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Is the 5.56x45 ideal for law enforcement?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by labnoti, May 24, 2019.

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  1. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    I was just watching The Terminator (1984) last night and when the cyborg attacks LAPD Central Division, there are a number of officers that are able to respond with M16's. I imagine at that time those rifles would have been from SWAT inventory, but since it was fictional I won't concern myself too much with it. I believe it was the North Hollywood shootout that precipitated the widespread adoption of the M4 carbine as a regular patrol rifle now often carried in lieu of the Remington 870 shotgun. No doubt M16 and M4 rifles had seen patrol duty in some places before and that shootout wasn't the only factor that led to the increasing popularity of them today.

    I reload and shoot 6.5 Grendel in a bolt action gun intended for medium game hunting and in the low volume of fire of hunting it's probably going to have a greater effect than 5.56x45mm. I don't have an AR-15, but I suppose if I got one it would also be chambered in 6.5 Grendel. I might have even thought at one point that the military should think about adopting 6.5 Grendel because of how much more awesome it is compared to 5.56, but there are a few good reasons why that's not such a good idea. Performance with Mk262, Mk318, and M855A1 are a lot better than with Grandpa's M193. In most circumstances where the military is using M4's with 5.56, the ballistics are good enough, magazines have higher capacity, soldiers can carry more of it, and someone can carry an alternative like 7.62x51 without everyone needing to. The suitability of equipping soldiers with 5.56 makes the most sense when you start thinking about equipping most soldiers in a squad or a platoon with it rather than just thinking about individual soldiers on their own. For an individual, the difference in the volume of fire might be negligible, and so the potential ballistic advantages of alternatives look worthwhile. Multiplying the increased volume of fire by a squad or platoon, however, could give a substantial advantage to the smaller cartridge. Whatever advantage Grendel or Blackout or SPC or SOCOM or any of the other alternatives have, it's not a huge one and not without trade-offs. Another obvious reason the military shouldn't abandon 5.56 for some ballistically superior cartridge is because of their existing investment in 5.56 rifles, magazines, ammunition and the supply chain behind them.

    But none of these arguments apply to law enforcement. Patrolmen don't fight as a squad and certainly not as a platoon size unit. They're far more often alone or with a single partner. Departments don't keep an inventory of rifles, magazines, and ammo that fills warehouses.

    So what is the rationale for the far greater popularity of 5.56x45mm rifles in law enforcement versus alternatives like .300 BLK, 6.8 SPC, 25-45 Sharps, 458 SOCOM, 450 Bushmaster, 7.62x39 or 350 Legend ?
     
  2. forty_caliber
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    forty_caliber Contributing Member

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    Military grants of new/used equipment to Law Enforcement. With the right loads it could be very effective in a urban environment without over penetration concerns...i.e. frangible rather than ball.
    .40
     
  3. Bfh_auto

    Bfh_auto Member

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    It's not that it's better... The 556 was used by the military, is cheap, relatively easy to train with, and works.
    Anything that penetrates barriers well risks over penetrating soft targets.
    I think they would be better suited with a color coded mag of green tips for special circumstances.
     
  4. amd6547

    amd6547 Member

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    “Grandpa’s M193” is still my favorite flavor of 5.56. I’d be fine if it was all I ever shot in the AR.
    Prior to the widespread discovery of the AR15, plenty of cops liked the 30 Carbine...another favorite of mine. In fact, the Carbine is still my HD choice.
     
  5. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    Were Crown Vic’s and Chargers really the “best” choices of cruisers? Were G17’s in 9mm really the “best” option in side arms?

    Lots of options out there. Gotta pick something, and drifting back and forth on the wind doesn’t make much sense.

    When I imagine myself in a scenario where there’s a firearm between my life and someone intent on ending it or that of others, I’m happy to have an AR, 5.56 or otherwise. If said assailant were outside of the effective range of a 5.56, but within the effective range of a Grendel, I would have a lot of options besides engaging, and wouldn’t have much challenge in advancing the 50-100yrds difference if necessary. There’s a lot of room to be creative when you’re a half mile from your “assailant,” but calling them an “assailant” at that point likely isn’t logical.
     
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  6. illinoisburt

    illinoisburt Member

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    This Exactly. Departments were getting them free or close to it from Uncle Sugar. Awful lot of other gear, too. After 2001 it kinda went in overdrive and as more units upgraded to A3 and M4, the older A1 an A2 got dispersed. I recall community meetings about it with local law enforcement and the Illinois state police because some folks weren't real thrilled with the cops adding in the machine guns and bunches of armored vehicles. Not exactly kinder/gentler feeling the growing affluent suburban soccer moms liked to see or hear.
     
