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SHOT Show 2006: New Weaponry for Police

Written by Massad Ayoob

Sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade) Show is the primary trade show of the firearms industry. In recent years, it has had its own separate law enforcement section, which has grown by leaps and bounds. A number of law enforcement officers, supervisors, and specialists from around the country attend. The profession was well-represented—and much catered to—at the February 2006 event in Las Vegas.

Visiting with the manufacturers gives representatives of law enforcement agencies “face time” getting to know key personnel at the factories. It is an ideal opportunity to interact in person with those involved in the research, development, and post-purchase maintenance of the products in question.

Handguns

Beretta (www.beretta.com) has dropped its Cougar line, once issued by the state troopers of Utah and North Carolina, replacing it with the Px4, a much more sophisticated pistol with a polymer frame. It is the first Beretta to incorporate varying sizes of grip inserts. Its smooth “Type C” double action only mechanism is garnering particular interest in law enforcement circles.

Colt’s (www.colt.com) personnel would not discuss rumors of the “governmental supply side” of their business being bought by General Dynamics. The only revolvers on display were single action frontier style. Staff confirmed that the Python, for about 50 years considered the ultimate in “prestige service revolvers” by many, and in recent years available only from the company’s Custom Shop, had in fact been discontinued. However, Colt’s production of excellent 1911 pistols continues. Production quality appears to be remarkable, and staffers say that they are seeing a new surge of law enforcement interest in these long-proven service pistols.

Charter 2000 (www.charterfirearms.com) is now producing updated versions of the old Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Special and Undercover .38 Special hideout revolvers, as well as a single action miniature revolver in .22 Magnum resembling the North American Arms mini-revolver but with a cross-bolt manual safety. Marketing is aligned with Hi-Point at the lower end of the price point spectrum, though older officers will remember that the original Charter was advertised as a similar-grade alternative to the Smith & Wesson.

Glock (www.glock.com) continues its reign as the single dominant handgun brand in American policing. No new models were introduced this year, though the company did discreetly unveil a new sound suppressor system designed for tactical teams. The emphasis for Glock remained its 45 GAP caliber pistols, which is available in three sizes. A number of prominent state police departments are considering or testing these safe-action pistols.

Heckler & Koch (www.hecklerkoch-usa.com) reports surging sales of its sleek Series 2000 pistols to law enforcement. Most are bought with the LEM trigger, a sophisticated double action only design that gives a much more controllable trigger pull than the company’s first DAO designs.

Kahr Arms (www.kahr.com) produces an increasingly popular line of 9mm and .40 S&W compacts and subcompacts suitable for off-duty, backup, or detective application. NYPD has approved the P9 model for plain-clothes wear, and many of the personnel have used it successfully on the street. The new P45 model in .45 ACP proves to be remarkably small and controllable for its caliber, but heed the factory warning as to the 200 necessary “break-in” rounds per specimen.

Kel-Tec’s (www.kel-tec.com) compact, low-priced semiautomatic pistols with polymer frames have proved popular as police backup and off-duty weapons, particularly the tiny .32 and .380 models. In the same vein comes a new subcompact in 9mm Luger, distinctly slimmer than the company’s previous 9mm compact, the P-11.

Ruger (www.ruger.com) may be looking at an increased share of the police service pistol market with recently revamped handguns. The P95 9mm has been upgraded and may undersell more popular brands without sacrificing reliability. Their P345 in .45 ACP has been working out very well as a police duty weapon. My test gun put five rounds of Federal 230 grain Hydra-Shok into 0.95 inch at 25 yards.

SIGARMS (www.sigarms.com) is now the second most popular handgun brand in the U.S. Officials there tell me that the P229 pistol in .40 caliber with DAK trigger system, SIG’s answer to HK’s LEM, is its single best seller to American police.

