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By Chris Laliberte

I’m sure everyone has already noticed that in the last several years, everything has suddenly become “tactical.” There was even a booth at the local gun show selling as their only product, a rail mounted TBO, or “Tactical Bottle Opener.” I have coveted, but not yet tried the “Tactical Bacon.” While I don’t think anyone thinks these two examples are anything more than funny, many out there are probably wondering (while scrolling past the latest ad for tactical polo shirts) “who goes for this crap?” Well, I gotta ‘fess up here folks…it’s me. The Tactical Noob . . .

I’ve been embarrassed and tried to hide it for years now, but it’s just time to come clean. I work in an office, go shoot guns on weekends, read gun mags and online forum discussions, and just generally wish to God I lived and breathed Call of Duty for reals. I have never and will likely never find myself in a “tactical” situation. That’s just not my life. I do carry a concealed firearm for that unlikely self-defense situation, and train for that scenario regularly, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

What I’m admitting to you guys right now is that I’m the one who buys the Condor plate carrier and the AR500 plates on eBay, loads it up with triple double stack mag pouches (and I tried, like, four different configurations too), plus the two that have to be kangaroo with pistol pouches, then gets a dump pouch, Kydex AR mag pouches for the belt, and goes back and forth between a drop-leg pistol holster or a belt holster with a little off-set to clear the carrier. And then I go run around at my local shoot-in-the-woods spot, practicing everything on the Art of the Dynamic Carbine DVDs, just because it’s flipping FUN! I own Blackhawk Down and Act of Valor and The Veteran and all the complete seasons of The Unit and Strike Back, and I mercilessly criticize the tactical idiocy of those other shows that have their heroes dancing around with a full rail flat top AR with no sights on it!

And you know what? I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. There are way more guys out there who wish they were on a SEAL team than ever actually get into ‘the business.’ And honestly, any rationalizations we come up with about how “we might need to know how to do this” or “be prepared for that” is just BS. Let’s face it—we’ll never, ever need to stack up and hit a room with a tactical team. And you know what—that’s ok.

We don’t play-pretend because we think it’ll save our life someday. We train and learn to engage multiple targets and shoot on the move and around improvised barricades, and learn all the expert tactics, and get all the gear, and discriminate the good gear (that’s being made by operators for operators to adapt to real world conditions) from the bad gear (that’s being made by tactical noobs for tactical noobs)—just because we like it. That’s what we want to spend our time (and money) doing. And we want to be “good” at it—learn to “do it right” the way the guys out there actually learning this stuff the hard way, in harm’s way, are teaching it.

That’s just the deal. No more hiding it. There’s a lot of us out here, and we’re gonna keep doing it. So let’s stop hiding it. It’s OK to want to get good at tactical shooting and fighting skills just ‘cause we want to. Honor to the soldiers who do it because they are in the real deal. I’m not making light of the fact that these skills have developed for real fighting and dying. And I hope they feel honored that the work-a-day Joes who will never set foot in combat appreciate what they do, and want to emulate their skill, even if we can’t possibly know what it’s like.

But I think the point is, really, that we wish we knew what it was like. Because we have a fantasy that being in the fight—especially the good fight—would be enlivening. That being where your life (and those of others you care about and are pledged to protect) is really on the line would make it feel like your life, and how you conduct your life, actually matters.

We are warriors at heart too, yearning for something to fight for that actually matters. That promotion? That new car? That office betting pool? All these things we strain and devote our effort to accomplishing. . . well, in our heart of hearts, I think we feel like it just doesn’t matter that much. I go to work, I do my job, and I do all this other stuff, and by the time you follow the chain of connections to the point where you can say “and if I didn’t we’d starve to death” well, my soul is asleep already.

So I, the Tactical noob, scope out the 11” keymod handguard I’m gonna score on eBay for under $100 while suffering through another day at the office, and plan out my next shooting session (9mm again, or should I get a little trigger time on the 1911?). And I wait for the day when 22LR is once again $25 for a brick of 500.

Just for the record, whoever those freaking idiots are who continue to buy 22LR at $75 a brick—that’s not us. Tactical noobs may be dreamers, but we’re not stupid. We’re gonna wait until .22 is once again inexpensive training ammunition. If 1000 rounds of .22 costs $150—then we’re gonna pay $180 for 1080 rounds of 5.45×39 and train with the real deal. If you don’t already have a 5.45 AR upper, you’re not a tactical noob.

