ICE New Pistol Solicitation Proceeds

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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).

Is this what they want? The SIG P320 family. The compact is the "Goldilocks" midsize -- about the same size as a G19.

Is this what they want? The SIG P320 family. The compact is the “Goldilocks” midsize — about the same size as a G19.

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):


25 thoughts on “ICE New Pistol Solicitation Proceeds

  1. archy

    ***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.***

    Which was never a problem for the Secret Service, whose shooters were mostly happy as a cat with a mouse with the SIG229/.357 SIG combination…until the Service began to switch to DAO SIGs. We shall see how that works out.

    But I think the DHS is Glock-shy because of the Glock *feature* of having to pull the trigger to begin the field strip sequence. I think the high-ups are pretty well terrified of their troops pulling the trigger on anything that goes bang.

    1. Hognose Post author

      As far as I can tell, senior management lets OFTP make these calls, and it’s OFTP that’s got an issue with trigger-pull disassembly. I do not believe there is a single agency that issues Glocks that hasn’t had an ND during disassembly. But then again, there probably isn’t an agency that doesn’t issue Glocks that has failed to have an ND during disassembly. “While cleaning his gun” is one of those standing phrases that Linotype operators used to set aside.

      The DAO/DAK SIGs were designed not because SIG engineers thought it was a great idea but because ND-shy customers demanded it. Including USSS, USCG, etc. I think the FAMS insisted on conventional (well, SIG-style) DA/SA and that was one of the disputes when they had a brain-dead USSS guy as top boss and he brought in a bunch of similarly lobotomized hacks as his underbosses.

  2. ToastieTheCoastie

    Sigs 229 in .40 Cal became the USCG service pistol and they were terrible to shoot IMO. They feel like you’re holding a brick. Thankfully, any shooting in the Coast Guard usually occurs at very short ranges. It doesn’t help accuracy at all that our Sigs were all double action to prevent a ND when making arrests.

  3. Kirk

    When you look at the entire spectrum of small arms procurement, here in the US, you find an awful lot of “awful”. Doesn’t matter who is doing it, they are usually doing it wrong.

    For US police, who often draw and use their guns as threat displays, the Glock is a terrible choice. It doesn’t fit in with the “use culture”, but we still see thousands of officers carrying them every day. Work your way back through the procurement process this results from, and you’ll find a lot of congruence with the problems we have in military small arms–The process is highly politicized, and the factors that actually get consideration have very little to do with how the weapons are actually used in the field. Witness the effectiveness of the Glock marketing machine, when compared to the reality of how cops often use their weapons in the field. I would not ever put a Glock into the hands of someone who often uses their weapons as “threat displays” to gain compliance, which is a big chunk of the US law enforcement community. The Glock was, plainly put, designed to be a killing tool that was in two modes: Holstered and safe, or drawn and shooting. Utilizing it in an “in between” mode is not what it was designed for–The weapon is very binary, and suitable for use by a tyro draftee (what it was actually designed for, BTW) as a last-ditch weapon, or someone using it for pure self-defense reasons. Going to hold someone at gunpoint, while cuffing them? This ain’t the weapon you ought to be carrying, friend-o.

    But, they’ve been adopted in huge numbers, mostly because the procurement people making the decisions aren’t at all familiar with the actual needs of a beat cop. I’m scared shitless every time I see a cop carrying a Glock doing the usual “cuff-and-stuff” thing, by themselves. It isn’t safe for the suspect, and it sure as hell isn’t safe for the cop.

    A lot of the choices made by the procurement people don’t actually make much sense, when you look at them from a perspective of “how will this weapon be used“, as opposed to “how will we train with this weapon…”. Same syndrome with the military–I defy anyone to explain the logic behind the XM-25, for example. There’s a weapon screaming out for an explanation–It’s shoulder-fired, and intended to hit small targets like windows and bunker slits out to a thousand meters? Where the fuck is the bipod, again? Or, the provision for tripod-mounting? I’m not seeing that thing work out at all, in the intended mode. I wager that after they’re issued, the majority of the weapons are going to wind up staying back in the arms room, vs. being actually carried. The whole idea reeks of the lab boffins coming up with a solution to a question nobody has asked, when they should have been doing something similar with the air-burst round concept on a platform that can actually deliver some effect, downrange. Like, say, the Carl Gustav…

  4. Red

    I fail to comprehend how people can have a ND while cleaning/disassembling a gun, even a Glock. If you have a ND, that just tells me you have no idea how to even clear a firearm. Blows my mind. Drop the mag and rack it several times, and behold, and empty gun. Sheesh.

