Solomon said: There is nothing new under the sun. All of the world is a circle and everything eventually comes back around. Such is the case with rifles for law enforcement officers.
The mainstay of law enforcement armories in the 1950s and 1960s, the rifle fell into general disuse in favor of the 12 gauge shotgun once the urbanization of America began in earnest. The shotgun is an excellent weapon within its given envelope of viability. However, it occupies a special niche that is not always applicable to the particular task at hand. While capable of firing a variety of different types of shells, the shotgun is a short range weapon that is incapable of penetrating body armor. Rifles have begun to make a strong resurgence in use during the last decade due to increased ballistic efficiency, increased range, and increased firepower.
Several instances pointed out that law enforcement as a whole was gravely unprepared for new and emerging threats. Of particular note is the infamous North Hollywood shootout where the LAPD was confronted by two rifle armed suspects who were wearing high threat level body armor.
As most are aware there were numerous officers wounded in the ensuing gun battle, which saw the patrol officers clearly outmatched in terms of both ballistic capabilities and firepower. The nightmare did not end until one offender reportedly took his own life and a second was engaged and ultimately killed by arriving SWAT team members, all of whom were armed with rifles.
Immediately thereafter, the LAPD began to implement a patrol rifle program using M16 rifles that were given to the city by the military. Prior to that date, patrol officers had no, or very limited, access to rifle caliber weapons. That military surplus program is still in effect and departments across the country have benefited greatly from it. However, the total number of weapons that can be obtained from the military is limited being that it is based upon a percentage of a departments’ size.
This leaves some departments quite short in equipping their officers with patrol rifles. Coupling this shortfall with a more than year long wait for the requested weapons has lead many departments to seek other alternatives. These alternatives can take the form of either departmentally purchased weapons or departmentally approved, personally owned rifles. Most departments that take the latter option either specify or strictly limit which weapons an officer can purchase and use while on duty.
The M16 series weapons platform has become the overwhelming choice for law enforcement agencies that have rifle programs. Born and tempered in Vietnam, the M16 was once a controversial weapons system. Today, however, the M16 series has been developed and refined to the point that it is now the predominate assault weapon in the world. In its semiautomatic form it has become the leading force in law enforcement rifles.
Although the semiautomatic form of the M16 is known generically as the AR15, that designation is actually a specific company’s model designation for its version of this weapon. No matter what it is called, the M16 platform is issued or authorized by a wide number of law enforcement agencies. These agencies have responsibilities that vary from patrolling our nations’ highways to city and county law enforcement departments to those agencies that are tasked with enforcement of game laws in our fields and forests. No matter what the job, the M16 platform has proven itself to be more than up to the task.
While there are a significant number of companies who manufacture M16 pattern rifles, there are a few who stand head and shoulders above the rest. One of those is Rock River Arms.Rock River Arms
, located in Colona, IL, turns out some of the best AR15 pattern rifles available today. Rock River has numerous models of these rifles in configurations running from the standard A2 models featuring a 20-inch barrel and fixed stock, to the DEA carbine that features a 14.5-inch barrel and collapsible stock.
Rock River Arms, known as RRA, was one of a select number of companies that won the prestigious Drug Enforcement Administration contract to provide weapons not only to that agency but also to other federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and US Marshals via piggyback contracts. Known as the Government Carbine, the weapon specified for that contract features a flat top upper receiver and six position collapsible stock along with a 14.5-inch, chrome lined, Wilson barrel with a 1:9 twist along with a host of other accessories. Truly the federal law enforcement agencies in our government are getting a superior weapon for our tax dollars.
While the DEA 14.5-inch Carbine and its 16-inch barreled Government Model twin are excellent in every regard, they are also prohibitively expensive for an individual officer who is allowed to purchase his own departmentally approved personally owned weapon for use on patrol.
One reason for the Government Model’s cost is that it comes equipped from the factory with an EOTech 552 holographic optic mounted on the flat top upper along with a set of flip up rear sights. Besides the sighting systems the Government Model is sold with a SureFire M73 rail system in place of the forward hand guards and a SureFire Model 951 tactical light affixed to that rail. Add to all of this a contract specified Eagle Industries Discreet Rifle case along with a generous supply of spare magazines and you have a weapon that retails for well over $2000.
Rock River Arms realized that not everyone was going to be able to afford the Government Model, nor does the Government Model fit every need. As such they manufacture several variants that leave all of the mechanical attributes of the weapon in place but delete the accessories that are specified by the DEA. One of those weapons is their Entry Tactical Model.
The Entry Tactical Model very closely approximates the mechanicals of the Government Model but is sold without all of the very worthy but none-the-less still pricey accessories. This rifle features a chrome moly lined, 1:9 twist ratio 16-inch Wilson barrel along with a flat top upper receiver and six position collapsible stock.
In place of the flip up iron sights on the Government Model there is what the RRA terms as a “detachable tactical carry handle.” This comes complete with an integral rear sight and a mounting platform for optics, which is set just in front of that sight. This is a particularly slick set up for those that would choose to mount a red dot optic such as an Aimpoint, but that want to avoid going to the further cost of additional back-up sights and extraneous mounting systems that drive up the overall cost of the weapon.
