SWAT Gear Article
I was asked to write a series of articles for my police association newsletter. It is fairly dry information and is only a "part one" but I'm always looking for feedback and new advice. Anyway...here you go.
If you are like me, I am sorry. That being said, I have problems with �cool� trends. The cop world is no different than any other when it comes to these trends. I liked the sheepdog story when I first read it and before it was commercialized. I know the meaning of the thin blue line and what it means to be a 5%�er, and no I do not need a t-shirt bearing the name. I have seen most cop clich�s and fads and I appreciate most of their meanings. However, there are many that are nothing more than marketing tools. One of the most profitable marketing tools for cops is the word �tactical.�
The word �tactical� has a very simple definition. According to good ol� Merriam Webster, tactical merely means to be well versed in a certain tactic or set of tactics. That�s it, it is nothing grand or extravagant. However when a company attaches the word tactical to a sock, they can automatically add three or more dollars. I am all for free enterprise and folks making a buck, but what bothers me is the extent that it causes people (cops) to dump money on items that are widely untested or just a normal item rebranded. I know, I know, I should just let folks spend what they want and mind my own business, but there are some things that really bother me. Shut up,
All of that being said, and with it in mind, one of the questions that I often get from guys new to SWAT or guys wanting to get on SWAT is regarding gear. Inevitably when someone gets on SWAT, they immediately recognize that there is plenty of gear that is needed outside of what is issued. OR if they�re experience was like mine, the issued gear was overly shitty and needed replacing. The absolute easiest thing that a new guy can do is to look online and see all of the bright colored �tactical� ads and read the �operator tested� testimonials and then dump $200 on a pair of gloves or goggles. Every SWAT operator has done it, and we have learned from it. Being gear whores is infectious.
The purpose of this article is to provide an honest account of what has worked for me and what I suggest. I am not purporting myself to be a know-all, or even close to the most experienced person in the realm of SWAT. However, I do have quite a few SWAT runs under my belt and I have learned what works for me. In this article, I am going to cover the �extra necessities� and not the base requirements of a SWAT operator (firearms, helmets, and vests). If you need an in depth conversation on those items, talk to a SWAT Commanders, range masters or sales reps.
To accomplish my goal of giving sound advice, I follow the following acronym: TUF. I know, it is cheesy, just bear with me. Tough; the item has to be rugged and not fail at the worst times. Ugly; aesthetically unappealing items do not draw attention. Functional; we, as cops (tactical officers) have to lose the fascination on �cool,� and get back to the basics of functionality. Most of the items that I will promote are not the coolest things in the world, but they have not failed me in the past.
When I first got on the SWAT team, I was issued a pair of fingerless Blackhawk Hellstorms. They worked well for the few months that I wore them. My biggest complaint was that they got very stiff after sweat soaked them and they air dried. The thing that made me get rid of them was due to a splinter of wood. On an entry in which the door was breached and I ran into an obstacle I reached up to pull myself up onto the porch by the door jam, I caught a nasty splinter under my fingernail. Quit calling me a sissy or whatever synonym you choose, that crap hurt and was unavoidable!
The next pair of gloves that I used, and the last pair that I have bought, were a pair of Hatch Specialist All-Weather Shooters Gloves. The name is a handful, but these things have been awesome. They are simple, breathable, completely matte black and fully functional. I have not noticed a difference in how I shoot or reload with them on. I can pick up small items with them and actually work in them. One drawback to the glove is the back is made out of Neoprene and not leather or canvas. Broken glass could prove an issue. I have not had this problem, though. The gloves can be bought on www.lapolicegear.com for around $15.
One thing to think about with gloves is if the pair you have forces your shots to become even slightly inaccurate it take them off line and start using them for yard work. Leather or canvas palms are definitely a must for things involving ropes or searching suspects. I would suggest against buying the badass looking hard knuckle gloves. It is not that I think they are aggressive or mean looking, they are widely unnecessary in my experience and provide most that wear them a false sense of security. If you punch with them, they WILL leave a very definable mark and if you are using a ram/halligan correctly, you are in very little danger of smacking your knuckles anyway.
I prefer to wear a good pair of safety glasses. The fact is SWAT is very often a contact sport. I have never liked to worry about my $120 pair of Oakley�s when I�m on a call out. More Oakley and Wiley X sunglasses have been killed on my team due to them being dropped and stepped on. Granted, you can send them in and what-not, but it is still a heart wrenching venture. The pair of glasses that I carry now is made by Bolle and have been really nice for the past eight months. They are called the Contour Metal Safety Glasses and are around $15 with the ESP lens (high clarity, lightly tinted). The lenses are replaceable, although I have not needed to replace mine. My eyes adjust well moving from outside to inside with them and they are not too dark for night operations. These glasses are available on www.lapolicegear.com. Whatever glasses you choose, make sure they are safety lenses and buy a nerd strap that fits snugly around your head.
For many SWAT teams that are lucky enough to have TacMedics, personal first aid equipment often gets overlooked. Here is the deal, if you are involved in a bad situation where one of your buddies is down and you are not actively shooting back or covering an unknown, you need to be doing some form of first aid for the injured guy. Most of the time, this first aid is to drag the injured person to a medic, but there WILL come a day when this is not possible and first aid must happen while the shots are ringing. I would hate to know that not having person first aid equipment of some kind caused my pal to bleed out.
That being said, I am not expecting a new SWAT operator to go out and buy the $500 �tactical� medic�s triage backpack. My suggestion is simple. Go to Academy Sports and Outdoors or www.amazon.com and find the Adventure Medical Kits Trauma Pak with QuickClot. It is $20, vacuum sealed and fit nicely in a BDU pocket or a MOLLE pouch. Just pack it and forget about it. It is not the best in the world, I�m sure, but it is easy to use and will buy precious time until you can get them to the Doc.
The next piece of equipment is one that EVERY SINGLE COP ON EARTH should own, and if they do not, shame on them. A battlefield tourniquet is absolutely necessary for every officer, not excluding the SWAT cop. How much should you spend? Well, how much is your life and/or limb worth to you. The tourniquet that was suggested by our Doc (and the one I carry in my go bag as well as my SWAT rig) is the Combat Action Tourniquet (CAT). It is $25, on Amazon, and is very easy to use. As with any other piece of equipment you rest your life on, you will need to practice, practice, practice.
This is not a comprehensive list and I am sure that most folks have many other things they find more important. These are some of the items that I have seen cause the most issues with the new guys. Either they are too cold or they are burning up. Either they burn their hands rappelling or they have to throw down their badass knuckle gloves to reload magazines. Either they have no clue what roll gauze is or they are carrying the universal sign of a new guy: the Coleman camping medkit in �tactical red.�
Whatever you buy, make sure that it works for you and most of all is functional. There is nothing worse that realizing your gear is useless during a high stress callout. If you buy something you want to carry, you should work out with it, practice with it and practice using it (if necessary). Finally, do not be so vain to realize that something is no good if you cannot make it word during practice. Be prepared to throw away something you spent good money on if you find out that it is worthless. Never hesitate to ask for advice from the older guys, never stop researching and learning, and do more push-ups.