Today I talk to Bryan Black, founder and owner of ITS Tactical . ITS Tactical is dedicated to providing “knowledge that empowers individuals with indispensable skill-sets to explore their world and prevail against all threats.” You’ll find content on emergency prep, wilderness survival, and self-defense on ITS Tactical. It’s all about how to be a modern sheepdog. 
Bryan and I talk about why he started ITS Tactical, the tactical skills every man should know, and the gear every man should have to be prepared for any situation.
Show highlights include:
- What does “tactical” actually mean?
- Why every man (even civilians) should learn tactical skills.
- Which tactical skills every man should know.
- Is the zombie apocalypse fad over?
- What Bryan carries in his Every Day Carry (and how carries all that stuff).
- How to get started with tactical training.
- And much more!
Listen to the podcast!
Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: It seems like lately in past few years this interest in tactical stuff, gear, skills, has really taken an uptake. There is lot of blogs that are dedicated on developing tactical skills. Civilians are buying tactical flashlights, they are taking classes on tactical fighting and it’s just really fascinating. We have seen a lot of interest in it on the artofmanliness.com and one of the bigger websites in this whole tactical genre is a website called Itstactical or what I have been calling it it’s tactical, but what I found out is that it’s not tactical, it’s ITS tactical. They are based out of Texas. They publish articles on just a variety of skills, first aid, emergency prep, hand to hand combat, guns. I mean you name it they got it covered, and it’s geared towards anybody and law enforcement or military but it’s also geared toward civilians. Really popular stuff, they have lot of stuff go viral on the internet on, for example, how to escape from zip ties, pretty cool video, definitely recommend to check it out. Anyways, today’s guest is the founder and owner of Itstactical. His name is Bryan Black and we are going to talk about this whole tactical movement or trend that’s going on in America right now. Also talk about how just regular average guys can benefit from learning a few tactical skills and which ones you should learn. So, stay tuned. All right, Bryan Black, welcome to the show.
Bryan Black: Thanks Brett, I appreciate you having me, man.
Brett McKay: Okay, before we begin, I need you to clarify something.
Bryan Black: Sure.
Brett McKay: For readers, is it it’s tactical or IT’S tactical?
Bryan Black: It’s ITS tactical which started out or which is an acronym for Imminent Threat Solution. So, our point of kind of doing the IT’S tactical thing was just being in the tactical industry in general and kind of wanting to shorten that.
Brett McKay: Yeah, because I will be honest with you for the longest time when I first discovered you, I called you guys it’s tactical and I still do.
Bryan Black: I won’t hold it against you, man.
Brett McKay: Because I mean you make sense, yeah it’s a tactical website, it’s tactical.
Bryan Black: That was one of those just interesting coincidences that happened. To be honest, I never even thought of the name in that regard before and people started saying, Oh! Wow! It does really say that.
Brett McKay: That’s cool, I am glad I can call it it’s tactical. It’s IT’S – imminent threat solution. So what’s the story behind it? How did this website start? Because it’s got a huge, it’s got a big following amongst not only military and law enforcement, but also civilians. So tell us about it, so how did you start out with ITS tactical.
Bryan Black: I mean it really kind of started as just kind of passion of mine. I started in 2009 because I wanted to do something not only that I was passionate about but I really wanted to build an online resource to highlight what I felt was a shortcoming in the tactical industry which was an absence of skill set based information. Just like you with Art of Manliness you guys have a lot of skill based articles, that’s why I love reading it as well. I really wanted to kind of bring that to the tactical industry and just really support that self-sufficient lifestyle.
Brett McKay: Who is your target audience? Is it pretty much anyone who is interested in this or is there a particular person or group you are trying to go after??
Bryan Black: Really it’s just anybody that wants the information, honestly, I mean we have attracted a lot of like you said law enforcement, military as well as just kind of outdoor enthusiasts and civilians and people that just really want to learn this stuff. It has been a really cool experience.
Brett McKay: What’s your background? Do you have any background in law enforcement or anything like that or is just been the passion of yours?
