Within this past month, CBP (Border Patrol) stations were hit hard by an inspection performed by agency armorer/inspector from CBP Harper’s Ferry campus on their issued Colt M4 rifles. These details were passed on to me from a confidential source and were released in the name of officer safety.
The CBP stations were given a perfunctory warning but were surprised by the level of detail of the inspections. The following parts were replaced on the spot:
- Gas rings
- Firing pins
- Upgraded buffers to Colt H2 buffers (heavier than the standard H buffer)
- Cotter pins
- Buffer springs (amazingly for armorers they had a ruler to measure these)
- Bolt carriers
The armorer/inspectors were typically military in their approach to cleanliness and lubrication of the rifles. That is not a compliment. When I and countless others in the military maintained our rifles, armorers would hand the weapons back when we attempted to turn them in with directions to clean the bolt tail (somebody PLEASE tell me what function the bolt tail has in the weapon, especially a spotless one), to….scrape the crown of the barrel with a stainless steel cleaning rod. You know, because cleanliness counts. These same armorers would demand and get a nearly lubricant free weapon. For those that have not served; the military obsesses over clean rifles yet only replaces parts when broken and not on a proscribed maintenance regime. A decade of war on two fronts and the popularity of citizens getting training on America’s most popular rifle (the AR15) has enlightened many to the fact:
A weapon can run dirty and wet. A weapon cannot run dirty and dry.
So, the armorer/inspectors did some good. Then they complained vociferously about the (gasp) “dirty” rifles and the “unauthorized” choice of lubricants (Slip2000
). What is funny here is that the CBP is an organization that follows DOD (Department of Defense) regulations. So….guess which lubes are DOD authorized and have their own NSN numbers? That’s right, Slip2000
. That’s a problem with unit level, say Marine 2111s
that only know to keep the weapons inspection ready (way too clean, cleaning to the point that folks damage precision fit parts whilst scraping carbon at the armorer’s behest) and to…..fix things after they break.
Fixing things after
they break is an armorer’s job. An armorer’s job should also entail preventive maintenance. To many police department, federal agency, and military armorers “preventative maintenance” means “inspection ready.” It should
mean replacing buffer and extractor springs at roughly X
amount of rounds. It should mean checking throat erosion. It should mean changing out gas rings at roughly X
amount of rounds or if they’re visibly worn (there is a test for this). Sadly….we are not there yet. Folks deride “torture tests” where trainers like Pat Rogers run rifles like “Filthy 14”
without cleaning for tens of thousands of rounds and trainers like Todd Green pushes pistols
to the point that they break. Think about it. Pat and Todd showed us that your weapon is not
an idol to which you sacrifice time and lungs (solvents) to in order to receive its blessings (functioning). You do have to clean and lube weapons, most especially the latter. You do not
have to as much as your daddy/drill instructor/drill sergeant/etc taught you. Remember the days when you had to have an automobile regularly greased? Times have changed, automobiles and weapons have gotten better. Oil changes are routinely recommended by manufacturers to be done at 7500 miles, not 3k miles. Weapons do not need babying and proper lubrications and spring replacement counts far, far more than being white glove inspection ready with a “light coat of CLP.”
Anyway, what’s startling about this whole inspection by the gun cleanliness Nazis out of Harper’s Ferry is how many rifles they deadlined and how many replacement rifles were received to take the place of the deadlined rifles. In one Border Patrol sector, roughly 2400 rifles are issued. Nearly half (1000 or so) were deadlined. Guess how many replacement rifles showed up? 150. One hundred fifty to replace one thousand deadlined rifles. The agents were told “more are coming, we don’t know when. We might just replace the old uppers with complete new uppers. We don’t know and don’t have a time table.” Not to mention that rifles the agents were happy with in terms of function were deadlined. Go/no go gauges were used on the chambers and even the bolt carrier group (BCG). A special tool to see if the barrel was bent was used and bent barrels were found.
We all like to envision something like “one agent, one rifle” but that is not how things work. The Border Patrol was close to this before the Clinton era. During that time, budgets were cut and less rifles were available. It became the new policy to have one rifle per three agents. Of course this being the federal government, “senior” agents got their own rifles that they did not have to share. This practice continues to today. Now….the armorers are pulling their hair out, waiting for word on what to do when they’ve lost roughly 40% of their issued rifles. They simply don’t know what to do. One station had 42% of their issued rifles deadlined. Personally owned weapons are of course, not authorized for duty use.
It doesn’t take an encyclopedic knowledge of current events to remember Brian Terry
. Now, even the most jaded cop hater can envision themselves in the shoes of a Border Patrol agent on the border with Mexico and what would he want? A rifle. An AR15. An AR15 that he knows will perform.
