Old West sheriffs and marshals often carried a Colt .45 called the Peacemaker. But that .45 had the limitations of all handguns, so savvy Western lawmen also kept a short-barreled repeating rifle like a Winchester in their saddle bags. They knew that in a real gunfight, a carbine is the real “peace maker.”
Today, cops are putting carbines back in their saddle bags, uh…the trunks of their patrol cars.
A number of critical events in the past 10 years have made the patrol carbine a desirable complement to the peace officer’s pistol and shotgun. The complacent era in which police officers patrolled only with a pistol started to come to an end in the fire and smoke of such infamous incidents as North Hollywood and Columbine.
A lot of police agencies also started adding rifles or pistol-caliber carbines to their lists of approved tools following the 9/11 attacks. After all, it’s likely that if terrorists engage in a firefight with American police officers that they will be very well armed, possibly outfitted with body armor, and capable of firing accurately at more than 100 yards. As we all know, a pistol would be next to useless in such a long-range fight against armored subjects.
There are those who say that the need for a rifle in patrol operations is easy to overstate and that it’s likely to sit in the trunk a long time before you use it. They’re pretty much right. But here’s the counter to that argument. When you need a rifle on patrol, you need it really badly. And you and the public you serve would be endangered because you don’t have one.
The patrol rifle is far more versatile than the pistol or the shotgun. A well chosen rifle can be useful from conversational range to several hundred yards. Still, the key factor in successful operation of this weapon is the skill of the operator.
And that’s the rub. When patrol rifles are introduced in many police agencies, they are assigned to officers after only minimal training. Many traditional police courses simply do not adequately address the problems the carbine was introduced to solve.
There are many schools of thought on implementing the carbine, but the fact remains that the basics of marksmanship must be mastered before the carbine can be used well. Once these basics are mastered, any good cop can use this tool to keep the peace and resolve incidents involving deadly threat.
A carbine works pretty much like any other gun. If the trigger is pressed properly, the sights are aligned, and follow-through is respected, the shooter will hit the target. Of course, these are all big ifs.
Learning to Fight
Proper training is the best way to reduce the ifs. And proper training must include more than basic marksmanship practice in which you shoot at stationary targets from defined ranges. Training scenarios should include: instruction and practice in how to shoot at felons at close range, how to counter multiple threats, how to neutralize threats behind cover, how to target and hit partially exposed threats, how to stop threats in vehicles, and how to eliminate threats at long range. In the end, law enforcement carbine training must be about more than just shooting targets; it must teach you how to fight and win with your patrol carbine.
And understand, my fellow officers, you probably won’t get this training from your agency. You will have to take the weapon to the range and work it, shooting at different distances, at both stationary targets and moving targets, and using cover when possible.
I use long-range shooting to develop accurate shot placement. I realize these shots will not often be needed, but use them as a training aid.
However, the course I run is not completely concerned with marksmanship. I also consider cover and officer safety. You must underscore the difference in cover and concealment. And write this in stone: Your life depends on you remembering that just because you have a rifle and a ballistic vest, you are not impervious to small arms fire.
There are several basic shooting positions that you should master to be effective with a carbine in a fight. Standing, kneeling, and prone must be thoroughly understood, as should firing around corners and firing from cover.
Quick and Accurate
When shooting on a range, it’s easy to forget that you are training to act quickly and decisively to save your life or the life of an innocent person. You are not just “plinking” at targets and if you think you are you’re in the wrong business.
Your time training with your carbine should be all about learning to fight and win. That means you need to practice quick and accurate fire. One of the most overlooked skills when using long guns is quickly getting the gun into the firing position and acquiring the sights. Without these important skills, all else fails when a quick shot is needed.
Most patrol carbines have standard aperture sights, but quite a few officers privately purchase and use rifles that have open sights. Some officers also use carbines that are fitted with optical sights. Each of these different sights requires different techniques for sight acquisition and alignment.