Ammunition sales nationwide have skyrocketed and it is a rarity to see full shelves of anything except the least-common cartridges.
I’m always in touch with the local agency range instructors and I’m hearing the same thing from everyone: Most of them have enough to make the minimum qualification requirement, but many don’t have enough to support an ambitious training plan.
When it comes to using a carbine, my recommendation is to diversify. That is, start with a good lower and set up other uppers in alternate calibers, using similar optics and similar platforms.
I can’t promise that agencies will always be able to practice, but multiple caliber options only increase the chance that officers will be able to practice.
For practice, I set up a Tactical Solutions (TacSol) AR-22 LT like my 5.56x45 upper. Since the TacSol upper is a lightweight flattop, it can take on any optics that a duty upper can.
The TacSol AR-22 is a complete upper designed for 22LR cartridges. It mounts on standard AR-15 lowers.
My lower is a Franklin Armory receiver. I added an Ergo Tactical Deluxe Grip with Palm Shelf and an Ergo F93 Pro Stock. Most officers will opt for the Ergo Tactical Deluxe Grip without the palm shelf. The Ergo F93 Pro Stock will fit any shooter and locks like a solid stock.
The TacSol AR-22 uses a 16.5” barrel with a 4140 button rifled steel liner. It is free floated in a Hogue forend. There is enough rail space for most optics and I mounted my Leupold Tactical Prismatic 1x14 optic on it. I used a laser boresighting kit and it was shooting teeny groups within three minutes of mounting it on my lower.
The AR-22 bolt assembly is completely contained in the receiver and it operates and feels like the real thing, including a tactical latch charging handle. I get to play with this kind of equipment all the time and this upper has a slick, sports-car-like feel.
The AR-22 is much lighter than most uppers and, coupled with my relatively heavy lower, the weight stays close to the body. It is maneuverable and points quickly.
What’s the advantage to using the AR-22?
Users practice using their own trigger. One can crank out recoil-reduced rounds accurately, improving their shooting cadence and smooth target transition.
The AR-22 uses Black Dog Machine magazines, which look and feel similar to standard AR-15 magazines.
Trigger time with The AR-22 is as close to using the issue carbine as one can get.
I shot the AR-22 at short ranges, but I found it can shoot single hole groups at 25 yards from the bench. Frankly, I didn’t have ammunition of quality usually set aside for this sort of test. This was to our advantage, because it proved the barrel didn’t lead up with non-plated bullets.
Cleaning and maintaining the AR-22 has a mild learning curve. The bolt assembly is not similar, but the instructions are clear and the short recoil device is uncomplicated. The assembly is obviously engineered for high volume use.
For whatever reason, the demand for ammunition has completely outrun the supply in many instances. This also means that regular practice is severely reduced for most officers. Succinctly, if ammo is short, local law enforcement can’t get it either.
Having forecast ammunition budgets before, I recognize the difference between minimum and adequate levels of ammunition for training when it comes to officer safety. With the general threat level for law enforcement officers escalating, agencies should be live fire training more, not less.
I’m a firm believer in simulators, but nothing can replace good old trigger time.
With the Tactical Solutions AR-22, agencies can run the same scenarios as they would with the 5.56 NATO version and get nearly the same training value from the drills.