All Weather Bargains (At The Time Of Posting)

Quick heads up – Level Peaks ‘Warehouse’ on eBay currently have various G3 lowers going for a steal. The regular NYCO combats are a good £100 less than UK stockists who actually have any stock, however the real uber bargains are the All Weathers which for some crazy reason are priced the exact same as the NYCO.

Since the Crye web store had their price hike on G3 stuff earlier this year even the Field All Weather have been over $360 and over $410 for the Combats. So if they have your size in (or even somewhere close), get yourself some sweet soft shell trousers with all the multitude of features that you like having on the standard variants.

They didn’t have any size that would work for me in Multicam in the combats, but I went one waist size up and got myself a set of the MC fields to replace and upgrade from my ECWCS L5 pants. I’ve already got 2 pairs of the AW Combats in the collection here so these fields will round out my options very nicely. And remember even the normal G3s are going for £300 in the UK and even more around other stores in Europe, so under 200 for the All Weathers is pretty much unprecedented.

Alternatively if you’re basic and/or never going to do stuff in the rain, they’ve got some MC Arid, Black and RG stock in normal NYCO G3 combats as well as some reasonable deals on the NYCO fields. Not nearly as much of a steal as the All Weathers though.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Crye-Precision-Pants-G3-Multicam-Arid-Military/292675871581?hash=item4424d7635d%3Am%3AmoJrCK7SoSXSn_6i7YyI6jg&var=591474327571&LH_PrefLoc=1&_sop=10&_nkw=crye&_sacat=0&_from=R40&rt=nc&_trksid=p2045573.m1684

Outpost Post-Game Analysis (July 18)

A very rare occasion of me actually appearing in the site photographer’s album post-bbwar.  60-70% of the time I’ll scour the pictures from a game day I’ve attended and if I have had my soul taken at all it’ll be a quarter of my back through a door way, or something along those lines.  An enjoyable little skirmish at Xsite Airsoft Limited’s ‘Outpost’ site, enhanced by playing alongside my buddies Femme Fatale Airsoft and the lads from Project Cerberus.  The game that airsoft is can take a lot of forms for different folks and as long as they bear in mind it is always just a game then I fully support all of them.  But for myself, I really get the most enjoyment from a mixture of a modicum of sprinting around in a crazy fashion, hopefully confirming that my gear facilitates carriage of equipment comfortably alongside allowing smooth access to mags etc, but crucially the social element has to be there too.  The entire game is built on the interactions between human beings and since I don’t get off base as often as I’d like or perhaps should, just being out of the military environment for a while is really a pleasant break – even though the average air force camp is the least military of military settings.

The game in question was a couple of weeks back which wasn’t far off the peak of the heatwave the British Isles are currently in the midst of.  I’d say tipping in to 33 degrees or so, maybe even slightly more in the direct sun being such a clear day.  This was actually the first occasion I think ever in my time playing airsoft that I deliberately forwent carrying a sidearm or indeed any gear at all on my belt line and opted for just a primary with the bare minimum of load carriage (taking in to account I use mid-caps and usually don’t fully load them).

Starting from the top, the good old (long discontinued sadly) Grey Ghost cap combined with the Turbofans/plastic lower performed really quite well given the conditions.  I could’ve gone with a mesh cap of course but I’d actually been extremely stupid and gotten my forehead sunburnt a few days before, so I had to completely cover that up.  I even had factor 50 on my face under the hat just to be sure.  First time I’d been so careless as to get that burnt in about a decade, so definitely a strong kick up the rear end in that regard.

Tried out one of the Patagonia Level 9 Next-to-Skin shirts for the first time since I fancied having the full multicam pattern to complement the chest rig.  To be frank it’s just what you’d expect of a modern combat shirt that’s designed to be a bit of an all-rounder with no-melt/no-drip.  Not bad in the heat but somewhat slow drying in the torso compared to other fabrics that aren’t concerned with FR.  As I expected the pattern started fading slightly in the torso as soon as I washed it that evening, even with a careful hand wash which is a gentle of a wash as one can perform on clothing.