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  1. As for the gun-winning worthiness of this article, I don’t think it is going to happen. I think Bud’s story of recovering his High Power that he loaned out during the Vietnam war is still at the top of the list.

    To the substance of the article…

    I agree re. the silliness of the use of the word “tactical” that, once slapped on any product, somehow magically enhances it.

    On the other hand, using the word “tactical” in its best sense, if you ever, God forbid, find yourself in a situation where you have to use your firearm, you are in a tactical situation.

    Tactics win gun fights, the better able you are to use good tactics, the more you increase your odds of coming out of a gunfight alive. If you are comfortable with simply cranking off a few rounds occasionally on a square range, concentrating on putting each round into a two inch group, that’s the risk you are willing to take.

    Good training and good training facilities and good instructors teach how to shoot a firearm properly, but most importantly, they teach sound tactics. People who keep making snarky remarks about “Navy SEALS” teaching people things have probably never actually had a good training class with a former US Navy SEAL who knows his stuff. If you think a person who has been in many actual gunfights is unable to think you something useful at a level that is practical for you, then you have never had a good training class with one of these guys.

    Want to take some great classes with people who do know what they are talking about and are able to teach “regular schlubs” like us?

    Of course, you can always go full Yeager and go to his classes to send rounds down the range near his photographer. That’s pretty tactical ninja right there, I tell you.

    Now, cue the “we don’t need no fancy training!” comments on … 3….2….1

    • “Tactical” has become the “fat-free” and “gluten-free” of the gun world. It’s both sad and hilarious at the same time.

      • I knew the “fat free” absurdity was out of hand when chips, which are fried or baked in oil, were called “fat free…”

        I knew the “tactical” absurdity was out of hand when shotguns, which are arguably the most powerful and versatile weapon we can wield, weren’t “tacticool” enough.

        • I doubt shotguns are the most powerful weapon we can wield, pretty sure a mag dump from a Thompson at shotgun range is gonna mess up your day more. Even worked against armored soldiers from what I heard from a guy who was there and did that ‘about 20 years.

        • Powerful yes, versatile no. They are absolutely great for what they are, short self defense, and breaching, they lose a lot of applications when they are taken outside. In a gunfight outside of 30 yards they start sucking.

        • “Powerful yes, versatile no. They are absolutely great for what they are, short self defense, and breaching, they lose a lot of applications when they are taken outside. In a gunfight outside of 30 yards they start sucking.”

          Seans, I’m going to say I pretty much disagree with everything you just said.

          Several shotgun makers have models which the barrel can be changed out in less than a minute. You can get various lengths and smooth bore or rifled. Bird, Buck, or Slug, no gun can touch that versatility.

          And since when do they suck at 30 yards plus? I’ve taken slugs from smooth bore, 18 inch barrel shotguns out well passed 50 yards.

          Hell, there are states where only shotgun hunting is allowed and hunters are dropping animals 50-75 yards on average.

        • I was talking about a tactical perspective. Yes they have no problem switching barrels and chokes are making a slug shot from 150yards. But for the application of a gun fights, they are limited. You got great firepower and versatility from the different shells available. But the shotgun is limited to short range for its strength s versus a rifle. Yes I can breach, or fire non lethal shots, or anything I can load. But it’s limited ammo capacity in magazine and shell size and weight limit’s it’s ability in sustained fights. I can take my Mk18 and take 600yard shots from it. The shotgun I can’t. Again from tactical perspectives it’s limited to breaching these days for the most part. Outside that it has a ton of things it can do.

        • Slugs can extend the range, no problem, but I would still prefer a Thompson over a shotgun for 100 meters and less.

          Besides you don’t have time to change barrels, though that isn’t that important but I digress. Has anybody done velocity vs barrel length testing for different shotugn loads? I mean as in cutting a barrel down one inch at a time and then shooting slugs, buckshot and birdshot through it and recording it. Since I remember a graph that said that a 18 inch barrel has greater velocity than a 20 inch barrel, something to do with a pressure spike or something.

        • “Yes they have no problem switching barrels and chokes are making a slug shot from 150yards. But for the application of a gun fights, they are limited…. I can take my Mk18 and take 600yard shots from it.”

