STAFFORD, Texas (FOX 26) - When Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls drives around, his AR-15 riflle rides shotgun, so to speak.
"We all know that law enforcement has changed today and you're finding often criminals are carrying these kind of weapons, so it's important that we try to be equal or superior in firepower." says Sheriff Nehls.
That's why so many law enforcement agencies either issue them or allow officers to buy and carry their own.
When Sheriff Nehls went on the search to buy them for his deputies, he could have gone anywhere. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of companies that make the AR-15 rifle and parts all throughout the U.S. It turns out, he never even had to leave the county.
Sheriff Nehls went to Radical Firearms in Stafford. The fledgling company has increased from three employees to sixty in just two years. The company hires mostly veterans and laid-off oil company workers, most of whom live in Fort Bend County. The company's specialty? The AR-15. While Radical Firearms manufactures rifles for private citizens, that's not the company's bread and butter.
"We do take a lot of pride in the first responders who do carry our rifles," says Radical Firearms vice president Cris Parsons. "We put a little extra touch and detail. We make a specific line called the Blue Line rifle for law enforcement, first responder and military."
Radical Firearms makes its rifles from scratch and even makes them for other labels. The company has quickly earned a reputation for quality and affordable rifles. The weapons are affordable enough that Sheriff Nehls bought some with seized drug money and is providing them to Fort Bend County constables offices.
"It's a sad day that we have to carry these types of weapons, but in this kind of environment, it's almost a must." says Sheriff Nehls. But as so many in law enforcement officers feel, it's better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them.