Recommend a weapon and duty gear.
August 17, 2012 7:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be working as an armed guard and would like your recommendations for firearm and duty gear!

I need recommendations for a sidearm, duty belt, and level 1+ retention holster. I did some reading about holsters, and I think I want a higher retention level than 1, getting shot with my own weapon would be a really frustrating, embarrassing way to die. I'm absolutely willing to spend the time necessary to practice getting the draw correct.

I'm short (5'6") and have small hands for a man (I wear men's medium gloves). I'm going to want a semi-automatic weapon (not a revolver), and I'd like for it to be light - I'm also leaning towards vinyl duty gear for the weight savings. I'd also like for it to be easy to take apart and clean, as I intend on pretty regular visits to the range.

I'm going to work as an armed guard for a cash truck company, so workdays are going to be eight hours of getting in and out of trucks and carrying around bags of cash. The place I'll be working with has a deal with these guys where I'll get the same discount on weapons as the local LEOs.

If you're curious, the company used to issue weapons, but they kept disappearing. And it works out fine, since I'd have to be buying this stuff for my skills training next summer anyway, so I can use student loan money for it.

Thanks for any recommendations!
posted by kavasa to Work & Money (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have a Glock 17 that came with a Stryker holster. The weight and action of the gun are right for me. Glock makes "compact" (as well as Standard and Sub-Compact) sized weapons. If you have small hands, I would try one of the compact sizes. As for the holster, mine was sold to me with the holster thrown in (long story) and I have only worn it once for any extended period. I was hiking in an area that there were many sightings of bears and I was far from help so I carried a sidearm. I think it made me and my hiking partner feel better than any good it could have actually have done.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:56 AM on August 17, 2012

My Galco holster (leather) is very comfortable and secure. It's hard to go wrong with Glock, as JohnnyGunn mentions. What's your budget look like? The Sig P229 would be another great option.

Do you have a particular caliber or capacity in mind?
posted by BurntHombre at 8:04 AM on August 17, 2012

I get the impression from your question that you haven't owned a gun before or perhaps ever fired one. If so, you are a novel candidate for an armed guard position.

Regarding gun models, I would recommend that you visit a local gun range. Most gun ranges have a collection of guns that can be rented on-site, and they usually have a deal where you can try all the guns you want for a certain price. (you will need to pay for the ammunition) I would recommend visiting the range to try a number of different pistols so you can see what feels right in your hand and which ones you can handle better in terms of recoil. A concern I have it that lighter guns have stronger recoil, so I would recommend pistols that are smaller but heavy.

Is there any reason why a revolver would not be an option? They are the conventional recommendation for newcomers to guns.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:17 AM on August 17, 2012

I'm a combat veteran and qualified on the M16 and M2, as well as just range firing a 249, 240B, and Mk19.

I'll certainly be visiting a range and trying out a variety of things, I'm looking for starting points and models to consider, though.

The belt/holster recommendation is an important part of the question* as well, there is a huge variety of holsters in varying retention levels out there, so having a recommendation from someone for a specific model to look at and try out would be great.

As far as revolvers go, even if I weren't already comfortable with magazines, my employer requires semi-automatic weapons.

Budget is somewhat flexible, but I'm thinking in the $500 range, +/- $100 for the weapon. I'd be willing to spend another $300 on duty gear if it were necessary to get really good equipment.

For caliber I'm leaning towards either 9mm (or maybe .40), as weight is a consideration.

*bolded because people seem a little fixated on the weapon
posted by kavasa at 8:33 AM on August 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

Yeah, I was going to suggest .40 but I figured someone more knowledgable would speak up. Given your background, if have access to ammo for it and are comfortable with paying for and owning something more exotic, you might consider FN's 5.7x28mm (and the Five-Seven, as the primary platform for it.) It seems to offer something between 9mm and .40....
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:39 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you really can't go wrong with a Glock 17 or 19. The 19 is slightly smaller than the 17. As for hand size, I think it's better (as far as Glocks go) to have one a little too big than a little too small, since a little too big in this case just means a slightly longer grip, not something that's too big to hold.

For open carry I have a Blackhawk holster for my Glock. It's plastic, has a paddle/clip or belt loop for attachment, and a retention button that's where your index finger should be when drawing a gun (straight and above/outside the trigger guard.) Note, the product I linked doesn't seem to include the paddle/clip style attachment, but I know it's available, and mine has it.

Definitely spend a lot of time practicing drawing with it though. While nothing would be more embarrassing than someone snatching your gun right out of the holster, not being able to get it out when you need it might be worse.
posted by MonsieurBon at 8:43 AM on August 17, 2012

As for sidearm, the default answer is Glock. Simple to operate, easy to maintain, utterly reliable. The Glock 22 or Glock 23 is probably the pistol to get. They are both chambered in .40 S&W, which is a very effective round that's the standard with many police departments in the US. The 22 is a full size handgun, and the 23 is a somewhat more compact model.

My recommendation would be to find a shooting range that rents either the 22 and the 23, or the Glock 17 and 19, which are chambered for the smaller, more popular 9mm round, but otherwise similar. See which of the two feels better in the hand, and go with that.

