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A Basic Guide to Weapons

Chat with a Cop

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Agencies and their Weapons

Do all agencies carry/issue the same weapon?

The answer to that question is a simple no.  The explanation is much more complicated.

There can be a large list of reasons an Agency selects a specific weapon: Cost, familiarity, functionality, specificity, total coolness and how badass will I look when I pull my weapon, to name a few.  Some Agencies even let personnel chose whatever they want (within reason) so long as they train, qualify and upkeep the weapon according to Departmental Policy.

I believe I may have mentioned before, but cops tend to be a tiny bit competitive. And even when impractical will err on the side of looking good vs being right. Because of that completely juvenile mentality – of which I was totally committed to- most States had to develop guidelines under which law enforcement officers are trained. Now depending on the type of weapon a specific amount of training is required. The more potential for mass destruction the greater the amount of training required. Of course this simply meant we got to blow stuff up during training rather than in the office, or more embarrassingly, in a patrol car.  

In California there is POST – Peace Officers Standards and Training. No one can be considered a peace officer in California unless they have a POST Certificate. Having a POST certificate means successful completion of a specific training regimen that includes physical conditioning, firearms training, less-lethal weapons instruction, methods of arrest, vehicle training, ethic and a whole lot more.

STTA:  Federal Agents are not considered Peace Officers in the state of California. Federal Agents DO NOT have authority to arrest people under California laws unless an agency grants them the authority. And that can only be done on a case by case instance.

I will go further into Academy training in another blog.

As well as some of the reasons behind the no-love-lost (mostly hate) relationship between Federal law keepers and State Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs).  See, even our acronyms are cooler than their’s - sorry couldn’t help myself.

Okay back to weapons.

An agency can decide if their officers carry revolvers, semi-automatics, shotguns, sub-machine guns, or tasers and a whole lot more.  The choice of armament is usually based on the amount of training a Department is willing to provide their officers.  POST requirements are minimum guidelines. For liability reasons most agencies exceed POST training requirements.   

During my CHP Academy training I had 144 hours of weapons training. Only six of those hours were spent in the classroom. The largest block of time -- seventy-six hours -- was spent firing our weapons down range at a paper target. The rest of our weapons training was spent running through shooting courses (twenty hours), Night Firing (twenty-two hours), shotgun training with the Remington 870 (eight hours) and more.

After we completed the above weapons instruction/training in order to satisfy POST, all cadets had to successfully complete an Officer Safety Course Qualification. To pass a score of 270 out 300 was required. That meant out of thirty rounds, twenty-seven better hit their mark. Every cadet had three chances to pass. If you failed during your third attempt you were out of the academy.

Once in the field we had to qualify every other month. Same rules applied, minimum passing score 270. If an officer failed to qualify he suffered a fate worse than firing. Public humiliation and ridicule. No warm fuzzies from fellow officers.  In fact, upon graduation from the academy, anyone not sporting an Expert shooting pin (perfect score) definitely heard about it.

Let me explain it to you the way it was presented to me by my Field Training Officer. “Do you really want to put your life in the hands of an officer who misses?” I had never shot a handgun before entering the Academy and yet I graduated having missed qualifying as Expert by one round. The training was that good.  

And to make things even more complicated, some Agencies allow their Detectives to carry weapons their patrol personnel are not allowed to carry. I won’t even go into specialized units.



  1. Great post Margaret! :)

    So here's my question...

    When are you taking me to the gun range? LOL

    You'll love teaching me to shoot I get nervous about the noise and close my eyes as I squeeze the trigger! :)

    Thanks for teh great info!

    Lisa :)

  2. Margaret,
    Thank you for the terrific info. Here are my questions: Which firearm (model and caliber) did you carry on the job? Is it very different from your personal firearm? Thanks again.

    Melissa Cutler

  3. Great post, Margaret. It was so great meeting you at the Emerald City conference. I'm still playing catch up.

  4. Lisa - You did it now. I had warned you. Cops are notoriously competitive. You make it sound like getting you on a range could be a hoot if not quite exciting.

    Two things hard for me to resist.

    Of course I would be (standing) right behind you all the way. ;-)

  5. Melissa, initially with the CHP I was issued a Smith & Model 67, six shot .38 revolver. As a back up weapon and off-duty I carried a Smith & Wesson Model 60 five shot revolver.

    With DOJ I was issued a Model 19, 9mm Glock which was later replaced by a Model 23, .40cal Glock. As a backup piece and off-duty I carried a mini version of the Glock 9mm, a Model 26.

    But this question has my mind racing off in so many different directions, I'm going to answer more in depth in a separate blog post.

    Stay tuned….

  6. Marie, good to hear from you. Thank-you for stopping by.

    I completely empathize the catch-up. But you know if everything went smooth sailing life would not be nearly as fun or exciting.

    Be sure to keep in touch.

  7. Great info here, Margaret. I'm filing it away for future reference. I also tweeted/FB it.

  8. Thanks for the info, Margaret!I can't wait to read your next blog

  9. Misty, glad to be of assistance. Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Thank-you for tweeting and FB it.


  10. Melissa, I am working on that blog right now. It's taking on a life of it's own so I may have to break it up into two or more posts.

    In any event I should have it up within the next few days.