Police and Glocks

The Los Angeles Times recently published an Op-ed piece entitled Why the police shouldn’t use Glocks.  I find it shortsighted and the author’s reasoning incomplete and faulty.

Although I prefer a Double Action Only or Double Action/Single Action gun for my personal use, I perceive several issues with the article.

The half-inch difference of trigger travel may not sound like much, but it can be the difference between life and death.

The statement is a core issue. There’s no control statement about how many successful uses can be attributed to the GLOCK’s shorter trigger. The first shot is both the most important and, with DA guns, the most often missed. Aside from the possibility of ending the fight sooner, the issue of errant rounds flying around the community is also disturbing.

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A number of major and minor agencies use guns with much longer double-action triggers that are just as easy to fire deliberately but that are much harder to fire accidentally.

That’s a well couched statement. If we substitute the term ‘hit with’ for ‘fire,’ it completely falls apart. Making the gun go off is just part of the equation; hitting the intended target is equally important.

Much as I like them, double-action triggers are NOT just as easy to hit with deliberately as a Glock’s. If we include shooting in reaction time, vis–à–vis deliberately, the equation shifts even more in the Glock’s favor. For smaller statured officers, it’s sometimes nearly impossible to grip and shoot a double action gun well. Having taught numerous smaller military personnel to use the M9 pistol, I can say unequivocally that grip size and trigger reach can be a major problem.

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Granted, many officers can learn to shoot a double action gun reasonably well with plenty of training and regular practice. However, that’s not the reality of police administration, either from the hiring or the budgetary perspectives.

What critics should be addressing instead is the brutal reality that short trigger pulls and natural human reflexes are a deadly combination.

In a shootout with a criminal, that’s exactly the point that the author seems to miss. A well-placed source provided some insight to me about the FBI’s decision to issue Glocks years ago, after resisting them for years. “The New Agents could shoot them so much better than the Sigs it was striking.” This from the law enforcement agency with perhaps the most extensive firearms training program in the world.

All equipment has issues associated with it. The accidents cited in the article are tragic and regrettable. However, arguments similar to the author’s could be made for putting speed governors on police vehicles because police officers sometimes get into crashes, with resulting casualties, during pursuits or requests for service. I don’t see any call for that. If avoiding unintentional casualties is the main issue and only criterion, why not just go back to revolvers?

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The author didn’t make much of a case for his opinion other than citing a few Negative Outcomes. Without providing the other facets of the decision making process and then weighting the various aspects, it’s a weak argument. The selection of a firearm, whether for police service or individual use, is a complex one. The ability to use it safely is key. However, the ability to use it effectively is just as important.

25 responses

  1. I think we all got “troll-ed” on a grand scale. Why else would someone post ann article with no sources, quoting an op-ed with no sources.? I wonder what his traffic is now compared to a day ago. Rage-bait. It has to be.

  2. I’m not sure what you mean.

    1. I’m just wondering if the post wasn’t intentionally controversial, to drive traffic to his site. Get everyone riled up and links start popping up everywhere. May be more a publicity stunt than anything else. Even if he believed what he’s said, he knew the response it would generate. Everyone in every group I belong to is talking about it.

      1. Agreed. The op-ed is a publicity stunt. That said I always wondered if the rate of negligent discharges (ND) is any different with other types of pistols.

        Claude, any LE data that analyzes ND rates by pistol type? This would control for the large number of striker fired pistols currently being used by LEs.

  3. Just curious since I’m rethinking my own carry options as to what you carry.

    My carry for a long while was the Taurus 617 Ti, seven shots of .357 Mag.

    However, I now carry the XDs .45, mostly because I can control it a lot better during rapid fire.

    But . . . I like the idea of a DA/SA and I’m doing a lot of reading before going out and renting some of them.

    As for the article, I purposefully did not click on the link because traffic equates to being at the top of search engines results. So is linking (tracebacks).

    1. I carry either a Kel-Tec P32 or a SCCY CPX-2. Both are double action only. On the rare occasions I feel like carrying a service pistol, it’s a Beretta Centurion 92G, which is a DA/SA with a decocker only.

    2. Check out the CZ offerings with the decocker. The decocker drops it to half cock, so it is still a very nice trigger pull for the first shot. Of course, if you have a bum round you can use the full DA trigger pull to try a second time. A very good balance between pure DA and pure SA…

  4. A well-reaoned, factual, experience-based rebuttal to a piece that is ridiculous on its face. The problem is that the author, his/her editors, and most of their readership wouldn’t care even if they were exposed to your essay. Even, in fact, if they understood it, which is doubtful. The same kinds of specious arguments were made years ago against the use of expanding bullets by police.
    If police agencies went back to double-action revolvers the same people would want them to be armed with batons alone. It’s ideology masquerading as analysis; logic and evidence have nothing to do with it. Today psychologists call this “motivated cognition.” It’s hardly a modern phenomenon, though. Consider:

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” Jonathan Swift

    1. I always enjoy and learn from your insights into human nature, Jack.

  5. Had an interesting twitter exchange with Mr. Owens, after challenging his dangerous and inaccurate premise that mechanism rather than competence determines firearm safety.

    When I presented the fact that training, trained habits, and resultant competence determine firearm safety he doubled down by suggesting that human “physiology, psychology, and humanity” are all that matter. His suggestion is that training has no impact and competence is a non-issue. Ridiculous.

