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Sara Ahrens’ OffBeat: Glock vs. Smith & Wesson — It comes down to the trigger

Large financial expenditures seem small when your life depends on it

I spare no expense in making sure my duty belt contains the best equipment allowed by my agency’s policy. I work in an unforgiving environment where calling a ‘time out’ isn’t an option. It’s not uncommon for policies to be out of date, or to mandate equipment purchased by the agency, or to reflect the manufacturer’s recommendations. Policies can be restrictive but it’s generally to ensure consistency in the function and performance of the equipment and to achieve uniformity amongst officers. There are three pieces of equipment that matter more to me than anything else on my belt: my firearm, my holster and magazine pouch and my knife.

Sara Ahrens tells the the crew of Outdoor Channel "Shooting Gallery" about a call of a man hiding around a corner armed with a box cutter. Photo courtesy of Outdoor Channel

Sara Ahrens tells the crew of Outdoor Channel “Shooting Gallery” about a call of a man hiding around a corner armed with a box cutter. Read her column about their ride-along here. Photo courtesy of Outdoor Channel

Glock vs. Smith &Wesson — it comes down to the trigger

The most important piece of equipment on any police officer’s duty belt is the one piece they will hopefully never have to use, their firearm. Years ago, our policy changed for the better. It allowed officers to purchase and carry 40-caliber Glock firearm models. I, like most of my coworkers, purchased the Glock because it was a huge improvement from the outdated Smith & Wesson 4046s that we were carrying at that time. Once the lifespan of the model 4046 firearms came to an end, our department purchased the M&P. I think they purchased the M&P in order to give officers an additional option. The M&P is similar in many ways to the Glock and since it was free, I had one issued to me. I really liked the M&P when I shot it but there was one difference I noted between the two guns … the reset. The trigger reset in the M&P is not as distinct as the Glock. Having mastered the reset on the Glock, I prefer it. There is a fix for the Smith & Wesson trigger, that mimics the Glock, but our policy doesn’t allow us to make internal modifications to duty firearms.

Apex Tactical's Smith and Wesson M&P Forward Set Sear and Trigger kit mimics the 1911 trigger. Photo courtesy of Apex Tactical

Apex Tactical’s Smith & Wesson M&P Forward Set Sear and Trigger kit mimics the 1911 trigger. Photo courtesy of Apex Tactical

Apex Tactical developed a drop in trigger assembly, that is a significant improvement to the Smith & Wesson factory trigger. It is easy to install and the outcome is a trigger break point, that is farther forward than the factory trigger, as well as reduced uptake and over-travel. I have tested out the Apex and absolutely love the Smith & Wesson M&P with the Apex trigger assembly. I cannot install the Apex trigger by policy so I continue to carry my Glock 35. An officer really has to be comfortable with their firearm and the M&P trigger is a deal breaker for me.

Holster selection: the three r’s (ride, retention and reputation)

Holster selection is critical in keeping an officer’s firearm out of the hands of would be aggressors. Many police agencies dictate holster selections for a variety of reasons. I could have a huge discussion over the criteria to consider before selecting a holster. Essentially, holster selection comes down to a couple of things: ride, retention and manufacturer reputation. I have bounced around in all three of those areas trying various holsters, and have spent a fortune while doing so.

Low-ride holsters are typically best for women, due to the shortened length of a woman's torso. Photo courtesy of Michael Ahrens

Low-ride holsters are typically best for women, due to the shortened length of a woman’s torso. Photo courtesy of Michael Ahrens

In general, a low-ride holster is the best selection for female officers, since it allows them to draw appropriately without having to cant their bodies to clear leather. Unfortunately, low-ride holsters can sometimes cause discomfort in the leg and hip area when seated in a squad car, especially if you have a large firearm. Retention options in a holster require balancing the ease of its use with the level of security it offers. Understand that the more secure a firearm, the more complicated the draw. Retention levels are designed to keep criminals from disarming police officers, but for an untrained officer under stress, complicated retention systems can also prevent them from drawing their own firearm when needed. The demands of law enforcement require a holster that can withstand the stress generated by both the environment and human beings. A manufacturer’s reputation of reliability provides peace of mind to police officers.

