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Active Shooter Equipment

By Paul Howe, MSG US Army (Retired)

I believe the acceptance of the M-4 rifle system as a patrol rifle has turned the odds in favor of the average patrol officer and his ability to handle a myriad of tactical situations. The next dilemma facing officers and their respective budgets is how to best compliment the M-4 system for a tactical encounter. With the numerous equipment manufacturers catering to every tactical whim, it’s difficult to find a simple, streamlined and cost effective system to outfit patrol officers who respond to active shooter or high-threat situations.

I am going to discuss three major systems or concepts in tactical equipment when employing the patrol rifle. They are systems that I have trained with and employed. Two factors are important in this equation. One is cost and the other is the time it takes for you to put the items on, once you retrieve them from the back of your patrol car.

In order of cost:

  • active shooter bag(s)
  • vest (s)
  • plate carrier

Common Equipment for a Tactical Situation
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it will get the job done. It can be added to or subtracted from as the individual officer sees fit.

  • 3 extra rifle magazines
  • batteries for gun lights/optics
  • radio battery
  • chem-lights/signaling lights
  • tourniquet
  • medical scissors
  • kerlix/coflex/rubber gloves (2 wound kits)
  • water
  • flex ties (2)

Extra magazines can be standard or use special ammunition as required for the mission. Those who have used flashlights know that lithium batteries go out without warning and spares must be kept close at hand. Radio batteries fail much the same and we should carry spares to keep the lines of communication open. Also, chem-lights and battery powered signaling lights can be use for linkups with friendly elements.

The medical equipment is a must because it will not get to the crisis area without an officer bringing it. As I tell students, dealing with the bad guys is easy. How efficiently we deal with the wounded innocents is where you will make your money. The medical scissors are used for exposing wounds, and tourniquets are used to stop bleeding on extremities. Wound or bandage kits are used to plug the holes and tourniquets are used to stop bleeding. A water bottle can be drained and refilled many times during an operation, providing vital hydration for the officer. Finally, flex ties can help secure multiple suspects. Remember, you are not limited to the equipment list that I included at the beginning of the article. Comfort items such as extra meds, aspirin, etc., go a long way to make the call out go smoothly.

Active Shooter Bag
Originally designed as a grab-and-go or breakaway bag when your vehicle was disabled during protection missions, it is the simplest and most cost-effective way to support your M-4 system. It was modeled after the military’s claymore mine carrying bag which has been used for carrying everything from extra magazines and ammunition, to toiletries. It is a simple versatile piece of gear that can be used for a variety of missions.

Time to put on: 3 Seconds
Cost: $29.36

Ammo bag holds four rifle mags and two pistol mags.
Cost: $38.73

Vests - Kevlar and Mesh
The concept of throwing on a prepackaged vest has been around for some time. Generally not providing ballistic protection, they can be rapidly put on over your soft body armor, zipped up and worn into the fight. You can prepare a vest with ballistic protection, but the costs sky rocket with additional Kevlar. Also, all vests and plate carriers have a drag strap on the back.

Time to put on: Under 10 Seconds
Cost: $338.24 (Carrier Only)

This body armor type vest can be worn with or without the Kevlar inserts and can be outfitted with modular pockets in ergonomic places that help streamline the vest to the individual officer’s body dynamics and shooting techniques.

This mesh net type vest can also be outfitted with modular pockets in ergonomic places that are conducive to individual officer’s body dynamics and shooting techniques.

Cost: $165.38

Plate Carriers
At the top end of the equipment spectrum is the plate carrier. This carrier will hold a “rifle plate” front and rear that will stop just that, multiple hits from high caliber rifles, to include 5.56, 7.62 x 39 and .308. These plates have become lighter and more conducive to carry, and are generally light, streamlined and vent well in hot climates. The best part is that they stop rifle bullets, something your soft body armor will not do. You will need to order a few extra pouches to fit your extra equipment.

Time to put on: Under 10 Seconds
Cost: $159.96 (Carrier Only)

Additional Comments
I suggest that you mark your equipment with “POLICE” OR “SHERIFF” to cut down on the risk of fratricide. Wear it during your Active Shooter training so others get used to what you look like. Also, there are numerous pouches and attachments out there that will compliment these vests. My suggestion is to find a dual-purpose pouch that can be used for magazines, flashbangs, water, etc. I use the Eagle Double M-14 pouch for this.

Further, train with it during your range practice, getting it out of the car, putting it on and shooting with it. This is the only way to mentally and physically get used to bringing it to the fight.

Finally, I want to thank the folks at Eagle for supplying the equipment for my pictures. They are consummate professionals and have been providing exceptional equipment to the military and law enforcement community for years.

Equipment Sources

Eagle Industries

A version of this article is also being printed by the Illinois Tactical Officers Association ( and the Texas Tactical Police Officers Association (

About the Author
Paul R. Howe, MSG US Army (Retired)—Paul served for over 20 years in the US military, with more than 10 years in the Army’s elite Special Operations Forces. During his tour in Special Operations, he participated in multiple combat operations and conducted high-risk protection missions in several overseas venues. He was a senior instructor and taught assault and sniper skills, and well as other high-risk training.

Paul is the Senior Manager of Law Enforcement Training for Triple Canopy ( and author of the book Leadership and Training for the Fight, (