Wardens Issued New Sidearms

After 20 years of protecting Maine's wildlife resources, accompanying Maine Game Wardens through powdery snow, swampy beaver bogs, mountain rescues, wilderness searches, nuisance wildlife calls and thousands of arrests, Maine Game Wardens are getting a new sidearm.

In its past session, the state legislature authorized a one time general fund appropriation to purchase the new firearms, acting on the recommendation of the joint standing committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. $100,000 was designated for the purchase of the new firearms, belts, holsters, extra magazines and also for training with the new weapon.

"Prior budget constraints had not allowed us to replace our aging firearms. We had reached a critical point. The Fish and Wildlife committee and the Appropriations Committee recognized the need, stepped up and supported our request," said Colonel Timothy Peabody, head of the Maine Warden Service

"Twenty years is a long lifetime for a sidearm in a law enforcement agency," said Lieutenant Bill Allen of the Maine Warden Service. "After 20 years with the same weapon, too many rounds had been fired through the barrel, and accuracy and safety was something that became a concern."

Gone are the 20-year old Smith and Wesson .357 magnums, and now Maine Game Wardens will carry a Sig Sauer Model 226 that fires a .357 Sig cartridge. Ballisticly, the two firearms are similar, but that is where the similarities end. This semi-automatic firearm holds 12 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber, compared to the six the previous weapon held. And game wardens will now carry 37 rounds on them instead of the 18 they carried with their old .357s.

"Before purchasing these, we tested several different handguns throughout the state. We set up three different shoots, and among 15 different wardens, this was the weapon of choice," said Allen, who oversaw the selection of the firearm.

Maine Game Wardens are currently going through transition training with the new firearms. All Wardens will have to qualify before they can carry their new sidearm in the field.

"We try and simulate situations that they would find themselves in, and that includes training at night. Then, once their training is done, Wardens must qualify."

Qualification consists of game wardens taking a written test on the weapon nomenclature; then they disassemble, clean, reassemble and do a function check on their weapon; and then they must shoot a 50 round qualification course twice, placing 80% within their target each time. Each warden will shoot approximately 1,000 rounds with their new weapon before qualifying.

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