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CPD moving to 9 mm handguns after FBI finds ‘bigger isn’t better’

Every patrol officer in Chicago wears the same blue uniform, but they don’t all carry the same guns.

Rookies have all trained on 9 mm semi-automatic handguns at the police academy since 1991. But when they hit the streets in the past, they were allowed to opt for a bigger .40-caliber or .45-caliber handgun.

Now, in an effort to extend the department’s push for uniformity to handguns, every cop hired after June 21 must use a 9 mm handgun.

Lt. Steven Sesso, who works in the police academy, pointed to an FBI study last year that concluded 9 mm handguns outperformed .40-caliber and .45-caliber models used by cops.

The FBI found 9 mm bullets out-tested .40-caliber and .45-caliber ones. The 9 mm handgun was also more reliable and durable — and had less recoil — than the others, the study found.

The study also determined that none of those calibers offers a difference in “stopping power,” debunking what the researchers called a “myth.” The caliber is the internal diameter of a gun’s barrel.

A 9 mm barrel is smaller than .40- or .45-caliber barrel, but bigger isn’t necessarily better, the study said.

“The transition from a .40-caliber to a 9 mm is under consideration by the FBI,” said Special Agent Ann Todd, a bureau spokeswoman. “A decision regarding implementation has not yet been made. The 9 mm is currently authorized and carried by a large number of FBI agents.”

Under the Chicago Police Department’s new firearms policy, veteran officers can continue to use the .40-caliber or .45-caliber handguns they already owned. They can also buy new .40-caliber or .45-caliber handguns until Aug. 28 under a grace period, Sesso said.

After that, any new handguns veteran officers buy must be 9 mm models.

In the long term, ordering ammunition will become easier. The department must now supply bullets for three different calibers of handguns, Sesso said.

Another Chicago Police Department effort to promote uniformity has run into a legal hurdle. On July 3, three cops sued the department over a new policy that requires officers to cover their tattoos. The Fraternal Order of Police has also filed a complaint about the policy.