FROM THE CONTROL BOOTH
By Steve Tracy I Editorial director
Distance is Your Friend
I have always considered myself partial to handguns. However, I recently noticed that my gun safe contains quite a few long guns, more than I would have guessed if someone had asked me. My dad gave me my first gun when I was around 10 years of age. It was a Stevens Favorite (quite appropriate, as it turned out) single-shot .22 youth rifle. The first firearm I ever purchased was during my college days and it was a used Marlin 1894 lever-action rifle chambered in .357 Magnum. The first new gun I ever purchased was obtained after I started my first real job after graduation and it was a Ruger 10/22. All three of these rifles are still in my safe. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised that more rifles and shotguns have crept in over the years to join them.
The police long gun has evolved during the course of the past few decades. When I began my law enforcement career, a Mossberg 12-gauge pump straddled my squad car’s center console. Shotguns gave way to pistol-caliber carbines and in my case, a Heckler & Koch MP5 replaced the shotgun. Today, the AR-15 is the most popular shoulder-fired law enforcement weapon and a Rock River 5.56mm rifle is now vertically secured in the police car I drive on patrol.
I gained plenty of trigger time looking down the flip-up sights of the various AR-15s that I had tested. Like most things in life, the more I learned about the AR-15’s manual of arms, the more its operation became second nature. I was a bit late to the AR-15 party, adding one to my own safe only after my department switched over to the platform and allowed Personally Owned Rifles (POR). It turned out that the same features that make the semi-automatic rifle an excellent choice for general law enforcement appealed to me as well.
Shotguns and pistol-caliber carbines still have their place in police work. Shotguns are excellent tools for various offensive and defensive scenarios. Pistol-caliber carbines offer low recoil and less noise while still offering accuracy at reasonable distances. But, the AR-15 offers a reasonably priced weapon capable of excellent accuracy out to significant distances, and in a gunfight, distance is always your friend. While a patrol rifle is not intended to be used as a sniper rifle, many AR-15s in the right hands (and eyes) have accuracy on par with larger caliber, high-end sniper setups. A POR, sighted to its owner’s eye and perhaps topped with a magnified optic or electronic red dot sight, gives an officer confidence to take a shot. That confidence may be lacking with the squad car mounted, general-issue carbine that was last fired a year before and may have had its sights knocked when taken in and out of the squad several times during vehicle maintenance. But, your personal carbine that you practice with much more often on your own time could one day be the weapon that saves your life or the lives of others.
Short barrel rifles (SBRs) have their place for entry work with their 7.5-inch or 10-inch barrel lengths and getting around corners is safer with shorter barrels. Patrol rifles with 16-inch barrels and collapsible M4-style stocks fit well inside today’s squad cars to provide quick access when needed. These longer barrel carbines can still be utilized for entry and room/building clearing (as described in Warren Wilson’s Close Quarters Carbine Tactics article in this issue) with some training and practice.
Law enforcement officers may wish that a secret “Matrix style” compartment could pop out of their squad’s passenger seat with foam-lined drawers offering pistols, shotguns and rifles for any occasion. The reality is that while each firearm type may be good for specific situations, none encompass the ability to handle any scenario. Having choices is desirable. Keep your options open and have access to a long gun in which you are confident.
Traditionally, handguns have been viewed as defensive weapons while rifles were viewed as offensive. Many police officers have been forced to use their pistols as offensive weapons while advancing on a threat. It’s good to see modern law enforcement give today’s officers the option of ready access to a long gun. PM