The North Carolina Highway Patrol is looking to replace the nearly 2,000 guns its troopers carry.
Eyewitness News learned a mechanical problem led to the change, and the cash-strapped agency is working on a way to pay for it.
Larry Hyatt, owner of Hyatt Gun Shop, said Smith and Wesson's line of military and police handguns are a popular choice for law enforcement agencies.
"Vast majority of our law enforcement agencies pick the .9mm or the .40, the .357 Sig is a hybrid between the two," Hyatt said.
The North Carolina Highway Patrol purchased the Smith and Wesson's M&P .357 Sig pistols in September 2009.
But two years later, some troopers started having mechanical issues with the extractor port.
"Any semiautomatic pistol, like this M&P, when you fire the gun the bullet comes out the barrel, but it has to pull the empty casing and throw it out the way so it can grab another round and put it in the chamber. If that doesn't happen, the gun jams," Hyatt said.
Eyewitness News spoke to NCHP spokesman First Sgt. Jeff Gordon via Facetime. He said 1,649 uniformed members carry the pistols, but the agency did not feel the need to do a mass withdrawal since not all of the guns have the issue, and all troopers are trained on how to handle jams.
"It has not posted a safety risk for the troopers,” Gordon said. "One of the things we teach our troopers to do when we go through annual firearms training is that we use the ‘Tap, Rack, Ready’ method. This allows troopers to safely and quickly clear their weapons so another bullet can be fed into the chamber.”
Gordon said the Highway Patrol has been working closely with Smith and Wesson, but they have not come up with a solution. The agency is now testing models from other companies as well.
The Highway Patrol hopes to have a replacement picked soon. Once it is selected, it will still take several months for the guns to be distributed and for troopers to train and certify on the new weapons.
If the NCHP stays with Smith & Wesson, the old guns will be traded in for new guns at no cost. If they chose another vendor, they may be able to trade but will likely have to pay. Money for the new guns will come from asset forfeitures from drug seizures and other crimes, the Highway Patrol said.