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January 18, 2007

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The Land of the Black Rifle: Law Enforcement/Tactical Gear at the 2007 SHOT Show

As I noted in my previous rant, the fastest growing segment of the SHOT Show is the category called Law Enforcement/Tactical, which I explored at great personal risk. Your first thought on entering the LOTBR is, Are there any wants and warrants out on me? In the 1970s I was questioned on a possible charge of moping with intent to loiter, but it was dropped, so I was OK on that count.

Return of the Booth Babes: The 2007 SHOT Show

The first thing you notice in LOTBR is that hardly anyone looks like a cop, or a Ranger, or a SEAL, or even a mercenary. There were very few guys under 45 with flat stomachs and short haircuts. I think that most of the people I saw were there to ogle the booth babes (LOTBR was Booth Babe Central, the connection between sex and violence being well established.) or simply admire all the dangerous hardware.

RedmanThere were M-16 and M-4 knockoffs in such profusion and prolixity as to beggar the mind. There were camo uniforms by the bale, commo equipment, a black Hummer 2 converted to a deathmobile, sniper rifles, chemical weapons, knives for slicing and dicing people, packs, handcuffs, clubs, and dummies on which you could practice your joint-breaking holds. There was the Red Man, which is a plastic suit of armor that’s worn by stick-fighting instructors; it allows their students to wale away on them with batons, clubs, and cudgels without doing any damage.

And there were patriotic slogans everywhere, mostly supporting the war In Iraq and Afghanistan. (One company, at its press conference, had an invocation by a chaplain and a Marine Corps color guard. I think the jarheads would rather have been beating up sailors, or whatever jarheads do in their free time.) This is an old, old tradition, and they’re free to do whatever they like, but it bothers me.

If a military boot company, say, wants to put up a poster that says “Iraq is not Vietnam II,” or “The President is not an imbecile, he just sounds that way,” that’s not really tending to business.

If the same company put up a poster that said: “If you have to wade through broken glass, blood, chunks of concrete and rebar, and garbage of all kinds in order to kill people who don’t like us, our boots will do it better than anyone else’s,” I could buy into that.


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I think you are correct in this particular rant. The only political crap that should be at this show is a booth to sign up for the NRA.

The red suit looks like fun, maybe our company should by 2 and people that want to duke it our can (as long as we are on break of course).

Chad Love

No adjective-laced downer tirades from me this time around. This is the future. This is apparently what everyone wants. Embrace it. I mean, really, come on, if it has "tactical" somewhere in the name it has to be good, right? I personally covet a knife that can bash its way out of the cockpit of a downed Blackhawk, efficiently slice the carotid of any insurgents I happen to run into down at the supermarket AND open those damn discount store bubblepacks with equal aplomb.
And body armor? Millions of household uses for that stuff. Wouldn't think about serving a no-knock warrant on my non-mower-returning neighbor without it. That and my tactical sidearm with its rail-mounted jillion-lumen tactical light. Course I'd have to kick the door in, but no problem with the heel of my spiffy jet-black tactical duty boots. And if I didn't have to resort to lethal means with my tactical gun or tactical knife I could just fry him a bit with my tactical Taser. The beauty of it is, he wouldn't even recognize me in my Darth Vader-black tactical balaclava, my shatterproof tactical goggles, my tactical vest and my six-pocket ripstop tactical pants (tucked deeply, of course, into my tactical boots).
And if all that failed, hell, I'd just shoot him from halfway down the block with my tactical rifle.

Chad Love

I just wanted to add, in the interest of full disclosure and in case my neighbor happens to be reading this, that in truth he has never failed to return my mower and I've never actually had to go tactical on his arse.
But I'm ready, just in case he ever does...

Ralph the Rifleman

God help me...I can't get enough of them; Guns,babes,and the right to watch both at the same time!
I like the tachtical stuff,too;Both civilian and military..like I said, God help me!


guns, babes, tactical gear and Jerky, and some booths even had FREE BEER...... (Knight rifles was one of them)!!!!


