Rifle for LE applications

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Jun 30, 2008
Macon, GA
My dept. only allows members of the SWAT team to keep rifles in their patrol cars and b/c of said policy I am planning to try to get on SWAT in about a year when I become eligible. I'm trying to figure out what rifle I want to start saving and searching for. Lots of guys go for the AR15 but I just don't like the low bullet weight of the .223/5.56. I don't mind the AR15 action for LE applications (don't think it is a good military combat choice, but that is a different application), but I really like the HK and the SIG (but don't stand a snowball's chance of ever affording one).

One of the reasons I want the rifle is that the gangs and drug dealers in the area often use rifles AK47, SKS, and AR15. I know that our soft level III body armor won't stand a chance against such firepower and I don't want to be outgunned completely while waiting for backup. I want to at least be able return fire, even if only to get the heck out of there. Another major reason for wanting the rifle is that I know it will take the SWAT team 45 minutes to an hour to get geared up and ready. If a shot is necessary I may not have that kind of time to wait for the full team and sniper to get set up.

I want a cartridge that will be effective with body shots and accurate enough that I can use as a sniping weapon for say 150 yards and closer (it is urban afterall). I'm considering a STAG AR in 6.8SPC. I know everyone says the 6.5 Grendel is better long range but I really don't care past an absolute maximum of around 300 yards so I like the heavier 6.8 bullet. Any opinions (especially LEOs with more experience than me) are very welcome.
I am not a LEO yet but I going to be, I know the local PD has to approve the weapon and the caliber. I think you would be better off with a 5.56 just because that is the common cartridge that the SWAT teams use. You might also want to talk to some of the members of the SWAT team and see what they recommend since they know what works best. Also 150 yards is not considered sniping it is normal distance
I agree that 150 yards is not typically considered sniping. I used "sniping" simply meaning that it would be a longer shot with optics equipped rifle requiring a greater degree of precision. I figure that 150 yards is a realistic distance given the urban environment that I work in, maybe 200 max.
Well my Brother, if you want the option of going cartridge to cartridge with the hood rats you can go with the AR platform and get a 7.62x39 Upper for it. Right now, only the 10 and 20 rd mags seem to be the most reliable, but CP is coming out with their improved 30rd mags(check out ar15.com forum). I've got a Model 1 7.62x39 Upper but I think Oly and a few others make them too. I put a cheapo 4X Mil Dot scope(carry handle mount) on mine and it has no problems reaching out to 150yds with good performance.

The down side: if you want to shoot the Russian stuff reliably you may have to go to a heavier hammer spring for the harder primers, but there are American Mfg. that make good ammo for this round as well. I spent the extra bucks for a MGI Enhanced 7.62x39 Bolt and haven't had a problem in over 2,000 rds since.

