The Ruger Mini-14 has had a following in the law enforcement community for many years simply because it is not an AR, and it doesn't look like a military weapon. But time was that it was a better civilian gun than tactical rifle.
Ruger has set out to make it a better patrol rifle, and it has largely succeeded. The Mini can now be purchased with collapsible or traditional polymer stock, with a quad rail forearm system, and with a flash suppressor to preserve the shooter's low-light vision and reduce the shooter's signature in low-light situations. With these modifications, the Mini-14 is now ready to serve as a close combat or tactical weapon.
Smith & Wesson
Smith & Wesson jumped into the AR rifle market two years ago with the M&P15, a complement to its then new line of M&P semi-auto duty pistols.
I tested the M&P15T, which is the top-of-the-line M&P15. It comes with a flat-top receiver, flip-up front and rear sights, four position fore-grip with rail covers, and a six-position collapsible stock. This rifle is scary accurate out of the box with the flip up iron sights, a red dot, or telescopic sight. Take your pick, and the M&P15 will drive tacks at 100 yards.
Smith & Wesson did a fine job with the M&P rifle, it has no preference to bullet weight, manufacturer, or bullet type; it just shoots.
(For a detailed look at the M&P15, check out Mike Detty's Arsenal review in this issue.)
When the bad guys have range and position on their side, you need one of these equalizers. Scott Smith
The most specialized firearm in a department's arsenal is its sniper/counter-sniper rifle. This rifle has to be capable of pinpoint precision on the first shot.
Most often bolt-action rifles are the firearm of choice for this application, but the Rock River Arms LAR8 and DPMS Panther Arms LRT-SASS are capable of this accuracy.
Another semi-automatic .308 chambered rifle finding favor in military and law enforcement roles is the Armalite AR-10A4. While I have not shot the AR10, I know several guys that have and their reports all verify Armalite's claims of inch-and-a-half accuracy at 100 yards with premium ammunition. Truth be told, they find that the rifle is capable of half MOA or better at 100 yards.
A tried and true semi-automatic precision rifle is the Springfield-Armory M1A. While this is a semi-automatic version of the M14, the fit finish and tolerances of he M1A vs. the old mil-spec M14 are like night and day.
The modern M1A is a precision tool and is available in many forms from a scout/patrol carbine to the tack-driving White Feather (developed to honor Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock).
My personal M1A has performed superbly over the last couple of decades. The only modifications that I have made to it other than adding Springfield's scope mount and bases is changing the stock to a more solid McMillan A5 stock. This change alone made my standard M1A even more accurate because it tightened the action and made the fit of the rifle much better.
When it comes to bolt-operated rifles, it's really hard to beat the ubiquitous Remington Model 700 and the updated model the Remington 700XCR Long Range Tactical Rifle.
Remington didn't change the action and the barrel when it upgraded the Model 700, but it did add a Black TriNyte coating to protect them against the elements. The stock has been changed. It is now a Bell & Carlson stock with a full-length bedding block, dual forearm studs to mount a bi-pod and sling, as well as a cutout for the shooter's off hand. These changes make the Remington 700 a much more weather-resistant rifle and the full-length bedding block will keep the rifle MOA accurate for years to come.
If you are a looking for a precision rifle, you may want to consider Savage Arms. Savage, considered by many to be the leader in value-priced hunting rifles, offers the Model 12 in a tactical rifle package.
I believe the Model 12 is competitive with some of the finest custom rifles on the market. Savage uses a heavy contoured barrel with button rifling and a recessed target crown as the basis for the Model 12. This is then set into a H-S Precision, Choate, or McMillan stock depending on your preference and comes with Savage's Accu Trigger, which can be operator adjusted to give you a crisp one- to six-pound pull.
All of the Savage rifles that I have shot over the years have been incredibly accurate out of the box and the Model 12 Tactical is no exception. This rifle easily produces sub-MOA performance with premium ammunition, and I am certain that a shooter with steady hands can get quarter MOA at 100 yards.
Another highly respected firearms manufacturer entered the factory produced tactical rifle market this year: Kimber America.
Kimber is using its popular Model 84 hunting rifle to produce the LPT, Tactical, and Advanced Tactical line of rifles. All three rifles come from the factory with a three-pound trigger, oversized bolt handle for easy operation, and Picatinny rail for mounting a scope.
Scott Smith is a disabled veteran who served as an active-duty Army MP and in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard as a security policeman. He is a contributing editor to POLICE.