I recently came across my grandfather’s duty ammunition. To put this into perspective, my grandfather joined the Philadelphia Police Department in 1912 (badge #2474) and retired in 1947. I’m stating the obvious here, but this ammunition is old. It is a .38 caliber cartridge and the bullet is lead round nose. I’m pretty sure that the terminal ballistics of this round are somewhat less than we routinely see today, but the rounds are still in their holster secured by individual bullet loops. I’ve toyed with the idea of trying one, wondering if it would fire, but I wouldn’t give any thought to carrying them on duty even if I was still carrying a wheel gun.
Ammunition has evolved since 1912 and is a long way from a simple lead round nose bullet lumbering towards a target. Today police officers have a wide range of not only calibers, but also of ammunition types available to them that are use and target specific. With so many ammunition options available selection presents a real challenge for the police officer looking for the perfect round. Many factors are used in determining ammunition effectiveness, and one of the most important factors is terminal ballistics, or the amount of energy delivered when striking a given target. It sounds simple, but it isn’t when considering whether that bullet must first pass through a barrier such as heavy clothing, a windshield, or a wall before it strikes an intended target. These kinds of situations are effectively evaluated and extensively documented through widely available data from many different sources. Ammunition selection, especially for duty service, should be thoroughly evaluated for its application and use by a department or officer.
There are numerous considerations, though, that are common to all ammunition. These include type, availability, storage, service life, and accountability.
Type of ammunition is a consideration when balancing budgets, as duty service ammunition is usually much costlier due to higher production costs. A department may choose to use less expensive ammunition when conducting training.
Availability of ammunition has become a legitimate consideration because of competing interests by the Department of Defense, federal agencies, and the private sector. The availability of popular ammunition such as 9mm may require longer ordering lead times and may be affected by budgets.
Storage space in appropriate environments is an important consideration, especially if there are large amounts of multiple caliber and types of ammunition included. Departments that store large amounts of ammunition need to be concerned with not only space and security requirements but also the availability of climate-controlled environments needed for proper storage.
Service life of duty ammunition must be closely monitored so that an officer is certain that ammunition will perform as expected when it’s needed. A lot of modern day ammunition has recommended “use by” dates, and although these dates may not be too concerning when managing training ammunition, they are critical to duty service.
And lastly Accountability of the type, amount, and service life of our ammunition must be accurately maintained. Accountability ensures a department has sufficient amounts of ammunition available for both training and duty service and is an important line item in all police fiscal budgets.
Ammunition is an expendable asset that is critical to police department operations. The objective of managing this critical asset is to ensure sufficient quantities of serviceable ammunition are available to accomplish agency mission objectives. Accurate records and accountability are an integral part of this objective.