Beginning in the mid-1980s, American police agencies switched en masse from the revolver to the semi-automatic pistol. Rationalizations for this change in weaponry were many and are still hotly debated. But I believe that one of the main reasons was that handgun makers had begun making pistols with features that made them more practical, and more attractive, police sidearms.

The features that I'm talking about were primarily designed to make semi-auto sidearms safer and easier to use. These were primarily new trigger systems, lightweight construction, and striker firing systems that were intended to prevent accidental discharges if the weapon was dropped and to offer increased reliability with high-performance ammunition.

While some agencies had issued or authorized semi-auto pistols since the 1950s, most experts agree that the catalyst for the change in police thinking about automatics occurred in 1985 when the U.S. Army replaced its aging 1911A1 pistols with the M9 Beretta. Known commercially as the M92, this 9mm pistol was adopted by several state police organizations, setting the stage for the semi-auto pistol's meteoric rise in popularity among American police agencies.

Today there is a plethora of pistols available that are suitable for everyday police service. Let's take a look at some of them.

Beretta

Since the mid-'80s Beretta has been a force on the U.S. police market. Today, the two most popular models are the 9mm M92FS and .40 caliber M96, which, except for the cartridges they fire, are identical in size and method of operation.

M92/96 series pistols have a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger system in which the first shot is fired by a long, revolver-like, trigger stroke, while subsequent shots are fired in single-action (SA) mode. This system is very popular in law enforcement circles since it lessens the chances of an accidental discharge while holding suspects at gunpoint, but still allows precise, aimed fire in a confrontation.

There were other factors that facilitated the rapid adoption of the Beretta duty pistols by many agencies. M92/96 pistols have lightweight alloy frames, high-capacity magazines, ambidextrous hammer-drop/safety levers, reversible magazine release buttons, and loaded chamber indicators. Another great feature is Beretta's trademark open top slide, which was designed to lessen the likelihood of jams and makes it easier to clear stoppages and service the pistol.

Beretta also offers the 8000 Series Cougar pistols. Smaller and lighter than M92/96 pistols, Cougars use a rotating barrel locking system, a fully enclosed slide, DA/SA trigger mechanism, and are available in models chambered for 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and .45 ACP.

Beretta
8000 Cougar

Caliber: .357 SIG
Overall Length: 7 inches
Barrel Length: 3.6 inches
Weight (unloaded): 26.8 ounces
Mag Capacity: 12 rounds
Sights: Front: white dot
    Rear: white bar
Grips: Plastic
www.berettausa.com

FN Herstal


Belgium's Fabrique Nationale (now FN Herstal) may not be familiar to most U.S. cops, but one of its brands, Browning, is a household word for all shooters. FN has been associated with Browning for more than a century, and it is the maker of the much-loved Browning Hi-Power, the last handgun actually designed by the legendary John M. Browning.

While it's a favorite of many military veterans and gun enthusiasts, the Hi-Power has never been a hit with most police executives. Its single-action-only operation requires users to carry the weapon with the hammer back and the safety on ("cocked and locked") for quick operation, and some guys with brass on their collars get all squeamish about that.

Consequently, until recently, FN lacked a popular duty carry police pistol. That all changed two years ago when the company introduced the FNP-9, a polymer-framed duty gun.

The FNP-9 (and new FNP-40) is a hammer-fired double-action, single-action pistol that offers agency bureaucrats a host of safety features and offers street cops lightweight, high-capacity firepower. Safety features include an ambidextrous decocking lever and a firing pin safety to prevent the pistol from going bang if it's dropped. Shooting features include a big beavertail that allow the user to grip high and tight without worrying about the slide, molded checkering on the backstrap for solid feel in the hand, highly visible steel three-dot sights for quick target acquisition, and a molded-in Picatinny rail for accessories. Users can even customize the size of the FNP-9's grip using included backstrap inserts.

FN Herstal
FNP-9

Caliber: 9mm
Overall Length: 7.9 inches
Barrel Length: 4 inches
Weight (unloaded): 25.2 ounces
Mag Capacity: 16 rounds
Sights: Front: white dot
    Rear: white dot
Grips: Polymer
www.fnhusa.com

Glock

While Gaston Glock's invention was the first commercially successful pistol to use a frame and internal parts made from polymers (a.k.a. plastic), the main reason for its acceptance by American police was its "Safe Action" trigger. This system uses a long trigger stroke that deactivates several safeties before firing a round and does away with the need for traditional external safety devices. Because the Glock's trigger worked so much like a revolver, it also greatly eased the transition from revolvers to pistols for police officers.

