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City of Pittsburgh police are waiting for new ammo

Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, 11:24 p.m.

Pittsburgh police will use larger bullets when ammunition arrives, Acting Chief Regina McDonald said.

Officer John Lubawski, the department's rangemaster, recommended in November that the bureau allow officers to purchase firearms for use with .45-caliber ammunition. McDonald said she authorized an order of ammo that month, but it has yet to arrive.

“This is a problem nationally,” Lubawski said of the wait time. “There's backlogs for law enforcement and citizens.”

Police officials began a review of the department's .40-caliber handgun ammunition in April when officers raised concerns about firepower over two high-profile incidents in which suspects hit multiple times kept fighting.

An FBI test of the ammo revealed it performed as expected, but McDonald asked the training academy to explore options.

“It's not unusual for us to do,” she said.

Emanuel Kapelsohn, vice president of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, said statistics from officer-involved shootings show the .45-caliber performs slightly better than .40-caliber.

“We're talking about a few percentage points,” Kapelsohn said.

Kapelsohn said the .40-caliber remains more popular with law enforcement, and more important than the difference between the bullets is shot placement.

“Even with the .45, there are cases of people who have been hit multiple times who keep on fighting, at least for a while,” Kapelsohn said.

McDonald said the department is emphasizing firearms training, including use of a simulator that requires officers to decide whether to shoot, and “force on force” scenarios in which officers fire paint cartridges at someone threatening them.

“There's no better way to train officers in gunfights than force-on-force training,” Lubawski said.

McDonald said she hopes the ammunition will arrive by summer, in time for recruits' firearms training.

“Once (the ammo) is in, I'll issue an order and change the policy on firearms available for use,” McDonald said.

Officers will have to purchase Glocks themselves; they cost about $500, Lubawski said.

Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or




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