SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics. It is an acronym developed for the first police tactical team established by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1963 by former LAPD Chief, deputy chief at the time, Darryl Gates. The purpose of developing a SWAT capability was to enhance the ability of the police to respond to an increasingly violent and well-armed criminal element that appeared with the growth of drug gangs in the mid-60s. Today law enforcement tactical teams go by a variety of names: Special Response Team (SRT), Emergency Response Team (ERT), Emergency Services Unit (ESU), Special Operations Response Team (SORT), Hostage Barricade Team (HBT), Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), etc.
Regardless of name, law enforcement tactical teams all have similar purpose and undergo similar basic training. The purpose is to be available to respond to special situations (hostages, barricaded gunmen, etc.), extra violent suspects (armed and dangerous criminals) or extra ordinary criminal activity (drug houses, riots) that exceeds the capability of normal patrol officers. As their name implies, SWAT teams undergo special training in tactics (explosive breaching, hostage rescue, building entry, bus, car, plane, train assaults, searches, active shooter, surveillance, counter-sniper, etc.) and weapons (shotgun, carbine, sniper rifle and special weapons such as less lethal guns, large caliber weapons and explosives, etc.). They carry special gear (gas masks, flash-bang grenades, ladders, tear gas, special armor) and are armed with weapons that make them capable of defeating anything short of a military force. Many have armor vehicles for transport and/or assault in violent confrontations. In addition to their enhanced ability to fight and subdue criminals, SWAT teams receive extensive training in negotiations and non-violent conflict resolution, their first tactical priority in every situation.
SWAT competitions have been held in the United States for over 25 years. In general they are based on real tactical policing skills (individual and team) and involve demanding physical challenges as well as precise shooting skills. Most are coupled with training sessions and last from 2-5 days.
The inaugural US National SWAT Championships (USNSC) were held in June 2007 at the Highlands Ranch Law Enforcement Training Center (HRLETC) outside Denver, Colorado. The objective of the USNSC competition is to use live-fire SWAT scenarios and relays to test individual and team skills. The competition events are designed to provide a fair and equal opportunity for teams to demonstrate their abilities in three areas: team organization, weapons skills and fitness while negotiating courses of fire in a safe manner.
The USNSC normally consists of eight live-fire events run with teams running each course of fire head to head. Officers compete in full tactical gear and are only given one round for each assigned target. See the Results Page for overall team-by-team results and scoring for each competitive stage by year.
The 2007 Championships were held at the Highlands Ranch Law Enforcement Training Center, just south of Denver in Littleton, CO the last week of June. There were 10 teams in the 2007 field and 240 attendees. The teams were: Aurora, Co; Boulder, Co; Bozeman, MT; Bureau of Prisons (FCC Florence); Contra Costa County, CA; Dallas, TX; Oakland County, MI; Teller County, CO; Warren AFB, WY; and West Jordan, Utah. Dallas (Texas) PD SWAT emerged as the Champion, with FCC Florence in second place and West Jordan, UT in third place.
The 2008 USNSC was also held at HRLETC in mid-May. The 2008 competitive field had 30 teams including three international teams; Canada, Portugal and the Czech Republic. Over 600 people attended the competition and Vendor Exhibition. The competition was fierce but Bruce Power of Canada prevailed winning three events and never finishing below 11th. They were followed in the Championship by, Lawrence Livermore, Dallas SWAT (Defending Champions), Dallas SRT, and West Jordan, Utah.
In 2009 the USNSC moved to the US Shooting Academy outside Tulsa, Oklahoma. The new facility allowed the USNSC to be held on a world-class training facility, provided more space and more ranges, and placed the USNSC in the geographical center of the United States. 2009 also saw the introduction of the first US SWAT Sniper Championships (USSSC) and despite severe restriction on law enforcement training and travel had over 400 attendees.
The USSSC was launched as a six-event competition with 22 sniper-observer teams competing. Teams came from across North America and there were two international teams Bruce Power of Canada and GSG-9 from Germany. The Championship was hard fought with many superb performances, but in the end won by Dallas Team-2H by a single point over Bruce Powers Team AS. In third place was the powerful German GSG-9 Team. The competition was extremely close in each of the six events with only 10 points separating the top four teams.