Bryan Black: Well, I guess started – my background comes from the military and also just from my passion in general, but I was in the Navy for a few years. so I was able to kind of pull those skills that I learned there and just it kind of enhanced my general interest that I have had on my life and just kind of I guess gadgets and gears and things like that too. So, I was able to pull that with–I spent some time after high school working at commercial photography studio, so I kind of used that a bit, also went to school for technically my degrees in communication technology which is website design at the school I went to at University of Texas but then I got a minor in Journalism, so I was kind of able to throw all those things into the mix and that’s how I ended up with what we have now.
Brett McKay: Awesome, so it’s look like you just combined a whole bunch of skill sets into this awesome business now.
Bryan Black: Yeah, I mean it has been really cool.
Brett McKay: That’s awesome. So, we have been saying this word tactical a lot. So, it’s getting thrown around all over the place now. Companies are using it to market products. there is like tactical everything now, like tactical flashlights, there is like tactical backpacks, there is tactical shoes, can you define tactical? What exactly does it mean?
Bryan Black: First of all, I am not going to claim to be the be all end all explanation on the word but when we started back in 2009 my version or my vision of tactical was basically just thinking with tactics or planning before action. So, that’s my definition of it. So, I might say that tactical means I guess military-esque or law enforcement-esque or something alone those lines but I mean to me it really just means having a plan and thinking with tactics and –
Brett McKay: And it’s not just for like self defense but it’s also in other areas of life, is what I imagine.
Bryan Black: Yeah, I mean that’s how – I would agree with that, sure.
Brett McKay: And why do you think there has been this uptake, not just amongst military and LEOs but like civilians, it’s a new thing, we are both on Tumblr, I see you on there and it’s amazing the number of civilians, their blogs are just like picture after picture, AR15s and tactical gear and grappling hooks, what’s going on there? Why do you think there is such an interest in it?
Bryan Black: I think it probably has a lot do with the just overwhelming support that our military and law enforcement and first responders are getting nowadays, which is a great thing. I love that that’s happening in America right now, it has led to a lot of people wondering what they are using, why they are using it, and what makes it great. So, technology today is making it super easy to become knowledgeable in the subjects those guys of what they are using, so I think that has a lot to do with it and that would probably be my best guess on why that’s happening.
Brett McKay: Do you think it has anything to do with the Zombie apocalypse, everyone is worried about that?
Bryan Black: That’s kind of faded a little bit which is interesting, it kind of came and went I don’t know it still looking prevalent thing, I couldn’t tell you for sure.
Brett McKay: Couldn’t tell you for sure, yeah it is kind of interesting, the whole getting ready for the Zombie apocalypse is not a thing anymore, you really don’t see it all that often.
Bryan Black: Well, to me it’s like, maybe people are able to use that as a way to get prepared and hey, whatever works, if that’s what’s going to make you learn some skills that will help you in life, so be it.
Brett McKay: Okay, so what else about your website? Like you said it’s very skill based. It shows you cool stuff that guys want to know, I am sure I know you have a lot of female readers too. Guys like this stuff and besides like the usefulness. I mean it is useful to know how to splint legs and how to protect your home from home invasions and things like that. Do you think that there is another benefit that men specifically can get from learning and practicing tactical skills?
Bryan Black: Well, I will go back to the self-sufficiency nature of what we are talking about, and to me that’s the big take on this. The more you know the better you can protect yourself and your family and that will be my big take and obviously if it’s a life saving skill then that becomes the goal is that now you have got that knowledge so to speak to be able to save a life, so those are the big take homes for me with the usefulness of these skills.
Brett McKay: For me, I just love knowing that I can do that if I had to, it’s such an empowering feeling to have that knowledge and yeah, I could start a fire without matches if I needed to or I could pick this lock, if I got locked out of some building if I needed to, really it just makes me feel awesome.
Bryan Black: It’s a great – I guess knowledge booster and also it is empowering. That’s a great way to describe it. The mind controls the body, it’s not the other way around, so having those things in your male tool box and knowing you can achieve those is just really helps in all aspects of life I feel.
