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SWAT Magazine April 1986 EXTREME COLD WEATHER TESTING Treacherous Weather, Dangerous Killers And Lonely Roads

Dictate That Alaska State Troopers Be Equipped With The Finest Cold Weather Rifles Available By Jeffery Hall

Nationwide, law enforcement agencies are encountering criminals armed with sophisticated weapons. Assault rifles, shotguns, quality handguns, and automatic weapons are common. The traditional service revolver and pump shotgun are often outclassed in a firefight. This situation is especially hazardous to the state trooper or highway patrol officer. These officers work lonely stretches of roadway, far from back-up and support facilities. A rifle can make all the differences, as encounters often take place at ranges beyond the effective range of shotguns or revolvers. This was dramatically shown in the Norco, California, bank robbery. Several state police agencies have adopted a service rifle to be carried in the patrol car to augment the shotgun and revolver. Oklahoma, Kentucky, Mississippi, Kansas, Idaho and others have selected and adopted a service rifle for general issue. In some cases, this program started after a specific incident in which officers were injured or killed due to a lack of effective firepower. In February of 1984, I was authorized by the Alaska State Troopers to conduct an evaluation of existing rifles for consideration as a service rifle. Due to the climate of Alaska, certain specific requirements had to be met. We began by listing the basic requirements we felt necessary. These were: 1. 100% reliability after prolonged cold exposure 2. Night sights, if available 3. Large trigger guard for use with gloved hands 4. Folding stock 5. .223 or .308 calibers

6. Detachable box magazine, 20 to 30 round capacity 7. Must have a flash suppressor and sling mounts 8. Require minimum maintenance

The major firearms importers and manufacturers were contacted and asked to submit a sample weapon for testing. A clear understanding was reached with each supplier that the weapons would probably be damaged during testing.

Upon receipt, each weapon was inspected and field stripped. Each received a thorough cleaning to remove all oil and grease. The weapons were not lubricated at all following the cleaning. All of the test samples were taken to the range by our special weapons team marksman. He fired each for familiarity, using different firing positions

and ranges. We were not concerned with match accuracy, only with a consistent shot group in the four-inch range. All were fired using the same lot of military ball ammo, and the same lots of Federal FMJ ammunition in .223 and .308, respectively. All of the rifles fired, showed acceptable accuracy, with none being exceptional. The HK-91 showed the tightest groups, averaging about two inches. Approximately 200 rounds were fired through each rifle, and they were not cleaned after shooting. We then loaded guns and gear into a four-wheel drive vehicle and drove 400 miles north of Fairbanks to Coldfoot, Alaska: The average daily high temperature was -20 F, with lows at night in the -40 F range. These were good working temperatures and would be consistent with much of the state during the winter months. The first test consisted of leaving the weapons outside for several hours, then bringing them into a warm room for thirty minutes. This allows moisture to condense on the weapons, which then freezes when they are put back outside. This often occurs when a firearm is brought into a warm room then put back into a cold car trunk. This warming/ cooling cycle was repeated six times with each weapon. No malfunctions resulted, with all of the rifles being capable of fire. Next, one pint of warm water was poured into the bolt and trigger group of each weapon. It was then allowed to stand outside in -20 F weather for three hours. After three additional hours inside we experienced a 60% failure to function in the weapons. Either the hammer would not fall at all, or the hammer fall was too weak to detonate the round. The only weapons that experienced no malfunction were the two Galils, the Valmet and the FNC. All of the weapons were then brought into a heated room (+70 F) and warmed for thirty minutes. After heating, all of the rifles functioned properly. Unfortunately, heated shelter may not be available when needed. Finally, all of the weapons were cleaned of ice and lubricated heavily with Break-free. The lubricant was sprayed into the bolts and trigger groups and the weapons were cold soaked for fourteen hours at -40 F. The test showed the true colors of the weapons involved, for all but four failed to function after this test. Again, only the Galils, the Valmet, and the FNC

were able to function and fire. The other weapons showed bolts frozen shut, selectors and safeties frozen, and hammers that would not fall. All of the rifles but the Galils, Valmet, and FNC were then eliminated for consideration. These, not surprisingly, share a Kalashnikov ancestry. The weapons performed as follows:

7.62 Galil No Malfunction 5.56 Galil No Malfunction HK-91 A round was chambered and would not fire. Round was manually extracted, another was chambered which did fire. The weapon cycled and the third round would not fire. Manually operated, fourth round would not fire. Charging handle broke off. HK-93 Fire rounds manually cycled, none fired. HK-93A3 Same as above. Valmet No Malfunction. Ruger Mini-14 Five rounds manually cycled, none fired, hammer frozen, safety frozen. M1-A Bolt would not draw far enough to the rear to chamber a round. Unable to fire. Colt M-16 Forward assist had to be used to close the bolt. Selector frozen, could not be moved. Five rounds cycled manually, none fired. Colt AR-15 Magazine release frozen, selector frozen. FN-FAL Five rounds manually cycled, none fired. FN-FNC Five rounds fired with no malfunctions. Last casing stovepiped in ejection port. Gas regulator moved to "adverse conditions" setting and five rounds fired with no malfunctions.

We later spoke with a factory representative of one of the companies involved, who was very disturbed at our results. He called his engineering department, who assured him that if the weapon was cleaned, then lightly lubricated with a synthetic lubricant, it would function properly. The entire purpose of the evaluation was to see if any of the weapons could stand up to the neglect and direct abuse we gave it. If all had failed, we would have felt that our test was unrealistic. The fact that four of the weapons performed 100% of the time shows that some are suited and some are unsuited to a cold climate. In addition, police officers are notorious for neglecting their equipment, even though their lives depend on it. There were many other features considered in deciding which weapon we preferred. Weight, balance, trigger pull, sights, ease of operation, cost, availability of options, ease of maintenance, etc. were all considered. The clear winner and our first choice was the Galil .223. It was 100% reliable, accurate, and easy to shoot. It has the best night sights available and an excellent folding stock. It has a reciprocating bolt handle, which can be drawn to the rear then pushed forward to lock a round in the chamber. This is a very desirable feature when the weapon is frozen or very dirty. The bolt and safety can be manipulated with either hand. It is very easy to field strip, without tools, and parts are easily replaced. The Galil and its accessories are expensive, but not out of reach. If you are with a police department or an individual that works in a cold climate, it is the best weapon you can get. For information on the Galil, contact: Douglas Evans, Magnum Research, 2825 Anthony Lane S., Minneapolis, MN 55418.

NOTE: The Alaska State Troopers have not yet adopted a service rifle, due to budgetary limitations and other factors. This article expresses the opinions of the author. The Department of Public Safety does not endorse any product. The author: Jeffrey Hall is a veteran of the 173rd Airborne and 75th Infantry (Ranger). An Alaska State Trooper for seven years, he has been a member of the Department's Special Weapons Team for four years, and is presently assistant team leader. He holds a black belt in karate and is two time state IPSC Pistol Champion.

Troy L. Duncan, Alaska State Trooper, was the co-author of this project. A former Marine captain, Duncan had spent two years testing and evaluating cold weather equipment for the U.S.M.C. Trooper Duncan was a member of the Department's Special Weapons Team and was killed in action while arresting a multiple homicide Suspect.

The FNC was a favorite among shooters, with good natural pointing characteristics.