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The Tactical Glossary


Tactical terminology is highly specialized language known well only by those deeply embedded in that world. When shopping for tactical gear, it's easy to be overwhelmed by all the technical lingo and marketing jargon. We break it down for you with definitions that will help you better understand your next purchase. You will also discover the meaning of slang terms that might come in handy in your tactical day-to-day.

A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H    I    J    K    L    M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U    V    W    X    Y    Z

A

ABU:
The Airman Battle Uniform is the official uniform of U.S. Airmen and women.

ACU:
The Army Combat Uniform is the official uniform for the Army servicemen and women.

articulation:
Sewing darts into a garment’s knee or elbow to allow for more room in the knee or elbows. This mimics the anatomical shape of legs, meaning it does not restrict movement.

AT:
Stands for alloy toe. Although a steel, alloy is much lighter and still offers toe protection.

A-TACS:
A popular type of camouflage that is made of organic pixels and naturally occurring colors. A-TACS is available in multiple colors, such as AU (Arid Urban), FG (Foliage Green) and LE (Law Enforcement).

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B

Berry compliant:
Refers to something that is 100 percent made in the USA. This applies to all the materials and labor used to make the product.

BDU:
Known by its proper name as a Battle Dress Uniform, these were the official uniform for the Army. It was replaced by the ACU in late 2007.

body side:
The side of a ballistic tool or gear that faces inward toward the body.

BOLO:
An acronym for “be on the lookout.”

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C

candelas:
A measurement of the brightest spot in a focused beam.

CCW:
An acronym for a concealed-carry weapon.

Charlie Mike:
Means to "continue mission," or as we like to say, "keep doing what you do."

clip:
A device that feeds rounds into a firearm. Unlike a magazine, a clip forms an integral part of the gun's mechanism.

Cordura:
This is the brand name for a heavy-duty nylon utilized in many products.

CQC:
Stands for close-quarters concealment, which describes holsters that provide super low-profile carry options.

CT:
An abbreviation for composite toe, which is found in footwear with a hard synthetic plate within the toe box.

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D

danger close:
A phrase utilized in artillery and naval gunfire support. Used during a call for fire to indicate friendly forces are within 600 meters of target.

denier:
This refers to the size of the weave within a yard of fabric. A more rugged material will boast a higher denier count.

D-ring:
A ring, usually in the shape of a capital D, that hangs at the end of a fabric strap. Particularly useful for key retention.

Dupont Teflon:
This fabric protector acts as an invisible shield and protects against oil- and water-based stains, dust and dry oil. It does not impact the feel of the fabric though.

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E

escape & evade (E&E):
Refers to getting away from the enemy and maintaining your escape.

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F

fade resistant:
A product that will keep its color despite numerous wash cycles.

fatigues:
Generally used by service members, fatigues refer to battle-dress clothing.

fire for effect (FFE):
The volumes of fire delivered on a target to achieve the desired effect.

Frankengun:
Refers to a gun made of mismatched upper and lower receiver colors. It’s often a mash-up of old and new parts. Most frankenguns are made of inexpensive parts that have been found, bartered for or salvaged from older firearms.

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G

good to go (GTG):
A phrase that means you are geared up and ready for action.

grommet:
An eyelet that is placed in a hole to reinforce the opening. This prevents tearing and abrasions.

GTX:
Stands for GORE-TEX. GORE-TEX boot liners provide waterproofing and keep feet dry.

gun p0rn:
This refers to pictures of visually impressive guns, sometimes placed against an aesthetically pleasing background.

gusset:
A triangular (or rhomboid) piece of fabric added at the crotch, which provides more room and reduces stress.

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H

high speed, low drag:
An idea that you and your training is fast, quick and mission ready.

hook & loop:
Refers to a method of keeping something close with two pieces of fabric. Think Velcro.

HPI:
Refers to a special ion-mask coating that protects against liquids and keeps the product cleaner.

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I

ITS:
The Integrated Tourniquet System can be found in select Blackhawk apparel, and it allows wearers to utilize tourniquets quickly and one-handily.

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K

Kryptek:
A pattern of camo developed by veterans and hunters. Recently, it has been incorporated into Vertx apparel.

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L

LED:
Stands for light-emitting diodes. Flashlights that utilize these types of bulbs are more resistant and effective than incandescent lights.

Level 1:
Refers to the retention level of a holster. The least secure against gun grabs, these styles typically only have a thumb break, screw or detent to hold the firearm in place.

