You may have seen him- it’s always ‘him’ for some reason- at the range, or in a class or even in a store or restaurant. The Tactical Guy. He’s got a sweet gun with all the bells and whistles. He’s wearing patches with his favorite brands on them, and some that say things like ‘Door Kicker,’ ‘Warfighter’or ‘I come, I F**k things up, and I leave.” He has more pockets than teeth, and he’s probably wearing camo. If he’s really committed he’s tatted up like a sideshow freak. He is the Ultimate Badass, and he wants you and everyone else to know it. He is… drumroll please… Tacti-Cool!
Don’t get me wrong, this guy could genuinely be a badass. Maybe he was a door-kicker in the Sandbox. Maybe he is a serious operator. I’m not going to bet on it, though. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen one of these guys take their super-modified $3000 handgun and shoot like their life depends on putting a bullet into every square inch of the target at seven yards… and that target is usually a full-size ‘tactical’ target.
The biggest badass I have ever met looked like– and was– a friendly, funny, easy-going grandfather. He tended to wear utilitarian casual clothes and sneakers. Have a chat with him and he was nice, smart, polite and pleasant. You’d never suspect he was dangerous. But if he decided you needed to be dead you would be dead before you could blink, pretty much no matter who you were. Stealth… it’s tactical.
This calls into question what, exactly, does Tactical mean? According to the Dictionary:
tactical |ˈtaktikəl| adjective
Of, relating to, or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific military end: as a tactical officer in the field he had no equal.
• (of bombing or weapons) done or for use in immediate support of military or naval operations. Often contrasted with strategic.
• (of a person or their actions) showing adroit planning; aiming at an end beyond the immediate action: in a tactical retreat, she moved into a hotel with her daughters.
Interesting… There is no mention of camouflage, tattoos or arguing endlessly in social media and online forums. It apparently has nothing to do with the latest class, gear fad or firearm. Or for that matter advertising to the world that you are a badass.
It has to do, in each of the cases in the definition above, to plan in order to maximize the odds of success in a situation where violence is a thing. If your goal is self-defense in public spaces you should plan to maximize your odds of success. If your goal is to survive an ‘active shooter’ situation you need a different sort of plan. Dealing with a burglar in your home also requires a plan. A catastrophic event that causes a breakdown of social order needs a plan if you are to survive and get through it. Are we sensing a trend here? That perhaps ‘tactical’ has more to do with planning than it does with the latest fad or fashion?
According to the ‘Tacti-cool’ community if you don’t have the absolute latest, greatest gear for any conceivable situation you are an idiot. Because apparently things that have worked for a hundred years magically stop working whenever someone comes up with a new product or idea for separating you from your cash. ‘You bought your web-gear five years ago? Dude, you gonna start carrying a club and dressing in furs next?’
News flash- your 30 year old stock AR15 still works exactly as it did thirty years ago. Is there something better out there? Maybe- but that doesn’t mean your old gun is worthless or stupid. A 1911A1 will still put down bad guys (if you do your part) despite the fact that the design is over a hundred years old. So will a S&W M&P .38 special. Obsolete does not mean useless, or even stupid.
Let’s take a little jaunt sideways. People used to use Safety Razors. These worked well, and replacement blades were cheap and readily available. Then disposable razors were introduced. They weren’t as cheap, but they were convenient and razor manufacturers pushed them hard. They didn’t do this because these razors were better; they did it because they were more profitable. Now they will tell you that if you want a good shave you need a four-blade titanium-coated razor with ultra-sonic vibration… and to pay $45 for a pack of six replacement blades. Instead of $2.95 for a pack of 20 blades for your safety razor. A few years ago I switched back to a Safety Razor and you know what? It works as well as the uber-high-tech state-of-the-art razor it replaced. The only difference is that Gillette is making a lot less money off of me.
In reality my 1911A1 is as likely to be useful in the real world as a tricked-out USP .45- because the situation I am most likely to encounter will probably involve two shots at a distance of less than ten feet. In a self-defense situation a snub-nosed .38 that is with you when you need it is more ‘tactical’ than a fully-tricked-out Glock in your gun safe. But seriously by definition your gun isn’t tactical no matter how much money you throw at it. Your plan for using it is tactical, and the plan is far more important than the tools you use to execute it.
That seems like a good place to wrap up Part 1; give it some thought before we continue.