NYPD’s Choice of Firearm May Have Contributed to the Terrible Shooting

That’s “terrible shooting” as in “you can’t hit the broad side of a barn” and not the “oh the humanity” meaning of the phrase. Not that eleven people ending up with some extra orifices isn’t terrible, but that’s not what this article is about. This is about how the NYPD’s upper ranks chose the wrong specs for their firearms and the effect it had on the events of Friday outside the Empire State Building . . .

One of my friends is a NYPD police officer, and when he comes to shooting competitions he always uses his duty gear. I think that’s fantastic and more police officers should do likewise, but it always puts him at a disadvantage compared to other shooters. And the reason for that is the NYPD’s requirement for a 12 pound trigger pull weight.

NYPD cops are given a choice. They can have a SIG P226, a Glock 19, or a Smith & Wesson 5946. But no matter what they choose, the triggers are modified to have a 12 pound pull for every shot fired.

So even with the P226, which was designed to be double action for the first round and single action for every round thereafter, the NYPD requires it to operate in “double action ONLY” mode. Not only that, they raise the trigger pull weight from the designed pull of 10 pounds to 12 pounds. Its the same story for the Glock. What used to be a factory-issue 5.5 pounds of pressure required to trip the trigger becomes a 12 pound monstrosity.

As anyone who has fired a double action handgun knows IMMEDIATELY once they touch that round off, getting an accurate shot with a heavy trigger is significantly more difficult than with a lighter one.

To illustrate this point, I went out to the local range to do some testing. I brought my SIG MK25 P226, two USPSA targets and a shot timer. I set up one target, set the shot timer to “random delay start” with a par time of one second and shot one target single action (light trigger) and one target double action (heavy trigger) from 15 yards.

Here are the results. The target on the right is single action and 100% combat effective (only 2 shots dropped into the “C” zone). On the left, the double action only target is not so good. And the reason is that as you use more force to pull the trigger, the sympathetic muscle contractions in your hand move your gun off target.

I’ve spent countless hours on the range trying to overcome those sympathetic muscle reactions to get a better, cleaner first shot, but I still haven’t been able to do it. If you’ve seen my competition videos, you may notice that I take three shots at the first target — the reason is that I assume the first round to be a miss thanks to that DA trigger pull.

Cops don’t practice nearly as much. A range near where I used to live in Virginia was under contract to the police department to provide free range time and free ammunition to any LEO who wanted to get some practice — no one ever took advantage of it. So its no surprise that when it comes time for them to use their gun in a life or death situation they can’t compensate for that muscle contraction as well as someone who focuses their practice on it.

The same complications keep my NYPD friend from being able to scratch the upper half of the list in competitions. No matter how fast he goes, his heavy DAO trigger keeps him down. The only time he sees improvement in his shooting is when he asks to use my SIG instead.

This heavy trigger pull is exactly the reason I’m selling my competition P226 in favor of either a S&W M&P or a Glock (haven’t quite decided yet) this week. While I agree that bad shooting isn’t necessarily the gun’s fault — and in this case if I spent thousands more hours on the range I could probably get that first round under control — it doesn’t make sense to keep using a gun or equipment that keeps you from being as accurate as you can be.

You can’t throw money at a problem that needs to be fixed through training, but you shouldn’t use equipment that holds you back when you know you can do better, either. And in this case, it seems like the NYPD needs to do both; get some help training their officers AND stop requiring the “ND-proof” 12 pound trigger. Unless they like their cops shooting bystanders, that is.