Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tactical Gear | Binoculars

Today we'll take a look at another piece of tactical gear that you'll want in your kit-bag before heading out: a good pair of binoculars. Whether you're using them for observation and recon, to scope out a potential blind for hunting, to get a close look at a bird in the distance for bird watching, or just to check out what type of terrain you're going to have to tackle in the near future, a good pair of binoculars in your tactical gear is a very handy tool to have. So let's look at what makes a good pair of binoculars.

There are three separate types of optics that are found in 99% of all binoculars: Galilean, Porro, and Roof Prism optics. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, but Galilean optics are generally of lower quality and found in less expensive binoculars that are not designed for rugged use with the rest of your tactical gear. Porro prism binoculars are generally larger and produce brighter images than Roof Prism optics, but Porro prisms may also need to be recalibrated and set back into place at some point in time during their useful life. Roof prism optics are generally maintenance free.

Higher quality binoculars that will be useful in your bag of tactical gear will also include an anti-glare coating known as magnesium fluoride on their lenses. This not only increases the quality of the image that you see when you look through them, but it makes them easier on your eyes by not transmitting glare from the sun or other bright light sources.

Unless you want binoculars that are only good for viewing objects at one distance (a fixed focal length) you'll need to make sure they have a focus knob on them. High end binoculars will have independent focus knobs for each side, while less expensive models will have a dual adjust knob with a diopter adjustment to adjust for your off eye being slightly different than the one used to focus. This method is certainly more convenient and less tie consuming, but the advantage to separate focusing mechanism are obvious.

Do yourself a favor - if you're buying binoculars for frequent use, look into buying a pair with image stabilization. While heavier and more expensive, they do offer much greater magnification than non-VR models, and that means you tend to get greater benefit from them, especially if you're a heavy user and they don't find their way to the bottom of your bag of tactical gear too often.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tactical Gear and Airline Travel

Going on a west coast hunting trip and live on the east coast? Chances are you're flying. You need to know how to get all your tactical gear there safely, legally, and in one piece. In this article we'll look at the TSA rules for traveling with some of your higher-profile gear.

Tactical Gear
According to law, when you travel you must transport firearms, ammunition and firearm parts in checked luggage only. They must be declared during check-in at the airport ticket counter, unloaded, and in a hard-sided, locked container. Ammunition must be packaged in cardboard (or cardboard-like) material at a minimum. It may not be transported in clips or magazines. Refrain from brining black powder or percussion caps -- they're prohibited. For incident-free travel with your tactical gear, contact the airline you're traveling with before you pack.

Flare Guns
Many people going to remote locations have flare guns at the top of their packing lists. There's no better way to mark your location in case of emergency. TSA travel restrictions are the same for these as with regular firearms. They must be unloaded and in a locked container for travel. The actual flares must be purchased when you arrive at your destination -- they are prohibited on flights.

Knives and other Sharp Tactical Gear
Do yourself a favor -- plan on checking these items, but call your airline to make sure. For the most part, any tactical equipment in this category you might take (multi-tool, knife, hatchet, utility knife) needs to be part of your checked luggage.

Self Defense Tactical Gear
Common items in this category are batons, stun guns, and mace or pepper spray. All must be included with your checked luggage when traveling. Mace and pepper spray is limited to one 4 Fluid Ounce container per checked bag, and it must be equipped with an accidental discharge safety mechanism.

Bottom line, when traveling with tactical gear, make sure you have enough room in your checked baggage, and make sure you contact your airline beforehand to iron out the details.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tactical Combat Boots

When you're in a tactical environment, there's no arguing that your feet come first -- before food, before sleep, before almost everything. While not to the same extent, when you're hunting, hiking, or participating in many other outdoor activities, your feet are one of the things that will put you out of the fun quickly if not taken care of. While there's all kinds of fancy, expensive tactical boots out there, I'm going to try to convince you that sometimes old-school is the best school.

