TLDR: If your story is set in late 2016 or beyond, depict FBI characters carrying 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistols instead of .40 caliber Glocks.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced a change to its standard issue semi-automatic pistols last month that could impact some works of fiction. The agency will switch over to 9mm Glock pistols, a departure from .40 caliber models standard since the late 1980s.
Why the Switch?
It’s not uncommon for government agencies to change up the firearms they issue, and the FBI is no exception. This actually marks a return to the 9mm, which was the agency’s standard caliber until a shootout that claimed two agents’ lives in 1986 demonstrated its obsolescence. In came the .40 caliber pistols, which were the standard until now. A new crop of 9mm ammunition offers better ballistic results and more versatile performance.
In June 2016, the FBI announced that Glock won the contract to deliver these 9mm pistols. The exact models haven’t been revealed yet, but they’re likely to include the Glock 17 or something similar. When the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command started a similar transition in 2015 (moving away from the .45 instead of the .40 in this case), it chose the 9mm Glock 19.
What’s Leaving? .40 Caliber Glock Pistols
Up until now, the Glock 22 and the Glock 23, both .40 caliber models, were standard issue for FBI agents. That’s why I equipped two FBI characters with them in my crime novel, The Invisible Hand, and suggested writers do the same in The Writer’s Guide to Weapons. Unfortunately, both of those references will be outdated in the future.
That’s why it’s worth double-checking government firearms when you write about them in fiction. What was true yesterday may not be tomorrow.
A Larger Trend for Law Enforcement Characters
This marks the beginning of the end of the .40 caliber’s ubiquitous use by law enforcement in the United States. Federal, state and local governments look to the FBI for guidance on handgun purchases, so expect a gradual phasing in of the 9mm in the years to come.
For example, the DEA, the U.S. Marshalls, the ATF, the U.S. Postal Service, certain areas of the Department of Defense and several other federal agencies will receive 9mm Glocks as part of this contract.
That’s right. The Postal Service.
Get the Book
The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books) distills complex weapons topics into easy-to-understand concepts for fiction writers. Pick up a print or digital copy from these fine retailers: