When it comes to rating the importance of tools of the trade in law enforcement, guns are at the top of almost everyone s list. If you want to start a spirited discussion, just try asking a group of cops an open-ended question about their favorite firearm.
I thought it would be interesting to do this with some of the most experienced and opinionated people around four of our regular contributors. These guys have well over 100 years of law enforcement experience between them, and each has earned a well-deserved reputation as an expert.
I asked them to name without constraint their favorite law enforcement firearm. Read their responses below. Interestingly, they all differ. Dale Stockton, editor
Simple & Reliable
By Dave Grossi
When Dale tasked me with this challenge, a whole bunch of thoughts raced through my brain. Wow! Under what scenario? The street? The range? Undercover? Personal carry? Holy cow, my favorite firearm.
Man, I ve had a bunch over the course of my 20 years on The Job. During my narc days, my favorite sidearm was a Raven .25 caliber semiauto. For many reasons, really. It didn t look like a typical cop gun if I got caught with it. Plus, I wanted something centerfire, and it was also easy to conceal. When my agency went to semiautos, the chief liked Sig Sauers, so that s what we went with.
When I thought about this topic, I said to myself, Why limit it to just sidearms? Why not include long guns, too? Initially, I was going to go with the Remington 870 pump-action shotgun. Why? Quite simply, it s the most versatile police firearm made. Loaded with traditional law enforcement double 00 buck, it s a terrific short- to medium-range tactical weapon. Loaded with rifled slugs, it s a fantastic medium- to long-range gun. And when loaded with bean-bag rounds, it can serve to prevent the use of deadly force in certain threat situations. Oh, and I forgot to mention that just the sound of chambering a round upon exiting the squad car can often serve as a real effective behavior modification tool.
I guess I ve had a lot of favorites, and I own a lot of weapons: long guns, revolvers and autoloaders, in just about every make and caliber. Just so I m not accused of bad-mouthing any particular make, I m going to keep the makes of my personal weapons a secret.
When I was training private security, I carried a wheel gun because that s what they mostly carried. During those sessions, my trusty six-shooter was my favorite. It never malfunctioned, and with 148-grain wadcutter ammo, it was super accurate.
But after dwelling on the matter for more than a few minutes, I did settle on one favorite. So here it is, gang. My favorite police gun? The 9mm Beretta 92F.
Yes, yes, I know I m dating myself, but when I think of all the old troops who ve gone before me carrying this reliable sidearm into battle, it almost makes me tear up.
I ve trained a lot of cops on the range, and I ve used a lot of sidearms during those classes. If there was one pistol that was the most forgiving when it came to shooter deficiencies, such as weak wristing, it was the Beretta 92F.
When you seriously evaluate the concept behind this incredible weapon, it s a marvel of working simplicity. The ambidextrous decocking/safety lever, the extra-wide ejection port, the huge trigger-guard opening for those of us who must shoot with gloves on and the other ergonomically placed controls (i.e., the magazine release and slide lock), not to mention the lightweight alloy frame, make this, in my humble opinion, the perfect police sidearm.
I ve probably put thousands of rounds through this handgun. A ton of NATO ball, hundreds of wide-mouth hollow points from every major manufacturer and thousands of reloads (some factory, some hand loads). I can count on one-hand with a few fingers left over how many malfunctions and stoppages I ve encountered with this weapon. It s chambered just about everything I ve fed into it.
The only addition I ve made to this gun since the purchase has been a modified take-down lever and a LaserMax pulsating sight.
So that s it, sports fans. Ol LT carries a 92F.
Dave Grossi is a retired police lieutenant from upstate NY now residing in southwest FL. He is a certified law enforcement firearms instructor in the handgun, shotgun and long-range rifle and has trained more than 165,000 professional law enforcement officers all across the United States and Canada.
New & Improved
By Ralph Mroz
Probably the single most important trend in pistols in the past quarter century has been the emergence and ultimate dominance of the polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol. Glock, of course, made such pistols hugely popular in the 1980s by offering the two key features that quantity buyers cared about: low cost and ultra-reliability. The fact that it was more than accurate enough for all manner of handgun work from defense to duty to competition and was easy to shoot further enhanced its popularity in the individual-buyer market.