I'm a combat veteran and qualified on the M16 and M2, as well as just range firing a 249, 240B, and Mk19.

That was about the finest annoying-offtopic-derail shutdown I've ever seen.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:45 AM on August 17, 2012 [12 favorites]

In case you want something to compare to the Glock, the Smith and Wesson M&P series has compact models and you can swap in smaller or larger handgrip pieces.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:01 AM on August 17, 2012

I don't know why you would be considering 9 mm, .40 is the standard now for stopping power.
posted by zebraantelope at 9:07 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and as for the holster - everyone, and I mean everyone, is different. In this particular case, you may want to skip mail-order and go to a reputable local shop with a good selection. They'll have a dummy pistol you can try out the holsters with... the one that feels the most natural to operate is the one you want.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:22 AM on August 17, 2012

Duty Gear: Safariland ALS. Accept no substitutes. If you've got to accept a substitute, then the Safariland SLS, e.g., model 6285, with the hood (I believe they call it the "Sentry"). The Safariland 070 was state of the art in level 3 retention in the 90s. These all come in varying drop levels to match your body type.

My personal experience using duty gear predates the ALS, but the SLS and 070 were top of the line at the time, and the ALS is an evolution of the SLS.

In my opinion, the ALS / SLS draw stroke is the easiest to master of all common level 3 holsters, and the hood dramatically simplifies reholstering (and makes your weapon less likely to be hit or snag against things, because the hood encloses the rear of the weapon). That's a bigger concern for law enforcement, who draw their weapons much more often than armed security, but you will need to practice hundreds or thousands of draw strokes, so having a better holstering stroke will make the task easier. The 070 draw stroke is a bit different, and a fast draw can be done, but it is more difficult to master, and the reholstering requires an extra step to lock the holster.

Uncle Mike's Pro-2 or Pro-3 (for level 2 or 3 retention, respectively) are a budget choice, but (in my opinion, based on my experience with their equipment at the time, many years ago) will not handle the rigors of armored car duty as well as the Safariland gear.

For semi-automatic handguns, go to a range or gun store and see what fits your hand. Place the backstrap (the part of the grip just below the slide, furthest to the rear of the weapon) into the center of the "web" between your thumb and index finger. With the weapon held thusly, your trigger finger should rest on the trigger just beyond the most tip-wards (distal) joint crease. This is not the tip of the finger, but for most people will be approximately 1 centimeter from the tip. If you must rotate the grip in your hand to get your finger on the trigger, do not buy that gun (it is too large for your grip). It's possible to use an oversize gun, but why fight with it when you can get one that will fit?

Decide if you want to deal with a manual thumb safety or not. If you do, you will have to practice engaging the safety on the presentation to the target (drawing the gun and pointing it at the target), and then re-engaging the safety after firing. You will need to learn this to be automatic, which can be difficult if not done consistently (meaning, you do it every single time; don't just tell yourself "I'll do it right next time" because that builds a bad habit).

In your military experience, presumably you've handled the M9 (Beretta 92). This is the gun that I use as the best example of a poor fit for shooters with smaller hands. It has a very long trigger reach, a very thick grip, a heavy trigger pull, and a decocker / thumb safety that can be difficult to reach with the firing hand thumb (although, in its defense, the manual of arms is such that use of the safety is optional).

That said, I'd start with the full-size Smith & Wesson M&P in 9mm. It has interchangeable backstraps to accommodate varying sized hands, and can be had with or without a thumb safety. In my experience, it is ergonomically a better fit for a wider variety of people than the Glock 17 (the equivalent Glock model). That said, there is nothing wrong with a Glock if it fits your hand, and the current 4th generation Glock models also feature adjustable backstraps.

Try everything in the cabinet, though. Something else might fit you better; you never know. Before you buy, rent or borrow one, and fire at least a box of 50 through it and see if it pinches or pokes you during firing. Make sure you can reach all the controls without having to shift your grip.

The difference in terminal effectiveness between 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP when using modern hollowpoint ammunition is minimal, and in my opinion the ability of the shooter to accurately get hits is more important, and in my experience most shooters do better with a 9mm because (a) the recoil is more manageable, and (b) ammunition is more affordable, and thus the opportunity for practice is greater. "Modern hollowpoint ammunition" here means bullet designs from the last 5 years or so, not something from the 80s.

You will also need a decent duty belt (probably a two layer system, either velcro or using belt keepers), and horizontal magazine pouches (with retention flaps) that attach on the strong side of the body. Vertical pouches will likely poke you in the stomach or ride up under your vest (you're wearing a vest, right?) when you sit down, and horizontal pouches attach on the same side of the body as the holster, so the magazine draw is a cross-body reach with the support hand. If you have a radio, this also keeps the mags clear of the radio pouch. I personally favored suspenders to hold everything up and take the strain off my hips (I had handcuffs and other stuff you may not have), although they can snag on things as well.

