GLOCK Brings Arizona Heat

From 1865 until 1992, Pima County, AZ, deputy sheriffs used…

From 1865 until 1992, Pima County, AZ, deputy sheriffs used an assortment of revolvers and pistols including .357 magnum wheel guns and .45 Auto M1911s to protect life and property. After decades of carrying these various handguns, the sheriff made a decision to modernize the equipment of his department and adopt a new service pistol. This article examines the transition the Pima County Sheriffs Department made to GLOCK pistols.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD) operates from a headquarters facility and six patrol districts with various specialized units, providing law enforcement services in an area that covers 9,186 square miles of territory in southern Arizona. As far as the population numbers are concerned, more than one million people live in the greater Tucson area. Just like other law enforcement agencies, the PCSD has always taken the need to properly arm its commissioned, sworn personnel very seriously.

Applying Force
When it comes to firearms training, the PCSD is fortunate to be partners with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA), a federal entity under the office of the “Drug Czar” that built a large, modern firearms training facility at the Rita Road exit off Interstate 10 in Pima County.

As the permanent custodians of the Pima Regional Training Center, the PCSD manages the facility that includes numerous classrooms, several pistol ranges, a rifle range, a live-fire training building and a “survival town” that is built to look like a typical suburban neighborhood, complete with buildings and paved streets, that is ideal for tactical training and simulated munitions training. The Pima Regional Training Center is used by every law enforcement agency in the area and is managed on a daily basis by its own rangemaster, Sgt. Jim Murphy of the PCSD.

While covering this story, I was invited to visit Sgt. Murphy at the Pima Regional Training Center, a place I know well because I trained at this incredibly well-run range facility before I retired from my federal law enforcement career. During my visit, Sgt. Murphy, who also serves as a SWAT sergeant, briefed me about the day when Pima County’s sheriff decided that it was time to modernize his department and issue his commissioned, sworn personnel with the best pistol on the market that fit their needs. This pistol turned out to be a GLOCK.

As the story goes, when it came time to select a new service handgun, the PCSD evaluated several designs. It used some of the research conducted by the U.S. military when they decided to transition from numerous .38 Special revolvers and the .45 Auto M1911 to a high-capacity 9×19 pistol. After an exhaustive study was conducted, the facts were presented to the sheriff and the decision was officially made in 1992 to select the 9×19 GLOCK 17 as the new service sidearm for the Pima County Sheriffs Department.

At the time, the GLOCK 17 was a 21st-century design that was being manufactured in the tail end of the 20th century. In addition to being armed with a pistol that had a magazine capacity of 17 rounds, deputies would also be armed with a pistol that was flawlessly reliable in a sandy desert environment or at higher elevations where large amounts of snow accumulated in the winter months.

Even though the PCSD now had a new service pistol, the sheriff continued to authorize his commissioned personnel to carry a variety of personally owned handguns that were approved for on- and off-duty use. When I did the research for this article, I found it interesting that as time passed more and more deputies adopted an issued or privately owned GLOCK pistol rather than ones made by another manufacturer because at this time the department wanted to replace their 12-year old GLOCK 17s with a new GLOCK service pistol. More on this later.

Like many other tactical officers, the PCSD deputy sheriffs who were members of the SWAT team initially preferred to use a M1911 in .45 Auto. By 2002 to 2003, a decision was made to transition to a GLOCK 31 in .357 for all PCSD SWAT personnel. The decision was made to adopt the GLOCK 31 because this pistol provided tremendous firepower in a super hard-hitting “modern” caliber.

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  • General Jim M

    Glock 31,one pistol that should be WAY more popular.With the right ammo ( Doubletap ) it is a 16 shot 357 magnum.