Duty gear – The items that you wear on shift every day and trust your life on.
Do I have your attention? Good, I would hope that I do. All too often, I meet people within the law enforcement and private security profession; one of the biggest issues that I see with rookies and private officers is that a lot of them start off with cheap duty gear that will not hold up to use and abuse. Granted, if you are working for a small, cookie cutter security company and you’re job consists of sitting behind a desk at night, monitoring phones and possibly security monitors, this post does not apply to you. However, if you are a rookie in law enforcement, or are a fugitive recovery agent, or are an active private security officer that deals with the public on a regular basis, you need to get yourself some good gear.
Avoiding the Garbage
Within the first week of meeting the FNGs (technical acronym, look it up), I see a lot of the same exact garbage gear; all of which was purchased off of eBay or Amazon for around $20 (for the duty belt and holders/holsters). I understand the reasoning behind it, really I do. Some people are unsure if they want to work in this style of profession, some only treat it as a stepping stone to something bigger and to the some, it is just a paycheck. I will implore you, however, to rethink the $20 ‘investment’ if you are even considering wanting to stick with it.
I try to forewarn the FNGs that I meet; “Get yourself some real gear. That cheap crap won’t last a month.”. Them being relatively green, about 70% of them ignore me, that is until things start to fall apart. A lot of these cheap components are made abroad with cheap materials and craftsmanship (hence why you can buy an entire duty rig for $20). It starts with a thread here or a wear mark there, but soon you will realize that these cheap rigs are not designed for any type of action.
My duty gear is carrying almost everything that I will need to deal with all of the bad situations during my job. Personally, I will not bet my life on gear that may let me down when I need it most.
Before you buy anything…
Before you buy anything, first find out what your company or department wants to see. It is completely stupid to go out and buy something (like leather gear) and then find out that the standard is Nylon gear. Now you have something that costs a pretty penny and you either have to try and return it, sell it off at a loss, or let it collect dust in your closet.
What are your requirements?
What gear must you carry on duty? It’s a simple question that often is overlooked by those who are new to the profession(s). So, do yourself a favor and take some of these questions into consideration.
- Will I be armed or unarmed?
- Am I permitted to carry certain items (such as an expandable baton)?
- Will I be working with and around the public?
- Will I have a radio to use for communications?
- Will I be working during the day, at night, or both?
- Does the company (or department) require or suggest certain items (like a Level II or Level III retention holster)?
- Am I able to wear Nylon and/or leather duty gear? (Some companies want to see uniformity or have a certain look/style to their uniform.)
Answering these questions will avoid surprises and wasted money. For example, why would you bother buying a radio holder if you are working by yourself, in a factory, at night and you won’t be carrying a radio? Another example, if you are working with the public, you may want to invest in a disposable glove holder in case you find yourself having to deal with first aid and/or bodily fluids.
Do your research…
Before you even think about buying anything, do your research. Look at reviews and the pros/cons of the gear. Also, take some time to go to a police uniform store; this will give you the ability to both look and feel the gear. Plus, the upside of going to a uniform store is that the employees can give you some opinions on how well the gear holds up for their other clientele. The one drawback to going to uniform stores is the possibility of impulse purchasing; you will (depending on the store) find tons of gear hanging around the store. Resist the urge to buy stuff because it looks cool.
Over the years, I have used 5.11, ASP, Bianchi, Blackhawk, DutyPro, Galls. Law Pro, Safariland, and Uncle Mikes for different types of duty gear. In the end, The two brands that seem to serve me best have been Safariland and Bianchi (as far as belts, holders, and holsters are concerned). For me, the Safariland Level III holsters have served me quite well (even though they are a bit pricey) and a majority of my duty belt and components are Bianchi (with exception to my baton holder which is ASP). This setup has lasted me years without fail and looks like it will last years to come.
In closing, I cannot stress how much your life may depend on this type of gear. Don’t cheap out on it and think that you’ll be fine. There are no respawns in life, don’t gamble with garbage.