Thursday, January 05, 2012

2012 Tactical Trends? Look at 2011

I've been pondering lately what's likely to be the next big trend or trends in the industry. I thought I might see them at SHOT in about ten days, but then I saw the schedule for working the booth, and I'm not sure there'll be much opportunity to see any significant amount of the show. Must be nice to work for a big ol' company that spends a million dollars on SHOT and the reps don't have to spend all their time in the booth. Some of 'em, I kinda wonder if they brought their reps to the show. The marketing department folks who try very hard but can't answer any product questions seem to make up most of the booth people.

But I egress, or something. This year's trends will probably continue. The economy is growing by a tiny percentage, unemployment is still way high, and prices are up. That'll probably mean there will be very little truly new this year. Companies just aren't gonna sink a bunch of development money in uncertain times.

We'll see more AR's. That wouldn't be a bad thing if there were more duty-quality AR's, but there aren't; commercial junk still rules the overall market. We'll also see the "carry" market expanding. I'm of two minds on that point. On the one hand, I'd prefer that law abiding citizens carry than not, and little guns make that happen since so few people will change anything about their lives to accommodate the carriage of a gun that's easier to fight with. Those that know me know that I despise the trend in pocket guns. Can't manipulate 'em, their sights are practically nonexistent and they have crappy capacity. Unfortunately, this trend is alive and well and will continue with more crappy guns that are seven round straight blowback .380's and clunky, small-yet-ungainly 9mm's. They're a money maker, so they'll keep being made. Note that SnW is making their version of that ultimate bad idea The Judge, calling it the Governor or something. Yeah, those damn things are here to stay, too.

What'll we see in tactical gear? The trend toward lightweight continues. Lite Lok fabric will make some inroads, but until the price comes down, 500D will still be the standard. We're gonna do some stuff with it, but a RAID II in Lite Lok is gonna be quite a bit more expensive. With budgets shrinking, there's gonna be a cap on how much this stuff gets used; don't expect to see big dollar items like armor carriers being sold in really big numbers. Even the SOF side of the house is going to see significant reductions in what they can spend. Why pay a premium if there's a similar, nearly-as-good solution?

The next big change will be whatever the Army decides to do with their next pattern. What should happen and what will happen will probably be different. I gotta admit to being surprised that Multicam was chosen as the Afghanistan pattern. But since ACU-Delta wasn't chosen there doesn't mean it's dead. It's what makes the most sense: the pattern isn't the problem with ACU, it's the coloration. All they have to do is take the pattern that they already own and change the colors. That may not be what happens, though. Regardless of what they choose, there's gonna be a lot of ACU gear and clothing that nobody will buy unless it's at sub-giveaway prices (and not even then) once the new pattern comes out. Police departments will use it because they'll get it free through the DRMO system. They won't pay anything for the gear in ACU because cops are notoriously cheap. It figures; they don't make a lot of money.

So, I guess the summation of all this is that the trends for this year will just be the trends of last year. Stand pat and see what happens will be the rule of the day. Kind of a bummer, really.