The chest rig was part Spiritus Systems and part Ferro Concepts with a couple of GP pouches in the mix.  Again the first time I’ve not had a dump pouch on in many years so most of the time I was just dropping mags, reloading, firing, then picking back up and re-stowing the mag back in to the chassis during a lull.  Given the nature of the site and the game that was an option for me, but reload with retention would of course still have been possible, it’s just not always quite 100% ideal with the elastic inserts.  Realistically the time difference with a kydex insert would not be anything significant and I’d probably still choose to drop empty mags in the given context, since the option was there.  Either way having such a compact chest rig was most definitely to my benefit and a few other people were seriously sweating inside their plate carriers.  I didn’t have hydration on me which seems dubious in the context, but the games were pretty short and personally I was absolutely fine come the end of the day through just drinking plenty of water during breaks and occasionally snacking on a bag of McCoys salt & vinegar.  At least one guy fell down (literally) but he was in all black clothing with a black PC and I’m pretty sure a black helmet, maybe drinking coffee and/or red bull between games too, quite possibly not enough water.

Also wore some Roman Kurmaz workmanship for the first time in the form of my G3 combat trousers made from the Hyperstealth/US4CES Mexican Marine fabric, though sadly hidden in the image.  Discovered you really have to wear those things in the intended manner (high waisted) once you’re sweating because if they’re not a baggy fit they will cling and be inhibitive when it comes to climbing up stuff.  Not that this is the trousers’ fault; I spent a couple of months in the states earlier this year eating a lot of pizza and when I did go to the gym I did quite a bit of leg work.  It does give me an interesting frame of reference to see how the Gen4s end up performing by comparison in hot weather, being made entirely of stretch fabric as they are.  Quality of stitching wise the report is very favourable on Roman’s work as the sticking of the fabric to me meant that the stretch segments in the design were definitely being put under strain and absolutely none of the sewing showed any hint of giving way in a post-wash visual scan later that evening.

The SKD Tactical PIG Deltas did exactly what I wanted in a glove as expected, similar story for the Under Armour boxer shorts and Darn Tough Vermont Socks.  I used a couple of wire pull Enola Gaye pyros for the first time as well which was a real luxury compared to striker lit pyro (thanks to Kelly for those).

Stock Tokyo Marui SOCOM AR with old PTS/Magpul Industries Corp. furniture and mags just worked of course.  Nothing to say about that that you won’t know already if you know anything about the platform.  The FPS is somewhat low so to BB takes a little bit to get to where it’s going, but I love the faux bolt-lock feature and since the ROF is also pretty low short bursts are very easy to pull off consistently.  Not the absolute best indoor gun when you’re set to semi, but then it and my batteries are all many years old at this point and my bar of comparative standards is also set very high.

Low Calorie Cuisine

If you’ve no idea what the High Speed Gear TACO line is by now then you need to just go and look that up because you are lagging behind the times my friend.

At this point I’d say HSGI are probably doing most of their business in TACO form, they have dozens of variants before you even get in to colour options and today I’d like to talk about the version I think might well be the best in breed. The one big caveat to that is that I’m yet to try the polymer TACO and there isn’t an abundance of information out there discussing it either, so things could change if I ever pick one up. Especially since the LT is the most expensive of the 3, with the original in the middle and the polymer model being cheapest.

Right now though we’re looking at the TACO LT standard size variant, PALS mounting (vs belt). I mention the PALS mounting specifically as it will do the job of the belt mount using some simple velcro one-wrap; check through my videos on YouTube to see the explanation of how to do that effectively. I’ll tend to opt for the classic original sizing versus any of the double stacks because I think the lower profile is a bonus in most situations and as far as magazine compatibility, the standard rifle mag size pouch is probably going to provide the widest range of service. That said if you have different needs then the HSGI range will cater to just about any desire.

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The great prospect about the LT is that it claims to be 30% lighter than the original model and that was what I really wanted to test out because functionally it seems to perform exactly the same as the original. So if about a third of the weight can be shaved then that seems like an optimal trade deal. Granted you pay a few dollars more, but the cost to benefit in your own specific application is a very personal thing, so I won’t try and elaborate on every single usage possibility.

