Police Officers - Firearms Knowledge


March 13, 2003, 08:14 AM
This post is basically a continuation of the "Overheard at Dinner" post. It made me think of the following situation. I'd like to know what you all think.

My wife has a good friend whose husband is a Police Officer for a local town. While out to dinner one night I brought up the conversation about firearms. He talked with me about it, but I could tell he was unsure about some of the stuff he was talking about. First off, he indicated that his primary carry weapon was a Sig 229. Well later on that night we were back at his house and he showed me it. To my surprise, he's carrying a Sig 2340. It states the model number right on it. Not to mention the old Metal vs Plastic controversy it leads to. That was the first surprise. The second was that he indicated that they carry a shotgun in each cruiser, but couldn't tell me what make, model or caliber. He described it and it sounded like a Marine Magnum to me. He also indicated they have a sniper rifle, which he shoots often. Again absolutely no idea of the make, model, caliber or scope on it. The best part was when he indicated he wanted to get his own AR-14. Conversation over!!

Now I'm not saying he's a bad police officer. From what I hear, he's very good at his job. I'm also not taking pot shots at our uniformed officers, as I'm a Deputy Sheriff in my county as well. It just makes me wonder what, if anything, some of these officers are being taught about firearms in general.

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March 13, 2003, 08:38 AM
John Lawson once wrote up a column in American Handgunner on his experience when, as a trainer, hisdept. brought a group of probationary officers in to the range for familarization with revolvers. The dept. issued Berettas, but for the class, laid out some older M10s that were still in the arsenal. One alibied right off the bat. Each firing position had a revolver and speedloaders. The officer in question could not figure outhow to get the speedloader to release the cartridges into the cylinder. He shut down the line with a second alibi to ask what he should do to "charge his weapon", to get the first round chambered. Range commands have changed with the generations. I hadn't been on a range under full commands for years and years. When I heard "charge your weapons" I hesitated, too. Maybe it's like the old Willy and Joe cartoon. One of us ain't old enough,and the other is too damned old :D

March 13, 2003, 08:57 AM
My informal investigations indicate that there is no correlation between job category and familiarity/liking for firearms. Police and military have the same ratio of doofuses to gunnuts as every other occupation.

March 13, 2003, 09:27 AM
I concur. Even in New York City, firearms knowledge among police officers seems to fit the bell-curve - 10-15% gun nuts, 70% know just enough to do the job competently, and about 10-15% know almost nothing.


March 13, 2003, 09:30 AM
I must have met the bad 10% exclusively. Most are complete ignoramuses. Quantrill

March 13, 2003, 10:10 AM
Cops and firearms knowledge has changed over my 12 years.
Fewer and fewer cops being hired today have experience with firearms.
It is a reflection of our urban based society and that my agency is asking about hobbies and showing bias against gun nuts.

So asking most cops about firearms is pretty pointless, since most don't have much firearms knowledge.

March 13, 2003, 10:58 AM
I must have met the bad 10% exclusively. Most are complete ignoramuses.

The 10% you and I are referring to should not be carrying guns as part of their job function(s). These clowns barely qualify each year, and I would not trust them to back me up on the firing line, much less the street. Their ignorance is scary.


March 13, 2003, 11:15 AM
SO deputys here are mostly gun nuts and knowledgeable.

DPS officers are split 50 - 50 (amongst the ones I know)

Local Police ...."we have a gun?"

4v50 Gary
March 13, 2003, 01:08 PM
Guys, the gun owning public knows more about firearms than most cops. Most cops aren't into guns.

March 13, 2003, 01:32 PM
Heck, I know more about guns that many folks that work in or even OWN gun stores. It's a tool of the trade with officers. He doesn't need to know the finer points of Mag Lights vs Sure Fires. Doesn't need to know how much horsepower his cruiser puts out. I would expect them to know what caliber thier carry gun is and how many rounds it holds.

I think there was a time when many in law enforcement pondered the difference between the 38 Special, 357 Magnum or 44 Special. Or those that carried pistols said they'd never give up their 1911 for a S&W 59. Today, I think many officers are issued the gun, given some ammo and qualify. If they get more than four hours training with the shotgun, they're in the upper 5%. :(

March 13, 2003, 01:41 PM
The officer in question could not figure outhow to get the speedloader to release the cartridges into the cylinder.

I've never even touched a speedloader in my life! :o

One of the questions I got wrong on the CA handgun safety cert test is how to empty a revolver. Like heck I know what that thingy is called that releases the cylinder!

That's like asking how I change gears on a bike when I'm buying a sedan with an automatic transmission.

