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2012 SHOT Show Tactical Review

S.H.O.T. – the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade – Show is an amazing spectacle to behold and a huge maze to attempt to negotiate.  Specifically the Las Vegas Sands Expo Center version of the show where booths and displays are scattered throughout two floors and an unbelievable number of show halls and rooms which require you keep your map handy and have a good memory.  In the past few years the presence of military and law enforcement vendors and distributors displaying their products and services has increased tremendously.  At SHOT you can see the greatest in crime scene equipment technology through .50 caliber sniper rifles.’s esteemed editor Frank Borelli (that accolade should be good for another lunch next year) asked me to cover the SWAT end of things – what’s new and exciting.   Now I will cover a couple of hardware pieces (red dot sights specifically) but what I find interesting and exciting is how the uniforms of SWAT as well as Patrol Officers are improving and changing with advancements in garment materials, uniform design, footwear, body armor and load bearing gear.

The Uniform Flow

Let’s face it, for the big uniform companies the money has been on the military side of the house over the last few years.  With our fine troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan research and development in the private uniform sector has been focused on improving our soldiers, airmen and Marines safety and comfort.  With a wide range of temperatures from the scorching hot to the cold of the desert to the snowy environs in the mountains our troops must function effectively and their uniforms and equipment has a lot to do with that effectiveness.

Uniforms and under gear worn by professional sports players is designed to protect them from injury and support their movements as well as reduce fatigue and over-heating.  When used, some of these clothing items have found to not be suitable for work around heat or fire and have been abandoned.  Companies that marketed to the civilian sports market saw an opening with our military and expanded their product lines with good results.

These changes include fabrics that breath better allowing air circulation, “wick” moisture away from the skin to permit cooling, are lighter in weight which has reduced the pounds of gear carried by an average “grunt” are better designed and more resistant to gunfire or shrapnel with more freedom of movement to complete the mission.  All of these improvements have benefitted the soldier or Marine on the battlefield and are now benefitting the SWAT team member as well as the officer on the beat.

These same uniform, footwear and gear technological advancements are coming to a uniform retailer in your area soon, if they are not already there.

SWAT and Patrol Uniforms

In the SWAT realm uniforms are now: lighter in weight (even those that insulate); allow more freedom of movement during tactical missions; promote body cooling; cover and protect more of your body; are ergonomically designed; footwear that supports the bottom of your foot as well as the ankle and yet weigh less than traditional boots or shoes.  The new designs increase operator performance from their toes to the top of their head.

Let’s list a few seen at this year’s show:

  • Helmets that are lighter in weight but designed to increase coverage while improving comfort
  • SWAT tactical shirts and undershirts that incorporate “cuts” and designs to allow more freedom of movement while keeping the operator cooler and dryer
  • Modular tactical body armor that lets the operator design his vest for mission or assignment specifics, with optional side, groin and arm coverage while still incorporating cooling mesh on the inside
  • Trouser designs that include stronger fibers but designs that permit let movement
  • Tactical belts that reduce fatigue and pressure against low back and hip nerve lines but are lighter and synthetic
  • Holsters which protect the holstered handgun from loss while allowing instant access and will accommodate modern weapon lights
  • Outer gear which better protects from adverse conditions such as rain and snow
  • Gloves which protect the hands from injury while still allowing weapon and gear manipulation
  • Footgear that supports the mission instead of becoming a source of irritation and fatigue


There are some in law enforcement that lament a trend toward a “militaristic” look for uniformed police.  Of course, there are still some that would like our officers to carry revolvers with shiny bullets displayed in loops on their belt.  My career has spanned the days of hot and inflexible materials such as wool combined with hats that only made you hotter in the summer (I had a ritualistic “burning” of my old hat when I left that agency years ago).

Fortunately those same trends seen in military and police tactical uniforms and equipment are filtering into uniform police wear.  External vest carriers which allow some of an officer’s gear to be shifted from the belt to the vest thus saving their backs and hips from the strain.  Duty belts that are curved to more accurately conform to waist shape.  Uniform shirts designed to be worn under these external carriers which look like normal uniforms but are designed with wicking properties under the vest rather than traditional poly blended buttoned shirts.

All of these developments made in military uniforms have now flowed into the standard uniforms of SWAT and patrol.  With more to come…stay tuned.

Red Dots

Trijicon had on display at the range and on the show floor two new red dot sights which will be available at the end of the first quarter (according to manufacturer reps).  The new SRS – Single Reflex Sight and the new Trijicon Battery ACOG both incorporate AA batteries as automatic back-ups.  The SRS uses a new solar panel instead of light gathering fiber optic material and with one AA battery which automatically switches on if enough ambient light is unavailable.  Trijicon states one battery will provide service for over three years of continuous use.  The SRS has ten brightness settings with three for night vision optics and comes complete with either a quick detach of screw on mount for a flat-top receiver.  The Battery ACOG will provide over 12,000 hours of illumination (that’s over 500 days) and has a new brightness control switch with an “off” position in between each setting.  This ACOG is a 4 power magnified red illuminated reticle.

Both the Battery ACOG and the SRS should be available at the end of the first quarter of this year according to the reps I talked to.


There is a lot to see at SHOT and rest assured that many of the product developments that you will read about here on as well as in law enforcement publications like our sister publications Law Enforcement Product News and Law Enforcement Technology in the coming days were displayed at the show.  Throughout the year look at for upcoming release dates and actual reviews.  Guns are cool and the show was full of them but other items like the uniforms and armor that you wear are improving to make you safer and more comfortable as you do your job.  So stay tuned because things are changing all the time!


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About The Author:

Kevin Davis is a full-time officer assigned to the training bureau where he specializes in use of force, firearms and tactical training. With over 23 years in law enforcement, his previous experience includes patrol, corrections, narcotics and he is a former team leader and lead instructor for his agency's SWAT team with over 500 call-outs in tactical operations.