Tactical Schmatical

There’s a word which has been making its way into the vocabulary of “gun people” for the last decade or so, and it’s starting to really drive me crazy: tactical.  For the betterment of mankind, please, don’t be tactical.

Back in my military days, there was a real discussion involving “tactical vs. strategic.”  In the world of nuclear weapons, the one I came from, that’s a fairly short discussion.  When explosive power gets measures in megatons or even hundreds of kilotons, there isn’t much that’s “tactical.”  But the discussion was still valuable – “strategic” was something like “keep the Soviets from invading Europe” or “project military might into the South Pacific.”  Tactical was how we went about achieving those goals, and was much smaller in scope.

In my world, a tactical nuke was one you could theoretically fit into a backpack.  Its power was measured generally in terms of city blocks or less, not in terms of thousands of square miles.  So it was a matter of scale and a matter of scope.

But a funny thing happened along the way: it turned into this strange definition of most things firearms or self-defense related.

I’ve been asked this question: “When is your next tactical pistol class?”

My answer: “We don’t offer tactical classes.  [long pause, strange looks]  Wait, what do you mean by ‘tactical?'”  When I hear that word now, I immediately think of this:


It doesn’t get much more tactical than a tactical bottle opener.

I picture woefully untrained people doing things straight out of a Hollywood movie script, complete with plate carriers, tactical bottle openers, 4 Rambo knives, a drop-leg holster or three – two of which are on backwards – and an Eotech mounted backwards on your rifle.  Kinda pretty much exactly like this:


And this is pretty good:

Nothing says tactical like a gun you can’t carry concealed again without massive blood loss.

One of the local gun ranges even has Tactical Tuesday.  How lovely.

This might be the most tactical video ever (warning: language):

Another manifestation of this evil T-word is the belief that “stuff trumps skill.”  It’s this belief that if I go out and purchase Gun X or this awesome new doohickey for my gun, that I’ll suddenly be a great shooter – that purchasing some thing replaces the need to actually learn anything.  It’s back to Marc MacYoung’s Talisman Thinking all over again.  Don’t be tactical.

Or, in another conversation I had with a friend recently, this ties directly to “9mm or 40S&W?” or the infamous “Glock vs. 1911?”  It’s a straight-forward question with purely opinion-based answers.  Sure, there are differences.  Sure, your decision matters.  But many people tend to ask that question specifically in order to somehow skip the training part completely.

Like it or not, that’s exactly Talisman Thinking.  Tactical Talisman Thinking.  Don’t be tactical.

I can help you understand some of the differences between Ford and Chevy, and I’m sure that for some people there are very distinct advantages over one or the other.  And they’d be absolutely right.  But that doesn’t make one “better” than the other.  And it certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t need to first learn to drive.

“A gun with a laser attached is more accurate.”  No, the gun itself is exactly the same with or without the laser.  Don’t be tactical.  If you’re still yanking on that trigger like there’s no tomorrow, the world’s most powerful Superman-approved burn-a-hole-through-you laser won’t help you at all.  How about we learn to shoot first, mmmkay?

“These night vision goggles help me clear a house in total darkness.”  Do that much, do you?  And if you do, my hat is off to you: you’re a SEAL or otherwise military or specialized law enforcement and you’re a better person than I.  Thank you for keeping us safe.  For the rest of you, don’t be tactical.

And look, I get it: on some level, the “stuff” here is absolutely valuable.  I own a gun, so by my own definition, that makes me “tactical.”  Ok, ya got me.  But when you find yourself slipping into this mode of constantly needing the next great gadget to help you shoot, maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at the big picture.

A SEAL is a badass not because they have the coolest stuff.  And you getting the same cool stuff doesn’t make you a SEAL.  Don’t be tactical.

I have the utmost respect for those in the high-risk professions who do this stuff for a living.  So how about we just save this word “tactical” for them?  And ironically, those people that I know in that community will be the first disavow use of that word – and chastise you for even bringing it up.  So if it’s not good enough for them, what on earth would make you think it’s good enough for you?  Don’t be tactical.

Carry on, Colorado!

13 comments on “Tactical Schmatical

  1. pax says:

    At most (good) schools, “tactical” just means “learning how to think and solve problems with the gun in hand.” When someone asks when your next tactical class is, they’re asking about your problem-solving classes vs your skill-building classes.

  2. “Tactical” aka boyz with toyz.
    I had a friend who was tactical everything.
    I nicknamed him “Gucci Cam Barbie” as he looked very pretty in the latest must have gear and but couldn’t shoot for s##t.

  3. Keith says:

    Jeff, you just have to take it for what it means ‘I don’t know what I’m talking about but I want to sound cool’ and start from there. At least they aren’t approaching you sounding like they know what they’re doing and causing you to talk right over their heads. BTW when are we going to get to the point that ‘better gun’ means the gun that you naturally shoot better?

  4. […] Actually, more like this (’cause tactical is better!!): […]

  5. davidyamane says:

    Reblogged this on Gun Culture 2.0 and commented:
    One of my honors students is examining advertising in Guns magazine from the 1950s until today. Among the categories she is coding in her content analysis is “tactical.” I will be interested to see what she finds in terms of the rise of this term, which is widely derided in blogs and on-line forums, but seems widely used by gun manufacturers. I don’t know Jeff Meeks, but I found this blog post “Tactical Schmatical” funny and informative.

  6. KevinC says:

    I completely agree that the word “tactical” has become so misused it’s right up there with “diversity” and “literally”, but the problem is coming up with a replacement word that describes the planning and circumstances to achieve a small, short-term goal such as keeping myself and my family alive when faced with the threat of lethal force.
    Yes, tactical has become a bad word that invokes the imagery of MOLLE straps on your socks, but in a limited context, it works.

    • Jeff Meek says:

      Kevin – tactical socks… nice! To your situation of “planning and circumstances to achieve a small, short-term goal such as keeping myself and my family alive when faced with the threat of lethal force,” to me, that’s just called good training or good instruction on the how/when/where/why elements of this monster we call self-defense.

      And you nailed one thing: learning how to use the self-defense tool is but one (small, but no one wants to talk about that) part of self-defense. To me, it starts with understanding, recognizing, and then avoiding violence in the first place, which really is the goal here; it’s not to win the fight, it’s to not get in one in the first place. Then self-defense cruises through the “gun skills” and then right into this mess of the law and the legal system. A book I’d recommend for *everyone* is this one: http://www.amazon.com/Name-Self-Defense-What-costs-worth/dp/0692250212/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416261933&sr=1-1&keywords=in+the+name+of+self+defense+marc+macyoung Check out “In the Name of Self-Defense; What it Costs, When it’s Worth it” by Marc MacYoung.

      Thanks for your comment!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s