You Want it Tactical?

My posting about the paradox of “self defense” triggered much more response than I expected. [stderr]

Like many of you, I am puzzled by the perceived need for “tactical” gear. My conclusion is that it’s a consequence of the degree to which American society has become militarized. We are taught “soldiers are good” and “military gear is high quality” in spite of the rather obvious fact that the gear is often hugely over-priced and the soldiers are fighting strategically unwinnable wars. There is, sadly, ample evidence that the soldiers are badly led, as well: they are being used in meat-grinders all over the world – they may be part of the world’s most expensive military, but dollar for dollar it may not be the best.

When I was in the army in 1983, this was the state of the art of flashlights. It was a tactical flashlight – it even came with red plastic lenses that could be put into the head so it wouldn’t mess up night vision. It has a clip for attaching it to your harness. The clip is so bad, the flashlight so heavy, and the switch so awkward, that the only way to use it effectively was to wrap olive drab tactical duct tape around the butt and neck of the light, so it wouldn’t fall of, spin around, rattle, or otherwise fail to function. Of course, it managed to fail to function, anyway. This was a tactical flashlight that was designed by the lowest bidder, and it depended on great big C batteries and an incandescent bulb – it was inefficient, heavy, etc.

I can’t for the life of me see what is “tactical” about that flashlight.

But, fnord clearly, there is a huge market out there for tactical flashlights aimed at a sector of the American market that is deeply afraid that they will be attacked in the dark and will need a flashlight. Having just watched ALIEN I don’t think this is a great thing to have: it virtually guarantees that when you turn it on, the first thing you will see is a xenomorph two feet from your face, reaching out to grab you.

You turned on your tactical flashlight too late; should have had a strategic flashlight!

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I know people who have high-powered LED flashlights in clips on the bottoms of firearms, “for self defense.” I guess they are working on some tactical scenario where they are being stalked by special forces who left their night vision gear at home. Or, perhaps they are being stalked by hostiles who aren’t smart enough to shoot at the light, about one foot behind it and up slightly.

What is so tactical about this? Used by the Elite Special Forces. Special forces of darkness?

In other words, it’s bad tactics. (Never mind strategy, as Crip Dyke [stderr] explained: if you are operating at the level of xenomorphs and flashlights, you are no longer on a strategic plane)

There is something deeply wrong with the American psyche, which I think is a form of strategic dumbassery brought on by being relentlessly propagandized with a fnord message of fear and distrust for government, which was intended to encourage unthinking nationalism fnord in the masses, to support endless wars, economic sheep-shearing, and “divide and rule” among the lower fnord classes. You need all this tactical stuff because you never know when strike teams from the other political party, ISIS, or the gun-grabbing socialists who want to give you free medical care, are going to kick in the door and attack you.

You never know when your peaceful office job will break out into open warfare [fight club]

Americans are so indoctrinated to love special forces that this has genuine appeal to a certain class of WTF Warriors:

What bad guys?

Is your threat model that you’re going to be in a meeting, and suddenly you’ll be attacked by your boss, who you need to fight off in a welter of gore? [Speaking as a recovering martial artist, I just have to giggle a bit at the ‘skull buster’ crown on that stupid thing.] “You have the safety of a purpose-made instrument at your fingertips.” An instrument of, what, exactly? It “puts confidence in your pocket in a way that Walter Mitty would approve of, but – aside from in movies like John Wick 2, or books like Tevanian’s Shibumi – I am mostly reminded of the Monty Python sketch about how to defend yourself against an attacker armed with a banana. I would actually prefer to go into battle with a guava than one of those strike pens.

But, wait, there’s more! You can spend another $19.95 and learn how special forces and secret service use the strike pen to do their expense reports:

At least they correctly identified this as “tactics” not “strategy”

What are these people expecting to defend themselves against? Remember my earlier argument: an offensive weapon is not useful defensively, unless you strike first. If you wish to defend yourself, you can purchase fairly well-tailored suits with kevlar inserts, or – my favorite – a Halliburton Zero case. I used to carry one of those (because it’ll keep your laptop from getting mashed) until I got so tired of homeland security wanting to search it because it didn’t make the X-ray machine happy. Tempered aluminum is a good defense; it possibly could slow down some bullets (picture someone holding an aluminum briefcase at an angle, Wonder Woman-style, to deflect incoming fire) but mostly, it’d be a solid hunk of thunk your could bash into someone’s face while you speed-dial your attorney.

