Hendon Publishing - Article Archive Details
Guns and Ammo of the SWAT Round-Up
It takes a conditioned brain and muscles and tactical training to get through the SWAT Round-Up, an international SWAT team competition. It also takes the right guns and ammunition to master the shooting elements in four of the five events. It is a given that SWAT team members are exceptional shooters, and those entering the rough and tumble world of the SWAT Round-Up are exceptionally proficient at this craft as well as in dynamic shooting.
But the Round-Up is different from other competitions: while top shooters fire away using top-of-the-line pistols made by the likes of Kimber and Springfield in many other competitions, at the SWAT Round-Up the firearms used are often agency-issued. What kinds of weapons do teams use for the competition, anaad why were those particular weapons chosen?
The pistols used by the competing SWAT and special operations team members from sheriff’s offices and police departments at the Round-Up tend to be, perhaps, better known and less expensive than the very top-of-the-line handguns like Glock and Sig Sauer. At the SWAT Round-Up, two years ago, there were at least two exceptions: Los Angeles, CA Police SWAT used Kimber Model Custom Tactical Law Enforcement II in .45 ACP caliber and Leon County, FL Sheriff’s Office SWAT used Kimber stainless steel, Classic II .45 caliber ACP pistols, a transition from Colt Series 80 M1991 (an M1911 style) pistols.
At the Round-Up, there was concern about firing frangible, indoor range ammunition as well as possible jamming issues, but in using Winchester Ranger 125-grain rounds, the ammunition fed well in Kimber handguns right out of the box.
Often a departmental selection committee has chosen the weapons used. An agency’s armorer or firearms instructor staff may have a voice in the policies stating what handguns are authorized for duty, as well as the stipulation that the officers or deputies qualify with the handgun selected.
Naples, FL Police
According to sniper Jon Warford, the department allows them to buy and use certain approved handguns for competition: Glock Model 17 in 9mm; Glock Model 22 in .40 S&W; H&K USP9, and; Colt style 1911 Springfields—although no Springfields were used at the Round-Up. Glocks were favored because “you can’t break them.” They had trouble with their selection of one brand of frangible rounds and saw hits that failed to move the plates. Precision Ammunition was more accurate and reliable.
Subguns like the H&K MP5A3, with a “Navy” trigger group (developed for SEAL teams) and a Colt M4 carbine are used. H&Ks were preferred because of their popularity in the special operations community, reliability, ease of use, and their retractable stock, a benefit when thick body armor is worn.
Among shotguns, Mossburg Model 500 series tactical shotguns were used as well as Remington Police-series shotguns. Mossburg has the thumb safety on top where the shooter can easily see its safety red dot. Naples used Hornady and Federal shotgun ammo. The team has two Remington 700 counter sniper rifles, but Jon brought his own Accuracy International AE in .308 Win caliber.
He mounted it with a Nightforce 5.5-22 power scope, with its super clear optics, illuminated mil-dot reticles and audible adjustments offering good tactile feel. There was no second-guessing and the scope is tough, maintaining zero even when moved around a lot. Every rifle likes different rounds and his likes Hornady, 168-grain. For the Hostage Rescue Event, a Colt AR15A3 with a 16-inch heavy barrel and Leupold CQ/T scope was used.
Davie, FL Police
Sniper Ron Frailing said his department has been using Sig Sauer P220 pistols for 16 years. They are reliable and fire well. For the rifle, the department has owned four Remington 700 models for a long time. They shoot well, and were a proven rifle before the technologies of modern firearms. The rifle was mounted with a Leupold 3.5X10 power scope. He used this in both the Tower Scramble and Hostage Rescue Events. Like most of the snipers, he used a bipod for support in making his tower shots. In the future they are considering using an M16 with optics, too. With the subgun, for the competition they used an H&K UMP, .45 ACP. At home, they prefer the .45 caliber round to 9mm, because they have a number of mobile homes in their area and are trying to avoid unnecessary damages. These subguns can fire single, two-round bursts, or full automatic, and have replaced their H&K MP5s.
Teams from outside the USA competing in the SWAT Round-Up did so without their own duty guns; they use weapons borrowed from an American agency or the Round-Up pool of weapons foreign teams can use.
