A Success Story

If a man is lucky in life he’s privileged to have a few really good friends. Steve Kukowski has been a friend since we started shooting in matches together something like 30 years ago. When I need an informed opinion on a gun, especially from the police viewpoint, I call on Steve.

Steve has been a police officer for going on 40 years. He was a deputy sheriff for a couple of years, had a long career with the Minot, N.D. police, and more recently was elected sheriff of Ward county. Like every successful administrator I’ve ever known, his approach is to find good people and give them the training and equipment they need. I thought readers might be interested in the department’s duty gun and holster selection.

Officers in the department purchase their own duty sidearm, although other firearms in patrol cars (rifles and shotguns) are department issue. Sidearms must be semi-auto pistols in either 9mm or .45 ACP. Currently both cartridges are about equally popular.

I asked Steve why the .40 S&W wasn’t included. The main reason, he said, is those who want high capacity and moderate recoil want 9mms, while those who want .45s — want .45s. The pistol must be from a reputable manufacturer, must be inspected and approved by the department, and of course the officer has to qualify regularly with it. Popular choices include Glock, S&W M&P, SIG and occasionally a Beretta or HK. The department allows “cocked and locked” carry, and a few officers carry 1911-style autos.

Sheriff Kukowski’s duty rig is one he bought personally from a local police supply shop.
Holsters purchased from Safariland for department issue added an optional safety shield to protect the safety strap/lock. Pistol is S&W M&P 9mm.


At the time Steve took office as sheriff, officers used a variety of duty rigs. Some were getting fairly well worn, and others were not as secure as current designs. After testing by several officers, Safariland gear was selected.

Sadly, there are people vicious or crazy enough to grab an officer’s sidearm. I suppose it would be possible to make a holster of steel, with padlocks, making a gun-grab impossible; but if an officer needs the gun — he needs it right now. It doesn’t enhance officer safety to make the holster so secure the officer can’t get the pistol out quickly, although some designs have nudged that point.

In selecting duty gear, officer safety was the primary concern, followed by comfort. Officers carry an amazing amount of gear, none of it frivolous or optional. Durability and ease of maintenance were other key attributes. Appearance ranked a long way down the list but wasn’t trivial either. The sheriff feels a smart, professional appearance is a factor in public perception and in officer morale, and he’s right. If it helps morale, and increases the public’s pride in those who work for and represent the community, I’m all for it.

Officers carry an astonishing amount of equipment — and though every item might
not be needed every day, none of it is optional. Try carrying 25 pounds of gear on a belt
every day and you’ll soon see why police departments don’t scrimp on the quality of duty rigs.

And …?

Deputy Sheriffs Dale Clemens and Ann Millerbernd kindly agreed to show us their new rigs. It was nice of them, as both were off-duty and it meant getting into full gear. Both are very pleased with the new duty gear. They like the security features, and the options provided by levels of security. Even with the safety strap/lock in the unlocked position, the pistol remains locked. It’s quickly accessible but secure, should contact result in a foot chase or fight.

Deputy Millerbernd appreciated the comfortable feel of the belt, even with full gear. She put all the equipment, plus vest, on scale — and found it weighed 28 pounds! They also commented on the ease of keeping the gear looking clean and new. She also said before they got the new holsters, deputies wore a variety of holsters, with differing security features. Sometimes it’s necessary to access another deputy’s pistol — maybe in a fight — or because the deputy is injured and needs to be transported to the hospital. A simple enough thing, but easier and safer if all holsters work the same. I’ve also purposefully been a bit vague about the specifics of the holster’s safety features. I’m sure you can guess why some secrets are good to keep.

I hope you don’t mind this little peek behind the scenes. It’s a way to say thanks to some cops who serve, and to a company who makes the equipment helping to keep them safe. A sincere thanks to Deputies Ann Millerbernd and Dale Clemens — and Safariland! Stay safe out there.
By Dave Anderson

Read More Better Shooting Articles

Order Your Printed Copy Of The American Handgunner Jan/Feb 2014 Issue Today!

Download A PDF Of The American Handgunner Jan/Feb 2014 Issue Now!