Top 5 Underrated Equipment and Tactical Gear
By: Rob Orgel, Emergency Response Tactical
The way I see it, there is lots of gear being tossed around, or advertised to look like it will help us in the next zombie apocalypse. So what is underrated gear? It's a good idea to take a step back and see how much overrated gear is saturating our industry. Everyone wants to sell you something and when scrolling through social media, it might seem like a good idea to buy, until you actually apply these items on the range or in real-life scenarios. The problem is a lot of us are not getting enough range time and (hopefully) little to no real-life scenarios. So how have I chosen gear that I think is underrated and under-appreciated? This is based on my experience today on the range as a tactical firearms instructor and my extensive experience overseas as a Marine infantryman serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and as a private military contractor serving in Iraq. So assuming you have your plate carrier and body armor already, let’s jump into the list of underrated gear.
Why do I prioritize a flashlight so highly? It’s my primary weapon. Whenever I see bad behavior my hand does not move to my gun (for an entire list of reasons). Instead, by moving to my flashlight even if it’s daytime I can illuminate somebody with 500 to 1000 luminance and they typically stop what they’re doing. This effect obviously intensifies at night, dramatically! When walking through parking lots in low light or no light environments it is my flashlight that prevents a vehicle from hitting me and my family. When people are approaching me in questionable circumstances and I give them the stern “no thank you!” with my flashlight pointed in their face they tend to change directions. This is an important tool when dealing with real-life environments. We tend to train on the range with a gun and then have no other skills outside of the range than the gun. Moral of the story, keep a flashlight somewhere on your plate carrier but also as part of your everyday carry (EDC).
2) Weapon-mounted light
If having a flashlight in your pocket is important then why is having a flashlight on your weapon important? Here’s my theory. My handheld flashlight can be deployed in numerous circumstances where a firearm is not needed. In fact, because of my handheld flashlight, my firearm is less likely to be needed. If it does escalate to the point of needing my firearm, I’ll need a light to see clearly what I’m engaging in and if hopefully, the threat has stopped. Often the near presence of a firearm ends a potentially violent situation. If you transition from your handheld light to your pistol and lose illumination of your target the target may no longer be a threat and therefore not be a target at all. If you engage at this point, there is a battery of legal ramifications to be considered. I’m always happy to not take the shot. The last thing going through my head in an engagement is, “do I have to?” If I can avoid engaging, then I most certainly will choose that route. What’s best for my future, security, and most of all my family is to not get into gunfights. Should I need to engage in a gunfight, I’ll need to see my target so I can accurately and effectively stop the threat. After the threat has ceased, I’ll need to analyze that the threat is no more. This is all done with a weapon-mounted light. Some of you will talk about handheld lights and shooting techniques as they do exist. I'll argue for the superior effectiveness of two hands on a weapon and a weapon-mounted light that’s co-aligned to my sights. For those of you who are unsure of these techniques, I highly recommend you get with a certified trainer who will educate you in all the low light engagement techniques. It’s important to not just have a favorite, but to know several options in case one possibility fails you or is not applicable in your fight.
3) Pocket knife versus a fixed blade
A large knife seems as organic to combat as big muscles and a bandanna and you know who I’m referring to. But in my opinion, a fixed blade knife is cumbersome and not particularly useful. A pocket knife serves a great utility purpose. Knives are not typically used in a combat situation. Not to say that they have not been used, quite simply I’m going to use the rifle I’m holding. There’s a certain facade that Hollywood has created about getting a knife kill. Personally, I like the chances of survivability by keeping my distance from the enemy, as much as possible. The application today is quite simple, if you stab somebody, you’re going to jail. A knife is a contact weapon. I don't want to be that close to someone if I can choose. If I’m in contact with someone, I’m probably going to use my firearm and create space without closing distance. There are many more gruesome examples we can talk about and/or think about in regard to the effectiveness of a knife in human anatomy versus what a firearm can do. Quite simply it is my opinion that a knife is a tool, not a weapon. Now as I consider it, with any of the above I look at its deployment speed. With my pocket knife that I use multiple times a day, I’m quick to pull from my pocket, deploy it, use it, and put it away. My fixed blade knife that we’ve all attached to a belt at some time or another is often not quite as quick to deploy, unfamiliar to grab, and relatively difficult to put away. For all of these reasons, I choose to use my belt space for ammunition or other items that could be more crucial. It’s OK to be honest with ourselves and consider the knife hanging from our plate carrier or belt and ask, “When was the last time I used that for anything other than cutting a piece of string?” For the military type, we like calling them MRE (meals ready to eat) openers as we know how unlikely it is we will use a tool like that in combat.
4) Speed loader
One of my favorite buddies on the range is the guy who fills mags for me. Now realistically, we don’t always have a magazine caddy so we will have to settle for a speed loader. There are several speed loaders that aren’t effective and might even slow us down. But there are some truly magical speed loaders that allow me to spend more time shooting and less time loading mags on the range. Certainly, it’s good to have your magazines stuffed before you arrive at the range, however, if we’re training hard we will often burn through our magazines in the first hour or two of training. Refilling magazines, hydrating, and then back to training is a high priority as we know our range time is precious.
5) Shot timer
The shot timer is a great training aid! Some may call it, “the crusher of dreams.” This is because the shot timer does not care about your feelings. It will simply measure the time from the first beep telling you it’s time to engage the target until the last shot is fired. This device usually comes with a random setting. Setting your timer to random and then working on the first shot out of the holster on a chest size target at 3 yards is a very valuable skill. There are many other drills you can do with this device that allow you to measure your accomplishments and test theories about your speed and accuracy. Keep in mind that this is a device I only pull out of the bag for more advanced students. If this is your first day or two working a holster you should not be pushing yourself on speed until you have mastered the proper steps of your draw safely. Being in a hurry to do things without the proper education and form is only going to get you fast at being wrong or land you in the hospital.
This in no way can accommodate for all the different devices out there that are truly worth their weight in gold, and in a future article we will discuss the items that are absolutely worthless. In the end, these are just my opinions based on my experience. There are many more items I would love to go on about. Once you have your plate carrier and body armor squared away, it’s time to train with your kit. There is a tendency to want to fill up all the available real-estate with MOLLE accessories and gear. Resist that temptation and think critically about what gear will add real utility to your setup.
About the Author:
Rob joined the USMC in 2004 with a military occupational specialty of 0311 (Infantry Rifleman). Assigned to 3rd Bn 1st Marines, Rob participated in a deployment to Iraq (OIF-3) as a point man followed by an assignment as Team Leader for the 13th MEU Special Operations Capable to Iraq (OIF-6). In 2007, he joined 1st Marine Regiment and reenlisted to deploy to Afghanistan. InJanuary 2010, Rob was promoted to the rank of Sergeant & continued to serve 1st Marine Regiment for a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. On return from Afghanistan, Rob was assigned to School Of Infantry West to work as a Combat Instructor (CI) for the USMC where he trained thousands of Marines to gain the skills necessary to survive. Rob exited the USMC in 2014 & was immediately picked up by Securing our Country (SOC). As a private military contractor, Rob was responsible for training the specialty teams of operators at the American Embassy in Iraq. Shortly after leaving Contract in 2018, Rob became the Chief Instructor of GPS Defense Sniper School. Rob now gives 100% of his attention to Emergency Response Tactical training all levels over 320 days a year as his passion & full-time job.
You can read his full bio here.