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7 investments worth every penny for SWAT officers

From waterproof boots to Cat Crap (yes, really), here’s some essential gear to add to your SWAT toolkit

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There are many accoutrements a SWAT officer must provide for themselves.

AP Photo/Steve Helber

This article is being updated with suggestions from Police1 readers. Make sure to keep reading for more SWAT investments worth every penny and to submit your own suggestions at the end of the article.

It has been said that it costs about a thousand dollars to get on a SWAT team — not because the equipment isn’t provided but because there are so many accoutrements a SWAT pup must provide for themselves. Here’s my list of items I found to be worth every penny:

1. Camelback


Recent studies indicate hydration isn’t as important as was once thought. No one involved in those studies was a SWAT guy in full gear working callouts during the Oklahoma summer. A camelback hydration pack is a lifesaver in the field. I nearly lost consciousness from dehydration on a barricaded mental several years ago. The combination of extreme heat, humidity, helmet, body armor and lack of hydration did me in. One of my teammates dragged me behind cover and gave me what was left of his water.

2. Snacks


I always kept several packs of beef jerky and peanuts in my SWAT callout uniform pocket. (By the way, always check your SWAT uniform pockets before putting them in the washing machine and especially, before putting them in the dryer). A callout may be canceled a few minutes after the balloon goes up or it may drag on for days. Having a little bit of protein at the ready is a must.

3. Waterproof boots with ankle support


One of the responses to my article on 7 investments worth every penny for law enforcement inspired this suggestion.

“Are those boots waterproof?” the SWAT instructor at basic tactical operator school asked me. “I’m not sure,” I replied. They weren’t.

That’s one of those self-correcting problems you learn the hard way. It had been raining all week as we did our field search exercise and I quickly learned how important waterproof boots were. I was blessed with the equally important lesson that SWAT boots need to have solid ankle support for unforgiving muddy terrain. That extra few bucks for those protections are worth every penny.

4. Magnification


Speaking of field searches, every SWAT cop should have a small pair of binoculars or even a decent monocular in their pocket. The naked eye is a wonderful piece of organic equipment, but it works much better with some man-made magnification. There is little more comforting than lying in a well-concealed position with the ability to surveil the surrounding area with an optic before moving to the next position.

Police1 resource: How to Buy Night Vision eBook

5. Cat Crap


Yes. That really is what the best antifogging lens product is called. You can buy it online and at camera shops for about eleven bucks.

I remember being on a hostage barricade that lasted several hours. It was a cold and humid night. I was doing my rotation on the Immediate Action Team (the SWAT guys who are set to make entry upon any escalation by the suspect), when the suspect came out the front door. I raised my carbine’s optic to my eye and saw nothing. The glass had fogged up on my red dot. I transitioned to my pistol – of course – but I’ve never forgotten that lesson learned the hard way.

I reapply Cat Crap every month to all of my important optics. It works on goggles, sunglasses and shooting glasses, too.

6. Multi-tool with wire cutters


I never really understood why all the old SWAT guys had multi-tools on their belts. I figured it was probably a bleed-over from their farm days. I was wrong. Hanging upside down in full SWAT gear from a barb wire fence is a character-building experience. I don’t recall those fences being that difficult to scale before I was in my 40s. They started making them taller, I suppose. Thankfully, I had been running security for a long-time friend and K-9 handler during our field search. He not only cut me down but also immediately mended the fence with items he had on his person. Farm kids know how to do stuff. I’m quite certain he felt a little less safe with me as his “security” after that. I immediately purchased two quality multi-tools and kept one with me at all times several years after I retired from SWAT.

7. Lights


Get as many lights as you can afford. Small ones. Big ones. Cheap ones. Expensive ones. I tried to keep one low-powered unit when I didn’t want to attract too much attention and one scorcher for identifying things at distance. Get them all. Keep a primary on your tac vest and one on your belt. If you don’t have lights on your pistol and long guns, you’re not really SWAT. If you do teamwork long enough, I guarantee you’ll appreciate having all those lumens at your disposal.

Police1 resource: How to Buy Flashlights eBook

I’m sure there’s a lot I’ve missed. For all you SWAT cops out there, what is on your list? Email editor@police1.com.

Warren Wilson is a captain, training commander and rangemaster with an Oklahoma metropolitan police department. He is a former SWAT team leader, current firearms instructor and writer. He is certified as a De-Escalation Instructor and Force Science Analyst by the Force Science Institute. Warren has over 3,100 hours of documented training including multiple instructor certifications on firearms, active shooter and OC. He has been a full-time law enforcement officer since 1996.
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