It’s a subject of extension discussions around the campfires of HSI and ERO as one agent after another tries to read the tea leaves. “Hey, a Glock fits this.” “Hey, the SIG 320 still fits it.”
They’re looking for a 9mm striker-fired polymer-framed pistol that meets some specific requirements, and they want specific promises from the manufacturers.
Despite the fact that new rumors are being stirred up, there isn’t a whole lot to add here to the post we wrote in March and the correction that ICE OFTP asked of us at the time (although it’s embarrassing to see the incomplete sentences and paragraphs on those hasty posts. Ow).
Many ICE agents prefer the Glock platform, and retain a deep distrust of an agency firearms bureaucracy, the Office of Firearms and Tactical Programs (OFTP). OFTP is perceived — rightly or not — as so biased towards SIG as to practically be in the pocket of the firm. The current issue weapon is the SIG P229 DAK, but it is broadly disliked and many agents carry one of the approved personally owned models instead, most often Glocks. (That the G19 — Glock’s 9mm in the general form factor of the P229 — has never been approved for personal or off-duty carry by OFTP is seen by agents as more evidence of SIG boosterism).
A third option liked by many is the S&W platform (indeed, when we first wrote about this issue back in the spring, we thought the Smith was the target). It may not have the mindshare of the Glock or SIG, but it has been winning contracts based almost entirely on S&W having produced a reliable and accurate service pistol, after decades of missteps.
The 9mm is enjoying a resurgence in law enforcement circles thanks to improved terminal ballistic performance of new rounds, which has been documented by thorough tests, combined with the fact that many agents shoot better with the 9 rather than the .40, thanks to a more manageable recoil impulse and speedier return to target after firing. The round is already authorized in some approved personal pistols. A change to 9mm for the agency’s issue firearm would benefit the agents who struggle to qualify with the .40 — disproportionately small-framed and female agents. It would probably raise everybody’s scores a bit (“although not as much as getting to the range and practicing, and listening to your instructors f’r Chrissakes” we can hear the instructors say).
There are other reasons to look at new pistols. Unlike pistols in private hands, pistols in agency service are prone to wearing out. Basically, a well-designed pistol never fails, except “crib death” from manufacturing defects, or “senility” from wear or fatigue. Few privately-owned pistols have the duty cycle of an agency gun, and none have the toxic environment of being handled and used by multiple people who don’t own them. You may say you treat others’ property with equal care as you do your own, and you may try to, but most people don’t; and really, when was the last time you took a rental car through a car wash or vacuumed its carpets?
If wear-out is a problem, why not just buy more 229s? They have plenty of 229s… the agents aren’t drawing them. And, frankly, the pistol is a 1980s design. They’d be failing in their duty if they didn’t check to see whether newer technology hadn’t produced a better firearm in the last 30 years. (It’s interesting how many people carry guns whose designs are 100, 70, 50 or 40 years old. Even the basic Glock design is over 30 now!)
OFTP officials have vehemently denied any bias, to us as well as to their own field agents. They claim the G19, unique among Glocks, failed durability testing. The Glock does meet the minimum standards in the initial Statement of Work, but falls short of some of the preferred features. For example, they prefer an ambidextrous slide release, an option not available in the Austrian pistol, and they prefer disassembly without trigger-pulling (so do we; taking apart a Glock or Sigma still gives us the willies and makes us super clearance- and backstop-conscious, not entirely a bad thing).
Still, the 9mm solicitation is causing distress among the minority of agents who are firearms enthusiasts and who like and shoot well with the .40 S&W round (regardless of which approved weapon they use). They fear an agency selection of a 9mm service pistol threatens their continued ability to carry a personally-owned .40.
There have been no official documents since these in January, and we’re honestly not expecting OFTP to generate the non-draft Request For Proposal and Statement of Work until January, 2016. But here are the links:
Request for Information:
Statement of Work (draft; this will have to be finalized before anyone sends a set of pistols to OFTP for testing):