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The sweet trigger of the new SIG556 rifle rolls smoothly back until it crisply releases. The gentle bump of .223 recoil is not enough to jar the optics off target, as 50 yards downrange a 55-grain bullet punches neatly through what would have been the silhouette target’s sternum.

Rolling off a new, multi-million-dollar production line in Exeter, New Hampshire, this latest version of a fine Swiss combat rifle has been re-engineered to accept M16/AR15 magazines, and is finding increasing acceptance with American law enforcement.

There are many good reasons why. Case One happened in New Hampshire; madman Carl Drega goes on a rampage where he uses a CAR-15 with a red dot scope to murder state troopers Scott Phillips and Les Lord, a local judge, a newspaper publisher and wound three lawmen. A well-directed .308 bullet from a Border Patrolman’s M14 rifle finally kills Drega. The incident convinces countless New England law enforcement agencies to augment or replace their shotguns with patrol rifles.

Case Two took place in Illinois. A violent motorist opens fire on a municipal officer, wounding him. Taking cover in his squad car, the injured cop bravely uses up three 9mm magazines returning fire with his Smith & Wesson pistol. However, clever use of his own vehicle for cover keeps the gunman out of reach of handgun fire. As soon as the first responding officer with a patrol rifle arrives, however, his .223 fire leaves the would-be cop-killer down in the street in a puddle of blood. The wounded officer will recover.

Rifle Power
I watched on the SIG SAUER Academy range as Walt Rauch picked up a handy short-barrel SIG556, flipped its ergonomic four-position selector switch to full auto and began shooting fist-size groups with short bursts. Expertly executing a speed reload, Rauch then held the trigger back for a 10-shot burst that took out the area of the heart. This is the sort of firepower that can quickly end deadly encounters.

I recall Case Three in California, a running gun battle that evolved from a botched bank robbery. Five thugs, armed with one shotgun and four military style rifles, triggered a nearly hour-long pursuit that blasted 33 patrol cars off the road and a Sheriff’s helicopter out of the sky, leaving eight lawmen wounded and a ninth dead, before the criminals were at last all killed or captured.

And Case Four in the same state, where two career criminals with illegal machineguns blasted through and through police cars, racking up a two-digit count of wounded victims before both succumbed to the fire of police long arms. Both of these incidents convinced many chiefs that the time for standard issue patrol rifles had come.

Or Case Five in North Carolina; pulled over by police, brothers Kevin and Timon Golphin decided to shoot their way out. One snatched the .40 caliber pistol of Highway Patrol Sergeant Ed Lowry, as the other grabbed his own SKS semi-auto rifle and opened fire on Lowry and Cumberland County Deputy David Hathcock. Both officers died from the massive rifle wounds. The brothers were captured, convicted and sentenced to death for the cop-killings. The tragic incident is a solemn reminder of why police need the devastating power of military caliber rifles on their side of the gunfight.

Rescue From A Distance
Normally associated with SWAT team use, precision rifle capability has proven itself to have a place at the first responder level as well. Back in the day, before the agency created the excellent SWAT teams they have now, the Illinois State Police made a point of fielding designated riflemen in each district. Their equipment was simple: Winchester bolt-action Model 70 rifles in .30-06 with 4x scopes; but more than once their accurate fire from the steady hands of specially selected road troopers brought deadly conflicts to resolution without harm to the innocent.

In Case Six, in Idaho, it was an ordinary “road dawg cop” and not a SWAT rifleman who brought the fleeing killer of two law enforcement officers to bay. The fugitive’s vehicle had outranged police pistol fire, but this stalwart lawman punched .30-06 rounds through the bodywork and into the body of the slayer. The policeman’s gun was a privately owned M1 Garand and the distance was roughly 80 yards.

Final Notes
I left the review of the SIG SAUER police rifles with a refreshed memory of the importance of this type of capability to law enforcement and to first responders as well as to designated special teams. The Blaser Tactical 2 and the somewhat more conventional SSG 3000 bolt action are both splendid precision rifles for public safety work.

The SIG556 series has much to recommend it as a field patrol rifle. Your department won’t regret ordering test and evaluation samples. SIG SAUER’s police rifles are high quality, cutting edge tools, designed to protect both the public and the police.

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