March 13, 2003, 02:18 PM
Most of the cops I know aren't gun enthusiasts. They regard the pistol as just another tool of the trade.

When you see a cop carrying a 1911, chances are they are at least fairly knowledgeable.

March 13, 2003, 02:31 PM
that the public and government think the cops are the most expert and knowledgable of firearms and only want the cops to have guns and be the authority in gun issues. Most of the AD's I have heard about at gun shows were from inspected guns that were inspected by a cop. Being a former Police Chief of a small department, it is scary how little cops know about firearms. For most cops, it is just a job and no amout of training will change this. Even more scary is the gestapo image that cops are trying to cultivate with thier swat teams and military image. Take a look at a police officer in the upper ranks and I laugh when I see the police with 3 and 4 stars indicating their rank. Military wannabe
s I guess.....chris3

March 13, 2003, 03:42 PM
Please dont git started on cops. It would take me all night to get my uther haaff off the topic .

March 13, 2003, 05:02 PM
Yanno, the longer I am a cop, the more I a wondering just what cops do know. :scrutiny:

I have read everything and shot everything that I could get my hands on for over 20 years, that is how I have compiled what limited knowledge I do have.
Being a cop and being a gun nut have nothing common for me, except if I had chosen another career, I would have more money to spend on guns. :what:
What the heck was I thinking?:what: :banghead:

carp killer
March 13, 2003, 08:32 PM
and that my agency is asking about hobbies and showing bias against gun nuts.

That is a broad generalization. If you like guns, there must be something wrong with you.:confused:

March 13, 2003, 08:51 PM
My step-brother is closing in on the end of his first year as a deputy sheriff. He has a good knowledge of the firearms he was issued. He knows very little about any other type firearms and has very little knowledge of the state and federal firearms laws. He knows that someone carrying a concealed firearm without a license is illegal. He cannot tell you the difference between a machinegun and a "semi-automatic assault weapon."

His lack of firearms knowledge is due to the fact he isn't "into" guns, so doesn't read the assorted books/magazines/online-forums relating to guns. The department only teaches the basics needed to get him in a patrol car. He's only 21, so he grew up with the AW ban, waiting periods and other idiotic laws. He was a schoolboy when these laws went into effect, so he can't relate to a world where you could buy guns in a department store or when black, plastic rifles were not considered more dangerous than any other rifle.

Now that firearms are a part of his life, he is showing some interest in learning about them. Perhaps he will become a staunch RKBA LEO in a couple of years.

That is a broad generalization. If you like guns, there must be something wrong with you.

Yep. That is a commonly held opinion of many people in this country.

March 13, 2003, 08:57 PM
"The 10% you and I are referring to should not be carrying guns as part of their job function(s)."

In a broader view of their job, isn't the gun a peripheral tool for them well behind people skills and general knowledge of laws? When did it change from most officers NEVER drawing their weapon to being a central part of their job. I know the perception is that most officers present their weapons on a regular basis, but what are the stats in reality? Not challenging the perception, just don't know the facts personally. Ten or twenty years ago the statement of never having to draw their weapon seemed common. Any LEO insight beyond hearsay?

March 13, 2003, 08:57 PM
"Police Officers-Firearms Knowledge"

I'snt that an oxymoron?

Just kiddin'!:D

March 13, 2003, 08:58 PM
If you like guns, there must be something wrong with you.

That is the inference by the depts actions.
I want more gun nuts on the dept, I tire of having to clear guns for people that can't figure it out themselves.

March 13, 2003, 09:22 PM
When did it change from most officers NEVER drawing their weapon to being a central part of their job. I know the perception is that most officers present their weapons on a regular basis, but what are the stats in reality? I'm sure it varies greatly from department to department. In the bad sections of Boston, it wouldn't surprise me if a beat cop draws his gun on a fairly regular basis (though fires it little). Here in the bedroom suburbs, most cops probably retire without drawing their guns, but I do know one Lt. here in the burbs who had to use his in anger.

Standing Wolf
March 13, 2003, 09:34 PM
Years ago when I was still a competitive bullseye shooter, I was on a sportsmen's team. We did reasonably well in matches with other sportsmen's teams. We invariably clobbered the socks off nearby police and sheriff's department teams, except for one team we declined to shoot against, since its members tended to drink beer while shooting.

Pretty good, eh?

Yeah, well, we consistently lost to the local prison team—and I mean seriously lost.

There's probably a moral in there somewhere.

