Published: Sep 28, 2010 12:56 AM EDT
Updated: Sep 27, 2010 8:38 PM EDT

PUNTA GORDA, Fla.- Punta Gorda police officers are adding patrol rifles to their crime-fighting arsenal.

Officers say they were out-gunned by criminals, so Monday, they started training with rifles.

"The key for us obtaining and deploying rifles in the field is it gives our officers long-range potential," said Sgt. Rick Mohaupt. "They're much more accurate."

The department had previously relied on shotguns.

"With a shotgun you shoot nine pellets out of each shell. It's not a long-range weapon," says Sgt. Mohaupt. "With this, officers will have no problem shooting in excess of 200 to 300 yards."

Police Chief Albert "Butch" Arenal says the priority is keeping the public secure, but officer safety is also top of mind.

"It's important that we try to arm our officers, we try to give them the tools in the tool box to adequately defend themselves to meet a threat," said Chief Arenal Monday.

The Chief thinks the switch is overdue.

"We're one of the last agencies in Southwest Florida to do it. There's not many that haven't at this point. The bottom line is the shotgun is a little outdated considering a lot of the criminals on our streets are very well armed."

Earlier this year, Punta Gorda police pulled over a car with a cache of high-powered weapons inside.

No one was hurt, but if the suspects had fired, officers say it could have been disastrous.