In the right hands, the correct gear properly employed will always yield the best results.
During a recent conversation with a prominent North American equipment distributor, I was reminded of the difficulties faced by companies distributing high-quality equipment and ammunition to public service agencies. Chief among those difficulties are organizations spending money on equipment without a significant trial period to ensure the gear solves a known problem. While organizations spending money should be a good problem for distributors to have, there is always a danger down the road with buyer's remorse due to the expense and the equipment not living up to expectations. Not an ideal situation for a distributor seeking to maintain healthy long-term relationships with their clients.
We get a lot of questions about gear, and that's understandable, it's why we exist. What we find during the subsequent conversation that follows is a predictable pattern - people talking about the equipment used by such and such a unit, and, if it's good enough for them, it should be fine for everyone else. This assumption isn't always the case. For different reasons, police services and civilian shooters won't always benefit from trying to copy equipment loadouts used by Special Operations units.
Reason number one: Liability
One reason suggested by our distributor friend was liability. He proffered that domestic police operations contain different accountability constraints than those faced by military units operating in foreign lands. He suggested that gear bought for the battlefield could cause liability issues for police during a post-incident investigation. The question was raised on whether or not that optic/ammunition/trigger mechanism (or other equipment) have been used by a tactical team that has not performed a proper trial on its reliability or effects? Not every public service agency has the resources to test a seeming infinite variety of gear.
I responded that the issue of liability can never be completely contained as the combination of scenario, training, equipment and judgement applied during an incident lends itself to intense scrutiny after the fact. Such scrutiny can place equipment and training square in the eyes of the courts. I also countered the suggestion that our troops were held to a much lower accountability threshold than domestic police. After all, in Canada, our troops can be used in a domestic operations capacity unlike our friends south of the border. Given our experience overseas and at home, we created the consulting branch of our business specifically to address issues surround equipment and training to reduce liability to the greatest extent possible.
Reason number two: Looks like a duck, but doesn't swim
The equipment you've heard of and read about online might not be the same thing used by our Special Operations forces. Of course, the sundry items will be the same, you can obtain phone cases or holsters used by our elite troops but let's talk guns. If you've heard that a particular brand and model of a gas-operated rifle is now being used by our National Mission Unit and you went out and bought the same one, you might discover that it doesn't work any better than another brand's similar model. You could be forgiven for thinking that the NMU guys didn't perform a rigorous trial or that you bought a model made on a Friday afternoon.
There will be significant differences between these two guns. You can be sure that the rifle used by NMU went through a thorough trial and the manufacturer was involved at every step in the process. Tweaks would have been made to the weapon, and significant components replaced by perhaps hand made alternatives to provide the best possible technical outcomes. The armorers working on those weapons are also the best in their field. To use a car analogy, let's say you watched a Dodge Charger win a local stock car race. You already suspect there is not much that is actually "stock" about that car. If you were to go an buy one at a dealership, it wouldn't perform close to what you saw on the racetrack without undergoing significant technical work by highly skilled race car mechanics. None of this is to say you shouldn't buy the same gun (or car), but you should have your eyes open and consider that you are unlikely to have the same brand and model of rifle perform at the same level as the ones carried by our nation's best.
Reason number three: Tradecraft
Has anyone on your team spent thousands of hours shooting, testing and instructing others how to do so? World-class snipers have, and shooting isn't the only skill set for them to stay on top of. The average weekend recreational hunter doesn't have to worry (hopefully!) about maintaining high-consequence skills such as full equipment free fall parachute insertions, how to call for air support or how to transmit essential battlefield data using highly technical communications equipment. Using modern instructional methods, we've taken sniper recruits who have never fired a long gun and turned them into very highly skilled shooters while they've developed other elements related to their tradecraft.
We've spent years training our Special Operations snipers and police tactical teams to know what is required learning and what isn't. We know that hunters and police services don't have unlimited training days, rosters are short and training funds are often limited. However, obtaining a high degree of competency is still possible. Nothing is more satisfying to us than delivering high-impact training to a motivated audience, and we're incredibly fortunate to do that for a living.
Shooting and tactical equipment are always evolving, and the companies that provide the gear have marketing teams trying to convince organizations that they should use their products. Assessing marketing claims can be difficult, and every effort should be made to ensure that new equipment is tested to determine its effectiveness as well as its limitations. Equipment and training tend to go hand in hand and rolling out new gear may necessitate a training session to ensure proper use, and of course, to reduce liability concerns.
As we've discussed, mimicking another organization's loadout does not necessarily mean that equipment deficiencies are solved. We know and appreciate how tricky it can be to balance operational requirements and equipment within a budget. Having a detailed process and reaching out for information can minimize the time it takes to carry the correct gear for the job, and possibly limit liability along the way. Open Air Accuracy exists to provide our public service agencies with equipment, information, and training so they can perform their work safely and effectively.
Be safe out there.
A group of former National Mission Unit snipers who believe there is a better way to do things.