The 10mm Was A Silly Reaction to the 86 Miami Shootout

(Steinel)

The 1986 Miami Shootout ranks up there with the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral for fame, or at least it does in the gun world. Shootouts like the 86 Miami gunfight, the Newhall Slaughter, and the North Hollywood shootout changed law enforcement and tactics. With that in mind, one of the most notable changes within the FBI was the adoption of the 10mm round and the S&W 1006 handgun. That effectively cemented the cartridge’s legacy and is the most talked about takeaway. 

However, if the FBI agents involved in the 1986 Miami Shootout were armed with 10mm handguns, would it have really made a difference? 

The 86 Miami Shootout 

The FBI was hunting a pair of violent stickup artists. These thugs robbed banks and armored cars and weren’t afraid to kill. They were heavily armed, and both were veterans of the United States Army and served as MPs. They weren’t going to go down easy. The FBI had multiple teams out looking for those guys, and eventually, eight agents cornered them, and the shootout began. 

While the 86 Miami shootout is often explained as an eight versus two streetfight, it was really more of an eight versus one. One of the robbers was knocked unconscious for most of the Gunfight and only fired a single ineffective shot from his shotgun. Platt, a man armed with a Mini 14, shot it out with the FBI, killing two agents tragically and wounding five more. Only one agent escaped physically unharmed. 

(Miami Dade PD)

The FBI was armed with a mix of weapons. Three of the agents carried the 9mm S&W 459 with 15-round magazines. The rest carried revolvers, and one agent had a Remington 870. It’s worth mentioning there were six other FBI cars roaming around which carried MP5s, shotguns, and M16s, but they didn’t make it to the fight. 

The FBI and Platt slugged it out. Eventually, the second robber came to, and while they tried to escape, Ed Mireles heroically gunned both of them down with his S&W 686. The fight was over in minutes but had a lasting legacy. Part of that legacy is the adoption of the 10mm pistol, but there is nothing I’ve read that makes it seem like a 10mm handgun would have made a difference. 

Why The 10mm Didn’t Really Matter 

The FBI agents were armed with a mix of .38 Special, 9mm, and .357 Magnum handguns. It does seem like the men carrying .357 Magnums loaded their revolvers with .38 specials. Of the eight agents, only three had semi-automatics. The best thing about the swap to 1006 was the fact the FBI got rid of their wheel guns for semi-autos. 

Other than that, I don’t believe the 10mm would have made a difference. The men armed with the 9mm handguns admittedly fired the most rounds. Agent Jerry Dove, who was murdered in the fight, landed three shots on Platt. These three shots included one to his lungs. A shot to the lungs, heart, or brain can’t tell the difference between a mm in bullet size. The energy argument is bunk, and the 9mm rounds were capable of penetrating deep enough to count. 

Courtesy TTAG

Agent Dove’s shots on target likely slowed Platt enough to save additional lives and ultimately kill him. An autopsy revealed Platt’s lung had collapsed, and his chest cavity had 1.3 liters of blood in him. All of the men who stood and fought are courageous and arguably heroes, so sometimes it’s tough to be constructive because criticism can be taken as an insult. 

However, we can’t ignore that two of the eight agents lost their guns before the Gunfight started because they removed them from their holsters and sat them in their seats. We can’t ignore the fact they had eight agents fighting for several minutes to subdue and kill two men. The FBI agents had the courage and the resolve to get the fight done, but the FBI had seemingly failed to train them to a standard to end that fight more quickly. 

The Bigger Difference 

One of the main pushes to the 10mm came from the fact that Dove’s shot that landed in Platt’s lung stopped short three to four inches from his heart. Would the 10mm have penetrated deeper and killed him? Maybe it would have, but then again, maybe the additional recoil of the 10mm would have made landing additional shots difficult. A lot was made of a single bullet impact and we know now that those are difficult to replicate. A second 9mm hit in the same area might have penetrated to the heart and a head shot might’ve terminated the CNS. But none of that happened live.

(FBI)

When we look at the 86 Miami gunfight, one thing is very obvious. Platt being armed with a long gun made a huge difference. Agent Mireles had a shotgun, but he was also wounded in the arm and was using it with one hand. Have you ever used a pump action 12 gauge with one hand? It’s tough, and the cajones on Mireles to fire five shots with it with one hand is admirable. 

Platt and his low-recoiling rifle gave him a significant advantage in this Gunfight. While the 10mm was the most famous difference made by the FBI, they made other changes. They also assigned an MP5 and a shotgun to each car. Since Agents traveled in pairs, each one had a long gun at their disposal. While the MP5 is not a proper rifle, it is much better than any handgun. 

(FBI)

Additionally, the FBI revamped its training. According to Mireles, it opened a floodgate to more modern training. Things like body armor became standard. The FBI went back to the drawing board and recognized this wasn’t just a hardware problem. Their software needed a critical upgrade. 

Looking Back 

I like the 10mm round. I like it a lot. However, when you examine all the things the FBI did after the ‘86 Miami shoot, the adoption of the 10mm pistol was by far the silliest. If I had to nitpick, it seems like M16s in every car would have been a better option than MP5s. Although this was still the age of the SMG for police work. 

Mass issuing the S&W 459 would have been a better option, but as the Dude says, “That’s just like, my opinion, man.” 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.