March 13, 2003, 09:34 PM
During a traffic stop last year in Miami, the motor cop noticed I had a CCW. He insisted I hand over my pistol while he called in my dl. I noticed the first thing he did was call in my handgun, because I could see the *** reading the serial number into his mic. I tried t tell him about the CZ, that it was loaded, but he brushed me off saying that as a cop, he was a weapons expert.

When he brought it back, he had removed and emptied the magazine. "Officer safety is paramount", of course

I almost had apoplexy when I noticed the hammer back on the CZ 75D, and the LOADED CHAMBER INDICATOR STICKING UP. He tried to hand it to me with his hand on the BUTT. I screamed at him that he was a freaking moron, and demanded that he put the CZ into the holster first.

He handed me the holster full of 124gr HyrdoShocks and the empty mag, the Compact stuffed just inside the holster. when I took the CZ, I pointed out to him that he had handed me a loaded pistol, with the hammer back.

He told me I did not know what I was talkiing about, and seconds later browned his jodhpurs when after obtaining his permission, I racked the slide and ejected the loaded round.

He left quickly, almost white, despite his dark natural 'tan'

I phoned his office, and reported his behvior and poor gun handling skills.

March 14, 2003, 03:17 AM
Good job, Mannlicher. I, too, would have called the department and reported his actions - after all, he DID endager the both of you needlessly.

The only time a police officer has handled my weapon was during a traffic stop, and he was apparently somewhat knowledgeable about weapons. I say somewhat because he knew that it was a 1911. I italicized the word because when he handed it back to me he said, "Sir, you may want to find a safer weapon than a cocked and locked 1911." I had already noticed during the ordeal that he was carrying a Glock, which has one less safety than my Pro Carry (right?).

Anyway, I think it is good for people to report improper/idiotic behavior on the part of police, even if the deparment ignores it.

March 14, 2003, 04:04 AM
I like to think that I know a little bit about guns. But I also know that I am not an "expert" either. When I stop someone with a CHL, I always want to know about there gun(s) for 2 reasons: my safety, and the chance to learn something about a different gun.

March 14, 2003, 08:53 AM
This thread reminds me of the NYPD Blue episode where Det. Greg Medavoy comes back from the firing range after being the first in the squad to qualify with the NEW 9mm (Glock/Sig whatever). His thumb is all bandaged up from the slide taking a bite out him and he's his usual full of doubt self. "Why did I have to qualify first?" Later on there's an episode where a perp goes off in the squad and Medavoy draws and shoots without hesitation. It's all about training.

All the cops I know are retired and they were all prior military. I learned a lot from them. When I was on the range at Ft Meade (early 80's) a local cop showed up to pick up some stuff from one of the RO's -- reloading stuff, 5K primers IIRC. He was on his way to the Bianchi Cup (invitational?) and was nationally competitive. He ended up instructing a bunch of us on technique in double taps and other IPSC stuff. We shot both 1911's and revolvers. In 15 minutes I learned most of what I know regarding revolver handling -- after that it was just trigger time.

If you want to learn how to use a revolver there's no better way than to learn from a retired cop who carried one on duty. They only had six rounds and they learned to make them count. 'course I also know a retired L.A. county deputy who hates guns and he was a Marine, takes all kinds I s'pose.

March 14, 2003, 02:23 PM
I remember the total goobers that accompanied me through the academy, years ago. It is scary to think that these dorks are on patrol, packing. Don't kid yourself, a small percentage of cops are gun afficionados to the order that you fine folks are. There are many that, when given a single action 1911 style, for example, would be incapable of safely operating it. A discussion on ballistics, styles, or models? Forget about it, you will run into a lot of dumbassatude.

March 14, 2003, 10:14 PM
My general observations concerning LEO's and their knowledge of firearms are somewhat limited. However, most of 'em are somewhat knowledgeable on their issue sidearms only.

OT, I'm trying to get a lot of trigger time prior to my CCW renewal/qual next week and found out that the agents of our new Department of Homeland Security are pretty good shots with their HK USP compact in .40s&w. The only thing I observed is that some of 'em aren't too good in cleaning their weapons.


March 14, 2003, 10:49 PM
Well having been in law enforcement for 12 years, (with 6 years between departments working as a PI, with a "carry permit"), I know that most officers do know little about what they carry. As a deputy now, most of the other deputies are lots more knowledgable than the new PD officers, as to what they carry, and the other types of guns out there. Of course, there are a few others, like myself, who are "nutz", and own more guns than they have hands for. It is a sad fact, that most leo's I run into are not interested in competitive shooting. I take part in hosting a competition each fall,( 3 in the past 7 years, missing some due to lack of interest) and last year had the largest turnout so far, about 2 dozen officers, from 2 states, and about a dozen different agencies. Really depressing!

