Police look into buying new guns

Goals are economy, more stopping power

May 14, 1999|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Howard County police are considering four types of guns to replace the ones officers have carried for 11 years, saying the new equipment would be more economical and have better stopping power.

Officials have narrowed their preferences to four -- a .357 semiautomatic SIG-Sauer, a .40 SIG-Sauer, a .45 SIG-Sauer and an updated version of what they now use, a 9 mm.

The main differences among the semiautomatic weapons are the size and velocity of the bullets they use and the histories of the weapons, said Sgt. David Richards of the staff inspections unit. Officials are considering the reputation of each gun and laboratory test results.

Compared with the department's 9 mm guns, the .357 SIG-Sauer model shoots the same size bullet at a higher velocity; the .40-caliber model fires a larger bullet at the same velocity; and the .45-caliber weapon discharges a larger bullet at a slower velocity.

The combined differences in bullet size and velocity will increase the impact a shot has on a target, making it easier for officers to stop an immediate threat, said Maj. Mark Paterni of police administration.

"The ideal situation is to have the officer shoot once to stop a threat," Richards said. "Any additional shots could stray or hit an unintended target."

Maryland State Police and Anne Arundel County police were the latest departments to purchase new guns, both opting for .40-caliber weapons.

The 9 mm gun is the oldest model the department is considering; the .357-caliber weapon is the most expensive, at $520 each.

"This is the latest technology," Richards said. "When we bought the 9 mm, that was the only [semiautomatic] option available."

Police considered replacing their guns after conducting an annual check of the department's 355 guns two months ago and determining many needed new parts.

The current weapons "could have probably gone for another 10 years," Paterni said. But "we determined the cost to rebuild the guns was close to the cost of new ones" with a trade-in.

Paterni estimates that rebuilding the guns would cost about $220 each; with a trade-in, new ones would cost about $250 each. Officials expect to buy between 335 and 350 guns for the department's 313 officers.

County Executive James N. Robey allocated about $77,000 for guns in his budget, and police will request additional money for the new equipment.

A four-member committee is reviewing the gun choices and will make a recommendation to Police Chief Wayne Livesay in the next month.

Each county officer shoots about 150 rounds annually, most during training, Richards said. The last time an officer fired a weapon in the line of duty was Jan. 19.

Pub Date: 5/14/99

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