US Border Patrol deadlining rifles at a rate that is detrimental to officer safety

Badge_of_the_United_States_Border_Patrol

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 and TW25B).  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 and TW25B.  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 EotechAimpoint, 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 and VTAC 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.

32 thoughts on “US Border Patrol deadlining rifles at a rate that is detrimental to officer safety”

  1. First of all – the Administration doesn’t even want the Border Patrol to do its job. Second, they don’t want anyone shot so having no rifles helps both those efforts.

  2. I guess now that Pat doesn’t use Larue anymore he can mention the issues with their rail.

    1. Brian- I have been using Larue Rails since they started making them- and still do.

      I also use the Bravo Company KMR as I believe if we don’t evolve, we stagnate. The KMR is lighter and has less bulk, and is the result a decades worth of experience.

      I have one gun- Filthy 14, which had the rail loosen at 40k rounds. None of the other 40+ work guns- some of which have over 20k each downrange- has had an issue.

      I did mention the rail loosening issue in a SWAT magazine article on Filthy 14. You probably missed that.

  3. Thank you for getting this info out.

    And thank you, Mr Rogers, for your continued evangelizing of the ‘wet, not clean’ approach. I’ve used Filthy 14 as an example in many a discussion.

  4. As a recovering Armorer, let me state that Carbon is to an Armorer what speed is to a Police Officer. An easy metric to quantify that is used too often outside of it’s context.

    Armorers also like dry guns because they don’t draw lint from the air.

    You know, I have never seen a gun fail to function because of a bit of lint. Lack of lube on the other hand….. Most
    Armorers follow the cook book without understanding the why of the final recipe.

  5. What in the sweet name of monkeyfuck were they doing to bend that many barrels? Were they REALLY bent or were they getting caught on a burr at the gas port I wonder? How shot are most of these rifles?

  6. The rifles will have around 220 rounds through them each year (55 rounds from the 50 yard line to the 7). Border Patrol does not do that much shooting. Shooting or training consists of qualifications 4 times a year, and hardly ever consists of actual “training.” What is this “training” that you speak of? If the rifles have issues its because of rust issues due to poorly built armories, or agents who do not have enough “training” to properly care for those rifles. Cleaning supplies are hardly ever available, and the cleaning conducted during qualification are often not what you would call adequate.
    Maybe BP just purchased a bunch of crap rifles or hit the lottery with all of the bad ones.

    BP does not see the need for each agent to have an assigned rifle. Many agents use “Pool” rifles, and rely on their optics. If there are no optics, then the agent relies upon God to guide the rounds through the rifle. The rifle may be zeroed for a certain agent, but 99.9 % of the agents dont know what their battle sight zero is. They just carry the gun for the close distance ambush but God help us if there is ever an actual long distance engagement.

    Most engagements with the M4 will be close and less than 5 rounds, but there have been multiple engagements where several hundred rounds were fired, but only one or 2 of those made the news. Deadlined rifles? Maybe its a way to discourage agents checking out rifles and checking out more “less lethal.” The less lethal FN-303’s suck but you dont see them being deadlined as badly as the M4’s.

    1. Tex- having had a bunch of PA and BORTAC guys in my classes over the years, my sympathy is with you guys.
      The political influence, lack of support from within, girly men bosses and the like made my time at NYPD seem like Ice Cream and Baileys…

  7. The barrel straightness test is a red herring. Here are the procedures from TM 9-1005-319-23&P. A few things about this. Were the barrels cleaned properly? Was there any attempt made to ascertain if they were truly bent or something else?

    I am curious to know if those barrels were still able to zero correctly?

    Slightly bent barrels may be straightened as follows:
    (a) Check straightness using straightness gage 8448202 (p 3-45). If the barrel fails the straightness test, and the gage remains in the barrel in the area of the front sight assembly, perform step (b) to determine if it may be straightened.
    (b) With the gage remaining in the bore, hold the rifle in a vertical position with the end of the barrel into which the gage was inserted pointing up. Ensure that if/when the gage passes through the barrel it will not be damaged. Using hand pressure ONLY, flex the portion of the barrel between the front sight assembly and the compensator in all four directions (left, right, forward, and back). If the barrel is only slightly bent, the gage will drop through when the barrel is flexed in one of these directions. Note the direction which allowed the gage to drop through the barrel.
    CAUTION Remove the gage from the barrel before continuing.
    NOTE If the gage does not pass through the barrel when it is flexed, replace the rifle barrel assembly.
    (c) Place the barrel in a vise using appropriate protective jaws. Clamp the barrel between the front sight assembly and the compensator approximately 1 inch (2.54 cm) from the front sight assembly. The rifle barrel assembly should be in a horizontal position with the side noted in step (b) toward you.

    (d) Grasp the BARREL near the receiver so that when force is applied the barrel will flex in the same direction as noted in step (b).
    (e) Give the barrel a sharp jerk of approximately 20 to 40 pounds of force.
    (f) Remove the barrel from the vise and recheck straightness (step (a)).
    (g) If gage still will not pass through the barrel, perform step (b) to determine direction of bend. If the barrel is still bent in the same direction as before, perform steps (c) through (f) using slightly more force. If the barrel is now bent in the opposite direction, replace the rifle barrel assembly.
    (h) If the gage passes freely through the barrel, the barrel shall be considered straight and continue in service.
    (i) If the barrel has been straightened, the rifle must be targeted (p 3-45).

