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Of Batteries and Screws

Written by Ed Sanow

So, I went to the SWAT locker to get one of the 40mm launchers. Time to get ready to do a bit of reverse-occupying. Powered up the holographic weapon sight…the batteries were dead. By the way, size N batteries are not something you find at the local convenient store, which is the only place open at 0200 hours.

So, the officer shows up for patrol rifle qualifications. He pulls the AR-15 out of the gun mount – this is the rifle his life depends on – and the batteries in the weapon sight are dead. I am sure you can add to this list of battery-related failures.

Both battery problems happened within a week of each other. In police work, we call that a “clue.” I immediately checked my entry shotgun and the pistol dedicated to my load bearing vest. The batteries in my weapon-mounted lights were OK.

Stop and think about how much critical SWAT gear we use that runs on batteries: pistol, shotgun, rifle-mounted lights; duty belt and vest-carried lights; shotgun, rifle and launcher-mounted holographic sights; the various makes and models of night vision devices and thermal imagers; pole cams, inspection cams, helmet cams and/or vest cams.

Thank goodness the dedicated SWAT radios are all rechargeable. But wait. That green LED just means the battery is charged, not that it will hold a charge. How old are those batteries? Will they last the callout, or run down the moment they are taken off the charger?

You have spare ammo, probably more than you can carry. You need spare batteries for every single device that takes a battery. And, under the philosophy that “one is none, two is one” you will need a lot of spare batteries somewhere easy to immediately access.

And then there are screws. Batteries run down. Screws come loose. How exactly a weapon light or a rifle scope can come loose from the gun just sitting in a SWAT locker or laying in a padded rifle case is beyond me. I can’t tell you the number of times in my firearms instruction career that a wild “cold zero” or poor first group has been traced to a loose optic, sight or scope. Same for weapon-mounted lights that – oops – fall off.

Loctite, people, Loctite. This is not Super Glue and it is not Gorilla Glue. Loctite is way different. And it is designed specifically to keep screws from coming loose. Loctite is available in two types – the kind that is more or less permanent, not intended to ever have the screw taken out, and the kind that keeps the screw from vibrating loose but will allow you to remove the screw without ruining the head or breaking off the shank.

Remember the blue pill and the red pill from Matrix? Yeah, you want Threadlocker Blue, which of course comes in a mostly red tube…

Members of part-time SWAT teams, and over 90 percent of the teams are part-time, are especially likely to encounter these kinds of “equipment failures.” Wait. Let’s call it what it is. It is not an equipment failure at all. Instead, it is equipment neglect. The full-time teams use their gear all the time, and as a result, know immediately of a dimming light or sight, or a loose optic or mount.

The best solution for all of the part-time teams is a hated (but useful) exercise: inspections. A formal gear inspection at the beginning of each monthly training exercise is the best way to prevent such mission-jeopardizing, life-threatening, equipment issues. The inspection should not just be limited to the seldom-used weapons and gear locked in the SWAT locker or buried in your primary duffle bag.

The inspection should also include all the stuff in your patrol “go” bag, and both patrol weapons in your car and on your person. If it can be predicted, it can be prevented. Batteries run down. Screws come loose. Don’t let it happen to you, your partner or your team.

Published in Tactical Response, Mar/Apr 2012

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