March 14, 2003, 10:50 PM
I think that alot of the "attitudes" and knowledge of guns depends on where you live. I'd be willing to bet that the rural depts. tend to know a little more about their guns than the average cop in the big city.

In my dept, most people tend to know a little more about guns than average as we talk about them quite a bit. There are only maybe 3 or 4 out of 50 or so that dont know much about them.

Several of the deputys could be classifed as bonafide gun fanatics and the rest are just a bit above average. Everyone appears to do well when it comes to qualification time as most score are in the 80 and above category. There seems to be a bit less knowledge about rifles than pistols or revolvers.

After attending and participating in a demonstration of various rifles and capabilitys, some were amazed at the fact that most rifles can and will shoot though a car door. After smoking some concrete blocks and punching holes in various steel gongs, many were forced to rethink their strategys when confronted with rifle fire. I like to think that sometime in the distant future someone will remember the demo and live as a result of it.

There is one thing that concerns me that has already been mentioned. The young punks hiring on that come from city environments know only what they see and beleive on TV. I dont think that the academy is heavy enough in weapons training. Some of the newbies actually thought that bullets spark when they hit steel, that cars automatically explode when hit anywhere, that their vest will stop any bullet or caliber known to mankind and that they will never run up against better shots than they are. These youngters dont know the difference between a AK or an AR or an SKS. If they happen to live in a predominatley antigun state, they likely never will know.

March 14, 2003, 10:57 PM
Whoops...double tap.

March 14, 2003, 11:03 PM
the one I love is the time a CCSP deputy told me my colt was broken because when I went into battery my hammer went back to rest , It is ??? pulled the trigger while pointed down range and low and behold.... BOOM ! , hmm he must have never seen a canadian colt before (para-ord 14-45LDA ) also the same idiot who said my hi caps where Illegal ,My friend from our county PD said no they are not and showed him the Batf regs.. as for the officer in question , haven't seen him around lately ..

March 15, 2003, 10:36 AM
If the cops don't know or care, it is because that is what your community wants and expects.

It is commendable that the folks posting bad experiences called to complain, but they should have followed up with a call to the chief or sheriff and asked for a written letter explaining that their complaint had been noted and followed up with. Then you would see how far a station house complaint often goes.

But again, that is what your community wants and expects for it's law enforcement.

I reviewed the operations manual for the department that handles the biggest motorcycle rally in the world. They misquoted, in writing, their own state's concealed permit laws and required their officers to make arrests based on the wrong information.

Without ever having conducted an after action review, this agency views never having the public note such probems as a success.

This is what the public is willing to settle for...

March 15, 2003, 05:09 PM
I've got mixed feelings about this one. I've posted this before. The two guys I shoot with the most are both retired LEOs. One a Chicago policeman, the other a Chief Deputy from TN. Both are very qualified shooters and know a lot about firearms. On the other hand, you can pick up police trade ins that frequently do not have much wear(shot little). I think it just depends on the individual. I am always surprised that someone would know so little about a tool of his/her trade.

March 15, 2003, 07:07 PM
Kind of shocking really. To me, it makes the cop a tad dangerous if they can't handle a firearm well. They should know what to do in a bad situation better than me. :uhoh: I think every cop should know guns like the back of their hands and how to use their department issue. It's particularly of concern if they can't tell you the model of the gun they have on the job. Kind of makes you wonder if you could depend on them to use firearms with any accuracy if they can't remember what they have.:what:

March 16, 2003, 12:08 AM
I suppose one of the few benefits of the liability craze in this country is that police departments are forced to train their personnel to at least a rudimentary degree of proficiency with their weapons.

When I was right out of college, I worked for a private security outfit (a famous one), and was detailed to guard a building. The offgoing guard handed me a holstered revolver when he left. The company had no idea if I knew how to shoot or not. Since I was on night shift and out of public view, I had the audacity to pull the weapon out of the holster, after some difficulty, because it was rusted to the leather. :what: When I finally managed to get the cylinder of the fine old S&W M&P open, I found it contained five cartridges: two military ball rounds, two wadcutters, and a lead round nose. Looked like they had been in the cylinder for years, and I doubt the gun had been cleaned since I was born! :what:

Nowdays I train law enforcement and security officers in judgmental shooting nationwide. From what I've seen, previous posters have pretty well sized up the situation. A certain percentage of officers are very knowledgeable of their weapons and the state of weaponcraft, most know enough about them to handle them properly, and a small percentage don't know, and don't care. What bothers me, though, is the fact that many law enforcement executives view officers knowledgeable of firearms as "cowboys" instead of professionals who are proficient with their tools. :banghead: :banghead: :banghead:

March 16, 2003, 03:22 PM
My experiences show that most LEOs possess relatively limited knowledge about forearms, with a few somewhat savy and a very few very savy enthusiasts sprinkles in. (No more than 10%)

Take my current FLETC class:

There are 24 of us.

