In the law enforcement world, especially for patrol, the most common calibers for patrol rifles are .223/5.56mm and .308. Prior to the turn of the century, what you found was a bit more varied. The necessity of a rifle was a bit more accepted in the open spaces and there were fewer restrictions on caliber, capacity, etc. The county sheriff was as likely to have his own assortment in the trunk as was any one of his deputies. They had grown up around rifles and viewed them more as tools than weapons.

In this article, a long gun chambered to fire a handgun cartridge will be referred to as a carbine. The term “rifle” will only be used to refer to a long gun that chambers and fires a true rifle cartridge.

Inside the cities, the perception of rifles was different. When reality slapped law enforcement in the face in the form of the Columbine school attack, there was a lot of resistance to issuing officers the rifles they might potentially need for response to such events. Then the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks occurred and the reality of such events on our own soil pushed more law enforcement administrators over the edge and into the abyss of reality. Some still tried to resist by compromising and allowing their officers semi-automatic long guns chambered for handgun ammo: carbines. They justified such to resistant politicians by touting the savings of having a long gun that used the same magazines and ammo as the already issued handguns. It has felt like a long battle since then, but it seems like law enforcement is finally winning the battle to have arms suited for response to high threat situations.

In today’s patrol vehicles it seems you’re most likely to find a semi-automatic rifle chambered in .223. It’s probably an AR-15 variant with a barrel that measures somewhere between 16” to 20”. When it comes to selecting a patrol rifle for your agency the options are abundant. Virtually every major manufacturer produces a semi-automatic (and select fire variant) rifle chambered for .223.
  • SIG SAUER offers four rifles that all meet the patrol rifle requirements. The SIG516 is the most basic and offers several options within a reasonable price point. The SIGM400 is identified as “a true AR platform exceeding military standards,” and providing a plethora of options to suit agency specifications. The SIG MCX Virtus is “configurable in more than 500 combinations,” making it truly modular and allowing agencies to select exactly what they need in a patrol rifle and within their budget restrictions. The SIG TREAD comes with “…all the features, all the freedom—none of the compromises.” This has its own line of accessories and is fully adaptable to any law enforcement mission.
  • Smith & Wesson produces the M&P SPORT II rifles (and several others) that meet the demands of law enforcement at a significantly lower price point than most. Between $400 and $850 (per their website), there are eight variants of the S&W M&P Sport II, three of which are state-specific compliant (California, Colorado and New Jersey). Chambered for .223 and ready to accept common aftermarket optics, lights, etc. the M&P Sport II is ready to serve.
  • Springfield Armory offers two great weapon variants that can serve, and one of which looks nothing like an “evil” AR-15. It’s amazing still that so many politicians object to a weapon due to its appearance, with zero understanding of its function. Those politicians who object to an AR-15 style rifle chambered in .223 might not object to the Springfield Armory SOCOM 16 because it doesn’t look like the rifle so often villainized by the mainstream media. That the SOCOM 16 chambers the more powerful 7.62 NATO round would be lost on them. Springfield Armory also produces the SAINT line of AR style rifles in 5.56 NATO with a few of them also available in .300 Blackout.
  • Doublestar, a not-so-well-known manufacturer of high quality rifles, sorts their rifles into two categories: carbine length and rifle length. (Note that “carbine” here does not indicate handgun caliber.) With five of the 17 rifles priced under $1,000 and only three priced over $2,000 (special purpose rifles), the majority of their products are between that price range. For me, that puts them squarely in the correct price range for a good quality duty rifle. Like every other contemporary manufacturer, these rifles are ready to accept after-market accessories and to be built/customized for an officer’s individual or agency’s need.
  • Battle Rifle Company is another not-so-well-known company that produces high quality rifles for the law enforcement community. They manufacture at least nine different AR-style rifle models that would be suitable for law enforcement use. With model names like Spartan, Trident and Defender, the company obviously produces rifles meant for sheepdogs—those of us who stand in the gap and face down (or hunt down) the bad guys who would prey on the weak and innocent.
  • With such a wide variety of high quality weapons available, and at pricing that is more than reasonable, it’s difficult to understand why some government entities (municipal, county or state) would still be resistant to the idea of having their officers properly armed to defeat significant threats. The issued handgun may be great for threats within 25 yards, and they are certainly more convenient and less threatening in appearance to carry, but most schools have hallways far longer than that, and it’s an unfortunate reality that today’s officers need to be armed to address threats at the distance dictated by circumstance.

    Are your officers properly armed? 

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