Useful equipment vs. Tactical toys


January 30, 2003, 09:58 PM
We have all seen the "Buy this because it's the official doodad of the Elite Ninja Warrior Corps" ads.

The Swiss Army Knife thread got me thinking. How much of this stuff is as good as advertised, and how much of it can be replaced by less expensive and equal or better quality stuff.

Watches are a good example. I have one of the $30 Timex Expeditions that is durable, and keeps time at one third the cost of some of those tactical commando models.

Think wide open, everthing from sleeping bags to scopes, blades to boots.

So what's the good stuff, and what's been dumped because it was junk or just not right for the job.

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January 30, 2003, 10:10 PM

I think simpler and less expensive can sometimes be as good as a name brand. I like my Swiss Army Knife because it does everything I need to do for the most part. I know there are fancier more expensive knives but I really just need the Swiss.

Maybe it is the same with a lot of equipment. Sometimes simpler less "tactical" can do the job just fine.

January 30, 2003, 10:19 PM
Exactly my point. And the kind of experience I am trying to relate.

Looking forward to seeing what people have found to be good 'nuff on a working parent's budget.

January 30, 2003, 10:31 PM
Buy things that will do the job, but don't look "tactical." In any emergency situation, the last thing you want to have is equipment that instantly identifies you as "Tactical Tommy, or Joe Survivalist."

A good set of blue jeans and a plaid flannel shirt won't be noticed by either the bad guys or the government. Good brown or tan hunting boots will serve you as well as the black military boots, and won't attract as much attention. A sports type water bottle, or a "cowboy" style canteen, works as well as a military canteen. If you envision needing a backpack, get one that makes you look like a backpacker, not like a wannabe commando.

Cammies and face paint mark you as "dangerous nut case" to the government types, and a Walter Mitty type "easy mark" to the bad guys. Keep the Winchester 94 highly visible, and keep the AR-15/M1A out of sight. Wear the Timex, and keep the Rolex in your pocket.

I have a baseball cap that would be perfect for a bad situation. It has a "flying corncob" on the front and says "DeKalb Seeds." Now who on earth is going to give a second look to some "hick farmer" wearing a DeKalb baseball cap?

No one is going to see the AR-15/AKs/Beretta M-9 and the food/water/ clothing and other gear secured under the tarp.

January 30, 2003, 10:52 PM
cheygriz, your approach really IS tactical :)

Chris Rhines
January 30, 2003, 10:59 PM
Nine times out of ten, the mil-spec gear is inferior in price and quality to civillian camping equipment, particularly if you shop around. I'd take a $150 Kelty Tempest over any pack Blackhawk or Eagle makes (and Kelty ain't a top brand.) Ditto boots, clothing, almost everything.

I'd make an exception for load-bearing gear; for that kind of stuff military suppliers are really the only option. But before you drop three bills on an SOE vest, try to have some idea of what you'll be using it for in mind. For example, I'd love to have a Force vest for three-gun matches, but I can't see wearing it on a regular basis. That $300 could be of more use elsewhere.

- Chris

January 30, 2003, 11:05 PM
It has been my experience that most of the time you get what you pay for. I have bought survivalist hatchets out of cheaper than dirt for $4 apiece. Three work fine so far but one of the handles fell off as soon as I got it out of the box. But these are basically just hunks of is pretty hard to srew up such an item. However the more complex something is i would spend more money to make it quality. MY friend bought some USA brand mags for the AR and he only fired 4 shots the whole range session because of jams an FTF. I buy only Thermolds nd US GI stuff and I have only had 2 FTF in several thousand rounds. I have had cheap sleeping bags bought at Sam's club that have served me well so far and spent good money on car parts that did not increase or improve the vehicles performance.

I guess what I am saying is that cheaper isn't always better, however niether is the more expensive toy the way to go either.

