The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is now issuing its deputies Smith & Wesson's M&P9 9mm service pistol as it moves away from Beretta's Model 92 9mm pistol. The agency has experienced both better shooting scores and an increase in accidental discharges. (Photo: Smith & Wesson)

 The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is now issuing its deputies Smith & Wesson's M&P9 9mm service pistol as it moves away from Beretta's Model 92 9mm pistol. The agency has experienced both better shooting scores and an increase in accidental discharges. (Photo: Smith & Wesson)

 

 

Accidental gunshots by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies have more than doubled in two years, endangering bystanders and occasionally injuring deputies. The jump coincides with the department's move to a new handgun that lacks a safety lever and requires less pressure to pull the trigger.

Sheriff's officials tell the Los Angeles Times that the increase in accidental discharges — from 12 in 2012 to 30 last year — occurred because deputies were adjusting to the new gun. They expect the numbers to fall in the years ahead. So far this year, the department has recorded seven accidental discharges, five of which involved the new weapon.

But the problems may not be over, as more deputies switch to the Smith & Wesson M&P9. In response, department officials have imposed extra training requirements.

The M&P has obvious benefits. It is easier to shoot accurately, can be fired more reliably under stress and is a better fit for people with small hands. The switch was prompted in part by the threat of a lawsuit by women who had failed the Sheriff's Academy. More recruits — including more women — are now passing the firearms test, and veteran deputies are also logging better scores at the firing range.

For two decades, L.A. County sheriff's deputies carried the Beretta 92F, a heavy metal gun with a large grip.

People with small hands often have trouble flipping up the Beretta's safety as they prepare to fire. The first shot requires 12 to 15 pounds of pressure on the trigger, forcing some to use two fingers and reducing shooting accuracy for many. Subsequent shots take about 4 pounds of pressure.

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