Since the invention of black-powder and the first person-carried firearm, advances in technology have led to a steady stream of new weapons and accessories. From single-shot muskets to today's modern carbines, the firearms industry has continued to develop, refine and advance armament, ammunition and training for the military, law enforcement and private citizenry.
The six-shot revolver (S&W Model 19) I first carried on duty as a deputy in 1982 is virtually unseen in the holsters of America's police officers. There are still officers carrying snub revolvers as back-up guns or while off duty, but even that role is being overtaken by modern semi-auto pistols.
The basic training I undertook in my first academy bears little to no resemblance to today's training programs. Firearms trainers are now incorporating into their training programs the science of how to properly train and what the body does under stress, and new training simulators improve officer's abilities and offer safe confrontation opportunities.
Let's take a look at some of the latest technological developments in guns, gear and training tools.
I met the new Glock representative for our area in the hallway of my police training bureau. In his possession, and concomitant with press releases of the day, was the .380 Glock 42. Since I carry a Glock 19 on a daily basis, this pistol felt comfortable in my hands. The mag and slide release were in a familiar place, the sights were excellent for a pistol of this size and the safe-action trigger felt good.
Last year I had the opportunity to lead a three-day training program for more than 60 teachers, administrators and other school personnel, certifying them to carry in their schools to help thwart armed killers attacking students and teachers. Many of these school personnel carried .380 pistols. Some had long and horrid triggers, poor sights and the functioning was questionable. The Glock 42 is a step above many, if not most, of these .380s. Later in January, while attending the SHOT Show Media Day at the range in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to shoot the G42. Head shots at 21 feet were easy to make and I even got a "good shooting" comment from one of the safety officers present.
Loaded with modern .380 ammo such as Cor-Bon's excellent 90 grain JHP, the G42 offers a very easy-to-conceal package for back-up or summer shorts-and-T-shirt carry. I'm partial to the NY trigger in Glocks and I would probably make the change to this trigger weight.
Another new firearm of note is the Colt LE901. The people at Colt are some of the nicest in the firearm business. From the front office to the machinists in the factory, my impression of Colt Defense was stellar when I toured their West Hartford, Conn., production facilities and spent time with them a couple of years ago. Not one to rest on their laurels, the folks at Colt have continued to advance the craft with recent developments in their 1911 line. The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) selected the Colt M45 Close Quarter Battle Pistols in 2012 for use with by Force Recon and MARSOC units.
I got the chance to shoot a new Colt design—which now resides in my armory—at the range during my visit. The Modular Carbine, or Colt LE901, is a M4-based .308 (7.62X51 NATO) carbine. I've owned other .308 AR-15-style carbines but this design is the best one I've shot to date. I was hitting an IPSC steel target off-hand at 100 yards with this carbine in rapid fire. But what's cool about the LE901 is that you can easily swap a 5.56 upper onto the 7.62 lower. By changing the recoil spring, weight, upper and installing an ingenious metal adapter block in the mag well, you can have two carbines for only the additional price of the 5.56 upper and adapter kit.
I now have a .308 Colt carbine set up with a Pride Fowler illuminated reticle variable scope for long-distance work and a .223 upper with an Aimpoint PRO (Patrol Rifle Optic) and white light for closer shooting. The time to switch between the two is less than five minutes. Both are great shooters and provide a less-expensive way to easily reach out to 300 yards with the .308 or deploy with the 5.56 carbine for perimeter or law enforcement entry work. The LE901 is just plain cool.
I think at this stage in firearms development, the advantages of red-dot, collimator or holographic sights has pretty much been proven. A number of years ago the USMC conducted tests pitting red dot sights against irons in qualification courses. The red dots were faster on target and just as accurate. It's my understanding that collimator sights have proven so successful in combat that Marines in boot camp are not even trained in the use of iron sights.
What has kept many a LEO from running a red-dot heretofore has been the price. With top-of-the-line red-dots running around $600, many cost-conscious coppers cannot afford to mount a modern reflex sight on their department-approved, personally owned rifle.
Enter the Redfield Counterstrike collimator sight. I first saw the Redfield sight at the 2013 SHOT Show but haven't had the opportunity to test one until now. I've mounted a Redfield (a division of Leupold & Stevens) Counterstrike sight on a Black Rain Ordnance 5.56 carbine that I'm testing. The Counterstrike, with a MSRP of around $179, comes complete with flip-up lens covers and an easy-to-install picatinny mount.
Powered by one CR123 battery, the Counterstrike will give up to 500 hours of reticle illumination on the brightest setting, according to the manufacturer. The 4-MOA dot is either red or green, based on user preference, and offers 11 different illumination levels, including IR for night vision. The Counterstrike also includes a red laser mounted under the red dot sight. All the controls are located on the left side of the Counterstrike and are easy to operate. The Counterstrike sight has made the latest carbine sighting technology affordable and available to the average officer on the street—and that's a great thing.
