Seven years ago, Sergeant Jeff Felts and some colleagues created the Center Mass Inc. to improve on a relatively new phenomenon in law enforcement, the police patrol rifle. The patrol rifle has increased in popularity to the point where it has replaced the shotgun or is now riding side by side with the smoothbore in many agencies. Like the patrol rifle, the annual Center Mass Conference and Competition has grown rapidly.
Maximizing the safe and effective employment of the patrol rifle and its integration within the spectrum of other response weapons is the Center Mass’ primary mission. However, Center Mass is devoted to addressing many other law enforcement issues, and its choice of guest speakers at the conference reflects that. This year, the match was held at the Multi Lakes Conservation Club in Commerce Township, MI. Also hosting the competition was the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan Tactical Officer’s Association.
The competition’s main purpose is to educate participants as to what works best in the realm of tactics and equipment and what doesn’t handle the situation. It is as much of a test of equipment as it is of the individual. Optical sights for example, dominated the competition. One hundred local, state, municipal and federal officers/agents from 72 departments reported in fully kitted-out body armor and sidearms. You compete with what you fight in.
The dominant caliber, used by 94% of the competitors, was 5.56x45mm, AKA .223 Remington. This was fired mostly from AR-15 / M16 variants, but others were sprinkled among Stoner’s creation, including Southfield, MI PD’s 11-inch barreled Micro Colts with EOTech sights, H&K Model 33s, SigArms 550s and two, iron-sighted Ruger Mini 14s.
Although iron sights served the majority of the shooters, optical sights were abundant with Trijicon, EOTech and Leupold being the most popular. Glass sights may have led the competition, but many officers still preferred iron sights and advised that optics were not practical for patrol work because beat cops do not take care of them and they get knocked around in trunks.
Sidearms ran the gamut, but Glock and SigArms pistols were ascendant. Para Ordnance, Beretta, 1911 A1 clones and Ruger were also represented. BlackHawk’s SERPA holster dominated. No handguns were dislodged from their scabbards during vigorous tactical movements.
Among the events was “CQB, Moving Targets, Photo Lineup, Transition, Hostage Rescue and Pure Marksmanship.” It was the last event because in past competitions, it determined the winner. Consisting of 40 rounds fired from strong and support shoulders in the prone position at 100 yards, with no time limit, shooters received more points for head vice body shots. A possible score was 400 points.
The winner was Cleveland, OH West Shore Enforcement Bureau’s SWAT Officer Douglas Park. He walked away with a D&L CQB rifle as his first-place prize along with the annual trophy to which his name will be affixed. It was noted that his department sent 12 officers to the competition and fielded the largest contingent.
What rifle was used? Colt dominated (58%) followed by Bushmaster (16%) and Rock River (8%). Most used a 16-inch barrel (58%), while 14.5-inch barrels (16%) and 20-inch barrels (26%) were well-represented. In the 5.56 caliber, 70% used a 55-grain bullet, while 10% used a 62-grain load. Twice as many competitors used the Federal Tactical load than any other load.
Iron sights were used by 54% of the competitors. Of those using optical systems, 54% opted for an Aimpoint, while 46% went with an EOTech. Most of these rifles (68%) also had lighting systems. The majority were either SureFire (53%) or Streamlight (38%).
DaimlerChrysler supplied two very tough Dodge Hemi Charger police cars for the Moving Target event. Two officers had to simultaneously debus from two cars, run to their trunks and deploy their rifles from that secure location. Then they had to negotiate the obstacle-strewn, 100-yard course of fire.
Targets consisted of a brace of two laterally moving targets for each shooter that slipped in and out of cover at speeds of 4 to 6 feet per second. Shooters maneuvered forward, firing from the prone, sitting/kneeling and standing positions at 75-, 50- and 25-yard locations of cover respectively. They were awarded higher point values for head, vice body shots. A total time of 75 seconds was allocated to complete Stages 1, 2 and 3 of the course of fire.
To successfully complete the Low-Light Transition to Pistol course, the competitor needed a flashlight. Of those who did not deploy with portable artificial light, only two officers fired blind out of the many who chose to check fire because they could not identify a target. It was gratifying that the majority of competitors exercised good judgment and accepted zero scores rather than fire and hope they got lucky.
Robert Taubert is a retired FBI Special Operations agent and president of the Center for Security Studies and Applications. He can be reached at email@example.com.