How Safe Are Police Service Weapons?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

News and views from Baltimore:

BALTIMORE (WBFF) – There are two investigations centered on the gun almost all Baltimore County Police officers use as side arms. Crime and Justice Reporter Joy Lepola began investigating these guns more than 18 months ago. One of those guns went off inside a police precinct, while secured inside an officer’s holster.

On February 2, 2016, a Baltimore County police officer walks into the Pikesville Precinct when the jolt of a gunshot, stops him from taking another step. What’s unclear is how it happened.

According to reports FOX45 obtained from the county, the officer says the gun discharged while in its holster. Five officers gave statements saying they were nearby when they heard the gunshot.

The department says it is unaware of a holstered gun ever discharging until now. The department was warned it could happen.

In 2014, a FOX45 investigation uncovered serious safety concerns buried within hundreds of reports and inter-office emails. At the time, the county was in the process of buying new guns for every police officer, almost 2,000 .40 caliber pistols made by FN-America. In one complaint, an officer claimed a round went off without someone’s finger on the trigger.

Oh dear.  Okay, before we begin the “guns don’t just go off” routine, let’s stipulate right up front that there are three types of discharges.  (1) intentional, (2) negligent, and (3) due to mechanical malfunctions.  Number (3) does in fact happen, when there is a very bad design flaw, or perhaps in older firearms models if a firing pin got stuck and cycling the slide causes a “slam fire,” to name one specific malfunction.

Number (3) is also very, very unlikely, and a low probability scenario.  Furthermore, the notion of a gun discharging while sitting in the holster (with no human interaction) is ridiculous.  The officer likely put his finger on the trigger and caused a negligent discharge, was embarrassed about it, didn’t want to be reprimanded or lose his job, and fabricated a false story to hide the truth.

If a gun ever discharges without your finger on the trigger (think Remington 700 by cycling the bolt, a failure Remington documented dozens of time at their own facilities), go see a Gunsmith.  Don’t write discussion threads, don’t make allegations, don’t hide it.  Go see a Gunsmith.  Not an armorer, not a parts changer.  A Gunsmith.  If it’s a mechanical failure, it will be repeatable.  If not, you put your finger on the trigger when you shouldn’t have.

How safe are police service weapons?  Never.  It is a gun.  It isn’t safe.  Don’t ever treat it as if it’s inherently safe, any more than you would assume that you can drive an automobile just any way you wish and be safe because of the structure surrounding you.  It is a car.  It isn’t safe.  Sitting still on your bar stool at home isn’t safe because it may fail and send you to the floor, bruising or even fracturing your pelvis.  It is a chair.  It isn’t safe.  If you have to climb ladders, you engage in one of the most unsafe practices in America, often fatal (or leading to TBI) for men over 55 years old from any height.

But weapons are safer when people use them responsibly than when they don’t.

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Comments

  1. On March 5, 2016 at 10:10 am, Ned Weatherby said:

    Really? A striker fired pistol just “went off” in a holster? If I was a betting man, I’d say there was a booger hook on a bang switch there, somewhere.

  2. On March 5, 2016 at 7:40 pm, Haywood Jablome said:

    I would have to agree, Ned. Me thinks someone knows they screwed up and are doing some serious track covering. Of course, this will all be swept under the rug after a “independent and thorough investigation.” Then it’s back to bread and circuses for the unwashed masses….

  3. On March 8, 2016 at 2:38 pm, Billy Mullins said:

    I’m with Mr. Weatherby. I wasn’t even aware that a striker fired weapon COULD malfunction that way. My understanding of the striker firing mechanism is that it is functionally equivalent to a double action mechanism – i.e. you effectively “cock” the firing mechanism when you squeeze the trigger. All the slide does is remove the spent round and load a fresh one. All the energy applied to the firing pin comes from the shooter’s finger unlike a single action mechanism where the energy to fire the weapon comes from the slide. In a single action mechanism something/someone has to cock the hammer. All the trigger does is release that energy already stored in the hammer spring. Likewise a striker fired mechanism requires the shooter to supply the energy to fire every round.

    I have an Uzi Eagle (Jericho .40 marked directly in the U.S by IMI) which is single/double action. If the hammer is down, a lot more force is required to fire because you have to force the hammer back so it can fire. Once the hammer is cocked my Uzi Eagle requires a very light touch to release the hammer. It seems to me that firing my Glock is much like firing my Uzi Eagle from a hammer down condition. Except that the Glock takes the same amount of effort for every round where the Eagle only takes that much effort if the hammer is down. Am I correct or am I totally off in the weeds?

  4. On March 9, 2016 at 1:58 pm, White Hat from TX said:

    Your understanding is flawed. The pin is fully cocked all the time unless you dry fire it just like a bolt rifle. The trigger does push the pin back a little farther as it slides down the ramp that pulls it off the seer but not much.

    Here is a well done animation video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1VD1D1hLsQ

    Another that shows how little it really moves and how the parts work. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WaRLlyPHlo

    I personally don’t see why it can’t go off from being dropped like the PT-111 did that caused them to recall a million of them. I have simply made a conscious decision not to own one of any brand. I had a PT-111 gen2 that had a real safety but after studying how it all worked I got rid of it.

  5. On March 10, 2016 at 5:14 pm, Billy Mullins said:

    I realize that my understanding was, indeed, quite flawed. I now see that on many striker fired weapons the mechanism is, indeed, fully cocked by the slide. That being said, however, I still do not see how such a weapon could accidentally discharge while resting in a typical police type triple retention holster. I can see how the jolt from being dropped a goodly distance “might” possible cause a cocked weapon to spontaneously discharge but absent such a jolt I cannot see a weapon discharging without a booger-hook being on the bang lever.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published March 4th, 2016 by Herschel Smith.

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