Two optional uniform modifications Sara has made include Safariland's Slimline 3 magazine pouch and the Kerhaw Ripcord 3200 'out the front' knife. Photo by Michael Ahrens

Two optional uniform modifications Sara has made include Safariland’s Slimline 3 magazine pouch and the Kerhaw Ripcord 3200 ‘out the front’ knife. Photo courtesy of Michael Ahrens

Based on these considerations, I carry a Safariland model 6360 level III retention ALSÒ holster. In addition, I carry Safariland’s Slimline three magazine pouch, which houses three magazines positioned, ‘face out.’ The orientation of the magazines saves valuable real estate on an already cramped belt. Even with space limitations, I find room to carry a knife. It’s not mandatory to carry a knife but it could be essential.

Plan B – the knife

Several years ago during a ground fighting/weapon retention training session I discovered that if I am lying on my holster, I am unable to flip the hood. This was an epiphany for me as I tried to kick off the 6’4”, 225 lb roll-player. I recognized the need for a backup weapon in case I couldn’t un-holster my firearm. I opted against a second firearm and finally concluded that I should also carry a knife. Carrying a knife became my ‘Plan B’ deadly force option … just in case I can’t get to my gun. I have purchased no less than twenty knives since then, until I finally found a knife that was easy to carry and deploy.

The Kershaw Ripcord 3200 is an 'Out the Front' knife that has the strength of a fixed blade knife, yet is concealable. Photo by Michael Ahrens

The Kershaw Ripcord 3200 is an ‘Out the Front’ knife that has the strength of a fixed blade knife, yet is concealable.

The Kershaw Ripcord 3200 is the perfect knife for carrying on my duty belt. The Ripcord has an Out the Front (OTF) design, which means the blade slides out of the front of its handle into a secure, fixed-blade position. The Ripcord comes with a Kydex® belt sheath, which doubles as the OTF deployment/blade-locking system. The Kershaw Ripcord doesn’t look like a knife when it is placed in its sheath on a belt. Only upon deploying it do onlookers recognize it and by then, hopefully, it’ll be too late.

To open the Ripcord:

  1. Grasp the handle and pull up
  2. As the knife reaches the end of its travel, tilt it slightly forward to disengage the blade-locking stud from the beveled circular recess

In the fixed position, the Ripcord’s blade is secure and cannot be retracted without the sheath.

To return the Ripcord to the sheath:

  1. Insert the tip of the knife into the Kydex® sheath and lower the blade into the sheath until the beveled circular recess in the knife lines up with the stud
  2. Tilt the knife toward the stud to engage the mechanism and slide the Ripcord into its sheath
  3. The blade clicks securely into place, enabling your to carry the Ripcord tip-up or tip-down.

The blade offers strength and superior edge retention, and the handle is constructed of a lightweight, anodized aluminum with Trac-TecÒ inserts for a secure grip.

My equipment selections are based on both policy and performance. I never hesitate to replace any equipment for better options. This is especially true when it comes to my firearm, holster and knife. I constantly search for product improvements because I know that winning or losing a confrontation may just hinge on the equipment I’ve selected.


Womens-Outdoor-News_TWINS Sara Ahrens’ OffBeat is graciously sponsored by Otis Technology.

The Conversation

  • Aurelio says: April 4, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Great article Sara. Keep up the good work on the truth.

  • Jason says: April 4, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    No one is going to notice a trigger reset under significant stress, but whatever floats your boat. Show me a better shooter than “trigger slapping” Rob Leatham and maybe the argument will have some credibility.

    • Sara Ahrens says: May 3, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      Jason, I disagree. Every person experiences life and death situations differently. You can not unequivocally say no one will notice trigger reset, having been in an officer involved shooting myself, I can tell you first hand what adrenaline and hyper vigilance does to the person involved and their thought process. For me, and many people I know, they experienced a slowing of time. I was able to recount thoughts and knowledge I obtained in training to great detail. Yes, some people do slap the trigger. Some people panic, some shootings are up close and quick and others are from points of cover or concealment. All of these factors effect the persons ability to respond. Some people are good at slapping the trigger and some aren’t. I have extensive knowledge of case studies and officer involved shootings, and personal experience as well. I ran training in a fairly large agency for about 4 years and although this is not the forum for in depth discussion, I can tell you that reset does matter if the shooter practices it. I have seen first hand in training where officers are missing reactive targets because they are ‘slapping the trigger’, then all of the sudden they realize they have to slow down and I have videotaped officers adjusting to the trigger reset. Granted, if you don’t practice it you wont do it… but I do practice it and know that if I ever have to defend myself and take multiple shots I will be cognizant of the reset. BTW Rob Leatham is great competitive shooter, but this is not a competitive shooter article. You are comparing apples to oranges.. the stress posed by a timer versus something threatening your life is totally different – I am familiar with both.