Dressing up in black tactical gear from head-to-toe—not to mention stuffing orange hair under a ballistic helmet—is the dictionary definition of a putz. Now. The James Holmes [not shown] spree killing has made tacticool as unfashionable (and inherently suspicious) as Irina Shayk dressed as the San Diego Padres’ Swinging Friar. Or has it? For one thing, Irina Shayk could pull it off (so to speak). For another, gun owners who purchase and practice with military-style equipment—from tactical base layer skivvies to MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) gear to “assault rifles” chambered in semi-obscure calibers adorned with lights, lasers, extended mags and red dot sights—love their kit for what it does. If you want to be prepared for anything then dammit, this is what prepared looks like. Need, want, who cares? But is there a limit to tacticoolosity, a point at which you slip over the line from well-equipped to dork? Does that depend on whether or not you can walk (i.e. shoot) the talk?

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52 Responses to Question of the Day: Has Tacticool Jumped the Shark?

  1. I dress up, arm up, and look just like this dude everyday walking around Portland. And now I’m off to have fun at the local gun show.

  2. First, it sort of depends on your needs and environment.

    Second, if your gonna carry stuff, you need to put it somewhere, and nobody makes a sportcoat that will hold ten AR mags and a pistol.

    For me, I choose the uniform of the militia (whatever I happen to be wearing at the moment) and simply use mag bags with a shoulder strap and a buttpack with another shoulder strap for other stuff.

    As to weapon accessories, if an acre of rail space floats yer boat, so be it, but I keep it to a minimum because simple is better.

    • and nobody makes a sportcoat that will hold ten AR mags and a pistol.

      Coming soon from a joint venture between 5.11 Tactical and Brooks Brothers.

      : )

      Actually, those are two of my favorite online clothiers.

  3. If you dress for flash, you are a tool.
    If you dress for utility in public, you are a nutcase.
    If you dress that way at home… who cares?

    I am a big gun enthusiast, but if I see someone walking around like they work for The Company Formerly Known As Blackwater, I’m going to keep my eye on them.

    • Funny you mention that. I had the great fun of staying in a hotel north of the Blackwater training facility on the VA/NC border… I had actually not remembered how close the facility was until I saw a huge mob of “tacticool” guys all checking in at the same time. It used to be you only saw guys dressed like that in Iraq or Afghanistan, or on their way to those points, and it ceased to be discreet around 2007.. every single person in the airport saw the clothing and knew exactly who you were and where you were going. Terrible opsec.
      The big problem with normal folks dressing like that? They aren’t in good enough physical condition to pull it off ascetically. Blackwater guys look intimidating, if not subtle in tacticool… Most of us just look like tools when we dress like that.

  4. Wearing anything black in houston during the summer (which lasts from March to November) is just begging for a heatstroke. HPD just announced that to go with the new black-n-white patrol cars (replacing white and Oiler Blue, since the team is long and gladdly gone) will be new tac-black uniforms. Not only will they match the cars, they can wear their vests over their uniforms! Saddly, this is only fairly dumb by the standards of our local government… gonna be some hot cops.

    Tac/ military gear jumped the shark sometime in the mid-80s when the Rambo movies were hot – the price of surplus BDUs went overnight from cheap, durable work clothes to more expensive than new Levis.

  5. There are two types of people who wear tactical gear: Group 1 — Guys/gals who work, i.e, SWAT, Military, paramilitary spooks and mercs (sometimes hard to tell the difference between the last two) and Group 2– those who are Group 1 wannabes. I own lots of clothing that isn’t tacicool but meets my needs. LL Bean shirts, cargo pants and jeans. I don’t even dress up in camis when I go hunting. The critters aren’t going to notice.

    • Group 1 also tends to wear khakis with polo t-shirts about a size too small and Oakley sunglasses.

  6. The 5.11 tuxedo has never been cool… specially not to girls. Anyone who thinks they are a badass because they look like a SWAT team member when they shoot is an idiot.

  7. Yeah, I think tacticool is done. I think we’ll see a backlash against the whole Call of Duty look in the very near future.

    • Bring back the cowboy look!

      Honestly, if I can find a decently priced holster and belt to hold cartridges, I fully plan on going to a Halloween party dressed as a cowboy with my mares leg on my side, and most people would assume it’s a prop.

  8. If you’re using something a US Marine wouldn’t (and some of what he would), you’ve probably gone to far to come back. You may now continue over the edge.

  9. ”assault rifles” adorned with lights, lasers, extended mags and red dot sights chambered in semi-obscure calibers

    I’ve been saving up for an EOTech chambered in 7.7x58mm Arisaka, although I hear that it’s sorta hard to find, so I may rethink that.

