A cop’s split-second decision: are these ‘toys’ becoming too realistic?


Disclaimer:  I’m strongly pro-Second Amendment and career law enforcement.  My reaction to this situation is one of surprise, as I didn’t honestly know these weapons existed in their current form.  I’m not advocating, in the least, that they be placed out of production or restricted, but I’m pushing for a full understanding for the owners of these weapons to understand what they have, what they look like, and what they represent, and then function with them with all that in mind.

I also know that American culture and the entertainment industry glorifies guns, but both our culture and entertainment sects fail in glamorizing gun responsibility and training.

Recently there have been some serious high profile scenarios involving bb/pellet guns, fake guns, replicas… and the police.

So, I have to admit I was a little surprised with what I found on the pages of a catalog while I was flipping through last week — incredibly realistic-looking pistol and rifle pellet guns. Ones that look identical to the actual weapons made in 9mm, .40, or .45, and in the case of the rifles, .223 or .308. 

I immediately thought about someone having one of these realistic looking guns with them during a traffic stop and a police officer having to make a split-second decision based on the appearance of the weapon if it were brandished or pulled in a threatening manner.


That exact scenario just happened in Southern California, where when a 17-year-old girl was driving erratically on the freeway, a sheriff’s deputy engaged her and tried to stop her but she rammed the deputy’s patrol unit, ultimately spun out, and when challenged, pulled out a pistol – and was killed.  It turns out it just fired pellets, but it looked exactly like a real semi-auto pistol. She surely knew that, and it got her killed.  And now her family mourns her loss and the deputy must live with that for the rest of his life.

Let’s look at these weapons:

A cop's split-second decision: are these 'toys' becoming too realistic?
A shot of some realistic looking bb/pellet guns. (Photo – James Lewis)

“Designed to match the originals”

With great power comes great responsibility. 

These look like real weapons.  They are real weapons.  They fire a projectile that can injure someone.  The real test, however, is for an officer to be able to tell the difference between a .177 chambered barrel end and one chambered in 9mm.  I’ve been around weapons all my life and spent hundreds of hours in class and on the firing range, and at 50 feet or 15 meters, I’m sure I couldn’t tell the difference.  Add to that challenge things like sweat in your eyes, watching more than one person at a time, and elements like weather and darkness, and you’re dealing with an impossible task with huge repercussions – all placed on a police officer or CCP carrier by someone who is ignorant and irresponsible of weapons safety and proper carrying procedures.

A cop's split-second decision: are these 'toys' becoming too realistic?
(Photo – James Lewis)


My good friend of 32 years and former USAF coworker Tracy Lindsey recently retired as a loss prevention manager for a large chain department store. I discussed with him the points of writing this article, and he related the following story:

“The pellet pistols kept walking off the shelf at one of my stores. We finally identified the teenage boys that were taking them and called PD.  By the time PD responded, they were off property in an old truck.

Dispatch called a few minutes later.  Officers were requesting I come to where they pulled them over. When I arrived, the boys were all handcuffed and sitting separately.  There were a dozen of those guns on the hood. 

An officer was scolding the driver because in his stupidity, he had reached towards one to ‘explain it was just a pellet gun.’  According to the officer’s very public admonishment, the officer had drawn down on them.  He was telling them how lucky they were they didn’t get shot.

Now take into mind the call went out as a theft in progress. No other information as to what they had stolen was shared as best I could hear listening to dispatch.  The officer was angry as hell because the boy put him in the position of nearly killing him over a pellet gun.”

Just this last week in Ohio, a 13-year-old young man was shot and killed by police. There was a huge uproar, ignorant comments directly blaming the police with no blame on the teenager or his actions.  Police approached four young men who were demanding money from people, and the presence of a gun had been reported. Police chased the young men into an alley, and one turned and pulled a weapon from his waistband.  He was shot and he died.


Use of force scenarios are difficult enough as they are, but factor in someone brandishing or threatening with something that looks just like a semi-auto pistol or rifle takes that split-second judgment call out of the officer’s hands.  The officer wants to go home safely and they want to protect innocent civilians in the area.

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A cop's split-second decision: are these 'toys' becoming too realistic?


An activist clearly critical of police, Phoenix minister Rev. Jarrett Maupin, protested heavily in Phoenix over an officer-involved shooting. He was subsequently invited by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department to participate in a force-on-force training scenario involving dealing with subjects with weapons.  In the video posted below, it’s obvious that the Reverend has a cool head about him when initially contacting the subjects.  It’s also obvious that he’s surprised how quickly things escalate when dealing with someone who is desperate.

Reverend Maupin stated,

“I didn’t understand how important compliance was, and that people need to comply for their own safety.”


Long, long ago, in 1976 to be exact, in the summer between my 6thgrade and 7thgrade years, I bought a Crosman BB and pellet gun combination that was modeled after a Colt Series 70 1911 .45.  This black pistol weighed the same as my older brother’s real .45.  I used it for target practice, and after a couple of years, it broke, and I tossed it. With that said, I never once thought about carrying it with me in public or in my vehicle (licensed to drive at 13) and would have never brandished it or threatened anyone with it.  I was taught proper weapons safety and handling in the Boy Scouts, and that was reinforced by lessons from my father and brothers.

A cop's split-second decision: are these 'toys' becoming too realistic?

Here’s a quick test for you.  You don’t have to tell anyone or thump your chest that you can spot the differences….but quickly, you have two seconds – spot the differences in the Walther PK380 and the Walther CP99!  One is a pellet gun, and you’re standing 50 feet away from a person with one in their hand after you’ve responded to a violent domestic call. Can you read the model number and see the difference in the end of the barrel from 50 feet away?

A cop's split-second decision: are these 'toys' becoming too realistic?
Could you spot the difference in a split-second?


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