Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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November 22, 2010

Mercer deputies get new weapon in war on crime

PRINCETON — The Mercer County Sheriff’s Department has taken a major step forward in terms of leveling the field, so to speak, in its on-going efforts to fight crime and bring criminals to justice.

Sheriff D.B. “Don” Meadows recently approved spending $25,000 to purchase 30 new ArmaLite AR-15 223 (or 5.56) caliber semi-automatic rifles. The department purchased the rifles from Brogan’s Long Shot in Athens. “We paid for them out of our concealed weapons funds — the fees that people pay in order to carry a concealed weapon in Mercer County,” Meadows said.

“Jim Brogan helps all the local law enforcement agencies around here,” Meadows said. “He gave us the rifles at his cost. We have issued them, but we need to get everybody properly trained on them before we issue ammunition. This is something that the department has needed for some time.”

Deputy J.E. “Jamie” Coulter wrote the policy for the department’s AR-15s and is one of the instructors. “These rifles retail for $1,300 to $1,400, but we got them for $800 and some change,” Coulter said. “That’s unheard of. These are effective rifles, but there is a significant amount of training that goes into the proper use, care, cleaning and storage of the AR-15.

“We’ve needed these for a long time,” Coulter said. “All the deputies carry shotguns, but even using buckshot, the effective range is no more than 40 to 50 yards. Pistols are strictly a defensive weapon. We can’t advance on anyone with a pistol. But with an AR-15 rifle, we can accurately engage a threat out to 600 yards,” Coulter said. “That’s the maximum accurate distance of an aimed shot. We will concentrate our training on a simulated 150-yard range. That distance is no problem for this rifle. They’re inherently a very accurate weapon.”

Coulter said that when law enforcement officers are engaged with criminals, “they can shoot as many times as they want, but we have to account for each round,” he said. “We’re not trying to transform the whole department into a SWAT team. That’s not our purpose. The criminal element has access to weapons that can hold officers at bay from 150 to 200 yards,” Coulter said. “If the weapon is deployed properly, they are far safer at that range than anything else we have.”

Coulter said that many people in the county own high-powered rifles, and he said that most officers in West Virginia who are shot are shot with long rifles. “Without these AR-15s, we are at a tactical disadvantage,” Coulter said.

Detective R.M. “Matt” Combs II and Deputy A.M. “Adam” Ballard, also with the sheriff’s department, are certified as trainers and will work with Coulter instructing the rest of the department. “We spend 8 hours in the classroom and 8 hours on the range,” Coulter said. “We try to help them eliminate their bad habits and teach them things like how to clear and misfires or jams so they can get back into the gun fight.”

Coulter and Meadows both said that the new rifles should help deputies perform their duties to protect and serve the people of the county.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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