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If they attend a real gunfight they take a real gun (or more)
Tac teams are ready for anything

By John Estus Published: December 17, 2006
Area law-enforcement agencies take their weapons seriously.

The Oklahoma City Police Department arsenal contains nearly 3,000 handguns, rifles, machine guns and other weapons, while a fully-equipped Oklahoma County Sheriff tactical team member is armed with upwards of $13,000 worth of weapons and tactical gear when called to duty.

"Our philosophy is if you're going to a real gunfight, take a real gun,” said Capt. Marshall McDonald, an Oklahoma County Sheriff tac team commander and instructor.

They have all the guns, grenades and gadgets of any of the silver screen shooting machines at their fingertips, but the world of law enforcement weapons and tactics is hardly Hollywood. A good day is one without gunfire.

"Deadly force is a last resort,” Oklahoma City police Lt. David Ellis said.

Most times, tac team members have only a heartbeat to decide if that last resort is needed.

Making the team
Tires squealing as cars cut sharp turns at 90 mph, the booms of exploding bombs and fully automatic weapon fire may sound like something out of a James Bond movie, but it's part of the training tac team members statewide do at the Oklahoma County sheriff's training compound.

The compound, however, is a calm, controlled environment and regarded as one of the top nonmilitary training compounds in Oklahoma.

Getting on the tac team isn't easy. It took some of the 20 tac team members from the Oklahoma County sheriff's office two or three tries before they made it, they said.

They had to:

•Volunteer for the job

•Be a full-time, certified deputy

•Pass a day-long physical test that includes a timed run, upper-body strength test and quarter-mile military obstacle course run

•Shoot 85 percent or better on handgun and shotgun drills

•Pass a weapons handling test

•Complete a simulated tactical mission in full gear

•Be interviewed by other team members

•Receive approval by Sheriff John Whetsel•Attend a week of basic training

Constant training
McDonald said the sheriff's tac team was called to duty twice in a week on one occasion, but also has gone more than a year without seeing real action. He said the number of times they are deployed annually is hard to pinpoint, but it's usually about six.

"Somebody has to act really stupid for us to come out. It has to be strangely outside the norm,” McDonald said.

But the preparation never stops. The sheriff's tac trains at the compound twice a month and attends one week of advanced training a year.

"This is what you don't see in the movies,” McDonald said.

During an October training session at the compound and other locations in the county, instructors put teams from across the state through drills from 8 a.m. until midnight.

Their movements were swift, often taking only seconds to take control of the simulated crisis situations.

At the compound, they learn the limits of their vehicles on a 2.3 mile asphalt driving track so they can outwit the average pursuit suspect.

Bomb technicians are taught to dismantle explosives, sometimes with the aid of a motorized bomb robot controlled from a metal briefcase.

Snipers shoot bullets between the eyes of dummies — or would-be hostage takers — from hundreds of yards away.

The 300-acre compound also has a firing range, a gravel road track to simulate rural pursuits, bomb bunkers, a rappelling wall, classrooms and other buildings used for room-entry drills.

A day at school
Instructors emphasize training in real world environments, such as empty schools and office buildings.

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Tactical team members enter a classroom at Western Heights High School during a recent training session at the school. BY JOHN CLANTON, THE OKLAHOMAN
What's in the arsenal?
Among the 2,816 weapons in the Oklahoma City Police Department's arsenal are:

•1,053 semi automatics

•853 revolvers

•555 shotguns

•264 pistols

•58 rifles

•15 fully automatics

•2 submachine guns

Strange weapons

Included in the department's arsenal are hundreds of seemingly odd weapons — such as German Lugers, Walther PPKs like the ones made famous in James Bond movies and an Italian Terni rifle — that police use for ballistics analysis during shooting investigations.

Equipment Oklahoma County Sheriff's tac team members carry includes:

•.223 caliber assault rifle, primary weapon, with a night-vision scope and silencer

•.45 caliber Glock handgun, secondary weapon, mounted with a light and laser sight

•.308 caliber sniper rifle with night-vision scope

•Body armor

•Gilley suit

•Noise-flash diversionary devices

•Night vision equipment

•Camping gear, food and water for long sieges or standoffs

Source: Oklahoma City Police Department and Oklahoma

County sheriff


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