          My friend, real world gun fights on US soil just don’t happen like this… In Afghanistan, yes. In America, no.

          Read armed citizen encounters in American rifleman mag, real gun fights happen at very close range. Knife distance usually.

          And, let’s you do drop some BG at a few hundred yards, better lawyer up and think of damn good reason for the DA, and subsequent grand jury, why you thought your life was in danger at that distance.

        • lolinski, I don’t agree with you’re Thompson statement, but I will add that I put agruably at the begin of my opinion on the shotgun for a reason. It’s debatable.

          As far as the shotgun barrel thing, I don’t rightly know. I’ve never even heard of such a thing, but I would be very interested in knowing and seeing the results.

        • A home defense shotgun and a tactical shotgun or two different things. The 870 I got next tothe bed is nothing like the 870 I keep slung on my back from breaching. Tactical is different than home defense. When the whole “tacticool” thing popped up, they weren’t talking able home defense, but trying to imitate operators. And in that sense yes, shotguns are extremely limited. But for home defense they still are a great weapon. Versitile for a offensive operation, not so much.

        • My breaching shotgun holds three shells and is stockless and absolutely sucks to shoot. I don’t bother with breaching rounds, those are for training, slugs and buck are the my preferred for breaching. I’m not going to carry a full size shotgun on my back.

  2. “I own Blackhawk Down and Act of Valor and The Veteran and all the complete seasons of The Unit and Strike Back,”

    Look you’re not truly tactical until you also own “Tactical Force” starring Stone Cold Steve Austin. I’m sorry but thems the rules.

  3. Blasphemy! Thou should’st only spend thy money and time on real, practical training! There certainly aren’t enough training hours or dollars available to be properly trained on actual real life defense!

    Btw…me too /nod.

  4. Hey if it’s what you enjoy.

    It’s only a problem when you act like that gear makes you the next best thing to an actual SEAL/Green Beret/Ranger, and that is when I start to really question your sanity (or if your bills are going unpaid to buy more leet tactical gear).

  5. “I’m sure everyone has already noticed that in the last several years, everything has suddenly become “tactical.”

    You mean “tacticool.”

  6. Wait… are you possibly suggesting that going out in the middle of nowhere with my brother with our ARs and AKs, with plate carriers and all that jazz, and just having a ridiculously fun but safe afternoon shooting all “tactically” is ok because it is simply ridiculously fun, even though the chances of ever using that AR or AK defensively are like 0.0001% and the chances of needing all the gear and packs and camo is like 0.0000001%?

    When I’m 80 years old and dying, I don’t think I’ll regret all the wonderfully fun bonding time shooting with my family, talking preparedness and WROL, taking backpacking trips, exercising and learning how to fight. I’ll be glad that a never had to use any of it.

    • That is so not fair, my preparations are serious while you can do all that stuff way more legally and easier than me. For fun if I might add.

      • The preparedness and such is absolutely for real, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it too.

        • You guys have hypothetic scenarios like social collapse, commie invasion or zombies.

          I have people that will possibly try to kill me and my family (again) because I have a different name than them and because reality doesn’t fit their vision of a Great Serbia.

          I know I sound paranoid, but it happened 20 years ago, they still deny everything and recently elected some extremists.

        • I am sorry you are in that situation. One of the reasons we in America treasure our gun rights so much is the hope of avoiding a similar situation in our country.

  7. RF, if this got airtime, I sure hope my write up on actual technique gets it’s moment! 🙂

  8. Rock it out, man. We all played Army as kids and this stuff is an extention of that. My only problems with the so-called tactical crowd are when they take themselves too seriously, or when they have absolutely no substance whatsoever as men and this make-believe is all they have.

    Outside of those two small categories of mall ninjas or cowards in camouflage, the tactical scene for regular guys is perfectly fine. Most men have genuine achievements of their own, without ever kicking down doors in Khandhar, and are perfectly able to keep it all in context. Do your thing, have fun, be safe, and don’t worry too much about what some might think.

