The word tactical is everywhere at the moment in the firearms industry. However it is a word that generates controversy for a variety of different reasons. Why has “tactical” become so popular? What does it even mean? This article aims to shed some 850 lumen, aircraft grade aluminium, LED light on the subject…

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In the last 5 years the word has morphed into a fashion, a movement, a mindset and a huge money spinner. It seems that anywhere a company can apply it they will. Tactical rifles, knives, gloves, bags, torches, lighters, clothes, ammunition, video games, the list is endless. Why do companies release tactical versions of things? Well the same reason companies do anything! Because it sells.

Why the demand?

Tactical thinking has adaptive value. Traits which have adaptive value are those that increased our chances of survival. For thousands of years humans who were able to get tasks completed efficiently would have a better chance of surviving and therefore producing children. We are hard wired to think tactical. To select the best strategy and equipment to complete a task.
I am writing this in my warm front room, no predators are stalking me, I am not at risk of freezing or starving. I have no real way of putting my inherent tactical trait to use. Our workplaces are becoming increasingly bureaucratic, effectively stifling our iniative and crushing the tactical mindset. Traits which we have posessed for thousands of years do not just disappear. We are attracted to the tactical concept of getting things done with great efficiency. We are driven to “win” and now we can buy things to help us do that with military efficiency. Or so the advertisers would suggest!

The good things about tactical.
I have been a little negative about this phenomenon but actually it has some fringe benefits.

Reliability
The guns and gear we use are really expensive. We want them to last a long time and take the odd knock without falling to bits. Guys are now buying new gear and torture testing it for every disaster scenario including a zombie apocalypse! The companies making the gear are actively trying to over engineer. If their product survives being stamped on, dropped in mud and then dumped into a deep freezer then the chances are it will sell. Personally I am all in favour of things being extremely durable. I am very unlikely to jump in any mud bogs or shoot zombies but I am pleased when my scope survives the odd bump in transit..

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My system can cope with most weather thanks to some durable gear..

Functionality

I love a bit of picatinny rail real estate or a few extra molle loops. Before tactical designs we had seriously limited options regarding mounting kit on a rifle. You would likely end up with a couple of scope rings tailored to your specific rifle. The forend was probably wooden so the bipod would have to be attached to the sling swivel if you had one. Now we seem to have unlimited options. The tacticool crowd will no doubt fill every inch of picatinny with useless gadgets but there is no doubt it is good to have options which can be used on multiple systems..

Price/competition

The increase in interest has the large manufacturers battling for their place in the market. Great news for the consumer. Just look at optics in the last 5 years. Features such as “tactical turrets”, mil type reticles, zero stops, enlarged tubes were only available within the upper financial band of the scope market. We are now seeing such features becoming standard in even mid priced optics.

Increase in new shooters

The tactical trend seems to be attracting a lot of new shooters. Practical shotgun and civilian service rifle are currently the two fastest growing shooting sports in the UK. In turn shooting sports as a whole are rising rapidly in popularity. In my mind this is fantastic news. Shooting sports are superb fun, historically very safe indeed, and have suffered stigma for far to long which has kept numbers down.

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Practical shotgun, the second fastest growing shooting sport in the UK. Notice the belt kit. “Tactical” accessories can aid speed and thus winning!

Possible Negative aspects
The tactical image can be used negatively by the media. If a newspaper wants to cause some outrage then a picture of a black tactical looking rifle above an anti gun story usually does the trick. The public write in saying “why does anyone need such a rifle with 30 round magazines?” Politicians will happily jump on the “black guns are evil” bandwagon if they feel it will win them votes at that given time. The trend that seems to be swelling shooting sports at the moment could also be a thorn in the side if not carefully managed.

So do I need “tactical kit”

The bottom line is yes if it helps you win a competition or even increases your enjoyment when shooting recreationally. I have some “tactical trousers”.. They are just trousers with added pockets and padded knees. When you kneel on a rock it seems like the extra £20 spent was worth it. Most of us use or have used a Harris type bipod. The legs extend at the push of a button, the legs fold away when you do not need them, the whole unit is fairly light but tough as old boots. Of course you could use a pair of awkward non folding legs but we pick the tactical choice because it is easier to use. Most of us use picatinny mounting systems allowing easy mounting of scopes and other accessories. I have a tactical stock on my Remington. It is resistant to wet, cold, impacts and it gives better accuracy than the original version. It also cost a few hundred pounds more.. And that right there is the rub. Is the money your spending giving you value in terms of results. My stock does. I shoot in rain, snow and heat. I shoot from various positions and structures. A wooden stock would be pretty dinged up by now. My Manners T5 is unmarked and still in as new condition.

When you go too tactical!

Reliable kit does not make you a better shot, it just allows a good shot to be consistently good. If you are a poor shot then you will see no benefit in terms of performance. Some people do not quite get this and end up smothering themselves and their rifle with pointless crap. We all know someone with all the gear and no idea. Some people get really irked by it. I just think hey it’s their money, if they want to waste it..

Conclusion

I try not to let a company tell me what to buy. I try to look at the task ahead and design a strategy to effectively carry it out. Can I buy kit that will help at a good bang for buck ratio? If I can then I will. That is what competition is all about. You select a winning strategy. Make a list of problems which you feel prevent you winning. Then make a list of the things you can do to remove those problems. Most of the time the problems lay with the shooter but sometimes you can mitigate with selective kit. Just dont ever imagine the kit can solve your errors…

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