Since then, every major manufacturer and most of the minor players have followed with a design of their own. I bought one of the first Glocks sold in the Northeast and have carried a polymer-framed striker-fired pistol as my primary duty and off-duty handgun ever since. And just about every serious person I know, from domestic, high-end instructors to guys who spend lots of time overseas in classified assignments, also either carry one of these pistols by choice or agree that they are superb choices, with the former outnumbering the latter by a wide margin.
Recently, I ve adopted the Smith & Wesson (S&W) M&P as my primary sidearm, for three reasons: 1) It shares all of the reliability, simplicity, shootability and accuracy of this class of pistol, 2) its comfort in the hand, and 3) its comfort in the hand.
I m trying to make a point here as well as be cute. What advice do we all give beginners wanting advice on a handgun? We advise them to shoot a lot of guns and then buy the one that fits their hand best, right? The fact is, every single person I know who has shot the M&P remarks that it s the most comfortable gun they ve ever held.
Now, is it more comfortable than a 1911-style gun? I say yes; the 1911 feels more like a classic real gun (you know, all-steel), but, 1911 fetishes aside, the M&P still feels better on the hand, and it has the 1911 grip/bore angle, making it point very naturally.
The M&P comes with three easily swappable backstraps. My hand is just about dead-average for size according to the U.S. Army, and I find the small backstrap fits me perfectly. A friend who has the smallest hands I ve seen on a man also says the small backstrap lets him shoot the M&P comfortably.
I got a law enforcement version of the M&P with no key-lock and no magazine disconnect. (If I had to buy a key-lock version, I d have it removed after all, it s not a safety, it s an unauthorized access mechanism.) The only trigger option is 6.5 lbs; mine is actually a bit more, and I like it that way. Law enforcement shots should be deliberate, and I want no chance of a negligent discharge under stress.
In addition, the M&P has a small parts count, a highly rust-resistant finish (Melonite), a nice beaver-tail and an improved take-down procedure (no pulling the trigger). Also, it partially cocks the striker upon cycling, which is safer than holding it fully cocked.
I got a 9mm model on purpose. I don t believe the difference between a high-performance 9mm round and the .45-caliber round of your choice is significant in the big picture, and I like the 18-round count and the low recoil.
The gun can shoot 25 yard groups of 2 inches from a sandbag rest, so accuracy is there.
In the wish it were better department, the trigger does have some over-travel, the reset isn t great and the underside rear of the trigger guard is stippled and eats at your middle finger during long sessions. But the M&P s plusses far outweigh its minuses.
I added to the gun in a few ways. I had Karl Sokol at Chestnut Mountain Sports (www.chestnutmountainsports.com) install XS 24/7 Big Dot sights because I like them for the kind of close-in work that cops usually engage in, and because with my middle-age eyes, I can actually see them, which I can t do with standard sights without glasses. I will also have Sokol do a trigger job (the standard trigger is OK, but everything can be improved) and ask him to smooth the underside rear of the trigger guard.
Finally, if it fits your hand, I recommend installing a Crimson Trace LaserGrip, which on the M&P takes about 30 seconds. It comes as a replacement backstrap somewhere between the medium and large sizes.
Ralph Mroz is the co-founder and training director of the Police Officers Safety Association (POSA). The POSA provides free force-training video programs to police officers. To obtain them, visit www.posai.org. He is currently assigned to a two-county drug task force in western Massachusetts.
Patrol Rifle Supreme
By Jeff Chudwin
Asked to identify a specific firearm that exemplifies a part of law enforcement work today, I choose the AR-15 rifle. If imitation is the best form of flattery, inventor Eugene Stoner of ArmaLite and his design team must stand near the front of the line of those admired.
Since Colt began licensed production of the military M-16 in the 1960s with the civilian version follow-on to the AR-15 rifle, a lot of companies have cloned his design. From the small custom manufacturers to industry icons such as S&W, the number of AR configuration weapons in production continues to grow.
Given that many types and models of rifles and carbines can fit the role of a police patrol carbine, why does the M-16/AR-15 design find nearly universal acceptance in the role of officer and community protector? I believe that familiarity, confidence and competence with a personal weapon can t be overstated when going into a life or death fight.