Glock's polymer frame is not only highly resistant to oils, solvents, environmental extremes, and abuse, but flexes when the pistol is fired, absorbing recoil energy for a softer shooting handgun. This latter feature is a bonus, as the polymer frame makes the Glocks some of the lightest of all regular-sized service pistols.

Another advantage for agencies is that all Glocks have the same operating drill. If an officer knows how to shoot one, he or she can use them all. The newest generation of Glocks includes an accessory frame rail, loaded chamber indicator, and an optional internal trigger-locking mechanism.

Glock pistols are available in a wide range of calibers, including 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and .357 SIG. The newest member of the Glock family is the  G37 chambered for the new proprietary .45 GAP cartridge, a cut-down .45 ACP cartridge designed specifically for the G37. (For more information on the Glock 37, see "Glock 37 .45 GAP," Police, February 2004.)

Glock
G37

Caliber: .45 GAP
Overall Length: 7.3 inches
Barrel Length: 4.49 inches
Weight (unloaded): 28.8 ounces
Mag Capacity: 10 rounds
Sights: Front: white dot
    Rear: white outline    
Grips: Polymer
www.glock.com

Heckler & Koch

Germany's Heckler & Koch is best known for its submachine guns, but it also makes a line of modern pistols suitable for police service. The most popular H&K duty pistol is the polymer-frame USP Compact.

Designed to be adaptable to a wide range of hand sizes, the USP Compact has a frame accessory rail, ambidextrous magazine release, external hammer, loaded chamber indicator, and internal and safety locks. Options include up to nine trigger firing modes, reversible safety/hammer-drop levers, blued or bright stainless-steel slide, and night sights. It is available in 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and .357 SIG.

Another H&K pistol that's well suited to duty carry is the P2000 US, a U.S. version of a popular European police gun. The P2000's most notable feature is its trigger system. Similar to the trigger on the USP Compact LEM (Law Enforcement Modification) model, the trigger on the P2000 features a pre-cocked hammer system that provides a constant level of trigger pull and trigger travel comparable to the trigger feel of a striker-fired pistol. The P2000 is available in 9mm and .40 S&W.

Heckler & Koch
USP Compact

Caliber: .45 ACP
Overall Length: 7.1 inches
Barrel Length: 3.8 inches
Weight (unloaded): 25.6 ounces
Mag Capacity: 8 rounds
Sights: Front: white dot
    Rear: dual dots
Grips: Polymer
www.hk-usa.com

Kimber

While many agencies frown upon their use as duty guns, the single-action (SA) pistol, especially the 1911A1, has many fans among law enforcement officers. This is especially true for the members of tactical and SWAT units, many of whom believe that the 1911's ergonomics and SA trigger provide enhanced accuracy in special situations and that the powerful .45 ACP cartridge's stopping power gives them an advantage over bad guys carrying smaller caliber weapons.

One of the most highly regarded SA duty pistols is the Custom II manufactured by Kimber of America. While based upon the venerable 1911A1, Kimber pistols are manufactured to very high tolerances and include such performance-enhancing features as a match grade barrel, full-length recoil spring guide rod, extended grip tang, ambidextrous safety levers, high-cut grip, and a lowered and flared ejection port. In addition, the Custom II can be...well..."customized" with adjustable or night sights, special grips, and blue or stainless finishes.  

The Kimber Custom II has been approved by a number of agencies and was recently adopted as the standard pistol of the Los Angeles Police Department's SWAT team.

Kimber
Custom II

Caliber: .45 ACP
Overall Length: 8.7 inches
Barrel Length: 5 inches
Weight (unloaded): 38 ounces
Mag Capacity: 8 rounds
Sights: Front: Meprolight night sight
    Rear: Meprolight night sight
Grips: Checkered rosewood
www.kimberusa.com

[PAGEBREAK]

Para-Ordnance

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

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
www.paraord.com

SIG Arms

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
SIG Pro

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
www.sigarms.com

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.

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
SW99

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
www.smith-wesson.com

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
www.springfieldarmory.com


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

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
www.ruger.com

Taurus

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
www.taurususa.com

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

0 Comments