Another weapon accessory that's made technological leaps and bounds: the laser. When lasers first made their way onto LE firearms, I was not a fan, but a former SWAT commander I served under was enamored with the devices, which were about the size of a pack of cigarettes and would not hold a zero. This was prior to the introduction of SureFire's excellent forearm lights designed for H&K MP-5s. The result of these older laser designs, absent of white light to illuminate a target, was a red dot floating around in a dark environment. On the range or in a well-lit environment, they were hard to see and use. Suffice it to say that once this commander was transferred off of SWAT, we removed the lasers and purchased new MP-5s with integral white lights.
With that background, I've been dubious of new laser designs, but with the advancement of laser tech, I've changed my mind—and Viridian Green products have had the most impact.
Last year Viridian Green provided an X5L-RS laser with remote pressure switch for a carbine, the C5L laser system for my Glock 19 and their TacLoc holster. The X5L-RS carbine system was the first I played with while conducting the low-light portion of a carbine instructor program I was instructing. The carbine system includes a 190-lumen white light with a green laser. The rotary switch at the back of the sight allows the user to go from white light only, to laser only, pulsing laser, or white light and laser combo. I set the X5L to white light and pulsing laser. The result: A quick zero and I was able to not only easily illuminate my target but also to accurately fire head shots on the move in low light.
The TacLoc holster and pistol mounted C5L are a great combo. Many critics of weapon-mounted lights point out the fact that officers may not turn the lights on in a stressful situation. The TacLoc and C5L solve that. When the C5L is properly actuated, the 100-lumen white light/green laser combo turns on when you draw from the holster. An officer can elect to have the white light or laser only or both turn on automatically. Don't want it? Just press the light/laser switch and it turns off. The C5L also includes what Viridian describes as Radiance technology. What this means is that the flashlight beam is spread out over a wider area versus an intensely focused corona.
The bottom line: Viridian Green's advanced designs illuminate the night and make a suspect green—but not with envy!
From Next Level Training (NLT), the SIRT pistol is a non-firing training device that helps shooters and instructors train and diagnose the fundamentals of shooting as well as allowing advanced training to be safely conducted off the range. The SIRT pistol replicates a common duty pistol used in police work today. Available in single or dual laser, it has an auto resetting trigger that allows multiple shots. Start the trigger press and a "take-up" red laser illuminates the target focused on. As the trigger is pressed, a laser shows shot placement and follow-through. The Pro Model has a red and green laser that can be set up by the user to show red as the trigger is pressed and green as the shot is broken, or vice versa.
Using water-filled glass containers as targets, you can conduct indoor training that's safe and non-destructive to the environment. When the glass container is targeted, it illuminates, indicating the hit. NLT has also developed a bolt for AR carbines as well as a resetting trigger bar that allows the same technology to be used in your patrol rifle. There are a variety of SIRT pistols available and they are truly innovative products.
Dry fire is one of the greatest tools a shooter can use to develop their skills. The LaserLyte System takes dry fire to a new level. With the laser target and the LT-PRO, I was able to maintain my pistol skills while off on disability following knee surgery. The LaserLyte system I had the opportunity to train with consisted of the Laser Target and the LT-PRO, which installed in the muzzle of my 9 mm Glock 19. Put simply, the LT-PRO "fires" a laser shot when it hears the striker or firing pin actuated.
Combining the LaserLyte system and a shot timer, I worked on my draw stroke from the holster. If the laser shot impacts anywhere on the face of the five-inch circular target screen, a red light indicates the hit. Good out to 50 yards, according to LaserLyte, the red lights can be turned off or the target "reset" by simply striking the reset screen on the face of the Laser Target.
Since my work with the LaserLyte system, the company has introduced a blue polymer Trigger Tyme Pistol, with good sights and resetting trigger, which can be used with the LT-PRO laser. This increases safety because it's a non-gun trainer and does not require that the slide of your actual duty pistol be reciprocated to reset the striker or hammer for each shot. Several new targets are available, including Training Tyme Targets, which have a variable timer (three to seven seconds) indicating when the target should be shot. The target beeps to indicate a hit.
Advancing Our Craft
To paraphrase from the old ad campaign for ladies' cigarettes, "We've come a long way, baby!" New designs in firearms, ammunition and training tools have advanced the craft and improved officer safety. In this column we've only touched the surface. Stayed tuned to Law Officer, where we will feature new and innovative designs to help you do your job and help save your bacon on the street. Technology to help you stop a deadly threat against you—that's the most important kind.
Glock 42 http://us.glock.com/
Colt LE901 www.colt.com/ColtLawEnforcement/Products/ColtModularCarbine.aspx
Viridian Green www.viridiangreenlaser.com/
Redfield Counterstrike www.redfield.com/counterstrike/
SIRT Pistol http://nextleveltraining.com/