I don’t know if it’s the result of a perfect storm or if it’s that all the planets have aligned, but this is a great time to acquire AR-15 rifles for law enforcement duty.
Three factors have come together to make numerous agencies rewrite their weapons policies to allow AR-15s on patrol. Many of us and, more importantly, many of our administrators have vivid memories of Los Angeles Police officers going into a gun shop to commandeer or borrow AR-15 rifles at the notorious North Hollywood bank robbery.
The pointless Federal Assault Weapons Ban has expired and will not be renewed, making it easier for law enforcement officers to acquire military-style weapons. And the United States is at war with terrorists that hate our way of life and would like to kill every man, woman, and child in America.
All of these factors add up to a compelling argument for equipping patrol officers with AR-15s. They’re no longer tools just for tactical teams. They’re an essential item of safety equipment. When each and every one of us straps on our gun belt, cinches up our ballistic vest, pulls on our boots, and walks out to our patrol car we should be carrying a ballistic nylon case stuffed with an AR-15 and loaded magazines.
The San Diego Model
For some time, the men and women of my agency, the San Diego Police Department, have been trying to gain permission to carry patrol rifles—all to no avail. But that changed recently when we got a new chief with a more progressive and realistic outlook on firearms.
Unfortunately, even though the chief authorized us to carry patrol rifles, the department didn’t have the funds to issue them. Our officers are allowed to buy their own and take them on patrol.
As department rangemaster, I was tasked with looking at a number of guns from different manufacturers to see which ones we should authorize our officers to carry. The goal was to provide a reasonable cross-section of guns that run the gamut from luxury models to econo weapons. Regardless of price, they all had to reach the level of quality and reliability the rigors of law enforcement work demands.
Sometimes my job is a lot of fun. Such was the case when a brand new Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special AR-15 was delivered to me for testing. I expected flawless operation, extreme accuracy, and steadfast reliability from this high-end weapon, and I was not the least bit disappointed. No surprise there.
What was surprising, however, was the performance of a low-price rifle, the DPMS Panther Arms Panther 16-inch AP4 Post Ban configuration rifle with Miculek compensator.
I had called around to a couple of friends who had a great deal of experience with AR-15 instruction to ask them which guns we should evaluate. The DPMS Panther Arms Panther AP4 rifle was recommended by Col. Bob Young (U.S. Army, Retired), operations chief at the famous Gunsite Academy in Arizona. He told me that I should take a look at the inexpensive rifles because he had noticed that DPMS guns were holding up and performing very well in Gunsite’s classes.
After a call to DPMS and a talk with their law enforcement representatives, I decided on a test and evaluation of the Panther 16-inch AP4 Post Ban with Miculek compensator. A few weeks later at the range, I received a nice new and shiny DPMS gun from the delivery guy.
From Consulting to Production
DPMS is not a household word, even for gun enthusiasts. So allow me to give you a little background.
Defense Procurement Manufacturing Services (DPMS) has been around the firearms business for more than 18 years. The company started as a consulting firm that helped small manufacturers intent on selling to the Department of Defense. But it also had a firearms production division called Panther Arms.
Today, DPMS Panther Arms builds a number of upper and lower receivers, small parts, and accessories for AR-platform rifles. It also builds and markets its own Panther Arms AR rifles in a myriad of configurations for military, law enforcement, and civilian applications. The company even makes a .308 Winchester version of an AR that is a sight to behold and even more fun to shoot.[PAGEBREAK]
Features and Details
The Panther Arms 16-inch AP4 Post Ban gun with Miculek Comp is one of the better all-around rifle caliber carbines available for law enforcement operations.
It’s built tough. For example, the lower and upper receivers are forged from 7075-T6 aircraft aluminum that is hard anodized to military specifications and then Teflon coated in matte black.
It’s also adaptable. The gun comes in an A-3 flattop configuration, including a detachable carry handle. This configuration gives you the option of mounting either one-to-one or magnification optics. By detaching the carry handle and mounting optics on the Picatinny 1913 mil-spec rail you keep the line of sight much closer to the line of the bore, which lessens parallax problems for shots made from both longer and shorter distances.
It also has some very nice features. The upper receiver is equipped with a metal dust cover. A shell deflector keeps the ejected cartridges from smacking you in the forehead or ending up down the front of your shirt and causing the infamous “hot brass” dance. And DPMS includes a round forward assist on the right side of the gun to help you clear a tight round or some sort of debris that is keeping the gun out of battery.
Sometimes it’s the attention to the little things that makes a great gun. Case in point, DPMS put a lot of thought into the bolt and carrier on the Panther Arms AR-15.
You can have a great sighting system; diamond-hard and tank-tough receivers; barrels capable of knocking a gnat off a pin at 300 paces; but if the bolt and carrier are so-so you won’t be able to hit anything. DPMS uses 8620 steel for the bolt carrier and chrome plates it to military specification for toughness. The bolt is also 8620 steel that’s heat treated and plated to mil-spec. These are by definition little details, but they pay off big in accuracy, reliability, and longevity.
The 4140 Chrome-Moly steel 16-inch barrel is configured to the AP4 contour. DPMS button rifles the barrel for a good, clean cut of the lans and grooves. It is a six-groove, right-handed twist at a one-in-nine rate. The barrel is finished with manganese phosphate, a treatment that is commonly called “parkerizing.”
Compensation and Control
At the business end of this AR-15’s barrel sits one of the most efficient compensators I’ve ever used, the Miculek compensator.
It would be a gross understatement to say that Jerry Miculek is a world-class shooter. He holds more world records than I can list. And his invention, the Miculek compensator, was driven by necessity. In this case the necessity was that Miculek was being paid to compete in rifle competitions for DPMS team, and he needed a rifle with less muzzle jump.
The Miculek compensator is amazing. There is no muzzle jump at all, which means that follow-up shots can be made easier, faster, and much more accurately. An additional benefit to the design is there is little or no ground blowback when shooting from the prone position. The only drawback here is that it makes the gun very loud. But, then again, most compensators are loud.
And we really need to have a little perspective here and remember that loud is a relative thing. This is a rifle, and it fires rifle caliber ammunition. Rifles are all loud unless you are using a suppressor.
Trust me, if you use the AR in law enforcement work as it is intended, as a stand-off perimeter weapon, you’ll love the Miculek compensator. It truly enhances a shooter’s ability to accurately place follow-up shots. That’s a good thing, a real good thing.
Shooting the Panther
After a short break-in period of about 100 rounds with frequent cleaning, I have put approximately 5,000 rounds of Federal XM193 ammunition through my test DPMS rifle without the slightest problem. It should be noted that I clean this rifle after every 500 rounds.
With thousands of rounds downrange, I can tell you the following about the Panther 16-inch AP4 Post Ban. It consistently shoots under one minute of angle; the trigger breaks crisply at six pounds; and follow-up shots are easy and accurate thanks to the Miculek comp.
For a price of $899 full retail (your agency can probably negotiate a discount) with cleaning kit and hard case, you just cannot ask for any rifle to be better than the DPMS Panther 16-inch AP4 Post Ban gun with Miculek comp. This inexpensive AR-15 is accurate, reliable, and easy to use.
Sgt. Dave Douglas is the rangemaster of the San Diego Police Department and a veteran law enforcement officer.