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Is the AR-15 a good option for law enforcement?


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Currently in my hometown there is a controversy over our Police Department's plan to spend $300,000 to equip 59 police cars with AR-15 rifles.  Currently they carry a shotgun. This comes out to $5000 per cop car, a figure that seems a bit high to me.  My question is two part.  A) How often do police actually need a rifle?  and B) in a situation where they do require a rifle, is 5.56mm ideal or would they be better off with a different round?

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 Currently they carry a shotgun. This comes out to $5000 per cop car, a figure that seems a bit high to me.  My question is two part.  A) How often do police actually need a rifle?  and B) in a situation where they do require a rifle, is 5.56mm ideal or would they be better off with a different round?

The 5K per may also factor in things like training, the storage/stowage for the rifle, magazines, etc...

 

Anyhow- If they already have shotguns, and are in a mainly urban/suburban environment, they really need to consider carefully the munitions they'll issue with these rifles.  Training will also be very important,lest "everything look like a nail" when it comes to using the new toys.

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A). Officers need rifles a nonzero portion of the time that is impossible to predict. B. ) 5.56mm is an excellent round. I can't think of any commercially available solution that would be better for law enforcement - maybe .300 Blackout if you wanted to be suppressed.

 

Depends what they're doing, but here are some major benefits of the AR-15 for LE:

1. Lightweight. The Colt 6720 for example is just about 6lbs flat, unloaded. Compare to a Remington 870 Police, which is something like 7-8 pounds unloaded. 30 rounds of 5.56mm weigh about the same as 5 rounds of 12 gauge. The balance of an AR-15 is typically much better, as well. Loaded with a full tube, especially with an extended magazine, the 870 is a lot more front-heavy. The weight advantage of the AR-15 begins to snowball once you start talking about mounting accessories.

2. Semi-auto. If for some reason the officer has one of his hands occupied, the gun cycles itself. With a pump, you need two hands, and in fact if you don't have the other hand on the action and you fire, you can cause a malfunction.

3. Superior accuracy. Absolutely no contest between an AR-15 with a red dot and an 870 with a bead or ghost ring sights. Snap accuracy is much better, meaning the officer has an easier time putting rounds where they need to go.

4. Superior precision. Buckshot is fine, unless you need to avoid hitting anywhere other than your target, then it can be a liability. With single projectile ammunition you can more readily control where the projectiles are going.

5. SHTF. I'm not talking about prepper nonsense, but in a Miami-Dade shootout situation, the AR-15 is hands down better than an 870. A rare occurrence, to be sure, but today I think most PDs want to be ready for an active shooter type scenario.

6. Safer. ARs are easier and quicker to unload and make safe, compared to an 870 which must cycle ammunition through the weapon to unload. This means the officer is touching his gun less to unload it, reducing the chance of an accidental discharge.

7. Easier to reload. God forbid an officer need to reload after 30 rounds, but shit happens. With an AR-15, just drop the mag, insert a new one, drop the bolt catch. With an 870, you have to load single rounds into the tube until full.

8. More reliable. AR-15s work, and work very well. Not only do 870s rely on human power to cycle their action (which is subject to things like short-stroking in the heat of the moment), but they also have a brazed in tubular magazine. If that tube mag doesn't work for some reason, that gun is toast until you can get it to a gunsmith. If an AR-15's mag doesn't work, just drop it and pop in a new one.

9. Softer recoil. AR-15s do not recoil very much, and this pays dividends for shooting quickly and accurately, and more importantly building shooter confidence. I've taught many people to shot, and my Colt AR-15 makes friends. New shooters are astounded by how accurate and easy to shoot it is.

 

10. Good ammo selection can give favorable penetration characteristics. If a department chooses certain kinds of 5.56/.223 ammunition, for example 45gr fragible types, the rounds may not penetrate some barriers well, which could reduce the potential for collateral damage. Likewise, a department can issue reserve magazines with excellent penetrative ability that work in the exact same firearms. Shotguns do not have this versatility.

Some disadvantages:

I. Evil, military look. Cops patrolling with ARs look like "militarized police", and cause great anguish to hippies. Sometimes the cops themselves even believe this and start wearing goggles and helmets and shit. To the gun-literate, an AR-15 looks like a lever-action rifle, but more modern.

II. AR-15s cannot fire larger specialty rounds like tear gas grenades or bean bag, that are useful for riot control.

The solution is to use both weapons. I would not be worried if your PD is buying AR-15s. $5000 per car is high for the rifles alone, but it may be including important accessories, optics, mounts, and ammunition.

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OK, the "easier to unload" argument is kind of bunk. You unload the thing and check to make sure it's clear when you're done just like it's been done for 130 years. Let's stop being silly here.

 

Both are fine weapons. Both have areas of use that overlap and that one or the other is superior over.

