14 keys for a successful patrol rifle program

A panel of three experts led the patrol rifle session of the 2016 SHOT Show Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP)

While Daniel Defense makes some of the most reliable patrol rifles available, they realize that training is best left to the experts. The company brought in three of those experts to the patrol rifle session of the SHOT Show Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP). Leading the session were Glen Hoyer, Director of NRA’s Law Enforcement Activities Division, Phil Chaney, Training Director of the Ohio Tactical Officers Association, and some guy named Kyle Lamb.

Mr. Hoyer told us that in the days of the Wild West, every sheriff had a revolver, rifle, and shotgun. The rifle fell out of favor over the years and patrol officers relied on a sidearm on his or her hip and a shotgun in the car. Things started to change after the 1997 North Hollywood shootout when the LAPD was seriously outgunned by two criminals armed with illegally-modified fully automatic Norinco Type 56 S-1s (an AK-47 variant), a Bushmaster XM15 Dissipator, and a HK-91 rifle with high capacity drum magazines (all capable of penetrating vehicles and police Kevlar vests).

Well-equipped criminals and terrorists both domestic and foreign are forcing the requirement for new tools and tactics upon us. Hoyer credits the patrol rifle with the dramatically different ending of the San Bernardino terror attack versus the North Hollywood shootout.

If you think about it for a second, you will realize that a shotgun with 00 buck delivers 9 projectiles, each roughly equivalent to a .45 at short range. Contrast that with a well-aimed precision round of 5.56 from a 1:7 twist barrel that is accurate out to 200 yards in the right hands. Which one do you think your city, county, or state attorney would regard as less of a liability?

The patrol rifle is slowly coming back into use, although not nearly as fast as some would like. Mr. Chaney and Sergeant Major Lamb stepped up to give us some of the requirements for a successful patrol rifle program:

​1. Most importantly, don’t trade price for reliability. An under-$1000 AR-15 might be great for plinking with the family but it’s not something on which to bet your life.

2. Go mil-spec as much as possible. The barrel should be 4150 ORD steel while the bolt should be Carpenter 158 steel.

3. Think about a 16” barrel plus flash hider, or a slightly shorter suppressor-capable barrel. Short barrels sacrifice velocity and reliability while longer barrels sacrifice maneuverability.

4. Iron sights are a necessity since optics and other technology can fail. At an absolute minimum, use a fixed front sight even if you use a folding rear sight. Co-witness them rather than playing around with lower 1/3. If the power goes out on your optic, you can use it like a ghost ring rear sight with the front sight to get on target. As an added bonus, the front sight can help reduce parallax error in the optic.

5. Free-floating barrels shoot consistent groups while plastic or metal grips attached to the front of the barrel will change the point of impact when the barrel starts heating up from use.

6. Choose a single handguard/rail system and stick with it. Picatinny (MIL-STD-1913) has been around since before the turn of the century, and is quickly being replaced by Keymod and M-LOK rails. M-LOK is less expensive and is being pushed by Magpul, but you need to figure out which system works best for your needs.

7. Just because you have a rail, don’t go loading it up with goodies that you don’t need. The lighter the rifle is, the faster it is to deploy and get it on one or more targets.

8. Mount your white light way up front and on either side. Mounting it on the bottom will throw a shadow over your opponent’s face when you are aimed center of mass, putting you at a disadvantage.

9. Collapsible stocks are great for casing your patrol rifle, but leave it set once it comes out of the case. Tuck the stock into your elbow and your trigger finger should be in the right place if it is adjusted correctly.

10. Kyle Lamb states that a mid-length gas system is much more reliable than a carbine-length gas system because the bolt runs slower and your magazine has a much better chance at keeping up with it. He has seen magazines that consistently fail on a carbine length system but work just fine on a mid-length system.

11. Matching your carbine trigger to your sidearm trigger helps muscle memory know what to do when you need to send a round downrange.

12. Keep your support hand as far forward as you can. This gives you maximum maneuverability versus hugging the mag well.

13. Train left handed and right handed. Even if everything is working, you may need to swap your dominant side with your support side to get a good shot.

14. Finally, everyone agrees that you need the most realistic training possible. Don’t just stand on the X and pull the trigger. Train as though your life depended on it, because it very well might. Be as aggressive as possible with your patrol rifle.

Patrolmen should practice releasing the weapon from its vehicle mount and getting it into action as quickly and as accurately as possible. Practice using your vehicle as cover or concealment — shoot from under the body, behind the doors, over the hood. Become comfortable with using your car as a shooting platform.

Shoot at other vehicles through various windows (cars meant for the scrap heap make great targets). Get to know how to use your patrol rifle to your advantage in a vehicle gunfight. San Bernardino was all about a successful vehicle gunfight.

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