SMPD Uses 5.56 NATO Rounds Whose Caliber Poses a Risk of Overpenetration
By Zach Armstrong
The City Council will take up a measure at its Tuesday meeting to convert caliber rounds of patrol rifles used by the Santa Monica Police Department, a move that the staff report says will mitigate unintended and excessive damage that can be caused by its current weapons.
SMPD currently uses the 5.56 NATO round and has since 1996. However, its caliber poses a risk of overpenetration, when a bullet goes through its initial target and then continues flying as a stray projectile, said the staff report. This creates challenges to law agencies in urban areas such as Santa Monica.
The measure, which will be presented at council’s July 18 meeting, would switch use of SMPD’s 5.56 NATO rounds to .300 AAC rounds which staff said would not over penetrate or travel as far. The Los Angeles Police Department SWAT, Scottsdale Police Department, Monterey County Sheriff’s Office and Seattle Police Department are switching or already switched to .300 AAC chambered rifles, according to the report.
According to the staff report, the .300 AAC rounds traveled shorter distances, had less velocity, displayed less penetration and mitigated the problem of overpenetration when undergoing tests at the Department’s indoor range and commercial outdoor shooting range. The report also said .300 AAC rounds cost 44% less than 5.56 NATO rounds. The department averages an order of at least 20,000 duty rifle rounds every two years.