Last week it was announced that Senoia GA, the city that is home to the production of The Walking Dead, is giving up the .40 S&W for 9mm. The Senoia Police Department has made a deal with Glock, in which trade-ins will be bought back for $300 and 16 new 9mm pistols will also be purchased. What could possibly make these cops opt for less stopping power, especially since new guns were not in their budget for this year?
The main reason the Senoia Police Chief Jason Edens told the Times-Herold for the change, was availability. Senoia as well as other citys’ departments are being forced to wait over six months for their orders of training and duty ammo. Edens also mentioned that the price tag on 9mm rounds was considerably less than on the .40. But the switch isn’t only about the rounds. Glock’s Gen 4 has some appeal as well. Chief Edens mentioned the higher round count of the Glock 17, as well as the interchangable backstraps which added to their interest in making the change.
What I found most interesting about this announcment was the Chief’s statement, “we want to build a firearms program that concentrates on precision and accuracy with the shots, as opposed to just having a big chunk of lead.” I realize that there are shooters who are highly proficient with their .40 S&W pistols, and I mean them no disrespect. However, no matter how many long-time shooters I’ve met who are die-hard .40 carriers, none have ever convinced me that two or three accurate shots with a 9mm were better than one well placed .40 cal round, and a questionable follow up shot. Like it or not I believe, the times they are a’changing… The Senoia police are making a big statement with this change in caliber, even if their only intention was to get their officers a few new guns.
Have I mentioned I’m a CZ fan? This year at SHOTShow CZ brought to the table products that were better than brand new. They brought previously introduced products that had been given BIG updates for 2014. After all, if it ain’t broke… One such offering is the updated P-07 which now has the great features introduced last year in the P-09. These include interchangeable backstraps and the option to change between a manual safety and a decocking leaver. So the P-07 is now better but just a small P-09, so let’s talk about that bad boy instead.
We’ve talked about terminal ballistics in this space before, so I won’t attempt to re-cover all that ground today. It’s worth repeating, however, that since 1986 a number of government agencies have been gathering data on shooting incidents and attempting to measure the real world performance of issued ammunition. Careful research in the lab on ballistics media and even live tissue testing has led to the development of ammunition in all the major service calibers that does all you can reasonably expect from a handgun round. For most tasks relevant to self defense, there really isn’t a significant performance advantage to the larger calibers. This is particularly true of the .357 sig which performs essentially the same as good 9mm offerings. The worries I’ve seen about the Texas DPS “downgrading” their sidearms amuses me, given that they’ve been using a round that has proven to offer 9mm performance for years.
Given that there’s no significant advantage in terminal ballistics for going with one of the other calibers, the extra cost of ammunition gets harder to justify. You’re not getting any more performance bang for your carefully budgeted buck. Agencies typically buy ammo in greater numbers than the individual and so don’t see as much of a price difference as you might in the local funstore. Well, at least until the ammo panic started. The fondly remembered days of Winchester White Box 100 round packs at Wal-Mart for $9.99 probably won’t be seen anytime in the near future. Still, when you need to replace issued firearms you have to factor in the cost of feeding them whether the agency is buying the ammo or the individual officer is buying ammo to train on his/her own time. If there’s no significant terminal ballistic advantage, why go with more expensive ammo?
A number of pistols popular in law enforcement offer far better overall reliability when chambered in 9mm rather than .40 S&W. The Beretta 92 has racked up quite a good record in law enforcement service. The Beretta 96 hasn’t. The 9mm Glock family has done very well as an issue sidearm while their .40 caliber offerings have been problematic from day 1. Glock has made numerous attempts at solving the problems, but none of them have proven to be the magic bullet that puts them to rest. An agency that has experienced problems issuing Glock .40 caliber sidearms might find going to the more predictable 9mm models quite appealing. This isn’t to say that there aren’t any reliable .40 S&W firearms, as some built quite a reputation for reliability…typically guns that were designed from the ground up as .40 S&W weapons rather than 9mm designs scaled up to be .40’s.
Along the same lines, guns in 9mm have often proven to be more durable in the long term than their .40 caliber or .357 sig brethren. The Beretta 96 has a tendency to bash itself to death if not carefully maintained, (which most departments do not do) and even when carefully maintained could be expected to exhibit a shorter service life. A Glock 17 can generally be expected to outlive a higher number of rounds than a Glock 22, and both can be expected to live longer than a Glock 31. Here again the original design plays an important role. Sig’s P229 sidearm in particular seems to do quite well in the durability department in .40 and .357 sig, but it was designed for these calibers from the ground up. The all steel S&W 4006 developed quite a reputation for durability matching that offered by the S&W 5906…another all steel tank of a sidearm.
Agencies have an obligation to train their personnel up to at least a minimum standard of competence. They have to do this with personnel who vary considerably in size, strength, aptitude, and attitude. Most who wear a uniform and tote a sidearm are not really firearms enthusiasts who can be relied upon to invest a great deal of time and effort into developing their skill with their issued sidearm. It’s often left to firearms instructors (usually only a part-time gig) to try and bring people up to that standard of competence in a very limited amount of time with a very limited amount of ammunition. Even in large, well-funded organizations with full-time instructional staff instructors have often found that people who struggle to meet minimum standards with a .40, .357 sig, or .45 ACP often perform significantly better when handed a 9mm pistol. Even though the standard issue weapon for the FBI is the Glock 22, they’ve been issuing 9mm sidearms to agents who struggle with the standard issue weapon for quite some time.
