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Kicking Things Up a Notch

Do you really need the punch of a .308 caliber carbine in law enforcement operations?

May 31, 2010  |  by Nick Jacobellis - Also by this author


Despite the number of different weapons that are used by most law enforcement agencies in the United States, the one firearm that is either not in service or in short supply at most agencies is a .308/7.62mm caliber carbine. I believe there is a need for law enforcement officers, especially for tactical personnel, to kick things up a notch and use heavier caliber carbines as patrol rifles and entry guns.

Last summer I had the pleasure of meeting with Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., and I obtained permission to write several magazine articles about his department. After a successful meeting with "Sheriff Joe," I also met with his Deputy Chief Dave Trombi, a decorated street cop who once served as Maricopa County's SWAT commander.

When I learned that Trombi had a personal interest in SWAT operations, I discussed with him my belief that law enforcement officers, especially tactical teams, need the firepower of .308 caliber carbines. I laid out my case to Trombi as follows.

SWAT cops and even certain patrol personnel need heavier firepower for open air assaults, vehicle takedowns, interdiction missions along remote border areas, manhunts in remote areas, active shooter situations, and other tactical missions. There are two ways that we can give officers the firepower I believe they need: We can change their .223/5.56mm ammo and rifles or issue them .308 carbines.

Most street cops, investigators, and tactical personnel who carry a patrol rifle or a tactical rifle are not issued the harder hitting 77-grain 5.56mm ammunition. So we could just issue them more powerful ammo, but there's a problem with that idea.

Most law enforcement officers who buy their own M4s are carrying carbines with 16-inch barrels that have a 1-in-9-inch twist. Even if the improved 77-grain ammunition were made available to every patrol rifle operator and tactical officer, they would need to be armed with an M4 carbine that has a 1-in-7-inch twist to get the maximum performance from the heavier ammunition.

And they still wouldn't have all of the benefits of .308 carbines. One of the most important benefits of .308 carbines for law enforcement is their effective range. They can easily reach targets that would be at the extreme limit of .223/5.56mm rounds.

If for some reason you are still not convinced that it makes sense to use .308/7.62mm NATO caliber carbines in certain law enforcement situations, consider this scenario. You are executing a vehicle takedown of a large truck or SUV and you have the choice of being armed with a 5.56mm M4 loaded with 55-grain HP ammunition or a semi-auto .308/7.62 NATO carbine loaded with 168-grain HP ammunition or even 147-grain Mil-Spec ammo. Which are you going to choose?

After listening to my arguments, Trombi put me in touch with Lt. Rob Judd who informed me that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) recently decided to officially examine the possibility of adding .308 carbines to its arsenal. The question was which one.

Since I was writing an article on this topic I offered to provide a few test rifles if the MCSO provided the ammunition and a few deputies to participate as test team members. Judd agreed and we made arrangements to meet at the MCSO range in nearby Buckeye. To help me conduct the .308 carbine test, I also drafted my good friend and shooting partner Larry Kotz, a Class III licensed SOT dealer.

Note: This test featured the weapons that I could acquire last November. At the end of this article, I'll also take a look at some rifles that we would have loved to have tested but did not have access to. Some of them were not released yet. Others were just not in our collection.

Vietnam Veteran

Springfield's SOCOM 16 is essentially a vastly improved Vietnam-era M14. It was developed at the request of Special Operations Command (SOCOM), hence the name.

The SOCOM 16 was generally very well received by various members of my test team. It shoots very smoothly. Springfield has fitted the SOCOM 16 with a very effective muzzle brake that significantly helps to tame recoil and helps keep the carbine on target when you fire quick follow-up shots.

The only complaint I heard about the SOCOM 16 came from a young deputy who seemed to like the SOCOM 16 but preferred the ergonomics of the M4/AR platform. Fortunately, the ergonomics of the SOCOM 16 can be changed by installing an aftermarket nylon stock. The most popular aftermarket stock for the SOCOM 16 is made by Vltor. The Vltor stock provides a pistol grip and a collapsible stock that is similar to the stock that is used on most M4s.

Another criticism of the SOCOM 16 is that its not as easily equipped with optics as ARs. But my testing team found that it works well with iron sights or with any high-quality CQB optic.

In addition to the issue of optic installation, I believe that most officers would argue that the AR10 is a tad easier to disassemble, clean, and reassemble than the SOCOM 16. This is probably due to the fact that more law enforcement officers currently on duty have experience with ARs than with M14s. All I can say is that takedown and reassembly become much easier with a little practice.

AR-style weapons are also a bit more compact to carry when you use a variant with a collapsible stock. However, my testing team found that the SOCOM 16 is a little lighter, especially if you carry it loaded with a 10-round magazine instead of a fully loaded 20-round magazine.

I should mention that most members of my test team liked the SOCOM 16 in its standard configuration. In fact, considering the age of its basic design this old warhorse did quite well in our testing.

Stoner's .308

For the purposes of this article we will classify the "AR10" as any M16/M4 direct impingement or gas piston-powered carbine that is chambered in .308/7.62mm NATO caliber.

The direct impingement and the gas piston-powered AR10-style carbines basically operate like a 5.56mm M4 carbine, which gives the AR10 a slight advantage when you train personnel. The gas piston-powered carbines like the LWRC REPR (Rapid Engagement Precision Rifle) offer a slight advantage of requiring less maintenance and being a tad easier to clean. However, anyone who can walk and chew gum at the same time should have no problem disassembling, cleaning, lubricating, and reassembling a direct impingement AR10.

