Law enforcement agency suppliers
Law enforcement is one of the biggest small arms markets in the world, especially for handguns and related items. Because of this, competition is often very hot among manufacturers and distributors. While most retailers vie for individual customers, these folks are going for big departmental contracts. Many departmental contracts go on a domino effect. This means that if a police department in one town adopts a certain brand and model of handgun, the neighboring departments are likely to do the same. All of which make the regional sales rep very happy. A new round of handgun purchases also means new holsters, new magazines, new magazine pouches, and possibly a new brand of ammo; by the truckload.
Law enforcement people in general are usually into handguns. They buy several and they buy frequently. They also frequently enjoy certain legal privileges that facilitate purchasing. This may include the right to buy certain guns not available to the general public, like short barreled shotguns and compact automatic rifles. Cops also are usually exempt from waiting periods and redundant registration requirements. This is in part due to a certain elitism in the profession and the administrationsí collective dispair in attempting to enforce a high degree of control over their employees favorite past times (playing with guns). One police chief told me that he could not see how civilians should be allowed to own handguns, citing that; "If highly trained and disciplined police officers are so bad, how could the general population be any better?"
Agency suppliers often combine gun deals with accessories and ammo and then discount the package. This can make for a good deal if you are a cop. One other reason for the packaging is to bury the discounted firearm in enough accessories to make it a poor deal for the cop to resell at a profit since resale value on holsters is usually pretty bad. About the only people who ever care to purchase these cop hand-me-downs are underpaid security guards who have neither the privilege nor the money to buy new. Get to know a few cops and you will be in the pipeline.
If you are a cop, keep an eye on the good deals from the suppliers and ask if you can purchase samples at some discounted prices. Your opinion is respected among your peers and you will show the gun to them so they can test it out. They may even pester the chief into buying more. This is commonly how cops get assault weapons. While SWAT teams are rarely necessary in day to day law enforcement, they are a great excuse to buy some really cool stuff. When the new chief decides to cut back on the SWAT team, the gear gets sold cheap to the guys in the pipeline. Thus, the boss still paid for the new toys. An assignment to the swat team, even for a few months means being able to get your hands on some very cool stuff, even if you have to end up buying it yourself. Your superiors will admire your dedication to excellence when you buy your own MP-5 rather than recommend you for another psychological evaluation if you buy one while working juvenile probations liason.
Various state and federal grant programs make it possible for law enforcement agencies to get equipment at little or no cost. Some of the manufacturers and importers are also eager to supply samples to agencies either free or at discount rates. Class III weapons dealers get certain privelages with the feds if they supply low cost "samples" to law enforcement agencies. It does not take too much imagination to figure out ways to divert these samples into a survival arsenal.
Manufacturers and importers make modern weapons available to most dealers only on a "requested sample" basis. The only legal buyers of these modern weapons are government agencies with some sort of armed branch. This means that most military weapon dealers are expected to sell from catalogs until a particular agency. At some point, a representative of the agency agrees to evaluate a sample weapon and gives an official letter to the dealer requesting a demonstration of the sample. The letter lists the makes and models of weapons the agency representatives wish to test and evaluate. The dealer submits copies of this letter to the BATF and the manufacturer or importer. Then both parties approve and the hardware is paid for; the weapons are shipped to the dealer. The dealer is then expected to take the weapons to the agency for test and evaluation. If the agency rep decides the agency should purchase the weapons, they order from the dealer then the weapons are shipped direct from the manufacturer to the agency or they buy the sample from the dealer. Many dealers end up with an accumulation of weapons that various agencies have evaluated but declined to buy. The dealers cannot sell these weapons but they tend to keep them as long as they remain in the business. Other times the dealers must return the weapons to the manufacturer or destroy the weapons. Agency chiefs and supervisors do not necessarily micromanage this process. It is common for most people in a given agency to have no clue what another part of the organization may be testing or evaluating.
Of course a paper trip and a staged "theft" is a fairly serious undertaking. It is however, not entirely rare. Collusion with a class three gun dealer and someone in a law enforcement agency will net you the newest hardware at the best prices. The people who investigate such matters look a little more intently when the hardware is missing from the agency since they care far more about government property than private property. The trick is for the hardware to be missing from the dealer inventory before it is delivered to the law enforcement agency. Also, bigger dealers tend to "lose" inventory from time to time and may already be under scrutiny.