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The Blue Brief: What Guns Do Off-Duty Police Carry?

What do police carry when they're not patrolling the streets in uniform? We investigate some makes and models cops prefer.

The question came to me recently regarding officers concealed carrying off duty.

Do police regularly carry when not in uniform, and, if so, what’s their preferred set-up? While I could answer this myself, I decided to turn to others in uniform to get their take.

NY State Police
(Photo: New York State Police)

So, I hit the mean streets to answer this question – even making some calls to some of my old partners and friends.

In this Blue Brief, we’ll find out if police prefer to carry when not on the job…

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Why Would Officers Carry Off Duty?

For me, it was added security. You never know who you’re going to bump into when you’re at the store or at a gas station — especially in a smaller town and patrol area where everyone knows everyone. 

I didn’t want confrontation without protection for myself or my family.

Concealing a Big Gun

This had nothing to do with being badge heavy or wanting to start any trouble. Unfortunately, I was easily recognizable and approached in my small town by many people, even just shopping at the grocery store. At times, I would run into someone I arrested on a prior call for service. 

You have more options to shop in a bigger area without being a potential target by someone with bad intentions. 

Sean Walther PDP Safariland Holster

Other Officers Weigh In

While running errands, I saw two officers stopped in a parking lot — most likely having just cleared a call for service.

They were parked car-to-car, meaning one officer facing one direction and the other the opposite direction. This allows both drivers to talk easily but remain shielded from the elements.

I approached cautiously and explained I was on the hunt for information. In the hour or so of swapping stories and experiences, they chatted with me about off-duty carry.

2 o'clock Holster Position

Officer number one told me he liked the Glock 19 as a concealed carry option – finding it easier to put on even in a hurry.

He also told me he had the law enforcement model, which means it’s extra tacticool with more options than the “Queen Family Truckster.” (There’s a National Lampoon’s reference for you.)

All kidding aside, this particular model features the rail option under the barrel for a light attachment. The Glock 19 also offers a 15-round magazine capacity.

539
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Officer two told me he carried a Glock 43 with an extended magazine. That means instead of six rounds; it holds eight. 

In talking with the officers, they revealed that Glocks seemed to be the standard for carrying off duty for most officers in their agency. 

Ultra Reliable Single-Stock CCW
449
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

As far as holsters, both preferred Kydex.

More Input

After talking with those two officers, I contacted another by phone.

He’s retired and a very good friend and mentor. Plus, he has some great stories about his days working a beat in the late 60s, 70s, and 80s. 

During that generation, the standard-issued firearm was the revolver in a .38/357.

.38 Special vs .357 Magnum
.38 Special vs .357 Magnum

Since his retirement, my mentor moved to a more modern firearm, keeping his classic revolver locked in the gun safe. 

Sticking to a brand that got him home every night, he opts for a Smith & Wesson 4006 nickel-plated .40 caliber firearm.

However, he pointed out his retired life is less active, and thus he doesn’t carry like he used to.

When I called another officer employed by Colorado, I was told the state does not give employees a choice of the firearm they’re issued. As for off-duty firearms, those are only approved by the command staff and/or range master. 

I spoke to another former colleague and was told his personal preference is the Sig Sauer P320.

1791 OWB Leather Holster with P320, Front
1791 OWB Leather Holster with P320

This gun supports a light attachment and provides a 10-round magazine. The sleek design of the P320 looks pretty nice, and it’s reasonably priced — which is mostly what got him to purchase this particular firearm as an off-duty carry option.

474
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Off-Duty Approval

Some departments allow the officer, with permission, to carry a different firearm off duty if they do not want to carry the department-issued firearm.

Having a duty weapon issued is one thing but using a compact or subcompact concealed carry option for off duty often depends on department policy and rangemaster/firearms instructor approval.

Micro Compacts with Red Dots, Front
Micro Compacts with Red Dots

The process can be quick or lengthy depending on the make, model, and/or caliber of firearm the officer requests to use.

What about modifications? With all the dazzling new and improved lights/lasers, micro red dot sights, etc., available, can officers add the latest and greatest to their gun? The answer is maybe…but again, this takes an approval process.

And often, that takes even more time. The policy must be amended if the accessory is not approved by the department’s policy or rangemaster/firearms instructor.

