The United States is the center of gravity for all things tactical. The U.S market represents 90% of the world market and because of this the world's premier weapons manufacturers have set up shop here in continental United States to sell their wears to the military, law enforcement agencies and private citizens.
However, after world events such as 911 there has been a huge demand for weapons in the U.S. This placed massive strain on quality control systems of weapons companies as demand overtook supply. As a result, manufacturers produced what could only be seen by the end user as lower quality products that failed to meet the expectation of the consumer.
Another issue to compound the existing problems was the injection of new companies looking to capitalize on the buyers market. This has become the biggest issue for end users as one weapon looks much the same as another, yet one is priced to meet the budget of most civilian shooters and law enforcement agencies struggling with budgetary constraints and the other priced for high end private users and military units. To the layman, both weapons meet the specifications of the end user and price then becomes the deciding factor.
I would like to focus this writing towards the law enforcement officer looking to purchase a weapon for duty carry or an LE department looking to outfit the department with a patrol rifle for general patrol use or for tactical SWAT applications.
Here is a list of considerations when selecting a weapon for duty carry/use.
1. Mil-Spec: I am a firm believer in buying a carbine that meets Mil-Spec standards. The military operates in the harshest environments on the planet and if it's good enough for them, it's definitely good enough for domestic use. All of my AR15's/M4's are fully Mil-Spec, as are the parts kits and accessories. I will not have anything on or in my weapons that do not meet these requirements.
2. Manufacturer: (This is a contentious issue as the industry is full of 'experts' looking to capitalize on promoting themselves by promoting a weapon manufacturer. Bottom line is, business is business, but don't fall foul of believing the hype! Remember, the U.S market is 90% of the world market. Everyone is out to make a buck!)
Stick with high end manufacturers that build guns for the military. Colt has been supplying quality M4's to the military for a long time. I used one while serving and it ran like a charm. I now have two H&K 416's. I have had nothing but success from both of these guns and don't believe the hype that's out there about the problems with this weapon. I have LMT guns all are Mil-Spec and all run like a charm. My latest project is a collaboration with Monty from Centurion Arms to produce a fully Mil-Spec carbine for Redback One. Centurion Arms is a small and up coming company that produces excellent quality Mil-Spec carbines. Monty has put together rifles and carbines that closely resemble those currently being used by Special Operations personnel. An example of this is his Mk 12 SPR.
3. Direct Gas Impingement or Piston: I have used all of the quality DGI and piston guns on the market today. I like both operating systems. My advise is this. Stay away from piston driven guns that are not currently in wide spread use by U.S Special Operations. I have seen all of the issues such as heat transfer to the hand-guards, reliability issues, excess recoil, accuracy problems, vibrations causing accessories to rattle loose and so on.
The fact is, good piston guns are more reliable than DGI guns because they will run without much lubricant and gas and carbon is not being deposited back into the bolt, bolt-carrier and body of the weapon which contributes to weapon malfunctions. FACT: piston guns need to be lubricated. Don't think that you will get away without lubing your weapon. Piston guns run better after a good cleaning and a light oil. This will not only enhance performance under normal conditions but it will prevent excess wear and tear on all parts, saving the bottom line of the department.
All piston guns recoil harder that a standard DGI gun. When I began shooting my HK416's I wasn't sure that I was going to like them due to the excess recoil. But, after only a short time I was able to manage recoil using our recoil management system just as effectively as any DGI gun.
4. Barrel Length: I believe that a 14.5" barrel is the best barrel length to issue patrol officers for duty. This length is perfectly suited for all conditions from rural to urban operations. Muzzle velocities are high enough to stabilize the projectile out to 200 meters, the lethal range of the weapon system. It's not too long so patrol officers can deploy the weapon quickly and effectively for active shooter response.
For tactical SWAT applications, I would encourage the decision to purchase a 10.5" barreled carbine. This will allow the officers to maneuver the weapon efficiently when conducting missions involving room clearing and CQB. Although terminal performance is compromised due to the much lower muzzle velocities. The 5.56 round can still be just as effective but relies more on shot placement that the terminal performance of the round selected. (The previous statement is true across the board, however training is the biggest factor effecting the lethality of the patrol officer.)
5. Round Selection: For law enforcement use I strongly advocate using the Hornady 75 grain TAP round as the preferred round for patrol and SWAT applications. This round has been tested and approved for use in U.S SOCOM and gives terminal performance similar to BH 77 grain OTM LR ammunition.
6. Accessories: I am a big believer in aiding the abilities of the shooter by equipping him with accessories that enhance his capability and lethality.
A. Having a quality weapon mounted flashlight is of paramount importance and should be seen as a standard accessory permanently mounted to the carbine. My preferred manufacturer is Surefire. No other flashlight compares, or comes close to them. I use scout lights on all of my carbine in various configurations from 3V, 6V, IR V series, low profile mounts to standard mounts. This is the best carbine flashlight on the market!
B. I believe that all tactical SWAT personnel should be issued with an NVG and Laser for there weapons. This force multiplier enhances the teams capability and enhances lethality by being able to target individuals without the need for visible light which can lead to mission compromise, potentially effecting a successful outcome.
C. Having a quality red-dot sight on the weapon is an obvious enhancement to the targeting capability of the officer during daylight or low light operations. I choose Aimpoint as my preferred combat optic and the T1 micro and the preferred model. You can't beat the battery life and how robust they are.
D. Keep a quality pair of iron sights on the weapon just in case the optic fails!
E. A sound suppressor can be an effective tool to enhance command and control at the tactical level. It also provides a silent entry capability for the assault team with the right set up and training. This is a desirable feature not an essential one. Go with a reputable brand such as Surefire or AAC.
F. You will need a sling for the weapon. Slings can be used for tactical use and for administrative purposes. Choose a sling that will best serve your purpose. The sling must NOT prohibit the maneuverability of the weapon or restrict the user from accessing the control features of the weapon. There is way too much industry hype on sling choice. Don't believe the hype! A two point sling will allow you to sling the weapon on your back to climb, go hands on, conduct admin, attend to a casualty etc. It will also allow you to operate the weapon tactically and transition to your secondary weapon as required. A single point sling is purpose built for CQB only and you will not be able to perform the functions mentioned of the two point sling. I have designed a two point sling that is low profile, only 1" wide, is adjustable for tactical use and administrative use. It will be available soon through RB1 and SORD USA.
My final thoughts are this. Buy quality and buy once! Don't believe the hype! Seek advise from unbiased people that know what they are talking about.
Please feel free to contact me or Redback One at any time for any advise on training, tactics or equipment.