Brett McKay: Whenever we publish articles or content about tactical relating stuff whether it’s like combatives, fire arms related stuff, every once in a while, people are sort of uncomfortable with it, they are like, this is sort of para military, militia, what are you guys doing here. I mean what’s your response like? What advice would you give to someone who is like, yeah, I want to get into this, there is something, I want to be self sufficient, I want to be able to protect myself, my family, be able to survive whenever crises happens or emergency happens, but I don’t want to give off the cookie, I am going to be a separatist from the US, what advice do you have about that?
Bryan Black: First of all, if your reasons for getting into this stuff are that you truly want to do get into it for the right purposes, which is to learn and enhance your skill sets, then that’s all you really need to know. Who cares what everybody else thinks is my opinion. What is sad is that terms like militia have gotten a negative connotation towards considering back, in the revolutionary war time militia stood for a group that was really help our government in time of need, so it is kind of sad that that stuff like that locked in with what’s going on with the tactical industry. But, I think a tactical way of thinking doesn’t government overthrow or anything like that.
Brett McKay: I think you guys do a great job of making this content very approachable to any person in any walk of life, I don’t have like the military law enforcement background but I read the stuff and I am not intimated by it, it’s really approachable, it’s really well done, so congratulations and kudos for that.
Bryan Black: Yeah, I appreciate it.
Brett McKay: So, let’s get down this, we talked about general stuff about tactical, we have talked about all these tactical skills, we haven’t really talked about any specifics. Are there tactical skill sets that you think every man should master, are there specific areas that guys should focus on?
Bryan Black: Yeah, in my opinion and this is question I get asked a lot too. I feel there is about 10 big areas that I like to talk to people about really the big thing is mindset. I mean I can’t reiterate that enough, like I said earlier mind controls the body and the more you know the better you can handle any situation but just from the actual mindset of knowing how to handle yourself whether that a self-defense nature, whether that’s purely having situational awareness and being able to look around when you are out in public and not staring down at the cell phone and seeing things coming at you which will help you prepare better for threats you might face, to just having a general working knowledge of a lot of different things kind of jack of all trades, master of none approach.
Brett McKay: So, I mean I am guessing, I think we talked about first aid, I think you talked about that’s an important thing to get down.
Bryan Black: Yeah absolutely, that’s another big one for us, just the medical related nature of the some of the articles that we write about. Being able to save a life is a huge skill not only having the tools and equipment you need to do so but the knowledge as well and while it’s really hard to send someone to a medical course online, and even provide that kind of information which we wouldn’t, we do try to have articles that promote kind of the casually care aspect of things and really kind of becoming aware of what kind of tools are important to have at your disposal because one thing I would like to say is that even if you don’t know how to use some of these things, having them at your disposal could mean the difference between someone maybe able to save your life.
Brett McKay: Oh! yeah.
Bryan Black: So it’s important stuff. I mean not only the medical stuff, some of the other big ones are fitness is a huge one for me, I am not saying you have to be Hercules but being able to save your own life to me is a pretty big one. Whether that’s getting over a fence if you had to or over a wall or carrying your family out of a burning building, it’s important and it’s something that often gets neglected in everything too. Another big one is not tying, I can’t tell you how many times I have –knots, I have had to tie knots way more often than I have had to shoot my gun for real so and that would be zero. Yeah, it’s just looking at those kind of skills that are often under appreciated and just we try to highlight that kind of stuff, like you mentioned the escape from illegal restraints and anything having to do with lock picking in that regard really has a nefarious undertone to it when you are talking about it with somebody, but in real life, people lock their keys in the house and car and things like that and being able to do that kind of stuff yourself and it’s perfectly legal in pretty much every state to do that. You can save a lot of money that way as well as just being bale to take care of yourself in the in illegal restraints scenario meaning a home invasion or something where you are restrained against your will there, so. That’s a big one.
Brett McKay: That happens more often than people think.
Bryan Black: It really does, I just read something today, there is another one, I can’t remember where it was but that just happened today.
