FNS-40LS

In late 2013, Baltimore County Police selected the FN-America NFS40 LS as the new gun for the department’s officers, as noted by Guns.com at the time.

For anyone curious as to where all the long-slide versions of FN-USA’s latest FNS pistols are going, they’re headed to police departments across the country. Case in point, the Baltimore County Police Department has just signed a contract with FN-USA for nearly 2,000 long-slide service pistols.

The Baltimore County P.D is currently equipping their sworn officers with the relatively new and exceedingly popular service pistol, adopting it immediately.

“We are pleased that the Baltimore County Police Department is the first to field the FN FNS-40LS pistol as their new duty firearm and look forward to serving them in the coming years,” said FN-USA President Mark Cherpes. “Today, Baltimore County has become the largest law enforcement agency in the country to turn to the FNS line of striker-fired pistols as their firearm of choice.”

Rank and file Baltimore County Police, their firearm selection committee, and agency brass are now very uncertain about that choice, after what appears to be the accidental discharge of one of these pistols while it was secured in a retention holster and both of the officer’s hands were full. When the supervising officer removed the gun from the retention holster, he removed the magazine and ejected the spent cartridge.

The Fox 45 video report on the department’s history with the FNS-40 LS is, to put it mildly, alarming.

Unfortunately, this early February discharge was not the first sign of trouble for the FNS-40 LS carried by the Baltimore County Police. There had been a prior discharge of one of the handguns while the department was still evaluating the pistols for service.

There are two investigations centered on the gun almost all Baltimore County Police officers use as side arms. Crime and Justice Reporter Joy Lepola began investigating these guns more than 18 months ago. One of those guns went off inside a police precinct, while secured inside an officer’s holster.

On February 2, 2016, a Baltimore County police officer walks into the Pikesville Precinct when the jolt of a gunshot, stops him from taking another step. What’s unclear is how it happened.

According to reports FOX45 obtained from the county, the officer says the gun discharged while in its holster. Five officers gave statements saying they were nearby when they heard the gunshot.

The department says it is unaware of a holstered gun ever discharging until now. The department was warned it could happen.

In 2014, a FOX45 investigation uncovered serious safety concerns buried within hundreds of reports and inter-office emails. At the time, the county was in the process of buying new guns for every police officer, almost 2,000 .40 caliber pistols made by FN-America. In one complaint, an officer claimed a round went off without someone’s finger on the trigger.

Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson supported spending almost a million dollars on the guns.

“I don’t want anything out there that’s inferior. I won’t stand for it. I don’t care what the cost. If I made a mistake, which I certainly don’t believe we did, I would admit it,” he said back in November 2014.

Without seeing the documents obtained by Fox 45 its impossible to know just how bad of a problem Baltimore County has been having with these pistols, but there were nine of the handguns identified in documents as having some significant issues, including metal shavings in the striker channel.

fns-40

I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories involving the maintenance of police-issued firearms, from holstered handguns jammed up with the remnants of french fries, to an improperly re-assembled shotgun that I personally witnessed an officer pull apart in training because an armorer stripped the threads on the gun.

If this is a maintenance-related issue it’s terrifying enough for Baltimore County officers, but it is something you would hope the could prevent with regular cleaning and properly treatment of their firearms, but if there is manufacturing or design issue, then this could be a significant issue not just for the department, but for FN-America.

Strike-fired guns now dominate both the law-enforcement and civilian handgun markets as the “in thing,” but departments around the nation have reported issues with an increase in negligent and accidental discharges since they’ve made the transition from double-action revolvers or double-action/single-action pistols to striker-fired guns. Glocks are most frequently cited as the police-issued handgun involved in a significant amount of negligent/”accidental” discharges, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that Glock simply dominates the law enforcement handgun market. With more guns on the market, there will be both more good and bad reports, period.

Agencies have also reported issues with Smith & Wesson’s M&P, and while relatively few agencies are using the FNS, these incidents with the Baltimore County Police are very unsettling, especially since the gun apparently discharged without having been touched.