If tactical makes you happy so be it. Apparently there is a large market for this stuff so what the heck. If people can buy fancy shotguns that never see the field why can't they buy thug boots, super bright flashlights attached to super expensive handguns that are carried in fancy plastic holsters while wearing jumpsuits.
Whatever makes you happy (as long as you don't come kicking in my door). That might get you shot with my 250.00 remington express shotgun.


I remember, confirmed by looking back through my 25 year collection of American Rifleman, when most ads in gun magazines used to feature guys in plaid shirts and the occasional dead animal. This 'tactical' stuff, I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or throw up.

Hell, it seems as if half the time NRA is now a dishonest spokesman for the most radical wing of the Republican project, but I'm not giving up on it yet. I'm a Life member, of course, but not a dime more to those idiots until they confine their editorials to gun rights and maybe just a dash of genuine concern for our other Constitutional liberties. .

I guess this 'tactical' trend is symptomatic of an increasingly militarised law enforcement, and a TV simplified contempt for any notion of rights and the US Constitution. If every routine search warrant in the country is to be served by heavily armed men in black with hidden faces, and if our response as a nation to the uncertainty of this complex world is unthinking violence directed against, well, whoever is brown and available, well, sure, tactical it is. Besides, the stuff is cool, in a juvenile sort of way.

As Pres Bush said, ' bring it on'
If you are selling, I am buying.


One change I’ve noticed since I was a young man is the growth in variety.

In the 1960s/70s I think there were about a total of 30-40 various models of cars from the Big Three and imports (primarily European). This year I understand there are well over 400 on the market. Camouflage clothing basically came in two flavors; WWII pattern green or brown. Now there are over 100. You’d find about 20 guns in any given catalog from the major gun manufacturers. I didn’t count but the latest Remington catalog seemed to have about 100. Back in my day iced tea came in sweetened and unsweeten but now …. well, you get the idea.

On top of the current variety-fest, we have the current rage of “tactical” gear. Tactical flashlights, tactical knives, tactical underwear – just paint it black and call it tactical. I’m sure tactical coffee is now being worked up in the labs at Starbucks. I’m at a loss to explain the variety issue but my theory on the tactical issue is that people like playing Army. Menacing toys that will never be used in anger by most people but will look cool in the interim.

I don’t know if all of this is good or bad but there seems to be a pattern and all roads lead back to the almighty dollar. Buying the latest gun or GPS isn’t compulsory so this is OK. But I like things simple so I’m hoping all of this will stop when; 1) the non-boomers max out their credit cards and get “upside down” from refinancing the house one too many times and/or 2) the boomers have start spending on their meds and stop spending on ’70 Hemi Cudas.


In our spare time, we kick the arse of anyone who gets in our way.


Just kidding. We drink.
Semper Fi


tactical, shmactical... i wonder, are these (i assume) "high quality tactical goods" made in the good old usa, i want my goose stepping boots made right here.

Jim Kiser

In a way I have some concerns with this mentality of police becoming more military like woth no knock tactics etc. In Va in the last 12 months we have had 3 people killed by swat team either doing a no knock on the wrong place or having the weapon discharge "accidentally". There is an excellent article in Popular Mechanics concerning this growing issue of military tactics being used against civilians.


Ahh, once again your pretentious attitude has reared its ugly head. Not every one is shooting a 1 of 1000 custom made safari rifle, sitting in a brand new Land Cruiser with a stack of fresh American Express cards irritating our bum. For some of us, our first experience with firearms was in the Service. Now that there is a new and large generation of soldiers that have served, we prefer a tactical edge to our firearms, for comfort and ease of operation--and find them just as effective for game. The days of sporting quail, big-racked fluffy bucks, shiny side-by-sides, and red and black checkered hunting jackets are gone. And if you've ever go, which I doubt, on public hunting land like the rest of the underpriveledged, I've got two tips for you -- 3 to 5 second rush and never get out of cellphone range, cause it's dangerous out here in the real world.

