmy’s and their Turtle stance, so I decided to actually do some research into the subject. As it turns out, like so much of Tactical Timmy lore, it’s probably wrong.
One of the most often linked to posts regarding the brass in the pocket is an essay by Dave Grossman, the author of Killogy. LTC Grossman is notable for his backwards and incorrect views on violent video games; he is a proponent of the incorrect view that video games help train people to become violent killers. As such, I regard everything he posts with a grain of salt, and take careful pains to verify any information he presents as fact. Here is an excerpt from one of his essays where he mentions the “brass in the pocket” issue:
After the smoke had settled in many real gunfights, officers were shocked to discover empty brass in their pockets with no memory of how it got there. On several occasions, dead cops were found with brass in their hands, dying in the middle of an administrative procedure that had been drilled into them.
In the words of the internet, “citation needed.” However, because of his reputation, no one ever really challenges this statement, despite the fact that it seems so ludicrous. So we continued to research this and see if there were ever any factual reports of this happened.
This search lead me to the Newhall Incident, a fairly famous shooting involving the California Highway Patrol in the 1970s. Without recounting all the details, it would seem that this incident is by and large the genesis of the “spent brass in the pockets of dead cops” story. It had been reported by various non-official sources that one of the fallen officers, Officer James Pence was found with spent brass in his pocket. However, this was not the case, as Massad Ayoob noted in his excellent February 2013 article “New info on Newhall.”
Since the incident, it was said Officer James Pence was found with six spent casings in his trouser pocket, having been trained to pocket his brass before reloading.
In September 2011, Mike [Woods] told me the LASD file included a scene photo of Pence’s six spent .357 casings lying on the asphalt where he fell. By third quarter 2012, he was able to show me that evidence photo. I can now accept Pence did indeed eject his empties in his desperate attempt to reload and get back in the fight.
So the actual evidence photo disproves the famous myth of revolver brass found in the pocket. At this juncture, with evidence strongly on our side, we can absolutely call this one 100% busted…or can we?
In his Handgunner article, Ayoob mentions that former Border Patrol officer Bill Jordan wrote in the 1960s of officers finding spent brass in their pockets after a gunfight with no recollection of picking it up. Unfortunately, that information is anecdotal at best, and as we’ve seen with the Newhall incident, anecdotal evidence from 2nd and 3rd hand parties isn’t reliable.
The bottom line is this: there are no verifiable incidents of dead officers being found with revolver brass in their pockets after a gunfight. The next time someone tries to use this saw to “prove” some point about “bad muscle memory”, just drop some facts on them. Ask them where they heard it. Get sources, get sites. Don’t let bad information go unchallenged.