where to strike an attacker for the most brutal damage

Are these people sitting back, laughing at the fools they are trolling, or are there actually serious creepy people who are mentally preparing to inflict brutal damage with those little spikes on the back of the pen? Have they seen a cat’s claws? They’re bigger. I genuinely wonder if this is a Russian plot to play off American toxic masculinity in order to demonstrate how obviously right feminism is, or something. (“Ha ha! We will get all the idiots in Texas fighting with strike pens until they suffer the Death of 10,000 Poke-Holes and then we will invade once their manhood has wilted! We almost ruined their precious bodily fluids with all that soy milk latte, now it’s time to finish the job!”)

Coming soon:

My mad photoshop skills

Remember: one life, one pen.

------ divider ------

“There is something deeply wrong with the American psyche…” – that’s my opinion, and this posting is an editorial. I am engaging in hyperbole, not a philosophical debate, and I freely admit it.

I get dozens of spams a day about tactical pens, flashlights, concealed carry holsters, and spy cameras. I started getting them around the same time I wound up on Louis Gohmert’s mailing list and on Jim Bakker’s mailing list. So, that may be the target audience.

Intruder Cam:

This is an All-in-One camera and alarm system.

It is ideal for small offices or home use. Can be used in so many different
situations: cash tills, baby monitor, gate monitor, home/office security.

No specialized installation needed – Plug & Play

Advanced System with hundreds of functions and options.

It’s a webcam. In a black plastic housing. Have any of you had your offices assaulted by an armed strike force and defended yourselves successfully because you had a tactical baby-cam watching your door? Or do you know anyone who has?


  1. says

    “There is something deeply wrong with the American psyche…”
    They call it American optimism. In reality, Americans (Speaking in overly broad terms) can’t comprehend the possibility of being fucked until they’re actually fucked. I suppose it is not all that surprising, a lot of them are decendants of people who couldn’t see where travelling across a big ocean into an unkown land could go wrong.

    This makes advertising to Americans very easy, just present a scenario, no matter how unlikely, where the American is fucked (There’s wine stains on the carpet and ninjas out to kill you at the door), creating immense anxiety but then follow up with the product you’re selling that unfucks him (The flechette gun with underslug soap launcher). The fact that a flechett gun probably isn’t going to help you against ninjas, nor that soap is going to help much against wine stains (Probably, I’m no expert) matters little, what matters is that the American can return to the bliss of thinking he can’t be fucked.

    Aggregated into a culture makes Americans deathly afraid of things where someone stands to make a profit but are oblivious of the things that are actually likely to kill them.

  2. says

    “Tactical” = black, cylindrical and heavy enough to dent someone’s head. Just like Mr Comfort’s banana, these things are a sign that there’s someone watching over you, the scared little white guy.

  3. says

    But it says you can do brutal damage with it! It must be true! Besides, it looks like it was designed for uh. Um. Scary!

    Tempted to get one of those pens and kit up in my Nazgul costume and do a promotional: “used by special forces and supernatural litches” .. except it’s really awkward to shoot and pose in that outfit…

  4. says

    Anders Ryndel@#1:
    We’re much more likely to die of heart failure from the extra cheese nachos or the antibiotic resistant bacteria. But don’t tell the ninjas – they need work.

  5. kestrel says

    The strikepen is hilarious. Obviously would never work.

    Because where is the tactical Pocket Protector Strikepen Silo? Where, I ask you?

    Re: sonofrojblake #4, paranoia: Oh boy. I had no idea how many paranoid, twitchy white guys there were out there until I worked on the 2000 Census, trying to get people to comply that had not yet complied. I suppose that if you’ve never been attacked by a strike force in a welter of bullets, despite hoping for just such a thing, not complying with the census is the next best thing. Ironically, all the actual Mexicans complied – they had just needed someone who spoke Spanish to help them through the forms.

  6. kestrel says

    LOL – the Partner just told me there are all these “tactical” paramedic things out there. Not sure what “tactical” gear would do for a paramedic. Their tactics are to survive, and to try and save all those people who are dying from the attacks from the Strikepen. Usually self-inflicted.

  7. brucegee1962 says

    At the end of that advertisement for the strike pen, I expected a few more sentences: “Also, we’ll teach you how to improve your handwriting and draw this sad-eyed puppy!

