Law enforcement in the United States is in constant evolution and that includes various police sidearms.
These days, law enforcement carrying a .38 Special or .357 Magnum on duty seems like ancient history. In the 1980s, the cocaine wars brought an increased need for superior firepower and weaponry.
Firearm assaults on law enforcement are up more than 60 percent, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Agencies and officers are in constant need of better sidearms that are reliable and can end a threat.
Technology helps, and the FBI has conducted a multitude of studies showing that the modern 9mm round is just as lethal and capable as any other round on the market.
As this transition occurs, many departments are following the tide and switching their duty weapons back to ones chambered in 9mm. This shift is being led by many of the larger police departments in our nation, who are also dealing with a heightened sensitivity and calls to “demilitarize” and become more “community-oriented”.
Despite that, what critics don’t realize is as many departments move back to 9mm, the officers are actually increasing the number of rounds they can carry. With that comes increased accuracy and lethality of newer 9mm ammunition.
Taking that into account, we identified 10 of the largest police departments in the country and put together a list of where they are at with duty weapons.
To frame this properly, this list focuses solely on duty weapons that have been identified through various sources. It is not all-inclusive. Also, with the constant efforts to equip officers with better weapons, it is based on “best available information,” which may or may not have come from departmental sources.
New York City Police Department
Our nation’s largest police department is also charged with protecting a city that estimates put its future population at around 9 million people. That’s a lot to cover with approximately 40,000 officers.
The one constant for NYPD officers is they have and remain loyal to 9mm pistols. They also only use Speer’s 124-grain Gold Dot hollow point +P load on duty.
Regarding police sidearms, times have changed. These days most NYPD recruits get a choice of a department-issued gun. They actually try each pistol during the academy/. With the help of the instructors, decide what works better for each individual rookie officer.
The three duty pistol options (as of April 20, 2017) are the Glock 19 (pictured), the Smith & Wesson 5946 and the SIG Sauer P226 DAO. Due to the fear of a “negligent discharge,” NYPD-issued guns have some of the hardest triggers in the world, approaching 12-pound trigger pulls; this explains why part of the NYPD hiring process is the “trigger pull” test.
Reportedly some 25,000 officers have chosen the Glock 19 as their duty weapon, making the force Glock dominated. The second choice is a variant of the 5906 line: The stainless steel, full-sized S&W 5946. The pistol features a magazine-disconnect safety, an ambidextrous thumb safety, a one-piece wraparound grip, and either fixed sights or with a rear sight fully adjustable for windage and elevation.
The SIG Sauer P226 is also popular due to its reliability and heritage in the Special Forces community. The SIG P226 has a black anodized alloy frame and a decocking lever on the left side of the frame, which allows the hammer to be dropped safely.
Chicago Police Department
With more than 13,000 sworn officers, the Chicago Police Department is the second-largest department in the nation. CPD directives dictate what type of duty weapon officers can carry based on their hire date.
Since Aug. 28, 2015, the CPD has instituted for on-duty or off-duty use that officers can only carry a striker-fired semiautomatic pistol chambered in 9mm Luger. There is one exception for some officers that can carry a .380 caliber semiautomatic pistol. However, for most of the street cops, it’s a 9mm.
CPD allows a wide variety of duty pistols for officers including the Glock 17 or 19, several Springfield XD pistols, as well as the Smith and Wesson M&P. As of June 2018, the SIG Sauer P320 line, including the SIG P320 Nitron Full-Size (pictured), was added to the list of authorized police sidearms.
Los Angeles Police Department
On the West Coast, the LAPD’s more than 9,000 sworn officers have a lot of territory to cover.
Until 2002, the standard LAPD pistol was the Beretta 92F. When William Bratton was appointed chief, he allowed officers to also carry the Glock. Afterward, officers were issued the Glock 22 in .40 S&W. As of January 2022, the FN 509 MRD LE became the official duty gun of the LAPD (pictured).
For LAPD SWAT, Kimber designed and designated the Custom TLE II, a 5-inch-barreled 1911 in .45 ACP.
Philadelphia Police Department
As the largest city in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia’s 7,000 sworn officers patrol some tough streets. Philadelphia has standard service weapons, optimal service weapons, and off-duty weapon choices.