    Syntactic ambiguity can be fun sometimes.

  10. I wear 5.11 or Vertx pants 365 days a year because they last longer than any pair of jeans I have ever owned. They also allow me to manage my wallet, phone, and keys better than any pair of jeans I have ever owned.

    At IDPA and USPSA events I tend to stay away from “tactical” gear, and favor my Phillies or Eagles hats, and plain shirts.

    For my local club’s carbine course I wore simple, black Blade Tech mag holders on my belt, while others tricked themselves out in chest and thigh rigs.

    Personally, I don’t get that at all.

    I am not an operator. I am not in the military. Why on earth would I dress as if I were?

    My goal is to be the best marksman I can be, and not be “that guy”.

  11. Right or wrong, many people judge us based on our appearance every day. Given that fact, I can only begin to imagine what judgements an average Joe or soccer mom will form when he or she sees someone decked out in tacticool.

    Whether we realize it or not, we are “interdependent” with both strangers and neighbors in our society. I don’t want strangers or my neighbors to form inaccurate views of my values and personality and possibly degrade our ability to help each other.

    I’ll stick to normal everyday dress.

  12. I wear my 5.11 pants quite a bit because they are light and comfortable. I also like the front pockets for my knife and my phone. I also wear my Oakley assault boots that I have from when I was in the Marine Corps, because I stand on concrete floors all day and they keep my feet from hurting every day.

    All the “tacticlool” stuff I wear, I wear because it’s functional. I don’t see a problem with it, but when people go overboard, they just look ridiculous.

  13. Jeff Cooper called tricked out guns “Rooney guns.” This looks like Rooney clothes. I’m not going to call for laws on such things, but I just wear what I need and feel comfortable with on a given day. Others may do as their wallets and desires permit, leaving me free to hold whatever opinion I have on the subject.

  14. We can only hope that “tacticool” has jumped the shark.

    Personally, I see guys dressed like “operators” (another term that makes me laugh) at the local shooting range or gun show in the same light as guys who drive 3/4-ton 4×4 trucks and have never used them for their intended purpose: overcompensating for their lack of something else.

    • Or maybe your comment stating their lack of something else is because of your own lacking.

      Crazy idea, I know.

      • Or commenting on his commenting stating their lacking of something else is because of your own lacking.

        Even crazier idea, I know.

        • Is this the part where I continue repeating the same thing, with a little more “because of your own lacking” on the end so its your turn again?

          Clever.

  15. You shouldn’t care what other people do or wear as long as it does not infringe upon another human being.

    If your answer is anything other than this you answered wrong. Period.

  16. Before the “War On Terror” I never paid much attention to gun trends. Tacitool seems like a semi-articulate response to growing weariness in the West. Nine times out of ten the “tactical” image/lifestyle is a dorky show. Thankfully all this goofiness encourages serious people to seek out training, however.

    So tacticool is a mixed bag: available in flat dark earth with your choice of rails and heavy shit to hang off a barrel. Starting at the low low price of $499.99.

  17. I don’t care what other people wear but I will occasionally wear an old Chinese AK mag holder chest rig when shooting on my friend’s private property. Have to put ’em somewhere and the mud is not an ideal place for them (although they’d probably still work fine). Anyway, this thing is basically a five dollar olive drab set of canvas pouches with two strings attached to it. Also has a nifty looking commie logo on the back of it.

    • Commies are good at two things: starving people to death, and having an enviable Russian green/Red/Gold aesthetic style.

  18. If I see someone in a public place all dressed in black tactical gear, and it’s obvious that they are not a police officer, I try and stay clear of them. Folks can wear what they want, but if they want to look like the nut case from CO, then they had best get used to being shunned. My personal dress is blue jeans and a “T” shirt or polo shirt. A flannel shirt in the winter. I don’t wear stuff with big logos on it, because even though I’m 6′-3″ and weigh 290, I really try to blend in, and not stand out as someone that is dressed for battle. Oh, although I have not tried it, I’d bet that I could get 10 AR mags AND a pistol AND a sandwich AND a 12 oz. can of soda in the pockets of my London Fog khaiki colored trench coat. That thing has a dozen pockets in it. Come to think of it, the classic trench coat was “tacticool” back in World War I days.

  19. You’re a dork until you need the gear. Suddenly, when bullets are flying both ways, having six mags on a plate carrier makes a whole bunch of sense. That $1500 optic becomes a life saving optic because you got the shot off a third of a second faster than the bad guy.

    • Except the engagement will take place at spitting distance. Fancy optics will probably reduce your ability to get on target quickly.

      • on what grounds will they get in your way? there is a reason why any respectable trigger pulling organization fields optics.

