RALEIGH — The Raleigh Police Department soon will be getting new handguns -- for free.
Arms manufacturer Smith & Wesson offered the department a deal to trade in its old .45-caliber sidearms for new .45's.
The police department would have had to pay about $450 each for the 900-plus weapons it needs, said Training Sgt. Rob Council. So the city is saving somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000.
The city council recently approved the swap without discussion.
"It's the kind of deal that governments find hard to turn down," police department spokesman Jim Sughrue said.
The department's current Smith & Wesson Model 4566 weapons are almost 10 years old and due for replacement. That version is available only by special order, however, which jacks up the price.
Smith & Wesson's new "Military & Police" pistol is the weapon the department had already decided to purchase before the swap became available, Sughrue said. The deal also will provide the department with enough new guns to equip future officers.
"This will really prepare us, especially at a time when funds are tight," Council said.
Council pointed out that the deal is sweet for both RPD and the firearms company, which will be able to make a profit selling the older weapons.
The M&P .45 retails on the open market for about $740, according to Smith & Wesson. Prices for replacement Model 4566 pistols, the old model that now requires special order, have recently reached $800 each, Council said.
Smith & Wesson has offered other departments similar deals in the past, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, he said.
"There are no strings attached to the swap," Sughrue said.
The old weapons were built on a metal frame, but the M&P is built on a polymer body. It's lighter, said department armorer Tony Rogers, even with the extra two bullets it holds.
Even a little bit of weight makes a big difference, Council said. Officers are being asked to carry extra gear such as Tasers that they didn't have a decade ago.
He doesn't anticipate much grumbling as officers trade in their old guns for the new ones. "The feedback I've gotten has been very positive," he said. And with the money the department is saving, it may be able to buy extra holsters, an added convenience for the officers.
Raleigh's officers will have a chance to buy their old sidearms for personal use, though they'll have to carry the new guns on the job.
Council said he expects to have every officer qualified and equipped with the new pistol by late November.
A spokeswoman for Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. did not respond to requests for comment.
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