Brett McKay: Yeah, people break into their house and they get handcuffed or zip tied or whatever and then they get robbed. Sometimes worse, that really bad case in Connecticut.
Bryan Black: Yes, that was zip ties.
Brett McKay: That was zip ties, yeah and what’s interesting too that you get a lot of flack from people in the law enforcement industry in particular for divulging this information, how to take your way out of a handcuff, basically they say you are helping the criminals out and you are making it less safe for law enforcement officers. How do you respond to that?
Bryan Black: Here is the deal. Criminals are going to get this information whether they –they already know it. I mean they are learning it from being in jail or in prison or whatever you call it, so it’s out there, it’s not like first people to say it, that aside, that’s not really the big take home. The big take home is that it is happening to civilians and you are talking about a handcuff technology that’s left over from 1913 that is still being utilized today, not only by law enforcement but it’s I can buy a pair of handcuffs at any army and navy store across the country and online. So those are available and if they are available they are going to be utilized against people, it’s–I don’t really see a big problem with teaching that information and also I have met so many law enforcement guys that can see the benefit of this stuff too. So it’s, not – we used to catch a flack for it in the very beginning back in 2009 but I can’t tell you how much more of a – I guess more of a general perception has changed since then and now it’s becoming more common, you are seeing on TV it’s great to see. I see that a lot of this information is getting out because at the end of the day what we are teaching is – okay, so we teach how to get out of handcuffs, like I said that’s a technology that’s left over from 1913 that’s available to anybody. We are teaching how to get out of zip ties – we are not teaching how to get out of law enforcement grade zip ties, we are teaching how to get out of the ones that strongest ones that anybody can buy at a Home Depot. Those are all technology and tools that are available to anybody.
Brett McKay: I think you can make the argument, you are kind of highlighting to the law enforcement industry, I guess the illusion of security. You can get handcuff key anywhere, it works on most handcuffs, it’s the same thing, there is not a special handcuff key. They are all pretty much the same.
Bryan Black: You know, the thing about that too is that and I will be the first person to say that with the proper law enforcement handcuff techniques I am not going to be end out of it. That’s end of the story and they know that too, I mean it’s not a foolproof solution and plenty of law enforcement guys I know that I talk to know that too, it’s not as though it’s a foolproof plan, it’s hopefully to help out a civilian that’s in trouble with that kind of thing if they ever get into that themselves.
Brett McKay: And speaking to the illusion of security, reading your content on lock picking, it made me so much paranoid about my own house. I realized it’s so break into my house, whenever I lock the door at night, I am like, this really isn’t doing all that much and when you get down to the end of it, it really doesn’t do that much, it kind of makes me feel good but if you think about it it’s pretty easy to break into a home.
Bryan Black: Yeah, locks are there to keep honest people honest. I mean we do have a learning lock picking. I think the biggest take of it is what you said, I mean that’s what I talk about all the time, it teaches you the illusion of security and how to better protect yourself against the common things that are out there that can defeat these locks that you think are keeping your family safe and that’s the big take on this, knowing what to look for, in a lock when you are purchasing one for your home.
Brett McKay: Yeah, it made me start thinking about it, I need to have multiple layers of security, I think about not just the locks, thinking about other things I can do to either fend off would be burglars or what not. Another thing I want to reiterate I love how brought out the idea of fitness because one of the most frustrating things that I found whenever we have written articles about like krav maga or combatives.
Bryan Black: Yeah.
Brett McKay: There will be always like three or four people saying ‘we’ll just shoot ‘em with your gun’ You don’t need that, just shoot ‘em with your gun, and it’s the most frustrating thing because I don’t know, do you get that a lot too, I imagine?