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Now the standard pouch I’ve depicted here in the weight comparison is not the latest production model. There have been 3 styles of PALS backing on the regular TACO that I’m aware of; the original where the webbing was as tight to the back of the pouch as it could be which created essentially a global meme in terms of how stupidly hard it was to route the MALICE clips. Next came the pictured version which still used webbing, however the manufacturing process involved actually putting some slack/extra material in the mix to open up the loops, which certainly helps. Now the latest versions use a laser cut section of cordura which I’d imagine will make attachment a breeze compared to the originals, especially when combined with the HSG Clips.

Taking that in to consideration the standard pouch shown here may weigh a gram or so more than the current production but I think the differences are small enough to not warrant concern. As you’ll see from the scale numbers though, the 30% claim is not a lie at all, the percentage is pretty much dead on (even an underestimation to a small degree) both with and without the clips attached. We can also see that the 3-row MALICE clips weighed 19g per pair whereas the HSG Clips knock that down to 13g. MALICE are truly bomb proof of course and almost no amount of force that might realistically be applied would ever break them, but unless you’re so unlucky as to be dangled under a helicopter just by your pouch clips I very much doubt the HSGI alternative will ever fail you either. Whether the gen 2 MALICE with the skeletonised geometry and lower weight, but theoretically stronger securing method, might be an even better option I am unsure at this time but it’s a potential to perhaps bear in mind. We’re really getting in excessively deep in to the weeds at that point though for 99.99% of people.

I took a minute or so to give the LT pouch a close-in inspection and really nothing jumped out at me in terms of how or where the weight has been saved, the only obvious difference is the laminate backer piece but the disparity in mass between the laminate and webbing will only be a couple of grams I’d wager and doesn’t account for all of the weight saving. Either way, as I mentioned earlier functionality seems to be the exact same, so the LT is winning in that respect.

If a non-lidded pouch is suitable for your personal magazine carriage needs, i think that overall the TACO LT is very much worth considering. You can even use the webbing on the front to add a shingle style elastic retention if you’re planning to go parachuting with kit on. All the versatility and fast access of the original design, but shaving just a bit more weight off of your gear. Never a bad thing.

Pic’n’Mix

I’m taking a buddies’ advice and massively jumping my own queue to talk about a sort of gear system that I’ve been building up over the past few months. One which is pretty much pivotal to the end goal I’ve really been looking for for at least 4 or more years now. In the past I’ve always posted kit in chronological order of purchase, but that tends to mean any given notion I’ve adopted will have become much more popular in general after the 18-24 month delay I’m currently working through. Now, it’s nigh-on impossible to talk about this sort of thing without sounding astoundingly arrogant, but honestly at this point there’s almost nobody else that I look to when it comes to trying to formulate the all around best, most efficient load-carrying configurations available using quality nylon goods; aside from the manufacturers themselves (the ones that are innovating anyway). I look at the equipment I want to carry, decide on the ‘best’ pouches to carry it in then on the ‘best’ platform to mount those pouches to. Many years ago while starting out in airsoft before I joined the raf I would spend hours upon hours scrolling gear threads on forums to try and find the most optimal configurations that had already been dreamt up by people more experienced, knowledgeable and imaginative than myself, but truth be told I’ve mostly reached a point where looking at what other people do is no longer bearing of fruit; at least within the very specific niches for which I use this stuff. I still look around and certainly do not think I know everything because I don’t, but what I do know quite well is the best solution(s) for myself.

I have tried out and played around with more types of pouches and rigs than I can really remember now and granted sometimes I do occasionally experiment with some new configuration that turns out to be unwieldy, but after so many years of trying and failing I have to say I’ve gotten fairly good at knowing what will comfortably work and what won’t before ever actually using it. The ratio of successful attempts to failures is in a good place all things considered.

An idea I had begun to adopt a fair few years ago was the integration of modular placards in to 500D kit, because I was ending up with so many different PCs and chest rigs threaded with different size pouches just to facilitate various magazine styles that it had become prohibitive just in terms of storage space, let alone expenditure. I’m also pretty OCD about wanting to be able to use any given type of magazine with any given gear colourway and that’s just not a realistically achievable end state without using placards, not unless you have gargantuan amounts of money and storage capacity.

