Should Police Carry Glocks and Other Glock-Like Handguns?

Bob Owens tossed this grenade last week, and I expected to see a lot more explosion. If there’s anything that gets debate going faster than a post that people will take as “your gun sucks,” I’ve never run across it. But it’s largely gone by without much argument in the blogosphere. I noticed that Miguel agrees, and Glenn Reynolds did too.

But really, I wouldn’t consider any response worth my time if the person isn’t a trainer. Those are the people who see a lot of examples and have experience with the limitations of the people they train. The only experience I’ve had with drawing my Glock under stress has been under the stress of competition, and even that’s been a while. I do regularly practice drawing with my finger indexed properly, but not under extreme stress, so I really don’t know if I have enough experience to comment.

All I can say is I’ve stopped fingering triggers on the draw after I conditioned myself not to do it. What would I do under the stress of a deadly force scenario? I don’t know, and I don’t think most other people know either until it happens. That’s why we train. I’ve seen studies about how fine motor control goes to hell when you have a bunch of adrenaline running through you, but if you look at things strictly through that lens, then we should all be carrying broadswords and battle axes, rather than handguns. Yet people do manage to successfully and safely defend themselves with pistols on a regular basis, including striker-fired pistols without manual safeties.

So you won’t see me write up a lengthy post on why Bob is wrong, because to be honest, I don’t have the expertise. I’m not a trainer. But I still plan on carrying a the same Glock I’ve carried since 2002. What do you think?

34 Responses to “Should Police Carry Glocks and Other Glock-Like Handguns?”

  1. Dannytheman says:

    I now carry a Sig P320 C. No mechanical safety, not even the Glock trigger safety. I train and train finger discipline. I feel fine, since I train and shoot more than most cops. I highly recommend the PPITH and PPOTH classes. You can add stress here as I do.
    Let’s face it, most cops requalify/shoot once a year. The quals are simple and all pass.
    Training is key and with all the great video training available now with SERT guns and options, it can be done cheaper. Shoot don’t shoot training should be included and scored.

    I told Bob I didn’t agree on Twitter, I also told him I respect his right to state his opinion.

    To me, it’s a training issue only. But who has the balls to tell a guy he just shouldn’t be carrying anymore on duty? I would toss him at desk duty till he become proficient again.

  2. Calimero says:

    Disclaimer: I’m not a trainer and I’m a bit of a Glock fanboy.

    I think that Bob dismisses the training angle a bit too quickly for my taste.

    Especially when he writes: ” According to experts I interviewed who have trained tens of thousands of police officers this [fraction of people leaving the finger too close/on the trigger] is consistent, regardless of the level of training.”

    Maybe the level of training wasn’t that high or at the very least incomplete in the safety department ?

    Sending lead downrange looks sexier and is much more easy to quantify (ie: round count) than teaching and evaluating a proper draw stroke, building up speed incrementally.

    Even in “civilian”/private training, I often feel that safety (muzzle discipline, trigger discipline) is quickly overlooked. If you don’t muzzle everyone during the first two mags training usually quickly moves on to shooting technique. A good trainer would still focus mostly on safety and probably use cameras to check that everything is good.

    You can be an awesome shooter in terms of speed and accuracy and be an unsafe shooter at the same time. Even during IPSC “club matches” there’s a certain level of complacency that develops over time because DQ-ing is sometimes seen as “not nice” instead of being understood as a stern warning without further consequences (ie: you just go home).

    To an extend I can understand the rationale: we have a certain level of training, we can’t really improve it, solution X (external safety, heavier trigger…) reduces NDs by 30%. If solution X delivers, it is not “stupid” to go that way.

    I’m wondering whether such statistics exists though. We’d have to check figures from departments who went one way or the other.

  3. benEzra says:

    A gun with a manual safety lever doesn’t prevent ND’s from Rule Three violations, since the procedure is generally to disengage the safety as the gun comes up. It also won’t necessarily prevent ND’s during reholstering; an officer who forgets to take his finger off the trigger when reholstering may just as well forget to engage the manual safety when reholstering.