  9. I find the trend to be too gee whizz and not enough practical any more. I am a bit old school and my military standard rifles are well older than me. Well one of them is perhaps my same age if not a little younger since the arsenals in Yugoslavia were still making their M59/ 66A1 right up to and after the break up and various Civil Wars that followed. They’re not made anymore though. I do own a chest rig and an assault pack, but my firearms are all factory including my RIA M1911 with mil-spec sights. Mil-spec that is for Word War I and World War II. My other rifle is an M1 Garand that is in the shop for rebarreling or at least to make it safer to shoot after having it modified once to taken an in bore blank adaptor. Still if someone wants to get a modern variation of the AR or AK and have the versatility the modular systems todays equipment rails provide it’s fine by me. All I ask is that they keep things practical and useful and don’t go out and get the latest gee whizz item just because it looks cool. Own and use only those items which will save your life or make your marksmanship better.

    • We seem to be in agreement here, I try to keep things simple. Though I do like having a suppressor, flashlight and scope on (the last one is not that important, diopter sights work well enough).

      I do avoid rails, unnecessary weight.

    • I am in complete agreement. I find some of the things I see at the range very funny. I have one of the new fake “tanker” Garands. Fake because the rifle was never issued in this form by the military. It is shorter and handier than a full size Garand and Simple! My thoughts remain the AR or modular platform weapons were supposed to be lighter and easier to carry than a full sized Garand making them easier in shooting plus you can carry more ammo. Watching some guys with the Holo/Bolo/Acog/laser/side mounted/wire cutter/bottle opener/monopod/bipod/tracking point/wanker sight trying to figure out just what to use for the target usually means you could walk up and hit them with a stick before they get started. The Tactical pants with 42 pockets full of crap also keep them anchored in place while you continue to beat them.
      Tatical used to mean functional, purposeful or the process by which you get the job done with a minimum of fuss or problems. Now, it has become a marketing term for selling a lot of overpriced items so folks can look cool.

  10. If my wife sews a couple of small pockets in my socks, for extra cartridges, or whatever, must I now refer to them as “tactical” socks, even though their not camouflaged?

    If I scratch my nuts with the pointed tip of 308 cartridge, does that mean I now have tactical testicles?
    Just asking.

  11. To me it’s no different than practicing any martial art. (Yes, firearms handling is a martial art- structured or not)

    I used to practice Kumdo (Korean version of kendo – Japanese sword fighting).

    Deadly, absolutely. Practicality- next to non existent unless you break into my home & th. 9mm in the nightstand is non functional.

    Great fun nonetheless. If you enjoy “tactical” play wether it be ar’s AK’s crawling in the mud, air soft, mall ninja stuff- great. Just don’t have any illusions about it, just like any other modern martial art. (Not saying you personally do of course)

  12. Spot. Freaking. On.

    I was a patrol officer at a small police department when I was younger and more foolish. I finished school, got a much higher paying job outside of law enforcement, the requisite mortgage, beautiful wife, and two awesome daughters, white picket fence, etc. It’s been over 20 years since I was a cop, and I still miss it like Hell.

    Going out in the woods, all geared up in camo, running around and hearing the ringing of bullets hitting steel targets is a blast. It’s the closest thing to reliving the glory days I can think of. It’s great exercise, my girls enjoy it, we get to spend time outside bonding, etc. And, yeah, it keeps me sharp so that if anything bad ever does happen, hopefully I won’t be a victim.

    I never was a ninja, just a beat cop in a small rural town. I know I never will be a shadow of the “real deal” guys who serve in the military, but… yeah… it’s an homage to those guys that “when I grow up I wanna be just like ’em.”

    Great article. Thanks for putting into words what so many of us feel.

  13. Its like women collecting shoes or jewelry…. All this “stuff” is just accessorizing…

    The tactical crowd should go back and reread Red Cell.

  14. The word “tactical” is like the little letter “i” that electronics manufacturers use so profusely these days. You can slap a lower case “i” in front of anything, paint it white, charge 7 times what it’s worth and people will but it because it’s white and iGizmo compatible. Conversely, if you paint something Flat Dark Earth, call it “Tactical” and say it was designed by a former Navy Seal, you can charge 7 times what it’s worth and every little gear head noob will want one…because it looks like that thing on Call of Duty!

    • But some of us like the neutral colors, OD green is my favorite. It looks way better than a boring black and bland gun.

