The State of Texas covers 266,807 square miles, divided into 254 counties, with an estimated population of 24 million, and is bordered by Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Mexico. In a state this size one would expect a commensurately sized law enforcement presence, and there is, local and state agencies. The premier State Law Enforcement agency is the Texas Department of Public Safety, with approximately 3200 officers and 1600 civilian employees. The smallest, and most historically recognized Division within the DPS is the Texas Rangers…all 134 of them.
Texas Rangers trace their lineage to Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas,” who in 1823 first dispatched around ten “Rangers” to protect Texicans. In 1835, the Republic officially commissioned the Texas Rangers.
While the past indicates many who became Rangers could just as likely have turned to crime, or might even have turned from it to join the Rangers, that was a time during Texas history when hard men were needed to protect a growing but vulnerable state. Today, those hard men wearing the cinco peso badge are career lawmen with untarnished credentials, who worked their way through the ranks of the DPS to earn a Ranger position.
Multiple generations who find careers in law enforcement are fairly common, occasionally even at the same agency. Interestingly enough, the Texas Rangers have the same tradition. Considering there are only 134 Rangers positions, and all 3200 of the commissioned personnel in the Texas DPS can apply for Ranger positions, multiple generations seems exceptional.
According to the Texas DPS website, “The activities of the Texas Ranger Division consist primarily of making criminal and special investigations; apprehending wanted felons; suppressing major disturbances; the protection of life and property; and rendering assistance to local law enforcement officials in suppressing crime and violence.”
Trained in the newest investigative techniques, Rangers ride Crown Victorias and Tahoes, assisting LE agencies large and small who find themselves in need of expertise beyond the norm, expertise that may include forensic hypnotism and forensic artwork. Serial killers to official corruption, bombings to riots or terrorism, the Texas Rangers can be found there.
Weaponry & Gear
Texas Rangers are approved to carry issue Bushmaster AR-15s, Sig Sauer P226 and P232, and Remington 870. In addition, unlike the other commissioned officers within the DPS, Rangers are allowed to carry 1911s.
This is a good thing too, considering the history the Rangers have with the 1911. When John Moses Browning developed the pistol for the US Army, little did he realize it was destined to ride the hip of many a Ranger, as they made the transition from Single Action Army revolvers. The potent .45 ACP and the shootability of the 1911 made it a perfect choice for the sidearm of a lawman that usually worked alone. With the advent of the .38 Super around 1929, and its magnum-like performance (five years before the .357 Mag), a number of Texas Rangers, then and now, were attracted to that cartridge/gun combination.
Texas Rangers have a tradition of making their firearms their own. Holsters and firearms are frequently decorated, presentation quality in many instances, into what others call “barbeque guns,” gaudy things worn to public functions, to impress the uninitiated. Perhaps, but Ranger “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas had his triggerguards carved away (don’t shudder, it was the early 20th century), added ambidextrous thumb safeties, then carried them in carved Tom Threepersons holsters to gunfights where he shot a number of villains.
This is not unusual, as a walk through the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco Texas will attest. It continues today, during recent interviews with Texas Rangers I was told they like having, “Nice looking guns, but only if they were shooters!”
Why, you might ask, do “investigators,” even high profile ones need “shooters?” Simple. Texas Rangers don’t investigate, they do! Even members of the Texas DPS might be surprised by the fact that today’s Rangers still train heavily in the fighting arts. I recently attended an XS Sights/SureFire low-light instructors class, with three Rangers. These boys were good, damned good. I watched them practice low-light, live fire shooting and force on force house clearing, and turned to friend Jerry Land to say, “Somehow I think ‘one riot, one Ranger’ might still be true.”
The DPS website says “(t)he Texas Rangers are the oldest law enforcement organization on the North American continent with statewide jurisdiction.” This is a little simplistic. As a Texan I am proud to say they are still a bunch of hard-asses too!