        • If you ever had a deer pop out of the woods 10 yards in front of you and the only sighting device you have is a big ass Leupold scope to sight with you would understand.

  20. i could not wait to dump all that crap when we returned from the field. steel pot, flack jacket, web gear. only thing i took with me when my time was up was the boots and field jacket. i was still spending a lot of time in the boonies then. you should be able to dress how you want, but if you’re wearing all that tac gear outside of some organised range meet, you’re a wannabe.

  21. Although I do know a few people who own Fire-Arms, I don’t know anyone who refers to any Fire-Arm they own as an ‘assault weapon’, nor would I care to.
    Barring a hopefully unnecessary dissertation on how the term ‘assault weapon’ was introduced into the lexicon of American society back in the ‘90’s to intentionally confuse and sway the opinions of the unknowledgeable and misinformed into believing that any firearm which ‘looks like a machine gun must be a machine gun and therefore must be banned’, — it’s been suggested that the term ‘sport / utility’ firearms be used in lieu of ‘assault weapons’ by those who actually know the difference. ( Presuming, of course, they actually know the difference or care whether or not anyone else knows the difference, or care whether or not anyone else knows they know the difference. Or something like that. )
    Interesting and informative link as follows, including a picture of Colt‘s initial announcement in 1964 of their new AR-15 Sporter:
    http://www.notpurfect.com/main/ar15.htm

    Hmmm. A distinction between tacticool and a tactifool, leaves one with, well, uh, cause to wonder. Or not.
    And who said ‘interconnectivity = interdependency = failure of the system’?
    Just asking as always.

  22. In Iraq and Afghanistan I carried an M4 with an ACOG (which I would have on my personal AR 15…if I had $1,500 laying around I didn’t know what to do with), a PEQ 2 (Target Pointer/Illuminator/Aiming System) only works with NVG’s, a standard Army Issue magazine pouches (7x M4, 3x M9) and a single point sling. That’s as cool as I ever got. I used a Blackhawk Serpa holster for my M9 mounted on the chest of my IBA (Improved Body Armor) when I was in battle rattle, and a Galco Jaq Slide on my belt when I was on the FOB.

    When I go to the range with my POWs (Personally Owned Weapons) my S&W M&P 15 has an EOTECH XPS2, and back up sights, with a single point sling (I like single point slings). I carry spare mags in the back pockets of my jeans usually.

    My normal CCW is a Glock 30 in a Crossbread IWB with two spare mags in an IWB mag holder on the other side. Wrangler Jeans and offbrand polo shirts or t-shirts are my wear of choice, except in summer, I wear shorts. No tacticool stuff for me.

    Even in the Army we laugh at the dudes who have 26 pounds of lights, lasers, spare magazine holders, bipods, verticle grips, red light, blue light, green light, etc hanging off their M4.

  23. I’ve avoided the “tacticool” thing almost entirely. I do have the black rifle itself with nearly five feet of rail space, but it is largely unused except for a set of good YHM QDS folding sights. I did have a set of BDUs back in the 80’s though.

  24. I used to wear the hell out of the old woodland bdu pants when I did landscape construction because they never wore out. The new ones are crap tho, so i switched to firehose jeans.

  25. I train in blue jeans and a polo shirt. So far I’ve managed to get by with attaching everything I need to a gun belt, but if I needed more room (say to keep enough mags to feed a carbine _and_ a pistol) I suppose I could just get some sort of tac vest.

    The only time I wear any sort of BDU-type setup is during force on force training. And that’s because the thicker more durable fabric helps take the sting out of simunitions, plus the pop-up collar helps protect the neck.

  26. I gotta say that part of what crosses the line from necessity/cool to dorkdom is need and location, location, location. I own a ton of “tacticool” stuff. Back home in Virginia seeing guys with stuff like that was not outta the ordinary, not so much here in California. I know several guys who have been down range in an other than military capacity, including several guys from Blackwater, and even they don’t like sporting the 5.11 tuxedo. My buddy said when he was doing convoy’s he’d run in jeans, desert boots, and a t-shirt or maybe bdu style top. Me personally i love 5.11 pants and back home you could wear em day to day as long as it was just them, pair of 5.11 pants with a regular shirt and shoes no big. I walk round all the time with a ranger up or gun company t-shirt on and well i got an fn hat but that thing is just comfy. Bottom line its ok to have one or two tacticool things on without seeming completely batshit nuts but no more. O and def no riggers belts nobody wears those things.

  27. Well, given that I own some 5.11 pants, (not black ones, thank you)and am by definition far from cool, one can probably say with a degree of certainty that tacticool has indeed jumped the shark…

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