Former members call it "The best job in the FBI." It's officially designated the Hostage Rescue Team. The federal government calls it in when they have a sticky situation that involves high profile operations. They could choose any firearm in the world.
And lately, they use Glocks.
Why the HRT?
In the 1972 Munich Olympics, Islamic terrorists seized a dorm housing Israeli athletes and in the resulting botched efforts to free them, 11 coaches and athletes were killed. This incident as well as a wave of terrorist attacks throughout the world led to the formation of units like the German GSG, British SAS, and US Army's Delta Force to take the fight to those who would attack innocents. With the 1984 Summer Olympics set for Los Angeles, and the US military forbidden from acting inside the borders of the United States, the FBI started the Hostage Rescue Team in 1982. After 18 months of training the team, made up of 50 members, was ready for duty by October 1983.
Motto of the HRT : Servare Vitas (English: To Save Lives) .
Since 1983, they have taken part in more than 800 operations including the recent rescue of a kidnapped 5-year old autistic boy in Alabama held by a killer in an underground bunker.
A Snapshot of the Unit
Today the HRT remains the US government's only full time law-enforcement counter-terrorism team. Unlike the well-known US Army Special Forces Group Delta and the US Navy's DEVGRU (better known as Seal Team Six) who take the war on terrorism overseas, the HRT is the designated hitter inside the borders of the US itself. Based at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, actual strength is classified but is believed to be around 90 individuals in three rotating units.
On almost constant training, they master such exotic tactics as fast roping from helicopters, open water vessel boarding from small boats, parachuting, and subsurface attacks using dive gear. During a routine week of training, it is not unusual for HRT operators to fire 1000 rounds of ammunition to keep their shooting skills honed.
Basics of qualification for the team are to be between the ages of 23 and 36; be in excellent physical condition with the ability to pass a rigorous physical fitness test; and consent to a complete background investigation, drug test, and polygraph. To apply for the HRT, you have to be an active FBI agent with three years of stellar field experience. Even if you come from an elite military unit, you still have to enter the FBI and spend two years in the field as a special agent before vying for a spot on the team.
All candidates have to endure a grueling two-week selection process from which the best are chosen to apply to fill open spots on the HRT. This selection includes water operations from rafts, intense physical testing, scaling a rock walls and scrambling up narrow caving ladder to a grate 70 feet above the ground under stress. If chosen, candidates have to complete six months of New Operator Training School (NOTS) before making it to the actual HRT slot.
Notice what handgun the video shows the HRT using in tactical exercises
The Saga of their handgun choices
While is most operations the HRT and the 70 odd Regional and Enhanced FBI SWAT teams uses various short barreled 5.56mm carbines made by Colt, HK and others as primary weapons, each operator is proficient in and is issued a handgun. Like the vaunted British SAS commandos, in the early 1980s the HRT used to carry Novak customized Browning High Power 9mm pistols, while at the time the rest of the Bureau carried S&W 357 revolvers. By the 1990s this had changed to the SIG P226 (the same gun used by the SEALS) and several different highly modified Les Baer 1911 .45ACPs. In 1998, Springfield Armory's M1911A1 TRP (Tactical Response Pistol) Operator replaced these guns and brought an underbarrel accessory rail to the HRT for mounting lights and lasers.
By 2012, it is believed that both the FBI Regional SWAT teams and HRT have almost exclusively transitioned to the Glock 22 as their main sidearm. This is not surprising that the Glock 22 (and smaller 23) have been the Bureau's standard for Special Agents since May 1997.
Remember, these guys could have chosen any firearm in the world, and they picked the Glock.