The survey of nearly 1,700 police officers in Scotland found 53 per cent of officers ranked handguns in the top five personal protective equipment they would like to have.
Nearly 60 per cent said they would like to be trained in handgun use. However, having access to this equipment does not mean they would be routinely armed.
The Scottish Police Federation study, which will be published today in the latest edition of 1919, Scotland’s justice and social affairs magazine, also found 22 per cent of police officers have been assaulted in the past three months, and 40 per cent in the past year.
The option of carrying a Taser came out top, with 84 per cent of the 1,698 respondents wanting to be equipped with one, with the same percentage of officers indicating they would also like a body-worn camera.
However, 47 per cent explicitly stated they would not want to carry handguns, while 37 per cent also said they would not want to be trained in their use.
David Hamilton, chair of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “This shows just how real the dangers are to police officers and how vulnerable they feel delivering policing in Scotland. The public will be aghast that 22 per cent of our police officers have been assaulted on duty in the last three months.
“These are sons and daughters, mums and dads, each of whom has taken an oath to serve their communities and keep people safe, but communities have a duty to keep their officers safe too."
He added: “Perhaps the biggest shock is that 53 per cent of our officers would like access to a handgun and a further 7 per cent would be prepared to be trained in it if necessary.
"This demonstrates not just the frequency of attacks, but the gravity of them too. Officers consider knives to be the greatest risk to them and firearms are the appropriate last defence to being attacked by such lethal weapons.”
Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said that Police Scotland hoped to increase the number of Taser-trained officers by 1,500 over the next three years.
He said: "Policing with the consent of our communities lies at the heart of all we do and there are no plans to move away from being an unarmed service which has an armed capability.
“Being assaulted should never be part of the job and tackling the concerning trend of increasing assaults on officers and staff is a priority. The Chief Constable has underlined his commitment to achieving this goal by providing our people with the tools they need to do their jobs and he has also committed to continuing our focus on officer and staff safety.
“Recently, we have improved our infrastructure to support an enhanced roll-out of Taser and work is underway to uplift the number of Taser-trained officers by 1,500 over the next three years."