 

Per Walter's OP, in the days where tax dollars are not infinite, I would question the need to arm every single patrol car with an AR, assuming the shotguns are in good enough and serviceable condition. Every burg doesn't need to arm its cops like they're putting down an insurrection in the Middle East. Not when the money could be spent hiring an extra officer or two for particular emphasis duties.

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OK, the "easier to unload" argument is kind of bunk. You unload the thing and check to make sure it's clear when you're done just like it's been done for 130 years. Let's stop being silly here.

 

Both are fine weapons. Both have areas of use that overlap and that one or the other is superior over.

 

Per Walter's OP, in the days where tax dollars are not infinite, I would question the need to arm every single patrol car with an AR, assuming the shotguns are in good enough and serviceable condition. Every burg doesn't need to arm its cops like they're putting down an insurrection in the Middle East. Not when the money could be spent hiring an extra officer or two for particular emphasis duties.

 

No, the easier to unload argument is not bunk. It is much easier on the ammunition and much quicker to make the weapon safe. Yes, you can do it with a shotgun, but equivocating the two isn't helpful, same as it isn't helpful to equivocate an AR-15 with an arquebus.

 

You've made the same mistake a lot of non-gun people do when they see an AR-15. They assume that because a weapon has been used for one thing, that it is not useful for another.

Yes, the AR-15 is a handy rifle for modern warfare, but it also is an extremely handy carbine for law enforcement officers. It's light, easy to keep out of the way, and fires an effective round with little recoil. It's durable and has a low parts breakage rate. It's cheap (Colt 6720s can be had for less than $800, and that's not even the cheapest model on the market).

 

If the PD issued bolt-action rifles, no one would bat an eye, but how many insurrections have those put down?

Useful is useful, and AR-15s are extremely useful.

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I wouldn't think a cop would need a carbine often, but please when they do, may Vulcan give them the sharpest sword to be found in any armory, Mars the skill to wield it precisely, and Virtus the courage to do what is necessary.

 

And this is coming from someone who is not at all pleased with the state of policing in the USA today.

 

An example of when an officer would need a carbine would be the Sikh temple shooting in 2012.  Officer Murphy had a carbine in his car, but the thrice-damned locking device jammed, so he was forced to fight with a pistol.

 

If you haven't done a lot of shooting, it's not immediately obvious how obnoxiously hard it is to hit anything with a pistol.  They're both harder to use than rifles and less mechanically accurate.  They're short-ranged weapons except in the hands of the truly exceptional.  They're also piss-weak compared to rifles.  The only reason anyone bothers with the silly things is how obnoxious rifles are to carry everywhere.

 

So officer Murphy went ahead and attempted to fight the attacker with a pistol.  For his pains he was shot over a dozen times.

 

The number of Americans slain with rifles yearly is some teensy percentage of overall gun deaths (I mean, for starters about half are suicides, and offing yourself with a rifle is awkward).  So, if an officer has to respond to an active shooter incident, they probably handily overmatch the villain by mere virtue of having a long gun of any sort.

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Thanks for the replies, those all make a good deal of sense to me.  The biggest complaint I have heard from people here in town is that they have cut funding to things such as neighborhood police officers and other ways of getting officers to directly interface with the people they serve rather than just drive around in their cars.  Grand Rapids is a good sized town, but it's not so big that the crime is overwhelming and we don't have the issues that the cities on the east side of the state have (Saginaw, Flint, Detroit.)  I think relations between our minority communities and the Police Department are salvageable, but when the public constantly hears about budget cuts and then they are told we are spending 300,000 on new rifles, it looks bad from a public relations standpoint.  Most of my interactions with our local police have been fairly positive to be honest, although I am also a pretty law abiding guy.  Heck, I haven't even had a speeding ticket in 18 years.  

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Thanks for the replies, those all make a good deal of sense to me.  The biggest complaint I have heard from people here in town is that they have cut funding to things such as neighborhood police officers and other ways of getting officers to directly interface with the people they serve rather than just drive around in their cars.  Grand Rapids is a good sized town, but it's not so big that the crime is overwhelming and we don't have the issues that the cities on the east side of the state have (Saginaw, Flint, Detroit.)  I think relations between our minority communities and the Police Department are salvageable, but when the public constantly hears about budget cuts and then they are told we are spending 300,000 on new rifles, it looks bad from a public relations standpoint.  Most of my interactions with our local police have been fairly positive to be honest, although I am also a pretty law abiding guy.  Heck, I haven't even had a speeding ticket in 18 years.  

 

I can't say what the deal is with the costs they're quoting, but for the record, I don't feel as though an area has to have high crime for the police to justify long guns. If it's your job to go into danger, you should probably have a long gun. If you should probably have a long gun, it makes sense to have an AR-15.

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Some disadvantages:

I. Evil, military look. Cops patrolling with ARs look like "militarized police", and cause great anguish to hippies. Sometimes the cops themselves even believe this and start wearing goggles and helmets and shit. To the gun-literate, an AR-15 looks like a lever-action rifle, but more modern.

