Firepower is much more than just a gun. In order to combat rising threats on the streets of America and the lethality of weapons used by criminals, law enforcement agencies are on the constant lookout for better stopping power. Loosely defined, ballistic stopping power, better known as “terminal ballistics,” is the general term for an attempt to quantify for comparison purposes the ability of various bullet and caliber combinations to immediately incapacitate an animal or a human attacker.
Law Enforcement Ammo
Many studies attempt to try and quantify the most effective ammunition for law enforcement officers to carry. The main questions for the ballistics of each round is how deep does it penetrate? How much does it expand? How much weight does it retain? While nothing is concrete, the studies provided some guidance to allow law enforcement agencies to target the best round for the duty weapons their officers carry.
New York City Police Department (NYPD)
For the nation’s largest police department, NYPD continues grappling with historic violent crime increases over the last few years. Shooting incidents reported reach 1,129 thus far in 2022. Clearly, officers rely heavily upon their duty weapon and the ammunition they carry.
NYPD recently restricted its duty weapon choice down to one of three: Glock 19, S&W 5946 or SIG Sauer P226 DAO. Each pistol comes chambered in 9mm. Within the last year, NYPD switched its duty weapon trigger from the “NY 12-pound” to a 5.5-pound trigger.” This change was made to increase accuracy rates.
With the rash of violence occurring in NYC though, the officers carry only one type of ammunition on duty – Speer’s 9mm 124-grain Gold Dot JHP +P load. Gold Dot ammunition is one of the top choices of law enforcement agencies around the world.
The higher-pressure (+P) variant of the standard 124-grain Gold Dot 9mm JHP round, which the NYPD uses, packs a harder punch (more stopping power). With more power comes higher chamber pressures, faster muzzle velocity, higher muzzle energy, and a snappier recoil. This +P round will punch through more barriers before stopping, and it will also impact with more force on a hardened target to stop a threat.
Chicago Police Department (CPD)
To combat this, CPD allows a wide variety of duty pistols, including the Glock 17 or 19, several Springfield XD pistols, as well as the Smith and Wesson M&P and in June 2018, the SIG Sauer P320 line, including the SIG P320 Nitron Full-Size, was added, all chambered in 9mm.
For duty carry, CPD previously authorized the SPEER 124 grain JHP +p, similar to what NYPD carries. They have since transitioned to the Winchester Ranger 9mm Luger 124 Grain +P bonded Jacketed Hollow Point. Backed by their comprehensive testing and training program, Winchester T Series ammunition offers excellent stopping power, penetration, expansion and weight retention, while maintaining accuracy.
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)
Los Angeles is another city under siege by violent crime. Recent crime statistics show homicides are up 14.6 percent with 329 victims, robberies up 16 percent with over 7,000 victims and shots fired up 17.9 percent with over 2,000 reports made. What this illustrates is a city where law enforcement is in the constant throws of dangerous and dynamic situations.
To combat this danger, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) utilizes an authorized duty weapon and also allows its officers to purchase and use other optional weapons. Earlier this year, LAPD began to equip its officers with the FN 509 MRD-LE duty pistol.
The new FN pistol offers improved accuracy and sighting versatility thanks to the patented Low-Profile Optics-Mounting System. The pistol also features a hammer-forged barrel with recessed target crown, conical striker and flat-faced, duty-rated trigger and co-witness tritium 3-dot iron sights. It comes chambered in 9mm.
With a new service weapon, LAPD went with new ammunition SPEER G2 147-grain JHP in 9mm. Instead of a deep hollow point, the G2 round has a shallow dish filled with a high-performance elastomer. On impact, the material is forced into engineered internal fissures to start the expansion process. The result is extremely uniform expansion, better separation of the petals, and more consistent penetration across barrier types through full-size handguns. This round received the highest-scoring performance in FBI testing protocol, which is why LAPD is using it.
Philadelphia Police Department (PPD)
Philly has seen its fair share of violence these past few years. As of September of this year, the city has reported 388 homicides, on track to beat last year’s historic total. It also experienced epidemic levels of shootings, up 3 percent. Robberies in which perpetrators used guns are up 60 percent, with property crimes up more than 30 percent, including commercial burglaries up over 50 percent. Overall violent crime is up 7 percent from the same time last year.
To be prepared to combat this level of violence, PPD has issued a directive outlining the following standard service weapons: .38 Caliber or .357 Magnum Caliber, four (4) inch and two (2) inch revolvers; Glock 9mm, Models 17 or 19, Glock .40 Caliber Model 22 and Glock .45 Caliber Models 21 or 21SF.
Generally speaking, the Detectives and more senior officers tend to be grandfathered by the revolver allowance, patrol and new officers issued the 9mm and the special operations, SWAT and some patrol officers choosing to carry the .40 and .45 cal pistols.
The ammunition of choice for the PPD is the Federal HST and Winchester Ranger T series in the appropriate caliber.