At the 2003 SWAT Round-Up, according to Polizeihauptmeister Gerald Kammerer of the Bavaria, Germany, State Police, their SEK (SWAT) team encountered difficulties obtaining firearms when email-made arrangements fell through. At the last minute, instead of using Glock 17s as it does in Germany, the team borrowed weapons and ammunition from the vendors at Heckler and Koch.
Borrowed were H&K handguns and the H&K G36—basically a Bundeswehr assault rifle with a scope. They were not what the German team was used to. (Largo, FL, PD has used an H&K G36 at the Round-Up). In doing a few practice-shooting runs, the G36 was damaged, but the H&K armorer fixed it just
15 minutes before the team was
At the 2004 Round-Up, according to Polizeioberkommissar Oliver Jansen of the Lower Saxony State Police, SEK, their team borrowed one AR 15 and several .40 Caliber Glocks from the Coral Springs (FL) Police Department. In Germany, they use Glock Model 17s, in 9mm, with 17 or 19 round magazines, while traditional officers use the H&K P2000, 9mm.
At the event, they also borrowed a Remington 820 shotgun, an H&K MP5 SD, and an Accuracy International counter sniper rifle, .308 caliber. Back in their German state they are now transitioning from the semiautomatic H&K PSG-1 to a new rifle—the consistently accurate, bolt action Unique Alpine TPG-1.
While Remington Model 700 Police is a popular choice by American teams for their sniper rifles, in 2002 the teams from the Northern Ireland Police Service used Accuracy International Rifle Model AWP in .308 Win caliber. Accuracy International rifles, built in Portsmouth, England, came to the forefront in developmental searches for a rifle to replace the British Army’s Enfield sniper rifles. The Swedish military and the Bundeswehr (Germany Army) have adopted versions, and special models are offered for police use.
In the hands of an expert, it was reportedly good for hitting a two-inch target at 600 yards. Northern Ireland Special Operations were changing over from Hensholt 10X42 scopes on their Accuracy International rifles to 10X42 scopes made by the small German company of Schmidt & Bender due to their finer range and windage adjustments. Their preferred brand of rifle ammunition was Lapua, Finnish ammunition. (Note: The police of Finland use Lapua and Sako ammunition).
The teams had practiced with Glock Models 17 and 19 handguns at home as well as while conducting peacekeeping missions in such places as Kosovo. For the competition, they borrowed Accuracy International rifles, Glock Model 17 and 19 pistols and Remington Model 870 shotguns—the same weapons they use in Northern Ireland—from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
Pasco County, FL
The sheriff’s office has Benelli shotguns, but in the past the lesser loads of the competition would not cycle the action. At this year’s Round-Up they used a 20 inch-barreled Mossberg, with fewer complications in using its thumb safety. One sniper used bolt action Remington 700 Police Sniper rifle with a 3X10 power Leupold scope and the other an Accuracy International AE with a 4.5X14 power Leupold scope.
Before going to the start line of the tower, they began with a cold bore scope setting for 100 yards and dialed their scopes up to 225 yards. Their ammunition preference was Winchester Supreme Competition, 168-rain, hollow point and boat-tailed. Pistols: Glock Model 23, .40 caliber. Holsters: Safariland, Retention Level II. Handgun ammunition: Seer frangible ammunition in 125 grains. Subguns: H&K MP5, 9mm.
Clearwater, FL Police
In the 1990s, Clearwater PD began with S&W Model 5906s 9mm, then transitioned to Double Action Only (DAO), a model of the S&W 5946—both are in the S&W 5900 series of handguns. Pulling the DAO system trigger both cocks the weapon’s hammer and releases it, firing the gun; there is no safety or decocking lever.
At last years SWAT Round-Up, the department and SWAT changed to the Walther P990, using 12-round .40 caliber S&W magazines, plus one round in the chamber when carried by SWAT. The trigger pull on the Walther P990 is DAO with the same trigger pull for every shot fired—a trigger pull weight-tested between eight and 10 pounds—designed to eliminate significant
differences between the first and additional shots.
Officer Kevin Insco said that from an instructor’s standpoint, it is not the weight of the trigger pull that matters; more important is its smoothness. The DA trigger of the Walther is smooth and not very heavy—that is, there is no detectable notch on trigger pull when firing. Insco considers benefits of the Walther P990 to be that it has a Polymer frame, similar to Glocks, making it light to carry, impervious to water, rust and environment and almost indestructible.
