US Border Patrol rifle article Part II

This is a follow up to my original article.  The original article has been very popular due to the amount of times it has been read and commented upon; even if many of the comments were not public.  I will be paraphrasing the comments I received from the agents in the field and not attributing directly to anyone in order to preserve the anonymity of the agents who wrote to me.


This appears to be beginnings of a Good Thing in that the agency is attempting to identify problem rifles and also upgrade internal parts to a new standard such as replacing all buffers with Colt H2 buffers.  To clarify, these are Colt M4A1s that are being discussed in these articles.


However, the rifles are being deadlined at very high rate and sometimes for the wrong reasons.  One of these wrong reasons is diagnosis of a “bent barrel.”  A bent barrel is indeed an extremely worrisome problem but to diagnose it, one must have the barrel’s bore spotlessly clean.   I spoke at length with Greg “Sully” Sullivan of Defensive Edge Training regarding this and he confirmed that even just a bit of fouling in the bore will absolutely throw off the reading and make the armorer think the barrel is bent.  Sully was kind enough to expound upon the issues common to police and (especially) military trained armorers inspecting rifles:

  • Testing a barrel for straightness without thoroughly cleaning the barrel ahead of time
  • ofttimes armorers use the wrong or an incorrect headspace gauge as Sully has found that many of these gauges are meant for both 5.56x45mm and .223 Remington.  This is incorrect as 5.56 does indeed vary slightly from the .223 headspace specifications.  This product on Amazon is a case in point regarding the widely available yet incorrect headspace gauges.  Sully and Defensive Edge uses only Pacific Tool & Gauge headspace gauges.
  • Border Patrol  and other armorers recommending and allowing only Breakfree CLP instead of something like Slip2000 EWL  (Sully’s favorite) which breaks down the carbon.


This topic went nationwide on this story with FoxNews and Tucson TV station N4T covering the story.  The Fox story mainly repackaged the original N4T piece.  Though neither piece was very technical, the Foxnews piece brought the issue to a nationwide audience.  Claims of the Border Patrol agents being “unarmed” were made (albeit thirdhand from an Arizona firearms trainer who has questionable credentials to say the least; examples onetwo, three, four, and five).  Though, I find that claim a bit sensational, attention was paid to the issue of being issued a pool rifle with an unknown zero.  This attention is a very real concern as it is a very real issue (discussed in detail in my first article).  After reading the quotes of the “law enforcement” expert Jeff Prather, I uncovered quite a bit of sordid history (linked to in this paragraph) on Mr. Prather.  This is a bit of a tangent but after reading about Mr Prather’s martial arts businesses, I asked noted martial arts champion and firearms trainer Cecil Burch for generalized comments on on finding a credible trainer in these two oft merging fields of study:


“Any art or method where the teacher is deemed untouchable and beyond criticism should be
avoided like the plague (which is actually what it is). One of the great benefits to the popular
growth of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA as exemplified by the Ultimate
Fighting Championship) is that they have shown that you can train full force and that even the
teachers should be on the mat training with the students on a daily basis. The recognized top
champions do it, so there is no excuse why some “master” of an esoteric art should hide behind
mystique and mannerisms better suited to a Kung Fu movie from the 70’s.
If the teacher spends his time spouting mystical proverbs and showing off techniques, but never
tests himself under authentic pressure on a regular basis on front of everyone, he is a phony.


In an interesting public relations skirmish, the Border Patrol Union president was quoted as saying “we want our rifles back.”  The Border Patrol’s Chief Deputy Ron Vitiello was quoted as stating that a “specialist” should be doing work like replacing the firing pin and the rate of nearly 40 percent was “more than we are comfortable with.” (source, Foxnews)


Enough Border Patrol agents and other well informed professionals have made it clear to me that this is not a conspiracy to disarm the Border Patrol or to enbolden illegal immigrants and drug mules.  Rather, this seems to be a genuine though classically bureaucratic decision to finally (for the first time in the agency’s history), inspect and fix all of the agency’s rifles.  In fact, this is the first time in the agency’s history that such an effort has been made.


