Why is the concept of “tacticool” looked down on by the gun community? To most shooters who have been serious and consistent about sending lead down range, a person showing up to the bench covered head to toe in tactical gear from his local milsurp store, armed with a cheap weapon covered in hundreds of dollars worth of optics, lights, lasers and other doodads would elicit a chuckle at best and a deep cringe at worst. We’ve all seen them before. Underneath the skull balaclavas, tactical eyewear, tactical vest, ear pro with microphone, and Kryptek camo is a person who emphasizes fashion over function. 

Photo of Navy SEAL kit versus Tacticool kit

Take for example the kit difference between a real Navy SEAL and a cosplayer. The SEAL has only the bare essentials – ammo, comms, and a multitool. He even uses one of his mag pouches to hold his sidearm just so he won’t have to carry a holster. “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain” as they say. The more gear a warfighter carries, the more fatigue he will suffer on the battlefield. 

In contrast, this model in a police officer costume was told to put on as much gear as possible to make him look “tacticool.” While the tourniquet, pistol, and taser are standard issue to most police departments all over the United States, there’s something about their placement and setup that makes real cops cringe. 

The taser, normally worn on the left hip, has no business being on his “tactical fanny pack,” which itself shouldn’t be a part of a kit worn by an individual who’s expected to run, crouch or go prone. A pouch full of gear slamming against one’s nether regions while on the run is universally considered to be a bad time. 

His sidearm on his thigh is normally worn on the hip of a real officer, since anything on the thighs will feel like running with weights just like the thigh protectors he’s wearing. His deltoid protectors and neck guard, while capable of protecting him from shrapnel, have no place in an actual urban tactical situation. Gunfights in the city are fought with bullets, never grenades. 

If Mr. Tacticool was put in an actual gunfight, he would have sixty rounds of rifle ammo from both his magazines before being forced to switch to his sidearm. In a word, he would die looking cool. 

While this model was paid to look like this, there are real people out there who think there’s nothing wrong with his loadout. Usually, these people pick their gear based on what looks intimidating and how expensive a particular doodad is. At the same time, many refuse to do the cardio necessary to be able to run with that gear in a real emergency situation. 

Within the gun community, these people are called “mall ninjas” in reference to a man who claimed to be the “lieutenant of a small tactical team defending one of the largest malls in America,” aka a mall security guard. His job wasn’t the problem, the problem was he was treating his job site like it was downtown Kabul. What made it worse was when he went from paranoia to tacticool as he tried to get his site supervisor to equip his team with MP5K pistols as well as H&K G36 and PSG-1 precision rifles equipped with Starlight night vision scopes to replace their then-current issued weapons which included Mossberg 500s and Smith and Wesson .38 revolvers. 

A mall ninja might think he’s respecting the men and women in uniform by trying to emulate them, but there’s something about them that rubs veterans the wrong way. The vast majority of mall ninjas have never served but yet claim they “almost did” before going into a list of convoluted excuses. What’s worse is they parrot things they read on the Internet and try to pass themselves off as “tactical experts” without ever having spent a day in actual training. 

There is a difference between a man who owns a dozen guns and a man who owns a dozen guns and knows how to use them all. Mall ninjas fall firmly into the former category. It’s interesting to see someone show up to the range decked out in a loaded plate carrier, gas mask and tactical helmet with NODs wielding a weapon with every inch of rail space covered by all conceivable attachments known to man. It’s even more interesting to see the same person unable to make paper at 25 yards. I may be exaggerating a little, but for some reason, these wannabe “tier one operators” can sometimes be the worst shots at the range. My theory is they spend more time on an airsoft field than they do at the gun range, and most of their money is spent on gear instead of ammo. 

To be clear: there’s nothing wrong with a plate carrier. It’s when and where you wear it that counts. It does not belong at a range where the only option is bench shooting. Leave your ammo on the table and reload from there. However, on a range that allows running and gunning or a tactical rifle class where you’ll actually need to reload on the move, then wear your plate carrier. If you want to amp up your cardio with a weighted tactical vest, that’s also acceptable. The only other reason why someone would wear a vest in public is if it was required by their workplace. Security guards and police officers use either soft armor vests or tactical plate carriers as part of their uniform, but a civilian walking around on a stationary range kitted out for the zombie apocalypse that’ll never come looks like an idiot. 

If you want a realistic loadout instead of a tacticool chest rig, keep in mind that the purpose of the attachments on a vest is for quick access. In most situations, all you’ll need is your ammo and an individual first aid kit, and that first aid kit is usually used in situations where you know someone will be shooting back. A CamelBak is only necessary when you know you’ll be far away from a potable water source or constantly on the move. In my experience, water from a bottle always tastes better than water from a CamelBak. 

To summarize, the tacticool mall ninja is a man-child dressing like a dangerous warrior to project strength he doesn’t have. A real “sheepdog among sheep” wouldn’t brag about being “the most dangerous person in the room.” A law enforcement professional or professional warfighter is characterized by discipline and professionalism, and their loadouts are designed for practicality above all else. “Looking badass” is not a requirement for combat effectiveness, and those who would rather spend time and money on looking good are better off posing on Instagram. 

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