When A Great Gun Guy Passes …

“D.O.” set the bar high for police work and revolvers.
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In May of 2019, we lost Denny Reichard after a valiant battle with COPD. We’d been friends and colleagues for well over 30 years. Let me tell you about him.

Retired cop and revolversmith extraordinaire, Denny “D.O.” Reichard.

On The Range

We first met at one of the early Bianchi Cups, where I was struck by the fact he was competing with a 6" Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver and stout loads legendary power advocate Elmer Keith would have approved of. He was also vying against the rest of us with target handguns and the lightest-load ammo the rules would allow — and he did well, too. In the same sport, which soon became the NRA Action Pistol discipline, he won the Indiana State Championship multiple times with the same gun and loads.

The school I ran then was the Lethal Force Institute, and he went through it to the highest levels. At the loftiest part, LFI-IV, we had the students compete against one another on some of the toughest “combat shooting” courses ever devised: the Hackathorn Standards, and the Impossibly High Standards course from the International Practical Shooting Confederation. Denny won both of those, the Hackathorn with a higher score than the top tally at a recent National Tactical Invitational. He did it with a matched pair of those Dirty Harry signature model .44 Magnums and stout handloads, dumping one when it ran empty and drawing the backup in lieu of reloading.

For much of his law-enforcement career he carried the pair in uniform, and at one point had his whole department doing the same. Those who couldn’t qualify with the brutal recoil of the full power .44 Magnum easily did so with the optional .44 Special Winchester Silvertip. For those who made the grade with magnum loads, the issue round was Federal 44B, a 180-gr. JHP at 1,600 fps. No wonder Denny’s nickname was “Rolling Thunder.”

Denny and I taught together every year, first under the auspices of another great Indiana shooter, Jim Reinholt, and after Jim’s passing, at Denny’s own Sand Burr Gun Ranch, a combined shooting range and old school gun shop. In 1986 Denny became one of the very few people I certified to teach LFI deadly-force courses and likewise for my current school, Massad Ayoob Group. He was a great diagnostician for shooters who had problems, stern with the ones who had bad attitudes and eternally patient with those who were sincerely trying to overcome their issues.

“Riding with Denny, I learned why they revered him as a supercop.”

D.O. watches as Mas tries one of his slick S&Ws — a Model 15 .38.

On The Street

Denny served 36 years in a police department in Indiana — in a tough little town, which saw its share of action. I got to know several of the officers Denny worked with, from the chief to rookies he broke in. Whenever I could, I did the “busman’s holiday” thing and rode with the local police to see how they did things. Riding with Denny, I learned why they revered him as a supercop.

With the public, “D.O.” was a combination of Officer Friendly and Andy of Mayberry. The local thugs, however, lived in fear of him. On those ride-alongs when he’d spot a local troublemaker, they didn’t say “F--- the pigs!” or raise a middle finger; they said respectfully — and sometimes querulously — “Good morning, Mr. Reichard.” He was a fearsome street fighter. I had the privilege of certifying him as an instructor with the Monadnock PR-24 side-handle baton, and he could make the instrument sing. He cherished a picture a young witness drew and sent to him after seeing him use the PR-24 on the street: The kid titled it Ninja Cop.

Reichard understood the question, “Is a cop a peace officer or a law enforcement officer?” and answered “Both!” When he lost a leg in a line-of-duty accident, he stayed on the job for another decade as a detective, hugely successful because, in part, informants knew they could trust him to be fair.

D.O. Reichard at Sand Burr: A Mare’s Leg appealed to his taste for old-school guns.

On The Bench

A man who would carry the S&W revolver or nothing at all, Denny went to all the S&W Armorer’s classes under one of the all-time great instructors, John Contro, and became perhaps his star pupil. He earned a reputation as second to none for slicking up a Smith & Wesson revolver — for street or competition, different packages — and it’s what he did after he retired and really became famous for in the gun world.

I can attest to why. In 2010, I used a Model 15 .38 Denny slicked up to win First Master at the East Coast IDPA Championships, coming in second only to Craig Buckland, the overall Stock Service Revolver Champion who later won the world title — this Model 15 had only the “duty action tune,” not the super-light match version. Yes, his work was that good.

Denny’s widow Cindy, daughter Ashley Gibbons and her husband Austin Gibbons will continue his legacy at Sand Burr Gun Ranch in Rochester, Indiana.

www.sandburrgunranch.com

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