    1. Neil S.

      If you have a ND, that just tells me you have no idea how to even clear a firearm.

      Right in one. Poorly trained, inexperienced, or unmotivated equipment operator + unusual task = BANGouch

    2. Ken

      I would add that if you don’t visually verify an empty chamber after racking several times; you are doing it wrong.

      I don’t see anything better than a Glock. While I buy and use them myself, I would prefer my tax dollars go to a U.S. company.

    3. Kirk

      I have to agree with you: If you screw up with a Glock when in cleaning or take-down, you’re likely an idiot who would screw up with anything else, as well.

      My problem with the Glock is that the pistol is designed as a killing tool for people who don’t have a tremendous amount of experience, or who are very experienced and not operating in an environment where they will be using the pistol as a threat display to gain compliance. The US police culture developed largely in an era where the officers carried revolvers with double-action triggers; such weapons lend themselves to use as threats, because when in double-action mode, the triggers take a hell of a lot more force than the single-action mode to fire. You’ll rarely find examples of an officer cocking such a weapon when cuffing a prisoner, or where there were “accidental” negligent discharges with them. As such, the policies and procedures grew up to where they trained the cops and the skells to believe that “cuffing and stuffing” was done with the handgun held at the ready, and likely pointed at the suspect. No pistol? Yeah, this officer isn’t really serious, and I’m safe to resist him, a little. That culture, and “training effect” on the criminal population makes the Glock positively lethal in such circumstances–There is no “heavy trigger pull” between you and an imminent trip to the ER or the Pearly Gates, but both cops and criminals are still acculturated to the old-style weapons. Me, I’m scared shitless every time I see a Glock out and “ready” in situations that don’t yet warrant deadly force–Making that trigger actuate has way, way too little leeway or forgiveness. I’m with my friend the police trainer–A Glock is an idea weapon for a civilian in a self-defense scenario, or a deep-cover cop who is only going to draw in extreme circumstances, but the design does not lend itself to the way the US routinely uses handguns in police work. Were an Austrian cop to draw down on a civilian the way I’ve been drawn down on during a traffic stop, he’d have to justify himself for even pulling the pistol out of the holster, pretty much the same way an American cop would have to if he fired. As such, the Glock design lends itself to the Austrian policing mode of operations, and not to the US one.

      Glocks are excellent pistols; the problem is, the design is not entirely suitable to the way the US does police work. Essentially, a cultural/training mismatch.

  5. Ghost Rider 6

    My basic EDC Glock is over 20 now (as of last month), and it’s in better shape than I am. Although, in fairness to myself, I am a bit older than 20.

  6. BAP

    Got a smith for my wife, we compared it to her step dads g17 and it felt better all around. Was actually a little disappointed because I was hoping the glock would win just for the ease of finding parts and accessories, but the M&P has performed well. Very happy with it.

  7. Cap'n Mike

    NDs happen so often in the largest Police Department in Eastern Mass, that they apparently have a couple of guys whose only job is to quickly investigate and clear Non intentional Discharges with the departments Glocks. The NDs mostly happen at home while officers are breaking down the weapons.

  8. Tim, '80s Mech Guy

    Glock knows how to sell it’s wares. And goes for the jugular when an opportunity arrises.

    The following is anecdotal and I can not swear to any of it, call it a bedtime story for armorers if you like or historical fiction.

