"KISS" vs. "Tacticool"

Whenever the subject of home defense, patrol/duty, or “SHTF” comes up on various forums, a line is drawn in the sands of the internet.

On one side are the KISS (Keep It Simple and Stupid or Keep It Simple, Stupid!) aficionados, the guys who feel that anything that uses batteries or has glass does not belong on their weapon. Beyond that, the definition is hard to pin down, because some like lightweight carbines, and others prefer 20″ HBAR rifles. The one concession that most will make is that a sling is generally a good idea – but preferably a sling fashioned from shoelaces, an old seatbelt, or carefully woven back hair. Occasionally, 550 cord is acceptable.

I count myself as a member of the group on the other side of the line – while the KISS folks refer to me and my ilk as “tacticool”, there are real and concrete reasons why we prefer to have more than just iron sights on the weapon. I’m unaware of any definition for this second group beyond the fact that the vast majority of people who have current combat experience fall into it. I’m using the term “tacticool” mainly in jest.

The third group stands right in the middle. These are potential black rifle purchasers as well as new police officers and servicemen looking to get the most from their duty or issued weapons. This group is who I intend to address throughout this article – I don’t expect to sway any KISS proponents.

I figured that the best way to do this would be to address KISS talking points that are continually raised in defense of their choices.

KISS Talking Point #1 – “There’s less to go wrong with my weapon if I don’t have any battery-powered stuff.”

Rebuttal – Many people base this opinion on clunky and outdated devices that they saw in service years ago or heard about from a friend. The simple fact is that optics such as Aimpoints and ACOGs have seen incredible damage, and still manage to function afterward. ACOGs may not have batteries, but the KISS folks still shun them for one reason or another. A small-caliber bullet to the right spot on an AR-15 might render it a single-shot weapon; Surefire ads show flashlights that work after having been shot with such ammunition. Nor is recoil a factor. All of the above devices have been used on of M249 and M240 machine guns, and lived.

As for battery life, well, I’ve personally owned Aimpoints that were left on for close to a year. Certain Surefire LED lights will give you useful light for at least a whole night. It’s always a good idea to check and replace batteries at normal intervals, especially if you regularly use a weapon for duty or other situations such as perimeter patrol on a ranch.

KISS Talking Point #2 – “We didn’t need those things in (insert name of war here) to win.”

Rebuttal – Technology has often been crucial in deciding the victor of a conflict throughout history. Heavily armored knights were thought to be the most powerful and decisive force a regent could field until the battle of Crecy, where English longbowmen cut down French knights in spades. Trebuchets brought about the destruction of many a fortification, but later they disappeared in favor of cannon and other forms of gunpowder-propelled artillery. The last known uses of trebuchets occurred only in situations where access to gunpowder was limited or available cannons did not have sufficient range. In other words, in a fight between the “tough” knight and the “delicate” archer, the king with the archers won; certainly, an early cannon was far more dangerous, accident-prone, and unreliable than a trebuchet, but field commanders always chose the cannon, if they could.

No one is claiming that technology is the only factor in a conflict. However, it can bring about a more expedient end to a gunfight, battle, or war. Certainly, we didn’t “need” nuclear weapons to win World War II, but their availability in 1945 undoubtedly saved many lives.

On an individual level, an Aimpoint and Surefire won’t win the fight for you, but they will provide you with opportunities to gain the upper hand, if you are willing and able (trained) to take advantage of them.

KISS Talking Point #3 – “All that crap hanging off the rails will just weigh you down.”

Rebuttal – A Surefire X300 weighs just 4 ounces. An Aimpoint T1 in a good mount weighs about the same. Some free float rails weigh less than the standard handguard and barrel nut.

I’m all about eliminating excess weight, but 8 ounces for an exceptional amount of added capability is a very worthwhile trade-off to me. I’ve had quite a few ARs that weighed less than 6 and a half pounds unloaded, but they weren’t lacking in functionality – an optic, a flashlight, and a sling were on all of those weapons.

KISS Talking Point #4 – “A flashlight will just make you a target.”

Rebuttal – This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Anyone dumb enough to walk around with their weaponlight on if they knew that they were moving to contact would probably be dumb enough to shout, “Hello! Are there any bad guys out there? I’m coming to get you!”

I don’t want to get into a discussion of how to use a white light in a tactical situation, because that can turn into a long and painful dissertation. I will say that I am unaware of any organization that does this sort of thing on a regular basis that does not have white lights on their carbines. There are ways to use your weaponlight without becoming a target, and I suggest that you take a course that has a low light portion to learn more.

Furthermore, lights are absolutely vital for identifying your target. Don’t be this guy. If your home defense plan involves “firing your shotgun at a dark shape” – don’t laugh, that’s an actual quote – then, well, I’m going to bite my tongue now.

As an individual, you will probably not be able to radio Arty for some “lum” rounds. What you can do is equip yourself to identify your target before using deadly force.

KISS Talking Point #5 – “The enemy doesn’t use this stuff.”

Rebuttal – We kill bad guys more often than they kill good guys. Basing your equipment decisions off the choices of people who lose essentially every engagement with American forces is foolhardy, to say the least.

KISS Talking Point #6 – “The Israelis use KISS rifles.”

Rebuttal – Israel’s new Tavor bullpup rifle comes with an ITL MARS reflex sight that also has visible and IR lasers. Among the listed accessories is a flashlight. What the Israelis were doing X number of years ago is rapidly becoming less and less relevant.

KISS Talking Point #7 – “After a nuclear war, batteries won’t be available, and electronics will be fried.”

Rebuttal – It’s unlikely that EMP would affect small devices like Aimpoints, but even if it did, the owner of a rifle with a now-defunct Aimpoint and Surefire could simply remove those items from his or her rifle and carry on, no worse off than the guy who started with nothing on his rifle. Every one of my rifles has a rear back-up iron sight, or both rear and front in certain cases.

In conclusion, I’m not advising people to go out and buy every rail-mounted accessory under the sun. I am saying that a light, an optic and a sling add negligible amounts of weight, while greatly increasing one’s ability to fight up close (and at distance), at night (and during the day), and from non-standard firing positions – not every shot fired in anger is taken from the prone.

I have a feeling that many KISS aficionados are limited by their budgets. I’m not criticizing them for that, or talking down to them. If you can’t afford something, fine. Browsing my blog will turn up quite a few money-saving suggestions. However, I’d recommend spending your time trying to find deals on lights and optics, not trying to come up with “less is more” justifications.