  8. says

    A strong flash light (of any kind, not only with “tactical” label) might be actually very usefull self-defence tool, for some situations (i.e. those situations where it is possible to get it and use it, as opposed to situations where you are dead or incapacitated due to suprise attack). Blinding a mugger with strong light might perhaps disorient him enough to give you a few seconds to put some distance between you and him and get help. But I am not going out of my way to test it.
    And it has the advantage over knives or tactical skull-bashers that should you flash it in the eyes of an innocet person, you will not kill or permanently disable them. And the advantage over non-lethal pepper sprays or shockers that afaik it is legal anywhere in the world whereas pepper spray and shockers are not.
    Of course it is always best to avoid conflict, as Gichin Funakoshi said “The secret principle of martial arts is not vanquishing the attacker, but resolving to avoid an encounter before its occurrence.”

  9. says

    You can spend another $19.95 and learn how special forces and secret service use the strike pen to do their expense reports

    Or you can just open youtube, type “krav maga pen” in the search box and voilà — you just saved $19.95 by getting similar content for free. And, more importantly, youtube krav maga instructors will tell you that any pen (or sharp object) will do the trick, which means you can use your existing pen and save another $20.

    Sure, somebody who has spent decades practicing martial arts could potentially put some everyday objects to good use for self defense. But such a person could also kill with their bare hands, so they don’t exactly need tactical junk anyway.

    The appeal of tactical junk, as I see it, is the idea that you can just buy some stuff and suddenly you are on par with Bruce Lee. Who needs to spend decades training if instead you can just buy some stuff and get the same result? Not that it works though…

    What are these people expecting to defend themselves against?

    Well, robbers, rapists and even serial murderers do exist. Luckily their encounter rate is very rare. People who are worried about a premature death should instead do regular cancer screenings and stay fit in order to avoid heart diseases. Statistically these actions are much more likely to be useful.

    I genuinely wonder if this is a Russian plot to play off American toxic masculinity in order to demonstrate how obviously right feminism is, or something.

    “Tactical pen” translates in Russian as “тактическая ручка”. Now, what do you think happens when you google for “тактическая ручка”? Yep, these same fancy overpriced pens are being sold in Russia too. This isn’t an American phenomenon, it’s the same in other countries too.

  10. says

    Someone was marketing a pen with a pop out needle for stabbing people back in the late ’70s. I thought it was called something like the Sportsman’s Friend but Googling a name that vague is of course entirely unhelpful.

    Car and house keys are probably as dangerous as a lot of those gimmicks. Being poked hard in your soft tissues with keys would not be pleasant.

  11. says

    Irrelevant to current discussion, look at how Sorrels has a mister on his grind:
    (80 seconds in)

    I was thinking it would be pretty easy to use a mister, a 5v pump and USB power supply, and a 5v laser relay: set the laser so that when you put a work-piece to the belt it closes the relay and engages the mist. Just my mind wandering. I think that’d be pretty straightforward using any of the many available laser relay kits.

  12. cvoinescu says

    Tone-deaf keyword matching graced this post with an ad for a compact survival kit, which seems to include a black spiky pen of some sort, a black spiky flashlight, the obligatory whistle (for attracting the attention of the bad guys, to get them to come to you so you can stab them with the stabby pen, no doubt), and a credit-card size multi-tool (the kind that’s almost useful for dozens of vital tasks, but really can only cut sewing thread and already-peeled bananas, and maybe open beers if you manage not to stab or cut yourself with the sharp spiky edges), all in a black padded case. The ad is repeated at the bottom of the post, for good measure (after all, it does say you need one for the house and one for the car).

  13. bmiller says

    Funny. I actually got an ad for the tactical pants needed to holster all of the Ninja American Male weaponry.

    Biggest size is there were no “male enhancement” ads, though.

  14. says

    @Marcus, Sorrels has a video where he talks exclusively about his mist cooler -click-.
    The construction which you propose might be feasible, unfortunately anything that is not purely mechanical is beyond my capabilities. Choosing two electrical devices so they can cooperate is beyond me. And if soldering in order to connect them is required, I am not the right person for the job at all. I might at best be able to connect building blocks that someone else has picked for compatibility.
    But I have a spare tiny 12 V solar compressor. Maybe if I connect that to a 12 V AC/DC source I might be able to rig up something using venturi effect to create mist.