    I’m disappointed and appalled at his irresponsible take on this issue. An officer’s duty weapon is not some unfathomable black box that will simply function according to predetermined mechanism factors. It takes a person to operate it and a responsible individual trains to know himself/herself and his/her weapon, and develops ingrained habits.

    The fact is few LEOs train at all with their duty weapons and THIS is entirely the cause of their firearm negligence. There is no such thing as a safe or unsafe weapon. There are safe and unsafe people and their willfully determined idiom will dictate the outcomes of interactions with their firearms. This is a fact Mr. Bob Owens seems incapable or unwilling of acknowledging. So sad.

    1. “he doubled down by suggesting that human ‘physiology, psychology, and humanity’ are all that matter.”

      Although crude, whenever someone suggests that we can’t control our innate physiology, my response is to ask them when was the last time they shit in their pants. Generally speaking, it was decades before. I guess they learned to control at least that part of their physiology. Some of my friends find watching these interchanges quite amusing.

  6. Thanks for writing this. It needed to be said. Owens’ article was completely ridiculous.

    As far as I know, he has never been a police officer, and when he wrote of attending the Gunsite 250 Pistol class just last year, he confessed that he is not particularly adept with a pistol (http://townhall.com/tipsheet/townhallmagazine/2014/11/13/gunfighter-school-n1914586).

    Yet now he is qualified to condemn the pistol used by about 65% of US law enforcement? I’ve met Bob Owens before, and have generally enjoyed his writing, but this was very disappointing.

    1. Thanks very much for that link; it’s very telling, this quote in particular.

      “Prior to getting an invitation to visit Gunsite from owner Owen “Buz” Mills, I’d viewed myself primarily as a rifleman, if I was any kind of a shooter at all. ”

      I find that paradoxical, given the name of his website. As is often the case, it’s easier to run one’s yap about things rather than actually doing them.

  7. I work for an agency that used to issue the Glock 17 with an 8-pound trigger. About a decade ago we switched to an HK with the LEM trigger, which is about the same trigger weight. I can’t speak to negligent discharge rates before or after the switch since I don’t have any hard numbers. But from the accuracy angle, everyone wishes they had their Glocks back.

    Before the swap, at each qual we’d typically have around a quarter (but sometimes up to a half) of our officers qualify as distinguished experts (100% score on the qual), with the vast majority of the rest shooting above the 95% mark. After the swap, we consider ourselves fortunate if we see a tenth of the officers hit 100%, and scores are spread evenly from the 80% passing mark on up. We even regularly have officers who fail the qual; it’s not even the same officers every time. But if you’re even having a slightly off day, that HK will really show it.

    I had a 100% streak going for eight years on the Glock without trying hard. After the HK switch, I really have to work to get my 100%, and it doesn’t always happen.

    In general I like the LEM system, but the gun itself is much harder to shoot well than the Glocks were. And as an agency we’ve seen these range results translated out in actual shootings.

  8. The “anti Glock” lobby both without and within the LEO community has been around since these “plastic” pistols first became known. Myth has been replaced by reality as more of us actually put hands on these weapons and learned the truth. As those of us who were responsible for the training of our agency sworn personnel know, the weapon is only part of the equation for safe and effective self defense. The shooter’s brain and physical ability are the most critical factor. Training and skill development matched with a quality firearm is the key.

    As to the Glock pistol itself, my experience has proven to my satisfaction that there is no logical reason to disqualify it from use by law enforcement or properly trained civilians. I still have much to learn but choose to reject that which I know from experience to be untrue.

  9. Chuck Haggard | Reply

    This appears to be yet another glaring example of Dunning-Kruger Effect in action.

  10. I find it funny that Mr, Owens cites the NYPD frequently for what he would consider accidental discharges with Glocks when their pistols are issued with 12# trigger springs. I just find it hard to believe that anyone could even remotely discharge a weapon with that kind of trigger pull without being grossly negligent, not just preoccupied or slightly careless.

  11. the guy’s point was very poorly made, and he seems to have staked a more firm position than is reasonable. Why didnt he even mention the Glock factory ‘LE’ connector? Certainly it warranted consideration whether departments that went that route had fewer nd’s. Not sure that we have enough data either way, which calls into question the whole premise of the article.

    Yet perhaps triggers must always be a compromise, all things considered. Single action is the fastest and the most accurate, but when holding someone at gunpoint and multi-tasking such as working a radio, etc., SA may be a liability, especially for lightly trained folks, as many officers are. Glock and their ilk seem to me a decent compromise.

    Regardless, if some lawsuit featuring “hair trigger Glocks” succeeds it’ll likely have boiled down to ‘if you cant make your officers safer then you need to make their guns safer’ kind of sentiment. Probably not the best way to go about things, so maybe we should be considering the trade-offs carefully before it comes to that.

  12. […] piece about why cops shouldn’t carry Glocks.  I think the article is ridiculous.  So does Claude Werner and Jeff […]

  13. I work for a private security agency in Orlando, Florida. Our agency specializes in armed security / patrolling high risk / high crime areas. Our private security officers are all issued Glock 17 9mm service pistols. There have been zero defects in the firearms that our teams use, and the weapons are liked by the guys that carry them to protect their lives every day.

  14. Claude,
    Really enjoying reading your articles. Very informative.

    As related to your comment on using DAO or DA/SA pistols. Any thoughts on the Ruger P series DAO’s or the Sig P250?

    Thanks

    1. I am personally fine with DAO guns.

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