Bryan Black: Yeah, we do and the biggest thing about that it seems like it’s everyone’s default response and this is so fresh in my mind because I just attended a course couple of months ago with Tony Blauer and Jeff Gonzales it was a great course on counter ambush skills and Tony Blauer is just a phenomenal instructor when it comes to combatives and he kind of teamed up with Jeff Gonzales who is primarily a weapons instructor, so it was great to see the dynamic between somebody that’s focusing on the combative and then transitioning to a gun or a weapon or something like that. So, I really got to learn more of that transitional type of movement and how hard it really is. Everyone thinks that a threat is just going to walk right up to them and say, hey, I am a threat, please give me time. I am just going to give you time real quick pull out your gun and you can handle it. It’s not like that in the real world and faced with the reality of that, everyone thinking that they are going to have time and opportunity to just shoot somebody or even just the situation warrants, I think it’s immature, to be honest with you.
Brett McKay: It’s kind of one of the sad things, there is lot of interesting like, civilians getting their concealed carrier, but it seems like people just want to use that as your default. There is not every instance where you need to pull out the gun, and you make a great point, one of the training courses I have taken on defensive handgun, the instructor showed us how easy or how quick someone can get to you before you can pull out your gun. It was crazy, he was like good 5 yards away from me, but he was able to get to me before I was able to really pull the gun out, and yeah, you are toast. I think people really underestimate how fast people can move and overestimate how fast they can get that weapon out or whatever it is.
Bryan Black: I think defense has to be a multifaceted solution. I think you not only need to know some stuff to be able to get to your gun but you obviously need to know the skills to use it as well. I definitely advocate both of those and I can’t say enough about both of those things, I mean definitely am not going to go on record that you are never going to be able to get to your gun soon enough but more than likely or at least practicing or having that continuously in mind is really important.
Brett McKay: Awesome! So, you probably have interacted with lot of guys who are wanting to get into this, they are sort of beginners with getting into this whole tactical skill set stuff. What’s the biggest mistake you see these novices make when they want to learn the tactical skill or get tactical?
Bryan Black: Well, one thing would be the wrong motive. So, not seeing the whole benefit of it and thinking it’s just something cool they want to do versus seeing the potential of what it could do to themselves their lives and their family. They are all perishable skills and at the end of the day if you are not really taking it upon yourself to learn them and practice them, you are not really going to get anything out of it, so I would say probably the biggest mistake that I see.
Brett McKay: So here is another question, with all this interest, particularly by civilians and learning defensive handgun shooting and learning first aid and learning survival. There have been just like lot of instructors out there, people out there who say they are instructors. You really can’t tell, there is no organization qualifying these people, so anyone can just say yeah, I am a handgun instructor. There are no regulations saying you can’t be one. We don’t talk–so, I mean how do you know if you go to a place in your town this guy is good, what he is teaching is good stuff.
Bryan Black: Well, you know, reputation is everything for one, and being able to do your own research and figure out somebody is true, reputation is probably an important first step but qualifications don’t always mean competency either. Experience is important and you really just have to kind of question and test things for yourself, I guess in the words of the illustrious Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton, don’t just take my word for it.
Brett McKay: Good deal, so we have talked a lot about the skill set. That’s a lot of fun but you guys also cover like tactical gear, that’s fun stuff. There are Tumblr blogs dedicated to tactical porn, I want that grappling hook, I want that trauma kit, but anyways, you guys are talking about EDC – Everyday carry, something that is very popular with a lot of guys. Are there things that you think every man should have on him all the time?
Bryan Black: Absolutely sure.
Brett McKay:– that will help him out.What are some of those things?
