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Ready for Duty

Police pistols have come a long way since the days of the .38 Special revolver.

April 01, 2004  |  by Paul Scarlata - Also by this author


Canada's Para-Ordnance is well known for its high-capacity 1911 pistols, but recently it's made news for a unique line of sort of 1911s. Para's LDA series is a duty pistol tailored to the officer who prefers a 1911-style pistol but whose administrators dislike (fear) pistols with single-action triggers.

The Para LDA Limited looks and feels like a 1911A1, but it has a double-action-only (DAO) trigger that requires a long stroke to fire each shot. However, unlike most DAO pistols, the LDA's stroke is very light with a single-action-like let off at the end. In addition, the pistol has both 1911-style thumb and grip safeties.

Other features include blue or stainless-steel construction, full-length recoil spring guide rod, high-capacity magazines, and adjustable or fixed sights. The Para LDA Limited is available in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.

Para-Ordnance LDA Limited

LDA Limited

Caliber: 9mm
Overall Length: 8.5 inches
Barrel Length: 5 inches
Weight (unloaded): 40 ounces
Mag Capacity: 18 rounds
Sights: Front: serrated blade
    Rear: fully adjustable
Grips: Plastic

SIG Arms

SIG Arms SIG Pro

All duty pistol have their devotées, but few law enforcement shooters are more loyal to their sidearms than the men and women who carry SIGs. These officers will tell you that SIGs are as reliable as a Mercedes, and with good reason. The SIG and the Benz share the same Teutonic heritage.

The most popular SIG police models are the SIG P220 and P226. Both of these pistols feature alloy frames and steel slides and have double-action/single-action trigger mechanisms with a lever located behind the trigger that allows the shooter to safely lower the hammer on a loaded chamber. Available calibers include .45 ACP for the P220 and 9mm, .357 SIG, and .40 S&W for the P226. Available options include double-action-only triggers, night sights, and special finishes.

SIG's newest law enforcement pistol is the SIG Pro. The polymer-frame SIG Pro's features include interchangeable grip panels for different sizes of hands, corrosion-resistant stainless-steel slides, and a hammer-forged steel barrel. SIG touts its Pro model as one of the safest duty pistols on the market. Its safety features include an automatic firing pin block, a decocking lever, a safety intercept notch, and a trigger bar disconnector. The SIG Pro is available in 9mm and .40 S&W.

SIG Arms

Caliber: .40 S&W
Overall Length: 7.4 inches
Barrel Length: 3.9 inches
Weight (unloaded): 30.2 ounces
Mag Capacity: 12 rounds
Sights: Front: white dot
    Rear: white bar
Grips: Polymer

Smith & Wesson

In 1954 Smith & Wesson was the first American company to produce a modern 9mm semi-auto pistol with a double-action/single-action trigger, the Model 39. Today, S&W offers one of the most extensive lines of pistols on the market, and its products continue to be highly regarded and widely used by American police.

The Model 910S and Model 410S might be considered the company's "value" line. These pistols combine stainless-steel slides with alloy frames, high-capacity magazines and double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger mechanisms all at very reasonable prices. As their names indicate, these models are chambered for the 9mm or .40 S&W cartridges.

Moving up the S&W scale we come to the more specialized TSW line. Available in .40 S&W (4003/4006 TSW) and .45 ACP (4563/4566 TSW), these pistols have a number of specialized features, including a choice of stainless/alloy or all-stainless-steel construction, DA/SA triggers, adjustable or Novak Lo-Mount sights, ambidextrous decocker/safety levers, flush fit magazines, tighter tolerances, accessory rails, and the Saf-T Trigger locking system.

Smith & Wesson SW99

S&W's newest duty pistol is the SW99 series, a striker-fired pistol that's based on a polymer frame made by Walther in Germany. The SW99's stainless-steel slide and barrel are Springfield products and feature S&W's proprietary Melonite finish. A unique DA/SA trigger mechanism is standard, as is a cocked striker indicator, and, while there is no manual safety, a decocker button is located at the rear of the slide. Available in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, all SW99 models have ambidextrous magazine releases, high-capacity magazines, accessory frame rails, interchangeable front and windage adjustable rear sights, the Saf-T Trigger locking system, and interchangeable backstraps that allow the owner to customize the weapon to his or her hand size.