Smith & Wesson’s (www.smith-wesson.com) big news is its third entry in the polymer pistol sweepstakes, named the Military & Police after the S&W revolver that was the single most popular police handgun for most of the 20th century. With excellent “human engineering,” takedown that does not require a pull of the trigger, and a very controllable DAO trigger system, it is now available in .40 S&W and soon will be offered in 9mm and .357 SIG. Cartridge capacity equals Glocks of the same size. The M&P carries on the interchangeable back-strap feature, but with a range of hand sizes that sets a new standard.

Springfield Armory (www.springfield-armory.com) is a popular supplier of a pistol only regionally popular among police, the 1911, with many in use by FBI SWAT teams. However, it is pinning its hopes on the Glock-like XD series made in Croatia, which has earned rave reviews from “shooter cops.” The latest is chambered for .45 ACP. It proved to be very reliable and soft shooting for its caliber in our testing, and it holds a total of 14 rounds in a very graspable grip frame configuration.

Taurus’ (www.taurususa.com) 24/7 pistol was approved by the San Diego P.D. and has earned a good reputation for reliability in calibers 9mm, .40, and .45 ACP. The company now offers the 24/7 in cocked and locked, but striker-fired, single action, with a double action “fallback” trigger pull in case of a misfire.

Long Guns

At the SHOT Show, as on the street, the emphasis today is on .223 rifles over shotguns. Mossberg (www.mossberg.com) and Remington (www.remington.com) offer variations on proven themes, while the Winchester (www.winchester-guns.com) police shotgun line has been discontinued by the closing of the USRA factory in Connecticut, where they were produced.

DSA (www.dsarms.com) of Illinois is manufacturing an excellent carbine version of the FN FAL as a semiautomatic .308, a caliber particularly suitable for rural use. DSA .308s provided for the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers seminar the same month in Albuquerque worked perfectly in the sand-blowing desert winds that prevailed on that range.

HK (www.hecklerkoch-usa.com) continues to offer a comprehensive line of high-tech police assault rifles and submachineguns. Ruger’s (www.ruger.com) Mini-14 has been quietly upgraded thanks to a huge investment in new CNC machinery installed in 2004. Stung by claims of mediocre accuracy, Ruger has tightened the specs to 2-inch groups at 100 yards. The sample I tested easily met that claim, with a sub-2-inch group with Black Hills practice ammo from 300 feet.

SIGARMS is offering a new variation of its Swiss-designed assault weapons system, the Model 556, carrying on that rifle’s splendid history but with the ability to take readily available AR-15 magazines. Springfield Armory’s superbly controllable SOCOM .308 version of the reliable old M14 is offered in a Mark II version with quad accessory rail for special tactical needs.

However, the AR-15 is the dominant police rifle in the United States today. All the usual suspects were present, including Armalite (www.armalite.com), Bushmaster (www.bushmaster.com), DPMS, (www.dpmsinc.com), DSA (www.dsarms.com), Rock River Arms (www.rockriverarms.com) and Wilson Combat (www.wilsoncombat.com), among many others. Colt introduced a new model with a new gas system, which promises enhanced reliability in adverse conditions. Sabre Defence (www.sabredefence.com) in Nashville for the first time turned its attention from supplying the U.S. government and coalition forces orders for overseas, to exploring the law enforcement market with designs tailored to police needs. There were too many suppliers of AR-15s and accessories to list here.

Smith & Wesson fielded the most talked-about AR-15 clone with its Military & Police, using its most famous model name on two new products in one year. Assembled in Massachusetts using parts from respected vendors, the S&W M&P AR-15 exhibited smooth action, good trigger, and reliable functioning during testing.

Accessories

In several miles of aisles, there were far too many items that would be of use to law enforcement, to cover here. Some, however, stand out. Rifle Electronics (www.thehuntingcam.com) offers a device called a Rifle Cam, which attaches a small camcorder to the side of the rifle. Intended originally to allow sportsmen to film their own hunts, this device has obvious applications to police tactical operations.

There are those who believe that Lon Horiuchi and the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team would never have gone through the years of accusations over the shooting of Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge if a camera had captured what was in front of this police rifleman at the time he fired the controversial shot. Any professional reading this knows how many careers have been saved and how many false allegations have been aborted by dash-mounted camcorders in patrol cars. This device offers the same advantages.

