Not every gun owner has the goal of going from a casual shooter to a tactical operator, and that’s fine. As an example, I fall somewhere in between. I take various training courses when time allows and I get to the range as often as I can, but would not consider myself an actual operator. 

While you probably see many self-proclaimed “operators” on Instagram running around in full MultiCam tactical gear and night vision goggles, there is more to being tactically trained and ready than just gear. Quality gear definitely plays a crucial part, but training and maintaining the right mindset are even more important.

With that in mind, we've put together a list of items that can take you from novice gun owner to tactical operator if your heart and wallet so choose.


Outdoor ranges are great for training at further distances and for incorporating movement. (Photo: Ryan Domke/

I can’t stress enough how important training is. Whether its instructor led courses, accuracy drills that you run at the range alone or even just dry firing in the basement, you cannot train enough. If you were a professional athlete, you would train all the time to improve, right? The same idea applies here. 

Researching new and different shooting tactics can also be helpful. I like to continuously try new drills that I find online or from other blogs and also train with different people of varying skill sets. This exposes me to different shooting styles and techniques. The goal is to be as well-rounded of a shooter as possible. 

Related: 5 Range Drills for New Gun Owners

Training your mind is also key. Go through hypothetical and real life scenarios to understand various ways to react to them. There’s no guarantee you’ll actually react how you plan, but having certain strategies and game plans is great idea. Run through malfunction clearing drills, clearing your house or engaging from a vehicle. Muscle memory will come into play and help build upon your fundamentals to improve speed and accuracy. 


You're going to wants ammo, lots and lots of ammo. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

No specific gear is 100% required, but there are a few standard products that you’ll want to have or look into. Aside from the firearms themselves, you need ammo…lots of it. Oh yeah, and spare magazines too. Without ammo, you can’t train much. I always suggest grabbing ammo almost anytime you find a good deal. You’ll use it eventually and it’s good to have on hand if you ever needed it in a SHTF scenario. 

The Holsters


Convertible holsters can be worn both IWB and OWB. This Rev-Con holster by Black Arch Holsters is one of the author’s favorites. (Photo: Ryan Domke/

Then, you’ll also need a way to carry your firearms. We’re talking holsters for your handguns, slings for your rifles and more. What works best for someone else, may not work for you, so try different ways to carry and maneuver your firearms. I prefer a two-point sling for my AR and a convertible outside/inside the waistband holster for my handguns. That’s not to say I don’t utilize others, but those seem to be my most used. 

Related: Holsters 101 – What You Need to Know to Get Started

The Med Kit


A few key medical items that you should always have on you while training are tourniquets and trauma shears. (Photo: Ryan Domke/

The last category of gear I’d like to stress the importance of, would be medical gear. Since you are handling firearms and so are others around you, it’s important to be able to act quickly to address any potential injuries. Tourniquets, trauma shears and gauze are all examples of medical gear worth keeping close by or on your person. Training comes into play with these items as well. You should not only have medical gear, but understand how to use it and use it correctly.

Related: Why You Should Take First Aid as Seriously as Gun Classes

Stepping Up the Game: Becoming an Operator


NIght vision for consumers
There are plenty of benefits to having night vision for the average consumer. (Photo: Eric Jezierski/

Some of the more fancy and pricey gear to look into after covering your essentials would include plate carriers, body armor and night vision goggles. I haven’t invested in any night vision googles yet personally, but I do have a couple plate carriers and body armor sets for different occasions. Even though you hopefully will never need to rely on plate carriers and body armor, it’s still good practice to train with them as if you would. They also serve as a great base to attach things like spare magazines and medical gear to.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of course, but a few of the top items to get you started on your quest to becoming an operator. 

Related: Night Vision for Consumers – Why You Should Buy One Now

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