The Officer’s Perspective.
By Massad Ayoob
There was a time when the Illinois State Police encouraged its troopers to use their issue weapons as much as possible. The S&W Model 39 they began issuing in 1967 was expressly adopted to have a single handgun suitable for uniform wear, plainclothes assignments and off-duty carry. It worked out reasonably well. Yeah, I know, but “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Familiarity also brings …familiarity! And that’s generally a good thing. Bull’s-eye was the most popular shooting sport among cops back then, and many on the ISP team bought S&W Model 52 target pistols which fired .38 Special wadcutters, because the frame fit their hands exactly the same as their issue Model 39’s.
ISP did not have SWAT teams then, but each district had one or more designated riflemen. They were issued standard hunting-type Winchester Model 70’s with 4X scopes. They were encouraged to hunt with the same guns during deer season. Why? To build familiarity and expertise with their duty equipment.
The slide-action shotgun was the standard heavy artillery for patrol cars back then, and across the nation, police academy firearms instructors counseled if your department issued the Remington 870 (or whatever make and model), the lawman inclined toward the shooting sports would be wise to use an appropriately outfitted shotgun of the same make and model for hunting, or trap or skeet. If your game was the then-growingly popular PPC, you were encouraged to build your PPC gun on the same frame as your service revolver.
If the department issued you the most popular gun of the time, the S&W Model 10 .38 Special with 4″ barrel, you’d buy one of those to take to the gunsmith for a heavy 6″ Douglas barrel and BoMar adjustable sight rib. If you were just starting out, you’d get the K-38, essentially a Model 10 with 6″ barrel and adjustable sights, and even after your custom PPC gun was ready you’d probably keep your K-38 for Distinguished events. Most serious shooters would stay with the K-Frame for off-duty, usually in the 2.5″ barrel Model 19 format, whose adjustable sights also gave you an advantage in the side matches for “snubbies.”
1911’s are more popular with cops than ever. One officer has these Colts: A Mark
Morris Custom .45 (top) for on/off-duty carry, Clark Custom .38 Special
(center) and D.R. Middlebrooks Custom JetComp .45 (below) for match shooting.
Or, you can just shoot your duty gun in matches. This deputy is having
a ball at a Glock match with her dept.-issued G22 and honing all-important
gun-handling skills at the same time.
Except for small-frame .38’s and .357’s used for backup and off-duty, the revolver has shifted its home from the police armory to the police museum. The same principles of maintaining familiarity still apply. Your duty pistol is a double-action SIG? Those guns are available in target models, and in the easy-to-conceal P239 in 9mm, .40 and .357 SIG, or as a subcompact version of the P220 .45. The company makes nifty .22 conversion units for “understudy” practice and family plinking, too.
Your (or your department’s) preference is polymer? The Glock, the S&W Military & Police and the Springfield XD series are all available in ankle holster size to long-slide action pistol match configuration, in the popular duty calibers. Companies like Advantage Arms make .22 conversion units for the Glock, and S&W offers its own .22 version of the M&P. And, if handgun hunting is your thing, careful reloading or judicious selection from among the boutique ammo brands will give you deep-driving 10mm loads for a Glock 20. It holds 16 hard-cast 220-gr. Buffalo Bore 10mm hunting rounds, which I for one would find reassuring in bear country, and suitable as a primary deer gun within 100 yards.
The Glock-carrying cop who wants to hunt with a handgun will be
well served with a G20 and a high performance load.
While the shotgun has by no means left police work, it has largely been replaced with the 5.56mm rifle. The AR-15 is hugely popular in all forms of target rifle matches. I’ve even seen the S&W M&P15-22 bring its shooter in as top gun at an Appleseed event. If your quarry is too big for .223, the platform is available in a broad array of big-game calibers. The second most popular .223 in law enforcement and corrections today is the Ruger Mini-14; its clone in 7.62×39, the MiniThirty, delivers roughly .30-30 ballistics with proper hunting ammo and has brought much venison out of the thickets.
Handgun or long gun, you want the sights and stocks to duplicate as closely as possible those on their duty analogs. It’s up to the individual officer whether the training element is more important to him or her than the win-the-trophy element, and in many disciplines, that will decide whether the competition version’s trigger is lighter than that of the duty version.
The peace officer trains to defend against sudden assaults in which the would-be cop-killer often gets the first move. The more familiar he or she is with their defensive weapon, the more swiftly and surely they’ll be able to react and save their lives, and continue their career of protecting the public.
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/product-index