Numerous advances in tactical illumination were on display. Extremely powerful HID (high intensity discharge) lights are making their debut in sizes that put power approaching that of a patrol car searchlight into an officer’s hand. Look to BlackHawk (www.blackhawk.com) and SureFire (www.surefire.com) for these. BlackHawk and Streamlight (www.streamlight.com) also had new gun-mountable white light units on display.

A strong trend in the last couple of years has been to officers carrying light-mounted pistols on routine uniform patrol duty. This has created a market for security holsters that can work with this combination. The Safariland (www.safariland.com) SLS remains the most popular, but BlackHawk introduces a new model with spring-loaded hidden thumb release that will accommodate pistols with lights affixed.

This same thumb-release device is combined with the trigger finger-activated outside release on the company’s popular SERPA holster, creating a high security rig for the non-flashlight equipped pistol. This holster is the centerpiece of BlackHawk’s new line of police duty belts and related equipment.

Electronic Restraint Devices

TASER® (www.taser.com) technology has saved lives and reduced injuries on both the police side and the suspect side since the modern incarnation was introduced. The company has moved forward, most notably with its much more compact X-series. Available this year will be a product that applies TASER technology to a special 12 gauge shell for greater range in tactical incidents, and there is talk of a unit with onboard camcorder that will record the event to quell ever present “community reaction” concerns.

Competition is always healthy, and while TASER International remains the 800-pound gorilla that dominates this corner of the police equipment market, we are seeing a strong push by a relatively new competitor, Stinger Systems (www.stingersystems.com). In addition to carrying four probes instead of the TASER’s two, the Stinger has a promised range advantage, with an outer reach of 31 feet.

Tactical Garb

The best equipment manufacturers listen to feedback from police departments and line officers who use their products. Royal Robbins (www.511tactical.com) has seen the 5.11 Tactical series of BDUs and related tactical garb expand from its original niche among police academy staffs to tactical teams and ultimately, to acceptance as routine patrol wear. The company has expanded and adapted its product lines accordingly. In current production, gear pockets are more efficiently and ambidextrously placed, and optional lighter-weight fabrics for Sun Belt departments and for summer wear are now in production.

Woolrich (www.woolrich.com) one of the nation’s longest-established names in heavy duty outdoor clothing, has entered this market in the past year with its new Elite line. Using a number of highly qualified police officers as consultants and “beta testers,” they have come up with an excellent line of police tactical wear that is not only convenient for everyday use, but more adaptable for all-weather environments.

SHOT Show Logistics

As noted earlier, there is far too much on display at the SHOT Show to cover it all in a short article. Attending officers know what they’re in the market for. The 2007 SHOT Show will take place in Orlando, FL. Law enforcement officers may attend at no charge. It is an excellent opportunity for those in administration and on the training staff to get an early look at new iterations of things the department needs, and particularly, to “network” with the designers and factory personnel with whom they’ll have to interact for maintenance and upgrades after purchase.

Some suggestions

Bring something on wheels to carry the massive amount of printed materials you’ll accumulate. A rolling toolbox or small suitcase with “granny wheels” will do nicely. Wear comfortable shoes. The concrete floors of convention centers grow tiresome, and the “miles of aisles” is not an exaggeration. While most of what you’ll want to look at will be concentrated in the fast-growing law enforcement section, not all of it will be. Carry lots of business cards. Bring a PDA or at least a notebook to record the contacts you make with industry people you might one day be dealing with regularly.

The Orlando show will take place at the height of the tourist season there. Make hotel reservations early. If you’re attending on your own dime, it should be a write off. Consider making a family vacation out of it. Spouses and children can be at Disney World or Sea World while you’re spending the daylight hours at Cop World.

Massad Ayoob is a captain with the Grantham, NH Police Department. He is the founder of Lethal Force Institute, www.ayoob.com, and is one of the nation’s most effective police trainers. He can be reached at massadayoob@aol.com.

Published in Tactical Response, Jul/Aug 2006

Rating : 10.0


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