Bryan Black: So I mean just to kind of I guess run through some stuff that I carry, which is kind of how I would approach the subject too, is that to go back to the medical thing, I would say having the basics for preventing somebody or helping someone from bleeding out would be probably one of the top things on my list. Obviously if your state allows it, having a concealed handgun and the license and properly certified to carry that is important too, but this is kind of something I would like to say sometimes too but it’s not only as important to take a life but to know how to save one too. So, I think that having those tools on you to be able to do that are important. Again also to go along the lines of the self-defense aspect, just a knife for self-defense. Also a secondary cutting tool for field trap and opening boxes or whatever you might come across each day too, that’s something I had to come from my friend Jeff Gonzales from that class too. He made the great point and it’s one that I never really considered before, but a knife is not only a tool but it’s a great weapon for self defense as well and if you are using that on a daily basis to open boxes and things like that it’s not truly there and sharp when you need it to be, so that was kind of an interesting point that got brought up and I started carrying one of those little Swiss army knives that I used to cut boxes up and stuff, most of the days at work here. So, that was kind of interesting. Also a sturdy wallet for ID, money, emergency contact info, of course everyone has got a cellophane nowadays especially for emergencies and making calls and I will say that a good flashlight is important too and not to depend on your cell phone for a flashlight, somebody else that known for quite a while, Kevin Reefe who has read some articles in the site, is that he likes to say that you need one that will cut through smoke and the one on your cell phone isn’t going to cut it. So, also good watch, I am big advocate of having a watch. I think a lot of people today depend on their cell phones to tell time and there is just something about a good watch that I love.
Brett McKay: It could also serve as a navigation tool.
Bryan Black: Absolutely, yes, it can. And actually, the watches I always have have a little compass clip too, all the time.
Brett McKay: There you go.
Bryan Black: And I like to carry handkerchief and a pocket notebook and a pen and I think those are pretty important as well, obviously I have got my keys, usually good pair of sunglasses, I carry lock picks on me too, in most states, it’s perfectly legal to do so, as long as you are not in the act of committing a crime it’s not illegal at all. So, definitely check with your state laws because there are some states I think there is a state out there doesn’t allow you to do that and then I have always typically got some personal memento on me like a challenge coin or something like that.
Brett McKay: How do you carry all those stuff. You sound like Link from Zelda.
Bryan Black: I know. It’s a big list, I mean honestly I am wearing jeans right now and I have all that in my pocket, I am always change my EDC, it’s always something that I am constantly changing because I always strive for smaller and more minimalist in everything I am doing, so I am always taking size and weight into consideration trimming stuff down and things like that.
Brett McKay: Awesome, all you need is a hook shot and you will be set and set of silver arrows to defeat Ganon.
Bryan Black: It’s dangerous to go alone.
Brett McKay: It’s dangerous to go alone. All right, so Bryan, besides continuing to put out the great content you guys do on ITS Tactical and for those who don’t know every once in a while we will republish content from ITS Tactical. In fact we did the handcuff thing on our site, we got a lot of flac, I got emails form police officers saying, why are you doing this? You are working for the bad guys, but anyways, it’s great stuff, very useful. What’s in store for you guys? What do you guys have in the pipeline?
Bryan Black: Well, we have always got new products in the pipeline. That’s something we have been doing a lot of too, just kind of developing our own product line along with the articles and things like that. So, we have got some stuff in the trauma kit coming as well as we are working–we just launched yesterday a little teaser on a… working, some of the new stuff that we have got in terms of products. We also have a muster each year, it’s basically a gathering that we have each year. This year we have about 40 people, last year in October we had about 40 people that came out, but it’s our way to kind of interacting with our community and really getting hands on with the skill set that we advocate on ITS, so that’s a big thing for us each year and we will be having another one of those coming up in October. And then also we are about to turn 5 in April, so it’s really been cool to kind of see how far we have been able to come with the support of our community and members and guys like you that are helping us out. I really appreciate it, it has been great.
Brett McKay: Yeah, awesome, very cool, thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Bryan Black: Absolutely, man, once again thanks for the opportunity. I really feel like Art of Manliness is an awesome resource and I really read it all the time, and so keep doing what you are doing too.
Brett McKay: Thank you, sir. Our guest today was Bryan Black, Bryan is the owner of IT’S tactical, if you find at Itstactical.com, definitely recommended, check it out, it’s one of my favorite websites and great stuff there. Well, that wraps up another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com and a great way you can support the Art of Manliness is checking out our store, we have an Art of Manliness store where you can find posters, letterpress, stationary things that an Art of Manliness gentleman would want, it’s stored at artofmanliness.com, please check it out, pick something up, that will help us keep the podcast going. Until next time this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.