- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 19, 2003

RICHMOND State police are upgrading their firepower with military-style semiautomatic rifles that will be issued to each trooper and field supervisor.
"September 11 caused us to rethink a lot about how we police Virginia," said Col. Gerald W. Massengill, superintendent of the Virginia State Police. "Certainly when we saw state troopers at locations at airports, the Pentagon, nuclear power plants and bridge tunnels as the result of the attacks we started looking at appropriate weapons."
State police are buying the semiautomatic version of the military M-4 automatic carbine used by American special operations personnel in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Semiautomatic fire is more accurate than automatic fire, said Sgt. David Cole of the state police firearms unit. The semiautomatic version of the M-4, a compact derivative of the M-16, also costs less than the automatic version, he said.
State troopers are now equipped with .357-caliber semiautomatic handguns, as well as 12-gauge pump-action shotguns carried in the trunks of their patrol cruisers.
The M-4 "expands the capabilities in that it will allow our troopers to address threats" far beyond the range of side arms or shotguns, Col. Massengill said.
The rifle gives troopers the capability of "stopping a bomber before he is a threat to a [power] plant" or any other target, Sgt. Cole said Thursday. He said he knew of no other police agency that equips its patrol officers with as much firepower as the Virginia State Police.
About 1,500 M-4s are being purchased from Colt's Manufacturing Co. in Hartford, Conn., for about $1.3 million in anti-terrorism money provided by the federal government, Col. Massengill said. That comes to $867 per rifle.
"It's a fantastic weapon," said Sgt. Cole, who has fired it. "It's very accurate. It's easy and lightweight to handle. I fired old M-16s in the military, and this is so much better."
Senior Trooper G.A. Crawley agreed. "This is the first time I've handled this," he told Sgt. Cole as he cradled the weapon. "This is light."
The M-4 weighs 5.6 pounds and is 33 inches long. It has a retractable stock that shortens it to 29.8 inches. Like the M-16, the M-4 fires .223-caliber bullets.
Sgt. Cole said the state police will use two 20-round quick-switch magazines attached to the weapon's magazine well. Two fully loaded magazines will increase the rifle's weight to about 7 pounds.
Col. Massengill said the M-4s should arrive in several weeks. "There will be intense training to go with these firearms," he said, with training at Fort Pickett expected to be completed by early fall.
Col. Massengill said the state police are also buying new gas masks for troopers, replacing an older version that is no longer approved by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


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