    I personally like guns with manual safeties, but don’t see lack of one as a showstopper, and poor trigger finger discipline is arguably even more dangerous with a DA/SA than with a Glock or similar DAO-style striker fired pistol.

    • Jake says:

      “A gun with a manual safety lever doesn’t prevent ND’s from Rule Three violations, since the procedure is generally to disengage the safety as the gun comes up.”

      Yup. As someone at SayUncle’s said, add a manual safety and they’ll just change the training to add “disengage the safety as you draw the weapon”. So you’ll still have anointed cletii and lurleens fondling the bang switch when they shouldn’t, because that part of their training won’t be any different.

      You might even end up with more ND’s during the draw, because now they’re resting their finger on the trigger while manipulating a lever with the thumb on the same hand (hello, sympathetic clenching!).

  4. Jeff O says:

    I think what some people fail to remember is that many police today are not ‘gun guys’. In major metropolitan cities many of the new recruits have never even held a gun. Can they learn? Sure. Can they be safe? Most likely. But there will always be a certain percentage who just don’t get it, the ones who think you can rack the slide then drop the mag! IF we play to the lowest common denominator, than all cops should still carry single action revolvers.
    Longer triggers and additional safeties are not the solution. Safety is all between the ears, and training our police to be better ‘gun guys’, training them to overcome the adrenaline rush, and hammering them with the basics at the range would be the way to save a few lives.

    PS. I’ve carries a Sig P239 with no safety for 15 years. I still have all my body parts and no extra holes!

  5. Aces says:

    From reading many of the comments at the original article, I think it’s hard to distinguish who is responding as a citizen doing CC, vs LEO’s. So make it two separate discussions. 1) should LEO’s carry manual safety handguns; 2) should everyday citizen gun owners defensively carry manual safety handguns. Because I think the citizen is more likely to need to be sure his/her gun will fire whenever they take it out of the holster under stress. For LEO’s I don’t know; never been one; don’t envy their job.

    Do LEO’s often have the need to point their weapon at a suspect just to be ready if they make a furtive move? I don’t know. But if they do, then are they trained to release the safety, then pull the trigger? because if not, they may find themselves pulling the trigger with the safety on. Not a good thing either.

    As a citizen that may someday face a LEO’s pistol barrel, then selfishly I say, sure, all LEO’s should use manual safeties. Because that’s all about MY not getting killed. But it’s the officer who’s life is also on the line. They need to have some say in this.

    Meanwhile, I’ll still carry a Glock or my Shield. And if I’m pulling it out of the holster, I know it will go off when I need it too. And if I only want deescalate a situation, then I had better be using “Low Ready”, even with my finger off the trigger. That’s what I train.

  6. Sigivald says:

    I got nothing for against the Glock.

    But … his primary example was of a guy shooting his buddy by not checking the chamber before pulling the trigger for takedown.

    I want to know what the hell is going to change that by lengthening pull or adding external safeties.

    A guy who’d skip a chamber check and point it the wrong way for takedown will do the same damned thing with a 1911 or a DAO SIG or whatever.

  7. WLA says:

    As a former LEO, it comes down to training or lack thereof. Most officers have initial qualification on a duty firearm and then an annual or semi-annual qualification. Most of the officers I worked with, that was the only time they ever handled their firearm. Range practice was unheard of, since the agency would not provide additional rounds beyond qualification time, and most of the qualification rounds we used were reloads. Don’t get me started on drawing from retention holsters (still trying to forget the one Sergeant trying to draw her weapon from her duty belt that was pulled up to her arm pit, due to the lack of training). A lot of the good officers I worked with spent their own money and time to get tactically and technically proficient with their duty firearm.

  8. Some years ago, when I still lived in the People’s Republic of California, there was an unfortunate Glockident involving Santa Rosa PD. A drunk and disorderly guy was being taken into custody, and one officer who had trained originally with a revolver had his Glock drawn, when the D&D turned very suddenly. The officer instinctively pulled the trigger, blowing out this guy’s liver. The City ended up spending $100,000 for a liver transplant. Officers and civilians need to get used to the idea that you don’t put your finger in the trigger guard until ready to shoot–and not just for Glocks.

    • Patrick H says:

      I think that’s the issue. Even cops should have their finger on the trigger unless they are ready to shoot.

