Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Insane Classification Systems: Handguns

Handgun Size - Pocket, Subcompact, Compact, Service, Tactical

My favorite size difference is between Service and Tactical pistols. Springfield has made the most cut and dry division between the two, in my opinion. A Service XD has a full-size grip, a double-stack magazine, and a four-inch barrel. A Tactical XD is the same but with a five-inch barrel.

But what is "Service?" "Police Service?" What is "Tactical?" "Police Tactical?" So a police department's Tactical would be a military's Service, and a military's Compact would be a police department's Service. Uh, well, I'm not sure!

First of all, does Springfield really label their XDs that way, or am I getting delusional trying to make XDs fit my own thought process. Excuse me while I check out their website ... Yes they do.

I am prone to insane classification systems. I want everything to have its place. And because I want everything in order, it might be in my imagination that the terms "service" and "tactical" are used for the above distinction outside of Springfield Armory. STI has a Tactical model in 4.15" and 5" barrel lengths, so they are not following that rule. They apparently define tactical as having a double-stack mag and a "tactical" rail. And I think I'll dump revolvers in this mix, since revolvers can apparently be tactical too. included a picture of the Smith & Wesson 8-shot "Tactical" revolver in their 2006 SHOT Show coverage.

It looks like I have much to investigate. But first let's look at a rough mostly made-up classification system for handgun sizes that are related to size and based on opinions partially remember from many sources:

2"     concealed (bodyguard/detective/chief)
3"     concealable power
4"     service
5"     tactical
6"+   PDW

And since I got so caught up in the barrel-length distinction, I totally forgot about the overall size and weight issues of handguns. I guess STI hints at the overall size issue with its double-stack Tactical models.

Gotta go read up!

 A few definitions:

"Using or being weapons or forces employed at the battlefront"

That makes roundabout sense when you are talking about SWAT units. They are ready and called-upon to go into "combat" when situations go out of control, or when things are expected to go out of control.

Wikipedia describes a service pistol as any pistol (including revolvers) issued to military personnel in their "Service Pistol" article.

Google provides the following definition of "Service Pistol" attributed to the above Wikipedia article:
A service pistol is any handgun (revolver or semi-automatic) issued to military personnel, or in some contexts, law enforcement officers.
 But that article does not contain Google's definition.


So, is the "service" and "tactical" distinctions purely marketing? I don't think so. As far as I can tell, police service pistols have been trending toward 4" barrels for some time. That's semiautos. I am not sure about revolvers, but I think they were 3"-4" before the switch to semiautos. SWAT handguns seem to trend larger in the 5" range with Glocks and 1911s being the predominate choice [cite something!]. And it now comes to mind that another distinction needs to be made. Police "service"-size pistols are uniformed "service" pistols, though the trend toward 4" barrels has made the same pistols attractive to plain cloths officers and detectives. For example, multiple articles have reported that the Glock 19s/23s have replaced backup guns (carry a second 19 or 23) and off-duty guns, allowing officers to focus their training on one firearm type and size.

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