“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sad but true

Graphic from Military Times Gearscout.

Anyway, I post this not just because I laughed, but because it's so true.  There is a large percentage of the shooting/military/law enforcement/airsoft/wannabe/whatever crowd who will base their purchasing decisions on gear which is, or is rumored to be used by various Special Forces. Because, ZOMG if THEY use it then it MUST be teh coolest!

And, unfortunately, many companies have picked up on this and tailor their marketing and pricing accordingly. Examples being all around - from a certain watch company which had a few examples tested & rejected but somehow became the "Official SEAL watch," to whole sweatshops worth of gear manufactured in the latest "go-to" camo pattern and sold by the ton at gun shows and flea markets, with no reflection of quality. Many people aren't aware that units buy a lot of things in small numbers just to test them - to see if it is a useful item, or just fluff - but that doesn't make it official issue.

This has really not been great all around, for a few reasons.

- It's led to a whole inflation in perception on both sides of the equation. "Regular" units get the impression their gear must be substandard, since that's not what "So and so" uses - despite a lack of appreciation for different mission profiles and needs; and Special Operations units (particularly the new guys) think that for some reason all their things need to be different. This is nothing new - from the "we have to have 9mm handguns because we need more bullets" turning into "we need .45 pistols because the regular military 9mm isn't good enough," to "everything I wear from head to toe must be from such-and-such because they're the current best."  Hell, I suspect that Roger's Rangers had guys saying "we can only carry tomahawks made by Bob's Smithery down in West-town, they're the heat!" This hurts both sides. There is a lot of "regular" gear that is outstanding - you ask most of the old Special Forces and Recon guys and they STILL think the 50 year old ALICE pack is the best military option around, and they should know. And, there are other things which simply don't cross over - what a line infantry guy needs to ride in a Hummer & patrol the streets is often different than what a SEAL needs to conduct an underwater infiltration and board a hostile vessel or oil platform. The mission drives the gear, not the other way around.

- It leads too many people on both sides to cherish equipment over competency. Doing the job becomes less a matter of knowing the tasks and more a case of "if we had this item we could do it easier." Which is then the slope of blaming the gear - everyone has seen this at the range: "My sights are off, my optic failed, these magazines aren't the best, if I only had ...." Sure - there is value in having the right gear, and you do get what you pay for (trust me, ask my wife about my collection of stuff - and how much I've gotten rid of!) - but relying on it, or thinking you have to replace it every six months with the shinier version is just deluding yourself.

- It has caused pricing to explode like a cancerous mass. We joke that you can take the same bag - you put "tactical" on the label and you double the price, you color it Multicam and you can double it again, and you add to your marketing that it's "Issued to So-and-So" and now you can quadruple it. (Don't ask me what it does to the price when it is a Tactical EOD item!) This hurts individuals who often are buying it on their own dime; and it hurts units/organizations who are forced to spend more of your tax dollars to get what they need.

- As a corollary to this one - don't think that Special Operations always buys something because it's the best. The supply chain is the supply chain - and many times something was chosen because they were the lowest bid on the contract. This is what leads to my note above of people buying their own crap.

- It also hurts availability. When a company is set up to produce X lots of an item, anticipating a demand of a few hundred or thousand to outfit their customers - and all of a sudden they have everyone knocking down their door & now need to make 100X, it slows down receipt by the users who need it.

I could add more, as I'm sure could others. I think the main point being that people need to worry more about what works for them and their needs, and less about what some "special" group is using in a different job.

As for me - just as a note - I'm finding as I age and look at things that I'm discarding more than I'm acquiring; and that I'm looking for ways to simplify and lighten each piece of kit I use. Some of it comes from being older & not wanting to carry 900 pounds of lightweight gear anymore, and some of it has come from experience and the lessons of time.

Now I think I need to plan another bin purge and gear giveaway...


Well Seasoned Fool said...

I avoid stuff that claims special ops status. Don't want to be thought of as a wanna be.

Captain Tightpants said...

Well Seasoned Fool - nothing wrong with using something that the SOF guys do - it's when people buy it just BECAUSE they do...

RabidAlien said...

I've always believed that if it was good enough for our troops in WW2/Korea, then its good enough for me. For the longest time, about 90% of my camping gear came from the non-Special Forces section of a local Army-Navy Surplus store. Mostly in canvas. I still have a folding shovel in a canvas cover that's outlasted a couple of big-box sporting-goods store camp shovels. And I think I dropped $5 on the thing.

All told, I agree with everything you've posted in this one, especially about military gear being made by the lowest bidder.

MrGarabaldi said...

I still have my old LBE gear, it is what i went to war with and I am comfortable with it. My AR is a basic AR-15 set up like an A2 because that is what I trained on and am comfortable. I never have used combat optics and am unsure if it is a great improvement over the regular iron sights. Until I am sure, I will wait.

Besides the Browncoats had less high tech than the alliance

Phelps said...

I've also never seen a piece of gear from a real SOF unit that wasn't modified to the point that it was significantly different from what came out of the box. (they should teach cordura sewing in basic and everyone could be tactical).

Unless something is really clever and beyond my ability to do myself, I just buy the discontinued three-year old hotness on discount, and make the three modifications that make it the new hotness myself (which is what the SOF guys were doing three years ago, and why they manufacturer changed the design).