Patrol Rifles: Arming Officers to Succeed

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PATROL RIFLES: ARMING OFFICERS TO SUCCEED

Sergeant Scott Buziecki North Aurora Police Department

A Research Paper Submitted to the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety School of Police Staff & Command Class #175 Naperville, Illinois December 9, 2002

Executive Summary
The North Aurora Police Department currently allows officers to carry their choice of 9mm or .45 caliber pistols; no long guns are available. The Firearms Training Unit has proposed that the department adopt the .223 caliber rifle for patrol officer use. The reasons for this proposal are: (1) pistols are inherently less accurate and have a shorter effective range than long guns such as rifles and shotguns, (2) pistol caliber bullets penetrate more heavily through interior walls than .223 rifle caliber bullets, which causes an increased risk of unintended persons being hit, and (3) pistol caliber bullets will not penetrate body armor and many other obstacles commonly encountered, while most .223 caliber bullets will. The objective of this research is to determine if the NAPD should adopt a long gun for patrol officer use or keep the current pistol-only program as it is. The types of weapons under consideration are pistol caliber rifles (9mm and .45 caliber), shotguns (slugs and buckshot), and the .223 caliber rifle. These weapons will be compared and contrasted with respect to accuracy & range, ease of use, wounding ability, and barrier penetration. Immediate Incapacitation Officers shoot to immediately achieve physiological incapacitation of a suspect who is threatening life. This means that the suspect is rendered physically incapable of continuing his or her life threatening behavior. This is done by (1) damaging or destroying the suspect’s central nervous system by shooting the brain or upper spinal cord, or (2) interrupting blood flow to the brain, to cause unconsciousness, through shooting the center mass of the suspect. Stopping blood flow to the brain is done by creating as much trauma and bleeding as possible. Some projectiles cause these effects better than others. Decisions on weapons, ammunition, and training should be made with the goal of immediate incapacitation in mind. Accuracy & Range Pistols are less accurate than rifles and shotguns due to their short sight radius. Their useful range is 25 yards or less. Shotguns have a range of about 30 yards with buckshot and about 50 yards with slugs. Pistol caliber rifles (9mm and .45 caliber) have a useful range of about 50 yards. The best range and accuracy of all the choices is found in the .223 caliber rifle. It is accurate to over 100 yards, even in the hands of average officers, the majority of the patrol workforce. Officers should be armed with a weapon capable of the longest range that they might reasonably need to engage with lethal force. The longest hallway at Jewel Middle School is about 180 feet or 60 yards. Compare this to the above listed weapons ranges. Other buildings, such as factories and warehouses are usually very large and would likely require long gun capability to adequately respond to an active shooter situation. Even though an active shooter here is unlikely, officers should still be prepared to respond to one. The weapon with the best accuracy and range is the .223 caliber rifle, followed by pistol caliber rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Ease of use Compared with the shotgun, the rifle (either pistol caliber or rifle) is more comfortable for officers to shoot and be confident with, an important consideration for risk management. The shotgun is known for heavy recoil, something that makes controlling it difficult, especially for female officers and smaller male officers. Rifles, on the other hand, have a mild recoil. Because of this, its use is as easy for women as it is for men. If a weapon is uncomfortable for officers to shoot, it is not an effective weapon. With respect to ease of use, the best weapon is one that the majority of patrol officers can...
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