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Here's a little background:

My science-fantasy world has been devastated by monster attacks coming from various enormous pits inside the planet. The first led to a total collapse of civilization and the next one, some 300 years later, led to a more moderate collapse. Following these attacks, humanity has united in a global empire where service to the government and your community is a key value. Once people graduate their version of high school, they are drafted into one of several programs. There's the military (which ventures into these pits to decrease the number of monsters that could potentially erupt into the surface), national guard, police, and a public works department. People perform various aptitude tests/interviews to determine which program they enter, and choice is also important, but if there is a critical need, one can be forced into a specific program. In this world, firearms are heavily restricted. Owning one requires certifications and licenses that must be kept up to date and being caught with a gun without these will result in jailtime. On top of that, the type of firearms that civilians can own are restricted. Nothing semi-automatic and long guns require even more certifications.

The question:

In this world of mine, which is not and never has been Earth but is suitably Earth-like, why do the police forces use basic firearms when more advanced stuff exists? I'm talking about revolvers, single-barreled shotguns, and revolver rifles in a world where automatic weaponry and other stuff exists and is widely used by the military.

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    $\begingroup$ Why should a police force be armed at all? They're fundamentally there to deal with civilians who also have no reason to be armed. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Apr 6 at 7:23
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    $\begingroup$ This question ("How do I rationalize using lower tech weapons in my high tech world?") has been asked over and over on this Stack. The specific low tech and specific high tech changes, but the answers are always the same (tradition, outside compelling force, etc.). -1 for not researching the question on the Stack or researching why modern police forces don't use firearms and VTC:Too Story-Based for asking what amounts to a character decision since there's no non-story condition contemplated. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Apr 6 at 7:49
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    $\begingroup$ In the US, most police who have more advanced weaponry, got that weaponry as gifts from the military / federal grants, not from local funding. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Apr 6 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ As @JBH said, there have been lots of questions on this topic already. However, this might be salvageable if there is something unique about the role of what you are calling "the police"? Are they protecting all citizens from all criminals? Are they protecting the upper class from the lower class? Are they protecting tax collectors? Are they dealing with small monsters that "leak" past the primary combat forces? (Also, why are long guns more restricted? Generally handguns are more desirable for criminals and shotguns/rifles are legitimate hunting weapons.) Role will define requirement. $\endgroup$ Apr 7 at 6:39

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This is already normal in many parts of the world, like Germany

Specifically, Germany is a country modern country with a modern police force that has gun control laws similar to what you outline for civilians. Here, civilians can, after extensive certification, own simple firearms for sport or hunting. Even once certified and licensed, there are extensive regulations on where and how guns and ammo need to be stored.

Consequently, while the majority of law enforcement officers in Germany are armed with a simple handgun (HK P30), they hardly ever need to use it. There is a Wikipedia page which lists every single person shot by the German police, going back to 1962, and this is wild, because while long, it's still only a single page. Like, if you go by the count of people killed per year from 2000 to 2023, on average it's less than 10. The amount of shots fired by the entire police force in the entirety of Germany in any given year is also like less than 50.

Point being, the normal police do not need advanced and specialized "battle rifles" or other "higher grade" firearms to do their jobs. In fact, giving them more advanced weapons introduces risks, such as:

  • People have an innate drive to use what they are given, and this includes cool guns
  • Valuable and dangerous weapons can be stolen from law enforcement by criminal elements
  • Budget blowout, law enforcement spends money on systems and training they don't need

An example of this going wrong can be seen in many small-town USA police departments, where, when given more money and the access to military-grade supplies, the PD militarizes which worsens the community relationship and can actually lead to more crime. Citizens start seeing the local PD as an oppressor or occupying force rather than the role of a community protector.

All that said, there is still a role for a heavily- and modernly-equipped unit of law enforcement that has access to the expensive equipment and training, however these aren't really used in policing tasks but rather in a counterterrorism, hostage negotiation, or similar role. This is your German GSG-9 or your SWAT, FBI HRT, or DEA SRT among others.

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    $\begingroup$ Note: shots fired outside of the shooting range - police are required to shoot targets at least every half year for certifications. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Apr 7 at 15:27
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Because protests mostly don't happen.

Due to the heavy social control most people are fairly obedient to society and don't protest or do antisocial things. Education programs and good mental healthcare programs manage most people who might go crazy.

The militarization of police happens heavily because police are used as a weapon to manage the populace and for that more heavy weaponry helps. Most criminals in your world are small time, doing things like making drugs or moonshine or such, have limited access to heavy weapons, and so cheap and reliable guns are the ideal police tool.