As far as accuracy is concerned, Kotz reports that he has no problem delivering one-inch groups while shooting his ArmaLite AR10 at CQB distances out to 100 yards with and without the suppressor. And my testing team also found the AR10 to be a precision instrument. We shot the AR10 at 50 yards. And when we were done, the man-size targets were full of neat groups of holes.

In addition to the ArmaLite, we also tested a DPMS Panther Arms' RFLR AP4M .308 carbine. The DPMS gobbled up the same snappy British Radway Green 7.62mm NATO ammunition without any problems.

Piston Engine

The short stroke gas piston-powered LWRC REPR (Rapid Engagement Precision Rifle) carbine may become my favorite semi automatic .308/7.62mm NATO carbine next to my SOCOM 16.

I first became impressed with the LWRC gas piston system when I found out that Kotz has intentionally not cleaned or lubricated his select fire 5.56mm caliber LWRC M4 with a 10-inch barrel. Even though he and other shooters have fired approximately 10,000 rounds through it, this amazing carbine has not experienced any problems. In contrast, the first thing he said he did when he got home after our test was clean his direct impingement ArmaLite AR10.

To say the LWRC REPR is well made is truly an understatement. Everyone who handled this rifle was incredibly impressed by the quality of the craftsmanship and the execution of the REPR design. The LWRC REPR is lightweight, flawlessly reliable, and dead nuts accurate using the Troy flip-up iron sights.

Features of the REPR include a free floating barrel, a NiCorr nickel coating, a Magpul collapsible stock, a charging handle on the left side of the receiver that also serves as a forward assist, and plenty of accessory rail space to accommodate optics and a host of other accessories. The REPR comes in several versions, including a 12-inch CQB model and a 16-inch carbine model.

What We Discovered

Most agencies that field patrol or tactical rifles use AR-style direct impingement carbines. So it stands to reason that agencies that want to add extra firepower would favor .308 direct impingement ARs because it will be easier to train their officers to use these guns.

This is a valid point. But the tests I conducted at the MCSO range show the merits of thinking outside the box looking at the new gas piston powered designs like those made by LWRC. I would also urge agencies to take a look at the FN Special Forces Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) 17S and the Bushmaster Adaptive Combat Rifle known as the ACR.

I wish we had these and some other weapons available for our test.

Bushmaster • Adaptive Combat Rifle

Designed and developed by Colorado-based Magpul Industries, the Masada modular combat rifle debuted at the 2007 SHOT Show. The rifle was licensed to Remington and Bushmaster in 2008 and is now being sold as the Bushmaster Adaptive Combat Rifle (ACR). It's being offered with a 10.5-inch barrel, a 14.5-inch barrel, 16.5-inch, or an 18-inch barrel and in .223/5.56mm and .308/7.62mm. Because the rifle is modular, buyers can switch the barrel and other parts to change calibers and modify it for just about any mission. Barrels are made of cold hammer-forged steel with 1-in-7-inch or 1-in-9-inch twists.

Visit Bushmaster Online

 

FNH USA • SCAR Heavy

Available in 7.62mm (Heavy) and 5.56mm (Light), FN's Special Forces Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) is a modular carbine that can be modified into numerous configurations. Barrels for the SCAR-17S (Heavy) are available in 13-inch, 15.7-inch, and 19.7-inch versions. An extremely smooth-shooting firearm, the SCAR-17S features ambidextrous controls, hammer-forged Mil-Spec barrels, and a checkered pistol grip.

Visit FNH Online

 

Rock River Arms • LAR-8

The LAR-8 from Rock River is a .308/7.62mm AR-style flattop rifle that comes in six configurations: Standard Operator, Elite Operator, Predator HP, Standard A4, Mid-Length A4, and Varmint A4. LAR-8 rifles feature Hogue pistol grips, forged A4 uppers, and RRA two-stage triggers. The 1-in-10-inch twist barrels are available in stainless steel and chrome moly. Barrel lengths range from 16 to 26 inches.

Visit Rock River Arms Online

 

Nick Jacobellis is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and former NY police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Armalite

Bushmaster

DPMS Panther Arms

FNH USA

Hogue

LWRC

Magpul Industries

Rock River Arms

Springfield Armory

Vltor

Tags: Carbines, ArmaLite, Bushmaster, DPMS Panther Arms, FNH USA, Hogue, LWRC, Magpul, Rock River Arms, Springfield Armory, Vltor

Request more info about this product / service / company


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

Turbo38 @ 6/4/2010 7:07 AM

Thanks Nick! I was just talking to a buddy the other day and we both agreed that a .308/7.62 platform looks like the best all around system. I'll be looking at the ACR, as it appears I'll be able to mix and match barrels and bling for whatever the mission is. Word has it that the .223 isn't really cutting it overseas, and every nutcase attacking cops here in the states has an AK. Why should we be behind the curve??

deltacharlieone @ 6/29/2010 3:36 PM

I think it's a must if you are on US Border or lone officer with no back up; especially in very rural areas like TEXAS or Arizona and Nevada for sure....One officer facing four heavily armed Gangsters wielding AK-47s is completely outgunned and one AR-15 or even CAR-15 could mean difference between life and death. M-14 he stands much better chance than his .40 cal service pistol.

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