Federal HST features a specially designed hollow point that won’t plug while passing through a variety of barriers. Further, the bullet jacket and core hold together to provide nearly 100-percent weight retention through even the toughest materials. The round exhibited Superior performance in FBI test protocols with a nickel-plated case and high-performance primer that provided the ultimate in function and reliability.
Winchester Ranger T series ammunition is billed as having threat-stopping performance. The bullet’s patented, segment engineered design enhances expansion, penetration and weight retention through a variety of intervening barriers.
Houston Police Department (HPD)
As the largest department in Texas and in the southern part of the United States, Houston has a unique firearm and ammunition policy for its officers. It is one of the few departments that allows officers to carry several different types of primary firearms as well as ammunition. The type and caliber of firearms can vary from 9mm to 45 ACP. All officers must qualify with each of their primary service weapons and then have them listed in the Houston police firearms database.
Recently though, all new officers were mandated to initially purchase the Glock 17 with Trijicon red dot sight, chambered in 9mm. Based on Houston’s firearms directive, any type of ammunition can be used which may include Speer Gold dot, Winchester Ranger T and Federal HST ammunition.
Detroit Police Department
Detroit now ranks as the second most violent city in Michigan. Its total crime rate is still 130-percent higher than the national average, with violent crime rates being 462-percent higher than the American average. Property crime is also on the rise with a 64-percent higher rate. There were a total of 35,548 reported crime incidents in 2020, 14,370 of which were violent, while 21,178 were property crimes.
For its police department, who a few years back switched to carrying the Smith & Wesson M&P in .40 caliber. The ammunition of choice for the department is Federal Premium .40-caliber, 165-grain EFMJ. For a non-hollow point round, it offers a larger and heavier round with a controlled expansion and penetration. The EFMJ combines a scored full metal nose over an internal rubber tip that collapses on impact and never fills with barrier material.
Washington DC Metro Police (MPD)
With the constant threats facing our nation’s capital, from protest activity, to riots, threats against the federal government to regular crime, DC Metro rarely has a lull in the action.
As one of the very agencies to adopt the Glock duty weapon, DC Metro switched to the Glock 17 pistol in 9mm in the late 1980’s. As ammunition has evolved, so has the choice of duty ammunition. Currently, DC Metro uses 9mm Winchester Ranger Luger 124-grain +P. This 9mm ammunition offers great stopping power, penetration, expansion and weight retention.
Nassau County (NY) Police Department
Sitting at the doorstep on Long Island in New York City is Nassau County, which has had to combat a spill over of crime from NYC over the last few years.
Nassau County officers have, for years, had a choice to carry a SIG SAUER P226 or P228 in 9mm. That has changed. Now, all uniformed officers have a choice of a P226 or P229 in .40 caliber.
The ammunition of choice for Nassau County Police is Speer .40 caliber 165-grain GDHP. This round has the core bonded to the jacket which eliminates core-jacket separation. What this allows is for the round to retain its weight, shape and penetration power.
Baltimore Police Department
Baltimore has become another city under siege from violent crime. There have been 348 murders and 11,101 other incidents of violent crime this year. It places the city 162-percent above the national average for violent crimes.
What this means for its police officers is that they need a service weapon that is reliable which is why the officers carry a Glock 22 in .40 caliber (Weapons – Baltimore Police History (baltimorepolicemuseum.com)). Due to the supply chain issues and panic buying, it appears Baltimore Police are scrambling to acquire ammunition.
This means they are probably using a combination of widely used law enforcement ammunition like Speer .40 caliber 165-grain GDHP and Federal Law Enforcement .40 Smith & Wesson 165-grain Jacketed Hollow Point ammunition.
Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD)
MDPD works in perhaps one of the most dynamic and dangerous locations in the nation. Between the drug runners and transnational criminal activity in southern Florida, they are also looking to ensure their officers have the right firepower. The department allows its officers the option of carrying various types of service weapons. Approved weapons include HK USP9, S&W 5943 TSW and 5906, Ruger P94 and P95 DAO, Sig Sauer P226 DAO and P239 DAO, and Beretta 92D. The MDPD’s Incident Containment Team (ICT) carries the .40-caliber HK USP.
Due to this, the department does not have a standard ammunition directive. All it says is that “Uniformed officers will carry sufficient ammunition to supply two complete reloads for the approved primary firearm. Non-uniformed officers shall carry sufficient ammunition to supply a complete reload for the approved primary firearm and depending upon the nature of assignment, the requirement may be waived by the respective district/bureau commander. Officers needing replacement duty ammunition (.38 Special, 9 mm, .40 caliber, or .45 caliber cartridges; or 12-gauge shotgun shells) should contact the MDPSTI Police Survival Unit.”
What this alludes to is that MDPD is probably using the same type of proven and ballistically capable ammunition, in different calibers, as officers carry around the nation.
The firearm carried by officers remains important. But the ammunition used proves more critical. One shot from a handgun often falls short of doing the job. So more proven, ballistically capable and powerful ammunition goes further to stop the threat.