 

Regarding evil black rifles: how hard would it be to just make the furniture out of wood and give the workings a neutral steel look? I mean, if hippies are going to be so dumb as to judge the things solely on how they look, why not disguise them a bit?

 

Plus, I really like wood/plain steel. So it would be more to my taste than black plastic and anodised aluminium :)

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Regarding evil black rifles: how hard would it be to just make the furniture out of wood and give the workings a neutral steel look? I mean, if hippies are going to be so dumb as to judge the things solely on how they look, why not disguise them a bit?

 

Plus, I really like wood/plain steel. So it would be more to my taste than black plastic and anodised aluminium :)

It's not hard, it's just that "cop guns" get beat up, and wood furniture for AR's is prone to fragility.

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Ah, thank you for the clarification. I will, however, use it as an excuse to join Tied in punting AKMs ;)

Personally I'd have no issue with them being issued, but the resultant flash of righteous indignation from many factions in the U.S would be visible from space.

 

A place I worked with tried offering silencers as a sensible attachment to police rifles.  Ohh boy was that a fiasco.

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Well, if we want to give the police a rifle that is more traditional looking, why not issue them the M14?  After all, it's better than some silly little 5.56mm rifle anyway.  

 

 

 

 

 

*Cackles maniacally while hiding under his troll bridge.* 

Programs actually exist for that.  the MCSO had a bunch of M14's for a time. IIRC the cost (at the time) was around $120.00 per rifle.

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Well, if we want to give the police a rifle that is more traditional looking, why not issue them the M14? After all, it's better than some silly little 5.56mm rifle anyway.

*Cackles maniacally while hiding under his troll bridge.*

No, the police need something controllable, but with good stopping power. I'm thinking 6.5 grenrel...

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Regarding evil black rifles: how hard would it be to just make the furniture out of wood and give the workings a neutral steel look? I mean, if hippies are going to be so dumb as to judge the things solely on how they look, why not disguise them a bit?

 

Plus, I really like wood/plain steel. So it would be more to my taste than black plastic and anodised aluminium :)

 

 

Part of the moving parts assembly of an AR-15 lives in the stock, so attempts to de-pistol grip them have been... aesthetically fraught:

 

IMG_8572_C.JPG

 

Also, in such instances where a cop has cause to bust out a carbine, I would not think that the opinion of Susie Soccermom on the appearance of police militarization is of great import.

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I guess if I had to play Devil's Advocate, looks of the rifle would factor in, too. AR-15s may be a controversy magnet. Something about their movie use, rails and/or a carrying handle seem to make shit real for a lot of people. Maybe something tasteful along the lines of a CETME or AR 18 in looks. No real definition, but still utilitarian enough. Unfortunately, you don't find stuff like that anymore.

 

And even that's a weak argument and I'm kind of just bullshitting. We live in the days where everyone is wheeling out a new service rifle, most of which are based on the AR-15. If you can get an affordable, reliable, domestic carbine, then get one of those. Someone up there made a good point about handguns vs rifles, and if you need a rifle, you should have a rifle. Maybe you don't want a long-ass shotgun with lots of kick, and need something that will be easy to move around and carry when you need it.

 

You do need to work the P.R., though. Buying up lots of Black Rifles will scare pretty much anyone for one reason or another, and being either all smuggo or detached from criticism won't help. Just go out and say "A policeman sometimes needs a weapon, and a pistol just won't do in certain situations. The AR-15 is light, reliable, accurate, easy to fire rifle that uses effective ammunition useful for the needs of domestic law enforcement. We specifically also require funds for parts, maintenance, training, etc., which factors into extra cost to properly utilize this tool for law enforcement."

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It's Hollywood's fault, but that's beginning to change, too. Movies like Die Hard and Heat established that the good guys use handguns and the bad guys use rifles, except when the good guy is being funny or the rifle is partly made from a tree.

And then there's that AR-15s are just ugly. They are! They're ugly, brutal looking tools that conjure up similar lines to an AH-64 Apache in the public consciousness. All matte dark color, covered in lumps, bumps, and ridges. Throw in decades of Americans being grass-fed on Westerns where being a "good guy" means cocking hammers and working levers between each shot, and a modern semiautomatic seems downright dishonorable.

It's a perception that will die hard, but the AR-15 is the rifle most likely to kill it. The AR-15 is only a decade younger now as the Winchester 1894 was when A Fistful of Dollars came out, and multiple generations of soldiers returning with personal experience with the rifle, coupled with its positive portrayal in films like Black Hawk Down will eventually win out and normalize the gun.

The press continues to try to demonize the "Bushmaster" (it is always a "Bushmaster", even if it was actually granddad's Sears .22), but more and more people are able and willing to call "bullshit!" on that.

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