Level 2:
This retention level indicates a holster has two methods of retention, usually a thumb break and a trigger guard or tensioning device.

Level 3:
This level means that a holster has three ways to keep a firearm in place. These might include trigger guard locks, tensioning devices, thumb breaks or other top-end locking devices.

lumens:
The measurement of all the light that is within a beam angle.

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M

mag:
Short for a pistol or rifle magazine, which holds rounds of ammunition. A mag should not be confused with a clip.

MARPAT:
Short for Marine pattern. The digital camouflage pattern utilizes highly complex fractal equations. The Marine Corps wears the MARPAT woodland and MARPAT desert patterns.

MDU:
Stands for modern dress uniform. This Blackhawk line has a professional look, while incorporating tactical functionality.

mike:
Another word for minutes. "I'm 10 mikes away."

MIL-SPEC:
A garment or piece of gear that has passed strict military specifications.

MOLLE:
An acronym for Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment. Although some use MOLLE and PALS interchangeably, it's important to note that MOLLE only refers to the accessories that can attach to equipment outfitted with PALs webbing.

MRE:
An abbreviation for "meal ready to eat."

MultiCam:
This popular form of camouflage is designed to conceal the wearer in various light conditions, environments, seasons and elevations. MultiCam is worn by members of the special forces and other elite operating personnel.

MultiCam Black:
A new Multicam pattern yet to be released from Crye Precision.

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N

negative:
A really cool way to say no.

NIR:
Used by the U.S. Department of Defense, Near Infrared (NIR) technology prevents detection by NIR image converters.

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O

OD:
Stands for olive drab, a popular color within the industry.

operator:
A professional who is seasoned in field work or combative situations. Usually these are men and women employed in the public safety sector, military or in a special forces unit.

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P

PALs webbing:
Stands for Pouch Attachment Ladder System. This is the actual grid of webbing that attaches MOLLE bags, pouches and other equipment.

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R

RFID:
Stands for radio frequency identification. Some products block RFID scans, which allows wearers to stay concealed and protects their privacy.

roger (or "roger that"):
A positive acknowledgement, such as OK or understood. It's often used in radio language.

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S

SERPA:
Developed by Michael Serpa, it is a popular retention holster made by Blackhawk. Especially useful for those in combat or the public safety industry.

say again:
Used during radio communications, it means to repeat the statement or mission directives.

shrink resistant:
Means a garment will not shrink after a wash cycle.

sneak and peek:
A reconnaissance mission or a type of search warrant that gives law officers access to private property without the owner’s permission.

spalling:
Refers to the pieces of a hard surface that splinter off upon bullet impact.

ST:
An abbreviation for steel toe. These styles of footwear provide a steel-toe cap.

stay frosty:
In the tactical world, it means to be alert or stay on your toes.

standardize:
To organize your gear in a fashion that ensures it's always in the same place. This is especially helpful during high-pressure missions or situations.

stress resistant:
Means that an item can withstand pressure and is nearly unbreakable.

strike face:
The side of a ballistic element you point towards the bad guy.

SZ:
This means that a boot has a side zip feature, making it much easier and faster to gear up.

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T

tactical illuminator:
Refers to an especially nice flashlight, usually high in lumens and candelas.

tantō:
A type of blade built to stab into hard materials. Instead of a curve, the blade's sharpened front edge meets the unsharpened edge at an angle.

TDU:
An acronym for the Tactical Dress Uniform, a set of clothes built to meet the needs of tactical professionals.

triple stitch:
A particular type of stitched used in high-stress areas, such as the armpit or crotch, to ensure the clothing remains intact.

TRU:
Stands for Tactical Response Uniform. Inspired by the basic design of the ACU, the Tru-Spec uniform is well-suited to the needs of the tactical professional.

tunneled-elastic waistband:
A stripe of elastic runs inside of the waistband. The elastic allows for a better fit and keeps those tactical britches in place.

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U

UCP:
The Universal Camouflage Pattern is a digital camo that incorporates three colors: gray, tan and sage. It is a modification of MARPAT.

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W

water resistant:
These are products that are water repellent, meaning they will shed water pretty easily. They are NOT waterproof.

WP:
An abbreviation for waterproof.

wrinkle resistant:
Refers to clothing that does not require ironing and resists wrinkles.

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Y

yoke:
A three-part modular system that covers the shoulders, collar and throat. Often utilized in ballistic protection platforms.

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