February 28, 1997. That's the date of the resurrection of the rifle as a primary tool in the arsenal of American law enforcement. It's the date of the North Hollywood Shootout. It's the date when two heavily armed and armored bank robbers went toe to toe with dozens of LAPD officers and law enforcement administrators were given a graphic demonstration of why pistols and shotguns are no match for body armor.
North Hollywood was a resurrection of the rifle as a primary law enforcement weapon because the rifle had once been as common on patrol as a badge. Way back before lawyers sued every cop for every bad thing that happened on the job, lots of LEOs carried rifles in their saddlebags and later in their car trunks. Then political correctness and fear of being sued pressured most departments to send their officers out with only a sidearm and, maybe, a shotgun. Some cities, of course, would have loved to have had their officers patrol without guns. Some still would like that.
But two events—the previously mentioned North Hollywood shootout and the atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001—put rifles back in many patrol car trunks.
Some agencies bought those rifles and issued them to their cops. Others let their cops purchase their own rifles and bring them to work.
The result has been a boom in the patrol rifle market. Go to the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, and you will quickly realize that there are a multitude of companies making AR-15 platform rifles chambered in .223 and .308 for patrol duty. There are also a number of patrol long guns available that can fire pistol ammunition at higher velocities and with greater accuracy than sidearms. And of course, there are some non-AR carbines and rifles that are marketed to police.
The following is a brief guide to help you discover what's available in the patrol rifle and carbine market.
Beretta's CX4 Storm semi-automatic carbine was built from the ground up to fire the same calibers and use the same magazines as Beretta's duty pistols. It is available in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.
I tested the Storm carbine a few years ago when it first hit the market. The weapon provided to me by Beretta was chambered in 9mm and used Beretta 92 magazines. You can also use Beretta 96, Cougar, and PX4 magazines in a Storm carbine.
My test PX4 came with the M1917 rail on top of the receiver, and I mounted a red dot sight on it. This combination was surprisingly accurate at distances out to 100 yards. Using a tree for support and firing at a target 50 yards downrange, I was able to keep all 16 rounds in the head zone of a USPSA target; most clustered into a nifty sub-three-inch group.
OK, so that's not marksman accurate. But believe me, the CX4 could help you prematurely end the career of an active shooter. And it's a lot more effective than a pistol.
The design of the CX4 allows you to carry it from a one- or three-point sling all day long comfortably. This radically different carbine is worth a look if your department issues Beretta handguns, provided you have other tools available should you face a bad guy in body armor.
One of the best-known manufacturers of AR platform rifles, Bushmaster offers a wide variety of full-size ARs and carbines for law enforcement applications.
My choice for a great Bushmaster LE patrol rifle is the XM15 E2S M4A3. It's compact, with a 14.5-inch chrome-lined barrel, it offers plenty of firepower with a mag capacity of 30 rounds of .223, and it's lightweight at 5.9 pounds.
For mounting accessories, the M4A3 has a flat-top upper receiver with an integral Picatinny rail. Bushmaster claims 1/2 MOA using the rear sight that is incorporated into the removable carry handle.
The Colt LE Carbine 6920 is a standard M4 marketed to law enforcement. With its double-heat-shielded hand guards, which increase heat dissipation during prolonged firing, and its 1-in-7 twist, which allows the use of heavier bullets for better performance, this rifle is built to serve on duty.
My shooting partner, who is an FTO for the Allegheny Port Authority Police in Pittsburgh, carries the Colt LE carbine daily as his patrol rifle. He has found the rifle to be reliable and accurate. Oh, and it's rugged. His carbine is tossed in and out of his cruiser in all weather conditions, and it continues to function.
DPMS Panther Arms
My personal favorite M4 is from DPMS Panther Arms. It's my favorite because I like its Mangonel flip-up sight system, which gives me the capability to mount various types of optics for testing or any number of uses. Another reason I like this M4 is that it's accurate enough to serve as a designated marksman rifle with a number of telescopic sights.
DPMS Panther Arms also manufactures a .308 Winchester AR-style rifle designed from the ground up as a precision marksman rifle. The LRT-SASS, which feels like a standard AR on steroids, is one of the finest rifles I have ever shot.
The LRT-SASS arrives with all the essentials: Mangonel flip-up sights, flat-top, quad-rail front hand guards, Harris bi-pod, hard case, and manual. Out of the box with the low power magnification of a Trijicon ACOG, this rifle was shooting sub-MOA at 100 meters off the bipod. With quality-variable magnification optics, half MOA can be achieved at 200 meters.