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.
Officer.com’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