VARNELL, Ga. — The Dalton Police Department has joined "Team Glock."
Officers this week started getting .40-caliber Glock 22 model semi-automatic handguns to replace the .40-caliber Sig Sauer P229 handguns they've carried for nearly 15 years.
The Glocks are lighter, since they're "plastic guns" with a polymer frame. They're much easier to disassemble and clean, Dalton police training officer Brian Pack said. And Glock, which has a factory in Smyrna, Ga., has become the handgun of choice for Georgia police, he said.
"About 80 percent of law enforcement in Georgia carries Glocks," Pack said Tuesday, as he showed 10 officers how to handle the new guns at the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office outdoor firing range in Varnell.
Tuesday's training was expected to last until about 10 p.m., so officers could practice shooting at night.
Unlike the Sig Sauers, each Glock is equipped with a tactical LED flashlight beneath the barrel.
"It's very bright," Pack said, explaining the flashlight could help officers identify whether they're facing a threat.
"Sometimes you have to make a split-second decision," he said.
The Glock's magazine holds 15 rounds, compared to 12 for the Sig Sauer.
Another difference, he said, is that the Glock's trigger pull weight is consistent. Because of the Sig Sauer's action, officers had to pull hard to fire the first shot, then subsequent shots were easier. Firing each shot on the Glock takes the same trigger pressure.
While the old guns still were in good condition, their usable lifetime as law enforcement equipment was coming to an end, police department spokesman Bruce Frazier said.
No taxpayer money was used to buy the 93 new Glock handguns, Frazier said. The guns cost the department about $14,000. They were paid for with drug seizure funds and by trading the Sig Sauers in at GT Distributors in Rossville, which supplied the Glocks to the police department.
The Glocks were the less-expensive choice, Frazier said, since new Sig Sauers would have cost $27,000.
"It's a gun that a lot of the guys like better, and it's also cheaper," he said.
"I love 'em," Officer Ryan Slope said Tuesday after trying his gun at the range. "Seems a lot smoother. The holster's taking a little getting used to, but the gun's firing well."
It's been at least five years since a Dalton police officer has fired a handgun while on duty, Frazier said.
"It's fairly rare for a weapon to be drawn in the line of duty, much less fired," he said. "The majority of encounters with people aren't violent. But obviously, you have to be ready for it, if it is."
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.