This one is kind of a biggie. The dirty little secret of agency X buying Y gun is that manufacturers often make some sweetheart deals to entice departments to switch weapons. One of the reasons why there are so many Glock .40’s in police holsters today is because during the bad old days of the assault weapons ban Glock offered a great deal on .40 caliber guns with the intention of selling the department’s trade-in guns and the newly lucrative high-capacity magazines on the civilian market. Glock has even been known to basically give guns, ammo, and related items away to departments just for the marketing. (*cough*45 GAP*cough*) Everybody in the industry does this kind of stuff. All the major players employ salespeople who whisper sweet nothings into the ears of agency employees with budget authority, especially those who currently carry a competitor’s product.
Pistols are machines and with enough wear and tear they do require replacement. Generally it’s a bad idea to let a fleet of issued weapons get to the point where they’re experiencing major failures on a regular basis before replacing them. The major failures may only happen on the range, or they may happen when one of your officers is trying to stop a violent felon trying to kill them…and the ol’ morale takes one hell of a ding when that happens. When a department makes a switch like the DPS, potentially any combination of the factors above (and some other ones not mentioned because no sane person wants to read a treatise on government contracting) can play into the decision. Caliber warriors may want to argue about the .05-.10 difference in bullet diameter, but in reality the decisions are governed by a number of rational and irrational factors that you’d have to know all the players and circumstances to completely decipher.
Should you switch to the 9? I can’t say. Some of these factors may impact you, some of them probably don’t. Only you can make that decision. One thing’s for sure, though…I think we’re going to see a lot more departments issuing 9mm sidearms in the future.
Post World War 2, every major pistol manufacturer was trying to create the new hotness in lightweight sidearms to replace the Colt 1911. Yesterday, we featured a 1911 cast from brass and zinc, proving that nothing is new under the sun. Today, we’re looking at the Colt T4, another attempt to shave weight and create the next fighting gun.
The lower of the pistol is made from aluminum, and apparently was designed without a trigger guard to save manufacturing costs. The top is a cast piece of steel, and who knows what wonders lurk inside the action. The title card at the Springfield Museum is laconic in its final statement that “none met the Army’s expectations”.
One of the neatest things about touring the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts is you realize just how mature firearms technology is. If you handed an M1 Garand to an infantryman from the Union Army, he’d probably be able to suss out how it works pretty quickly. Similarly, we have been experimenting with lightweight alloys and polymers since we discovered “plastic” was a thing you could use for stuff.
Next week, we’ll feature a rare prototype that was intended to “increase firepower” on the battlefield. Never been done before!
Stippling jobs are all the rage on modern polymer pistols right now. Having a gun that’s grippy enough so that your hands don’t lose traction if they’re sweaty, wet, or bloody is important for “tactical athletes.” It’s also important for competition shooters, since we don’t issue rain delays in IDPA or USPSA. The reason that a positive grip is important is that grip is the most important factor in reducing recoil. A good strong grip keeps recoil down, which makes follow-up shots quicker. Here are three quick ways to improve your grip, and thus your recoil reduction. We are assuming that you already know how to properly grip a handgun, by the way.
1. Grip your gun harder.
Bob Vogel is one of the best competition shooters on the planet. He also has a grip that can bend Glock frames. When Chuck Norris can’t open a jar, he calls Bob Vogel. Doing various hand and forearm strength exercises can genuinely improve your ability to grip the pistol, and the harder you grip the gun the more you’re able to reduce recoil. Of course, you can absolutely grip it too hard, so it’s important to know where that line is. Good advice is grip the gun as hard as you can without disrupting the sight picture.
2. Keep your hands dry
Dry hands grip better than moist hands. There are various methods for accomplishing this. You can use talcum powder, chalk, Pro-Grip, or even alcohol based hand sanitizer. All of these products reduce moisture in the hands, which means you’re able to get and establish a positive grip on the gun. However, over application of Pro-Grip in the wrong place can actually retard slide velocity. We recommend chalk, because it’s the best.
3. Checker or stipple your gun
This is the mechanical method of improving your grip. A little well applied checkering, stippling, or skateboard tape in the right place can really help your grip on a gun. However, the one danger of checkering or stippling is that if it’s too aggressive it can catch your hand on a bad draw and you’ll have a hard time fixing your grip on the fly. World champion Jerry Miculek doesn’t use checkered grips on his wheelguns for exactly that reason. We like a little bit of checkering on revolver grips, or to just go ugly early and put skate tape on a wood revolver grip.
Using these three methods in whatever amounts you see fit will help you improve your grip and get that beloved faster follow-up shot. For self-defense, you probably won’t walk around with chalk on your hands, so a combination of improving your grip strength and checkering your gun is probably going to be your best bet. Competition shooters can definitely use chalk and pro-grip, and also will benefit from the other methods listed.
When I began shooting I didn’t take lessons, I simply took advice. A friend would show my a new grip or stance, and I would try them out and then adopt things that worked for me. (It’s interesting to go back and look at some of my early videos and notice techniques that previously “worked” for me.) Fortunately, I got really good advice and when I finally did get professional instruction, I was told, “Good fundamentals. Now let’s get faster.” (My instructor wasn’t much for praising students.) Unfortunately, almost all of my shooting for my first two years, was done indoors in a 3’ wide booth. When I was recently given the opportunity to make-my-own-range, my imagination ran wild with all the possibilities.
Almost immediately after being approached by the SCCY rep to review the CPX-2 9mm concealed carry pistol, I met a woman who had just recieved one of these little guns as a gift. Frankly, she was miserable.