Disclaimer: I am a firearms instructor, but have not taught armed security for quite a few years. My personal experience using duty gear on duty was quite a while ago, so I may be out of date on some things.
posted by doorsnake at 9:43 AM on August 17, 2012 [11 favorites]

Is there any way you can rent/borrow a holster for a while? I really, really, really think (based on trying to wear a variety of gear in camping and ROTC contexts) that comfort/weight are the highest priorities here, and there's no good way of telling what will work until you've been wearing one for at least a few 8-hour days. You are going to be wearing a lot of crap for a lot of hours, here, and I'm going to assume the radio, vest, and a bunch of the rest of it is company-issue, which means you have less flexibility in terms of adjusting other stuff later to make your nice expensive holster work for you.

Also, you will no doubt spend many hundreds of hours of time in this gear for every shot you fire in a crisis. Again, weight/comfort are the big things (beyond the "don't get shot by your own gun" and "make sure your gun fits your hands" stuff.)

You might want to ask this question at a place that has a massively larger LEO user segment than MetaFilter, BTW.
posted by SMPA at 10:06 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

SMPA, you mirror my thinking.

doorsnake - thank you very much, excellent answer. I will be wearing a vest, yeah, although the company actually leaves that up to the guards. If you ask for one you have to wear it, and my thinking is that if I decided not to get one and then got shot, the last thing I'd think before dying is "I am such an idiot," so... Vest it is. And hey, I'm sure it'll weigh like 1/4 of what I wore overseas.

Again, fantastic answer.
posted by kavasa at 10:32 AM on August 17, 2012

If you ask for one you have to wear it, and my thinking is that if I decided not to get one and then got shot, the last thing I'd think before dying is "I am such an idiot," so... Vest it is. And hey, I'm sure it'll weigh like 1/4 of what I wore overseas.

A vest isn't just about getting shot. A significant number of the "saves" documented by ballistic vest manufacturers over the years have been incidents wherein the wearer was in some kind of traffic accident, and the vest protected the wearer from blunt force trauma related to the accident. If the company provides it for free, the only possible downside is if you're in a very hot climate there's a risk of heatstroke or the like. With that in mind, if you keep yourself well hydrated, one thing to look for when shopping for a duty belt is how easy it is to get open / off for bathroom access. I preferred separate uniform pants and shirt over a one piece jumpsuit (which may not be an option for you) for just this reason.
posted by doorsnake at 11:19 AM on August 17, 2012

I mostly shoot a H&K USP .40 and find it to be a fantastic gun, so I'd throw that in for consideration. Glocks are different from most other handguns and its a real love it-or-hate it thing for many people (I'm in the "hate it" camp).

I'd definitely try an H&K or Smith & Wesson or something in addition to a Glock to see what works better for you.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:44 PM on August 17, 2012

(The USP also has a compact and other versions worth trying since weight is an issue, I've fired the USP Compact and liked it but not as much as the regular for my purposes).

On the Glock issue, in case you're curious I'm mostly referring to the trigger safety and the grip as "controversial" issues. Many people (including myself) find the grip strange compared to most semi-auto handguns. I don't like the trigger safety either but frankly the grips are usually the biggest issue, which is why firing a few and comparing against some other brands is definitely the way to go, shouldnt be too hard to find a range where you can do that.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:49 PM on August 17, 2012

Glocks have a blocky 2x4 grip--I love my Glock 19, but it has a grip reduction. All models have same grip size but vary in length (unless you're talking about the larger .45/10mm versions or the low-capacity, smaller single-stack .45).

The S&W MP9 with small backstrap does feel a lot better than any Glock and they have a good reputation for reliability (and great aftermarket stuff, like APEX parts/triggers).

My recommendations of guns with GREAT grips for small hands:
Ruger SR9 -- made for small hands and high capacity.
Caracal -- it's gaining popularity (designed by steyr guys--amazing capacity for it's size/feel).
Walther PPQ -- I'd put this alongside the MP9 with small backstrap. Better trigger.
HK P30 --with smallest side panels amd backstraps: you'll have to rob yourself to afford it.
Steyr M model -- feels great...good luck finding a holster.
Browning hi-power -- with those super-thin navarex (?) grips on it.

The single stack 9mms (Kahrs, 9mm 1911 types, etc.) just don't have the capacity even though they feel great in a small hand. Most are overpriced as well.
posted by whatgorilla at 1:35 AM on August 18, 2012

Doh. I forgot about the 4th gen Glocks: yes, they have different backstraps, but they don't really diminish the size as much as reshape the grip...reducing the hump at the lower rear.
posted by whatgorilla at 1:37 AM on August 18, 2012

1. Don't bother with an FN five-seven: the grips are HUGE--freakishly long back to front (it holds a ton of those speedy needles that work by velocity instead of weight). I think Beretta's (except the model 87), SIGs (*) and HKs are all as big or bigger than Glocks (though often more rounded/comfortable). * -- the SIG239 is doable, but then you run into that single-stack = low-capacity issue.

2. Stick with 9mm: It's cheaper to practice with and modern loads will do about as well, ballistically, as the .40 or .45 with faster follow-up shots. Shot placement is key, which means practice is key. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
posted by whatgorilla at 1:50 AM on August 18, 2012

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