T-Men of the Treasury (Dec, 1936)

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T-Men of the Treasury

OLD Tom Quisenberry, desperado and smuggler, a law unto himself in a remote section of the Virginia coast, unwittingly started the existence of the government “T”-men, sometimes called Trigger men, a new law-enforcement agency of the Treasury department that now bids fair to rival the famous G-men of the Department of Justice.

Old Tom violated a smuggling law in 1934. He then shot and killed Corp. Clarence McClary, Virginia policeman who sought to apprehend him, and wounded George C. Fitzpatrick, treasury enforcement agent.

This last act made Uncle Sam mad. His unwritten law is that nobody can shoot one of his officers and get away with it. So the Treasury department went after Old Tom with a vengeance. It called out the coast guard, armed them with an airplane and machine gun, marshalled a formidable army of other law-enforcement officers’ and rushed them after

Tom who had a hideout in an out-of-the-way part of the shore. Old Tom finally was nabbed. This man hunt, seemingly insignificant in itself, revealed to treasury officials the tremendous advantages to be realized from effective coordination of their various law-enforcement agencies. Why not weld them all into a single compact unit, reasoned the treasury secretary?

For years all branches of the federal police under the direction of the treasury department had gone their own various ways in the matter of firearms training. There hadn’t been much attempt at standardization. Men owned their own guns, bought their own ammunition and did their shooting in accordance with their own ideas. Today’s situation is entirely different. All the treasury undercover agents have been grouped into the “T-men,” or Trigger men, a cohesive organization under the direct thumb of Secretary Morgenthau. Every one of them is a marksman, if not an expert, with revolver, pistol, rifle and machine gun. In inaugurating his new organization, the treasury head first decided upon a more efficient method of training his men in the use of firearms than previously was in existence, so that henceforth there would be less danger of death at the hands of those who take the law in their own hands. And if there were not enough men to do the job in the particular division concerned, there should be a reserve corps that could be called in cases of special emergency.

Thus arose the T-men. They compose the personnel of eight different units of the treasury department; secret service, White House police, customs, alcohol tax unit, guards of the mints and assay offices, treasury guards and bureau of engraving and printing guards. And to this list may be added the guards of the federal deposit insurance corporation. All in all there are more than 5,700 T-men. They range the country over, some in one city, some in another. They go by districts throughout the United States, wherever there exists a branch of one of the above agencies.

The splendid course of firearms training accorded these men is under the direction of the coast guard. Chief supervisor is Commander J. E. Stika, with headquarters in Washington. The nation’s capital city has perhaps the largest single group of this far-flung personnel. Here is located the treasury department, with its millions in gold, silver and currency; here is the President’s residence and office quarters. Here, too, a branch of the alcohol tax unit.

The firearms training given the members of the treasury personnel in Washington is representative of the training given members scattered throughout the United States. In Washington are three target ranges for small arms. These ranges are fifteen yards each with a brick wall for a backstop. In front of this brick wall is a steel plate set at an angle of forty-five degrees, top out. This deflects the bullets fired into a bed of sand three feet deep at the base of the target.

Before the trainees are permitted to start firing they receive instruction in the use of a gun from coast guard experts. The principal things touched upon in these preliminary lectures are safety in the use of a revolver and pistol, sighting, aiming, position and trigger squeeze. The term, “trigger squeeze,” may confuse the novice. The T-men never pull a trigger. What they do is “squeeze” it. The revolver or pistol is gripped firmly in the hand at the moment of fire and “squeezed” with pressure applied to the trigger. This makes for steadiness and accuracy. The natural movement of a revolver held at arm’s length is one of wavering indecision. First it is on the target, then it is off. It points above or it points down. But at some time or other during this wavering the weapon is directly on the target. The main idea is to hold the revolver there steadily for that fraction of a second while the trigger is being released. With the gun held firmly in the hand, the side braced by the thumb, and the trigger squeezed instead of pulled, accuracy of fire is at its highest point of efficiency. Aiming, position, sighting, may all be important, and the trainee be well nigh perfect in their application. But unless he knows how to release the trigger, he may never qualify as a marksman.

Training is first given with .22 caliber revolvers and pistols. The men stand at ten yards and fire ten shots, slow fire. The size of the whole target is eight and three-fourths inches. It is divided into seven circles, starting with the black “eye” in the center. This eye, one and one-eighth inches across, has a value of ten points when pierced. The others range down from nine, eight, seven, six, five, four.

To qualify at slow fire the trainee must make a score or seventy per cent or better, 140 points out of a possible score of 200. As soon as the trainee becomes proficient at slow fire, he is given the problem of time fire. This requires two strings of five shots per string, twenty seconds being allowed for each string. This means the trainee must fire a shot every four seconds. Qualifying in this is the same as slow fire. Then the target is moved back five yards and the whole procedure is gone through again. The trainee must pick up his .22 and repeat his ability to place his shots with accuracy in the target for a qualifying score. In the meantime the score has been pushed up. Instead of having to make seventy per cent of the total, he must make eighty per cent.

Next the trainee is furnished with the silhouette target of the body of a man. This type of shooting is called “quick fire” and he must “get his man,” and with the same accuracy of fire as he registered in target practice. Such firing is far more difficult. The silhouette target is on a bobber and the firer must lift his gun from a forty-five degree angle from his body to a straight arm position and fire. In this practice the silhouette target of the man turns for three seconds only toward the firer. In that time he must lift his gun and shoot. To qualify for silhouette or quick fire the same high score for time and slow fire at fifteen yards is required—eighty per cent, or 240 hits out of a possible 300.

Next the trainee is advanced to the .38 and .45 caliber class. Here the going is tougher than ever. For the guns are kickers. They must show the same proficiency with these heavier guns as with the lighter types. In the end the men qualify as marksmen, sharpshooters or experts. These degrees are based on scores made. To qualify as a marksman a trainee must be able to score 210 out of a possible 300 points. To become a sharpshooter he must score 270 or better out of a possible 300.

Although a marksman is the lowest rating given a trainee, he can hit a man at fifty yards. However, scores of 290 are not uncommon among the T-men personnel. This rates with the best shots in the nation. These deadly shots of Uncle Sam do not stop with revolver training. The T-men receive training also in the use of Thompson sub-machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, gas grenades, and tear-gas billies. The trigger men are instructed how to hold the grenades and how to throw them with accuracy, so they will “gas” the enemy instead of themselves. The gas accessories, incidentally, can be thrown through the windows of a house without danger of burning down the structure.

Today the T-men throughout the nation are burning up ammunition to the tune of 4,000,000 rounds annually of .22 caliber— and 500,000 rounds of .38 and .45 caliber and the nation’s treasury and its borders are being guarded as never before.

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