This week saw a tragic incident in San Bernardino, California in which two individuals, currently under investigation by the FBI as potential terrorists, left 14 dead at a holiday party for county employees. Within minutes, a huge law enforcement presence mustered and just two hours later, the suspects, armed with AR-15s and pipe bombs were engaged in a fierce firefight with peace officers that halted the continuing threat.
Moreover, it was hard not to notice all the Ruger Mini-14s in use.
"San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015 during an active shooter situation following a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center." Image by Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Why rifles for law enforcement officers?
Most officers are armed with a variety of less-than-lethal weapons and a handgun to which they train to engage a target out to 25 meters. When confronting a suspect armed with a rifle or shotgun or barricaded in a position the officer is over-matched. A good example of this scenario is the 1997 North Hollywood Shootout where two suspects armed with assault rifles held nearly 300 handgun-armed law enforcement officers at bay for 44 minutes. The use of a rifle by the officer creates a tactical advantage and prevents this scenario.
With the wide variances between patrol rifles/carbines, long range precision rifles and hybrid systems this training needs to be very specific. Therefore, training is spread across many courses and instructors to get the widest knowledge base to hone your skills.
Patrol rifle training
Basic patrol rifle courses last for a minimum of 3 days, which include some 24 hours of classroom and live-fire range instruction. These courses include familiarization training, weapons transition to and from handguns, short-range marksmanship; close quarter battle drills, firing at multiple targets, shooting positions and safety. These classes will typically train an officer to use his high capacity pistol caliber (9mm-45ACP) or carbine caliber (.223/5.56mm) rifle out to 100 meters. Again, this is the basics, with many classes moving well past this into the precision rifle concept.
Why the Ruger
In the US the Mini-14GB was marked "For Government and Law Enforcement Use Only" on both the receiver and the magazines (20-round standard rather than the flush fit 10-rounders). Sales were enough to police and sheriff's departments to keep the gun in Ruger's LE line for several years.
State conservation officers, often having to confront armed poachers, frequently did do with a GB at their side. Corrections agencies, especially large state agencies, thought the GB was perfect for prison response teams, horse patrols, and tower guards.
Further, these guns got away from the M16 black rifle look, which was important for many towns concerned with PR issues. A Mini-14, even if it could mount a bayonet, just looked a whole lot more like Andy Griffith than Judge Dredd. Moreover, it gave the opportunity to use the gun for ceremonial details as a nice sparkly bit of chrome on the end really snazzed up the rifle.
And the San Bernardino Sheriff's department had its Ruger game on point.
"Law enforcement officers search a neighborhood for the suspects of a mass shooting Dec. 2, 2015 in San Bernardino." Note the aftermarket M4 style stock and the stainless finish. Image via KQED
Image via CNN
"San Bernardino police officers in SWAT gear secured the scene at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif., on Wednesday." Note two deputies with traditional composite-stocked Mini's while the detective in the polo has a folding stock GB or AC556 with wooden furniture. Note the prevalence of the 20-round stainless mags. Image by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times Via DallasNews.com
Two more Minis and a Remmy 870P SBS, the .223's range is ideal for a standoff situation like this, while the 870, while ideal for moving down a hallway, maybe not so much. "Dramatic footage shows police storming Inland Regional Center." Image via LA Times
It is not just in California, following the terror attacks this year in Paris, Americans were quick to notice the French National Police respond with their well-used and well-maintained 1970s-era Mousqueton AMD AC-556 (select-fire Mini-14) rifles. These guns are readily identifiable.
Further, in the days and weeks after the end of the siege of the Bataclan Theater, the New York Police Department's new 500-member counter terrorism battalion has been seen packing, wait for it, Mini-14s.
It seems in many ways, the old Ruger is more and more becoming the homeland rifle.