A Case for Old-Fashioned Combat Boots
Well, they're not really old fashioned. As a matter of fact, they're cutting edge, and the latest versions for the Army were released in 2005. They've moved away from the "a toe shine is a no shine" mentality to a more tactical friendly boot - a tan, rough-out combat boots referred to as Army Combat Boots. There are two versions: a temperate weather boot and a desert (hot weather) boot. The desert combat boots weigh in at 2.0lbs, with the temperate weather combat boots weighing just 25% more. An incredible amount of testing, research, money, and effort has been put into these boots.

Tactical Testing
What better was to develop a boot than with a million person test group? Seriously, can you think of one? I can't. The U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center had access to just that - an entire army full of people with opinions about the footwear they use every day, in every environment from below zero freezing to scalding deserts to mountains, jungles, cities, and more. This combat boot design has been tested in every tactical environment you can imagine.

Comfortable Combat Boots
Once broken in, they feel like running shoes. Sure, they're not as light, and you shouldn't use them as actual running shoes, but the bottom line is they're very easy to wear. And they were actually designed using the same principles that many high end running shoes are designed with. Think of it as a tactical running shoe, designed to keep your feet from fatiguing.

A Tactical Force Multiplier
All the high tech equipment and training in the world is only as good as the people that use it, and if they're feet are in poor shape, none of it is much good for anything. If you doubt that the army put that much effort into developing their LPCs (leather personnel carriers), think about it from a cost-benefit standpoint. This is one of a few pieces of tactical gear that every soldier uses every day. If they're flawed, or poor design, or badly constructed, it's going to dilute the effectiveness of their entire resource base (that being the soldiers). It only makes sense that they design and manufacture a world-class tactical combat boot.

Tactical Flashlights

A reliable flashlight is an important addition to anyone's collection of tactical gear. This article will describe what to look for when shopping for a tactical flashlight.

Light Output
A tactical flashlight has one basic job -- provide light. That suggests that one of the most important specs to look for is light output. Light output in tactical flashlights is measured in lumens. How do those relate to candela (aka candle power)? As commonly referred to, lumens are actually lumenous flux, or total light emitted, and candela are luminous intensity, or light emitted in a specific direction. The bottom line - more is better.

You should look for a tactical flashlight that emits 90 or more lumens. 100 is great, 120 is top notch. The tactical light should be able to emit full power for 60 minutes, and low to medium power for two to three times that.

Ideally, your tactical flashlight will have LEDs instead of a conventional incandescent bulb. LED bulbs last hundreds of times longer than incandescent bulbs, and are much less prone to shock and water damage. Look for a tactical flashlight with different colored LEDs to help maintain light discipline -- hunters will appreciate multi-colored LEDs since animals generally have difficulty detecting anything but white light.

Finally, look at the construction of the tactical flashlight. Is it metal? Are there rubber o-rings at all seams to keep water and dirt out? What type of batteries does it run on? All these specs should play into your decision when purchasing any piece of tactical gear.

I hope this article has given you some useful things to think about when purchasing a tactical flashlight.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Essential Tactical Gear

I don’t care if you use tactical gear for your livelihood, recreation, a hobby, or you just like having cool stuff. It’s important to know what’s out there and spend your money wisely. Obviously, if you’re in a profession that requires you to make use of tactical gear in your day-to-day life you may have more of an interest in buying quality equipment, but that’s not to say the rest of us don’t as well.

Let’s look at some of the more common (but maybe still essential) tactical gear, how it’s used, and what features to look for when purchasing.

Eye Protection

Call them goggles, sunglasses, ballistic glasses, or tactical eye devices – they all offer the same thing: eye protection. Protection from what? Well, lots of things, really. Sun, dust, debris, glare, sand, you name it. There are few things that will put you out of commission faster than an eye injury, and few things that are more dangerous than not being able to see what you’re doing. All the rest of your tactical gear and tactical equipment becomes useless if you can’t see what you’re doing. Look for lenses that meet ANSI Z87.1 Industrial Standards and minimize blur and distortion. If you wear prescription glasses, consider buying your eye protection with prescription lenses . It'll save you some organization and extra equipment to carry around.