I base my purchases on three ideas. 1. The more I use an item on an everyday basis, I believe that better quality will make it last longer. 2. You get what you pay for, if you spend bargain basement prices then you will get something that will stay in the basement. 3. If your life is going to depend on it then spend the moeny once and never regret it.


January 30, 2003, 11:09 PM
Tactical Headband


January 31, 2003, 08:31 AM
I pretty much agree with cheygriz on this when you're out among the people in parks, etc. "Tactical" stuff tends to draw unwanted attention. Neat stuff is fun if you derive a pleasure from it. I assume most of us work relatively hard for our wage and if we want something to make us feel better what's the harm. At the same time, I can't see paying ten or more dollars for a do-rag. My old LBE (Load Bearing Equipment) that I've had for over twenty years fits me well but would not be appropriate on the Blue Ridge Parkway. On the other hand, my old large rucksack with mountain bag rolled up inside should pass muster without much attention.

January 31, 2003, 09:34 AM
I agree with cheygriz as well. He touched on specifics a little bit.

Chris hit it right on the head with the Kelty pack. That's the kind of tips I'm looking for. Why buy a $300 + dollar Strider knife to go camping or throw in the truck for example, when a decent Ka-Bar from the surplus store will get the job done?

What about stuff like those little photon micro-lites we've all seen at the gunshow for years. I always considered them a toy, but lately I've seen reports where people actually find them useful.

January 31, 2003, 10:02 AM
What about stuff like those little photon micro-lites we've all seen at the gunshow for years. I always considered them a toy, but lately I've seen reports where people actually find them useful.

That is quite possibly the handiest gizmo I've acquired in the last few years. An itty-bitty, brightish, one-hand-operable flashlight on your keychain is something that you will find yourself constantly finding uses for.

January 31, 2003, 10:55 AM
2 most useful things I've adopted usage of are:
1. Hands free kit for my cell phone
2. Leatherman

Don't know tactical quotient, but practical YES! ;)

January 31, 2003, 11:01 AM
Roger on the tiny light. I have a keychain light and recall my father-in-law cracking a joke about it..."wow, just what the heck are you going to light up with that?"
In sight of a few weeks, we were walking in the dark to his barn to fetch something or another and he reached a stalemate when trying to insert a key into a padlock. I whipped out the little light that could and saved the day. Then I said "so, what do you think of my flashlight?":cool:

January 31, 2003, 11:55 AM
10-ring, I second the Leatherman idea. My Gerber multi-tool has been a life saver more than once. Just a small item carried on the belt, but very usefull.

January 31, 2003, 11:59 AM
Anything can be tactical with black/OD spray paint:D I like to keep a low profile & avoid the overpriced tactical gear. I use to be a buyer for a hiking/camping goods store & knew that Northface,marmot,Moss etc. modifies their hiking equipment for military testing & many of which is adopted. Many items are just color changes. I had many of these prototypes( free of course) to play with. I'm a reformed "Tech wienie" now:p

January 31, 2003, 02:53 PM
I love my Photon II. I should get an extra one or three and hang them on my backpack and other things I have with me all the time.

Love my Leatherman, too. I have a Wave, but am considering picking up an ST200.

January 31, 2003, 03:27 PM
You can justify darned near anything if the term "Tactical" is involved. Like this support system for battery-powered devices below, affectionately known as a "Rooney Gun" by firearms course instructors:

Well, *almost* anything, save for Skunkabilly's next "tactical" rifle purchase:

January 31, 2003, 03:50 PM
to see what I mean, go outside at night, let your eyes adjust to the dark then flash that little light straight into your face. Used on an attacker, he will be blinded for plenty of time to escape. I find the red one works the best for this......chris3

Steve Smith
January 31, 2003, 05:12 PM
This is a GREAT topic. I follow Chezgriz' methods as much as possible, too. Hey man, got an extra "flying corncob" hat?

