We grew up with Counterstrike, so a counter terrorist loadout was hyper popular.
One of the most popular loadouts we see on indoor fields are SWAT or Special Weapons And Tactics loadouts. These are police officers tasked with some of the most dangerous (and existing!) work in their field.
They are often called on when there is a highly dangerous situation – and dang do they look cool.
Reproducing the clothing, equipment, and gear used by SWAT group operators may seem simple at first glance. The truth is, however, that faithfully reproduce the setup of an operator belonging to these groups requires careful analysis and a meticulous search for equipment that is not easy to find.
But enough talk, let’s get started:
Clothing for a Swat Loadout
We’re going to start with the uniform and clothing choice itself before we get into the tactical gear itself.
Leg Wear/ Knee Pads
Let’s start with the legs. What you need is a pair of tactical pants, exclusively black, with precise features. The cargo cut, for example, is essential to ensure comfort during movement.
They should be equipped with a good number of pockets, useful for storing whatever you may be looking for during the operation (a typical task of SWAT groups, once the armed intervention is over).
Pay also attention to the material of which they are made: it is important to try to limit the production of noise, so try to choose pants that do not produce much noise while moving. A useful feature is the presence of Velcro parts to tighten the pants at some spots, which can help you stay more comfortable and to better secure certain parts of the equipment.
In addition, it would be great if they had elastic zones, again to get back to the topic of comfort during movement: take a look at Emerson’s black BDU or 511’s Quantum TDUs.
It would also be an added value if they had inserts to apply knee pads. This last feature isn’t essential, since this piece of gear doesn’t necessarily have to be placed inside the inserts. In fact, depending on the type of intervention that you will be simulating, you can opt for the insert knee pads, but also for the classic stand-alone knee pads with elastic closure, or (in case you want a heavily armored setup) you may want to find come integral knee pads, equipped with coverage for the shins.
Many modern SWAT / Metro units now have officers with combat pants (these are the ones with integrated knee pads)
Keep in mind that for the type of tasks that require the SWAT entry team a high level of armor is often required.
Torso / BDUs
Moving on to the upper body, the first thing to find is definitely a black tactical jacket or shirt. Again, Emerson’s black BDU top should do the trick, otherwise, if you want something more high-tech and comfortable, you can also check out UFPro’s Striker XT combat shirt gen. 2. Another combat shirt we’d highly recommend is the Massif or you need to watch your budget a Tru-Spec will work as well.
Don’t worry too much about the presence or accessibility of the pockets, you’re unlikely to get to use them given the amount of protection you’re going to be wearing.
Make sure this piece of equipment is comfortable, breathable, and doesn’t rub against your skin; you’ll be carrying a lot of weight, and if you don’t wear the right products you risk ending up exhausted and bruised, as well as losing focus during the operation.
Again, try to be careful about noise production, as your jacket (or shirt) will be in constant contact with parts of the body armor. As with knee pads, attention must be paid to the right protective equipment here. Get elbow pads, possibly paired with knee pads, either as inserts or stand-alone.
If you can get the same type of elbow pads as the knee pads, they will give your setup a sense of homogeneity that will help it look more realistic. You can also try looking for shoulder pads to attach to your body armor, for operations that require a high level of armor.
Clearly adding these pads will increase the overall weight and bulk, but you will gain in realism if that is what you are looking for.
Head Wear / Face Wear
Let’s move on to the head: the equipment you need is definitely the helmet, balaclava, and glasses. We’ll focus on the helmet later, for now, let’s focus on the balaclava and eye protection. Finding the right balaclava is really important to get the right effect on your look and ensure you can operate efficiently.
If you don’t pay the right attention to your balaclava, you could end up with a smelly piece of headgear that distracts you, or with constant pressure that gives you a headache, or with an uncomfortable object that keeps moving around and distracting you.
So, give proper attention to choosing this piece of equipment, experimenting with different models and materials. Personally, I would recommend a modern balaclava, with an adjustable lower part, made of cotton and elastane, black of course.