Yes, I said footwear. Another basic item of tactical gear that we overlook far too often. If you can’t walk, run, jump, or stand, you can’t participate in whatever activity it is you’re interested in. Again, both professional and recreational enthusiasts will be sidelined without proper footwear. And by footwear I don’t just mean boots and shoes. I mean socks, foot powder, blister relief, and more boots and shoes. For your actual outer footwear, look for something that it comfortable, provides a stable platform for your feet (think balance), provides some level of waterproofing, and can take a little abuse. Many companies today are using Gortex in their construction which has the best of both worlds in weight, breathability, and water resistance.

For socks, consider a combination of Coolmax, wool, nylon, or cotton. Also look at wearing two pairs on each foot to reduce friction and maximize the wicking effect. Your bottom layer should be very light weight, preferably nylon or a very light wool.

Global Positioning System

They’re not just for the elite anymore. For a number of years now, dependable, accurate, useful, and user friendly tactical GPS units have been available to the masses. If you remember the old military PLGRS, you probably aren’t filing the memories away in the “good tactical gear” category. Fear not, things have changed drastically. Gone are the days of poor signal processing and overhead foliage ruining your reception. Gone are the days of cryptic menus and poor user interface. Today’s units are the real deal.

Look for waterproof units for maximum durability, and extras such as NOAA weather alert reception, WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) for greater accuracy, built-in GMRS/FRS for non-tactical communication, and the ability to use a micro-SD card to add and store information. This will definately be one of your higher-tech pieces of tactical gear.


Ah, the trusty compass. The sidekick of explorers throughout history, and probably one of the most fun things you remember playing with from your childhood (to the younger audience, we didn’t use to have Nintendo and X-Box). Who knew it was actually useful for real-world navigation? The things to look for when purchasing one are phosphorescent markings (for low-light use), operating range over temperature (-50 to +150 is good), needle lock for long term durability, damping, adjustable declination to match your locality, and a built in protractor.


How are you going to navigate with your compass unless you have a map of the area you’re operating in? There’s plenty of different sources to find military grid coordinate maps, civilian lat/long maps, topographical maps, geological maps, and any other type of map you can imagine. The important thing to remember with this tactical gear is to look at the map and know what you’re doing before you’re in a situation where it’s your last resort! Trust me – I’ve done a lot of map reading and land navigation (without GPS) in my day. There’s nothing quite like the sinking feeling in your stomach when you realize not only are you in the middle of nowhere, but you’re nowhere near where you though you were heading for the past six hours.

Cold Weather Gear

Do not – I repeat, do not – get caught in a situation where you’re not prepared for a climate extreme or a local nighttime temperature anomaly. This is a very dangerous situation to be in, and can lead to hypothermia, and well, you know the rest. I can remember one situation where I was participating in some SCUBA training where I was the only guy in a 3 mil wetsuit. Not bad in warm water, but when it’s cold and everyone else has an 11 mil wetsuit on, you’re toast. I had an 80F core temperature before the rest of the group realized they were even in cold water. While the temperature loss isn’t as extreme on land, the end state is the same. Without the proper tactical gear, you’re out of commission, done having fun, and possibly in big trouble if you’re by yourself and have no way of warming up.


One last topic for this article – blending into your environment. Are you trying to conceal yourself? From what? In what environment? This is one of the more difficult area of tactical gear because of all the trade offs. Perfect camouflage probably requires that you’re under ground or completely out of sight. That’s usually not conducive to getting anything done. The easiest way to get things done is out in the open with the minimum equipment necessary. But that’s not conducive to camouflaging yourself. The balance is finding tactical gear that can conceal you in a variety of environments while still offering ease of movement, insulation against hot and cold, protection from moisture, and generally offers some type of utility other than concealment. It’s all about trade-offs with your gear.

That’s it for this article. There’s a lot more topics to cover in the realm of tactical gear, though, so don’t worry, we’ll get there.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tactical Gear | Lensatic Compass

An important part of everyone's tactical gear, whether you're camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, geocaching, paintballing, or on real-world operations in the lensatic compass. Why? Simple. It doesn't run on batteries, it doesn't need to track 5 geosynchronous satellites, and it won't get fried if it gets wet. Bottom line: of all your tactical gear, it's the one that will get you out of the worst jambs and it's always reliable.

