By DAVE COLLINS,Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut state police have criminals to thank for footing the $280,000 bill for replacing their 16-year-old pistols with new, more powerful handguns.
The entire cost of the 1,250 new .45-caliber Sig Sauer P220 pistols is being paid for with money and other assets seized during federal and state investigations of drug dealers and other criminals, under the federal asset forfeiture program, state police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said.
The new guns, made at Sig Sauer’s plant in Exeter, N.H., will replace the .40-caliber Sig Sauer pistols that state police have used since 1996. Trooper recruits began training with the new handguns Wednesday at the state police firing range in Simsbury. Troopers already on the force and other officials will be undergoing training over the next several months before switching to the new guns.
“I found it’s a nice shooting gun — accuracy and just the way it feels,” said Sgt. Shawn Corey of the state police firearms training unit.
Sig Sauer, Beretta and Smith & Wesson submitted gun proposals to the state earlier this year. Nearly 30 shooters from state police and other police agencies tested pistols from the three companies over two days, and the highest score went to the Sig Sauer .45-caliber.
Vance said the .45-caliber pistols are nearly the same as troopers’ current guns. He said the higher caliber has more “stopping power,” meaning it’s better at immobilizing people on the first shot or two.
State police replace their pistols every 12 to 14 years. In 1996, troopers upgraded to the Sig Sauer .40-caliber pistols from Beretta 9 mm guns. Authorities said at the time that a higher caliber was needed because the 9 mm guns failed to knock down suspects on the first few shots in a couple of confrontations.
The last time a Connecticut trooper used a gun on duty was on July 12 of this year, when Lt. Clayton Brown fatally shot a 78-year-old man who authorities say threatened Brown with a knife off Route 8 in Torrington.
State police are getting the new guns at $554 apiece, as well as 1,200 new holsters at $75 apiece and 1,200 bullet magazine pouches at $24 apiece, according to the contract with Sig Sauer. The company is buying back nearly 1,460 .40-caliber pistols from state police at $364 apiece, offsetting the overall cost.
Sig Sauer guns are popular among law enforcement agencies and have a reputation for being accurate and well-made, said Kenneth Cooper, director of security at Bard College in upstate New York and a certified firearms and use of force instructor.
“Sig Sauers are known as being very, very durable and functional in all weather situations,” Cooper said. “The .45-caliber is more controllable, even though it’s a larger round. In my opinion, it’s more of a pleasure to shoot, and very accurate.”
The Navy Seals, federal air marshals and Homeland Security authorities also use Sig Sauer guns, according to the company.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.