It should be comfortable and breathable, and remain quite firm; in addition, the fact that you can take off the lower part can be a convenient feature for drinking, spelling words, and being able to use your teeth if you need to.
Personally, I use Defcon 5 balaclavas, but those made by 5.11 should work as well.
Either way, experiment with what fits your body and preferences best. Also, consider using a balaclava made of lightweight materials that facilitate breathing and reduce fogging of the goggles, but try to stay away from products made of toxic plastics; they will only make you nauseous and sweaty, taking away your concentration.
Regarding glasses, the choice is not easy. Personally, for the sake of realism and safety, I would recommend goggles, enough wraparound to protect the whole part of the forehead from the hits that you might receive in a close fire action, and aesthetically very much in line with the setup of a SWAT operator.
Be sure to review our essential safety gear for airsoft guide.
Make sure your eye protection is at least Z87+ rated. This is the high impact rating and provides far more protection than the standard Z87.
Classic tactical glasses may also work well, but make sure they stay firmly anchored to your face. Also, try to get a spray to prevent fogging of the glasses; using the balaclava, it is very easy for the glasses to fog up, so you need to take countermeasures.
Beware of Fogging!
You can look for goggles that are tight enough to prevent your breath from entering them, use an anti-fog spray, or wear the balaclava just below your nose to counteract the entry of breath under the goggles.
There are also two other options that you might consider: helmets with frontal ballistic shields and gas masks: gas masks are a fantastic piece of equipment to add a touch of realism if they are suitable for the type of operation you are going to perform, but they are also very difficult to use properly and require intensive training.
Additionally, you’ll need to review the impact rating of eye protection that is different from glasses / goggles and ensure that they provide a full seal to maximize protection.
You won’t have to worry about balaclavas or goggles since they are integral, but you’ll have other things to deal with, such as:
- Heat management
- Reduced field of view
- Difficult in aiming
Having issues aiming will most likely lead you to have to raise the sights of your rifle and having to use a stock that will help you raise the weapon, bringing the aiming organs to eye level. The choice is up to you.
Hands / Gloves
Hand protection, again, leads us to make some tough choices. On the one hand, we need protection, to shield our hands from enemy strikes, bumps, and rubbing, but on the other hand, we need to maintain good mobility to shoot, inspect, handcuff, use the radio, use hand signals, and so on.
Again, my advice is to equip yourself based on the type of mission you’re going on: get a hybrid choice that will work in most situations, such as a pair of Mechanix Mpact 3 or Breacher, which offer protection but remain quite comfortable and stretchy, and then alternative choices to use in special scenarios.
The Mechanix Classic Recon or Speciality are more than fine for missions where you need to have more dexterity,.
Fingerless can also be fine, but you’ll have to be more careful since your fingers will be completely exposed. BB’s to the knuckles suck.
If, on the other hand, the mission requires maximum armor, you should look for full gloves, with metacarpal and forearm protection. They are not very easy to find and can be difficult to use, but if you’re looking for maximum realism it may be worth spending some time trying them out and practicing using them.
Also, make sure to wear a watch, facing inwards, so you can keep track of the time during the whole operation.
Foot Wear / Boots
Finally, we have the footgear. To complete the setup, you can employ either low boots or higher classic boots. It all depends on the type of environment in which you’ll have to operate. What you need to make sure of is that your shoes produce as little noise as possible.
In fact, although the phases of the raid are very chaotic and noisy, strike forces often have to make silent approaches and quiet clearing operations, without alarming the enemy before time, so as not to lose the surprise effect.
Noise production may depend on the use of laces, shoe material, and the shape and condition of the sole. Try to avoid leather shoes, as they often produce a lot of noise when they bend. Also pay attention to how the laces are fastened, how they are distributed throughout the shoe, and what material they are made of. Do some testing and experiment with what works best for you.
As for the soles, you normally only need to soil them a bit to keep them from making too much noise, so I wouldn’t worry too much about evaluating the materials, since they are almost always made of rubber.
