In a dusty arroyo in the high, western scrublands, young men with pistols low on their legs and carbines in their hands prepared to find out who among them were the best. This was not a reenactment of an 1800’s Dodge City gunfight, but the 2008 U.S. National S.W.A.T. Championships at the Highlands Law Enforcement Training Center near Littleton, CO. The young men were S.W.A.T. cops from all over the U.S. and from foreign countries including Canada, Portugal and the Czech Republic. They were there to test their team organization, weapons skills and fitness while negotiating physically demanding courses of fire.

dsc09118.gifThe USNSC (U.S. National S.W.A.T. Championships) is on its way to becoming the premier international S.W.A.T. competition in North America. This year it hosted 30 teams, three times the number from the 2007 inaugural event. USNSC’s V.P., Rick Porter, used his three decades of LE and S.W.A.T. experience to design this year’s events. His aim was fully to challenge the participants’ tactical skills while performing competitive, real-world evolutions that an officer could face during a call out. Common elements such as extreme physical exertion, multiple weapons transitions, and tactical reloading all while in full tactical gear were part of all the timed challenges. The eight head-to-head, live-fire events included:

Avon Barricaded Gunman: A S.W.A.T. team’s worst nightmare, an enclosed structure that needs to be rapidly cleared. A team in full-face respirators has to force a dynamic entry with flash-bangs, clear an entire structure to engage targets with pistols and carbines while locating a suspect and then cuff and lug the fully articulated heavy dummy through the house and across the finish line.

Bus Assault: Officers assault a bus, taking out specific, half-hidden targets without hitting hostages on-board. Started by sniper shots, the remainder of the team sprints to the bus to place ladders and engage targets through windows and from the door. Moving deeper in the bus, more targets must be engaged, followed by the rescue and retrieval of dummy hostages that have to be returned to the starting line.

Officer Rescue: The team has to negotiate a series of tough obstacles such as vertical ladders, a tunnel, walls and then engage targets with their carbines to secure a wounded officer on a nylon stretcher and then race back to the finish line.

MGM’s Multi Gun Shootout: Team members engage small, reactive targets with pistol, rifle, carbine and shotgun after running and clearing obstacles. Each timed event allows one round per target at different distances. Errors such as dropped gear, cracking the seal on your respirator or breaking cover cost points.

Counter-Sniper Challenge: Counter-snipers are seldom faced with targets at a known distance on a flat plane. Here, long rifles engage multiple targets at various distances and angles from various positions. They had to manage time and estimate ranges distances to adjust their rifles.

Carbine Crunch: From the mind of a devious bastard, teams maneuvered through obstacles and raced to a 10-foot-high wall that they have to figure out how to place five shooters around and over. Some teams used one officer and others used two to provide the top shooter a solid base.

Glock’s Pistol Relay: Each team lugged a 110-pound punching bag, one at a time, from the back of the range to the shooting line, passing it to a waiting teammate and then engaging specific targets with a Glock. Each member was all in full kit and wearing a respirator! The relay part comes in because the heavy, unwieldy punching bag is lugged back to the back of the range to be passed to the next officer who is to shoot, who then goes forward to give it to the officer engaging the steel targets. Stiff penalty points are assessed for mishandling of the bag.

Shield Assault: Participants ran with shields for cover, engaged multiple targets with their sidearms. Many styles of shield use were seen. Points were deducted for failure of using the shield for sufficient cover while engaging targets. Extra points were awarded to for steel-face revolutions.

Competitors And Comrades

The range was filled with teams, some of them with banners and signs proclaiming their departments and locations. Not every team came from a department that could afford the cost of the event. Simi Valley’s superb team held S.W.A.T. exhibitions for their community that repaid them by having some of the local restaurants donate their proceeds for one day. Teams were noted throughout the competition to demonstrate spontaneous support for opposite teams with cheers for all who crossed the finish line. Each event of the competition saw the participants looking to improve their standings or hold on to their gains. However, when it was over the teams crowded around and talked of the competition and of course operator talk. Everybody was a brother; warriors with a common heart. Visit

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In a dusty arroyo in the high, western scrublands, young men with pistols low…