    In the early to mid ninties Glock managed to grab almost all of the local market in North Georgia. Some of these agencies were standardizing for the first time and almost all were making the all important “upgrade” to autos. The city where Glock set up shop of course went 17/19, other municipalities followed. The county dragged thier feet a bit and Smith hooked them with a combination of the then new .40 and the “lets introduce three or four new models a week” 4046. After digging out your secret decoder wheel the 4046 is described as a full sized steel framed DAO-Smith’s version of DAO was disdained for it’s lack of a second strike capability. Smith supposedly swapped the autos for the 686s on a one for one basis and offered the revolvers to officers for $150. All was goodness and light for a few years untill one night I hear that the county is switching to G-22s RIGHT EFFING NOW! Yeah, over night. I ask around and get multiple stories that boil down to several mechanical failures during a qual session which led to the agency calling all the guns in for inspection. Inspection turned up six pistols that were signed out and carried which were non-functional. Glock was able to supply probably 300+ pistols on short notice, and remember this was around 1994-5. Smith was loving being able to say that a “Tier One” agency where Glock was located was issuing a Smith, meanwhile the Sigma debacle was in the works…
    Jump forward almost twenty years and Atlants PD decides to upgrade it’s issue gun, another third gen Smith, a personalized 5903 in DAO IIRC. APD had not jumped on the .40 band wagon but had not swapped it’s pistols out every few years for the latest gen version.( Glock seemed very willing to swap up and this was mostly during the ban and they got to swap mags out and resell the preban mags-just sayin’. )
    APD, not surprisingly went to the M&P, in part because of a bunch of animosity between the mayor and Glock and they bit on New and Cool. IMHO it would take Bill Bratton becoming Chief AND an Act Of GOD to get Glocks issued to APD. Then wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am APD decides after only three maybe four years that the M&P is substandard and announced Glock would become the new issue gun. The story I got this time, again second hand but from a source I trust, was that SWAT, in the course of shooting an ass load of city provided ammo was able to break a statistically larger than desirable number of Smiths.

    Just Sayin

  9. Ward Hopper

    I always figured that Glock took over the police world because they were at the time, more than anything, just less expensive.

    Also, can someone explain the P250 fiasco at ICE?

  10. Docduracoat

    In any system, the human element is the weakest link.
    Yes, if you remove the magazine and rack the slide ( only once is needed but several times is cool) the gun is now safe to pull the trigger for disassembly.
    People have a tendency to see what they expect to see.
    We see this often in the analysis of anesthesia disasters.
    People see what they saw yesterday, the day before and what they expect to see today. They don’t notice that today was different.
    Since there are striker fired pistols that do not require a trigger pull to field strip ( like the smith and Wesson M and P), why not choose one of these?
    It will definitely reduce the incidence of negligent discharges while cleaning.

    1. Hognose Post author

      The medical world is starting to catch up where aviation has been for a while in human factors research. Both fields have a weird bimodal distribution of accidents — they happen to the inexperienced and ill-trained (but overconfident) and that’s one spike, and they happen to the extremely experienced and complacent (and overconfident), that’s the second and lower spike.

      Choosing machines that eliminate risk factors is good policy, as is anything you can do to avoid the plaque of overconfidence from building up.

      The firearms world is far behind medicine or aviation in these endeavors.

        1. John Distai

          Human Factors Engineering is a large field, with a variety of texts on a variety of different subject matter areas. It’s very hard to recommend a general book without understanding what you are hoping to get out of it. There are plenty of introductory books that give a good overview though to get you started towards one particular area or another.

          If I recall correctly, you were in the Safety field. Kodak’s “Ergonomic Design for People At Work” is a good all around book for human factors and safety in industrial type work environments.

          “Human Factors in Engineering and Design” (Sanders and McCormick) is a good general book on human engineering principles. It’s out of print, but you can get a used one off of Amazon for a reasonable price. This is one of my favorite books. Useful for controls, displays, signs, etc. Interesting to read as well, at least for me.

          “Engineering Psychology and Human Performance” by Christopher Wickens is good if you want to understand more of the cognitive angle. Lots of good stuff on perspectives, displays, and controls. Another of my favorites. I believe the author is big into aviation research.