Chad Love

To Currman: Huh? If you're talking about Petzal being pretentious, well, yeah, he's the shooting editor of F&S. So are most other gun writers. They get opportunities to shoot and hunt things the rest of us don't (well, the rest of us who are poor, anyway).
But if you're talking about all the other common schmucks who have voiced our negative opinion about the Special Opsification of the shooting/hunting sports, I'd like to show you my W-2. That'll clear things right up. I'm so common my own mother can't pick me out of a crowd. I put the P in both peasant AND prole. My safari rifle is a beat up Model 70 (6.5x55, for those of you interested). My shiny Land Cruiser is a '94 Chevy with 140,000 on the odometer. I applied for an American Express, but they sent it back with a note explaining they extend credit, not pipe dreams. Public land is ALL I hunt. I someday hope to rise to the level of underpriviledged.
You know what? I still hate all that fantasy-inducing black plastic crap.
If you want to use it, fine. I'll admit much of it is supremely functional, if ugly, soulless and cheap. But don't claim class is the reason others don't. You don't have to be an effete highborn double or custom gun-loving poofta to dislike the militarization of the shooting and hunting sports.
If Petzal would really like to open a can of worms and explore this issue further, he could do a post about the story currently on the F&S website (it may be in the mag, haven't gotten my copy yet) about "hunting" with the .50 BMG, from obscene ranges. I think the fact that it is being legitimized speaks volumes about where this industry and the sport of hunting is going.
BTW, what's a "fluffy buck" and where can I shoot one?

A. S. Moeggs

Dear Dave, if you were able to walk outta there with a pair of size 12, black, tactical boots, that you find too tactical, mine are leaking. Thanks in advance.


Thousands of exhibts and items to view. Let's see, one more attempt to market a varitation of the Model 98 Mauser, Booth Babes, Tactical Gear, literate gun writers....Model 98 varitations, Booth Babes, Tactical gear, gun writers.... Dave, this is most likely the best idea I will ever have. Adopt an unemployed Booth Babe and teach her how to write for our ilk. You good pass on your experiences, opinions and great ideas to the next generation. Give her a good pen name and I will submit my own photo to placate the masses who object to such plots. I just realized that if you are as smart as I think you are, this has already happened. That would explain a lot.


Sorry about the spelling errors in my last post. The Booth Babes distracted my brain sells.

Dave Petzal

To Jarhead: Marines drinking? The very idea! By the way, a retired Marine major friend of mine tells me that "Army" stands for Ain't Ready for the Marines Yet.

To Curman: What, indeed, is a fluffy buck? A deer with teased fur? We are all dying to know. As for being pretentious, I come from humble origins. As a child, my family often had as few as six in household help. But back to the hardware, the prices on a lot of these black rifles are unbelieveable. I've seen a couple of Belgian-made semi-auto sniper rifles that retail for $15,000, complete, of course, with all accessories. My favorite was was guaranteed to put 20 rounds in a half-inch group at 100 meters.

To PB Head: The Booth Babes were all fully employed, as far as I could tell, and none of them seemed inclined to write, especially about this stuff. Nice idea, though.

To Chad Love: Glad to see you've recovered your spirits somewhat. What else is there to say about .50-cal. hunting? I think I said it all in the magazine.

Warren Britt

Whats wrong with prayer and a colorgaurd? They both are as American as Mom and applepie. If a company wants to show they sopprt the values of this country I say more power to 'em.


David, I enjoy your writing. Thanks for coverage of the big show, and for your common sense analysis.

I worry whenever politics and/or organized religion take the stage in shooting sports because our sport should be truly universal, and these folks start whittling down the field.

I think the tactical features will run their course. Never thought I'd own a black rifle, but must admit my AR is amazingly accurate and a heap of fun.

If you want tactical stuff, join the military. I got my fill of it afteer 25 years and 3 wars. Close as I come to tacticla is my old BDU pants for hunting and a modle 700 in 30-06. Bunch of want to bes, this crap has no place in hunting.


Too much of the Marine want to be in shoting sports now.

Jack Bohm

I'm with more than a few- what is the point of all these hideously ugly tactical rifles- an M-1A with a walnut stock I can see- or a Garand. But they can keep the rifles that are made for wannabe soldiers. I'll stick to my Walnut stocked Brownings.

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