A competitor works his way through the sand pit. Photo courtesy Jeff Felts/Centermass, Inc.
A competitor begins the Gig Pit course. Photo courtesy Jeff Felts/Centermass, Inc.
Competitors charge through the water hazard on the Gig Pit course.Photo courtesy Jeff Felts/Centermass, Inc.
The Millett DMS.
Photo courtesy Millett Sights
The author’s rifle with the laser unit and KX3 flash suppressor.Photos Jeff Chudwin
The muzzle blast exiting this flash suppressor did a number on the blanket.Photos Jeff Chudwin
FEATURED IN TRAINING
The recently completed Center Mass National Patrol Rifle Competition (NPRC) was a window into the current and future state of the use of the patrol rifle in law enforcement. Developed by long-time trainer and police officer Jeff Felts and the CenterMass training cadre, the NPRC features a well-designed series of courses that tests officers and equipment under strenuous and realistic field conditions.
Having competed in the 2006 and 2007 events, I went again this year to assess where the street officer stands today and where we may be going with gear and tactical preparation. Are we trained and equipped for both the short-range fight as well as the distance threat?
Courses of Fire
The NPRC tested each officer's abilities with tactical issues of distance, time, movement, low-light operations and threat recognition, physical conditioning, and skill with rifle, pistol and associated gear. Each component was vitally important, and we learned none can be disregarded. Example: You can be the fastest runner with high-speed gear, but lacking a weapon-mounted light, you're at a severe disadvantage in the low-light shoot house, just as you would be in a darkened residence or school hallway. On the other hand, you can have all the gear but be in reduced physical condition, unable to get to or stay in the fight.
Each officer moved through five courses of fire. All stages were restricted time, and one titled "Know Your Limitations" included the excellent CAPS ( www.caps-inc.com ) deadly force event simulator. This event presented three 20-second video projections of active shooter incidents in which the officer had one round only to achieve a real-time stop on the armed offender. A hit to the brainpan was the test, and no shooter achieved such hits on all three targeted offenders.
This again proves the need to make reality based simulators part of mainstream police training. Firing on moving realistic threats is a far different issue than stationary paper targets. Making head shots on a moving offender is very difficult. A big advantage to the CAPS system is that it puts the officers to the test in live fire using their actual street gear.
Another stage, the Gig Pit, was a kick-butt 2 minute, 45-second event that pushed many shooters into negative numbers for a score. Carrying all gear, the course required officers to drag a 90-lb. railroad tie 25 yards, run a field course that included a water and mud creek, crawl through a 10-yard long sand pit with a rope-net ceiling of 20 inches, clear a 4' fence and get to the firing line. There the shooter had to deliver 30 rounds (including a reload) from prone, kneeling or sitting, and standing positions on a hostage taker target 50 yards away. If you lost your gear in the run, ran out of time or got too winded too bad.
The range officers raked two pistols out of the sand pit along with mags, pouches and assorted gear. Of all the NPRC courses, this was to me the most challenging and realistic because it demanded physical conditioning, capable gun handling and gear designed to stay attached to you.
Courses also included a low-light close-quarter battle (CQB) shoot house in which the officer had to identify multiple offenders, a re-creation of a bank robbery SWAT shootout that required firing from under a vehicle and a 100 150 yard distance patrol rifle challenge.
Each year I assemble various patrol rifles and accessories to test in this rough and tumble event. If I like it and keep it, I will buy it. For this year's event, I obtained a range of items, and I'll discuss them below.
Designated Marksman Scope 1 (DSM1)
Millett Sights www.milletsights.com
I got the Millett scope through master gunsmith Ned Christiansen of Michiguns Ltd. (www.m-guns.com) Christiansen acts as the gunsmith to the NPRC and has keen insight into the array of equipment used in law enforcement and military applications. He felt the Millett scope was worth testing due to the illuminated dot reticle and the variable magnification from the very slight 1X CQB setting to the 4X distance setting. Another big plus: The DMS1 sells for $200, a fraction of the big name scopes.
Most patrol rifles in use today carry iron-sights only, so you may wonder why I chose any optic. While I strongly believe we must first learn to master iron sights because all optics can fail and irons are our default, I did so because this is the future of aiming devices. It's the current standard in the military, and it's not for special operations only. If cost were not the issue, I feel every officer, SWAT and patrol, would carry some type of rifle-mounted optic today.
A red-dot type sight offers very fast time on target. A single red-dot aiming point that permits both eyes to remain open offers a significant advantage in speed and visual clarity of threat and surroundings. Add some way to magnify the image, and an officer can see vital details at distance and deliver rounds on target with a high degree of accuracy.
Speaking with the NPRC advisory board after the 2007 event, there was a consensus to break the event into two divisions: iron sight and optics. So, in the 2008 event we had the opportunity to see the difference across all the shooters. In the end it was as we expected: The optical sight scores were significantly ahead of iron sight scores. Add magnification, and it got even better. Sights from Aimpoint, Eotech, Trijicon, Millet, Leupold, Hensoldt, Zeiss and others were put to good use.
I'm a long-time user of non-magnified Eotech and Aimpoint scopes and carry an Eotech daily for street work. In previous years on the NPRC courses of fire, I found I needed to see further, with greater detail. To do so requires magnification.
