By Trevor Busch
After more than a decade of effective use, the Taber Police Service’s patrol carbines have experienced significant deterioration and are in need of immediate replacement.
The emergency request came forward to town council at their June 22 meeting as the purchase of new firearms is required to ensure the “safety of our officers and the public in response to critical incidents.” On June 17, the Taber Municipal Police Commission (TMPC) passed a resolution recommending that due to the current condition of the police service’s carbines, five new firearms be purchased for a total value of no more than $15,000.
The replacement of five patrol carbines was not included in the approved 2020 capital budget, and was a new, emergent request. The patrol carbine weapons program was put in place by the TMPC in 2009. At that time, four patrol carbines and the accompanying sighting systems and storage equipment were purchased and put into service.
“The state of the art HK 416 patrol rifle was the firearm of choice and since that time has served us well,” said TPS Chief Graham Abela in a report to council.
Beginning in 2017, the four patrol rifles experienced some parts failures causing the rifles to not function properly within the training environment. Parts were able to be replaced, but during annual firearms training in 2019, three of the four rifles had subsequent parts failures. Again some the parts were able to be replaced to bring the firearms back to duty function.
“In 2020 another rifle had a parts failure and when serviced in Calgary by an armourer it was determined that the holes containing pins in the lower receiver (the large lower portion of the rifle) had ‘ovalled’ due to excessive use, causing the rifle to not function properly,” continued Abela in his report. “We have been advised these parts are not replaceable, and that the firearms are at end of life. Although the HK 416 is one of the best patrol carbine platforms in existence, they have simply worn out and need replaced. From a safety perspective for our officers, and the public, the patrol carbine is a necessary tool for responding to mid and long-range threats in modern day police services.”
Manufacture technical data has a parts life for carbine rifles at a minimum of 10,000 rounds, with a barrel life of 15,000 rounds. After 15,000 rounds the accuracy of the rifles is not guaranteed by the manufacturers, which “introduces some risk and liability when used for law enforcement purposes.”
It is estimated the four rifles in service since 2009 have fired over 20,000 rounds each, which is the cause of consistent parts failures in recent years.
In light of this information, Coun. Garth Bekkering asked why the purchase had not been anticipated as a life cycle replacement and instead was before council as an emergency expense.
“It’s a good point. I’m not a firearms expert, I rely on others,” said Abela at council’s June 22 meeting. “I am the chief, though, so I should have that planned. You’re correct.”
Four replacement HK 416 rifles would come at a cost of $4,570.56 each, for a total of $18,282.24.
“We were surprised as this is a $1,500 increase per firearm since 2009,” stated Abela in his report. “Our initial costs were approximately $3,000 each.”
Alternative M4-style carbine platforms with comparable features and reliability were researched, and the service identified another solution.
“We suggest the purchase of the Primary Weapon Systems MK111. This rifle has similar features when compared to the HK 416 (similar size, same location for safety/mag release/bolt release, piston operated system, high quality firearm from a reputable manufacturer). The MK111 has improvements over the HK 416 with it being almost one pound lighter, less recoil, and parts are much more readily available and appear less expensive when comparted to the HK 416. The Primary Weapon Systems rifles are also being used by numerous law enforcement agencies in North America,” said Abela.
The cost per firearm from an Alberta supplier is also much less than the HK 416, at $2,499.55 per firearm.
The four carbines would be replaced, with an additional spare. The rifles will fit the current mounting systems in TPS patrol vehicles, and use the same sighting systems and magazines.
With the new pressures on firearm suppliers due to the federal government’s new gun laws, the service has been able to secure a discount of $1,921.72 for the entire purchase.
“There is an opportunity now to move forward at a savings because of what the federal government is doing with new gun legislation, so we could do this now and save some money, or we could do it and put it in the capital budget for next year and go without those carbines and cost us more money,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas. “It’s a pretty simple answer in my opinion.”
Mayor Andrew Prokop viewed the purchase largely as one of necessity.
“Things wear out…to me it’s just something that has to be dealt with sooner than later, it’s no fault of anybody’s whatsoever, it’s just wear and tear. They’ve had a lot of use over the last number of years. It’s just time.”
Following discussion, council voted unanimously to approve the recommendation of the Taber Municipal Police Commission to purchase patrol carbines for the Taber Police Service, with the cost not to exceed $15,000 from capital reserves.