Zeroing. This is the process of adjusting the iron sights and/or the optic to have the bullets hit point of impact (POI) to a certain point of aim (POA). This is important
. With say, a 50 yard zero (that is, your rifle will shoot exactly where you aim at 50 yards); your rifle will shoot roughly two inches low at 15 yards and in. If you do not think knowing how the gun is zeroed is important then read this article
. I am not
saying that officer knowing his zero at certain distances was an issue or not but it’s glaringly obvious that knowing where your weapon shoots at certain distances is something that an officer needs
to know. My source tells me that armorers and officers use differing zeroes such as 25 meters, 50 meters, 36 yards, etc. Would you
want to make a shot on a suspect holding a hostage with a weapon whose zero you’re unsure of? Not to mention that the Border Patrol has a mishmash of Eotech
, and ACOG
optical sights. To compound matters further, there’s several models of each optical sight in use.
Ammunition. Despite wild eyed rumors and conspiracy theories about the feds buying up all of the ammo in the known world…..the Border Patrol has been hit hard by the ammo shortages just like the rest of us. They would issue 150 rounds per agent a quarter for practice ammo IF they had the ammo.
What’s funny is that there was a time when the Border Patrol sent their BORTAC
instructors to receive instruction from Mike Pannone
and Kyle Lamb
. Then the BORTAC instructors would train the other sector and station level instructors. Guess what Mike and Kyle taught about lube? That’s right, use a lot, don’t worry about over cleaning the gun, use stuff like the aforementioned Slip2000 and TW25B (I do note that Kyle Lamb is recommending Rand CLP
now). So…the armorers are recommending against what these instructors who were hired by their agency to instruct their agents recommend.
An interesting tidbit is that the Border Patrol has a DMR
(Designated Marksman, Rifle) program. Using scopes scavenged from the military surplus program known as “DRMO,” the Border Patrol had a cheap but effective setup on their more accurate rifles. My source tells me that 90%
of their DMR rifles are deadlined.
Probing further to satisfy my inner gun geek, I found that Blue Force Gear
slings are authorized and even issued. SOPMOD stocks were acquired and the excellent VLTOR stocks were as well.Now that you’ve digested all of this, please read the commentary I received on these subjects from well known police, military, and civilian firearms instructor Pat Rogers
What are your thoughts on more than three agents sharing one rifle?
Pat: The weapon is a life support system. People will feel more comfortable/ confident when they are intimately familiar with that piece of equipment. People will also exercise more care with their own equipment then with pool equipment.
Do you think that the varying zeros of the issued rifles is an issue?
Pat: Zeros are critical with irons, but less so with
RDS (Red Dot Sights such Eotechs and Aimpoints). Mechanical offset is inherent 15m and in, and then necessary only for high
percentage shot. A 2.6” center mass hit will still be efficient under 90% of the circumstances.
Your response to the armorer/inspectors’ quibbles regarding weapons cleanliness and lubricant of choice?
Pat: CLP is notoriously sub par. It needs to be shaken vigorously before application, and even then it is not efficient in either cleaning, lubricating or preserving. I have used TW25 in the past, but for the past 14 years, only SLIP 2000- which has an NSN…Over the past twenty years we have supervised several hundred thousand rounds of 5.56mm ammo in AR15/M16/M4 variants down range every year. Our observations are that the gun will run when dirty as long as it is generously lubed. It will not run as well or as long when dry.Filthy 14 has 43,320 rds down range. It broke 2 bolt lugs at 16,000 rds. It had the rail loosen at 40,000 rds.It was only cleaned three times. On each of the above, and once when it was getting to be a hazmat issue in the armory (as in Linus blanket Hazmat)
I have not used a bore brush on any of my guns since 1995 (this includes the M-14’s I have shot in High Power and went Distinguished and High Master with). I did use wet/ dry patch with those guns, but now only put a patch through when exposed to salt water, or extremely dusty, muddy environmental conditions.
I have five M4s that have an average of 20k with minimal cleaning, but generously lubed.
Note- I do not carry a gun for a living anymore and do not advocate this for guns used at work.
However, the obsessive cleaning as pushed by the unknowing has ruined more guns then shooting them. If it takes more than 20 minutes to clean an M4, you are probably wasting time.
The bottom line is that the agents need good rifles. They need more good rifles. They do not have enough rifles. They don’t know when they are getting their replacement rifles. They were already short on rifles before this happened. Ethically, it is tough to justify taking a difficult or “low probability” shot with a rifle you did not zero and have not shot recently if at all. We need our Border Patrol agents to get replacement rifles for the ones they just lost to their own agency. Furthermore, they need more rifles, ideally one per agent. Then, an agency wide system of maintenance on the weapons needs to be implemented; not just “replace when broken.” Replace parts at intervals. Then, standardize the training. They need defined standards and practices such as “This is the agency wide recommended zero for an M4 rifle.” “This is when bolts should be replaced.”
This article was written to help get the word out.