Shortly after the infamous 1997 LA Bank Robbery, departments all over the country were scrambling to do what they should have already done—arm their officers with rifles. At that time there wasn’t really even a choice in rifle, only which variant and where to get it. Cost was less of an issue, as I recall department cost was around $600 for a fully equipped M16A2 rifle. Other than magazines, that was about it—in fact, back then a sling actually came with the rifle.
The contemporary process when choosing weapons, be they for SWAT team or patrol, is a whole other story. Do you go with an automatic or semi? How about piston-driven or gas-impingement? Flip-up sights or fixed? Even more critical today is the caliber, a choice that did not really exist 15 years ago. Options such as the 6.8 SPC and some of the calibers on the horizon offer significant benefits to many departments.
Then you get into the accessory market and the choices multiply exponentially. For many departments this is a decision that will stick for many years, and these questions are critical. Unlike the gun enthusiast, a department’s decision is long term and it is common for departments to not make changes for many years once the decision is made. That being the case, it is critical that the purchase be a good one.
What is best for you or your department depends on your area of operation, the size of your PD, and more importantly the size of your budget. For some it is purely money, for others they truly want the best they can get.