January 31, 2003, 05:23 PM
if'n ya want one of them hats, all ya gotta do is buy about 10 bags of seed corn

don't know about the economics of spending $1,500 to get a free hat, but it works for the farmers around here

Know why farmers don't wear tennis shoes??? Cause seed corn companies don't give 'em away free

January 31, 2003, 07:53 PM

Ummmm...... Actually, if you buy enough seed corn, DeKalb DOES give away sneakers with the "flying corncob" logo!

Some items that I've always found handy, that could prove to be "tactical" as well.

Mini-Maglite with nylon holster. Lotsa farmers, utility workers, truck drivers etc carry them.

Leatherman tool, obviously.

Large folding lockback knife in leather belt carrier. Unobtrusive, but effective if needed.

Laser pointer with clip carried in shirt pocket. (Like buisiness people use when making presentations) Good for pointing out things, and GREAT for temporarily blinding some "sumnabitch" if needed.

Another little tip: If you use a "Day Planner" type holster for your CCW gun, get some adhesive tape and put a cross on the front. Makes it look like a fancy zippered Bible.

Metal first aid kit box. White with the red cross symbol on the front. Makes a great place to carry spare ammo unobtrusively.

But the most tactical, and practical item of equipment you have sits right on top of your shoulders if you're willing to use it!!!

Line Rider
February 1, 2003, 11:24 AM
I have to agree. "Tactical" is a word that has been over used.

I do have one item that I buy not because I think they're "tactical". That's Danner boots. I have heel spurs. I have tried all the name brand boots with no relief. Danner's feel good. They give good support. And they're built well. I have to wear black books in uniform,but I have tan boot for off duty.

February 1, 2003, 07:09 PM
Amen to Danner boots, brother! Somebody might make a boot that's just as good, but I don't believe anybody makes a better boot.

February 1, 2003, 07:11 PM
I like my Danners even though they smell funny.

I wanted to get them in brown and called every store in a 30 mile radius (not kidding) but NO ONE had them. I ended up getting one in tac black :rolleyes:

February 1, 2003, 08:31 PM
The Photon lights are great.

They are surprisingly bright. Bright enough to cause an involuntary reaction if you shine them in someone's eyes--even in a well-lit environment.

February 1, 2003, 10:17 PM
Another definition of utility is multi-purpose stuff.

For instance, if you feel the need for a light on the end of your gun, can you take it off and just use it as a flashlight?

If you just have to have a BOB in your car or truck, can it masquerade as a 'Highway/Road Emergency Kit'.

I have a Leatherman and a Gerber multi-tool (both gifts, I have cool relatives), and two SAK's, same deal. One each in car, one on me or handy. Works good, especially if you don't have to buy them.

Binoculars. Small 'sport' type, non-camo. Not expensive, because they will get dropped and break. Easy to replace, at Wally World. (I have good ones, I just don't let anyone else 'play' with them, thus, they are less 'useful' in everyday life).

Subbing Prestone Brake Cleaner for Gun Scrubber is on of the best money-saving things I've seen.

I know GPS's are all the rage, but you can pick up a good, inexpensive compass in any decent sporting goods store. Learn how Granpa did it. Not subject to satellite access/failure, battery life, or the vicissitudes of 'the gummint'.

Does everyone still carry or keep matches around? Beats two sticks, and if you keep them dry, theyll last longer than you will.

Other 'real' stuff that works:

I like tritium sights for handguns. Yeah, they'll wear out, eventually, then I'll replace them, or they'll just become about as useful as the 'regular' kind. Yeah, they have thier limitations, but what the heck. Can't toss all the cool stuff in the trash.

Lasers are (for most of us) toys. Cool in the movies. Stupid in the living room. May be useful for some, but more likely to fritz about the time you 'need' them. Laser rangers are cool, but have the same problem as the sights. Probably crap out in the clutch. Better to use less technical, power-independent means, or at least know how.

Speedloaders or moon clips for revolvers. Did you ever try to load six-in-hand in a real hurry? (I kind of prefer speedloaders, as you can get the rounds out of them quick, if for some reason you have to).