As well all know, the government takes a lot of time to do anything.  Obviously deadlining 40% of an agency’s rifles should be compelling evidence to any bureaucrat that the Border Patrol needs new rifles.  However, when they deadline 40% of the rifles issued to an agency that has, at best, a 2:1 rifle ratio, they are making it harder for the agents to do their job and use their rifles when they are literally confronting drug runners who are at least as well armed as the Border Patrol agents.  Couple that with a firearms training program that has been steadily hemorrhaging money and ammo for years with no agency standard on optics nor the zeroing of the optics they do have and the result is damning. Agents armed with rifles they don’t know the zero on.  Agents refusing to draw rifles, or choosing to draw shotguns over rifles, out of concerns for the reliability of their weapons, the liability of a rifle with an unknown (to the agent) zero, and their personal safety in the event they have to employ them.


From what I have been told, the Border Patrol has a decent plan for the tangible side of their rifle program.  They plan to phase out the HK UMP-40 submachine gun and replace it and gradually phase out the standard Colt M4A1 in favor of an 11.5″ barreled M4/AR15 variant manufactured by Colt.  Rumors conflict on whether or not the Border Patrol will simply buy new uppers for their M4A1 carbines or buy completely new carbines.  Below is a proposed final configuration:


The plan to replace the existing M4A1 carbines and the UMP-40 with the Colt 11.5″ carbine makes tons of sense.  What does not make sense is deadlining 1000 rifles in a sector and issuing only 100 new ones back.  What does not make sense is either going out of your way to deadline rifles (the aforementioned incorrect diagnosis of “bent barrels”) or worse yet, thinking the issued rifles are broken while lacking the knowledge to discern cosmetic issues from real issues.  Some choice quotes from agents in the field:

“Most of the rifles were deadlined due to “bent barrels” according to the inspectors.  Most of the deadlined rifles were under five years old and all of them had recently passed a qualification”

“Rifles with very dirty chambers are either being deadlined or are going to be re-barreled due to the amount of time required to clean the chamber as well as the hazmat issue (they treat lead and gunpowder residue like it is kryptonite).”

“It seems odd to me that parts are already “wearing out” at 800 rounds. They can try and blame a lack of agent maintenance/neglect, but regardless if the weapon was not cleaned at all within 800 rounds, parts should not already be worn/broken.”


So, for the Border Patrol leadership reading this; there should have been new rifles handed out, on a one a one for one basis for the deadlined rifles.  Whether you know it or not, your agents are out there on the front lines without enough weapons, without enough training, and  with weapons they are afraid to use.  A Border Patrol station not having enough training ammo in order to check zero before qualifying is a reprehensible circumstance.  Stations not having enough in their budget to spend more than $150 on their annual shooting supplies is dangerous.  Your agents are entrusted to use deadly force when necessary.  It is your job to make sure they feel confident, employing their skills and weapons in order to do their jobs and go home at night.







  1. All valid observations.

    We had pool rifles for awhile at my job, that was a horrible idea.

    While I’m not sure dropping down to 11.5″ from a 14.5″ gun is a great idea, I’d rather see the guys on the pointy end have less than perfect carbines than no carbines at all.

    “Bent barrels”? That is truly curious as the only routinely bent AR system barrels I have ever heard of involved dudes doing bayonet training. If all of these are bent then WTF is the Border Patrol doing with those guns?

    1. Yup, pool rifles are a terrible idea. Assign each carbine to an agent or pair of agents, and they’ll probably stop treating them like hammers.

    2. In part one of this article, another reader mentioned the rifle holders in the agent’s SUV’s as the culprit for the bent barrel.

    1. Sigh. If you’re talking about that SEC filing, I’d suggest you get the latest news. Colt secured $70 MM in financing today to make sure they’ll be able to meet their debts and continuing making awesome guns.

      1. $70M seems like a great number, when you don’t owe over $10M a month on your current bonds. So they have bought themselves at least 6 more months in business.

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