I love gung-ho articles about law enforcement weaponry—especially pieces that read like a lecture from Sergeant Joe Friday. (“Maybe you think you’re not hurting anyone by smoking marijuana, but you never saw a kid jump off a seven story building because he though he could fly.”) Writer Jim Krieger adds to the cannon canon with his most excellent (if passively constructed) Guns of the United States Border Patrol: “The United States has roughly 7,000 miles of land border, and since 1924 the men and women of the Border Patrol have had the difficult, often lonely, and sometimes deadly duty of monitoring and patrolling those long and mostly sparsely-settled stretches.” If only they taught this stuff in J-school. But wait! There’s more!
The Border Patrol’s 20,000-plus agents have a single mission: securing our borders. Within that mission however are a wide variety of duties and potential encounters, ranging from interdicting those who are seeking illegal entry to the U.S., to locating and arresting smugglers, to preventing terrorist infiltration. Increasingly, these encounters involve individuals and groups who are willing and able not just to shoot back, but to shoot first to avoid arrest and accomplish their objectives. Since 1990, the average annual number of Border Patrol agents killed in the line of duty has doubled. To address this growing threat, as with other law enforcement agencies, the Border Patrol has significantly expanded the variety of weapons available to its personnel.
And now the money shots . . .
The sidearm is still the basic armament of Border Patrol agents, but it’s no longer a revolver. Today’s border patrolman typically carries a Heckler & Koch P 2000 in .40 caliber. Carrying over twice the number of rounds as a revolver, this 13-round (12+1) polymer-frame double action only automatic has proven itself popular with the law enforcement agencies that have adopted it, and established a reputation for reliability in even the harshest operating environments.
In years past, Border Patrol shotguns were mostly off-the-shelf, but today’s agents are supplied with purpose-built Remington 870s modified by Wilson Combat. These twelve gauge pump guns have cylinder-bore barrels in either 14” or 18” lengths, extended magazines, and Sidesaddle™ shell carriers. They sport tactical slings and ghost ring rear sights, and have tough finishes, inside and out, that can take the worst that the outdoor elements have to offer.
As with many other law enforcement agencies, the Border Patrol’s mainstay rifle is the Colt M4. A time-tested design evolved from the M16, its operating system has been refined and improved over more than four decades of combat experience.
In addition to the Colt M4, the BORTAC [Border Patrol Tactical Unit] armory has other rifles chambered in 5.56 including the M16A2 and the Heckler & Koch 53 in both the A2 (fixed stock) and A3 (collapsible stock) variants. Like the M16 / M4, the H&K 53 has a long, combat-proven lineage.
Machine Guns / Grenade Launchers
For specialized and high-intensity engagements, BORTAC has 40mm grenade launchers (the venerable M79 and the M203) and submachine guns. The M79 is a single shot shoulder-fired weapon, nicknamed “Thumper”, that gained fame in Viet Nam. The M203 is also a single shot launcher, but is designed to be attached under the barrel of an M16.
Remington 700 short action in 7.62 X 51 (.308 Winchester) is BORTAC’s rifle of choice.
The “almost ” bit comes in the comments section below the article. Hugh McPhink raises the red flag on at least one weapon in Border Agent’s arsenal.
I have a number of friends, and shoot with others who are on the Border Patrol. Every one, to a man. dislikes this weapon. They say their range scores have dropped and they don’t fell as confident with it as their Berettas.