Most likely you will not be issued a handgun when you are new to police work or have been freshly hired by the department. It's at that time that you must make the decision of buying and carrying while you are on duty. This is when research and reading up on the handguns, their features and attributes are very important. Educating yourself about handguns will be the best way to ensure safety amongst yourself and others. You may feel confused from all the information there are on tactical sidearms. However, this will clear some things up in a straightforward manner and get your the significant points out about handguns so you can make a more educated and clear decision when you end up buying one.
First, ask for your department's policy manual or ask your supervisor what the policies are for a law enforcement officer to carry his or her handgun. The tactical weapon you choose must fit in with the criteria in the department policy in order for you to have it.
Quality is always more important than quantity and if you ever have to remove your sidearm to use it, you want a brand named weapon that is responsive, will not jam and you feel comfortable with its size and power. While you are on duty, there may be times where it rains and you will get wet, or your guy is in a dirty environment, and you may even be in very cold places. All in all, your gun will be in very harsh places, getting knocked around and take a beating. You'll need a gun that can handle all types of environments and terrains. Not every model or brand can handle this abuse so stick your money with a major manufacturer whose built a reputation on reliable tactical handguns.
When it comes to spending your money, it's better off to spend a little more on a piece of weapon that will last you a long time and is a reliable winner. You'll probably want to run out of purchase a weapon right away, but it's almost always better off to do your research, pick and choose the correct one that meets your departments standards but also you feel comfortable with it.
What is double or single action?
There is a hammer on a pistol that has to be pulled back. This is the single action. When the hammer that's been pulled back is released to go forward to shoot a round, this is the second action.
There are some handguns that only have a single action - like older model Colts. Other handguns such as ones in the Beretta family have the hammer forward. When you pull the trigger to shoot, the hammer has to be repulled before getting the fire is fired. Afterwards, the hammer is already back into its original position. This affects the shooting of the gun, since the first shot requires a pulling the trigger more, the remaining shots have less pull on the trigger. You have to remain cool and level headed to remember this concept since it may save or not save your own or someone else's life.
Glock guns have an internal hammer system where the difference in pull is eliminated allowing for a consistent weight in trigger pull for each round that is fired. This is a point and shoot type of gun.
What is active safety and passive safety? An active safety is where you must disable a button before the gun will fire. Passive safeties are turned off automatically when you pull the trigger. Most law enforcement and police officers prefer the passive safety mechanism on sidearms.
Mounting rails for a flash light are very important when selecting a gun. The gun chosen needs to have mounting rails for a tactical flashlight - I can't stress that more enough. I recommend not buying a gun without this feature since there will be times where you are in dark places or a light needs to shine on your suspect or a hurt victim.
The most common caliber are 9mm,.40 and.45 Choose a caliber that you feel most comfortable with and is most accurate. 9mm allows you to carry more rounds and there is not strong recoil, allowing more accurate shots repeatedly.
.40 has a higher velocity but has a higher recoil than the 9mm or.45. The rounds are less and the shots will be less accurate overall than the 9mm.
.45 is known for its stopping power and has less recoil than a.40. The rounds are also much larger than 9mm or.40's.
These are the primary factors that a prospective shooter, law enforcement or police officer should consider when selecting their first gun. Go with a more expensive and reliable manufacturer. Buying a gun cheaper gun will waste your time and tend to jam more often causing more stress upon you and others.
Here are some companies that I recommend when selecting a firearm:
Beretta USA
Browning Firearms
Colt Firearms
Glock Firearms
Heckler & Koch
Sig Sauer
Smith & Wesson

Author's Bio: 

Ryan is the Editor and Founder of The Police Training Academy Center for online police training, police academy, law enforcement jobs and career development!