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American Handgunner March/April 2012 Digital Edition - Page 24
COPTALK Allowing officers to choose guns they like, has led to marked improvements in hit rates in on-duty shootings. oPinion and facts from the mean streets massad ayoob Ultimate Goal N upD allows a broad range of duty and off-duty handgun choices. Officer Choice W hile some agencies take a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to issue handguns, others have found it better to give some latitude. One such is the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake, Utah. James M. Winder is CEO of the UPD, and also Sheriff of Salt Lake County; both entities are served by the same firearms training center. Nicholas Roberts is Rangemaster of UPD. UPD came into being Jan. 1, 2010 and encompasses the unincorporated county and four contract cities. UPD and SLCSO protect a population of 1.1 million. Some 450 sworn UPD officers serve full-time, augmented by a reserve corps of 30 armed personnel. On the sheriff’s side of the house, there are 125 protective service officers, and among 600 corrections officers, roughly 180 are armed. bought weapons, and department policy is all sworn personnel must have badge, ID and firearm readily accessible at all times. Whatever the caliber, the officer must carry department issue ammunition. Federal Tactical is what UPD adopted for .40 S&W (180 grains), .45 ACP (230 grains in +P) and 9mm (135 grains in +P). Roberts reports all have worked well in the department’s actual officer-involved shootings. For .357 SIG the duty round is the 125-grain Speer Gold Dot, and for the backup .38 Specials it’s Speer’s 135-grain Short Barrel Gold Dot. Neither has up till now been used by the department in a gunfight. In 1995, patrol rifles replaced shotguns, all Colt AR-15s, and individual officers can purchase their own approved Colt .223 rifles if they desire. Issue load for the patrol rifle is Federal Tactical 55-grain bonded. The 55-grain bonded Federal Tactical has also shown excellent penetration through windshield glass, with no marked deviation of trajectory and has been an exemplary fight stopper. Choices “ W e allow six brands of service pistols,” says Rangemaster Roberts. “Beretta, SIG, Smith & Wesson, Springfield XD or XDM, Glock and the Colt 1911 Series 80. Approved calibers are 9mm, .40 S&W, 357 SIG and .45 ACP. Our standard issue service pistol is the Smith & Wesson Military & Police, and the officer can request it in any of those four calibers, with or without the optional manual safety.” UPD no longer allows revolvers for primary duty carry, but recently re-authorized them for off-duty and backup use. Roberts notes once they were allowed to carry the handy J-frame again, more officers have made the choice to carry a backup gun. Many of the UPD officers choose to carry their old service pistols, with Third Generation S&W 6906 and 4006 still seen frequently in duty holsters. Roberts explains this policy in four starkly simple words: “No gun is perfect.” Fifty percent of the armed personnel carry their own personally ick Roberts tells me the 9mm is chosen by the troops more than any other. “A number of our officers have found they can hit center faster, with more bullets, with the 9mm,” says Roberts. “We’ve also had a number of the older officers go to the 9mm after issues such as arthritis made it more comfortable for them, and easier for them to run with speed and accuracy.” The .40 caliber is second most popular, followed by the .357 and finally, the .45. Smith & Wesson is the most widely chosen brand, with Glock in a strong second place. SIG, Beretta and the Springfield XD Series follow in that order, with the recently approved Colt 1911 only now beginning to develop a following at UPD. The department knows bullet placement is the most important aspect of stopping an assailant. Each officer trains four times a year, once in the FATS machine to combine judgment with defensive marksmanship, and the rest livefire on the range. The department emphasizes use of sights whenever possible. Annual training includes “stress shoots,” obstacle courses combined with shooting, and wounded officer response techniques. Ammunition budget is in the area of $170,000 per year. Hand-to-gun fit is a critical part of finding the gun that works best for the individual officer. The interchangeable backstraps and forgiving trigger reach of the M&P were among the reasons it was adopted, and every recruit gets to try it in every possible grip configuration. They are also introduced to the other optional makes and models. Exemplars of each are kept at the range for that purpose, and to be brought to the scene of an officer-involved shooting to replace whatever gun the officer was using, which has to be taken as evidence. A very high level of competence demonstrated where it counts has been the result. The department’s records indicate a very high hit ratio in the field: 72 percent at this writing. I want to congratulate Sheriff Winder, Rangemaster Roberts and firearms instructors Dave Kilgrow and Randy Lish on police firearms policy geared to individual excellence in the name of public safety. * 24 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MARCH/APRIL2012