Then, only a matter of months ago, I had what I’d class as a pretty sharp-turn sort of moment. I’m hesitant to say lightbulb since that implies I was blazing a hitherto unexplored trail and I’m never the first person on the planet to come up with a good new idea, far from it, but it was a lightbulb just in terms of my own personal outlook and future planning. I looked at my ever growing collection of placards, looked at the Spiritus Systems Mk3 Chassis, looked back at the placards then thought “You know? I can do this in a much more efficient way”. Now when I say *I*, what I’m really meaning is I’d make use of the core concept that the folks at Spritus have crafted with their Chassis in order to form the centre point of a larger structure, one that facilitates any popular magazine type being quickly mounted to whichever style of rig one might lend their fancy to on a given occasion. So far, having played around with the depicted gear a little bit, I think I’m fairly firmly on the right track as far as achieving the stated goal.

When you look at the attached image, you can build the desired loadout by working from the top down if you like, but l will generally do things the other way around. First, decide on the weapon type you’ll be using and by extension the extra magazines you’ll be carrying. When we’re discussing the Spiritus chassis and D3CR-M then secondaries and other equipment may come in to play given the presence of the front pouch, but if you’re using a single cell placard (which Ferro offer in their ecosystem) then most likely it’ll just be a case of 2 to 4 box magazines. Next, you securely mount the appropriate insert for said magazines within the ‘core’ component, the keystone of the whole system. The more inserts you own, the more flexibility you have and not only are inserts cheaper and smaller than complete placards dedicated to one mag type, but they can of course also be moved around in to differently coloured/patterned nylon equipment. Finally, pick your mounting platform, clip in your two 1″ buckles and slap down the velcro at the back.

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In the depicted example I’ve used what I initially purchased to begin building this system. Multicam being generally the most proliferant material choice for anything tactical, I started there. The inserts shown are the Spiritus elastic types for 556 NATO mags, modern double feed plastic 9mm mags (eg Scorpion and MPX) as well as classic metal 9mm mags (eg MP5 and Glock). If you use the slightly larger D3CR-M in place of the Spiritus Mk3, you’ll be able to use the Haley Strategic Partners inserts as well of course to include their MP2s and if you sew some hook back to back you should be good to use Ferro inserts as well; though I’ve not tested that out for myself just yet.

The pictured centre piece is the Spiritus chassis which happens to be fitted with a Bergspitze Customs zip for the front pouch and 1″ compression straps of my own design and manufacture. The Mk3 Chassis gives the greatest amount of modularity currently available on the market since it features 2 fully loop lined pouches versus the single one on the D3CR-M. Ferro offers a single cell modular placard (no front pouch) but their top mounted webbing is longer than the industry standard and won’t sit properly on most relevant plate carriers, as mentioned they also line the inside of one surface with hook instead of loop. Ferro also use G-Hooks, but the webbing is still 1″ so that can easily be changed if you’re able to modify around the other discrepancies. Edgar Sherman Design is planning on making something which can be pretty much thought of as a single cell Mk3, but that is an undetermined amount of time off in the future. Personally I’m exploring the single cell modular placard by having something custom made right now and I think it’s going to be a pretty damn good solution if I say so myself.

The flexibility to move between PC and chest rig with the same load of magazines is, for me, a great luxury. The PC option here is represented by the front panel from an MBAV cut FirstSpear Strandhogg, with a loop field from Dead Coyote Tac and 1″ female QASMs with webbing backers from J-Tac Custom Limited. I mildly frankenstein’d the chest rig platform next to it by using the Ferro chesty wide (following a Reptile House review & recommendation) with Spiritus fat straps taking the place of the included Ferro H-Harness, enabling any PALS pouches to be added to the sides and any hanging GP bag of your choice to be dropped in to the mix. There are of course lots of other cross compatibility options available like the HSP X-Harness or Flatpack, you can also use the Spiritus wings in place of the chesty wide and the same chest rig base will also easily mount Vel Sys and ESSTAC placards… the list goes on.