The up side: cheaper ammo, better penetration 50 to 100 yds, and accuracy that is at least equal to my Bushy Carbine .223 Upper up to 150yds, after that the 7.62 tends to fall off ballistically. Oh yea, you can always use the enemy's ammo in a pinch :)
I like the CQB range ballistics of the 7.62x39 but have reservations about the accuracy at longer range. What sort of accuracy have you gotten with your 7.62?
With Wolf and Wolf MC I can easily run under 2.5 MOA out to 150yds and under 2 MOA at 100.
With the Barnaul (which I prefer) 100 yd. 1.5 MOA is no problem. It can tear a ragged hole at 50 yds.
My Upper has a 20" Free Float bbl.
My friend (with the same bbl setup) runs higher priced American stuff out of his and his groups are more impressive than mine, but he runs a match trigger in his Lower and is a better shot than me.
I've seen him do 1 MOA consistently with Lapua 7.62x39, but I can't afford that stuff in bulk and I do need to practice more often than the younger guys.
Colt 6920/6721/R0977 - it is very high quality,it fires standard Military/Police 5.56/.223 and if you need help any other cop will be able to pick it up and use it and his/her mags and ammo will work in it. (The PA State Police use the 6920).
This also apllies to LMT & Noveske clones. Other AR15 clones cost less but have less quality; it's your life on the line.
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If you're going to go with your own M-4 type carbine for patrol work you should do a lot more research and take some classes, if you can from Gunsite. Gunsite is the top of the line firearms instruction facility for LEO, military and civilian shooters. As an LEO and Nam vet, former sniper, in your case I would suggest you think about either a 6.8 SPC type M-4 or a 6.5 Grendel M-4. Which ever one you choose, understand that you'll probably need "extras" to put you ahead of the bad guys' curve. You will need extra magazines, a drag bag and either an optical sight or a good red dot sight mechanism to use. Keep in mind that if you go with either a 6.8 or 6.5 M-4 your department will probably require you buy your own ammo. As previously stated the .223/5.56 M-4s are "the police standard" for police rifles/carbines. The 6.5 Grendel will give you outstanding accuracy at longer ranges which you probably will NOT need. The 6.8 SPC will give you much better punch with the close range ballistic accuracy of the .223/5.56 round. In fact, the 6.8 SPC has the same ballistic pattern as the .223 bullet which is supposedly why the military wanted to or wants to go to it. My duty use is a .223 Bushmaster M-4 variant with a red dot Aimpoint clone scope for now. I have a pop-up rear sight that allows me to sight through the Aimpoint clone, this is called co-witnessing of sights, in case the red dot stops working. If this system works out for me, then I will go to an Aimpoint ML-4 or ML-5 red dot for sure. Gunsite makes a dvd/videotape which explains what they think that you should have on your police carbine. You might want to contact them or purchase a copy of video before you do anything about getting a patrol/duty rifle. For most police needs, a .223 rifle works well and gets the job done so don't just write off a good .223 unless you're completely sure that you don't want one.
A Colt M4LE in the standard 5.56x45mm would probably be best.

It's not exotic, flashy, or anything, but, as you said, everyone else has one. That means that it fits in the standard rifle rack, takes standard mags loaded with standard ammo, that everyone else has. That's important.
At law enforcement distances I doubt you'll ever make a shot at more than 50 yards, and 150 yds is certainly the absolute max.

The .223 round works just fine at those distances unless you need to shoot through cover, in which case it becomes erratic (stick houses) or fails (bricks, concrete). A .308 would solve this problem, but open up huge overpenetration issues. The 6.8 SPC would be a good in-between cartridge, but ammo costs are very high.

I think the 6.8 SPC in an AR (Stag is fine) would be a good choice, but I also think .223 would be just fine as well. As LE you are not limited to FMJ rounds for use, and you could use, for instance, the Federal bonded 64gr bullet, which has excellent penetration of all barrier types you could expect for that cartridge, and excellent wound characteristics. This is LE-only ammo (for marketing, not legal, reasons) but should be readily available to you. Of course there is the good ol FMJ and the OTM options as well.

Most LE sniping engagements are at under 100 yards, for what it's worth. Hardly any at over 200 yards. (Per Major Plaster's book.)
Even if you wanted to carry something other than a 5.56/.223 AR, you might not have the option. Before you buy a rifle for duty usage, check the agency's firearm policy.

Alot of LE agencies only allow officers to carry AR15 type rifles/carbines chambered in 5.56/.223. Not because it is any better or worse than another platform or chambering, but simply for standardization and liability reasons.
The major reason I would caution against going with something other then 5.56 or .308 is a policy change. The brass probably isn't going to come out and tell the whole SWAT team that they need to go to 9mm AR's and .30/30 lever actions for the snipers. I can see the brass saying only 5.56 and .308 are allowed. My department isn't too restrictive on SWAT weapons, but personally owned is only 5.56.

You're average engagement range in an LE context is going to less then 100yds, probably closer to 50-60 most of the times. Then I again I have sat in the wood line about 150yds off of the house before (and I'm not a sniper, just the patrol officer with a rifle on scene first) YMMV. A 5.56 round in a good SP/HP (Winchester Ranger, Hornady TAP, Federal TRU/Gold dot, etc.) will take care of business on a body shot out to about 200yds or so. A head shot will take care of business as fas as you can accurately place it.

