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SHOT Round Up Off-Duty Pistols

The annual Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT for industry folks) is not just for hunters and targets shooters.  Since 2002 the Law Enforcement/Military section of the SHOT Show has grown by leaps and bounds.  Amongst my many other duties at the 2012 show, I was tasked with keeping an eye out for practical off-duty pistols for law enforcement officers.  That I did and I’ve compiled a short list herein.

SIG P224

We might as well address this pistol first as a lot people were talking about it.  The new SIG P224 is essentially the baby brother of the P226 duty gun.  “Hold it, isn’t that the P229?” you say.  The P224 is more compact than the P229.   As for manufacturer’s specs, the P224 has a 3.5-inch barrel, overall length of 6.7 inches, and height of 4.5 inches.   Empty weight is 25.4 ounces. 

During Range Day, the pre-SHOT live fire event, I was able to test a P224 in .40 S&W.  It was a quick session but the cycled every round and I was able to hit the steel targets in front of me.   I had a chance to speak with the SIG engineer assigned to the P224 project and he explained that the gun would be first offered in .40S&W, then .357 SIG and finally 9x19mm.   I’m looking forward to the 9mm version.   Keep an eye out. The P224 pistol should be hitting your dealer’s shelves very soon.

Springfield XD(M) 3.8

The new XD(M) 3.8 from Springfield Armory in 9x19mm is quite a handful of gun.  This compact pistol uses the improved striker-fired XD trigger mechanism.  A polymer frame is mated to stainless steel slide with a Melonite® finish.   The empty weight of the pistol is 27.5 ounces.   As the name states, the barrel is 3.8 inches.  The overall length is 7 inches and the height for this pistol is 5.6 inches.

While the height is a bit on the tall side for a compact handgun the pistol makes up for it by feeding from 19 round magazines.  Yes, the XD(M) 3.8 9x19mm pistol is a 19+1 capacity gun.   The pistol has a compact accessory rail, ambidextrous magazine release button, and grip safety.  All the XD(M) pistols arrive from Springfield Armory in a padded hard case as a package deal with magazines, holster, and magazine pouch.  They are a great deal by anyone’s standards.

S&W M&P9C and Bodyguard

There were two pistols in the S&W booth that I wanted to mention as “off-duty” carry guns.  The first is the M&P9C.  Yes, the compact version of the M&P9.  I’ve had an M&P9 for about two years now and the more I shoot it the better it feels to me.  The 9C version uses a 3.5 inch barrel, has an overall length of 6.7 inches and a height of 4.3 inches.   The factory magazine holds 12 rounds of ammunition.  Empty weight is 21.7 ounces.  Naturally, like all other M&P pistols this one uses a striker-fired trigger mechanism.  A Melonite coated stainless steel slide mates to a polymer frame.

In the smaller, more compact category is the S&W Bodyguard .380 ACP pistol.  This thin, flat sub-compact gun hold 6+1 rounds of .380 ammunition and has a 2.75 inch barrel.  Again, a stainless steel slide mates with a polymer grip frame.  Empty weight for this little gun is only 11.85 ounces.  The Bodyguard pistol has the “value added” feature of an Insight Technology red laser aiming module built in.   I’m a fan of laser aiming devices for compact handguns, but the switching system on this pistol leaves something to be desired in my book.

GLOCK 26 Gen4

Like all the other GLOCK pistols in the catalog, the ultra-popular G26 recently underwent the Gen 4 upgrade.  From a practical standpoint all that really changed on this pistol is the texturing on the grip and the enlarged magazine release button.  According to my GLOCK Rep the internal components of the new G26 are essentially the same as the original model.

GLOCK has dubbed this model a “sub-compact”, but it is still good sized defensive gun.  The magazine holds ten rounds of 9mm and naturally the gun will accept both G17 and G19 higher capacity magazines.  Barrel length is 3.43 inches with an overall length of 6.42 inches.   The height is 4.17 inches and empty weight is 19.75 ounces.  The GLOCK “safe-action” trigger system is straight-forward and easy to master.  In my humble opinion, the G26 is the J-frame of the 21st Century.

Parting Thoughts

Yes, you will have noted that most all the guns listed are either 9x19mm or .380 ACP in one case.  I am pretty much over the .40 S&W cartridge.  There is no denying that the .40 cartridge is a high-pressure round, severe enough to damage handguns over time.   Currently, .40 S&W ammunition costs 25 to 30 percent more than comparable 9x19mm ammo.  I like to shoot and practice with my defensive hardware.  Comparing apples to apples you also lose two to three rounds in the magazine with a .40.  

Full disclosure, I was super excited about the G23 in .40 S&W back in 1993 when I was a rookie cop.  I bought one as soon as I could and shot the snot out of it.   I still have the gun and carry it daily but it now has a Lone Wolf 9mm barrel and is fed by G19 magazines.  A pistol is never going to be as powerful as a rifle regardless of the current “magic bullet” loaded in it.  If I have to use a handgun for personal defensive I want it to be controllable for fast follow up shots and have a plethora of ammunition. 

Regardless of your brand loyalty, all of the pistols mentioned here come from reputable manufacturers who have proven track records.  Choose the one you like and practice with it.  A shoot out while off-duty is bad enough without having to worry about your hardware or lack or practice.


About The Author:

Mr. Markel is a former United States Marine, Police Officer, and has worked as a professional bodyguard both in the U.S. and overseas. A Subject Matter Expert on Small Arms and Tactics, Markel has provided instruction to law enforcement and U.S. Military troops.

As a recognized author and writer, Paul has penned several hundred articles published in numerous professional journals and trade periodicals. Topics include firearms training, use of force, marksmanship, less-than-lethal force options, product reviews and evaluations, emergency medical care, and much more. Sought after as a public speaker, Mr. Markel is at home in front of an audience large or small.