To boil it down, if you have the right gear (which may take a little while to assemble admittedly) you can pick almost any weapon type and be comfortably accommodated within either of the 2 most popular types of modern load carriage options. A belt line won’t really fit in to this placard system of course and you can maybe go with RTi mounted pouches to have speedy modularity in that arena, but right now I don’t have the perfect answer – the Raptor Tac version 4 belt may get there in future but we’ll see. A Vel Sys type PALS placard with TACOs was my previous entry in this context and it did do pretty well in terms of the fact it did support 556, x39 and 762 NATO mags, but then you’d need a different setup for many SMGs; particularly if you want to keep everything as neat and concisely mounted as possible. Not to mention of course the flaps and zips that can be added to the Mk3 and D3CR-M which allow for carrying of absolutely anything your magical little mind can conjure up.

I’m investing a fair bit right now in to extending the notion seen in the image across all the major colourways I want to have in my collection and that is costing a pretty penny, but if this flexibility is something you’d like in your gear locker it doesn’t necessarily have to make the wallet wince if you just focus on one pattern or colour.

Does it apply to most military personnel? Not really, it would be frankly useless on my personal work gear because all I ever need is old school 556 pouches woven on to my armour and that’ll never change. SOF perhaps, when a person might find themselves switching between a 556 carbine, 308 rifle and maybe an SMG under very specific circumstances; often wearing overt armour but perhaps sometimes going for a smaller rig when reconnaissance or concealment are the order of the day. Certainly the principle is applicable for the civilian shooter and airsoft or paintball player where the options for weaponry are almost limitless and no authority from above is dictating load carriage choice. As always, have a think for yourself, decide your priorities and check out every option you can before hitting Checkout.

Annual Stg Pilgrimage

The MP-44, later Stg once Hitler changed his mind, was not the first firearm to see military adoption or usage that fit the criteria of an assault rifle. There were guns that came before it that were shoulder fired, had selection options for both single shot and automatic and made use of an intermediate cartridge fed from a reasonable size box magazine. However we commonly refer to the Stg as the first since it really took the concept from the realm of small-time player in to the big time limelight.

It was by no means a perfect weapon and by comparison to the AR and AK of the modern era it has a fair few problems, especially when it comes to the magazines, the heating of the handguard, the absurd design of the fire control group and the lax headspacing of the tilting bolt locking system. That’s without getting in to the manufacturing issues Germany faced during the war. But there’s no denying the practicality of the concept for use at real world combat distances.

First Nerd Convention

Thanks to a pair of very cool people I know at Startees for getting me in to London Film and Comic Con even when it was entirely sold out. Can’t say I’ve ever been to such a thing before but it’s something I’ve been interested in for years having seen so many costumes online that have been just bang on to the game, film and TV characters. Admittedly I’ve never bought a comic in my life and once I’m done watching something that’s pretty much the end of my interest with most things, but on the other hand I did get pretty damn excited to see various iterations of Time Crisis running on CRT TVs with the light guns on a bunch of old school consoles.

 

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Cherry picked a bunch of the best get ups I found after walking every aisle of the halls, obviously not having one myself I went for the most ironic contextually-hipster t-shirt I owned. Which also helps with not getting Lee-Rigby’d when you’re walking the streets and your government only trusts you to carry a Glock in other people’s countries.

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Something to consider checking out if you’re near London perhaps and definitely if you’re someone in to collectables. Consider giving StarTees and my buddy Violentwind Cosplay a look if you also enjoy nice human beings (no business association, just fellow friendly nerdy people).

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Late To The Pack Party

Yesterday I hit 29 years and 365 days of living post-birth and obviously once you’re over 21 presents basically stop, but I did get one gift and it is certainly not a bad one. I’ve never actually owned any Haley Strategic Partners nylon before, I’ve had a couple of the SF Scout light mounts for some years now (way back before even KeyMod was on the scene) and I’ve had a lot of MP2s in the collection for a while, but none of the chest rigs, rifle bags or packs until today. Very quick and efficient service from Tactical-Kit as per.

Personally, I’m rather anti the idea of the Flatpacks with the PALS attachment. You can’t easily get at the contents if you weave it on to the back of a PC or PALS vest and if you use the standard shoulder straps you’ve got a sub optimal setup in terms of comfort against your back. The grey Flatpack is the one oddity in the line up in that it cannot mount via PALS but has spacer mesh on the back instead. Seeing as the only applications I would want to use this pack in are A) with a chest rig or B) as a small standalone backpack, the grey version made by far and away the most sense.