Familiarity with the M-16 is due in large part to our military veterans returning from war, from the conflict in Vietnam to the current global war on terrorism. For the past 40 years, our service men and women have trained on this rifle, taken it into battle in jungles and deserts, and returned to join the ranks of law enforcement.
Those who fought in Southeast Asia four decades ago would be in sync with the present-day models. Whether pulled from an overhead squad car rack by a patrol officer responding to an armed robbery in progress or slung by a SWAT officer preparing to make a hostage rescue, familiarity counts big.
Confidence comes from the knowledge that your equipment functions each time, every time. For a firearm, that means each press of the trigger produces a fired round. Early on, the M-16 and 5.56mm ammo were roundly criticized, but with upgrades to much of the weapon, including vitally needed enhanced extractor spring tension, the M-16/AR-15 of today is a reliable machine.
I ve personally observed this evolution in 30-plus years of competition, street carry and training. In our patrol rifle classes, officers have successfully fired well over a million rounds of .223-caliber Remington and 5.56mm NATO-type ammo from nearly every variety and manufacturer of this weapon.
We originally lost confidence with the M-16 due to failures to properly extract and eject the fired case. While a long tale in the telling, this vitally important issue was laid to rest a half-dozen years ago when Mack Gwinn of MGI Inc. developed the Extractor Defender D-Ring. This small D-shaped polymer piece fits over the extractor spring and adds four times the extractor tension. It effectively reduced the issue from an every-class occurrence to a rare event. It s so effective, the military copied the concept by using an O ring that has become part of a system-wide upgrade of the M-4 series carbine.
I highly recommend the MGI D-Ring over imitations and will forego every other add-on so long as I have one of these installed. With the D-Ring in use on hundreds of guns for many years and countless rounds with a near zero occurrence of failures to extract/eject, I won t authorize a patrol rifle for street use without one. Every rifle coming out of the factories should have one installed. If yours doesn t, it s not a question of if, only when. See to it.
Confidence is also based on accuracy. Of the many AR-15/M-16 rifles and carbines I ve tested for accuracy, it was a rare gun that could not produce 2" groups at 100 yards, and many did far better. We don t expect such rifles to perform like bench-rest guns, but knowing that if you do your part the bullet will impact where you aim is mandatory. There s no margin for error should you face an active shooter in a school or a gunman using a hostage as a shield.
Competence with a weapon has much to do with fit to the shooter. How does the M-16 system fit the officer user? Overall, very well. One negative: The solid butt stock version of the newer A2 model is excessively long for smaller-statured officers. When replaced with the older A1 type or the carbine-type slider stock that allows multiple-length settings, we see far better fit and, most importantly, performance.
Small matter, some may think not so. A female range officer going through our instructor class was unable to certify with the full-length stock M-16 A2. The Rock River Arms representative was visiting the class that day and changed out her rifle to a slider carbine stock. She then fired a repeat qualification course of fire with a clean 300 score. That officer learned a couple extra inches of stock is indeed a big deal.
Another positive: the position of the fire selector/safety. Our instructors require that the weapon remain on safe until an officer has identified a deadly force threat and made the decision to fire. Because shooters can maintain their gunhand thumb on top of the selector/safety at all times, there s no time delay in pressing down the selector to the fire mode when coming on target to fire.
For lefties, we use ambidextrous selectors. In fact, we use the ambis on all our rifles because it allows us to push down to disengage with the thumb and re-engage with the trigger finger by wiping it along the bottom of the opposite-side selector lever. This motion brings the finger outside the trigger guard and is very fast and efficient.
For those who buy into this system, what to choose? I ve successfully used Colt, Rock River, DPMS, ArmaLite, S&W, Bushmaster, DS Arms, Defensive Edge and Sabre Defense rifles. All have proven to be good gear if properly assembled. Not inexpensive, these weapons will cost $800 plus depending on accessories.
For those agencies where the budget remains tight, you can obtain surplus military M-16A1 rifles for the cost of shipping ($39) through the federal 1033 LESO program. These make a great platform to build on.
This is a short list of manufacturers, and all their rifles have proven serviceable so long as some basic items were attended to, such as a properly staked bolt carrier key and the installation of a D-Ring. With the manufacturers pumping out so many rifles, it s inevitable a few won t be correctly assembled. Therefore, agencies must range test and have an armorer inspect all weapons before deploying them in the field.
