The Federal Bureau of Investigation has awarded Glock an $85 million contract for new handguns and parts. The purchase is part of the FBI’s move to adopt 9mm Luger as their primary cartridge, replacing .40 S&W.
Last year the FBI made the earth-shaking announcement that the agency was going back to 9mm. The FBI adopted .40 S&W in 1990 and since then, thousands of law enforcement agencies followed in kind.
Currently, the FBI issues Glock 22 and Glock 23 pistols to the majority of its agents. Agents who fail to qualify with the 40-caliber pistols receive 9mm Glock 17 or 19 pistols instead. With this new announcement, it’s likely that the FBI is going to adopt the same or similar 9mm Glock pistols agency-wide.
Of course, Glock manufactures a wide range of 9mm pistols, including the easy-to-conceal Glock 26 and Glock 43, both of which may also be useful to agents in the field — the Glock 26 is already permitted as a backup pistol. The award notice doesn’t specify which models the FBI is looking to purchase. In addition to the aforementioned models, certain FBI agents are allowed to carry Glock 21 pistols chambered for .45 ACP as well as the .40-caliber Glock 27.
While it’s true that many — even a majority — of American law enforcement agencies issue or require .40-caliber pistols for duty, in the past few years 9mm has started to become more popular for service.
There are four major factors contributing to the rise of 9mm over .40 S&W for law enforcement use. Increased magazine capacity is one of the main reasons.
The FBI determined that one of the most important elements of winning a gunfight is getting multiple rounds on target after studying shootings across the country. Because 9mm pistols hold more ammunition than .40-caliber handguns, agents stand a better chance of landing a stopping shot before needing to stop and reload. In the FBI’s investigation, they found that shooters miss between 70 and 80 percent of shots taken in self-defense. That alone makes a compelling argument to switch to 9mm, since most 9mm pistols hold between 2 to 4 more rounds of ammunition per magazine.
See Also: .40 is Dead. Long live .40!
Handguns chambered for 9mm have less recoil than those chambered for .40. That means shorter split times — getting rounds on target in less time. Since shootings can start and stop in a matter of seconds, anything that makes agents faster is a great help.
Of course, all of that hinges on 9mm being adequately effective in the first place. The FBI rejected 9mm Luger over .40 S&W in 1990. What changed?
For starters, bullet design has improved. Hollow point technology has come a long way these past few decades. Today, ammo manufacturers can consistently produce 9mm projectiles that expand even after passing through some barriers. In 1990, it took a wider bullet going fast to guarantee that kind of performance.
Modern 9mm pistols are built to withstand a solid amount of over-pressure ammunition — high-test loads that exceed standard specs. Over-pressure +P and +P+ ammo is standard for most law enforcement agencies. At the same time, to help shooters handle .40 S&W, many manufacturers down-load their ammo to soften the recoil. The end result is that over-pressure 9mm performs about the same as common low-recoil .40 ammo — plus you get more shots per mag.
And lastly, 9mm is a hair less expensive than .40 S&W. Large or small, all law enforcement agencies benefit from getting the most out of their budgets.
In addition to these reasons, the FBI won’t have to re-train its armed agents. Glocks are Glocks, with the same manual of arms and controls. Their new Glocks just hold a bit more ammo.