By now the advantages of the patrol rifle in 5.56mm are clear to most law enforcement officers and agencies. What once was portrayed as a militaristic weapon system more suitable for S.W.A.T. and not desired for uniformed patrol (we don't want to put those black rifles out there on the street, they're too intimidating and might scare the populace) has changed. With violent events (well armed adversaries assaulting citizens as well as the police) and knowledge (trainers that actually know the rifle and how to instruct) changing perceptions, the patrol rifle/carbine has gained popularity in LE.
At the fore of any LE mission is training. Putting any weapon system or control device in the hands of coppers without a relevant and realistic training program is a recipe for disaster. That said these are budget crunching times. What is true and has been so forever is the old line: Pay now or pay later. Realistic training saves lives first and foremost. Secondly well trained officers are more competent and make better decisions. Next, well trained shooters are more accurate. Lastly, realistic and relevant training is an integral part of your civil litigation defense.
Realistic, relevant training with enough repetition to successfully create rifle skills cannot be accomplished in an eight or 16 hour program. Having designed and run a number of carbine operator and instructor courses over the last number of years, I will say that a three day (24 hour) program is the minimum to wring out the most from the gun and the shooter. Round count can be between 1,200 and 1,500 depending on the size of the class with around 250 to 500 pistol rounds expended as well.
A well designed patrol rifle course will tax the shooters ability with little down time and maximum learning included. This is not the time to seek out a diploma mill run by tired burned out instructors teaching tired old material.
I've had the opportunity to shoot a number of 5.56mm carbines over the past few years. Most were well designed and manufactured. I have had a number of students call back to their agencies for replacement carbines due to parts breakage or mechanical issues. Although it is tough for an officer equipped with an M-16A1 iron sighted, plain vanilla shooter to truly enjoy a three or five day class, it can be done (depends on the skills of the shooter). Some of those 30 year old plus surplus military rifles run well, while some of those newer carbines experience malfunction after malfunction which negatively influences the shooting experience (you do get a lot of malfunction clearance practice with some clunkers however). Names that I and respected fellow trainers would recommend include: Colt, LMT, Noveske, Armalite, Rock River and Doublestar. Generally the more milspec parts that the carbine includes the better.
One of the first worthwhile aftermarket accessories to go shopping for is a red-dot sight. These sights decrease your time on target and simplify the sighting process which is valuable. Buyer beware, you get what you pay for and quality never comes cheap. Collimator, holographic, reflex sights that I've played with and like include:
- Aimpoint's products including the T-1
- EOTech's line of holographic sights especially their new XPS3
- Trijicon's 1X ACOG and new RMR reflex sights
- Safariland's - Pride Fowler sights including the SOPS-33mm and SOPS-Compact
- Sig Sauer's Model STS-081
- Insight Technologies' new MRDS (Mini Red Dot Sight).
Target location and identification are vital to the LE mission. An onboard white light can be used to accomplish these two goals as well as disorient the suspect with its brightness and if shooting is called for, help place accurate fire on target. I've run the following lights on carbines and they've worked well:
- Surefire Scout lights and other products
- Streamlight's C4LED light (they have a ton of mounting options for this light)
- Sunlite's 300 lumen LED flashlight
- Inova's Inforce weapon light
- ATN Weaponlights.
Slings & Bags
The value of a good weapon-sling was proven to me during my SWAT days. Quite simply a parade type military sling has no place on a modern LE rifle. That said there are a lot of good slings available out there. Three-point slings are still in use by some SWAT and military personnel but are overly complicated for patrol use. It really comes down to a two or single point sling system. In two-point slings I favor the Vickers sling from Blue Force Gear. In single point slings I like Blackhawk's Dieter CQD sling as well as their Storm slings. New to the scene and a sling I'm still playing with is Magpul's new MS2 (Multi Mission Sling System) which can be both a single and two-point system.
A rifle bug-out or bail-out bag is essential for uniformed police personnel. With room to carry not only spare carbine or pistol mags but also first-aid supplies like a CAT (Combat Applications Tourniquet), battlefield dressings or hemostatic dressings like QuikClot and water, these bags make sense for dynamic call-outs and can be quickly thrown over your shoulder on the fly. I like the ones by 5.11 (Bail Out Bag); and Blackhawk! (S.O.S. - Shoulder Option Secured; and Rifle Bandoleer pouch).
The plastic hard cases most rifles are delivered in costs about five bucks and it shows. I've been using Blackhawk's Homeland Security Discreet Weapons Carry Case for a couple years now with great success. It holds my Armalite M-15, magazines and accessories I need to run, lube or quick clean the rifle. It truly is discreet in the coyote tan color.
Steve Camp from Safe Direction is a super nice guy as well as a shooter and it shows in his companies designs. The Safe Direction line of portable ballistic pads allows officers to more safely handle their weapons including dry firing. In the rifle line Steve makes a portable ballistic clearing pad that can be mounted to a metal surface in a SWAT equipment truck or supervisor's trunk to allow officers, post call-out, to clear the round in the chamber of their carbines (designed to save trunks, trucks, and other police property as well as embarrassment but most importantly - save lives). Safe Direction also produces one of the best rifle metal plate targets around. I've seen other maker's targets with divots and dings but not Safe Direction's which comes with its own stand.
Competition Electronics has excellent training devices worth your consideration as well. Their Pocket Pro II timer is small on size but large on options. This timer allows you to conduct live or dry-fire training with more stress due to time constraints. CE's ProChrono Digital chronograph is simple to use and gives LE the ability to measure the velocity of ammunition as well as different barrel lengths.
Law Enforcement Targets has some excellent training rounds in .223 that every patrol officer with a rifle should own. At 95 cents apiece, these dummy rounds have metal casings (which are vastly superior to an all plastic design) and a bright orange rugged ABS plastic insert (makes finding them on a range much easier. Dry fire is a vital component of firearms training and these inert rounds make it much safer.
Yes, the patrol carbine or rifle can certainly help you in your quest to control violent suspects but there is training, tools and accessories that help you better fulfill your mission. Check them out and invest your time to perfect your skills as well as your money to further your quest.