Cara Black: French Flics and Flipflops at the Paris Firing Range

Cara Black writes the award nominated Aimée Leduc Investigations set in Paris. MURDER IN THE LATIN QUARTER, the ninth in the series, is an Indie Next Pick for April and received a starred review in KIrkus.
Her website is www.carablack.com.

French Flics and Flipflops at the Paris Firing Range

I get a lot of questions about ‘flics’. That’s the term for police in Paris my French friends use. I use flic in my books and people always ask does that mean ‘cop’ and I say oui. Some Parisians still call police ‘poulet’ which means chicken. It’s not prejorative but stems from the ancient days when the Prefecture, the Paris central police building, was built over the old chicken market. Go figure but the name’s stuck over the centuries. “Gendarmes’ aren’t exactly police since 1)they’re under the Ministry of Defense kind of para-military 2) they only operate outside Paris

Paris has it’s own force so to speak and yet there are lots of divisions and bureaus and some fall under the Ministry of Interior and some under the Ministry of Defense. It gets ‘tres complique’ as they say and I’ve got the organizational charts and diagrams a Police commissioner gave me somewhere but hey…I’d rather tell you about a memorable occasion with the flics. Over the years researching in Paris for my books, I’ve met private detectives, flics, some ministry officials who greatly contribute to details and procedure in my work. They help me a lot and I’m eternally grateful.

But it happened by chance one day that I got to go a Paris Police firing range. It happened by luck, as a lot of things do in Paris; the right time, the right person and my friend’s cousin. My friend, (name withheld to protect the undercover officer’s ID), is a Paris Police officer, she used to be a ‘flic’ and walk the street beat for ten years in the Bastille area. Now she’s in a mobile undercover squad and can’t tell me the name of it – secret – but at this time she walked the beat. We were having lunch in a Montmartre bistro and I was asking about her cases, her co-workers and somehow we got around to gun practice. I think I said, ‘so I guess you have to go outside of Paris to keep up your skills or something, right?’ I mean I couldn’t imagine a densely populated city like Paris with firing ranges. She blinked ‘Not at all, I practice not far from here. Matter of fact my cousin supervises the range.’ Needless to say, after I ordered her a special dessert she said ‘Like to see it? I’ll call and see if he’s there.’

It was a hot September day, I wore flipflops and light pants but that didn’t deter me.’I’d love to,” I said and thank God I had my camera. After several calls and arrangements, we hopped in (name withheld) car and ended up under railway lines in an old rail warehouse. Nothing official, no signs only a fence to cross. Not far from the the Gare du Nord but in Paris. (Name withheld) cousin seemed thrilled to see her and there was lots of cheek kissing with him and with all the ‘flics’ and CRS the riot squad guys there practicing. I think we kissed about six guys. Can you imagine doing that here? But in France that’s what you do, even if you don’t know each other. It’s like a handshake.

Inside it was pure warehouse with redpaper figure targets at one end, a tar-like stretch with white lines in between and just plop yourself where you like and start shooting at the end. I mean all the distance markers were in meters and I felt clueless. One flic smiled, pointed at the target ‘take it from here’ then he handed me a Manhurin hand gun.

(They now use Sig Sauers but in 2005 when I went to the range – and my hair was red then – the flics still used Manhurin.) Just like that. Weren’t you supposed to wear ear muffs and visors? I must have looked surprised because they all burst out laughing ‘Silleee amercaine’ then handed me ear muffs and a visor. I shot beebee guns when I was a kid, but only a real pistol once at a practice firing range in San Francisco. And that had been six years before. I smiled and said ‘(Name withheld) you go first.’


Well (Name withheld) did and hit the target’s face bullseye about ten times. Now my turn. Everyone was smiling and watching me, standing in a skirt and flipflops. The Manhurin was heavy and I kept closing my eyes every time I fired…a big no no. Total amateur me. The upshot being I at least hit the paper 7 out of 10 times. I don’t think those flics ever laughed that hard at the firing range before.

‘Don’t you want to bring your trophy home,'(Name withheld) asked. So we tramped over the tar-like stretch with spent bullet casings and got them. I picked up a few spent shells, put them in a Baggie so I’d have them to refer to when I got home. Outside the range they figured they’d have more fun and decided to handcuff me.


Flashing ahead…I’m home in San Francisco two weeks later, unpacking my suitcase. There’s the baggie with the shell casings…how in the heck did that go through security in my luggage. I’d forgotten about it. And then I put my flipflops on but they were scruntchy and hard. So I turned them over and found the flipflop soles studded with bullet casings. They must have melted in from tar-like surface. And these had gone thru security too…Make you wonder doesn’t it about TSA…

Thanks Lee for having me share about French Flics. My new book MURDER IN THE LATIN QUARTER, the 9th in the Aimée Leduc Investigation series set in Paris has just come out. And yes I thank French flics in the acknowledgements. I’m on book tour and would love to meet you – all events are at www.carablack.com and go to events.

6 thoughts on “Cara Black: French Flics and Flipflops at the Paris Firing Range

  • Cara

    Thanks for putting in the photos, Lee.
    What do you think about the Sig Sauer? I held one
    and it was much heavier than the Manuhurin

  • Lee Lofland

    Thanks for being here, Cara. Great article.

    I’m a huge fan of the Sig Sauer. I carried one for many years. In fact, I believe it was my Sig that saved my life and the lives of others during the shootout I was in with the bank robber. The pistol is extremely accurate.

  • Cara

    Lee, is the Sig Sauer standard and carried by the police in the US?

  • Lee Lofland

    No, the Sig is not a standard issue, probably due to it’s cost. They’re a bit pricey, especially when to comes to purchasing enough to outfit an entire department.

    I wasn’t issued my Sig; my wife gave it to me as a gift. She saw the poor quality of my department-issued pistol and thought my chances of survival in a gun battle would be greatly enhanced with a weapon that didn’t have rattling, loose parts and stove-piped every fourth or fifth round. Well, I was forced to put the Sig to the test, and it performed quite well. I’m here and the bank robber isn’t.

  • jenifer

    Sig is standard in some departments. Ann Arbor PD carries the Sig P226. Very nice.

    Cara – Thanks for sharing your experience. Sounds like a fun time!

  • Lee Lofland

    Several departments and agencies carry the Sig. I meant it wasn’t standard everywhere. Not all departments have the big bucks. :)

    Mine was a Sig P226, too. Nice pistol. I also had a Beretta 92F. They were the standard issue for the sheriff’s office where I worked before I switched to a city department.

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