  7. C-grunt

    C-grunt Member

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    Having used 5.56 both overseas and here in the US, it works. Especially when you aren't subjected to FMJ rounds.

    I worked with a guy who was on the SEAL team that tested the 6.8. They saw no improvement over 5.56 in their gunfights. People are not that hard to stop with a rifle.

    The 5.56 offers several advantages for police work.

    1. Availability. Yes you can get the other round but if you needed to buy 150k round tomorrow is going to be a lot easier to get multiple quotes on 5.56

    2. Low recoil.

    3. Lower over penetration concerns

    4. The AR15 is most commonly chambered in it. And seeing that a huge amount of police officers are veterans (between 30 and 50 percent by most guesses) you have guys already familiar with the rifle.
     
  8. C-grunt

    C-grunt Member

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    Also, my department has a 325 yard shot using an iron sighted Colt AR15. It stopped the bad guy in his tracks. Bullet was a Sierra 55 grain BTHP.
     
  9. George Dickel

    George Dickel Member

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    Once the police obtained AR's the gun fight you mentioned in North Hollywood quickly went down hill for the bad guys.
     
  10. someguy2800

    someguy2800 Member

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    I don’t know if it ideal, but it does probably make the most sense when all other factors are considered. Having shot a good deal of critters with various non FMJ 223 and observed the results, the 223 is not the underpowered weakling some would have you believe.
     
  11. herrwalther

    herrwalther Member

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    Still not something soccer moms want to hear. When I worked for our local Sheriff, they were very big on public perception. Hardly any officer had an AR or even a shotgun in their cruiser. And the officers that did usually has a litany of extra hoops to go through to have the extra firepower. While the smaller municipalities around the county went with cheaper, outer tactical vests/body armor the county police went with more expensive body armor that went under the uniform, and expandable batons were discouraged.
     
  12. BigBL87

    BigBL87 Member

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    When our County Sheriff/Emergency Management got an MRAP from the Feds, you should have heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth about it. We got it essentially for free at that. Some made points about the maintenance costs which is actually one of the few valid criticisms, but a alot of people questioned the need for a "military vehicle" for our rural-ish county.

    The reality is, Emergency Management were the ones that really wanted it because we have floods here all the time and they are great for driving down shallowly flooded streets (and just rough terrain in general) due to their ground clearance. They primarily use it to get into neighborhoods when it's too shallow for boats to traverse safely but too deep for "regular" police/EM vehicles. The sheriffs department has access to it if they need it, but I don't think they've used it once.
     
  13. Boattale

    Boattale Member

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    The fact the platform works as well as it does, the familiarity users and maintenance providers have with the platform plus value of standardization of arms and ammunition makes it the ideal choice for Law Enforcement.
     
  14. EIB0879

    EIB0879 Member

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    A friend of mine who was SWAT for a large city PD was telling me a year ago that they were changing out their 5.56 uppers for 300 BO. I don't know if they ever followed through with it but it made sense to me that it was a logical step.
     
  15. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    The 5.56 an the AR are an "industry standard". This system is economic, user friendly, prolific, and effective. It offers much more capability than a shotgun. But, it seems to me that 9mm long guns such as those based on the AR would probably be a better choice for LE patrol officers working in densely populated areas. The reason I believe this is that the distances of the engagements that officers address don't typically require a bullet that is designed for Soldiers to engage enemy threats out to 300 or 400 meters. After all, the vast majority of LE sniper engagements are rarely if ever at such distances. Unlike our military, a SWAT raid will normally occur in a small objective area- it will typically involve a single structure, as small as one hotel room, with a large, complex structure being something like a shopping mall or sports stadium. All that having been said, I never served in LE, and my background is strictly military. At the end of the day, the idea weapon in any gunfight is the one you have in your hand, at that time.
     
  16. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    This is not about whether law enforcement should have AR's or not, but whether they would ideally be in 5.56x45 or another chambering. I realize the militarization of law enforcement is an issue but that's another topic. My local SD runs their MRAP in parades and they have M4's in all vehicles, even on their motorcycles. Other than that, it's pretty much like Mayberry.

    There's really no question at this point that the AR is the standardized platform and until a big change happens it won't go away. But back in the 80's (when Terminator came out), 5.56 was was practically the only chambering for an AR-15/M16. Today there are a lot of alternatives that might be a more ideal fit for law enforcement -- 300 BO for example. We could debate which alternative chambering makes the best choice, but unlike for military use, there doesn't seem to be any compelling argument for 5.56. It's like the only reason is because the "military uses it" and because "we've always done it that way."
     
