I grew up shooting, as I posted earlier, back in the 70's. The pistol of choice by anyone I respected was the 1911 .45 ACP. It was the gold standard against which all other pistols were compared. Next runner-up, and a very close second, was the Smith and Wesson Model 19. These were the two pistols I told my young self I would own one day, and in my mind, then I would own the best of what was available. As a young man looking for direction and some self-motivation, I turned down a full-ride scholarship to an Ivy League school and decided instead to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. It was a decision my father was against, but my mother, whose father and grandfather were both career military officers, respected my decision and felt that I knew best what I needed. I'm glad she did; had I went to college, I surely would have been home by Christmas with low grades and no results to show. I was horribly unmotivated, spoiled, and without any real direction in my life. Suffice it to say, the Marine Corps Drill Instructors fixed that problem for me. I spent 12 years in the Corps, attaining the rank of SSgt and turning down a promotion to GySgt to get out for the sake of my children and move closer to my family. While this was very hard for me to do, in the end, it turned out to be the best decision for my family that I ever made. My dad passed away three years after I got out. Had I waited to retire from the Corps, my kids never would have known my dad they way they do, to know how kind, gentle, and wise he was. He also enjoyed taking them shooting and fishing, two things both my kids love to this day. As a Marine in 1986, the weapons we were issued and trained with were the M16A2 (brand new at the time, we were one of the first platoons at MCRD San Diego to use them and I still remember my rifle number: 6103938) and the M1911A1. As a Military Policeman, I trained with the M1911A1 at Lackland AFB (MP School) and when assigned to my first duty station, MCAS El Toro, I was issued an M1911A1 as my sidearm. I was ecstatic with both. The M16A2 was easy to shoot, had light recoil, and I mastered it quickly. Having shot flies off logs in Wisconsin as a kid helped with my trigger technique, and shooting pistols near my home helped me master the M1911A1. I felt very comfortable with both, and couldn't be happier. Bonus was when we trained with the Orange County Sheriff's Department at their Laser Village, we got to use Smith & Wesson Model 19's. I was truly happy. Then came fall 1989, and while sitting in class waiting for our training on counter-knife techniques, our operations chief and armorers walked into the room with a big green crate. They opened the crate and the Gunny pulled out a single pistol: A Beretta M9. He told us that these were our new pistols, and that we would be going to the range later that day to qualify with them and that we would be changing over from the M1911A1's to the M9's effective immediately. We were all taken aback, and some were quite outwardly hesitant of adopting this new pistol (which, in the Corps, can get you some serious one-on-one private time with the Gunny), but we were told we had no choice and this was how it was going to be. We were taught how to field strip it, clean it, and given time to just get to know it. I liked how it fit my hand a little better than the M1911A1, but it was 9mm, and many of us were unsure about the caliber. We were told it was a NATO requirement, and that's why we had to give up our beloved M1911's. There were some Marines who never quite accepted the M9, and hearkened back to the days when we carried M1911A1's. They said that the 1911's fit their hands better, that they felt more confident in the round, or that they were able to shoot it more accurately than the M9. They were in the minority most of the time, as the majority of the Marines I knew preferred the M9's. As for the nostalgia factor, there was nothing cooler than carrying a pistol that was made during WWII by Union Switch & Signal. It was a beautiful pistol and my assigned pistol shot very well. That afternoon, I qualified with the highest score I had ever achieved on the pistol qualification range. I always shot expert with the pistol, but this score was just 6 points shy of a perfect score. I wasn't the only one. The vast majority of my peers also shot their best score, and this bolstered everyone's confidence that the M9 could be a pistol we could effectively carry and use. As we sat and talked after shooting, many of us agreed that while the 9mm may not have the stopping power that the .45 ACP had, at least we could get rounds on target more consistently. Me, on the left, as a young Corporal in Bahrain in 1990. On the right is my friend HM3 Peter Rona. Where I was stationed, there were a few situations where the M9 was put to the ultimate test, and it performed as expected and with results that, while not as devastating as a .45 would have been, were devastating enough. It was a solid pistol for garrison work, and as an MP, was the pistol lots of law enforcement personnel carried in the communities that we trained with. All seemed well. In 1990, I deployed as part of the giant buildup known as Operation Desert Shield. With the exception of the Staff NCO's and Officers, we were issued M16A2 service rifles that were brand new and sticky with cosmoline. We spent hours getting them cleaned up and ready and oiled up. That last part proved to be an issue as we arrived in Bahrain for our first sand storm. We learned to very, very lightly oil the rifles to not attract too much dust and sand. The rifles operated quite well: us Marines were trained well in rifle maintenance, and whenever we had a moment's down-time, we were cleaning our weapons. The vast majority of the time, they didn't need any cleaning, but having been taught that our rifle is our life, we never missed an opportunity to make sure it wasn't operating perfectly. The M9's were a little better in dealing with dirt and sand, but also needed regular maintenance to keep working properly. I had many friends who were air crew that were always cleaning their M9's, but they told me that they were pretty happy with it except for its weight; with 15 rounds, it was a heavy pistol to wear. While I was still on active duty, I acquired two pistols: The M1911 (a Springfield; remember, I was active duty, and not rich) and a Beretta 92FS that I received a very healthy military discount on. I never did get the Smith & Wesson Model 19, but one day, I will. If anything, just to make the 10 year old boy trapped inside my memories beam with pride.