It’s no secret that the life of a police officer is extremely challenging both physically and mentally. After all, protecting and serving the community is at the heart of everything they do.
But how exactly do they protect themselves and the public all while tackling the toughest of crimes?
A common misconception for life on the beat, most of us have been led to believe that police officers are consistently armed and ready with plenty of defence weapons – including pistols.
The truth is most officers in the UK are not routinely equipped with pistols. In fact, to legally carry a pistol, police officers must be specially trained to serve as an Authorised Firearms Officers (AFO). Carrying a firearm without being accredited to do so can and will lead to serious consequences!
Today, we explore the history of handguns within the police force and which pistols are most commonly used throughout the UK and the rest of the world.
The history of handguns in the police force
Back in 1829 when the Metropolitan Police was first established, officials decided it would be best for the force to “blend in” to prevent any upset or backlash from the general public. With their infamous dull blue uniforms, all patrolling police officers were equipped with only truncheons (more commonly known as a “baton”) and pistols were totally out of the question.
However, as a rule of thumb, if a patrolling police officer had been called out to a particularly dangerous emergency, the highest form of protection provided to them was a sabre – a type of backsword with a curve blade.
As life on the beat became increasingly dangerous with accidents resulting in officers’ deaths by armed criminals, the issuing of firearms slowly expanded throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. A particular moment in history for police officers was in 1884 where, after the death of several officers, the Home Office ordered 1,000 revolvers to be issued to branches in London. Not only would this protect the public and the officers on beat, but it would also serve as a means to deter armed criminals.
However, as the use of firearms was not commonly heard of in the UK, most officers actually refused and never used them.
During the First and Second World Wars, almost every police officer was armed with some sort of rifle. And for good reason too! But, after the wars ended, the police force saw no good reason for continuing to equip every police officer with a gun and eventually, the UK saw a dip in the number of officers carrying a pistol.
In today’s climate, and with the terrifying rise of terrorist attacks throughout the world and the UK, specially trained police officer’s carrying a pistol is much more normalised and accepted.
Pistols Police officers carry in the UK
In the UK, the most commonly used firearm for police officers is the Glock 17. However, firearms can vary between police forces dependent on The Chief Constable and Police Authority’s discretion. For example:
- Glock 17: The most commonly used pistol among all Home Office police forces
- Glock 17M: A Glock 17 variant commonly used by firearms officers of the Metropolitan Police
- Glock 19: Used by the South Yorkshire Police force
- Glock 19M: A Glock 19 variant commonly used by firearms officers of the Metropolitan Police
- Glock 26: Used by firearms officers of the Metropolitan Police
There are some other types of pistols used within the police force throughout the UK, however, the Glock is the most common. But why?
Glocks are infamous for their simplicity and functionality. With minimal maintenance required, this type of pistol is certainly the most reliable and easy to use to allow Authorised Firearms Officers to act quickly and effectively in dangerous situations.
Pistols used around the world in Policing
No two countries are the same when it comes to the use of firearms. With each country reinstating its own law, to date, there are 21 countries that do not carry firearms unless absolutely necessary or otherwise trained to do so.
A recent study shows us the top eight most commonly used pistols around the world:
- Glock 19
- Glock 22
- Smith & Wesson M&P 9
- Beretta Model 92
- Sig Sauer P226
- Heckler and Koch HK45
- Ruger LC9
- Colt M1911
There you have it – the UK’s history of pistol use within the police force and the most commonly used firearm, the Glock 17.
While gun crime in the UK is slowly on the rise, there is no current merit in arming police officers out on patrol. To be legally equipped with and use a firearm, all officers must be specially trained and currently serving as an Authorised Firearms Officers (AFO).
You can rest assured that the police officer who is pulling you over on traffic duty is most likely not equipped with a pistol!