Make sure you buy quality footwear, personally I would recommend Salomon, Crispi, and Lowa as brands to start with
Look for black footwear, or at most dark gray, not too heavy, possibly accident prevention, and equipped with protection for the ankle.
Regarding the height, I recommend you choose according to your comfort, bearing in mind that opting for high footwear can be convenient if you will have to operate in flooded environments, where keeping water away from the feet becomes an essential priority.
Some say that high boots also provide more ankle support – but we’re not 100% certain if this is actually the case.
Tactical Gear for a Swat Loadout
Body Armor / Plate Carrier
Here we come to the most important piece of equipment: the tactical vest. Even here, choosing the right item is tough; it must be light, so as not to hinder too much the movements, but at the same time it must repair the body and must be able to accommodate all the various equipment you may need during the operation.
Technically, in the reproduction of a SWAT operator setup, you’re likely to end up with some kind of black armor that is scalable (meaning that you can add or remove pieces to fit the mission.)
As said before, it could be opportune to evaluate a model that can mount shoulder pads, to increase the realism, and that also allow the mounting of a front plate that covers the pubic region, very employed from the first and second operators of the team, to be more protected from eventual hits.
If you want to opt for a more streamlined setup, you can also consider a plate carrier with a lower profile, which would provide greater fluidity of movement, at the sacrifice of a little protection and realistic appearance.
However, this choice will not change your appearance, since even real strike force operators decide the degree of protection to be used from time to time, depending on the role they will have on the patrol and the type of mission they are going to perform.
If you want to opt for a more retro but certainly cheaper choice, you may consider buying an old Tac V-1 type vest; this is a vest of outdated design, but widely used by the strike forces and law enforcement agencies in the past, which will remain consistent with your setup for a very low price.
However, keep in mind tactical vests are unlikely to be as versatile and practical as modern plate carriers.
Make sure you have everything you need on your body armor, such as:
- Spare magazines
- Flashbangs or other explosive munitions
- and more
To increase the realism of the appearance, get scratches with the words SWAT or POLICE to wear on the body armor, both front and back, always taking care to apply them only at the entrance of the operational area and to remove them before leaving the field, to avoid having troubles in case of police inspection.
Check with your local laws to determine if having “Police” or “Swat” markings is legals. Chances are, it isn’t, as it can be interpreted as impersonating an officer.
Learn about the differences between an airsoft vs real plate carrier.
Belt / Leg Rigs
Moving on to the belt, there’s definitely a lot to say. It’s a key piece of equipment, it gives you easy access to a lot of your gear, and you need it to be well organized and stable so it doesn’t make noise, doesn’t bother your movements, and keeps everything in the right place.
Probably the best choice you can make is a two-piece combat belt, such as the Commander Belt from DOM Systems, or the Tactical Duty Belt from Warrior Assault Systems. Because of their quick-attach system, these belts are great for simulating equipping of emergency response forces that need to equip themselves in a very short amount of time.
In addition, the Warrior Assault Systems belts are extremely good in terms of utilizing high quality materials, which will never give you up in the middle of the job.
Be sure to get some quality pouches, such as the ones manufactured by Templar’s Gear. Having good pouches means a lot: you won’t have to worry about the movement of your gear, losing pouches, or retention capacity.
Check out our article on the best battle belts for airsoft.
You will need magazines for your backup weapon, flashlight, radio, multitool, grenades, and handcuffs. Try to distribute your equipment evenly.
In addition to the belt, you may consider using leg rigs, pieces of equipment widely used by SWAT. In this regard, depending on your preference you will have to decide whether to place your gun on your leg with a thigh holster or directly at your side on your belt.
Leg rigs can be useful for increasing your available space and armor, but you need to pay attention to the overall dimensions. Having a leg rig may mean you have the space to carry extra magazines, a gas mask, an extra wedge, or a large magazine for heavy weapons, but it will increase your bulk, making it more difficult and tiring to move around.
