The History of Firearms in Law Enforcement

police officerA means of defense and a way to enforce the law have always been an important part of being a policeman. Take a look back at the history of firearms in the different factions of law enforcement, and how it has changed over the years. Compared to the advanced firearms that are used today, the earliest forms of weapons seem too simple to have been of much use.

Moves to Standardize

Right until the end of the 19th century, police weapons in the United States were in no way standardized. Instead of issuing each officer a firearm, they were required to use whatever weapons they happened to personally own. Because of this, there was a wide assortment of weapons used including shotguns, revolvers, and muskets. During this time there wasn’t a budget for not only weapons, but the training as well.

The first city to standardize the weapons used by their law enforcement was New York City. In 1896 Theodore Roosevelt was the police commissioner who made the change. He recognized that by standardizing the weapons used, he could do the same to both the ammunition and training, thus making it easier for officers to get the tools they needed. With this in mind he invested in 4,500 Colt Police Revolvers.

City to City

Today the weapons in the police force are not standardized all across the board, but differ between the different entities. Each city’s or faction’s law enforcement will have different weapons in their use. Most of these are Glock pistols which are semi-automatic, short recoil operated, and polymer-framed. The move towards other factions becoming standardized began in the early 1900s.

Each region seems to choose different calibers. In the Northern United States it is more likely you will see the .38 Special, while in the South, it is much more common for larger caliber revolvers to be used by law enforcement.

Each decade seemed to bring more changes of what was popular. As firearm technology improved, preferences changed. In the 1960s semi-automatic pistols gained popularity across police forces in the United States. This is especially important for police officers in urban areas where crime rates are higher, giving them more firepower than before.

Over the years the weapons used by police officers have changed. These changes have been dictated by safety, ease of training, and use. As firearm technology improves, changes will be made within cities as to which guns are used in different situations.


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