Captain Andrew said the ready availability of Black Talon ammunition also spells trouble for the officer on the beat. "We have to face it on the street now," he said.
John Q. Sterbenz, a spokesman for Winchester, located in East Alton, Ill., conceded that the firm developed Black Talon ammunition to meet specifications set by a law enforcement agency he declined to identify. But he said Black Talon ammunition was "never intended to be strictly for law enforcement use."
"It was developed for them, but that's not to say they were to have it all for themselves," he said.
Winchester's literature describes the Black Talon as a "revolutionary new concept in bullet design" that "satisfies the toughest law enforcement requirements." It says the Black Talon "will give law enforcement the edge they need -- and the performance they deserve."
But, the "edge goes to whoever has it [the Black Talon] at the time," said Mr. Sterbenz, the company spokesman.
"I don't know if they [company advertisements] are misleading," he said. "If you assume that police departments are going to use the bullet and others are not -- then they [police agencies] have the edge," the spokesman said.
3 million and counting
Winchester began producing Black Talon ammunition last year. Mr. Sterbenz said 3 million rounds have been sold so far. The ammunition is available in a number of handgun sizes including 9 mm, .45-caliber, 10 mm and 40-caliber.
Winchester is marketing the Black Talon to compete with similar ammunition lines offered by other manufacturers. For example, PMC has a bullet dubbed the Starfire which mushrooms on impact, forming a star-like projectile that rips through flesh.
Dr. John E. Smialek, state's chief medical examiner, is so concerned about Black Talon ammunition that he has written a letter to the editor of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. The letter speaks about the massive tissue damage the bullet causes and the danger it poses to medical personnel. Because of the sharp edges produced by the round, pathologists risk having the steel jacket penetrate their gloves or skin during autopsies, Dr. Smialek said.
The chief pathologist also said he was distressed at seeing such a lethal bullet showing up in victims of street violence.
Dr. Smialek said a Black Talon round "doubles" when it flattens and its sharp claws cause ghastly wounds as they slice through muscle, nerve and blood vessels.
Several city police officers said they have conducted an unofficial survey of five local gun shops and discovered Black Talon ammunition at each one.
"One guy told us, 'It will really tear up some meat,' " one officer recalled.