Three of us have shooting experience of one form or another.

Of the rest, about six or seven claimed to have shot a gun "once or twice."

Every one else touched of their first round just last week.

The wash rate, incidentally, is supposedly around one or two, given a class of 24.

2225 more rounds to go. Some may need a tad more.... Time will tell.

March 16, 2003, 10:13 PM
I retired from the dept. of correction where I was a weapons and chemical agents instructor for twenty years.
Give the men in blue a break! For most departments, officers are qualified on their weapons once every year which consists of a few hours at the range. They get a brush up on gun safety and 50 rounds to fire at a target, 20 practice and 30 to qualify! 225 out of 300 is passing. Talk about LACK OF TRAINING!
Sadly, most departments resent the expense and would not do it at all if training laws were not in place!
I continually ran into major problems regarding seniority Vs ability.
It was always the most senior guy that got the duty involving the carrying of a gun while transporting prisoners. It was also always the senior guy who had no clue how to handle or use the weapon and considered it a burden. Often the senior guy would come to the range and couldn't care less to listen, practice or even be there but he did want to get 225 so he could keep his bid job. Police officers and Peace officers are notoriously under trained in many key aspects of the job they do. In my department, officers who showed great interest in guns were considered by most to be cowboys or nuts. Administrators shunned them and there were no provisions for those who wanted to become more proficient. The department would not even sponsor a pistol team or allow them the use of the range facilities. My suggestion, if you see an officer pull his gun, seek cover!:mad:

March 17, 2003, 12:30 AM
If pulled over with a CCW and the officer demands to hold your gun (which I understand happens quite often), wouldn't it be prudent to drop the magazine and clear the chamber before handing it to him?

I've always been told you never hand anyone a loaded gun. When sharing guns with a friend at the range I always eject the magazine and lock the action open before handing the gun over.

March 17, 2003, 01:15 AM
they will never run up against better shots than they are.

Probably a correct assumption. Not every crook is a Vern Miller or Clyde Barrow. Most can only connect by spraying or shooting their victim point blank.

wouldn't it be prudent to drop the magazine and clear the chamber before handing it to him?

Some would probably ventilate you for manipulating your weapon, esp. since anyone wanting to take possession doesn't trust you much, even with all the background checks you've gone though to get CCW.

March 17, 2003, 01:58 AM
The officer's overall kowledege of firearms is largely irrelevant.
How they can handle the firearm they carry is all that really matters.

The overall police hit rate is, well, abysmal. Most police can't shoot well.
This, personally, bugs the hell out of me. We expect them to take our place in front of danger, yet we can't bother to train them to a level which they might survive. The stats are scary. a 50% miss rate would make you one of the best departments in the country.


March 17, 2003, 01:56 PM
Before that he was a LEO "on the street" for twenty or more years. Through him I became well acquainted with the local police and what, in general, police do. While all of the police officers were required to periodically qualify with their weapons only a very few were very interested in guns per se. Far and away the majority of these LEO's considered the gun as part of their "tools of the trade" - nothing more. The very best of them were not heavily interested in guns. Those who were "gun nuts" were not necessarily the best cops. No correlation that I could ever detect. Good shooting;)

March 17, 2003, 09:52 PM
Dairycreek, all true "craftsmen" that I have been involved with, take pride in the ability to master a "tool of their trade". Anything less makes them a bush league player that has no business in the majors. It doesn't take much money to throw a few rounds out once a month or so. Even less to know what model or caliber of gun you are using "To Protect and Serve' with. Anything less is shamefull. They ought to seek a new job. They are a danger to themselves and the public. Again, the two guys I shoot with most often are retired LEOs and damn good with firearms!

Gordy Wesen
March 18, 2003, 12:47 AM
I was gassing up one night when a local cop spied a Ruger Blackhawk (probably .44 mag) on the dash of a pickup at the pump in front of me. He waited for the owner to come out and when he got to the truck he was ordered to put his hands on the hood. The cop retrieved the weapon and could not figure out how to unload it. I offered the advice to pull the hammer to half cock and rotate the cylinder...he still didn't get it. I finished gassing and left.

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