March 29th, 2007 06:27 PM
CHP and S&W
California CHP is having problems with new S&W pistols.
CHP's new handguns all must be retrofitted
In two instances, the same key part broke, making guns useless.
The California Highway Patrol is replacing a key metal part on 3,000 new pistols it purchased from Smith & Wesson after the component in two of the new guns broke, rendering them useless.
The sear catch on the Smith & Wesson 4006TSW pistol is being replaced as a precautionary measure in all of the guns delivered to the CHP since last summer under a 9,736-pistol, multiyear contract, CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader confirmed.
The CHP's pistol purchase came under political fire last fall after Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, criticized agency purchasing practices that eliminated competitive bidding on the pistols as well as on other major equipment deals.
On Tuesday, Romero called discovery of defective parts in the brand new guns an outrage.
"This illustrates and underscores the problems that can occur when a contract is let in the dark of night without any public bidding or scrutiny," she said.
A sear is a key catch in the pistol's firing system that holds the hammer cocked or half-cocked.
If it fails, the pistol's firing pin cannot operate and the gun can't shoot, according to CHP spokeswoman Jaime Coffee.
Coffee said the CHP and Smith & Wesson agreed to replace the parts after two recent incidents in which hairline cracks caused the sear to break.
One weapon assigned to a Southern California officer malfunctioned during a monthly practice shoot after a piece of the sear broke off.
The second failure involved a sear that fractured during a weapons training session for a cadet at the CHP Academy in West Sacramento, Coffee said.
No one was hurt in either incident.
The 4006TSW is an older model of police pistol that Smith & Wesson made under a special order for the CHP.
However, some smaller city and county police forces also use them, including the Lancaster County sheriff's force in Lincoln, Neb.
The CHP pistols are being returned to CHP gunsmiths, who will replace the parts with assistance from Smith & Wesson. The pistols remain under warranty, so the parts are being provided for free, Clader said.
Neither Clader nor Elizabeth A. Sharp, a Smith & Wesson vice president of investor relations, would identify the supplier of the defective sear catch.
In a written statement, Sharp noted that no pistols or parts failed "in the line of duty."
"We have implemented corrective action with our supplier, and we are proactively and pre-emptively replacing the sear on all 3,000 units," her statement said.
Clader declined to let a reporter speak to a CHP gunsmith, saying, "We are pleased with Smith & Wesson's response."
Sear failures are not the first problems with the CHP's new weapons.
CHP documents obtained under the Public Records Act show that by October agency gunsmiths had rejected 31 of a first batch of new Smith & Wesson 4006TSW pistols for defects.
Seven of those guns were repaired and returned to service by Oct. 26, the CHP reports show.
Another two dozen guns had to be repaired after failing initial quality control inspections following their removal from shipping crates, according to the reports.
Clader characterized the volume of problematic new guns as low and said that officers like them.
The California Association of Highway Patrolmen did not return calls seeking comment.
Last fall, legislators cited the $5.3 million Smith & Wesson deal in calling for a full state audit into CHP contracting practices.
Two rival pistol makers, SigArms and Glock, said the pistol purchase was riddled with irregularities after Bee reports raised questions about the deals.
In March 2006, the CHP called for bids on new pistols but restricted them to a single Smith & Wesson gun: the 4006TSW.
SigArms complained to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that the deal violated state contract rules requiring competitive bidding on big state purchases.
A Sacramento Superior Court judge refused to issue a restraining order to halt deliveries and the company dropped its case.
In defending its deal, the CHP argued that its stock of older pistols was so depleted that it didn't have time for complete gun evaluation and competitive bidding.
It also said the 4006TSW, almost identical to its older pistol, would not require officer training.
Evidence subsequently emerged that contradicted those claims: The CHP was selling guns to retiring officers even while it complained about shortages; other states that bought SigArms pistols said they required far less training than the CHP claimed
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Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected. SUN TZU THE ART OF WAR
March 29th, 2007 07:40 PM
Good ol' S&W quality. Times sure have changed. The good thing is that their shareholder value has increased, and that's all they're concerned with.
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