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Police Handgun Dilemma: Revolver vs. Semi-Auto

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 39 Issue: 8 Dated: (August 1991) Pages: 93-96
J C Kendig Jr; A W Zumpetta
Date Published
4 pages
Over the past several years, many police departments have converted from a standard issue .38/.357 caliber revolver to one of the newer semiautomatic pistols, and many other departments are contemplating the change.
The trend to change the official sidearm of police officers is based on a combination of factors. The most noteworthy of these are the changing scenario of police encounters with better armed criminals and the technical advancement of semiautomatic weapons. To determine what type of weapon is preferred, a survey of police officers in two Pennsylvania municipal police departments was conducted. The departments had recently changed from .357 magnum caliber revolvers to 9mm semiautomatic pistols. Both departments agreed to share range qualification scores of their police officers. Also, police officers in both departments completed a questionnaire to measure qualitative areas such as officer preference of sidearm, perceived safety, and perceived reliability. Of 19 sets of range scores, 10 officers scored higher with the pistol, 7 scored lower, and 2 remained the same. Officers perceived a mean average increase of 10 percent upon conversion to the semiautomatic pistol, and 93 percent said they preferred the pistol over the revolver. Some of the reasons for the preference included an increase in firepower, less recoil, and ease in reloading. Most officers also felt an increase in their own personal safety when carrying the pistol as opposed to the revolver. 1 table