  17. Goosey

    Goosey Member

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    Don't know if it's ideal but I don't think larger bullets are necessary or even necessarily more effective, and they penetrate more which is something law enforcement don't always like. Humans are light-skinned animals that usually stand upright. I think a .223 that fragments into many pieces will more effective than a 7.62x39 softpoint that expands a bit and zips out the other side at high speed. No one has a problem with .223 "stopping power".
     
  18. Speedo66

    Speedo66 Member

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    Cost. Most upper management in LE are not gun enthusiasts, they've become politicians. Cost is important, cheaper rounds, no need to replace guns.
     
  19. SharpDog

    SharpDog Member

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  20. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    How much is that going to cost?
     
  21. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    If they did, it was a step backwards. 5.56 is much more effective. The only advantage 300 BA has is that it can be a lot quieter fired suppressed.
     
  22. Zoogster

    Zoogster Member

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    Light weight, and low skill requirement to shoot a round with minimal recoil that is still effective against most unarmored or lightly armored targets.
    They also use deadlier rounds than common issue in the military.
    Due to the low recoil if you step it up into full auto it also remains very controllable with a high rate of fire, becoming about as challenging as a normal rifle caliber in rapid semi auto. So even if the individual bullets are just adequate, a large amount of fire that is stopped by most concrete and other hard structures leaves them with a round deadly on bare tissue that begins to fall apart or is stopped once it encounters barriers and can be delivered in large quantity.

    Low skill requirement so any officer can be readily trained, male or female, desk clerk or ex military operator. No need to be a marksman or learn to manage recoil.
    Minimal metal per round reduces costs. Mass produced common caliber further reduces costs. In guns given essentially for free to the police departments or at low cost when they are from the federal government, now that they no longer give back the stuff our taxes purchased to us through the CMP.


    So yes it is a great round for use against civilians without body armor. Not so great for military intending to engage other modern forces. Of course the real purpose of the 2nd Amendment means not so great for that either, but it has been redefined as a right to be able to have something to shoot a common criminal anyways.
    Most modern small arms are actually rather pathetic at changing the outcome on a modern battlefield, and their primary use is to guard bigger more effective weapon platforms, or to engage or pin down an enemy until those weapon platforms destroy them. Enough small arms can still overwhelm, and capture the bigger better stuff sometimes, but that has a high casualty rate for the gains.
    Most modern vehicles are designed to resist at least 7.62x51 AP, many more .50BMG and the minimum caliber expected to engage other vehicles is typically 20mm autocannons (full auto 20mm guns) and bigger. A BMG rifle is one of the few small arms that still has an impact, being able to engage weak points on some lighter vehicles, and punching through plate body armor at range, as with the specialty rounds it becomes about as powerful as a FMJ 20mm round. It is also very loud and heavy and will get the user a lot of attention from deadlier platforms.
    Lesser calibers are barely useful when not in a belt fed or high capacity high rate of fire platform.
    Insurgents in the middle east are slightly more capable civilians on average that have belt feds and rocket launchers, mortars and even some bigger artillery, as well as captured missile launchers and other mid level highly mobile platforms (and even capture some armor but that gets destroyed as a priority and logistics of keeping them fueled beyond what an insurgency can accomplish). On average the equipment they have available is better for battle than most things US civilians have except optics and they still get utterly destroyed by aircraft and artillery that can engage them at many times the range of their small arms. Of course I heard just in the middle east so much ordinance was used as to deplete stockpiles of explosives for awhile, so scaling that up to deliver that much artillery or airstrikes on a much bigger scale would be challenging and adds some balance in favor of small arms, but not much.
    This is why they still rely on truck bombs, ieds, and other things that can accomplish more than their small arms would before they were turned into a crater.
    But if you face a real military they will all be in body armor, and the 2nd Amendment was about facing a military.
    As technology improves the divide will only grow, as better and more effective body armor becomes lighter and lighter, and the balance of every man being vulnerable to every other man which firearms created (before that the highly trained armored knight kept the population stupid and uneducated including on how to fight, disarmed, and enslaved as peasants that could be soundly defeated by a much smaller number of professionals) is entirely lost.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2019
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  23. Hookeye

    Hookeye Member

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    They kept shooting the armored bad guys in the chest, to no effect.
    Nobody figured out to try for another area.
    By happenstance, finally somebody hit one in the foot, that guy went and offed himself.
     
  24. BigBore44

    BigBore44 Member

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    The reason is pretty simple. The 5.56 was there first, it’s standardized, it’s in great supply, it’s cheap, it does the job very well. There’s just not a logical AND fiscally responsible reason to change. What I wish departments would do is stop telling officers they have to carry a certain brand/type of a ammunition. Especially when they require the officers to pay for it.
     
  25. Boattale

    Boattale Member

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    I get the distinct impression there is no answer that will convince you.
     
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