Editor's Review: The Viridian FACT Duty Weapon Mounted Camera

Oct. 9, 2020
If you could record what your weapon saw when you were pulling the trigger, would you? Absolutely. It's definitive proof of what you were engaging with that level of force.

While body worn cameras have been “all the rage” for quite some time now, there have always been downfalls and challenges. They are the same downfalls and challenges that existed with dashboard mounted cameras. The biggest is that the camera is pointed wherever it’s pointed and it does not, in any way, follow where the officer is looking. I’ve worn bodycams on my chest, my belt and even my forehead (mounted on a helmet) and due to the angle of the mount and the fact that my eyes can look in a direction different than straight-ahead, the camera doesn’t always capture what the eyes see. When video is being used as evidence in any use of force case, but specifically where the use of firearms is concerned, it’s easy to understand how a gun could be aimed in a lot of different directions than the one a chest-mounted camera is facing. Such circumstances cause a great deal of frustration to officers, investigators, administrators, litigators, insurers and more. Enter the Viridian weapon-mounted camera. 

I had previously seen weapon-mounted cameras but they usually came with challenges that made them too inconvenient for realistic use: they had a short battery life; they had a small memory capability; they were tethered by a wire to a holster, belt, etc. All of my previous experiences with the cameras made me cynical about the usefulness of such. For all that, I’ve long been a proponent of weapon-mounted cameras. Very few times is there an occurrence where an officer isn’t looking directly at what he is shooting. If the officer is looking where the gun is pointing, then the camera is capturing what the officer is seeing when he pulls the trigger.

Now, let’s get back to the Viridian weapon-mounted camera (WMC). I have been familiar with Viridian products for quite some time. Their line of weapon mounted lights and green lasers have always been good quality and I’ve rarely been able to make one fail in a field test (and if I did it was due to excessive and unreasonable abuse). I expected the same durability and performance from their WMC and I wasn’t disappointed.

Called the FACT-Duty, the Viridian WMC is the same shape profile as a Streamlight TLR-1 weapon-mounted light. That means that there are a ton of holsters available to carry a handgun with the FACT-Duty mounted. That said, the holster has to be modified with the necessary magnetic insert as that’s what activates the camera on the draw. There is no connecting wire, no tethered on/off switch, etc. There is no on/off switch on the WMC itself. The magnet in the holster turns the camera on when you draw the weapon and it turns the camera off when you holster. It’s on and recording the entire time in between: audio and video both.

At the time of testing, I was provided an appropriately modified Safariland Model 7360 ALS to fit a Glock 17 with a mounted TLR-1 or, as in this case, a Viridian FACT-Duty camera. I was also provided a DeSantis Viridian Speed-Lite holster to fit the same weapon. The only challenge I ran into while testing either holster was difficulty in holstering the weapon/camera unit in the DeSantis. The mouth of the holster isn’t reinforced and it tends to collapse easily while you’re trying to holster.

The camera itself starts recording roughly 8/10ths of a second after you draw. When I was made aware of that initially, I thought, “There are going to be a lot of quick shots missed by the video as people draw and fire faster than 0.8 seconds.” That was both true and not. The “not” part is far more applicable to the street. Yes, on a safe square range, with a skilled shooters hand on the gun, holster “unlocked” and waiting on the timer to buzz, we were able to regularly beat the .8 second clock. However, from a secured holster, hand off the gun, during conversation, if the buzzer went off, the time to first shot was usually closer to 1.5 seconds.

To download video from the camera requires a simple (provided) USB cable. The videos are recorded in .MOV format so they are compatible will most, if not all, video management software platforms. The internal 32Gb hard drive provides for 6.5 hours of recording. At the time of this testing, Viridian reported fourty agencies in the U.S. with full integration of their WMC (one on every duty weapon) and over 600 agencies in various stages of testing. The cameras have been in use for four years so far.

There is an easy to understand benefit to using a weapon mounted camera. The criticism of a use of force, or the defense of a subject who has been shot, is hard to make when the weapon camera shows the subject with a gun or knife in hand as the officer is pulling the trigger in defense of himself or an innocent.  

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