Police Duty Weapon Trade-Ins: Affordable Self-Defense Options

Buying a police duty trade-in firearm can save you a lot!

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I've been a certified police firearms instructor and range officer since 1986. As such, I've been involved in, or at least present for, the trading of, department issued firearms, for newer, upgraded weapons. Note that the subject of this article involves police duty weapons, and not guns confiscated from bad guys, which are also traded in by law enforcement agencies for new service weapons or equipment. If you are looking for high quality defensive arms-handguns, rifles or shotguns-that are priced WAY below the retail price for brand new guns, and are willing to accept honest external wear, take a look at police duty trade-ins.

Police duty weapons are traded in for two basic reasons; in exchange for an upgraded model of the same gun (or an entirely new gun altogether), or because the duty guns are "wearing out". While duty guns that are traded in strictly for upgrade to new or different makes and models are the most desirable for purchase, guns that are traded in because they are "wearing out" may only be getting traded due to external cosmetic appearance, and are still perfectly capable of reliable and long term service.

Honestly, all the trade-ins I have been involved in over the years have been for upgrades to brand new/different designs, and never because guns were "worn out". Most agencies take pretty good care of their department issued service arms, with armorers inspecting and replace parts as needed. Rust is usually not much of an issue these days due to modern materials and finishes used in firearms construction, so that time of damage is also not commonly encountered.

Let me describe the trades I've been involved in or experienced. While working as a full time patrol officer at the City of Reynoldsburg, I was first issued a very nice nickel plated Smith and Wesson Model 10 .38 Special revolver. Several months later, RPD upgraded to the stainless steel Smith and Wesson Model 65 .357 Magnum revolvers, loaded with .38 Special ammo. Nothing was wrong with the nickel guns, in fact, they had better triggers than the newer all stainless steel guns, It was just that by that time (late 1984) stainless steel was the more modern option, and thus , the guns were upgraded. Those Model 10's and were a great buy for civilians who wanted a .38 revolver, and a number of us missed them, preferring them over the Model 65's.

We stayed with those Model 65's for about 5 years, and then along with a number of agencies like the Columbus Police Department, upgraded to the Smith and Wesson .45 caliber Model 645 stainless steel semi-automatic. A fine, but very large DA/SA semi-auto, the 645 was one of the most reliable semi-autos ever produced. A number of years after I left RPD the 645's were traded for higher capacity .40 caliber Glock pistols, and some very nice 645's ended up on the used gun market.

When I left RPD and went to the Union County Sheriff's office, the duty pistol there was also the 645, which had been upgraded from the 9mm Smith and Wesson Model 659. There was nothing wrong with the 659's either, it's just that the 9mm ammo of 1991 wasn't as effective as the 9mm ammo of 2015, so the change to the .45 was done to increase "stopping power". We stuck with the 645 as the official duty pistol until 2001, when we switched to the .357 SIG caliber Glock 31 to gain higher magazine capacity with equivalent stopping power plus better handling qualities for all deputies. Again, some very decent 645's entered the civilian resale market.

Remember that there are police traded rifles and shotguns available too. Right now, for example, at the Vance Outdoors Cleveland Avenue location, there is a rack full of used Remington 870 police pump shotguns with lime green synthetic stocks for sale that would make great defensive or deer hunting guns. If you are wondering about the odd color stocks, it is because those guns were designated for less lethal 12 gauge ammunition use. The colored stocks helped to prevent the inadvertent use of lethal 12 gauge ammo, although orange or yellow stocks are the most commonly encountered type. These trade in guns function fine with standard 12 gauge ammo since no internal modifications are needed to fire less lethal ammo. Occasionally you will also find used Ruger Mini-14's, a great .223 carbine that was quite popular with law enforcement agencies until the AR15 became the almost universal standard that it is today.

Some unique former cop guns can sometimes be found in trade. Also at the Vance Outdoors Cleveland Avenue location are two Smith and Wesson 9mm Model 39 pistols. One appears to have been a definite police trade, the other, if it was owned by a cop, was customized with chrome plating on the slide, and gold plating on the hammer and trigger. I have always consider the Model 39 as THE handgun which fit my hand most perfectly. I've owned two in the past. The Model 39 single stack 9mm was the first semi-automatic duty pistol issued by a law enforcement agency in Ohio. The Ohio State University Police Department issued them to their officers in 1971, and later upgraded to the higher capacity, let less desirable, 9mm Model 59. It is hard to tell what interesting and still capable firearms are lying around in remote corners of police armories around the state that may yet find their way into store showcases.

If you are looking for a defensive arm that has seen honest use, yet has likely been well maintained by department armorers, keep an eye out for police trade guns. They will be worth your investment.

Keep your eyes peeled for lots of Glock police trades through the end of the year. Glock put out a special promotion to all the agencies to trade in their firearms and the response has been huge. Vance Outdoors will have a great inventory of them at great prices.