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Personally if I’m going, for example, in to London for a day trip, I cannot stand being relegated to carrying only what pockets will accommodate. I want a water bottle and light jacket at the minimum, perhaps sun glasses, a hat and some factor 1000 for my skin tone, along with the option to stash anything I happen to pick up along the way and carry it comfortably. Similar story with walking around expos, minor outdoor excursions etc. I’ve also experimented a lot with chest rigs and trying to integrate hydro over the years, something I know many many other people have tried, especially within the airsoft arena, but generally not had good results. Annoying as it is the best solution I’ve been aware of up until now is to just wear both the sets of straps for the chest rig and a small hydro pack like a standalone Camelbak or the Flatpack.

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My past experiments all involved 3L water sources when attached to another rig however, so I’m going to try a 1L Source and maybe the balance will be alright. As soon as you try and integrate the harness setup in to one unit you always created a set of scales and the balance can be tricky, even more so perhaps with real magazines that can get lighter far quicker than you’d perhaps drink water. Or indeed vice versa. If the gear you want or need to carry in front of you doesn’t balance out with the the amount you’re going to carry on your back… well unlucky sunshine. I think I’ve seen Bryan over at ITS Tactical run an LBT 1961 Chest rig + small hydro pack combo and done so very successfully, but he’s absolutely filling that chest rig with lots of dense kit like radios and batteries as well as loaded rifle mags, so there’s no chance of a couple of litres of water out-weighing that. There are many other factors to consider but I’ll leave those for another day.

I’ll talk more about these down the line at which point I’ll hopefully also have some conclusions to report on whether the Spiritus Systems Mk3 + Flatpack combo can really be made to work in the way I’d like (I’ve owned the grey Spiritus for a while already I should add). It’s certainly comfortable to wear and good at carrying magazines, but we’ll see how it all does with more running around, loaded with water etc. Right now I think this combined rig has potential to be quite ideal for indoor/urban airsoft games and perhaps for the civilian shooter taking rifle classes. Carrying water on the person tends to be less of a concern on the flat range of course because you probably have a table or stashed bag nearby, but I can never pretend to imagine every application that a rig like the Mk3 chassis might have. If we look at the mod Kit Badger has done to make the front pouch of his Mk3 a binocular caddy for hunting for example, I think we see more potential emerging with more options to consider and the more options emerge the more ideas can then branch off of those.

SVT-40 Shoot

Quick magazine blasted through an SVT-40.

I was really impressed with this rifle compared to the G-43, which is certainly a contemporary equivalent or rival design. Both self loaders with 10 round detachable box magazines and short stroke gas pistons, really quite similar manuals of arms and sighting systems too. The cartridges are also very similar indeed, yet the recoil from the SVT felt like nothing comparatively.

Granted in the modern US there’s a plethora of ammo available with different loadings and I can’t account for that in my perceptions because I don’t know the brands or loadings I fired. The lubrication state and age/wear on the guns could also come in to play to an extent, but I have to say I think even when considering all of those factors I’d sill find the SVT to be the better all around rifle with a much softer recoil.

Of the bolt actions rifles I’ve fired, the Mosin-Nagant has been by far the worst/least pleasant in terms of recoil, action of the bolt and trigger pull, as well as iron sights (and I’ve fired a few different Mosins to check). I don’t know how reliable the SVT was in field conditions, but in terms of recoil and sheer volume and rate of fire going down range I’d be one very happy comrade if somebody handed me this instead of the Nagant rifle before I stormed Berlin.

Beyond Let Down

I don’t like having to write largely-negative leaning pieces on kit, doubly so from a quality brand that I would generally recommend. It simply isn’t fun for me to do, saying negative things always brings about a negative sort of mood and feel and general atmosphere. That said the blog would be entirely pointless if I praised anything and everything; most pieces of equipment have both positives and negatives of course, but I’ve been very picky with my purchases for many years now which usually means I’ll only have to mention a couple of small niggles and mostly have the pleasure of just talking about positives. If there’s one talent I would lay claim to it’s having a good eye and the patience needed to not buy anything that’s going to disappoint me. The majority of the time at least.
 
