Immortalized in fictitious TV programs such as “CHiPs” in the late 1970s and early 80s and “Highway Patrol” in mid-to-late 1950s, in real life the California Highway Patrol (CHP) is the largest state police agency in the U.S, with 11,000 employees, over 7,600 of whom are sworn officers.
Therefore, when an agency of such size and prestige adopts a particular firearm, it’s kind of a big deal.
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when law enforcement agencies throughout America were transitioning en masse from double-action revolvers to semiautomatic pistols, the “Chippies” were slightly slower on the draw, compared with other large police departments within California, such as L.A. County Sheriff’s Department with the adoption of the Beretta 92F and LAPD with the Beretta and the Smith & Wesson Model 5906.
CHP finally got in on the autopistol game in late 1990 when it adopted the double-action Smith & Wesson Model 4006 and its then-newfangled .40 S&W cartridge.
S&W M4006 History & Specifications
The S&W 4006 made its debut along with the .40 S&W cartridge back on January 17, 1990; it was part of Smith’s Third-Generation series of autopistols. The cartridge made an immediate impact as it stole the thunder from the 10mm Auto cartridge just a few short months after the latter cartridge was deemed “The Next Big Thing” in handgun cartridges after the FBI had adopted the S&W M1076 chambered for the so-called “10mm Lite” loading; the .40 offered the same ballistics at the 10mm Lite but with a significantly shorter cartridge case length which in turn translated to being able to carry more rounds in smaller-framed guns.
What was especially noteworthy about the CHP pistol trials besides resulting in the agency’s first-ever semiauto pistol was the competitor that Smith beat out to win the CHP contract against the Glock. More specifically, the Glock 22 .40 that was submitted as a competing model actually broke during the testing, which was quite shocking in light of the fact that the Glock 17 9mm has already established an unequaled reputation for near-indestructibility. Granted, this was a mere prototype of the G22, and subsequent production models were much improved, but this was still quite a marketing coup for Smith and an embarrassment for Glock.
Specifications for the 4006 include a standard capacity magazine of 11+1 rounds, a weight of 37.3 ounces, an overall length of 7.5 inches, and a barrel length of 4 inches.
The pistol remained in service with the Chippies for over 25 years until eventually switching over to the S&W M&P40. Production of the M4006 ended in 2011.
Personal Shooting Impressions
I fired a Smith 4006 at the Santa Anita Firing Range in Monrovia, California back in July 1991 when an old friend from my middle school days was visiting from Tel Aviv. It was my first time shooting a .40 S&W (I’d already fired more than one 10mm Auto at that point in my life), and my buddy’s first time shooting a firearm of any kind.
We did all of our shooting a the 7-yard line, using 50 rounds of the range’s full metal jacketed (FMJ) reloads. Our overall impressions: good but not great. Very handsome looking pistol with its stainless steel finish (I’ve always thought Smith & Wesson First-Generation thru Third-Generation autopistols to be right up there with the Beretta 92 as among the nicest-looking pistols ever made), decent ergonomics, reliability recoil was easy enough to handle, trigger in double- and single-action mode and 3-dot sight picture made for decent accuracy. But the handgun didn’t give either one of us the “Whoa, buddy, I gotta get me one of these(!)” sort of feeling. My buddy got more enjoyment and fulfillment from both the Beretta 92 and the AMT Hardballer Longslide .45 ACP we shot later on during that same range session.
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.