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The police sniper who shot a gun out of a guy’s hand

Did Columbus Police Officer Mike Plumb make the best shot ever?

The job of a sniper is to surgically kill enemies who are often unaware anything is wrong until their head no longer exists. Shots can come from so far away that targets will often not even hear the shot until after they’re already meeting Jesus.

Only the best shooters ever get to be a sniper, and with movies like “Saving Private Ryan” and “American Sniper” popularizing them, they are often seen as the most elite of the military community.

Until recently, the record for the longest kill is by Corporal Craig Harrison of the British Army, who in 2009 nailed a Taliban operative from a whopping 1.5 miles away, or double his rifle’s official range. He followed it up by quickly shooting his victim’s buddy right next to him. If you find yourself possibly questioning the accuracy of the distance, you should know they measured it using an Apache helicopter and a laser. A laser so accurate that the Apache can kill people from 5 miles away with it.

In November 2023 a Ukranian soldier is reported to have killed an enemy soldier at a distance of 1.68 miles. In the same article, Business Insider recounts the story of a Canadian soldier who made a successful 2.14 mile sniper kill in 2017, while stationed in Iraq.

Sniper shots like Harrison’s are far from easy. Fortunately for Harrison, there was no wind, clear visibility, and mild weather. Everything was theoretically perfect for a sniper shot. And yet it still took him nine shots to properly range and prepare for the shot, and the target was a full human male. What if the target was something a lot smaller? And you had no practice shots? Well then you’re probably Columbus police officer Mike Plumb.

Columbus Police sniper unit responds

On August 16th, 1993, a distraught Doug Conley sat himself down in a lawn chair in the middle of a suburban Columbus street and began waving a .38 revolver around threatening to kill himself. Not about to let this threat to human life and vehicular traffic patterns go unanswered, the Columbus Police Department rapidly responded by blocking off the street and opening negotiations with Conley by handing him a shaken-up can of soda. Not kidding.
Two hours later, with both tensions and temperatures rising, Conley was still sitting there, weapon in hand. By this point, an alternative solution was needed, and they called in their sniper unit. Organized in 1974, the Columbus Police Sniper Unit had never before fired a shot during a call.

Officer Mike Plumb, a Vietnam veteran, hurried to the scene with his Steyr SSG PII black sniper rifle. Positioning himself in the prone from 82 yards away, Plumb trained his scope on the target. When negotiations finally stalled for good, Lt. Peter Tobin gave permission to fire with one caveat: Plumb wasn’t allowed to injure the target. He had to shoot the small .38 revolver out of Conley’s hand without causing any harm to Conley himself. While Plumb had practiced on ranges shooting dimes from hundreds of meters away, this was a situation he had never prepared himself for.

He pointed his rifle, carefully aiming for the scant few inches of the tiny revolver not tucked in Conley’s hand, and at the right moment when Conley dropped the .38 revolver between his legs, Plumb fired.

The revolver exploded inside Conley’s hands, leaving him completely untouched. Conley stared at it, now in three pieces, on the ground. He only had time to look up and act as if nothing had happened before being tackled to the ground by police. His only comment upon his arrest? “That was a good shot.”

Plumb retired from the Columbus Police Department in 2000.

This article, originally published on October 14, 2016, has been updated.

Uniform Stories features a variety of contributors. These sources are experts and educators within their profession. Uniform Stories covers an array of subjects like field stories, entertaining anecdotes, and expert opinions.