      • If I’m gonna go all tactical I’d rather just go full retard and hydro-dip my guns in Krypek Highlander lol

  15. The rest of this is mostly fine and well but for all you answering and thinking in the affirmative: read the 7th and 8th paragraphs closely. You really agree with that? You fantasize about being in violent and dangerous situations, where you’re forced to kill or be killed, as if it gives your life meaning? Is that really a way to honor soldiers who fight for us to avoid, specifically, those situations? Training for self-defense purposes when/if the unfortunate event arises, fun, or just the challenge/competition of it are all good reasons to train. But do yourself a favor and rethink your career and ambitions if you don’t feel like what you’re doing really matters. Or volunteer (while keeping your training and your arms about you, of course). Or something.

  16. This article is spot on. I agree 100% I make pretty good money and for years have found the “real life” of jobs, cars, careers, offices, restaurants, strip malls, etc to be painfully boring. Life just kinda sucks sometimes. I think some of us tactical people who are in shape and decently trained watch the world on a show like “The Walking Dead” and actually yearn for that to be reality. Every single day has meaning in a world like that. No bosses, no ladders to climb, no one to impress, no money to earn, no pretentious women, just pure survival in a modern world with modern conveniences (providing you can find and secure them) and best of all… a nearly unlimited supply of humanistic targets (zombies) to shoot at and stab! And since they’re zombies trying to eat you, there are no moral or ethical issues either. Sure, you might not live very long, but then again, you just might get to be king of your tribe for awhile. Sure beats waiting in traffic to get to the next sales appointment.

  17. Ah yes, tactical, when testosterone, boredom, fantasy and a good moral compass mix together.

    Hmm, no mention of molle. I think the article is missing some prime content.

  18. At least he’s honest.

    All the “tactical” doodads in the world, both hung off a person or a weapon, are nothing compared to calm nerves and experience, whether it be training or real world.

    If you’re doing it to have fun more power to you, sounds good to me. What irritates me is when I see people at my local range all tacticooled out with absolutely no idea what they’re doing. At least they’re pumping money into the industry

  19. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why this bothers you so much. If you don’t want the products, no one is making you buy them.

  20. If you enjoy this as a hobby, and sharing the fun with friends and family, that is fantastic!!! The part about you wishing that you could do this for real, that you wish to be in a real situation where you can shoot your way to freedom, worries the hell out of me. I’m too old and too crippled up to go and simulate “Walking Dead” scenerios, but I wouldn’t have done it 30 years ago when I could. Most of my “training” is related to situational awareness to avoid trouble, not dreaming about looking for it to fulfill some warrior fantasy.

  21. One of the longings of the human heart is a desire for greatness. And I agree, sitting in my cube for 40 hours a week designing and troubleshooting final drive units and propshafts is interesting, but not the stuff legends are made of.

  22. This is probably the most honest article I’ve read in a long time.
    How many civilian users of tactical gear will admit they do it because it’s FUN?
    It’s like golf only 10,000 times better. This guy gets right to the heart of the matter. Although I would point out, unlike other sports, this one could definitely save his life in a self defense situation

  23. my neighbor geeks on civil war re- enactments. i had customers who geeked on cowboy shared caliber stuff. sporting clays is awesome but requires some dedicated equipment. we’ve got a car (of sorts) on a farm that is only driven hither and yon less than 50yds each way for varying self defense scenarios. hide behind the door, reload by the quarter panel, roll out and serpentine (corn stops matador wagons). all this crap is fun and somewhat useful from a training/ preparedness standpoint.
    like a new motobikey owner geeking out over the catalog of socks and after- shave and then comparing notes with the owner of the same bike he has. different handlebars, wider rear tire. back to the internet. you want your bike (gun) to perform better and be different. so geek on.
    the instant biker package is analogous to many forms of geeking. here in this context most notably to non- enlisted individuals sporting all kinds of camo in public when not hunting. please reference nick frost in the old british sitcom ‘space’. funny either way, but only one is not being laughed at. (please read ‘at’ as in italics…). to this day chicago is still littered with non- driving mugs with chain wallets. they are of course only halfway there and must always be referred to as sidewalk commandos.
    yes, geeking was originally a carny term for the chicken head chomper. it has also entered the lexicon as a term for fanatical enthusiasm. i claim poetic license.
    geek on. it’s your fun and it stimulates the industry.

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