Why a lack of sidearm options at agencies is hurting female cops

The industry has adapted to meet the female market's needs, but most agencies are slow to follow

As more and more civilian women join the world of competitive shooting and gun ownership, the industry has solved the most common gun issues that inhibit poor firearms performance for women: guns are being made smaller, trigger pulls are lighter, and aftermarket grips are available to suit smaller hands.

For civilian women, the possibilities are endless. For female officers working in departments that shun change, the gun evolution is meaningless.

Lou Ann Hamblin, firearms instructor and retired officer, praised the Aurora (Colo.) Police Department for the variety of options they offer their officers.

“Aurora PD understands performance and they’re performance-driven,” said Hamblin. “They lay a dozen guns out on the table and let their officers try out every one. The one they love is the one they carry.”  

Of course this freedom is rare, but why? According to Hamblin, it’s because of budget, resistance to change, and opposition to status quo.

“The enemy is us; we have subject matter experts (firearms instructors) and invest a lot of money in those experts, but when it comes to making a decision, we don’t rely on firearms instructors,” explained Hamblin. “Agencies get married to a caliber and brand and it’s hard to peel them away. And from a female standpoint, we aren’t communicating enough to our instructors because we know nothing is going to change anyway. It’s a vicious cycle.”

According to UCSF Rangemaster Detective Mary Snider, it’s also partly because of a misconception that every officer should have the same gun and same ammo, in the event that an officer may need to hand over a mag to another officer. 

“My thought on that is that it’s BS because if one of my guys has used 37 rounds, what’s going on? Unless there are multiple suspects, I’m not going to hand over my mag to someone who just burned through 37 rounds, I’m going to tell him to take cover,” said Snider. 

Snider, who’s five-foot-six, carries a P226 — a sidearm she says she recommended her department carry in more than one caliber. She’s added E2 grips as well as a shorter trigger.

“It’s the most I can do to modify the gun,” says Snider, whose hands are still visibly too small to properly fit the weapon. “I have a permanent callous on the first knuckle of my thumb after 15 years of shooting, because I had to wrap my primary hand around the grip to reach the trigger, and I was low on the back strap.”

Why are men and women with smaller hands left making their guns as close a fit as possible when the industry is making guns specifically for smaller hands?

As much resistance as there is to change, it’s a change that can be the difference between life and death. The key to starting conversion from one firearm and/or caliber to another starts with listening:

1. Firearms instructors: listen to and watch your students. What are they struggling with and why?
2. Command staff: Listen to your firearms instructors. They’re industry experts, and they see the issues your officers are facing first-hand.
3. Decision-makers: Provide your agency with options and communicate with community stakeholders why these options are necessary. 

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