Southeast of Phoenix, Arizona, in the beautiful Sonoran Desert lies Pinal County. It is the exact image many people conjure up in their minds when they think of Arizona; saguaro cactus, rolling desert and stark terrain. The law in this setting for a cowboy Western is none other than Sheriff Mark Lamb.
The American Sheriff Mark Lamb
Complete with cowboy hat, this tall, larger-than-life lawman has become known as the American Sheriff. He was elected as the 24th sheriff of Pinal County in 2017. Lamb oversees a county the size of Connecticut and manages more than 650 employees within the department.
Pinal County is in my backyard and, with little more than a polite request, Sheriff Lamb agreed to meet me on the range to talk guns, law enforcement and where it is all headed. Lamb was born and raised in Hawaii, but his roots are firmly planted in Chandler, Arizona. This is where he went to junior high and graduated from Chandler High School. This deep connection to Arizona is what has earned him his popularity. Not only with residents of Pinal County, but also with people around the country.
It was the dead of winter in Arizona, which means it was 72 degrees when the Sheriff rolled up to the range. After a quick handshake, we immediately began talking shop. I have personally seen a long, rolling evolution in duty guns for law enforcement. Gone are the days of the FBI running .38 Colt Detective Specials, and the push has been toward higher capacity handguns.
As with other LE professionals, the gun that Sheriff Lamb carried was not based on brand loyalty, but on performance. I asked him what the current duty weapon was for Pinal County.
“We had representatives from all the major companies send guns, and our instructors went through and tested them all,” he said. “In the end we chose the Glock 17M.” While durability was a major factor, he also noted, “We are seeing a new generation that struggles with shooting” and the 9mm is simply easier to run.
New Calls For Duty
As we continued to talk about evolution, Sheriff Lamb noted, “We feel it is important for our officers to be the best shot possible, so we are going to optics on handguns as well.”
I have seen this evolution firsthand and in fact had in my possession a gun that’s part of that evolution.
The Walther PDP full-size is a new 9mm pistol that fits the template for a good duty gun. The new PDP is built around what I consider to be the future of handguns—pistols that are designed around the use of a red-dot optic. All the new versions of the PDP come optics-ready with a variety of mounting plates to fit just about any major optic on the market. Walther goes much further than that, though, and has designed the gun with what the company describes as Red Dot Ergonomics. This boils down to a design that enables shooters to maximize the benefit of utilizing a red-dot on their pistols.
Sheriff Lamb jumped at the chance to test drive a new gun, so we rigged up and went downrange. I had my opinion of the gun, but was curious what the Sheriff would think. His summary: “I liked it a lot. Especially the fact that it had an optic on it. It felt good to shoot and fit my larger hand really well.”
Nines & Signs Of The Time
As we stood admiring the group he had shot (the accompanying photo is legit!), we revisited the current state of new officers entering the field. While they are dedicated, many do not have the background that many seasoned officers had when they started.
“It may be bad to say, but they don’t grow up shooting and fighting and doing those things we did 20 or 30 years ago,” Sheriff Lamb said. “Maybe it’s not as much manual labor, but I just don’t know that the strength is there. Transitioning to 9mm has given us success.” He also showed that he is truly dedicated to his constituents by explaining that 9mm ammunition is less expensive and, in turn, puts less burden on the taxpayers.
Our day on the range ended too quickly for me, as I could have talked to Sheriff Lamb for hours. There is no question he has earned the right to be called the American Sheriff. He was the same person on the range that you see in interviews and TV appearances.
The end of his bio on the county website says it best: “As a constitutional conservative, Mark has strong convictions and is courageous in fighting for the citizens he serves. Mark believes strongly in our Republic and our Constitution, he is a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights and the enforcement of all of our laws, including those that pertain to fighting illegal immigration, and he is determined to protect the rights and freedoms of the people whom he serves.”
Athlon Outdoors Video Drop
You didn’t think we’d leave you hanging…There’s no silencing this Lamb! Be sure to check out Combat Handguns’ exclusive video content with Sheriff Mark Lamb at personaldefenseworld.com. Additionally our publishing partners at Skillset magazine have a great podcast with Sheriff Lamb. Visit SkillsetMag.com to give it a listen.
This article was originally published in the Combat Handguns May/June 2021 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.