          “The Design of Everyday Things” is fairly light reading with some very basic design principles regarding objects you interact with everyday.

          “Set Phasers on Stun” and “The Atomic Chef” contain short stories which are good at describing human factors failures. Great bathroom reading.

          Alphonse Chapanis is sort of known as the “Godfather” of human factors. He has some books available on Amazon.

          “Normal Accidents” by Charles Perrow deals with system complexity and how its coupled. Good for system safety.

          Lots of human factors information out there, it just depends on how you want to narrow the field to find your topic of interest.

        2. Hognose Post author

          For the same reasons as John I hesitated to answer this. I backed into it through aviation accident investigation books. I have the introductory human factors text they use at Embry Riddle around here but I forget the name.

          I can second some of John’s recommendations including Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things and — once you have some other reading — Perrow’s Normal Accidents. I have also found Henry Petrosky’s books useful — they don’t talk directly about human factors but he does evaluate engineering failures, which generally come down to a failure of a human engineer in vision, design, substantiation, or supervision.

          I’ve probably read 10,000 aviation accident reports, military and civilian. For years I read every new report from the NTSB (aviation only), the BEA (French) AAIB (British), etc., after reading every old report. The reports can range from a couple of pages to a couple of file cabinets that take a week to read. These were very helpful.

          An airmanship trilogy by Tony Kern, Lt. Col. USAF Retired, (maybe Col.), is very worth reading although the two earlier volumes are dry. The last, “Darker Shades of Blue: the rogue pilot” is about the hazard posed by rogue individuals and rogue organizations and has useful examples from military, airline, and general aviation; it’s better written and edited than the earlier volumes.

          I just looked on amazon and the human factors texts are all crazy expensive. Here’s a freebie web training from FAA.

          A lot of the development these days is in “team performance” which gets tacked on at the end here. In aviation we call it Crew Resource Management (or Cockpit Resource Management). In aviation I am working in a pretty narrow area of English as a Second Language performance, which has its own literature of relevant mishaps.

          Here’s an MIT Open Course Ware Human Factors Engineering intro. Lots of the content is eviscerated from the notes due to the nasty copyright terms of typical textbooks.

          Open courseware has its own interface which does not seem to have undergone usability testing. (incidentally, for usability of computer stuff, read back numbers of Jakob Nielsen’s Useit:

          And one last thing. Here is an NTSB report on a motor vehicle accident with several interesting human factors issues including inexperience with a vehicle, cell phone use, and how human factors can be compounded by environmental ones — culminating in very bad luck for five people.

          1. John Distai

            Human Factors is really a pretty fascinating field. Unfortunately, in the software design industry, at least where I work, it’s taken a backseat to “visual design” and “user experience”. Euphemisms for whiz bang arts and crafts shit on UI’s that “may be used on mobile devices” (but won’t be). And, since the company I work for at least, has made a big joke out of HF skills, they can now bring anyone in off the street who can spell “UX” and “train” them to “design”. Thanks Apple and Steve Jobs for dumbing down this field! (Apple stuff is nice to look at, but Microsoft has them beat for usability for serious work tasks. I think they still take HF and Usability serious there. A religious argument, I know.) Now, at least in the software industry, It’s all about making things “delightful”. I’m not making that up. They should have made them “fabulous” instead.

            As my brain slowly rots away, I look at my paycheck and remind myself of that “they compensate me for my bitterness” and “there are worse things I could be doing…”

            But it used to be pretty cool. Perhaps in other, non-software domains it still is.

      1. Eric S

        The key to seeing what’s really there is to do a 3 count while looking at it. If you just glance your brain might just see what it expects.

  11. Gray

    Former mil; 30+ year LEO; shot/owned one of the first 17’s, 19’s and 21’s (low 100’s serial numbers) in the U.S.

    The problem is not the piece; the problem is always the mouthpiece. Mouth-breathers abound in every org, bar none. They are called ND’s for a reason; forcus on the “N”. As one of my favorite mentors (Cooper) was wont to say, “a gun is not supposed to be comfortable, it is supposed to be comforting”.

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