Again, it’s the type of mission you’re going to take on, and the type of equipment it requires, that will lead your decisions. The good thing about leg rigs is that, if they get stuck, annoying or simply become superfluous, perhaps because you have used the equipment they were carrying, it is very easy to detach them, thanks to the clip closure system they are normally equipped with.
Here we come to the last piece of equipment. The helmet is one of the distinctive features of these special groups. The most classic choice for which you can opt is the classic Mich 2000, black, of course. You can keep some essential equipment, and use the helmet alone, without mounting anything else on it.
If, on the other hand, you want to carry more equipment, there is a lot you can add: you can mount a flashlight, a camera (like a gopro), infrared signaling devices, or even night vision goggles on top. The important thing is that you choose this piece of equipment carefully.
The helmet must be able to be tightened and widened so that it fits your head perfectly. It should be solid, yet lightweight, and it should be lined internally with quality pads so that it doesn’t rub or press too hard on your head. If you choose a low-quality helmet, you’ll end up with a piece of equipment that constantly moves around, squeezes too tightly on your forehead, or makes noise, all of which will take away your concentration and make a difference, during an operation.
Obviously, the Mich 2000 is not the only choice, but it is the classic SWAT equipment.
If you choose a helmet that leaves the ears uncovered, you can also evaluate the application of microphone headphones for communication, to be placed on the side rails of the helmet.
Otherwise, you can use an in-ear headset with a positionable microphone, or even a laryngophone (also known as throat mic). If you don’t want to buy an expensive bump helmet from Safariland, you can opt for an cheaper replica from FMA, a brand that produces quality, comfortable and stable replica helmets.
In any case, it is best to try out different choices, adjustments, and combinations of equipment to ensure that you are equipped with what fits your head best. It is imperative that you are comfortable wearing a helmet, or you will be in constant discomfort throughout the operation.
Of course, wearing a helmet is not essential; many emergency response forces simply use a balaclava. Even the SWAT may opt for this choice, if the mission does not require a high level of protection, but it is undeniable that this piece of equipment is immediately associated with the figure of the SWAT operator.
Is it mandatory to use black clothes?
Let’s say it’s the most common choice when it comes to emergency response forces like SWAT. But it is certainly not mandatory. In an urban environment, especially inside buildings, camouflage does not have the same importance as it has in woodland environments. You can try to use other colors: a grey or green setup, for example, will still create a great effect, if you prefer it, or otherwise, you can opt for camouflage patterns that fit anyway, like Multicam Black.
Do I really need such expensive equipment?
Of course not. In the article, I listed a few brands that produce Mil-Spec gear, but it’s not essential to use such high-end equipment. Many airsoft-specific brands produce inexpensive replica gear of each of the pieces of equipment we mentioned, such as Emerson Gear, Invader Gear, Mil-Tec, FMA, Lancer Tactical, and many others. You can make a realistic setup spending little and not buying all the extra equipment like protections and various add-ons.
Is there anything else I can do to improve my SWAT setup?
Definitely. You can make sure, for example, to use the weapons that are typically used by these operators. Of course, an MK18 or a classic M4 will do just fine, but if you want to achieve an even higher level of realism you could equip yourself with MP5, Benelli M1, M870, and pistols such as the Beretta 92 or the Glock 17, 18 or 19.
Additional equipment can also help you achieve a higher level of realism. Aiming devices, lasers, and flashlights are tools that are not only typical but also extremely useful. The same goes for grenades: typically, these operators carry flashbangs, given their non-lethal potential, but if the rules of the event you are participating in allow it, you can also bring smoke bombs, to simulate tear gas throwing. C4 can also be a nice addition, to simulate the classic charged entry that has made these special forces famous.
Finally, you can also evaluate the use of a shield, an essential piece of equipment in CQB environments to protect the tail of the patrol and allow safe advancement. Plus it definitely looks cool!
Read more about other loadouts, like an airsoft PMC loadout.