It's not uncommon for savvy troops to translate their knowledge of military operations to the commercial market — refining government-issue gear for specific environments or supplementing their equipment with new kit that Uncle Sam never thought of.
And while many of these entrepreneurial operators cater to their specific service, some develop products that can offer benefits to the wider military and civilian outdoor market.
For about a year now, RE Factor Tactical has earned a reputation for its survival bracelets that not only meet the needs of troops in the field, but also to satisfy everyday Joes who want to have options when the chips are down.
Developed by RE Factor Tactical owner "Luke" (we have agreed to not post his last name since he's still deploying to war zones) to equip him on missions where his issued-gear might be lost or ditched, the survival bracelets have almost everything a person could need to start a fire, obtain food and build a shelter — all contained in a clip-on wrist band.
"I was in [survival, evasion, resistance and escape] school in 2005 and I wondered if I could replace all the bulky gear they gave us with everything on the wrist," Luke told us. "So when push came to shove, I could break it down and survive."
The eight-year Army Special Forces veteran and current DoD employee builds several different models of the survival bracelet, including a Survival Band, which includes a snare wire, fish hook and line, fire starter and signal whistle; an Operator Band, which has all the same survival equipment but replaces the signal whistle with a plastic handcuff key hidden in the buckle; and even a Survival Keychain, which carries all the gear in a compact (and stylish) off-wrist option.
All of the survival tools are contained within a woven lattice of 550 parachute cord, and most of the bracelets come topped with a P51 can opener that Luke says is one of the most versatile (and inconspicuous) tools for turning everyday items into life saving materials.
The survival bracelets vary in price from about $20 for the Escape and Evasion Band, which is a stripped down, paracord only version, to the full up Operator and Survival Bands which cost about $50. The Keychain is a good option as well, and comes in several everyday colors for about $40. You can also add on a mini Suunto compass for about $18.
The first run of Operator Bands sold out within hours, but Luke has continued to refine his business to meet demand. He recently launched a limited run of the "Operator Band Plus" bracelets — that includes both a handcuff key and a survival whistle on the buckle — for a special Christmas offer.
And Luke says he's not done there.
"Sometimes I'm sitting in a helicopter in the Middle East and I think 'I wish I had widget X,'" Luke explains of his inspiration for RE Factor Tactical's gear. "I don't want to create anything anybody else makes. I'm not just trying to make an extra buck."