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The word “tactical” – overused, kind of

By Josh First

Have you seen the word “tactical” used lately?

The word appears everywhere, and is growing in prominence across the retail world.

Although “tactical” is a word that denotes, or really connotes military tactics, and was once reserved to the sole use of the United States Military combat units or the dangerously armed forces they faced, this word now imputes some special meaning, martial ability, and toughness to anything that wears it on the label.

There are tactical knives, vests, rifles, pistols, and the many accoutrements that go with these items.  There seem to be tactical diapers, tactical coffee mugs, and tactical pens.  OK, there are to my knowledge no tactical diapers or coffee mugs, but it is true that someone will or already is onto these items.  Actually, there are tactical pens meant for self defense, but whether or not they have actual value for military tactics is a questionable claim.

For another true example of the oddly named, there are tactical shirts.  No lie, there are “tactical shirts” dedicated to more easily accessing one’s concealed pistol.

Is it really so difficult to just wear a regular old LL Bean button down short sleeve Pima cotton Oxford?  Is a shirt with confusing numbers of magnum zipper pulls in sensitive places really, truly a better shirt than the LL Bean?  Does it really make you a tougher guy or gal?  Do our combat forces wear these shirts? No?

As if it isn’t odd enough to call a shirt or a vest “tactical,” we now have tactical airguns, I kid you not.  The Crosman TR77 looks like a Star Trek photon shooter that makes bad guys vaporize painlessly, but it is claimed by its maker to have some sort of tactical application.

As if!

Air guns pack all the wallop of a good slap to the head, albeit with more concentrated force.  Certainly some shoot pellets that can penetrate your flesh, and perhaps even your temple.  But if I were a law enforcement officer engaged in a really deadly standoff with a violent, dangerous bad guy, a freakin airgun is the last thing I’d want in my hands.  My tactic in that situation would be to run away, fast.

So obviously the word “tactical” is being, ummm, stretched in meaning a bit these days.

But for whatever reason, this word increasingly resonates with the American public, and it may be a result of the hyper-militarization of our local police forces.  Plenty has been written in recent months about how the legendary bumbling Officer Barney Fife became the sinister looking, crewcut-and-armor-wearing badass kicking down grandma’s door in East Succotash, America. SWAT teams in East Succotash, America, are not necessary, and it is a serious issue, because Americans have a natural aversion to government force applied to them.

No doubt about it, America’s local police are in an arms race with…hmmmm… either themselves, far-off international military forces, or possibly, probably, you.

That’s right, there is plenty of evidence indicating that the massive investment in military grade hardware and hard attitude at the local police level is translating into a natural citizen reaction, apparently in preparation for inevitable urban combat with the very people once sworn to protect us.  And so we have an increasing “if-they-have-it, we-need-it, too,” civilian reach for all things tactical.  Tactical now seems to mean “I am ready for combat,” an American attitude that is both refreshing and alarming.

Alarming indeed.  Why are we afraid of our own local police forces?  When did that happen? And, come to think of it, why did the local Harrisburg cop try to stare me down last year, on my own street, when I cheerfully said hello to him while walking on our sidewalk with my small son in hand?  Was he employing some anti-citizen ‘tactic’?  Sure felt that way to me, the law-abiding taxpayer underwriting that guy’s paycheck and tough guy attitude.

However, instead of meeting fire with fire, and buying a black bulletproof vest with webbing and the ubiquitous variation of a skull-and-crossbones trademark label, I think I will for now reach for my ‘tactical pen’ and write about my uncomfortable encounter, thereby defeating that officer’s ungainly attempt to bring implied force into what should have been a friendly exchange between equals.

1 Comment

  • Jul 8th 201413:07
    by JhonnieB

    Greetings, Josh:

    “Tactical”…yes…most definitely a term which has taken on a number of meanings, and raised some interesting issues, within the past few years!

    Lancaster, PA

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