This year I tested the Millett at distances from 5 150 yards. Using the 4X option, I could clearly see the offender at 150 yards, not just an indistinct blob. And, dialing it down to 1X with the illuminated reticle, I easily engaged the close threats in the CQB house. Mated with a LaRue Tactical extended eye relief quick-detachable mount, this scope is truly one of the best buys available for the officer looking for variable magnification in a close quarter-capable optic.
Another means to add magnification is to mount an optical magnifier behind a red-dot sight. Last year I tested the Eotech 4X magnifier mounted behind the Eotech red-dot scope on a swing-away mount. Aimpoint also offers a fine 3X unit you can mate to a LaRue pivot mount, which I feel is the best mount of this type you can move it sideways, out of the line of sight when not desired. Another option is the LaRue "PoBoy Special" a Hensolt 2.5X optic set on the pivot mount. I carry one to enhance the Eotech 512 on my current patrol rifle and I highly recommend this combination.
Cost for optics ranges from $200 $2,000 dollars. I look at the gear not only from performance, but cost. I want to know what works and what's within the reach of ordinary officers on the street who may have limited dollars.
The LaserMax unit is a matchbook size, 1 oz., green laser I used to very good effect in the CQB house and the bank robbery scenarios. In the bank robbery scenario, using a gunside shoulder down prone position, I used the laser to target 15 rounds at high speed and got 15 hits to the center of the lower legs of the offender as required.
The green unit is many times more powerful than its red laser counterpart I tested last year. I could clearly see it in daylight at 15 yards, a distance at which the red unit was no longer visible.
I've written previously that I wasn't a laser user because of early failures of mounts and systems. This is no longer the case. The LaserMax solidly attaches to any picatinny rail unit, has an optional press-to-use pressure switch and is a reliable piece of gear.
Christiansen is making an excellent mount for the AR-15/M-16 that places the LaserMax unit a bit more than .5 inches above the rifle's bore, eliminating the need to hold off the point of aim at any distance you can see the laser. Locate the target, engage with the laser and press the trigger.
For those SWAT teams working with night-vision goggles, LaserMax also makes an infrared unit.
My experience leads me to believe that lasers will soon be commonplace.
KX3 Flash Suppressor
Noveske Rifleworks LLC www.noveskerifleworks.com
I've been working with the Noveske KX3 flash suppressor for more than a year, and it's another good piece of gear. It functions effectively and also directs the muzzle blast and sound downrange, not sideways.
I strongly urge you to get rid of any competition-style muzzle brakes that jet gas and particles to the side and rear. These don't belong on law enforcement weapons because officers work in close proximity to one another and seldom wear full eye and ear protection. The force of the blast can literally take the paint off a wall or cut through heavy fabric, as we saw many times over the years at the Second Chance Combat Shoot (see photo). The muzzle blast coming from a competition-style brake on a .223-caliber rifle can cause serious ear and eye damage to an unprotected officer working next to or behind you on the street or indoors on an entry.
Stealth 16' Upper Receiver
LaRue Tactical www.laruetactical.com
The LaRue Stealth unit is a complete swap-out upper receiver capable of great accuracy. Using Corbon .223 55-grain GameKing loads, the LaRue barrel shot little ragged groups out to 50 yards and near an inch at 100 yards. I went into the event knowing the rifle was fully operational and accurate, exactly what we demand on the street.
I constantly relearn old lessons. Fighting is not a game, and even when we're in a competitive event, we must hold true to the reason we're there: for the fight, not the prize table. I decided to go for headshots under extremely tight time at 150 yards even though the body was well within my shooting capability and gear. I ended up with rounds high and out of the scoring zone. As good friend Henk Iverson says, "Would you really do that in a fight?" In this case, I would not have. Better relearned on a field of grass and paper than on concrete and flesh.
Also, gear can make a difference but only after the officer has mastered the basics of shooting and tactics. Buy the best gear you can afford, allowing also for ammo to practice with, and then spend as much time as you can training under realistic conditions. If all you can afford is a patrol rifle with iron sights, become the best iron sight shooter.
Physical training and mental visualization remain key to officer success in all aspects of our work, but most of all in when we confront violent offenders When we face deadly force incidents on the street, either we are individually trained up and prepared, or we fail. It's about personal responsibility.
Every day you work out, dry fire and live fire makes you a stronger, more effective police officer-warrior. While I will continue to train with a strong commitment to better my scores in next year's competition, the real gain is the impact the continued practice has on my daily readiness.
Make it a point to sign up for the NPRC and start preparing today. For more information on the event, go to www.centermassinc.com.
Past the gear and guns, every officer who shot the NPRC came away with an appreciation of the absolute need to be in solid physical condition. Not every fight is a step away from the squad car. We may need to run 100 yards or more just to get to the fight, and we will offer zero value if we either fail to get there or fall exhausted to the ground on arrival.
I ask every officer who reads this to check out the CrossFit training program at www.crossfit.com. It has fundamentally changed my physical conditioning and abilities. Go very slow with the start up, but I'm sure if you give it real effort, you too will see real progress.