The general populace and police would have access to heavier weapons in special stores. When monsters rampaged on the surface they could go to these stores and get out the heavy weapons and form civilian militias. These weapons would be expensive and not good for general use.

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Isn't that the case in most of the world?

Most policemen have only a rubber club or democratizer on them, which is 40 thousand years old antiquated weapon. It does not even have a stone of its tip. Totally pre-stone age.

Those who have firearms usually have small arms which can only fire single shots. These are also antiquated by function, though not by construction.

Only specialized units of militarized police would have automatic rifles and lethal grenades.

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resource limitations after collapse

A society collapsing isn't pretty. Although many reasons for the collapse can be given, the key word is shortage. Imagine diesel suddenly beong unavailable. From the tractors bringing in the harvest to the trucks delivering it, an enormous amount is dependent on diesel. You'll have a famine in no time. This is just one facet where this happens.

The rebuild world after might still have what would be deemed shortages now. Lets say the oil industry is still floored, the current energy is limited and done solely via fully recycled green energies. We'll have less production capacity and less kinds of resources available.

If you're limited in such capacities, do you want to distribute your suddenly extremely premium and relatively expensive weapons to both the military and the police? There's two good reasons not to. First is the simple expense. The second is that people see the need for cooperation. They have too little for most crime and corruption. You survive if you cooperate, or you die in exile. That way there is less need for high end equipment for police.

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I think there are several ways we could explain this issue. So i compiled some that might fit your world.

They don't fight a war: Just like in our world police don't walk around with stuff like rocket launchers or machine guns on the streets. The purpose of police is to protect the status que and not fight a war against car thiefs or something. So they don't need weapons of war to accomplish their goals.

They are overkill: As your world was attacked by monsters its safe to assume your weapons are mostly made to kill them. And as these monsters seem to be no pushover using weapons that are used to kill them are really bad for arresting criminals. Or more clearly would you use a sledge hammer to nail a painting to your wall.

It's against the law: Just like in our world yours could have laws to prohibit using certain weapons against civilians. As using a flamethrower against a guy with a knife is a thing that is probably going to be swiftly banned. As it's clearly unnecessary violence and would be looked down upon.

It's highly immoral: Picture the example with the flamethrower. Do you think people would be fine with police constantly slaughtering people with weapons that are clearly way to powerful. I mean gun ownership is highly restricted so there is no need for such extensive violence. And if stuff like that would continue people would start wondering who the real monsters are.

It's tradition: Old habits die hard especially if you use them as an idolized image for propaganda. Imagine the police force as white knights that have kept piece in the the time humanity was at the brink. We wouldn't want to muddy this issue by introducing modern weapons wouldn't we?

Note: English is not my primary language so please excuse any grammar or spelling errors.

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Dual Purpose Weapons

If the police need to deal with both dangerous civilians and monsters that slip past the military, revolvers, both in pistol and rifle configuration and break-action shotguns might allow the same weapon to be used effectively against both threats. This of course assumes that at least some of the monsters are small and thin-skinned enough that man-portable weapons are a threat to them in the first place.

Revolvers

Since a revolver doesn't depend on recoil or gas pressure to cycle, you could issue both low power anti-personnel rounds, intended to be easier to handle and to minimize overpenetration, and high power anti-monster rounds, designed to be as powerful as possible while still being usable by a human. The revolver also isn't dependent on bullet shape to feed correctly, so these anti-monster rounds could be miniaturized APCR or APDS rounds (where the projectile either is or contains a dense sub-caliber dart) or HEAT rounds (where the projectile is a shaped-charge warhead), neither of which are properly shaped to feed through a conventional pistol. This would tend to result in revolvers with long cylinders compared to those seen in our world.

Break-Action Shotguns

For shotguns the same logic applies. Without an automatic feed system, the same weapon can use rounds of widely varying shapes and lengths. Single barrel weapons may be preferred because the barrel is reinforced to allow chamber pressures well above what shotguns normally experience, which would make them heavier. A reinforced single barrel shotgun could fire both less-lethal beanbag and taser rounds, as well as "disintegrator" rounds for breaching doors, and high-pressure armor-piercing rounds for use against monsters. Again, miniaturized APFSDS, HEAT, or even HESH rounds (where the projectile is a wad of plastic explosive meant to conform to the target before exploding) might be used to give ordinary cops a shot against monsters.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your description of putting varying rounds in the revolver reminds me of the book of Logan's Run, where they had one of each of six different rounds loaded (and fortuitously found a use for every single one of them once and once only through the story!) $\endgroup$ Apr 8 at 3:39
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Shortage of reliable primers and/or metal cases

