Column: Oven safe to 350 degrees - or the case of the cooked gun
Officers deal with their firearm like a tool. It is inspected daily. If the gun gets rained on or wet, rolled around on during a scuffle or fired, it is cleaned and lubricated as soon as possible.
An officer's life may depend on that firearm. Many officers in the area may never fire their weapon "on the street," but that gun must be ready to be drawn and defend the officer all the time.
Keeping a weapon safe at home is of paramount concern. Most officers with children have gun safes and place their pistols in them as soon as they come home. Some officers leave their service weapons in their locker at the station. It is not mandatory that officers carry their firearms 24 hours a day.
Before an officer has children, he may keep the firearm on a shelf in the closet, a dresser drawer or in a nightstand drawer. It is up to the officer, but it is each one's duty to keep it safe, secure and out of reach of children, or anyone else for that matter.
One of the finest officers to ever wear an Ann Arbor Police Department badge was a seemingly eternally youthful man who was a hustler from the day he walked in the front door until the day he retired. His boundless energy would rival the Energizer Bunny. He made his own "luck" by working hard and he brought some of the department’s best arrests through the station doors.
Photo by BankingBum | Wikimedia Commons
Once as a young patrolman, he was in a rush to leave on vacation. He lived in a student area, and he was worried about the security of his apartment. Police officers take so many home invasions reports during their career that they figure sooner or later they will become a victim as well.
The young officer was in a hurry to make his flight to paradise. He wanted to protect his department-issued firearm, and there was no time to drive it to the station, lock it in his locker and catch his flight. So, being resourceful, he decided to hide his Sig Sauer semiautomatic pistol in the broiler drawer of his oven.
He had a great vacation and caught an evening flight home a week or so later. When he arrived home, he was hungry from the day's travel. He checked the refrigerator and found it bare. He checked the freezer and found a frozen pizza.
I once got advice from a party storeowner up north named "Lucky" who walked with a Harley limp and spoke in a deep gruff voice. He warned me, "Ya gotta preheat your oven to 400 degrees, otherwise a pizza will be crap!" Sound advice for preparing frozen pizza.
I’m not sure if the young officer ever met Lucky or just read the pizza box, but either way he started preheating the oven to 400 degrees as he unpacked.
He was in his bedroom unpacking when suddenly there was a loud KA-BANG! The explosion probably reminded him immediately where he had hidden his gun. He ran to the kitchen and found that several of the rounds in the magazine of his gun had heated and exploded. The gun fragmented like a grenade inside the oven. No one was hurt, but the gun was destroyed.
The officer reported the incident to a command officer. He turned in all the pieces of his gun to the department Firearms Coordinator who kept it as a "learning aid" for other officers. The officer was counseled and issued a new firearm, but felt terrible about the mishap. He was an exemplary officer who prided himself in being the best, and he had made a serious mistake.
An incident like that can not be kept secret in a police station. The officer’s next shift briefing would be like a group therapy session. All the officers on the shift would support the officer in his time of strife — NOT!
The officer who makes a mistake — and all officers make mistakes in their career — is in for a lot of briefing humor at his expense. It is in police terms their "day in the barrel," where every one pokes fun at the errant officer.
This officer had to endure many jokes at his expense, but he knew the drill and endured the jabs in good spirit. One of the officers, who will retire next week, diabolically crafted the funniest jab using a label maker.
That officer placed a label on the flat or butt end of his gun’s magazine. The label read "OVEN SAFE TO 350 DEGREES." As I recall the labels caught on, and half the shift had placed them on their guns. I can't imagine what citizens must have thought if they read the label, but they were worn for several days.
The Ann Arbor Police Department learns from its mistakes, and I am proud to relate that no officer has over baked his firearm since that unfortunate incident.
Lock it up, don't leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.