When the NYPD, LAPD or PA State Patrol want a weapon built to their exact requirements, major manufacturers are standing in line to work with them. But when the Fort Collins, CO S.W.A.T. team wanted an entry AR built to their precise requirements, they had to go hunting.
Fortunately, Coloradans are good hunters, and when the Fort Collins S.W.A.T. team determined a need for new entry guns, Sgt. Dan Murphy, head of the department’s S.W.A.T. team, became the go-to guy on the project. “Basically, I went to SHOT show and stopped at all the AR manufacturer’s booths,” he said. After thoroughly examining them all and then sending the request out to solicit bids, he narrowed it down to three top choices.
It was at this point that Murphy first became acquainted with David Power at Sabre. “I think my answer on the solicitation bid was what caught Murphy’s attention,” says Power. In filling out his response, Power simply wrote a question mark in the blank—to let them know that they could provide Murphy and his team with exactly what they needed, not just what they already produced. “I was basically telling him, ‘tell us what you want and we can provide it.’”
The U.S. military is Sabre Defence’s largest client, purchasing the company’s barrels for the M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun and the M134 7.62mm mini-gun. By applying the expertise developed as a supplier to DoD, they have developed a line of rifles that have caught the attention of the LE community. One reason is the company’s willingness—and ability—to produce small runs of essentially custom designs to a small department’s precise specifications. “If I were talking to a fellow officer about Sabre, I would not hesitate to recommend them,” says Sgt. Murphy. “Sabre offers incredible customer service, quality guns and a willingness to work with a department to get it what it needs.”
Tailoring Production to the Operator
Guy Savage, owner of Sabre, bought the company around 2001 with the full intention of having it manufacture complete AR rifles. The Nashville, TN facility, which measures 45,000 square feet, provided a unique opportunity. With an infusion of $5.5 million for CNC machinery and manufacturing upgrades over the past three years, the mammoth manufacturing facility has the ability to build more than 80 percent of their ARs in-house.
“[Guy] Savage recognized that many AR manufacturers primarily assemble their rifles, with parts coming in from a large number of different subcontractors,” explained Power, director of sales and marketing. “But by building such a large percentage of the rifle in-house, Sabre is able to exert tighter quality control over its products.”
And the timing was prescient: Three months after the company was bought, America was pulled into the War on Terrorism by the attacks of Sept. 11th. The dramatic increase of military contracts gave a little more breathing room in developing its AR line. Instead of having to jump in headlong at the beginning, they were able to develop a solid infrastructure for building these rifles, which resulted in a more mature product once they went to market. “Our reputation is on the line because lives are on the line. We take this very seriously,” added Power.
The Benefit to Small Departments
A company that outsources many of its parts is often less capable of offering customized variants to smaller-scale buyers, since they have to buy their parts in bulk. While this is not an issue for a larger department that might be ordering 100 guns, for a specialized group such as a S.W.A.T. team or a smaller department who might be buying less than two dozen guns, this lack of flexibility can be an issue.
When One Size Does Not Fit All
“I didn’t want the cheapest gun, I wanted the best gun,” noted Sgt. Murphy. During one of their first conversations, Murphy asked Power from whom they purchased their barrels. Power told him, “You don’t understand; we make the barrels ourselves. We can make it exactly the way you want it.” It was at this point that Sabre really started to come to the head of the pack for Murphy.
“We don’t really do ‘custom work’ as it is normally known, but in situations like Murphy’s we can work with them to get them what they need,” Power explained. In cases like the Fort Collins solicitation and other LE teams that will be buying more than 10 guns, Sabre has the flexibility through its in-house manufacturing to make the product exactly the way the team needs it. “While the short-barrel spec by Murphy might have caused some issues with another maker, we were able to modify our production to build exactly what they needed,” added Power.
The Fort Collins solicitation called for an entry gun with a 10-1/2-inch barrel, a flat-top upper to mount co-witnessed flip-up iron sights and an electronic sight, and the ability to mount a vertical foregrip and a forend light. On the day of testing in Colorado, Power hand-delivered a test model rifle built to the exact specifications that Murphy had requested for his team. “David was there the whole day with us to answer questions and make sure that the rifle was just what we wanted. We were really impressed,” Murphy told me. “Although I am the guy that was in charge of finding a new rifle for the team, ultimately it was a team decision,” Murphy told me. Every S.W.A.T. member was there that day to run the gun through its paces, as well as the team’s two gunsmiths and its armorer to examine it. All involved felt the tolerances on the gun were great.
“We make all the parts, so we can fit them more tightly. We also anodize the parts of a gun together in the same process, so the finishes match,” Power noted. Everyone was getting what they wanted.
Fort Collins’ Specs
“We had initially wanted a synthetic forend with a light mounted on it, as well as some means of attaching a vertical foregrip. David listened to us and suggested that we go with an aluminum Picatinny rail forend. After discussing with us how we planned to use the rifles, he felt that the added strength, heat-shedding qualities and flexibility of the aluminum rail would be better for us,” Murphy told me.
When a smaller agency needs a very specific set of features for its operators, communication with the supplier is important. “A S.W.A.T. team has different needs than a patrol officer. Also, the type of rifle needed can also be affected by the geographic location of the department. Those located in large expanses of flatlands might need a rifle that has more long-range capabilities,” explains Power.
For example, and at the other end of the spectrum from the Fort Collins S.W.A.T. entry gun, Sabre has provided rifles to a large college campus LE agency. “They were looking for a multi-purpose gun, one that is equally as good in a quick-reaction force role as in a longer-range role,” Power told me. Just as with the Fort Collins S.W.A.T. weapon, Power’s knowledge of the product meshed with the flexibility of the company’s manufacturing capabilities to get them exactly the instrument required.
The Right Tools for the Mission
Sabre Defence also has a full line of off-the-shelf rifles ready to be purchased by individuals and departments that are set up and ready-to-go as tactical rifles. One of the gems of the line is the M4 Tactical rifle, set up to be a fully configured firearm, right out of the box. From the optional tactical Gill-Brake at the muzzle to the five-position SOCOM buttstock. For more information, please visit sabredefence.com.