My rifle is currently setup with a 16" barrel, an EoTech, a fixed stock, a bipod, and a three point sling. Shoots very well in both CQB work, and at distance work. I'm probably going to go to a Trijicon Accupoint 1x-4x or a Millet CQB (though if someone wants to donate and ACOG...), to get some magnification, as target discrimination and intelligence gathering at distance are much easier with magnification.

For a non-specialized rifle (ie not a marksman's weapon), I'd say a good set of mags and a lot of trigger time (even with just stock irons) are more important then caliber and sight setup. A red dot or holo-sight can be a very valuable addition, but is not a necessity. The rest of it depends on where you work and what you expect to face.

Here's an article that you may find interesting.

Roberts G.K., "Law Enforcement General Purpose Shoulder Fired Weapons: the Wounding Effects of 5.56mm/.223 Carbines Compared with 12 ga. Shotguns and Pistol Caliber Weapons Using 10% Ordnance Gelatin as a Tissue Simulant, Police Marksman, Jul/Aug 1998, pp. 38-45.
benEzra: You wouldn't happen to have a scan of said article? Got my stat/research geek glands salivating :)

Being an urban environment you should also be concerned about being overpowered, not just underpowered. Keep in mind that you are liable for every bullet. Besides, a couple hollowpoint 5.56's should be more than enough to drop the average gang banger. When you are undecided on matters like this, look at what everybody else in your position is using. I'd say the vast majority are going with 5.56 for your scenario.
I worked as a deputy for over 10 years for a very poor department in the south. The SWAT team started out using revolvers and pump shotguns (this was in the 1990's not in the 1950's) and no rifle of any type. As a rural deputy your backup may be a long way off no doubt been there done that.
My best advise is to get permission from your chief or sheriff before you put any weapon into your patrol vehicle. In NC we must qualify with all weapons be it an ASP, handgun, OC, shotgun or rifle. One of the first things the state investigator wants to see after an officer shooting is his training records. Do not leave yourself open to a lawsuit that the county/city will not back you up.
My department did not allow deputies to carry a rifle either. What I did was carry extra ammunition for my issue handgun and shotgun. I could also carry a backup pistol as long as I qualified with it which I did. If you want to get on the team you need to keep your nose clean. Being in violation of policy for an unauthorized weapon may keep you off the team. Life is full of tough decisions for now I would stick to the department policy or find another department that allows officers to carry private owned weapons.
When you can't beat 'em (and you can), join 'em: Why not go for the AK? Buy a very nice AK, either in .223 or in 7.62; I'm very partial to 7.62, it's still a great round. 7.62 is not intrinsically inaccurate, just shoot good stuff and use a nice rifle. It's no .338 Lapua, for sure, but it is "minute of bad guy".
Why not go for the AK? Buy a very nice AK, either in .223 or in 7.62

No US Police Department is going to touch an AK with a ten foot pole. The visual symbolism would cause more trouble than they could ever deal with.
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IMO, AK is a superior platform, and it would also cost at least 1/2 of the AR platform initially (more like 1/3), and much less down the road due to less maintenance. Reliable, easy to use, difficult to damage or destroy and low cost.

Departments could arm more officers and buy a lot of extra rifles to replace the ones that break down while they are being serviced. It's a win-win.

They are made in .223. Optics, lights and other things are easily attached. Ergonomics are good. Accuracy is absolutely good enough. Modern production .223 AK meets and beats the exact same 4" max dispersion standard that the M16/M4 is held to.

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Go with any of the Colt carbine offerings, LMT, Bushmaster(what my dept uses), or if your pockets feel deep enough Noveske has never in my short time with BRD gotten a bad review. Top it with a really good set of BUIS and an aimpoint and you're ready to rock and roll
Why not go for the AK? Buy a very nice AK, either in .223 or in 7.62

No US Police Department is going to touch an AK with a ten foot pole. The visual symbolism would cause more trouble than they could ever deal with.

I agree. Public perception is as big an issue as actually fighting crime.
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