The USNSC competition had 18 teams in the field including teams Bruce Power of Canada, the defending USNSC champion, and two teams from Germany (GSG-9 and SEK Erfurt). It was another extremely close competition, with two teams tied for the lead after day one, four teams within six points after day two, and Bruce Power defending its championships by five points over GSG-9, and six points over Lawrence Livermore (California) in third, by winning the final two events. The Bruce Power team verified that consistency of performance is what wins championships. They won four events and placing no lower than 4th in any of the eight stages. Only ten points separated the top four teams at the end of the competition demonstrating the quality and effort of the teams.
The 2010 USNSC was again held at the US Shooting Academy in Tulsa, OK 21-26 June. The US SWAT Sniper Championships (USSSC) were held prior to the team championships. The USSSC field was 40 teams strong and the team competition had 26 teams with three international teams competing.
The USSSC competition followed its traditional format with six events conducted three per day for two days. All events were head-to-head stages and teams received only one round per target assigned. The weather was extremely hot and humid placing an added burden on competitors. After the first day of competition Oklahoma County lead with a first in the Sectorization Problem, a third in the LaRue Mine Disposal and a 12th in the Schmidt & Bender Run and Gun. Their 16 point total was matched by Round Rock, Tx with Dallas, TX, DOE Hanford #3, WA, and Bruce Power Canada rounding out the top five.
The final results saw Bruce Power surge to the championship putting in a consistent runs over the last three events with two 4th place finishes and a 3rd. Their final results over came a 30th place finish in the LaRue Mine Disposal day one stage. They also edged out Dallas in a reversal of the 2009 championships. Dallas in turn edged out Oklahoma County based on the tie-breaker stage (Schmidt & Bender Run and Gun) by .5 of a second! Rounding out the top five teams were Minneapolis, MN and LaPlata County, CO.
The USNSC team championships saw Bruce Power continue to show its dominance in SWAT competitions, not only by winning its third straight USNSC championship, but also by winning each of the eight stages of the team competition. This has only been done one other time in a National SWAT competition by GSG-9 of Germany in 2005 at the World SWAT Challenge. As an example of the character of the Bruce Power team, they awarded the prize packages from the different individual stages to the runner-up teams. The next five positions were fiercely fought and separated by only 10 total points. San Antonio, TX came in runner-up with 39 points, one point ahead of Zurich Switzerlands Team Skopion. In fourth place was LaPlata County, Colorado who also won the Best On-Call Team Trophy, Dallas, TX finished in 5th place. Garfield County, Colorado came in 6th.
Along with the new Best On Call Trophy another new category was established in 2010 The Oklahoma Cup. It was awarded to the top finishing team from Oklahoma and won in the inaugural year by Oklahoma County who finished 8th overall and 9 points ahead of Tulsa PD.
The 2011 USNSC was held 20-22 October for the third time at the US Shooting Academy in Tulsa, OK. It was another exciting competition that saw a number of first time teams in the field of 24 including three international teams.
The format for the competition remained the same as in previous years: eight head-to-head stages, full gear, one round per target, scoring based on time and target hit. However, the team schedule was reshuffled on day three so that each team ran the last two stages against the team that was ranked just about it. This made for exciting stages and gave teams a chance to move up in the standings.
The mighty Bruce Power team of Canada again showed its dominance winning six of the eight stages and the overall Championship for the fourth straight year. Minneapolis and Lawrence Livermore who trailed by only a few points after the first three stages pressed Bruce on day one. Both exhibited excellent shooting skills and showed no fear of the defending champions and ended up second and third respectively. Oklahoma County SWAT won the Best On Call trophy and the Oklahoma Cup and moved up in the standings for the third straight year to fourth overall. Rounding out the top 10 teams were: 5th place West Jordan, UT, 6th place Illinois State Troopers, 7th place LaPlata County, CO, 8th place teller County Co, 9th place Idaho National Labs, and 10th place was German Town, TN.
The USSSC was held on 17-18 October and had a field of 34 sniper teams. The traditional six stage, head-to-head format was again used in 2011. As in all USNSC events shooters had on one round per assigned target. Oklahoma County's team won the overall Championships by eight points over second place, La Plata County, Co with Dallas TX third four points back. Bruce Power 4th was in fourth and Minneapolis #1 capturing 5th place in a tie breaker over Richmond, IN.