      Its a police training issue.

  9. Lawson says:

    Cliff notes:
    I shoot a lot, maintaining skill with any weapon system takes a lot of practice, I’d rather take the chance of shooting myself vs the chance of giving them extra time to shoot me while I have a gun aimed at them.


    While I have never been in a life/death situation and I am not a trainer, I have been on the business end of a police officer’s Glock in my own house with his finger on the trigger. I distinctly remember being annoyed at his finger placement – I realize this sounds like an attempt to be an internet commando, but it’s not… I was ‘caught’ in my room naked except for a shirt and immediately put my hands up. (he was responding to a silent house alarm and my land lord had let him in, my vehicle was not home and I didn’t answer the phone – for those interested)

    I have fired tens of thousands of rounds in the course of competitions requiring drawing a loaded weapon and have attended a number of defense centered classes in addition to competition centered classes. I started with Glock platforms, but other than keeping a manual of arms with my carry Glock, I shoot a 2011 platform (with a manual safety).

    My own view on the manual safety vs ‘no’ safety is that no change in the gun’s safety system will correct inadequate training; however, every competition shooter with a manual safety has, at some point, drawn, aimed, squeezed… and been momentarily confused by the lack of a ‘bang.’ My own, and admittedly biased, opinion is that I’d rather take the very small chance I shoot myself on the draw vs -what’s in my mind- a much more likely scenario of forgetting to drop the safety, giving my attacker time to react. I’ve never once personally witnessed anyone shoot themselves on the draw in competition, but I have seen several people forget to take off manual safeties. YMMV

  10. Roger Wilson says:

    Practice, practice, PRACTICE! Sadly,most LEOs don’t get nearly enough. Some time ago when I lived in an area where we could shoot year ’round without freezing, I would go through 150-200 rounds a month. Half target shooting and half in a form of “combat action” type competition. Muscle memory will keep your trigger finger off the trigger until your on target. It is a perishable skill.

    • Roger Wilson says:

      Some things I forgot to add:

      I’m not an instructor.
      I don’t own a Glock. They don’t fit my hand well.

      I do own more than one 1911, and an XD. Those that know the XD know it operates very similar to a Glock.

  11. Kevin says:

    The last course I took at Gunsite, EVERYONE had a Glock, instructor included.

  12. Gunnutmegger says:

    Bob Owens’ professional shooting credentials? Zip.
    Bob Owens’ professional gunsmithing credentials? Zip.
    Bob Owens’ affiliations with rival firearm manufacturers? Conveniently undisclosed.

  13. Matt says:

    After reading what Bob Owens had to say. I noticed that the recurring theme of his opinion was “forgiving” vs. “unforgiving”. I was not aware that firearms were sentient and able to dispense forgiveness. I’m not a cop, and I am aware that simply being a competitive shooter or undergoing firearms training as an armed security guard (police qualification targets are HUGH compared to what I normally shoot), does not give me the level of gravitas that a person like Bob Owens possesses. But I had no problems finishing the gun handling course and I did not have a ND with my Glock. And part of the course involved running to simulate the adrenalin rush. And even with having to use a retention holster that had a thumb break. (I’ll admit to using some trickery on this point. ALL my CCW holsters have thumb breaks, so I wisely avoided the favored Serpa holster everybody else showed up with).

    The truth is that the vast majority of citizen gun owners have never had to draw their weapon under true life or death stress. And neither have the vast majority of cops either. It all boils down to consistent training and practice. And the best any of us can hope for is to not mess up terribly when our crucible test arrives.

    And I look forward to buying as many police trade-in Glocks as I can when the cops listen to Owens and they all transition back to revolvers.

    • Alpheus says:

      As someone who has done a lot of computer work, including some UI design, as well as a touch of engineering and machining experience, I happen to have no problem with understanding “forgiving” vs. “unforgiving” designs. It’s more of a term of art, to indicate the level at which a given system will tolerate mistakes.

      Try to exceed the bounds of a list or array in Lisp, Python, etc? Forgiving: an error will be declared, and a chance might even be given to go back and fix things and start where you left off. (Possible in Common Lisp, for example.)

