NYPD should issue Glocks with a standard 5-pound trigger to all officers, not just new recruits
NYPD has used 12-pound trigger pulls for several decades
In August 2021, the NYPD announced it would be issuing new recruits a pistol with a lighter trigger pull to improve accuracy, replacing the the12-pound trigger pulls it had used for more than 100 years in various sidearms with guns with five-pound trigger pulls. Here columnist Warren Wilson discusses that decision.
“That’s too bad because we were going to order 40,000 of them.”
The legend goes that this was the response of a large New York law enforcement agency to Gaston Glock’s refusal to build them guns with trigger pulls heavier than the standard 5.5 pounds. The sheer magnitude of the order apparently swayed Mr. Glock to take the deal.
Later, Glock would make guns in both 8-pound and 12-pound pull weights for a few different agencies in the state. There were also some pistols other than Glocks mixed in during this time, but I’d like to stay on topic and not bore the reader with trivia.
The point is that Glock wasn’t thrilled about the heavier triggers on their guns; particularly the 12-pound pull weight on the NYPD pistols. Part of their concern was that they would have to manufacture a gadget to make the trigger that bad. Yes. I said, “bad.” That heavy of a trigger on a striker-fired gun is bad.
(As we delve into this topic, please don’t take anything I say here as an indictment of the NYPD administration, trainers or officers as to the decision to field these pistols or some of the consequences of that decision.)
Lighter triggers are easier to shoot accurately
Why are lighter triggers easier to shoot accurately on pistols? A fully loaded Glock 9mm pistol weighs less than two pounds. The goal during the firing sequence is to keep the pistol still and the sight picture/alignment undisturbed. Is that easier to do when the shooter is inputting pressure that is 2.5 times the weight of the gun or 6 times the weight of the gun?
People think rifles are easier to shoot because of the sight radius, et al. I would argue that rifles are easier to shoot because they weigh 6 or 7 pounds and the shooter’s trigger manipulation is affecting that the firearm to a much smaller degree.
Another rationale the NYPD used to justify the 12-pound trigger presses of their new pistols was that it would be consistent with the revolvers their more seasoned officers had used for decades. That is a little like comparing apples and bears. A revolver trigger of the same weight has a substantially longer trigger pull – required to rotate the cylinder – which spreads the pressure over a longer distance and time period before the cylinder locks. At that point, the hammer drops crisply with just slightly more pressure.
I’m told that Mr. Glock was also concerned that the unnecessarily cumbersome trigger presses would result in poor marksmanship and therefore, tragic outcomes.
Lighter triggers are safer
The apparent problem the NYPD brass were trying to resolve was unintentional/accidental/negligent firearms discharges. This is the wrong solution to this problem. The correct solution is training.
No cop should ever place their finger inside the trigger guard of their pistol until they are on target and about to fire. The trigger finger should be straight and placed as high as possible on the frame, or preferably on the slide of the pistol until the firing decision has been made. Granted, lighter trigger weights are more likely to result in unintentional discharges, but only from those who violate this rule. In this state, those officers who cannot grasp this concept are subject to remedial training and eventually dismissal.
Every bullet hits something
Hitting what one is shooting at is critical for law enforcement officers. Tom Givens is a nationally renowned firearms instructor. He has often been quoted as saying, “There’s no such thing as a miss. Every bullet hits something,” in reference to the importance of marksmanship in self-defense. I make certain my students take this principle with the utmost seriousness. When one of them misses the silhouette during practice or qualification, I’ll often draw a stick figure family over the bullet hole on the target to emphasize the importance of accountability in marksmanship.
To further emphasize this point, consider the 2012 Empire State Building shooting. Nine innocent bystanders were struck by NYPD bullets, which was confirmed by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Nine. Granted, some of the innocents were wounded by bullets that over-penetrated the intended target, a man who had just shot and killed a former co-worker. That was due to a poor choice in ammunition, which had unintended consequences, but three of the victims were struck directly by the officers’ bullets. This part of this tragedy was due to marksmanship. I’ve always said the first rule in law enforcement should be, “Don’t make things worse.”
Science and stuff
The NYPD recently conducted a study of recruits shooting both the current 12-pound trigger Glocks and the standard 5.5-pound trigger Glocks. The average scores went up five points as the trigger weight was reduced. The results can be explained by a study conducted by Force Science Institute on the importance of hand strength to pistol marksmanship:
"Trigger pull weight appears to impact shooting performance as triggers that are too heavy seem to activate additional muscles in the hand. If the trigger pull of a firearm exceeds the force of a handshake, isolation of the index [trigger] finger becomes difficult, causing the hand to engage in the use of additional muscles to complete the task of pulling the trigger. The overcompensation of unnecessary muscles, in turn, negatively affects shooting performance through involuntary hand movements."
Since I have little direct experience with these heavier-than-stock trigger systems, I reached out to a well-respected instructor, Phil Wong, a highly proficient pistol shooter. He made a video on his YouTube channel showing his experience in shooting the standard trigger versus the NY2. He told me this of the test, “I can usually do a clean 300/300 on the Mag-40 (Massad Ayoob Group) qualification. This time I dropped 8 points for a 292/300. My personal conclusion is that the NY2 trigger is a minimal handicap for a highly-experienced shooter, but less-experienced shooters who don’t have a great handle on trigger control will struggle at longer ranges and with shorter time limits.” I would place cops who grow up in a large city with no firearms experience until they reach the police academy as, “less-experienced shooters.”
Making the right decision
It appears the NYPD has made the decision to slowly transition their Glocks into the original, manufacturer-recommended trigger pull of 5.5 pounds. The first officers to receive these guns will be the new recruits graduating from the academy later this year or early next year. Officers who are currently on the street will have the option to purchase the easier-to-shoot pistols. Hopefully, the department makes the decision to purchase the necessary parts to “fix” their current inventory of Glocks so all the cops in Gotham can more safely serve their city.