For 10 years, the Tacoma, Wash., police department offered its officers two choices for a duty handgun: a 1911 or a GLOCK. But for 2013, the department will only offer GLOCK pistols to its 350-plus officers. Why is this? We recently had a conversation with Tacoma Police Officer James Barrett, the department’s range master, on the nuances of that decision.

“Our current handguns, like any tool that is used over a period of time, are reaching their useful life cycles in terms of reliability. We don’t want even one to fail when it is needed the most,” Barrett said. “After careful consideration of all of the factors, the department selected the GLOCK Gen4s as the handguns that would best serve the needs of our officers for the next 10 years or so.

“We had been giving officers a choice between the G21, G22 and G23 and two variations of the 1911. But we’ve since decided to go all-GLOCK, officers can choose between several GLOCK models: the G17, G19, G21, G22, G23 or G30. All of these are Gen4 models. Our department ordered 458 various numbers of these models and we plan to transition all officers to the new handguns between January and June 2013.”

GLOCK Pros

As Barrett explained, there were some very specific reasons why switching to GLOCK pistols would help the department with training, maintenance and costs. “Instead of our instructors training on two weapons platforms (GLOCK and 1911-style handguns), they can concentrate on training for only one platform. This means less time is needed to train instructors, less confusion in developing lesson plans for range staff, and more time dedicated to training a platform for all student officers. For instance, when holding a pre- or post-academy class, we sometimes had both GLOCK shooters and 1911 shooters in the same class. The time spent training for care and maintenance on one platform took training time away from the others.

“Maintenance time will also be cut down, since any 1911-style handgun is maintenance-intensive, especially for those in law enforcement. For our department armorers, the time spent on annual maintenance will be greatly reduced. What may take a 1911 armorer an hour or more to do per gun—complete takedown, cleaning, inspections and reassembly—takes a GLOCK armorer less than half the time.

“Lastly, replacement costs and the costs for parts will be greatly reduced. Our estimates so far have cost reductions to be more than 50 percent. And in terms of durability, we expect the new Gen4 GLOCKs to be just as durable as our previous GLOCKs. Handguns are an important tool carried by the officers of the Tacoma Police Department, and they are vital for the continued safety of the citizens and officers of Tacoma. Much like any other mechanical tool, a handgun has a practical, useful life term where its reliability and function can be counted upon. We expect this new batch of department handguns to perform well during their 10-year timeframe.”
GLOCK’s Gen4 upgrades also affected the decision. “The interchangeable backstrap seems to be the biggest, most noticed enhancement,” Barrett said. “By having three sizes of grip dimensions for each gun, we basically are offering 18 guns to choose from. The dual recoil spring assembly has been noticed, too. Many officers report much less felt recoil.”

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