Tools needed to disassemble an AR-tyle rifle are provided at Colt's law enforcement armorer's course. Photo: Dean Caputo
When agencies purchase or consider the purchase of a new weapons system, they often fail to consider how to maintain that weapon. I'm not referring to simple cleaning and lubricating. What if the firearm goes down? Does the agency have the ability to repair it, and get the weapon back on the street? Because of all the litigation these days, you must also answer; will the weapon be repaired to the manufacture's specifications?
If you answered no to one of these questions, it might seem your only option to get the weapon repaired is to send it back to the manufacturer. This is of course an option, but in many cases this means you'll be without a duty weapon for months. Agencies can't afford this, so what option do they have? If you contact the law enforcement division of companies, you'll find they offer armorer courses.
Armorer courses certify the attendees on how to properly maintain and do most major repairs to a weapons system. When your agency issues a complex firearm such as an AR-15, you'll need to have personnel who are certified to keep the rifles in service. ARs have many small parts that are prone to wear out, so knowing how to repair them properly will keep your tools in the hands of the troops.
Colt is one of the best known names for duty ARs and offers one of the most intensive armorer's courses. The armorer course covers everything from replacing a front sight to rebuilding the bolt and bolt-carrier assembly.
For an agency, the biggest advantage of Colt's armorer course is you can have the course come to you. You must have a minimum number of attendees, an area to comfortably seat the class with work stations, and be able to support the class with places to eat, overnight stays, and other essentials. Colt will supply the weapons and tools for the class, so you don't need to tote your weapons into the class and fear losing the zero or losing gear that officers have mounted on their ARs.
Colt's class is directed at the M4 weapons system and is geared toward Colt's M4. After attending the course, you'll be able to repair any M4/AR system. Colt's law enforcement division can provide more information about the course.
The course I attended was taught by Dean Caputo, a full-time Southern California officer, and hosted by a local department in Pittsburgh. When Colt says they'll send in everything needed, they mean it—right down to blocks made from scrap wood that facilitate punching out the numerous pins in the AR. You'll be working on select-fire M4s, full-size M16s, and a few three-round-burst M4s that have a few extra parts to facilitate the burst mode. Colt supplies the full array of tools you need to disassemble these weapons that can be found in the Brownells catalog.
The course begins with the basics of the M4, including proper nomenclature, function, and cycle of firing. From there you progress into a PowerPoint presentation on how to properly disassemble the rifle. The PowerPoint gives you a big-picture view of this process and matches your manual page for page. The illustrations and images in the book are excellent; the book is worth the price of admission.
Pay attention to what Dean or the other instructors pass along that's not in the book; they're passing along suggestions that will help you as you assemble or take apart the weapon. By the end of the class. you'll be familiar with all the pins, screws, springs, ball bearings, and flaps.
The Colt armorer class teaches you how to make repairs and upgrades to commonly damaged parts or parts that fail from daily wear and tear, including the gas tube. You will not learn how to remove the barrel, barrel nut, or front sight. These parts generally don't wear out from normal use, and if you need to replace them, it's usually due to a catastrophic incident. Send the rifle to the manufacturer.
This course is so complete that you learn to repair and maintain all the springs and bearings in the A3 rear sight. With red dots and flip-up, back-up sights, I’d like to see this portion of the course deleted. It's more cost effective to simply replace the sight with one of Magpul's sights. The course will teach you how to replace the bolt rings, extractor, and its springs; how to properly replace the buffer tube (receiver extension); and how to install the fire-control parts. You'll also learn to recognize when parts have been installed parts improperly.
The instructor advises that you maintain a work area with a clean bright floor or counter top. This will help you to find those pesky small springs when they get dropped or fly out when you forget they're under tension. You will also quickly learn which of these pesky little parts you should have extras of. They do get lost. Many of these parts also wear out from use and improper maintenance by officers who may think they know how to fix it.
In addition to learning the proper methods to repair and maintain your M4/AR, you'll learn what tools you truly need. Among these are proper roll pin punches to start and properly set the roll pins. One thing that was stressed to the class was not to reuse roll pins. They're a onetime use part, so you'll need proper tools. You'll find out how to depress the various small springs and contain them. Gallon re-sealable bags are a good portable work container. These helpful hints are just as important as learning the proper nomenclature and function of the M4/AR.
To pass this course, you'll have to properly disassemble and assemble a M4/AR. There's a written test to verify that you know various procedures for removal and installation, firing cycle, and the proper nomenclature. Knowing proper nomenclature is important to ensure that you're ordering the correct parts or assemblies that will ensure your agency’s weapons are ready for duty and not down because you have the wrong part.
If your agency authorizes M4/AR15 rifles, Colt's armorer's course will reduce the cost of repair and downtime associated when you send your weapons to the manufacturer. You'll find the course helps you to diagnose function issues of the weapons and how to let your officers address these problems. The benefits your agency will get from sending at least one officer to Colt's armorer course outweigh the costs.