I get asked this question often, mainly from various tactical teams through out the country. I hadn’t really give it much thought until I realized the complications.
So, for us with a military background it is a a given that are standard issued individual rifle will have full auto capability. However, most law enforcement departments at the local and state level have to purchase these items and also deal with the federal regulations. When the question comes up I use to reply it is nice to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. That holds water until you have to go through the torture like process, then you have to ask yourself; “is it really worth it?”
Honestly, with that as the backdrop, my answer is no. No, it is really not worth the troubles of obtaining, maintaining and dealing with the headaches associated with this class of firearm. Sure, there is the cool factor, but about the only real scenario might be in an effort to lay down suppressive fire.
With that being said, you have to understand what suppressive fire really is and how to achieve it. As defined by various sources and my own experience the purpose of suppression is to stop or prevent the enemy from observing, shooting, moving or carrying out other military tasks that interfere (or could interfere) with the activities of friendly forces. And here is the real important aspect that get’s overlooked by some who hastily make their decision and that is the important feature of suppressive fire is that it is only effective while it lasts and that it has sufficient intensity.
Basically, you have to be able to lay down enough fire to sustain the act of suppressing the enemy or opposing force. To do so with magazine feed weapons is possible, but incredibly ineffective as per the definition of suppressive fire. Couple that with the hoops that one must jump through and it really isn’t as cool as some folks think.
Now, that I have pee’ed in everyone’s Cheerios that was interested in full auto capabilities where do I find it valuable? When teaching people the importance of a solid stance, mount and grip nothing really drives the point home like full auto fire. It is hard to justify the expenditure of ammunition, but in my opinion it can be incredibly valuable. We obviously have to make due without it, but when we have it for everyone it sometimes allows us to fast track to correct technique literally in a few seconds.
To maintain your sights on target during the full auto drill requires a more improved stance, mount and grip, one that recruits large muscle groups. With this improved technique you can more easily control the weapon system. Some are quick to chime in aftermarket devices such as muzzle breaks will make it really easy. My response, weak sauce and get back into the gym. You cannot create solid, combat effective techniques around a toy. Driving the gun is a physical ordeal and you have to really want it, there is nothing else quite like it when you can can dump the whole magazine into a 8″ target at 7 yards based off skill alone. It is almost like watching fire, the red dot takes on an almost laser-ish look.
Now, here is a real issue and that is speed. Some will be quick to opine that automatic fire is faster than select fire. Maybe…maybe if you were starting on full auto, but if you start from the safe position and have to select full auto it is a bit more difficult than one thinks. The time factor will be more balanced with your accuracy requirements and target distance.
Bottom line, full auto capability is sexy, but not all it is cracked up to be.