Smith & Wesson

Caliber: .45 ACP
Overall Length: 5.9 inches
Barrel Length: 4.25 inches
Weight (unloaded): 25.6 ounces
Mag Capacity: 9 rounds
Sights: Front: white dot
     Rear: dual dots, windage adjustable
Grips: Polymer

Springfield Armory

Most cops probably know Springfield Armory for its line of single-action 1911-type pistols. In fact, the Springfield Armory TRP-PRO is the official sidearm of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team. But in the past few years, the law enforcement news out of Springfield's Geneseo, Ill., plant has focused on a new polymer-frame, striker-fired pistol, the XD (Xtreme Duty).

The XD, imported from Croatia, is available in 9mm, .357 SIG, and .40 S&W and boasts a number of standard features that make it suitable for police service, including Springfield's USA Trigger System (a variation of double-action only), high-capacity magazines, ambidextrous magazine release, frame accessory rails, and loaded chamber and cocked striker indicators.

Options include two types of night sights, frames in black or OD green, and black or bright finish slides. The XD line includes a wide variety of sizes, ranging from 3-inch sub-compacts to 5-inch tactical models.

Springfield Armory
Xtreme Duty (XD)

Caliber: .40 S&W
Overall Length: 7 inches
Barrel Length: 4.05 inches
Weight (unloaded): 27 ounces
Mag Capacity: 12 rounds
Sights: Front: white dot
    Rear: dual dots
Grips: Polymer

Springfield Armory Xtreme Duty (XD)

Sturm, Ruger & Company

Ruger began offering centerfire, semi-auto pistols in the late 1980s and today it produces a wide variety of weapons chambered for the 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP cartridges. Options include blue or stainless-steel slides, alloy frames, double action/single action or double-action-only triggers, ambidextrous decocker/safety or decocker-only levers, ambidextrous magazine releases, and high-capacity magazines. Note: the last two options are not available on .45 caliber pistols. In 1995 Ruger joined the "plastic revolution" and today offers both 9mm (P95) and .45 (P97) pistols with polymer frames.

While Ruger pistols tend to be "chunkier" than other makes, they are recognized for their ruggedness and very competitive prices. For these reasons, they have been adopted by a number of local and state police agencies.

Sturm, Ruger & Company P89

Sturm, Ruger & Company

Caliber: 9mm
Overall Length: 7.84 inches
Barrel Length: 4.5 inches
Weight (unloaded): 32 ounces
Mag Capacity: 15 rounds
Sights: Front: white dot
    Rear: dual dots
Grips: Composition


Other than its full-size, moderately heavy PT92, which is almost a dead ringer for the Beretta 92, Brazil's Taurus International Manufacturing has never launched a serious entry into the duty gun market. That changed earlier this year when Taurus rolled out the Taurus 24/7.

Now available in 9mm and .40 S&W, the Taurus 24/7 is a lightweight, polymer-frame pistol that bears some resemblance to the Walther P99 and the Smith & Wesson SW99. However, the 24/7 is much more than a Walther copy. This striker-fired pistol has excellent balance, it points easily and quickly on target, and it incorporates a number of interesting features.

The 24/7 feels great in a smallish hand and its overmolded Ribber Grip supplies the shooter with a firm and comfortable hold. The body of the 24/7 also features "memory pads" to help the shooter get a proper grip on the gun and put it on target quickly. Safety features include an integral lock system that's optional on law enforcement models, a loaded chamber indicator, and an external safety. The 24/7 also has a molded-in Picatinny rail and can accept any number of accessories, such as lights and lasers.

Taurus 24/7-40B


Caliber: .40 S&W
Overall Length: 7.15 inches
Barrel Length: 4 inches
Weight (unloaded): 27.2 ounces
Mag Capacity: 10 rounds
Sights: Front: dot
    Rear: dot
Grips: Polymer with rubber overmold

Paul Scarlata has served as an auxiliary police officer and writes for several firearms publications.

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