Walther’s treated slide and barrel has a Rockwell Cone of 68 on the hardness scale (a diamond is at 70 RC). Additionally, Insco claims the following are benefits of the Walther P990: the Walther P990 has three adjustable back straps/mainspring housings to adjust for the shooter’s hand size; its accuracy is very good for a factory gun out of the box; it has an ambi-magazine release, so it does not matter if the shooter is right or left handed; the sights are adjustable for windage and elevation, and; it is easy to disassemble.
For subguns, they switched from Colt 9mm subguns to H&K UMP, .40 caliber, the same caliber as the Walther P990 handguns. At the Round-Up, their subgun sighting system is what they use on the street: the EOTech HOLOgraphic weapons sight. The shotgun they used was a short-barreled Mossberg 590, 12-gauge with ghost ring sights.
New to the SWAT snipers were the ITT Night Quest day/night scopes used on their bolt action, .308 caliber, Remington 700 Standards with synthetic stocks, equipped with bipods. Their ITT Night Quest scope makes use of the standard range-estimating reticle (dots and cross hairs) favored by military branches: ¾-Minute Milliradiana Dot, the center-to-center distance between dots on the cross hairs. This Round-Up team used a break-open, 37mm gas gun at the Round-Up; the department also has multi-launcher SAGE gas guns.
SWAT Round-Up rules required frangible ammunition to be used in subgun and handgun firing events. Clearwater police SWAT used Speer Lawman RHT training ammunition (no lead at all, sintered copper-powder—made by heating without melting), .40 S&W, 125 grain Clean-Fire, and for their Remington rifles, they used Federal Gold Match Rifle Cartridges, .308 Win Match 168 grain Sierra MatchKing.
Pinellas Park, FL Police
Pinellas Park is a 99 officers agency; 28 of whom are on the SWAT team. They used semiautomatic Benelli M1 shotguns, H&K MP5 subguns, and Accuracy International AW Police .308 cal. sniper rifles, with Leupold M-4 4.5-14X40 mm scopes, upgraded from Remington 700 PSS rifles. Handguns varied as to officer preference for
According to Sergeant Anthony Russo, they consider the Accuracy International rifle to be tough and accurate, whereas some other sniper rifles might be super accurate but not durable, especially when they are banged around. This rifle had been recommended by Derrick Bartlett, the president of the American Sniper Association; the Pinellas Park Police Department snipers found this recommendation to be correct.
The longest Round-Up sniper shots are from the top of a rappel tower, 230-235 yards down range between two berms. It was like shooting down a valley; usually windage adjustments are not an issue. Rifle ammunition was Sierra MatchKing, boat tail, hollow point rounds for long range performance.
For the closer sniper shots in the Hostage Rescue event, their sniper used a Colt M4 Carbine with a Trijicon ACOG Scope. The department issues S&W Model 6906, but by departmental policy, if they are qualified to carry them, officers may purchase 9mm Glock Models 17 and 19, and Sig Sauer P226. The Sigs are considered durable, easy to use, and malfunction free. Handgun ammunition used in competition was 9mm frangible by Federal. The team’s gas launcher was a single shot 40 mm by Defense Technology, Def-Tec, with a rifled barrel, and ammunition by the same company. For street use they use a Def-Tec multi-launcher.
Lake Mary, FL Police
According to Sergeant Mike Biles, his 34-officer agency was the smallest to compete at the Round-Up. Their rifles were Remington 700s, .308 Win cal. with Leupold 4.5X14 scopes. The 168-grain Hornady and Winchester Match ammunition were used. The team used Remingtons because they were reasonably priced and shot well. Their pistols were the Glock Model 22 in .40 S&W caliber, using Winchester 135-grain frangible rounds. This department has used Glocks for ten years, reporting them to be light, forgiving, and accurate; breakdowns are rare.
For the subgun, they went with the H&K MP5 with a laser device. On the streets, 25 of their officers work uniform patrol and all are all qualified with these subguns. Most patrol officers carry them. The thinking is that subguns are safer to shoot in an urban environment with less impact than .223 rounds. Their shotgun was the venerable Remington Model 870-P pump.
Jim Weiss is a retired lieutenant from the Brook Park, OH, Police Department and a frequent contributor to LAW and ORDER. Mickey Davis is a Florida-based journalist.
Published in Tactical Response, Jan/Feb 2005
Rating : 10.0
Click to enlarge images.