Blue Line

Selling the Carbine

Patrol carbines seem a logical progression in use of force options for street officers and yet appear to ignite more controversy than any other single acquisition in decades. Worse, it is not just the traditional police haters who accuse services of becoming more militarized; the main body of quiet law enforcement supporters are questioning the need for this expensive purchase.

December 22, 2016  By Dave Brown

Follow social media and read comments on mainstream news sites and you will soon see that many police agencies are doing a terrible job of selling the need for patrol carbines to the public.
You can’t just ignore this. It’s one public relations battle you cannot afford to lose because it’s not your usual anti-police fringe or angry motorist who just got a speeding ticket; these are your traditionally silent majority of law-abiding citizens. Ignore their concerns now and you chip away at the backbone of your taxpayer support.

If you don’t listen to your citizens or find innovative ways to address their concerns and sell them on the need, you are losing a battle for the hearts and minds of the general public that you didn’t even know you were fighting.

A public relations plan
Budgets are approved, racks are installed, carbines are on order and training has been scheduled – but do you have a solid plan in place to sell the idea to the public? In the ancient book The Art of War Sun Tzu wrote that every battle is won before it is fought. With good planning, a consistent message and getting the media on board, this is one victory you can achieve before it even becomes a battle.

Explain the high cost
These are not “assault rifles” or military weapons. They have no full-auto capability. They may look like military issue and are made to the same standard, for the simple reason that when public and officer safety is on the line, they MUST work. They are made to military quality standards because they need to instantly perform with 100 per cent reliability in any condition.

There are hundreds of cheaper-grade weapons on the market but police firearms cannot come from companies who cobble together various parts from unknown suppliers. They need to rely on designs that have been tested and proven in combat. Citizens’ lives are on the line.

Proper components, made to military standards and by reputable manufacturers, don’t just increase reliability; they also increase the useful service life. Well-made patrol carbines from companies such as Colt Canada and Daniel Defense use cold hammer forged barrels, which are a very expensive but also very precise way to make them accurate and durable.

Colt Canada rifles are not just made to U.S. military specifications, they also meet the much higher NATO standard. Like everything else in life, this quality costs money. Lives are on the line.

Explain the advantages
The irony is that the more force options police have at their disposal, the less need there will be to use them. If officers can respond with overwhelming force before a single shot has been fired, it’s less likely that they will have to fire that shot. Evan back in the 5th Century BC, Tzu realized that every battle is won before it is fought. That holds true today; the best gunfight in the world is the one that never happens in the first place.

Should shots be fired, stop the battle as soon as possible. The longer the firefight, the greater the hazard to citizens, potential victims, law enforcement officers and innocent bystanders.

Convince your allies
If you don’t do a good job of stating your case, you risk distancing yourself from the vast majority of supportive citizens; the ones who have always quietly paid the bills and supported law enforcement but don’t understand why you need a “military” weapon.

They are the silent majority; the ones who never write letters to the editor, post negative comments on Facebook or call talk radio shows. We’re not talking about the keyboard warriors who hate the police because they received a couple of well-deserved traffic tickets. You are risking losing their support because they just don’t see the need like you do. You have a serious problem here.

You can’t disregard these concerns. It may be easy to ignore them or just shrug and say that patrol carbines will help get more officers safely home to their families at the end of every shift. That is true, but they will also help get the citizens you are paid to protect safely home to their families too. Sell them on this. Patrol carbines are a unique tool that will not be used often – but when needed, nothing else will do. Explain the advantages

  • Focus on public safety: We all hope that patrol carbines will rarely need to be deployed but they are a safer and more accurate tool which can be accurately fired at a much greater distance than any other weapon agencies now have.
  • Ballistics tests, including numerous studies by the FBI and our own Blue Line comparisons, have shown that a carbine bullet is less likely to over-penetrate a target, thus reducing the hazard to other officers or citizens in an area.
  • Move carbines from a want list to a need list: Handguns are a seven-meter defensive weapon. Shotguns are a 20-meter defensive weapon. Beyond those ranges, accuracy drops dramatically when used in situations where people are trying to kill you. The risk to both officers and bystanders increases exponentially with distance. You can’t bring a seven-meter weapon to a 100-meter gunfight. Agencies can sell patrol carbines as tools and skills that should be in place before they are needed. Sell on the facts. Yes, every street officer will eventually be trained on them. Yes, they will rarely be deployed. Who doesn’t like the movie Top Gun? A fighter pilot sits on a parachute for years and years and no one says anything, but the moment it is needed, it no longer becomes a nice to have but a need to have. At that moment, nothing else will do.
  • Stop pushing buttons: Avoid words on which an untrained public will focus. Patrol carbines are not a military weapon – they are a military-grade weapon. They are not an assault rifle, military rifle or machine gun. Patrol carbines are designed exclusively to save lives. Do not use the term assault rifle. They are not used for assault – they are used to save lives. The faster you stop an active shooter, the more lives you will save.
  • Police patrol carbines do not have the full-auto capability of military weapon but they are made to the same high standard and by the same companies as the world’s best military rifles because the basic design is a proven platform.
  • They have a long history of protecting the lives of soldiers in combat. In fact, for the past two decades, the US military has initiated several programs designed to search for a better combat rifle. Every time, they concluded that there is little to improve upon a design originally conceived by Eugene Stoner back in the 1960s.
  • The more trained officers and the more patrol carbines available, the less likely they will be used.
  • Emphasize the human factor: Always stress that every citizen, including police officers, deserve to go home to their families every night. The worst feeling in the world must be knowing a fellow officer or citizen has been shot and is laying dying on the street, and no one can get to them because you don’t have the capability to defend yourself against aimed rifle fire.

Dave Brown is Blue Line Magazine’s Firearms Editor and staff writer. He is a tactical firearms trainer and consultant. He can be reached at

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