When officers receive approval, the gun must be concealed at all times when carrying off duty. Additionally, department ammo must be loaded in the magazine(s) of the firearm.

Concealed Klik Belt
Is there a gun? Who knows…

Alongside the gun and ammo, a department-issued identification must be carried on them as well as a department-issued badge. 

This seems like a lot, but with great power comes great responsibility, right? 

Conclusion

For the most part, small compact weapons are preferred, with most officers choosing Glock as their preferred brand. (But again, brands like Sig Sauer and Smith & Wesson were also named.)

Glock G43X
Glock G43X

Ammo for off-duty guns ranged from 9mm to .40 S&W to .45 ACP. And that checks out given what most departments carry for on-duty ammo.

Popular Pistol Calibers
Popular Pistol Calibers

In short, it should be no surprise that most popular brands of guns are what law enforcement chooses to carry when not in uniform.

If you’re current or prior LE, what was your preferred off-duty carry weapon? Let me know in the comments below. For more LE topics, check out the Blue Brief category!

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32 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    J Mc

    My department issued the Sig Sauer P220. I carried it on and off-duty. It’s a large frame gun but it’s narrow and surprisingly easy to conceal.

    March 24, 2022 7:50 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      J Mc,
      I have been a Glock guy for some time, what about the P220 do you like the most?
      -Cap-

      April 13, 2022 9:27 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        J Mc

        Cap, I prefer the P220 for a few reasons: mainly, the grip angle and diameter work for me. I also trained extensively with it during my time as a bluesuit. It’s well engineered, durable and reliable. The sum of those characteristics allow me to safely and intuitively draw, acquire and fire effectively. All that being said, I’m not anti-Glock. I own one of those as well.

        April 13, 2022 5:14 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          Cap

          J Mc,
          Thank you for your reply, I have been curious about the P220, guessing I am going to get some range time in and test one.
          -Cap-

          April 15, 2022 8:55 am
          • Commenter Avatar
            Jim in Florida

            Back in the early 1990's, when I started, and when Glocks became a thing, the "old-school" guys had a saying that cops shoot Glock, but real shooters shoot Sigs. They just felt like a real man's gun when in one's hands.

            From the box to the range, the P-series (Classic Line now) of Sig Sauers were class-leading in all respects, for the time. They could keyhole all day long in just about any shooter's hands. I always wanted one then, but they were a bit too much money for a rookie cop. When I finally could afford them, I carried P-series guns in the Fed. At SWAT schools, one knew an agency had money if its officers on SWAT and patrol carried Sigs.

            If Glocks are essentially like Toyota vehicles, ultimately reliable, then I quate Sigs to being like higher-end BMW's or Mercedes, incredible quality, but require just a bit more care.

            FYI, I carry a G41 on-duty in duty year 30, and only because they haven't invented the .46 ACP yet.

            June 24, 2022 5:08 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    W. Green

    My department issues the Glock 17 for duty. Officers can carry anything from the department's Approved Manufacturer List (most major brands) in any caliber .380 acp or larger when off-duty. Lasers and optics are allowed on duty guns (after additional training), but no electronic optics on off-duty guns. I carry the Sig P365 IWB, or a Ruger LCP Max when pocket carry is my only option.

    March 22, 2022 10:26 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      W.Green,
      Thanks for the reply. What type of extra training do you go through for the laser and optics? I have seen red dot sights on a lot of concealed carry and full sized guns
      -Cap-

      March 23, 2022 4:38 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        W. Green

        Officers wanting RDO's on their duty handgun (Glock 17) complete a 3-day (24 hour) training class. The department issues the Trijicon RMR to officers who complete the training. This is our first year in the RDO program, so it might be extended to off-duty guns in the future, but it is limited to duty guns at this time.

        March 23, 2022 5:04 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          Cap

          W.,
          Excellent and thank you for sharing.
          -Cap-

          March 24, 2022 10:32 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jim Hovater

    When I was an LEO my off-duty weapon was the same as my on-duty weapon, be it a G17, G19, G22, Walther P99, or 1911.

