Ammo Maker: Our Bullets Blew Up Guns
By Merissa Green
Write an email to Merissa GreenMerissa Green
Winter Haven/Lake Alfred Reporter
Dept.: East Polk News
WINTER HAVEN | The company that manufactures the ammunition for the .45-caliber GAP Glock Model 37 is taking responsibility for guns exploding during two separate training incidents, slightly injuring a Winter Haven police officer and a former police cadet.
A spokesman for Speer Gold Dot, the manufacturer of the ammunition, said Thursday that a batch of bullets sent to the Winter Haven department was defective.
Speer Gold Dot said after the first incident in January 2007 it recalled the bullets sent to Winter Haven but that some of the ammunition remained at the department and was used when the second incident occurred earlier this year.
Winter Haven Police Chief Mark LeVine confirmed Thursday that Speer Gold Dot had recalled the bullets after the first failure. He said some of the ammunition was kept unknowingly and a bullet from that batch was involved in the second explosion.
LeVine said he's not convinced that the ammunition was the only problem and he still has concerns about the Glock handguns.
LeVine told The Ledger on Wednesday that the department was discontinuing use of the GAP Glock Model 37 because of concerns about safety.
A Glock spokesman on Wednesday said the company stood by the quality of its products, but that it hadn't been able to examine the firearms in the Winter Haven incidents and could not say whether there were any problems with them.
Glock has said that any problems with its firearms are the result of the ammunition in use or poor maintenance of the weapons.
On Thursday, a spokesman for Speer Gold Dot said the bullets, not the guns, caused the Winter Haven explosions.
"I made 500 bad cartridges and I shipped them to the Winter Haven Police Department," said Ernest Durnham, cartridge engineer for Speer.
"If I had a problem with my product, then I'll be completely honest with my customer," he said. "And I think that's why Speer Gold is the No. 1 market leader."
Durham said he reviewed quality-control records and concluded the batch the Winter Haven Police Department received should not have been sent.
The Winter Haven Police Department was the only law enforcement agency to receive the bad ammunition, he said.
"The goal of any factory is to have zero defects," Durham said. "My ammunition defect rate is less than 1 in 50 million."
In the Winter Haven incidents, police Officer Frank Scianimanico, 32, and Rodrique Jean-Louis, 20, a former cadet at the Polk Community College Kenneth C. Thompson Institute of Public Safety, suffered bruised fingers. The first occurred in January 2007 and the second in January this year.
LeVine sent a memo in February to his officers saying they could use their own weapons, as long as they met the department's requirements, until the agency buys replacements.
The Police Department will test other weapons next week.
Some agencies have reported problems with Glock products and others have said they have not encountered any problems.
The Portland, Ore., Police Department was once involved in litigation with Glock after two .45-caliber Glock Model 21 pistols exploded in the hands of two officers, Portland Police Sgt. Brian Schmautz said.
City officials there spent a lot of money to investigate the matter but have since resolved the issue with Glock and the department now uses a 9mm Glock.
"Our training division was satisfied with the transition," he said. "(Glock) accepted no liability for what occurred so we moved on."
In a separate litigation, one of the injured Portland police officers filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Glock and the ammunition manufacturer. The lawsuit hasn't been resolved.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office switched to a Glock .40-caliber Model 22 pistol, and there haven't been any incidents with it, said spokeswoman Carrie Rodgers.