That accomplished, a law officer armed with the AR-15/M-16 stands ready to take the fight to those who would threaten the peace and safety of our communities. Tens of thousands currently do so.
Jeff Chudwin serves as chief of police for the Village of Olympia Fields, Ill. A founding member and current president of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association and co-chairman of the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System Region 4, Chudwin has been a firearms, use-of-force and emergency response trainer for more than 25 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Size, Weight & Capacity
By Dave Spaulding
After 30-plus years of law enforcement and private security work, I ve carried a few guns. When I entered the sheriff s academy in 1976, I bought a S&W N frame .357 with a 6" barrel. It was the Dirty Harry era, and a large 6" revolver was, well, cool. Standing only 5'11" tall, I quickly learned I wasn t tall enough to draw the gun quickly from a high-ride holster (I had to draw the gun up next to my head to clear it!), so I ended up moving to a medium-frame S&W Model 19 .357.
Automatic pistols came to my agency in 1987, but it approved only guns made in the USA. I opted for the compact S&W 6906 9mm because I felt it was a gun I could carry both on and off-duty, which makes a lot of sense to me.
Over the years, I d come to realize that few officers really trained with their off-duty gun, especially in reduced light, and that the off-duty gun was actually carried more often than the duty gun. Consider that when on-duty, you have obvious identification, access to backup via radio, a more powerful weapon (the long gun) as well as emergency equipment in the cruiser. You can also focus on the threat alone, which is not the case when off-duty. You ll be alone with no backup and possibly surrounded by your family. If there was ever a time for a full power, trained-with handgun, that would be it.
As time progressed, our ban against European handguns was lifted by a progressive sheriff who permitted deputies to select a gun from an approved list. Like many, I moved from the 9mm to .40-caliber via the Heckler & Koch USP Compact. I carried this gun for years and liked it. Still do, but I could never reload it with any level of skill. The ambidextrous push down magazine release was out of reach for both my thumb and index finger, meaning I had to turn it, which concerned me. We lose digital dexterity under stress, and I grew concerned I could drop the gun at a crucial moment.
I also noted that shooting several hundred rounds of .40 S&W ammo made my hands throb. Additionally, I noticed that with the adoption of the .40, qualification scores had dipped department wide. Let s be honest, most police officers are marginally trained, and a number of our officers had trouble controlling the .40, especially in rapid fire, and hitting is everything in a fight.
I d always liked the Glock 19, believing it features the perfect combination of size, weight and capacity for duty and off-duty. Its short trigger reach and easy-to-manipulate trigger action make it easy to shoot accurately.
I don t consider the Glock s Safe Action trigger a concern because only pressing the trigger can fire it and safety is a function of the brain, not a mechanical device. What stopped me from carrying it was the drastically curved grip. I know a lot of research went into getting a proper grip angle for most shooters, but it always shot high for me.
What finally allowed me to carry the gun was the ability to reduce the back strap, a modification now performed by a number of gunsmiths across the country. I actually had a grip created that fit my individual hand, which gave me a gun I could shoot well and offered a natural point of aim.
Glock pistols reign supreme in American law enforcement, and if the company ever produces an interchangeable back strap system for their guns, it will prove unstoppable.
I have no reservations about using a 9mm. I long ago realized the size of the bullet is not as important as where you hit your opponent and how many times you hit them. Multiple hits often end a fight. Marginally trained officers can do this easier with a 9mm than with heavier calibers, and when combined with street-proven loads such as the Speer 124 grain +P Gold Dot or Winchester 127 grain +P+ SXT, the 9mm will do the job if you place accurate shots. Remember: The best .45-caliber hollow point is of no use if it hits the wall next to an attacker instead of their person.
For me, it s the Glock 19, but if you want a bigger bullet, no sweat. Just get the Glock 23 in .40-caliber S&W it s the same size.
Dave Spaulding is a 28-year law-enforcement veteran, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He currently works for a federal security contractor. He s worked in all facets of law enforcement corrections, communications, patrol, evidence collection, investigations, undercover operations, training and SWAT and has authored more than 800 articles for various firearm and law enforcement periodicals. He is also the author of the best-selling books Defensive Living and Handgun Combatives.