I have maintained for years all a Patrol Carbine (and it is a CARBINE – rhymes with Bar Wine. Just because it is chambered for a rifle caliber, does not make it a rifle. Most long guns deployed by law enforcement in the United States have a 16” or shorter barrel. That is a carbine. Rifles are 18” or greater barrels. Terminology means something and we should stick with proven and accepted terms, so as not to muddy the waters……..) needs are three things:
Thing 1 – A sling, since a sling is to a long gun as a holster is to a pistol. You have to get it from Point A – B, and back to A. If that is a long distance, you need a sling. The sling allows quicker transitions to the pistol. It allows you to stow the Carbine when climbing, or pulling a wounded person from the line of fire, and also allows you to maintain control of the weapon when you are arresting someone. Lying the long gun on the ground when you are alone trying to arrest someone is literally giving an opportunity for anyone in the immediate vicinity to murder you, and is completely idiotic. Put a sling on your gun. I don’t care what kind as sling as it is attached to the gun at all times, and is usable. Having said that, the VTAC, VCAS, and SOB B Slings are 2 point-quick adjustable, and the best of the breed for patrol type functions.
Thing 2 – A Visible White Light. You cannot morally, ethically, or legally shoot something or someone that you cannot fully identify as an immediate deadly force threat. End of story. White lights are affordable, available, and easily trained up on. It needs a switch, a dead man’s switch. Press the button, light goes on. Remove your thumb from the button, and light goes off. Simple, reliable, robust, intelligent. Clicky switches go on when you want them to, but also when you don’t want them to. They tend to stay on when you don’t want them on too….. Having said that the clicky switch is the most predominant, and unfortunately here to stay. So, it falls to the instructor to train the student in it’s proper use. If you insist on a pressure switch, make sure you get one that has push button override on the back of the light for when the wire to the remote switch breaks, and it will, at the worst possible time. Stick with proven, reputable companies for you lighting. Surefire and Streamlight are your best current bets. Pay your money, and take your chances. Finally, if you are right handed, put the light as far forward at 9 o’clock as possible. Left handers run it far front at the 3 o’clock. You can run something like a X300U at the 12 o’clock, IF it does not interfere with the BUIS or Optics. Avoid running it at weird angles, or at 6 o’clock. You will get too may shadows, optical illusions, and down range distortions.
Thing 3 – Spare Ammo (ON THE GUN). Whatever you grab when you leave that car and go to battle, is all you will have with you. You aren’t coming back for resupply, not in a true and heated battle. If it is sure enough chaos, you will be in a very big hurry, and probably won’t remember (or have time) to get your plate carrier with 6 mags, and your response bag with another 14. You will have what you have on you. So, either get a Red-Mag holder, a mag clamp, a Surefire or Magpul 60rd in gun mag, or put a spate 20rd in a mag carrier on the stock. (If you are running a 60rd mag in gun, that is not an excuse to not have a spare mag on the rifle. Those mags, like any, can and will break or fall out. You have a second mag in case the one in the gun pukes or is lost, not so you can shoot more. This is, for now, still the United States of America, not some third world hell hole. And this audience is comprised of decent and honest peace officers, not mercenaries to the highest bidder. So, we can all agree to leave the 1980’s action star fantasies back in the 80’s where they belong, and be PRACTICAL.) If you want to carry more ammo, can grab it fast (while an active killer is plying his trade – the longer it takes to get into action, the more lives that are lost), it does not weigh you down too much – or poke out so far you get caught on things and entry points; then by all means carry more ammo. If your mission is to close with (fast) and neutralize the maniac slaughtering the innocent; then by all means carry more ammo.
Those are the 3 absolute requirements. Anything else is a luxury. I recently had a conversation with several people that thought a “red dot” should be mandatory. Their rationale was “because the younger/newer officers do better with red dots, and need them.” My reply remains the same: No, they most certainly do NOT need them (unless they have an uncorrectable vision issue), and I do NOT care if they do better with them. They NEED to learn how to use IRON SIGHTS first, and become proficient with them. If they cannot do that, they do not need a patrol carbine, and most likely don’t need to be a peace officer. That is not harsh, it is fact. This profession, much like this nation, has gotten very soft, and we all need to harden up. Demand excellence, and you will get it. Tolerate minimum “standards,” and you will get the weak link coming to save your family from apex predators when you aren’t around. It’s up to you.
“Red Dots” are absolutely an acceptable option, once the shooter can use iron sights on demand in different lighting conditions. So, once a peace officer is properly trained on irons, we can move to electronic optics. Here is the short list: Aimpoint, EoTech, Holosun, Sig, and Trijicon are the preferred brands due to durability and reliability. They have proven themselves again, and again. Yes, even those will sometimes break; remember we have Iron Sights for a reason…..
If you think you may need a magnifier, skip it. Go with a variable power optic instead. One that has an illuminated center reticle. Look at the offerings from Sig and Trijicon for these. My crystal ball predicts there will be a time in the next 3-5 years when there are some very overt criminal actions by well-funded and trained enemies of the United States, as well as, more sophisticated mass killers. These will require the peace officer to make longer shots. The magnified optic helps with this. It allows you to see better, but not shoot better. However, you have to be able to see to shoot. Being able to dial up to 4x magnification, can mean the difference between a hit on a hostile, and a miss that jeopardizes innocent people. Whether you use a “red dot optic” or a variable power optic, put it in a quick detach mount. When the glass breaks, when the battery dies, when the optic is hit so hard that the zero is off; you will need to get to those pesky iron sights I keep harping about.
So now you have a carbine with a good sling, a bright and robust white light to identify threats and non-threats alike, spare ammo on the gun, some sort of optic, but don’t forget the iron sights; and you have qualified on the state mandate course of fire, you are ready to go forth and save the world, or maybe not. You still have to train, and drill, over an over, then do it some more. In a future article, we will discuss what continuing education with the carbine should look like.
Until then, make sure you keep the gun clean, and properly lubricated. Change the optic batteries once every six months or a year. Change the flashlight batteries at least once a month (more if you are in a highly active area that requires you to use the carbine more regularly. Make sure you put witness marks on everything, and check everything that is bolted or strapped to the gun prior to, and at the end of, every shift.
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