Weapons & Equipment
A SWAT members clothing usually consists of fire-resistant Nomex coveralls or battle dress uniform (BDU), and if needed, body armor with an outer tactical load-bearing vest with many pockets and pouches for carrying ammunition, hand-cuffs, grenades, etc. Fire-retardant gloves are also worn, as is a balaclava or some other protective face-covering, eye goggles and a Kevlar helmet and gas mask. Boots are worn, and leg holsters and pouches may be worn to carry a sidearm or extra ammo. A flashlight may be carried or one may be attached to the end of the users primary weapon, which can be a sub-machine gun, shotgun or assault rifle. Night vision goggles are also a valuable asset.
Although a wide array of firearms are used by SWAT teams, the most common types are, as said before: sub-machine guns, assault rifles, shotguns, and sniper rifles. Tactical aids include Flashbang stun grenades, CS grenades, multi-tools such as the Leatherman kind and lightsticks. Sidearms are often semi-automatic handguns, but in extreme cases a fully-automatic handgun could be used.
Handguns preferred by units around the world, include the Colt or Springfield Armory-made M1911 series, SIG Sauer series, Beretta 92 series, plus Glock and Heckler & Koch pistols.
Sub-machine guns used include the Heckler & Koch MP5 series of 9mm weapons, notably the MP5A2 and MP5A3, and the suppressed MP5SD2 and MP5SD3. Sometimes the MP5/10, which is a 10mm version, is used when extra stopping power is required. Silencers may or may not be fitted to standard weapons, depending on the mission. The newer H&K UMP45 is replacing the MP5 in some units as it has more stopping power and smaller cost.
Shotguns favored include the Benelli M1 Super 90, Benelli M3, Franchi SPAS-12, Remington 870 and 1100, Mossberg 500 and 590.
Assault rifles and carbines used include the Colt M4 and M16 series and H&K G36K. These are used when compatibility is needed along with higher penetration than a sub-machine gun can provide. These would be the primary weapons to use if the suspects were known to be wearing body armor, but care would have to be taken if hostages were present, as any stray round could go through multiple persons. Marksmen use specially-adapted M16 rifles, as well as the H&K G3 series, and even the M14 rifle — which is an updated, automatic-capable variant of the M1 Garand that was used by the U.S. in World War 2. Some bolt-action rifles are used, and there may be a time when the use of a .50 caliber bolt-action sniper rifle crops up!
Breaching doors quickly is a must, and can often mean a tactical advantage for the assaulters. Door breaching can be done in many ways, including using battering rams, explosive charges such as C2 or by using a shotgun with special ammunition. There are even devices that can be fitted to the door frame to blow down the whole door and frame in one go!
There is an obvious need for ‘less than lethal’ weapons nowadays, as many casualties of innocents have been made during the course of armed policing. Even suspects die when there could have been another way to disarm them whilst keeping them alive. This type of newer weapon can include tazers, pepper spray and shotguns loaded with ‘bean bag’ rounds. Military grenade launchers in 40mm caliber have also been used which fire special rubber baton rounds or gas grenades.
The role of SWAT teams may include tactical surveillance, and items of use here include binoculars, fiber optic cameras, infra-red cameras, and a variety of audio sensors and motion detection equipment. One neat piece of kit is called Opti-Wand™. This is basically a mirror on a stick that is at such an angle so that the user can look around corners. Think of it as an over-sized dentist’s mirror. This obviously has its advantages by not putting the viewer in the direct line of fire.