SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ It's a police accessory with guaranteed stopping power _ Smith & Wesson says so _ and it's not a .44 Magnum or even a .357.

It's a bicycle.

The nation's largest maker of handguns has wheeled out a line of police bicycles complete with lights and sirens.

David Sargeant, business manager for Smith & Wesson, estimated more than 20,000 police officers across the country now patrol on bicycles and their numbers are expected to increase dramatically.

``Bicycles are becoming a very important and effective part of policing work,'' he said Monday. ``They not only provide the officers with a different type of mobility, but they bring them back into touch with the community.''

Several bicycle companies, including Raleigh, Trek and BMW, already make special police models of their mountain bikes. But Smith & Wesson sees its entry into the field as an expansion of a law enforcement equipment line that includes everything from handcuffs to identification kits.

The company's 24-speed mountain bikes range from $750 to $1,200.