History of the Lensatic Compass

While the exact time and date is for argument, many people credit the earliest lensatic compasses to the Chinese, somewhere around 1040 AD. There's not proof that the "phenomenon" was used for navigation, but it is apparent that the properties of a magnetic draw to the north were noticed. References to navigation with the tactical gear we now know as a lensatic compass are found as early as 1119 AD -- again, to the Chinese.

Modern Tactical Gear | Lensatic Compass

Fast forward ~889 years and we have the modern lensatic compass in everyones' bag of essential tactical gear. They still consist of basically the same thing, all centered around a magnetic compass dial dampened by electromagnetic induction. They're almost fool proof: they contain needle locks to keep the dial from moving around when not actively being used, they are built to be water-proof, shock proof, and are generally operational from -50ºF to 150ºF. Many tactical gear manufacturers also use radioactive tritium and phosphors to allow for easy navigation in darkness. While most tactical compasses come painted olive, they are also available in camouflage.

Other Modern Compasses

A gyrocompass is a compass that operates in a similar manner to a gyroscope – using a fast spinning wheel to determine north relative to the rotation of the earth. The advantage? For one, the find true north, not magnetic north. Magnetic north differs depending on where you are in the world in relation to local geomagnetic fields, not all of which cause the compass to point to the north pole. True, or map north, is just that. Follow the line to true north and you’ll end up at the north pole. Also, gyrocompasses are not affected by ferrous material such as iron, which makes them ideal for use on ships.

Solid state compasses are small electronic sensors that detect magnetic fields in relation to magnetic north. They are usually found in pairs or trios, and simply provide a feedback signal depending on their orientation. That signal must be interpreted by the parent electronic device. These types of compasses are usually found in cell phones.

Regardless what type or brand of compass you buy, put some thought into it. You never know when it will move from the bottom of your bag of tactical gear to your primary means of navigation.

Tactical Gear | Camouflage

Camouflage is a complicated subject in the arena of tactical gear. There are so many varied operational environments today, it's difficult to match your equipment to the surroundings, much less many surroundings in the varied MOUT environment. A single area of operation can contain woodland, concrete, farmlands, and possibly even snow in higher elevations. There's no shortage of options out there in camouflage patterns, so how do you narrow it down?

Camouflage in Tactical Gear
So let's look at the theory behind camouflage. It all revolves around concealment and obscurity, and knowing who your observers will be. That's right -- when trying to conceal or obscure yourself with your tactical gear, you should be thinking from the observers point of view, not your own. It's all about deception.

Cryptic Camouflage
Also known as fading into the background. This method is best demonstrated in the 'old' military tactical gear with brown, green, and black camouflage patterns. They were meant to match foliage, bark, and shadows in the background and break the outline that the human brain naturally seeks when looking for a 'human shape'.

Disruptive Camouflage
This is the opposite of cryptic camouflage. The purpose is to confuse the observers visual information such as size and shape. A great example is a smoke-screen.

Mimicry Camouflage
This is exactly what it sounds like -- using tactical gear and tactical equipment to look like something else. One famous example would be General George Patton's phantom army during World War II and the Normandy Invasion. It was an entire army of inflatable tanks and attack vehicles, used solely to mimic the real thing and confuse the enemy. Arguably, another example would be the ghillie suit, used to make the wearer look like grass and underbrush.

The purpose of countershading is to make light areas dark and dark areas light -- just like you're supposed to do when applying camouflage paint to your face. This removes depth perception and confuses the observer's senses -- note I said observer again. It's important to think from the point of view of the person you're trying to conceal yourself from. Think Thayer's Law when you're using countershaded tactical gear.

So that's it for the basics of camouflage. Keep these four items in mind and you're half way there to implementing effective concealment and obscurity in your tactical gear.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tactical Gear Online

Welcome to Tactical Gear Online. This site provides information and reviews on tactical gear and military equipment. If you have questions not covered in Tactical Gear Online please feel free to email your question.

Monday, July 7, 2008

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