I’m NOT going to reveal my views, neither past nor present, on Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, there is one aspect of that said conflict that the American (and potentially global) consumer has benefited from, and that is: Within the first few years of its beginning, tactical grade (and therefore inherently more durable) items are now marketed to the public and many times at an affordable price.
Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, very few consumers knew about (much less purchased) any type of “tactical grade” products. I don’t even think the word “tactical” itself was a household word as it is now.
For example, the only [semi] tactical flashlight that was widely available to the general public was Maglite. Energizer and Rayovac made your average run of the mill flashlights, but nothing that was tactical grade. Now there are many types of tactical flashlights for the American consumer to choose from. New flashlight companies have formed, many of them specializing in just tactical models. Fast forward to 2016 there are dozens to hundreds of tactical LED flashlights to choose from. The one aspect that I am very leery of is: Will LED flashlights survive an EMP blast? That is another story though.
The impact wasn’t just felt with flashlights. Prior to that war, many consumer electronics had that goofy Platinum color. This went on from about 1999 to 2005 and even slightly thereafter. I don’t know about anyone else, but I couldn’t stand that look. It was most common on cell phones, but was also on radios, televisions, CD/DVD players, etc. Thankfully it is now a rare appearance. Now most of these items are either a glossy black or a no nonsense white. Two way radios, are now water resistant and can withstand greater impacts. Ironically their communicating range is horribly exaggerated, but that too is another story. Back then the radio was stated to have a range of two miles and you indeed could communicate in a two-mile radius. Now thirty or more mile ranges are advertised, but one is lucky to get three quarters of a mile. Shame …As for cell phones, many OEM and third party protector kits have been manufactured and marketed to protect them from all the dangers of use and abuse.
The Casio G-Shock line of watches came on the market a little less than 20 years prior to the 2003 American invasion of Iraq. While it had always been popular with athletes, hunters and fishers, it also was and still is a staple in the military. It is featured Black Hawk Down. However, I now see teenagers wearing G-Shocks (or at least knock offs of them.) I bought my first G-Shock this past March and I wouldn’t trade it for any other watch. [Well except maybe for something made by Victorinox.]
Speaking of Victorinox, pocket knives have also become more tactical. These new models are now very crowded in display cases at many sporting goods retailers. This wasn’t always the case. There were always the folding pocket knives with the spear point blades and wood or rubber handles. Now there are knives with tanto points, assisted opening mechanisms, high quality, sometimes glass infused plastics are used for handles and Teflon coating is featured on all the metal parts.
So, yes, I credit this conflict Operation Iraqi Freedom with the proliferation of rugged, tactical items being marketed to the general public.
But, Operation Iraqi Freedom is no longer ongoing?
What I believe continues to make these items popular is that the economic downturn has caused consumers to purchase items that they know will last longer because of their ability to withstand abuse. I’ve heard it on a few forums that “a poor man can only afford the best item once.” Many people have less disposable income, it’s just a simple [and unfortunate] fact.
But, I also credit YouTube with providing a medium for people to do reviews and demonstrations of these wonderful items.
What I feel most of all is making tactical gear popular with the American public is that many people are prepping for disaster like never before. There has been a rise of natural and man-made (both accidental and malicious) disasters. There is also the constant threat of another economic collapse always right around the corner. Lastly, there is the constant threat of terrorism from any given extremist group. With these three factors combined, people realize that our military and public safety personnel might be overwhelmed and maybe even crippled some day and it will be every family for themselves. I hope that this is only a picture of what could be. I hope there is still a chance for America to get its act together and confront these issues head on. In the meantime, I believe that companies who produce tactical gear will do well for some time to come and consumers can be thankful that they have access to tactical grade products…