Aperture Sights—When you need to aim quickly using aperture sights—and this applies to a shotgun with ghost ring sights as well—the rear sight should come to your eye first. Your cheek should be welded to the stock at the same time, even for shots at moderate range. The front sight is then pulled into the aperture. It will center itself for an accurate shot.
That is the advantage of the aperture: Your eye naturally centers a post in the rear “circle,” aperture, or ghost ring. With a little practice, you can easily use an aperture sight on a patrol carbine to make a very fast, very accurate first shot.
Open Sights—With the traditional open sight often found on sporting rifles and on “buck special” or “riot” shotguns, find the front sight first and then pull the front sight into the rear sight notch. Open sights are not as good as aperture sights for quick action but, with some practice, a skilled shooter can make them work.
Optical Sights—Any agency or individual officer thinking of fitting a patrol carbine with optical sights should step back for a second and weigh the pros and cons of these devices. A modern rifle scope has many benefits but, contrary to popular belief, it will not automatically make you a better shot.
As police officers and 21st century Americans, we have a great love for gadgets, and the optical sight is a great gadget. However, it has some drawbacks in a patrol environment. First of all, it can easily be damaged in the trunk of a cruiser. Second, you need to make sure that your batteries are fresh. You don’t want to get into a fight with an inoperable scope. Finally, shooting well with a scope requires a lot of practice. Be sure that you want to put in that time before you invest in one.
There are, of course, many advantages to an optical sight. In addition to the magnification that it provides, an optical sight is on a single plane, meaning there is no front and rear sight, only the sight reticle. As a result, it is much easier to focus on the target.
While we’re at it, let’s discuss magnification for a moment. Remember, a patrol carbine is not intended for the same kind of duty as a sniper rifle. That’s why, for general issue, I suggest an optical sight with the lowest magnification, from no magnification to perhaps four power. Field of view is an issue, especially when you consider that you may have to use your patrol rifle at anywhere from point-blank range to more than 100 yards.
The proven method of getting into action with an optical sight is to shoulder the weapon rapidly and take a coarse sight picture over the top adjustment knob of the sight. Lining up on the target with this knob, you then quickly move to the center of the scope. With practice, you will find that this drill can be executed very rapidly. An accomplished shooter with much practice, may jump directly to the reticle but, for most of us, the coarse sight picture drill works well.
Holographic Sights—Holographic dot-type sights such as those produced by EO Tech and Bushnell require the average shooter to learn some new skills. When using one of these sights, shoulder the carbine quickly and find the little red dot in the scope.
High-tech holographic sights have many of the pluses and minuses of scopes. For example, you need to keep your batteries fresh. That said, however, it should be noted that holo sights can be remarkably accurate, especially when firing quickly at short to moderate range. Holographic sights are also ideal for shooters who wear glasses.
When using a carbine, maximize the advantages you have. Always take cover if possible and dominate the situation. Firing from cover, with a braced position, you are not only much safer, you are far more accurate.
You present a much smaller target for the bad guys (unless they have the high ground) and also gain the bracing of the earth itself when you shoot from the prone position. Know how and when to use this skill.
Firing prone gives you much steadier aim. However, it also presents you with one key difficulty: you can’t change positions as quickly as you can standing, kneeling, or sitting. And remember, prone behind cover is great, unless the bad guys have an elevation advantage. In that case, if you are stretched out prone, then you are presenting them with a big, juicy target.
Another important thing to remember when training to fight with a carbine is that you may find yourself in a situation with no cover and the bad guy at close range. When this happens, there is some danger that the threat might be able to grapple with the long gun. However, by keeping your weapon below eye level, you will be able to see him or her make this move and react to it.
Am I advocating that you train to use a carbine at extreme close range without even bothering to aim? That’s exactly what I’m saying. Your patrol carbine has much better balance and natural point than your handgun and, at three to 10 feet, firing below eye level can work. With the three-point attachment of the long gun, accuracy in quick unaimed fire is much better than the handgun.
The carbine is a great multiplier of officer marksmanship. Solid hits can be made at great range, and rescue shots are possible with the carbine that would never be possible with a handgun. All law enforcement agencies should provide these guns to their officers. More importantly, they should teach their officers how to gain a tactical advantage when using a carbine in a gunfight.
R.K. Campbell has 23 years of experience in law enforcement. He holds a degree in criminal justice and has served in most police capacities.