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SMPD Seeks Council Approval to Use Military Grade Ammunition

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By Jorge Casuso

July 12, 2023 -- The City Council on Tuesday will take up a Police Department request to use military grade ammunition in patrol rifles that is deemed safer to use in populated urban areas.

In order to switch from the traditional grade, California law requires law enforcement agencies to seek the governing body's approval to use military equipment, according to SMPD's staff report to the Council.

The approval would pave the way for the Department to switch from the 5.56 NATO round that "has been the standard in law enforcement for patrol service rifles since 1996" to the 300 Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC) round.

Used in new rifles, the advanced rounds will "diminish the risk of unintended damage to objects or persons beyond the initial target," SMPD wrote in its report.

"Specifically, new rounds were created with performance features designed to mitigate overpenetration and other challenges inherent to populated urban environments such as the City of Santa Monica," staff wrote.

"Overpenetration, also referred to as excessive penetration, occurs when a bullet passes through its intended target and out of the other side, with enough residual kinetic energy to continue flying as a stray projectile."

SMPD currently uses rifles chambered with the 5.56 NATO round that are more than 15 years old and "approaching the end of their service life."

"The unavoidable result of years of wear and tear inevitably necessitated the replacement of parts," which are difficult to find and can take up to 18 months to import from Germany, staff said.

After exploring "alternative weapon platforms," SMPD shooting range personnel identified the .300 AAC round "as a desirable replacement."

Several municipal and federal agencies have switched or are switching to the new round, including LAPD's SWAT team, and Scottsdale and Seattle police departments and the Monterey County Sheriff's Office, staff said.

Various teams within the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) are also making or have made the switch.

The new ammunition is less costly, with 1,000 rounds of .300 AAC costing $744, compared to $1,321.55 for the 5.56 NATO, staff said.

On March 7, SMPD presented its findings to the City's Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission, which "was unanimously in favor of the transition from the 5.56 NATO round to the 300 AAC round," staff said.

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