      If you exceed the bounds of an array in C? You overwrite memory, and potentially even compromise the security of your system if it doesn’t crash first. This is *very* unforgiving, to say the least.

      The tradeoff, though, is that the more you check for problems, the more CPU cycles you use, and in some environments, CPU cycles are in short supply. In Common Lisp, you have the option of turning off some of the safeties (I’m not sure if you’ll overwrite memory, but the option might be there)…

      • Sigivald says:

        Yeah, “unforgiving” and “forgiving” are pretty normal metaphors, not just in programming.

        (Crafts? Fabric is forgiving. Leather less so. Metal mostly not. Glass, not at all.)

        So I have no trouble understanding a system/gun with multiple redundant safeties being more forgiving of a single error than others.

        Just like the “Five Rules” require you to break more than one to shoot someone…

      • Matt says:

        Computer software, fabrics, yes some materials lend themselves to be forgiving to the shortcomings of the person using them. But we’re not talking about computer software or fabrics. We’re talking about a gun. What was that line that I always read in all of the firearm owners manuals? “ not rely on any safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge.” The forgiveness being asked for here is permission to rest a trigger finger on a trigger with the safety engaged. That type of “forgiveness” is only going to reinforce the very bad habit of poor trigger discipline. I don’t know about anybody else here, but I’m kind of a “All or None” kind of guy. I do not rest my trigger finger on a trigger until I’m ready to shoot. And it boils down to consistent practice.

  14. Carl from Chicago says:

    What do I think? I think I will continue carrying my Glocks. I feel confidence in them and in my capabilities and am not concerned about the issues raised. Perhaps I should be. But I am not.

  15. Gunnutmegger says:

    I wonder what gun Owens used for his Gunsite 250 class?

    Oh yeah: a Walther PPQ…which has a lighter trigger with shorter travel than a Glock.

    What a hypocrite.

    • Alpheus says:

      I’m not sure it’s fair to declare “hypocrisy” for this article. The overall tone of the piece to me seems to be “We need to reconsider safety-less short-trigger-pull pistols in general”, rather than an ultimate condemnation.

      That is, Bob Owens seems to be saying “This guy over here seems to have a valid point!”

  16. HappyWarrior6 says:

    If the issue is truly not training and it really is the trigger, Glock could adjust that at the factory upon agency request. Isn’t this what they do for NYPD issue guns? I thought I read on here that they are basically adjusted to emulate the trigger pull of a revolver. I realize NYPD doesn’t exactly have the cleanest record on officer-involved shootings, but I’d be curious how many NDs they have had.

  17. Flight-ER-Doc says:

    The problem isn’t with the tool, it’s with the tool holding the tool….NYPD is notoriously poorly trained, and yes, you can be trained not to put your finger on the damned trigger…

  18. Alpheus says:

    Full disclosure: I’m a bit of a 1911 fanboy myself, and I’m fairly certain I have never fired a Glock. Even though my impression of Glocks is that I’d dislike them, however, I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to try one out!

    In the article, Bob Owens mentions that police departments that transition to Glock-like mechanisms have more negligent discharges, while those that transition away have less. I’d like to see solid statistics on this, including statistical changes over time. Without solid, statistically sound numbers, we only have anecdotes…and sometimes anecdotes don’t hold up to scrutiny.

    • Sigivald says:

      I don’t have the numbers offhand, but I do recall Reputable Sources citing such changes at least immediately after the transition from revolvers.

      Which makes perfect sense – you can “get away with” lightly resting your finger on a DA revolver’s trigger, which makes a bad habit too easy to acquire.

      • Alpheus says:

        That’s why I would like to see time-elapsed data as part of the statistics.*

        If the problem only occurs immediately after the changes, then I suspect that it’s merely a problem of training. If the problem clearly continues afterward, but goes away when switching to non-Glock-like mechanisms, then perhaps it’s the mechanism.