For standard police sidearms, the Philadelphia Police Department allows its officers — depending on training — to carry .38 Caliber or .357 Magnum, 4-inch and 2-inch revolvers. Philly also allows the Glock 17 (pictured) or Glock 19 in 9mm, Glock 22 in .40 Cal, and Glock 21 or 21SF in .45 ACP.
Houston Police Department
The Houston Police Department has 5,400 police officers who are all needed. The city’s crime rates rose significantly after Hurricane Katrina.
As the largest police department in Texas, Houston PD allows its officers to carry one of an array of .40-caliber handguns such as the SIG Sauer P229, SIG Sauer P226, SIG Sauer P220, Glock 22, or Glock 23 (pictured). Rookie cops must carry a Glock 17.
Long-serving officers whose handguns are “grandfathered in” are still allowed to carry their weapons after the mandated .40-caliber requirement. Some officer carry .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .45 Colt revolvers.
Detroit Police Department
Detroit police officers — approximately 2,200 of them — transitioned to the Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 chambered in 9mm.
D.C. Metropolitan Police Department
The Metro Police Department covers D.C. with a force of more than 3,000 officers. It handles all of the non-federal areas in the district. It’s also in the unique position of having a myriad of federal agencies that patrol different areas of D.C.
Since 1989, D.C. Metro officers run either standard-issue Glock 17s or Glock 19s in 9mm for patrol.
Lieutenants or above may carry the smaller Glock 26 in 9mm (pictured) as their department-issued service pistol. The D.C. MPD’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) uses SIG Sauer P226 9mm pistols.
Dallas Police Department
Since its inception more than 120 years ago, the Dallas Police Department has created an atmosphere of ethical, caring behavior. The 3,640 sworn officers and 556 civilians who make up the department take special pride in making Dallas safe.
The standard issue weapon for the Dallas PD is the SIG Sauer P226 (pictured). However, officers are also allowed to purchase the following SIGs and Glocks for primary use: SIG 225 (9mm), SIG 228 (9mm), SIG 239 (9mm/.357), SIG 229 (9mm/.357); the Glock 17, Glock 19, or Glock 26 (all in 9mm) or the Glock 31, Glock 32, or Glock 33 (all in .357).
Other police sidearms approved by the department are certain Berettas and the Smith & Wessons for officers who are grandfathered to carry those and were in the department prior to the issue of the SIG.
The Beretta models include: 92F, 92FC, 92FS, 92FS-M, 92D, 92DS, and the 92G (all in 9mm). The Smith & Wesson is the company’s revolver in .38 or .357.
Along with the above firearms, officers are also permitted to carry the following .380 pistols for secondary use (backup or off-duty) only: the SIG 230, SIG 232, Beretta 84F, and Beretta 85F.
Boston Police Department
In 1631, the people of Boston established a town watch. In 1636, the “watchmen” began patrolling the streets at night to protect the public from criminals, wild animals, and fire. Later, in 1854, the city replaced the watch organizations with the Boston Police Department.
Today, the Boston Police Department allows its officers to choose between three Glocks. On the menu are the Glock 22, Glock 23 (pictured), or Glock 27, all chambered in .40 caliber. Other allowed firearms include the 12-gauge Benelli M3 SBS, the .223 Bushmaster XM-15, and the .45 ACP SIG Sauer GSR.
Miami-Dade Police Department
The Miami-Dade Police Department is charged with the safety of more than 2.5 million residents who live within a 2,109 square mile area of the Miami-Dade County area. There are approximately 2,900 sworn officers and 1,700 support personnel working together and keeping residents safe.
Like the Philadephia police department, the standard issue weapon for Miami-Dade officers is also the Glock 17 in 9mm (pictured).
Prior to the Glock becoming the standard issue, officers could choose their own weapon off a list that reportedly included: The HK USP9; the S&W 5943 TSW and 5906; the Ruger P94 and P95 DAO; the SIG Sauer P226 DAO and P239 DAO; and the Beretta 92D.
Recap: Police Sidearms
As you can see, many departments have chosen 9mm duty weapons. While some have mandated the move, others allow options.
The above departments and other law enforcement agencies continue to adjust to new technology and emerging threats. The most important takeaway is this: every day these officers take to the streets adds one more layer of protection to keep our nation safe.