    March 22, 2022 8:20 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      Jim,
      Thanks for the reply. Was there a reason you didn't go with a smaller more concealable firearm for off duty?
      -Cap-

      March 23, 2022 4:39 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Jim Hovater

        Most definitely. It all boiled down to what weapon I shot best under stress. I also included 'rapid grip acquisition' in the mix. I could simply acquire grip, draw, and put rounds on target consistently better with my duty weapon than something 'more concealable'. Actually, 'conceslability' wasn't even a consideration. I simply dressed to cover my weapon. For me, and I'm only 507, I can conceal a G17 as easily as a G19. You just have to pay attention to holster, belt, and cover garment. FWIW, my current EDC is an S&W SD9.

        March 23, 2022 5:19 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          Cap

          Jim,
          That makes sense, I loved my Glock 21 for years because I was very vested in training under stress. practice and repetition is key. Again thank you for sharing.
          -Cap-

          March 24, 2022 10:30 am
          • Commenter Avatar
            Jim Hovater

            My pleasure. Take care and watch your six.

            March 24, 2022 4:34 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Charlie B

    Current duty pistol G43XMOS for plainclothes service and G17 for uniform. In the past I have also carried a G19. I started out in the 80s with a Smith and Wesson mod 19 .357 with a model 60 38 special for off-duty / backup. I also carry a Beretta model 950BS caliber 25ACP for a backup pistol.

    March 22, 2022 6:06 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      Charlie,
      Thanks for the reply. How did you feel about transitioning from a wheel gun to a semi auto for duty? (My revolver story) I remember a young officer in the agency across the river carrying the Colt Python in a holster that swiveled and although the Python was a great firearm I never got the swivel holster.
      -Cap-

      March 23, 2022 4:45 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        J Mc

        I never understood the swivel holster thing either. It seems like a fashion statement with dubious tactical benefit. I used a level 3 retention holster that rode a little higher than what the other centurions used. I probably didn’t look as cool but if anyone wanted to make a try for my weapon, they were going to have to put in some work.

        March 24, 2022 7:57 am
        • Commenter Avatar
          Cap

          J MC,
          Same here, the level-III holster was a great item to have on a duty belt. Even in training it was hard to get my firearm (Empty with no mags) out unless you knew how to do it.
          -Cap-

          March 24, 2022 9:42 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Matt B

    I stuck with my Sig P365. I also carried a Ruger Max-9. We could choose any ammo we wanted, just had to put the ammo and firearm make/model in a memo addressed to our chief. Of course the department’s armorer had to also approve, which they always did.

    March 22, 2022 5:58 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jim Hovater

      Sounds like my old PD.

      March 22, 2022 8:21 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Cap

        Jim,
        Possibly buddy! Thanks for the reply.
        -Cap-

        March 23, 2022 4:48 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      Matt,

      Thanks for the reply. How do you enjoy the Sig compared to other model firearms for duty? I have a lot of friends who carry them, maybe I should give it a try.
      -Cap-

      March 23, 2022 4:47 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    SkipK

    When I was a uniformed deputy, I carried a Glock 17 as a duty weapon and a Glock 26 for off-duty (with the longer mags of the 17).

    March 22, 2022 4:41 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      Skip,
      Now thats thinking outside the box! Hope they didn't give away your concealment. Thanks for the reply.
      -Cap-

      March 23, 2022 4:52 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Skip Kirkwood

        Wasn't a problem. I'm a Hawaiian shirt kind of guy; they're great for concealing most anything.

        March 23, 2022 5:00 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      Skip,
      Now thats thinking outside the box! Thanks for the reply.
      -Cap-

      March 24, 2022 9:38 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Doug

    Carried a Springfield Hellcat

    March 22, 2022 3:36 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      Doug,
      Great choice! Thanks for the reply.
      -Cap-

      March 23, 2022 4:52 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    TexasJack

    Mt dept doesn't allow the carry of department issued off duty and we are free to carry whatever we want. I usually carry a 365XL with red dot, my glock 48 or a Kimber micro 9 if i'm in shorts

    March 22, 2022 11:33 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      TexasJack,
      interesting indeed! Now I am curious as to the why you cannot carry a department issued off duty. Thanks for the reply.
      -Cap-

      March 23, 2022 4:54 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    IRVIN MCDOUGAL

    S&W Shield+

    March 21, 2022 6:45 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Cap

      Irvin,
      I got to play with those at SHOT Show when they were first being shown. LOVED the S&W Shield. Thanks for the reply.
      -Cap-

      March 23, 2022 4:55 pm
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