This is a good thought-process to go through, now and then. If the stuff you buy works as advertised, fine. But is it really necessary, or just cool? What's the bare minimum you need to get the job done? Too much stuff is a burden, even if you're just carrying it from the toolbox to the car, as an example. Wheels on the toolbox fixes that, but you get the idea.

February 1, 2003, 10:28 PM
Amen to Danner boots, brother! Somebody might make a boot that's just as good, but I don't believe anybody makes a better boot.

Ditto...although my new Corcorans look!!!!!!!!!!!


February 2, 2003, 09:52 AM
I love my leatherman and am looking to get another for the car. I wouldn't take the one off my duty belt for anything!

For boots, I seriously doubt you can find anything better than Original SWAT boots. Though only available in tac black, as far as I know, they are the most comfortable boots I've ever worn and are super durable. For the money ($70 for a pair that will last over a year w/o any problems), you'll not find anything that will beat them. I should note that my job usually wears the tread off the soles long before the "usable life" of the upper becomes questionable. Someone that walks less than I do could wear a pair of OS boots for far longer.

A small maglite is very handy only if it has a side-mounted switch. The round cross-section lets them roll a lot and twisting the bezel to turn it on is a pain in some circumstances. A plastic surefire is a better bet (shorter, lighter, brighter, easier on the teeth) and not too expensive.

Waterproof matches are a joke. I bought some Hurricane matches (British navy issue) from Brigade Quartermasters and the dang wooden stems break long before you can get the head to ignite!!! A pre-emergency trial showed that a full half of the matches would snap in two before you got one match to ignite intact and could light a candle. Now I have three waterproof boxes of unreliable matches.

MTM-Casegard makes some very useful plastic boxes to hold ammunition and other sundries.

Camping/hunting supply stores definitely offer better equipment than you'll get from the tactical folks.

Will you use the equipment daily? If so, buy the best gear from the best source. This source is rarely Blackhawk/SOE/etc.

Double Naught Spy
February 2, 2003, 02:26 PM
For us non-leo and non-military types, I figure most of the stuff bought as 'tactical' gear is done so on a coolness basis. That is not to say that some of the tactical gear doesn't have a real purpose or is cost effective, only that it can be useful.

I have a light on my HD shotgun. Is it a toy and waste of money? Not in my book. It can be rather hard to weild a long gun properly one-handed and hold a flashlight in your off hand. But the light is not there to play Joe Swat. The light is there in case I need light in addition to whatever ambient light is present. It is what is to be used when there are no other better sources available. Do I think I will ever need to use it in a real situation? Probably not, but I would rather have it on the gun and not need it then end up in the dark and need it very badly.

There are definitely cheaper alternatives to a slide light on an 870. For example, you can buy two of the clamps used to secure the magazine to the barrel and use those clamps to secure something like a Surefire light to the barrel. While much cheaper, it isn't going to be quite as stable, IMHO.

Buying gear to be cool is jump plain stupid in my book in terms of being cost effective. If you have a use for a specific type of gear and feel that you may need it someday, then by all means buy the gear.

Since Boyscouts, I have always wanted to own a grappling hook. Now I see in one of these military gear catalogs that I can get the grappling hook, rope, and attachements to launch it from a rifle for when I need to assault that multistory building or cliff face. Of course, I live in a one story home and really can figure out why I would NEED a really cool all black and tactical grappling hook. While the odds are rare that I might need the light on my shotgun someday in a real life HD situation, for the life of me I cannot fathom a single reason why I would need an oh so cool grappling hook.

February 2, 2003, 05:20 PM
If the likes of us dind't buy all this stuff, there would be a lot less R&D, and the military would end up with inferior equipment than what they have.

February 2, 2003, 05:49 PM
You are now my wallpaper man!

February 2, 2003, 10:54 PM
That's not Gewehr98, that's Paul Kim of Surefire :D

Don't mess with those Koreans, man!!!

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