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When failure is not an option: Advanced tactical headsets designed for modern law enforcement

Tactical operators demand perfection, and the quality of communication can mean the difference between mission success and failure


The Liberator series of tactical headsets from Safariland provide a balance between protection and communication, without sacrificing safety, comfort or mission flexibility.


Sponsored by Safariland

By Dustin Dodd for Police1 BrandFocus

“Eyes and ears!” Those three words instantly bring each of us back to the same place. Pick your yardage. The 3-yard line. The 25. The 50. You prone out and time your breathing to pick up your front sight. You squeeze, ever so gently, on that trigger waiting for the magic to happen … and then your neighbor’s rifle sounds off first, instantaneously notifying you that your hearing protection did not have a good seal. You quickly adjust your headset while the ringing applause in your head continues unabated, reminding you that your hearing is finite and your safety is paramount.

To reduce the auditory assault on the ears, the overall size and thickness of headsets generally increases. By increasing the size to increase the sound reduction, an officer will generally trade the ability to hear sounds at a lower volume for safety from the louder ones. I can’t recall how many times I freed one ear to hear the instructions of the range master or the directions of a team leader during training.

Bulk vs. hearing protection

The need for robust hearing protection presents a unique set of problems for tactical teams. With firearms, launchers, distraction devices and the like at their disposal, the modern operator is not in short supply of advanced tools that demand effective sound dampening. Increasing the bulk of headsets successfully decreases the threat but has diminishing returns. Added size/weight will eventually cause discomfort and can interfere with other safety gear, like your helmet or eye protection.

Thicker headsets can also reduce the operator’s ability to maintain situational awareness or to hear threats in their vicinity. Concise yet comprehensive communication serves as the lifeblood of tactical teams to ensure tactical control and mission success. Limiting the ability to process information through the silencing of one of the five senses raises some serious safety issues.

Safariland has built a solid reputation on the back of their tried-and-true law enforcement safety gear. Their holsters and body armor are trusted by thousands of officers on a daily basis across the country. Through research and development, they may have found the perfect balance between auditory protection and providing a sophisticated means of communication that improves situational awareness with their launch of the Liberator IV and Liberator V tactical headsets.

The Liberator series: Finding a functional balance

The Liberator IV and Liberator V series of headsets seal the ear to provide active noise reduction and noise cancellation of 26 to 29 decibels simultaneously. By integrating an advanced digital processor, the headsets reduce or cancel intermittent deafening sounds while providing 360 degrees of ambient sound reproduction. This should enable the operator to accurately interpret replicated environmental sound to identify potential threats and the direction from which the sounds are produced.

The thinner profile of these headsets should improve interoperability with most tactical helmets while also cutting overall weight. Weight reduction should increase both comfort for the operator and the duration an operator will be able to wear the headsets. Helmet mounts were also configured into the design so that the headset can be affixed to the operator’s tactical helmet, offering a functional alternative to the skull strap.

The Liberator IV was constructed as a single channel headset. As a single comm or single radio headset, the Liberator IV will produce transmissions in stereo with a high degree of clarity. It will also likely receive a high degree of interest from teams and agencies on tighter budgets due to the lower price point.

While more costly, the Liberator V’s dual channel capabilities may well be worth the money. By integrating a second radio channel that the team can configure before deployment, the Liberator V will deliver a means for multiple teams to communicate and coordinate with one another on large-scale tactical operations. Using the second channel to monitor a main patrol frequency or a dedicated to a fire/EMS channel could greatly increase interoperability during critical incidents.

The Liberator V headsets will divert each radio channel into a single, dedicated ear. The primary radio channel will be heard in the right ear, while the secondary channel will be heard in the left. Their advanced digital processor will isolate the signals into the individual earpieces to aid in discerning which channel is providing information to the officer. When multiple voices are received at the same time, the bifurcation of each signal will assist in differentiating the source from the active voices around the officer and the situational sounds in the environment.

The Liberator V can be configured as either the Basic (Universal) Push-To-Talk (PTT) or the Lite PTT. The Basic PTT is the more flexible (and more expensive) option. It can be disconnected from the lower cables during a radio upgrade or for a change in accessories. The more cost-effective Lite is hardwired to the PTT and would be ideal for tactical units with no plans for future upgrades.

The Liberator HP 2.0 starts at only $299.99.

To fire them up, the Liberator IV and Liberator V are dual-chambered to use either two common AAA batteries or one CR123 battery, and the cover is easily removed to replace expended cells. Their expected run time ranges between 160 and 300 hours, meaning battery replacement will not be needed frequently.

Designed for the challenges of law enforcement

Safariland is known for making quality products with maximum efficiency that are designed for the challenging needs of law enforcement. Traditionally, with increased hearing protection comes a proportional decrease in situational awareness or the ability to communicate. Through technological advancements, Safariland has provided solid balance between hearing protection and communication in its Liberator IV and Liberator V tactical headsets without sacrificing safety, comfort or mission flexibility.

Visit Safariland for more information.

Read next: Spotlight: Safariland products provide head-to-toe solutions for lifesaving products

About the author

Dustin Dodd is an active-duty detective supervisor for a municipal police department in the California Bay Area. He was sworn in 2001 and his assignments have included: K9 handler, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, SWAT Explosive Breacher, drivers training instructor, traffic accident reconstruction, computer and cellular phone forensic examiner.