There is no debating the benefits of a patrol carbine for police officers and deputy sheriffs.
A carbine has much less recoil than a shotgun. It has greater range and is capable of far more precise fire than a dose of buckshot.
Carbines are lighter than shotguns. They carry more ammunition, and are easier and faster to reload.
That said, there’s a dangerous practice taking place — especially at smaller law enforcement agencies that can’t afford to issue the weapons to their patrol personnel.
Facing dwindling budgets, some law enforcement administrators are allowing officers to purchase their own carbines. Unfortunately, they’re not giving them any guidance about what to buy or, more importantly, what not to buy.
Some of our First Responders are carrying carbines that I wouldn’t take plinking, much less into harm’s way.
The same is true for optics.
Right now, there are officers on patrol with Airsoft-grade optics mounted on their carbines — cheap imported knockoffs that look like the real thing but clearly aren’t. They can’t hold zero. Their mounts are brittle and weak. The red dots are cloudy and unclear. They’re unreliable to the extreme.
Blame for this dangerous practice is twofold.
Young police officers are notoriously underpaid. Unless they’re given specific guidance, they’ll often buy the cheapest thing on the rack. The same is true for their optics, mags and accessories.
Also, many lawmen, especially those without prior military service, don’t know a good AR from a bad one, so their purchasing decision is based on only one criteria: price.
Their top cops face a similar challenge. With a few notable exceptions, most aren’t gun guys. They too wouldn’t know what guns to recommend and what guns to ban at their agency.
The fix is simple. Law enforcement executives need to consult with shooters — real shooters — and establish a list of approved weapons and accessories. Anything that doesn’t make the list shouldn’t be used on the road.
The young officers will be forced to save their pennies and buy something reliable, or they’ll be forced to settle for shotguns.
The top cops can rest easier not having to worry about the potential lawsuits they’re facing from allowing their men and women to carry cheap, dangerous trash.
I’ll be writing a follow-up to this in a few weeks. The story will include a few examples from agencies in Southwest Florida that you simply will not believe, unless of course some quick policy decisions render the story moot.
Here’s to hoping that’s the case.