All Maryland State Police troopers soon will be armed with new Beretta .40-caliber pistols that pack more power and are considered ballistically superior to the 9 mm models being replaced.
Probationary troopers who graduated last month are trained and carrying the new semiautomatic handguns. Veteran troopers such as Lt. Lawrence E. Faries, commander of the Westminster barracks, began three days of training with the new handgun yesterday.
"The best thing about the .40-caliber Beretta is that the trigger pull is always the same because the hammer recocks each time the gun is fired," Faries said. "My personal [handgun] choice has always been a Glock 9 mm for that reason, but Beretta manufactures a quality weapon, and this new .40-caliber model is top-notch."
All state troopers should be trained and qualified to carry the .40-caliber model by July 1, Sgt. Bud Frank, chief firearms instructor, said.
In 1988, state police replaced revolvers with the 9 mm semiautomatic Berettas. They were more powerful, quicker to reload and held 15 rounds.
The .40-caliber model holds 11 rounds and weighs 33 ounces loaded, the same as the 9 mm, Frank said.
"We need new holsters only because the design of the weapon has changed a bit," he said.
The cost of both weapons -- $500 to $600 -- is about the same, said Faires. "The agency owns our service weapons and issues them to each trooper," he said.
Beretta U.S.A. Corp., which is based in Prince George's County, recently offered Maryland State Police an even exchange, the older 9 mm pistols for the newer .40-caliber weapons, Frank said.
The main improvement veteran troopers will notice immediately with the new handgun is the consistency of the trigger pull, which improves accuracy, he said.
The 9 mm is a "double-action only pistol," meaning the first pull on the trigger requires about 12 to 15 pounds of pressure, Frank said.
The hammer on the 9 mm does not recock after every shot, meaning the second and subsequent shots require only about 5 pounds of pressure on the trigger.
"The easier trigger-pull adversely affects accuracy," he said.
The .40-caliber also has ballistic superiority, said Frank, alluding to the anticipated damage one bullet will do when it strikes its target.
"The .40-caliber pistol has less recoil than a more powerful .45-caliber weapon, yet it creates a permanent cavity in the target that is just about as large as the .45-caliber weapon," he said.
Frank said so-called "stopping power" is not the principal reason for the changeover.
"That's a public, and unfortunately, a police officer's misperception," he said. "The .40-caliber pistol is ballistically superior, but 'stopping power' is a misnomer."
Some local police agencies, including the Taneytown Police Department, also may switch to .40-caliber pistols.
Taneytown Chief Melvin Diggs said his officers will trade in 9 mm Smith & Wesson semiautomatics for Smith & Wesson's .40-caliber model even up, meaning the swap will cost the city nothing except the price of seven holsters and one spare. The City Council has approved $55 for each, he said.
Diggs said Taneytown officers seldom fire a weapon in the line of duty, but added, "Any time we can upgrade to the same thing the criminals have on the street, that's fine with me."
Pub Date: 1/08/97