    1. William- my understanding is that several years ago, the Surefire M73 rail (formerly used by BP) was the cause of some barrels bending.
      My understanding is that these guns use either the KAC RS (which was the tits in the late 90’s) or standard Colt double shield handguards.

      Having said that, I have no direct knowledge, as do most.

      1. The “bent barrels” are, in my opinion, almost certainly a direct result of the vehicle gun racks Border Patrol uses. They’re fairly “standard” for most LE agencies, but BP goes off-road a LOT more than your standard sheriff or police officer. The gun racks allow some “wiggle room” around the actual locking part, which lets the guns rattle “vigorously” on dirt roads. Do this long enough, and you can start forcing the barrel to have a very slight “up” bend about 3-4″ behind he muzzle.

        Oh, and yes, agents are supposed to have their rifle in the gun rack whenever they’re not actually carrying it in their hands.

        With regards to the rest of it, I have only ever seen AR/Stoner pattern rifles fail due to bad ammo or bad magazines. I’ve never seen dirt choke one, regardless of how clean, dirty, dry, or lubed it was. While this probably means I haven’t shot it enough, it also means that I -only- clean metal-on-metal bearing/wear areas in the receiver/BCG area, to prevent buildup that -could- choke the rifle, given time. Locking lugs, extractor, around the gas rings, etc. I don’t think I’ve so much as run a boresnake down the barrel in a couple years.

  8. I don’t understand why so many rifles were deadlined. Sadly, many rifles never see the field other than on qual days. At my station, out of an average of twenty agents that muster up for work, three rifles get checked out.

  9. DHS buying billions of rounds of ammo is not rumor or conspiracy, its FACT. Go to the Governments FBO website and you’ll see it’s real. The real question is why does CBP not get enough. How are these rifles deadlined? I spent a year in the sandbox, our rifles and m4s took a ton of abuse without so much as a hiccup.

  10. I think we are missing the big picture here. These so called dead lined rifles are going somewhere else. I think the govt needed a surplus if weapons to give to new allies fighting ISIS. There was nothing wrong with the weapons. The Border Patrol, everyday is experiencing tied hands in all aspects of the job. This is just another way for the government to screw that agency.

  11. If the BP is anything like some of the state agencys around here then the weapons probably needed deadlining. I have seen weapons that were but a coupla years old that were trashed from improper care. Quite a few actually. Badly bent bbl.’s, corrosion, missing parts, etc. These were sold at auction for next to nothing.

    1. BP’s rifles do get beat up; it’s how they’re carried in the vehicle that puts a lot of wear on them. But policy says they have to be carried that way; can’t have it rattling around loose or modify the vehicle to accommodate a different gun rack (it’s probably a pool vehicle, too – now THERE’s another agent safety issue, and one that’s MUCH bigger than the rifles!).

  12. I don’t understand how the BP can have rifles that are allegedly only shot a couple hundred times a year (at the most) that fail a no-go or throat erosion test?! Were those barrels out of spec/bad materials? Were the rifles DRMO’d from the Army/Marines as end of life, then given to the BP to save money? A decent AR with mil spec barrel components should last tens of thousands of rounds before throat erosion becomes an issue!

    1. Leonard, I believe many of the older rifles are, indeed, ex-military guns, and many have been “pool weapons” for well over a decade of use by BP alone.

      That being said, there was probably nothing functionally wrong with them. BP doesn’t shoot at ranges long enough for inherent inaccuracy induced by throat erosion to become evident, much less a real issue. Same with the bent barrels.

  13. 5.56 guages…Agents walking rough desert terain carrying a rifle, can and do fall from time to time. Sometimes they land on their rifle. That force can and will slightly bend a barrel. If a straightness guage wouldn’t pass through the barrel, it was scrubbed again to be sure.

  14. I witnessed 264 rifles inspected. None failed headspace gauging. Pitting, chips, and general wear of bolts was number one reason for failed inspection. The volume of weapons firing has varied greatly over the years, sector to sector, station to station, etc. It is ignorant to believe our rifles have only been fired 240 rounds a year…..

  15. It is funny how gun nuts seem to always (think they) know more about LE process’s than the professionals in the trenches. While there are examples of gross negligence, there are also a lot of guys who are doing a good job, and are doing the best they can within the chain of command that exists.

    Intheknow’s comments are telling in this regard. He knows what he is talking about. Cop guns do not get the same level of TLC and spiritual devotion that the gun nut crowd lavish’s on them. There are good reasons for this. It is a tool, among many tool’s.Tool’s wear out, break and be come obsolescent. It is a fact of life.

    I for one am glad that the process of weapons inspection is being done at a high level of detail.

    The issue of not providing adequate numbers of replacement carbines in a timely manner is very much a separate issue. It should be dealt with as such in conversation.

    1. It’s funny how internet commenters seem to always (think they) know how apostrophes work than professionals who get paid to write.

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