Overall, the Entry Tactical Model offers most of the Government Model Carbines’ performance at less than half of the initial price.
The Entry Tactical Model also offers a noteworthy, optional, fixed “entry” stock. Body armor that is common to officers and soldiers alike extends the length of pull of some weapons to an almost untenable measure when using a fixed “A2” style stock. This extended length of pull makes some users less than confident in their ability to quickly get hits on a target.
The Entry Tactical Model optional entry stock uses a reduced dimension fixed butt stock that makes shouldering when wearing body armor a joy. Gone is the long reach of the A2 replaced with all the benefits of the collapsible stock with the added bonus of a better cheek weld.
Using the RRA Entry Tactical Model during simulated building searches was easy and comfortable as the reduced overall length of the weapon saw the operators able to maneuver themselves in and out of tight spaces with aplomb. Likewise, officers saw a great benefit when storing the weapon in a patrol car where a weapon with more overall length greatly hinders extraction during times of crisis.
Tested in this configuration, the Entry Tactical Model arrived from Rock River Arms as a nearly custom built firearm. Over 25 different options are available from Rock River Arms to allow an officer to customize the weapon to their liking straight from the factory. Running the gamut from alternative fore ends to different style pistol grips, the options combine to make this a rifle that could be used for anything from patrol to SWAT and anything in between, straight from the box. Although some of the options add significant cost to the overall price they are all quoted at or below what they would retail for on the open market.
The weapon as tested came with a chrome lined Wilson 16-inch barrel in what Rock River terms as the R-4 barrel profile capped off with the very efficient A2 style flash suppressor. The R-4 profile is much akin to the military’s M4 barrel as it features a stepped area at approximately the 12-inch mark. On the M4 this is used to mount accessories such as the M203 grenade launcher.
On the Entry Tactical it serves the same purpose as there are now items such as less lethal launchers that affix in a similar manner to the M203. The test gun was also equipped with short fixed Entry stock and the detachable tactical carry handle. As shipped the weapon includes a 30 round magazine and carry strap type sling.
Functioning of the weapon was flawless, digesting over 3000 rounds with only routine cleaning. While the weapon was tested only to 50 yards, the limit of the department’s gun range, it turned in impressive results during the testing for accuracy. Rock River makes the claim of each weapon being about to shoot one inch groups at one hundred yards (1 MOA) and there is no reason to disbelieve that assertion.
Long time M16/M4 shooting police officers all felt that the Rock River Entry Tactical was an extremely good option for uniformed patrol, SWAT, or other law enforcement use. The officers particularly like the Hogue pistol grip and the Star selector switch that is standard on this model. All felt that the Star selector in particular was an improvement upon the original design and felt that it offered a better gripping surface and improved their ability to use the safety/selector system. Since the M16 platform is widely recognized as one of the most ergonomic weapons in existence, any improvement on the original design is noteworthy.
The officers also favored the detachable tactical carry handle. As seen in the accompanying photographs the sight allows for an officer to co-witness a red dot or other optic with the iron sight. The carry handle is rugged and stays affixed to the carbine without issue.
As the rear sight is integral to the carry handle there is little risk that it will be impacted and damaged or knocked out of alignment. So well thought out is the detachable tactical carry handle that it also includes a spare battery compartment on the right side of the handle that is compatible with the batteries currently in use by one of the most popular red dot optics on the market, Aimpoint.
An older model Aimpoint 5000 red dot optic was mounted on the carry handle for this test and performed flawlessly. Although this is an older Aimpoint model, it is still viable as it has, intrinsic to its basic design, the same overall qualities that have now found their way into the standard close quarter optic used by the US Army.
In combination with the base weapon that Rock River Arms provided for this test, SureFire sent their M73 Picatinny rail system. This rail system is one of the best on the market as it locks up easily and securely while at the same time being offered at a very attractive price. The M73 provides for an officer to have the ability to mount lights, lasers, and optics on all four sides of the fore end. Taking no more than ten minutes to install, the M73 fits well with the intended mission of the firearm so much so that the US DEA contract specifies this rail system.
Along with the rail system, SureFire also sent along their Model 951XM07 Millennium Universal Weapon light. The 951XM07 is a 6-volt, 65 lumen light that is equipped with SureFire’s excellent XM switch. The XM switch is actually two switches combined onto one light. The XM offers the ability for the operator to activate the light using either a constant on button or by using a remote pressure pad affixed somewhere on the weapon at the operator’s discretion.
By using the rail and the 951XM it is easy to see why the DEA contract would again specify these products. Both are first rate and as would be expected from SureFire, are rugged. Both of the SureFire products greatly added to the Rock River’s usefulness in low light, a place where many officers will find themselves using this weapon.
Overall, the officers involved in this test found that the Entry Tactical was a nearly perfect rifle for those officers who want and need a semiautomatic M16 variant for duty purposes and with a base price 50% less than the government model. The mechanical accuracy and reliability, combined with the options that can be specified, make the Rock River Arms Entry Tactical one of the best buys currently available.Scott Oldham is a Supervisory Sergeant with the Bloomington Indiana Police Department where he serves in the Operations Division as well as being one of the Team Leaders for the departments Tactical Unit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.