Marketing: it’s all about the buzzwords

Having been involved with the military and security sectors for large parts of my adult life, both in uniform and out of it, I have a certain acquaintance with the ways in which companies market their products to those industries – particularly to “wannabes” who want to look the part, even if they can’t actually fill the role in real life.  (There are far more self-proclaimed “Green Berets”, “Rangers”, “Navy SEALs”, etc. in US bars than there ever were in uniform.)

One of the ways in which companies capitalize on such fantasies is to market products that are (allegedly) used by professionals in the field.  I’ve mentioned before how ammunition vendors try to imply that their latest, greatest, felon-blaster, magnum-stopper, destructo-gizmo round is used by security forces, particularly special forces.  They’re almost always lying, or purposely using “weasel words” to misdirect our attention.  If their products were as good as they claim, the real Special Forces would switch to them at once, if not sooner, because their lives are on the line.  The fact that they don’t, and carry on using tried-and-true solutions instead, is more than sufficient evidence to debunk such over-the-top marketing claims.

Another favorite marketing tool is to label everything as “tactical”.  A few examples:

Of course, soldiers and warriors down the ages have never needed any of those allegedly “tactical” items to do their jobs.  I certainly got by just fine without any of those options while wearing a uniform.  It’s all in the name, as far as marketing goes.

I was forcibly reminded of this today while researching a demolition tool, needed by a friend for a forthcoming project.  I found the “Stanley FatMax Xtreme 55-120 FuBar III” on Amazon, priced at $64.99:

I happened to come across this, too, the “Stanley 55-122 FuBar Forcible Entry Tool, 30 inch“, priced at $159.28;

Doesn’t “Forcible Entry Tool” sound much more tactical and awe-inspiring than “FuBar III”?  Yet, if you look at the details of both items, they’re virtually identical in size, weight and features.  The “Forcible Entry Tool” has a couple more holes than the “Fubar III”, and has fancier synthetic grips applied to the shaft, but effectively it’s the same tool, renamed for the “tactical” market.  It’s also 145% more expensive than the “non-tactical” version!  Do those minor, cosmetic changes justify such a steep increase in the price?  Not as far as I’m concerned!

As a general principle, if you’re looking for an item of equipment for self-defense or anything remotely “tactical”, by all means search for it using that term;  but then repeat the search for similar items to those that catch your eye, without the word “tactical” or “law enforcement” or whatever in the title.  You can often save a whole lot of money without sacrificing any performance at all.

As for my friend, I’ve advised him not to buy either of the above tools, because while they’ll do an excellent demolition job, they aren’t very useful for much else.  It’ll be a big investment for only occasional use.  I’ve suggested he go with this solution, which will be almost as effective for demolition, yet also offer ongoing general utility in gardening, camping, and many other situations.

To cap it all, it’s easier to carry than the above alternatives, and cheaper than either of them.  What’s not to like?



  1. You're a little off on your interpretation of the Stanley tools. "Fubar" or more accurately "FUBAR" is a US military acronym that stands for "F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition". I believe it dates back to at least WWII. So actually the Forcible Entry Tool might even be the less "tactical" of the two…

  2. I have found that a long (48" or better) crowbar with a decent hook on one end and a 6 lb sledgehammer are at least as useful for demolition as the above referenced tools. Maybe a single bit Michigan style axe as well, depending on your needs. You can have all three for less than $100 and they are, for the most part, indestructible. Plus, they have other uses outside of demolition.

  3. The "Forcible Entry Tool" sounds more like it's marketed to priests than soldiers 😉

    Too soon? Yeah, yeah I'm sure someone in the PC crowd just got triggered.

  4. I only chew Tactical Chewing Gum! I'm just SO manly. And I drink my tea from a Tactical Mug. Which is weird, because I used to was a Strategic Missileer.

  5. I've often been puzzled at the things folks will buy that are camouflaged. Wallets, phones, if you drop them wouldn't you want them to be visible? Now concerning camouflage underwear, if I'm in the woods with just my underwear I want to be found.

  6. As P.T. Barnum counseled a century ago, "There's one born every minute…"

    As to the actual tool, it's actually quite useful, and for more than simple prying or construction demo.
    That open jaw at the non-prying end is designed to fit dimensional nominal 2" lumber (actually 1 1/2" once planed square).

    Anyone who's ever needed to fix the twist in the end of a warped and bent typical craptastic 2"x lumber found on offer at big-box hardware stores before nailing it into place during framing knows what that's about.

    Giving it a functional hammering head is another tool, esp. for an ad hoc laborer or assistant who may not even possess their own tools.

    That you can "tacti-cool" it up, and get gullible contract buyers from city hall who've never swung a hammer in their entire lives to buy one for 145% mark-up explains what happens when you vote Democrat, and they get their idiot son-in-laws and retarded nephews into civil service.

    Going only by the last 200 years of the country's civic experience on that account.

    Being fair, though, the Amazon listing notes the cheap version is made of – wait for it – "metal".
    Whether that's pot-, tin, steel, or titanium, it doesn't say.

    The listing for the up-cost version is conversely noted for being described as "forged, high carbon steel, with flame-resistant handles, and a hydrant wrench".

    Now, the cheap version may indeed have the exact same wrench openings, but I have to think if you're using it for forcible entry in a house where the temperature is higher than the average job site, because the house is on fire, having a tool that doesn't turn into a wet spaghetti noodle, nor has handles of a plastic that suddenly melts into you gloves, might be a wee bit spendier things worth the additional initial investment.

    The only way to be sure would be to ascertain of exactly what metal the cheaper one is made, and then to test both bars, side by side, not only for tensile strength and hardness at sea level, 50% relative humidity, and at 72°, but also for those same qualities for instance inside a fire training house gloriously aflame, with smoke temperatures a few hundred degrees hotter off the floor near the door locking mechanism of an interior bedroom than what you find on a job site banging up or tearing down a non-burning house, to see which one lives up to the claims better, and if it justifies the higher price, or whether the cheaper one does the same job for $100 less.

    For some jobs, there's a reason for a $165 pry bar, because they're not using it to open a stuck chicken coop door, or tear down an old outhouse on a Saturday afternoon "honeydew" project.

    Other times, your skepticism about that mark-up may be absolutely justified.

    Just saying.

    I'd also note that while the name is indeed a double-entendre on the venerable old military acronym, they started the line of tools with a 16-inch "Functional Utility bar". Having paid for the joke, you can't really blame them for collecting on it.

    And I will say no more regarding another tactical item you overlooked, i.e "tactical prophylactics", nor the spicy marketing slogan of this novelty product, other than to note its mere existence, and to further note that hiding or diminishing the item in question is rather at historical odds with things, going back to the mid-renaissance phenomenon of the codpiece, whose purpose was in precisely the opposite direction.

  7. Joseph Mcdermott: Icom, I think, had a case for one of its handheld radios that was meant to be found. It was yellow. Pardon, I have that wrong. It was YELLOW!!

  8. Aesop's right, the shorter Fubar is pretty useful for horsing recalcitrant 2-by into place. Never tried to use it in a burning house, though…

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