As some of you may be aware, I bloody LOVE a jacket. I’m sure I’m not the only bloke out there who enjoys tac gear and also invests in non-tactical styled jackets from his favourite military brands, then spends all summer being annoyed and eagerly awaiting the return of the cold. My collection includes winter layering options from Kuhl, Massif, Arc’teryx, Era3, Magpul and, as in this case, Beyond Clothing.
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This is the Helios Alpha Jacket, which utilises a 40D nylon shell fabric with 80g Polartec Alpha inside; more than decent selections there no doubt. Within the PCU layering system, other Beyond offerings at Level 3 use the exact same materials with the same weight of insulation, which I’d say makes this jacket also an L3 item. Beyond themselves market Level 3 as active insulation i.e. fairly light on actual heat retention, but enough when the individual is outputting some exertion in cooler climates.
 
Now this is where a bit of opinion and interpretation comes in. This particular jacket variant was offered in Black, Grey and Navy. No camo patterns, CB, PCU Alpha Green or any other options you’d expect in a true military garment. Police or urban use then perhaps? But the myriad of pockets, rattling zips and general styling are frankly excessive for any tactical usage. Certainly when we’re looking at a primarily mid layer and if you cross examine the A3 (Level 3) Sweater also from Beyond with its’ slick exterior, you will find these notions reinforced.
 
That, to my mind, leaves this as either a jacket for civilian sporting applications or as a purely everyday/fashion item, perhaps with a dash of added practicality for those of us who prefer to not get frozen when going in to town socially during December. But again, given the excess of styling and features built in, I don’t see or find this jacket to be practical for almost any sporting activity that would be classed as truly active and involving of a lot of rapid movement.
 
So if we conclude this is an everyday jacket, which I myself do, how then does it perform? Herein lies the problem. If you very lightly insulate a garment as per appropriate spec for active usage, but then style it for casual wear, you’ve got a real misalignment of intended use versus actual use. After quite a few dozen hours worth of combined wear time in the Helios Alpha outdoors in winter, I’ve found it fairly average in blocking wind and to not provide very much in the way of insulation and that’s an issue when you’re walking about the shops not generating much excess body heat. I’ll not bother talking about precipitation because if you expect a jacket with a translucent, wafer-thin shell fabric like this to save you in anything more than the lightest of intermittent drizzle you’re living a fantasy.
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Unfortunately this crisis of personality is far from the only problem encountered in this one example I have here. The chest sizing is correct for me, yet the cut is very short and the waist has fixed elastic, meaning it’s never quite the right tightness that you want it to be; same story with the cuffs. If you pull the waistline down over your belt it’ll hook itself on there and stay in place for a short time, but then as soon as you twist or bend even slightly it jumps back up over the belt and settles above the waist line, letting all that unpleasant winter wind in to your torso area because that fixed elastic now has slack and leaves gaps. If I happened to have G3 combat pants on this wouldn’t be an issue as they’re very high waisted by design, but I don’t wear my everyday jeans like someone from the 50s, so there’s a problem.
 
I’ve also found some really lacklustre stitch work in a few areas. A few stitching points have started working themselves apart under absolutely no real stress or strain and worst of all is the main zip, there’s also lots of threads just hanging out and I don’t mean the types you get in all new clothing that are free floating and just pull right out. After a short time (again under non-stressful use) the main zip has developed a habit of splitting apart at the base, right where the two halves first join when zipping up the jacket. Not only is this annoying, ridiculous looking and bad for insulation it’s an absolute nightmare to fix as the coil fights remediation of the non-standard separation. It just isn’t designed to come open from the wrong direction and getting things back in order is an irritatingly lengthy process.
 
I did buy this jacket deeply marked down in a sale, but it was categorically not marked as a 2nd or blem item, the original (expectedly high) price was lined through right beside the lower price I paid, so the implication is that it was worth that $200 or more. Even at the lower price I wouldn’t expect problems like the zip coming open for no reason. I genuinely really like the aesthetic of this jacket, the cut and colour are smart and fit my tastes very well indeed from a looks perspective. But from a company who charges even more than Crye for equivalent gear and sets themselves up as an Arc’teryx competitor or equivalent, only the best possible quality in design, materials and assembly should be expected and as far as I am concerned it is simply not delivered here in many respects in this Helios Alpha.