        Either way, though, I’d like to think that it’s important to look at *lots* of studies, and make sure that we understand the problem first, before we start making the transition…

        *I should add that I’d like to see the statistics in theory; I’m too tired and busy to hunt them down at this moment, and I’m not sure how much I care one way or the other…except that I don’t like policy decisions made on faddish opinions of the day! (Especially if those fads proved not to be as stable as originally made out to be…)

  19. Phil Wong says:

    My response that I posted to the original article:

    Mr. Owens, in reading your blog and this article, I noticed that you are a proud Gunsite graduate, and use same to lend authority and credibility to your pontifications on the subject of defensive handguns and shooting – so, I got to wondering which pistol you used for Gunsite 250?

    Oh, a Walther PPQ – ummmm, that looks a lot like one of those “unforgiving” polymer-frame, striker-fired pistols with a short trigger pull and no external safeties…

    Wonder what the trigger’s like on that pistol?

    “Quick Defense Trigger: Smooth, light 5.6 lb trigger pull for all shots. Short .4″ trigger travel and .1″ trigger reset for fast, accurate second shots. Facilitates double-taps. Superb trigger feel aids accuracy.”

    By Jove, that sounds an awful lot like…a Glock or a S&W M&P. But, since it’s a *Walther*, it must be OK…

    So, how did you do at Gunsite with your “NotAGlock” Walther PPQ?

    “Yes, I “died” three times at Gunsite.

    In two runs on different indoor simulators I got tunnel vision. I cleared the rooms with deliberate intent, focusing so closely on every interior corner and angle that I simply failed to notice solitary bad guys standing outside the windows as I passed by.

    My third “death” was simply mortifying. I successfully cleared a room, and then encountered a target almost right on top of me in the narrow hallway beyond. I pointed, instead of looking at the front sight, and yanked the trigger instead of pressing it. I missed twice at five feet.”

    Golly gee willikers, you went to some of the best defensive handgun training in the world, and during a run in the Gunsite Funhouse – still regarded as one of the premier facilities for police gunfight and CQB/house-clearing training – you STILL ganked a couple of close-range shots with “a polymer-frame, striker-fired pistol with a short trigger pull and no external safeties.”

    Guess “the brutal reality that short trigger pulls and natural human reflexes are a deadly combination” worked out somewhat differently for you……/11/13/gunfighter-school-n1914586

    If only you’d been using one of those “DA/SA handguns like the Sig Sauer “P”-series, the Beretta 9 series and PX4 series, CZs, Smith & Wesson’s metal-frame semis,Ruger’s SR series, etc.” “with much longer double-action triggers that are just as easy to fire deliberately but that are much harder to fire accidentally,” as the founder of Gunsite, the late Col. Jeff Cooper advocated – oh wait, here’s what Col. Cooper ACTUALLY said about DA/SA pistols:

    October 1973–“Double action in an auto pistol seems to me an ingenious solution to a non-existent problem.”

    “In reflecting upon a recent all-cop pistol session we conducted over in California, it is apparent once again that cops, as a group, are pretty hard to train. Those who are stuck with the crunchenticker – and these are many – will persist with the slow-crunch technique in spite of all advice to the contrary. This system is almost universal in the law enforcement establishment. If it is done accurately it is too slow. If it is done rapidly it is inaccurate. It is possible that I am paying too much attention to unrealistically high levels of performance, which are really not necessary in gun fighting. Still, I like to see people do as well as they can. It is bothersome to see them make no effort to do so.

    There has never been much question about it, and it is indisputable after decades of observation that the single-action self-loading pistol – the Colt 1911 and its clones – is the easiest, heavy-duty sidearm with which to hit. The crunchenticker is the most difficult, and the Glock is somewhere in the middle. Shooting a Glock is simply shooting a single-action self-loader with no safety and a very poor trigger. If real excellence is not the objective, this is a satisfactory system to employ.”

    Perhaps Buz Mills should consider revoking your Gunsite 250 certificate for “blatant public hypocrisy unbecoming of a national gun-rights advocate,” or at least requiring you to repeat the course with a Beretta or SIG DA/SA pistol “with much longer double-action triggers that are just as easy to fire deliberately but that are much harder to fire accidentally” – and you yourself might want to read Matthew 7:1-5 before attempting to pander to low-information readers again…

  20. Carl from Chicago says:

    Phil, I must ask…what’s up with the nastiness? And to top it off, snidely citing the bible? Maybe I missed something? You seem to dislike hypocrisy, which is understandable, but in truth this kind of thing makes some of us roll our eyes at the “bible people.”

