Words: Chris (with Jay & Tom)
Pics: Xiphos, Snook Snaps, Camp Sparta
(Disclaimer: we have a massive amount of respect for the Police Services up and down the UK; our equipment is only used at controlled events on private property and thus away from other members of the public.)
A Short History of Armed Police in the U.K.
Armed Police have been around in the UK for the past couple of centuries, in the form of ‘shots’; essentially Constables trained in the use of a revolver. This changed in the 1970s in London with the formation of D11, a permanent standby firearms team, and in West Yorkshire with the concept now known as Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs). These were the forerunners for the Firearms Officers we see on our streets today and responding to terror incidents.
The organisation of firearms usually differs from force to force. West Yorkshire is a good example as each proficiency is available to officers wishing to specialise, and each specialisation builds on the last.
- Every firearms officer is essentially an AFO. This means they’ve completed training on the use of a carbine and usually a sidearm.
- Following on from this you have ARV. These officers are often out patrolling, but have received additional training in armed building search and secure, and vehicle stop tactics.
- Next up are SFOs, or Specialist Firearms Officers. They’re trained much more extensively in techniques that can be applied in planned operations; so EMOE (Explosive Method of Entry), shotgun usage, rope access and CBRN/SFE Tactics.
- Finally CTSFOs receive training in dynamic hostage rescue, deploying from rotary wing aircraft, and alongside SFOs conduct most of the covert firearms work. You’ll have seen CTSFOs responding to terror attacks in the UK mostly in their grey uniforms.
The Formation of Xiphos Combined Firearms Wing (CFW)
Back in May 2017, the organisers of ITAS held a mock CT exercise in the midlands. This was their first event incorporating a dedicated police element and four of us were invited along: two as ‘SF’, one in an ‘AFO’ role and another in a ‘CTSFO’ role.
This was perhaps the first opportunity some of us had to talk specifically about police equipment, and in some cases to actually field it. From there we were in touch on a more regular basis with updates on how the gear was progressing. The next event from ITAS had a more substantial police group involved, so after a period of engaging with like minded individuals we came together for ‘Exercise Sentinel’.
This was the first unofficial Xiphos meeting and likely the point where the vast majority of us were regularly discussing events and setups.
Xiphos CFW: The Name and Imagery
Xiphos is named after the ancient Greek sword, which is rested on a Hoplon shield (of course favoured by the Hoplites) and is incorporated into our patch. We decided on this imagery for a couple of reasons. One is that it shows the offensive and defensive capabilities we wish to reenact. It also lends itself to the SCO19 ARV Callsign of ‘Trojan’, so maintains some history around that. It also alludes to the XIX identity of SCO19.
We have decided on ‘X’ as the prefix to our Callsigns as it relates to the name of the group and doesn’t clash with any of the existing CT teams (as far as we are currently aware).
The benefit of the Combined aspect of the team is that we aren’t limited to one specific unit or Force. Which leads us to the kit.
If you take a look at each Force’s AFO kit you’ll notice a vast array of vests, helmets, firearms and miscellaneous equipment such as shields. Similar can be said for CTSFOs, especially between The Met and the National Hub, but there’s less variation between the National CTU Teams. Our general rule of thumb is to pick a force and stick to it, so we don’t have ‘hybrid’ impressions as such.
Most of us run Metropolitan Police CTSFO Impressions. The main differences you’ll see are the Wolf Grey Arc’teryx Assault or Talos Uniforms and C2Rmor plate carriers, of which we have a mixture of new and old style in the group.
Those of us running National CTU Kit adopt an Urban Grey Crye Precision style uniform, then there’s a choice between a Ferro Concepts Slickster or a Crye AVS. Within Xiphos that’s down to personal preference.
Helmets are mostly Ops-Core High Cuts with the exception of a couple of Revision Batlskin Vipers. Again, the setup of these is mostly personal preference with some exceptions; for instance some Hubs use the Core Survival HELSTAR6, whereas the Met favours the Manta Strobe from S&S Precision. The majority of us also have respirators which can be used for some of the events we attend.
Several Xiphos members run Armed Response Vehicle Officer kits. The majority have Met Police ARV kits, comprising the Crye Precision combat set, Aegis (now Safariland UK) armour carriers, Safariland holsters, and decked out in 5.11 pouches. These kits are much more uniform than the CT impressions, as these Officers in real life have much less freedom with their equipment. A few also have ARVO impressions from around the country, including Wiltshire, West Yorkshire, Merseyside and Essex – all of which use kit specific to those forces.
Realistic Imitation Firearms
Our primary RIF is the Sig Sauer MCX from Cybergun/VFC. These are set up fairly uniformly with moderator, suppressor compliant handguard, BCM VFG, Aimpoint T2, Surefire weapon light and D-BAL. There’s some scope for personal preference. I’ve decided to have my Carbine engraved to match what’s issued to the Met, so that’s a unique little addition.
One of the team members has also made a TRO Marksman setup employing a 13” barrel HK417 with ELCAN, moderator and bipod – of course in line with one of the Hubs.
All members carry either a Glock 17 or 19 replica and in one instance both – which we’ll get on to later. We run these with either Surefire or TLR weapon lights. There’s scope for some of us to get Glock 26s to complement our covert setups, but that’s further down the line.
Finally X26 and X2 replicas (resin cast or blue gun) are carried by the ARVO guys. It’s such a notable piece of equipment used by Police generally, it’s one thing we couldn’t afford to miss on our rigs.
Everyone in Xiphos is essentially an assaulter. It’s not often that a full group of us can attend an event together, therefore it’s essential we can still work seamlessly as a team. That being said, some of us have decided to adopt specialist roles on top of this. These include (E)MOE, TRO, Medics and Shieldmen.
Each role dictates how the associated plate carrier is set up, or what kit you bring. For instance our dedicated shieldman carries two Glocks, so if he has a stoppage or runs out of ammunition in an engagement, it’s easier to simply switch the gun completely instead of using both hands. He also has a bungee running down the side of his plate carrier to retain his Carbine when using the shield.
Depending on the event, we’ll sometimes have to deploy in a covert manner. Of course there’s no real guideline to this; hoodies and jackets with jeans is the favoured setup. On top of this we also have PWL ‘Pancake’ and GM Tactical Kydex holsters for the Glocks, a balaclava or face wrap, and finally a Police style baseball cap we can easily conceal in a pocket.
We’re very lucky to have some large and varied airsoft sites up and down the UK that we can attend. In the past we’ve attended skirmish days but have been given access to a portion of a site to train in and that works well. We’ll often jump into the skirmish later on in the day, to apply what we’ve been rehearsing throughout the morning.
We do like to reenact tactics employed by Armed Police and it’s often the case that a skirmish doesn’t allow full use of that, considering it’s usually 50 versus 50 – which just isn’t comparable to a real, domestic UK setting.
The opportunity to replicate the latter is actually hard to come by. There aren’t many organisations that are willing to put together RealSim events, simply because it’s such a niche market and is entirely dependent on the efforts of all attending.
We’d jump at the chance to get to an ITAS event. As far as we’re concerned, those are the most immersive and generally have the most switched on people attending. It’s been a good 18 months since the last one, so in the interim I caught wind that JTAC was planning something similar and I managed to get onto the planning team.
That would’ve been our next event, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis that has been postponed.
Other than that we’re hoping to plan more team training days up and down the country, alongside other groups who share the mindset and drive to get their kit and procedures right; and of course we want to get more mock CT Exercises under our belt as a team.
We fairly regularly update our Instagram account so by all means follow that. I’m expecting a boatload of media from the postponed event, so I’d suggest it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for that!