There is one significant advantage to revolvers and revolver-rifles compared to automatic and semi-automatic weapons. If the hammer falls and the round does not fire at all (see below) then simply ignore the faulty round, rotate the cylinder - whether through a double-action trigger or manually cocking the hammer - and fire the next round. Most modern ammunition will have primer failures for less than one in hundreds or thousands of rounds, but cheap and shoddily manufactured ammunition can have distressing failure rates. (I will not name the manufacturer, but there was some cheap, contemporarily manufactured ammunition I bought about 30 years ago that had a roughly 1-in-20 failure rate - luckily I was using it for target shooting and occasional hunting of small game only, so no life-threatening consequences of low reliability.)

Combine the shortage of reliable primers with a shortage of machined metal cartridge cases and the civvies and police are using paper or cardboard cartridge cases, which do not feed reliably in semi-auto/auto weapons. So the police can manually load the cylinder of their handgun or rifle with six cartridges, of which at least 4-5 should work. Meanwhile, the military facing off with the monsters hog the supply of reliable primers and machined metal cartridge cases that are essential for the battles they are fighting.

Note that the powder still needs to be reliable - if the primer does work then the round needs to be propelled out completely. If a badly underpowered round travels halfway up the barrel and gets stuck, firing the next one will result in the shooter having a very bad day. (I have once seen a handloaded round where the primer worked but no powder was in the case, resulting in the primer propelling the projectile just into the barrel. Fortunately, the shooter realised what the quiet popping sound meant, unloaded and cleared the weapon and - once cleared by the range safety officer - went away to find the tools to tap the projectile out of the barrel without damaging it.)

(I know I should not be answering a question that needs work, but there is an explanation that perfectly fits the exact mix of weapons available to the police. Sorry.)

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Reliability, Low Cadence and not trusting your policemen

One of the most reliable weapons a cross-country police force could use was well-tested in the Philippine jungles: A single-barrel, break-open shotgun. I am talking about the Remington No.3. It's almost indestructible, as the colonial police in the Philipines found out, and they use it in warfare against the Japanese. The reason why the outdated Remington No.3 was chosen? Oh, just the Dutch did not trust the locals to not rebel and use the police guns against them. So they gave them guns that were seen as not militarily viable.

Revolving rifles and revolving handguns however have two big problems: on one hand, they are much more complex and require more maintenance than any other handgun. Even most semiautomatics are simpler and have fewer things that can break!

Instead, the police should go for Rolling block pistols, such as the Nagant 1877 and its big brother, the Remington Rolling Block Rifle. While technically out of date for about a decade by 1914, the design was still very popular till after WW1 made Bolt Action rifles popular. Those guns are easy to manufacture, hard to damage to no functionality, somewhat easy to fix and you can't get a high cadence from them - or turn them into automatics in any way.

If you want to go for a faster rifle, you would not take revolving rifles, but you'd see Mauser-style Bolt-Action rifles. The Mauser action is for a specific reason the most manufactured non semiautomatic design: it is virtually foolproof and nigh indestructible. Even after rusting for decades, these guns can be made working again, making them more reliable than a revolver that needs to be exactly timed to not shoot the frame.

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Intelligent monsters use seized weapons...

There are some inexperienced policemen or soldiers or simply someone carrying a gun being alone, all by himself when under attack. The fact that they come from pits underground hints they are smart enough to build tunnels, and as such may seize weapons from the battlefield and use them against the civilians. So, it is better to give the outdated weapons to the lower-ranked officers and to the civilians. When the police invades the tunnel, they do it in large numbers and the policemen are well trained. So low quality is compensated by high quantity and the monsters are outnumbered. It does not imply, though, that all officers carry outdated weapons. Elite fighters may have sniper guns and other hi-tech stuff, but that's up to you to decide.

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Historical Reason - high treason

There was that one episode, where the army was decimated in the hole- and some greedy little monster on the surface, tried to take over with the police, which was armed like the army- and they sealed the holes, preventing a retreat of the army. When the population found out- the usurpers were fed as supper to the monsters in the hole. And - never again, the police from that point onwards only got old weapons from the bottom of the hole to wear as warning.

PostScriptumRantum: The weapons do nothing. Can have a tank as police officer, but in todays world, a vidya-game kid with a fpv-drone + rpg7 head paid 50 $ by a cartel can light that shoebox on wheels on fire like it hamster henrys viking funeral. The only thing preventing carnage, is social cohesion. As in the police, is part of the people, wanted by the people - all the people. But i digress..

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