  21. Phil Wong says:

    Carl, the sheer hypocrisy of Owens bashing the exact same type of pistol that he himself used at Gunsite really torqued me off, especially since he appeared to be completely oblivious to what he himself wrote just a few months ago. I actually did several edits to tone my venom down, but I just couldn’t let the derpocrisy stand without hoisting him on the petard of his own words.

    Thing is, I like and own several of the DA semi-auto pistols he mentioned, and I actually agree that they’re not that hard to shoot once you learn how, but Bob Owens needs to start arguing for those guns based on their own merits instead of trying to tear down the guns that millions of cops and armed citizens carry to protect themselves and their families.

    The Matthew quote just seemed particularly apropos, being about Pharisees like Bob Owens who are so concerned about the minor faults and problems of others, and yet remain blindly oblivious to the same, or greater, faults which they themselves share…

  22. Dave says:

    Bob is wrong. NO GUN is safe enough mechanically that it can be handled in violation of the Four Rules.

    My thoughts here at

    • Alpheus says:

      I have mixed thoughts about this sentiment. If the claim is true, that 20% of people are going to keep their finger on the trigger no matter how much training is given them, then I could see how adding some sort of feature to prevent the gun from going off when drawing the weapon would be useful.

      Having said that, I find the claim of “no matter how much training is given them” a little dubious. It may be more realistic to point out that police don’t get all that much training…and I can’t help but wonder how difficult it would be to squeeze in some training. How difficult, for example, would it be to get the entire department over to something like Gunsite once a year? (Not all at once, of course…) Or require police officers to dry-fire every day for half an hour? Or have range time once a week? Or even once a month?

      I have the sneaky suspicion that the space of “police training” hasn’t been thoroughly exhausted, and until it has, the 20% would be a little dubious to me.

      Sure, if after all that training, fingering the trigger is a problem, then it would make sense to consider mechanical solutions…but it should always be kept in mind that even mechanical solutions won’t fully protect us from being human!

  23. Ian Argent says:

    Tam obviously has a time machine:

    If you follow the second link in her post (the one with the text “hard register,” it goes into details.

    I’m just some guy with a safe queen these days, but it strikes me that perhaps some weapons handling training might be a way to reduce the agencies’ insurance premiums…

  24. Chris says:

    I think Owens’ key point is that all humans are fallible. If everyone followed the four rules all the time, there would be no negligent discharges. But human beings are imperfect. So, even highly trained professionals fail to follow one or more of the four rules occasionally, right? Can anyone commenting on this post honestly say that he hasn’t screwed up at least once by touching the trigger when the pistol isn’t on target or unintentionally muzzling a human body part?

    I get the objections to manual safeties, but, for me, the ideal setup is a da/sa action with a decocker or decocker/safety (carrying decocked, safety off) I’m more accurate with a Beretta 92 compact than I am with a full size S&W M&P 9mm (roughly same barrel lengths), and I appreciate the heavier, longer trigger pull on the first shot of the Beretta as an additional safety measure — not as an excuse not to train and follow the four rules religiously, but as a recognition of my own imperfection. For me, the DA action is not a problem for minute-of-bad-guy accuracy, and gets much better with training and practice. I also find — again, for ME — that the SA action for follow-up shots, while perhaps not as effortless as a 2 lb 1911 competition trigger, is better than any striker-fired trigger I’ve shot.

    I am willing to concede that there are many trained pistol experts out there who are as safe or safer with a Glock than the average schlub with a da/sa pistol. However, in a nation that, at least so far, views the right to keep and bear arms as an inalienable right of every citizen, not just elite experts, there are many more schlubs like me who do not have that level of training and constant practice, even if we try, given the competing demands of job and family. It seems that many, if not most, LEOs are human as well.

    So, Owens’ comments make sense to me. I understand why many might disagree with those comments, but the vehemence of some seems over the top.

    All of the above assertions are, obviously, merely my opinions, and others’ mileage certainly will vary.