Strange Pants By Germans

Welcome to the Euro zone, it’s like the twilight zone but with weirder tac gear.

Crye have pretty much nailed it when it comes to the cut of a combat trouser in my mind, however if I only ever bought their stuff I’d get bored and I like to try out different options here and there. Partly to keep my own interest levels up, but also bring some more varied coverage here of commercially available kit (at least at the time I buy it).

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I wanted a pair of trousers in PenCott Camouflage GreenZone that could take an external knee pad, and at the time I hadn’t yet gone off the D3O pads, so I opted for these Leo Köhler GmbH & Co. KG Defender 2.0s. At a quick glance they might not seem that unusual, but the more you dig the more strangeness you find going on compared to what you’re generally accustomed to.

Apart from the usual 2 upper front pockets and one butt pocket with a button (alas 4 hole type), the only other storage you’ll find is right on the front of the legs just above the knees. These pockets have both a double press stud cover and a zip for closure. The zips on the side of them are mesh ventilation, a feature you’ll also see on some UF-Pro offerings and on Vertx without the zips, but overall a much more European feature I would say.

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Much like G3 combats there are stretch panels at the lower back and in the groin, which is definitely a big plus. These are not found on the knee pads, but as long as you buy the right size and wear them properly I don’t find that an issue on other designs which also don’t feature stretch around the knees (including Crye fields). I’m not sure why the stretch fabric goes up over the NYCO at the back of the waist, but it doesn’t seem to inhibit function.

The ankles have elastic and 3 press studs for adjustment, which combined with the location of the cargo pockets gives these trousers a distinct feel of an aircrew or tank crewman’s coveralls. Whether that was something they had in mind I’m not sure but I’d imagine some military unit or other came to LK with a list of requirements and this garment was the end result. As is often the case with anything coming from a decent company in the tactical realm that seems strange.

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It is tempting in a way to replace these with something that could take an Airflex knee pad, but I’ll probably just wear these with internal foam padding only. Overall the sew work is decent and I’d say you’re actually getting a pretty bloody nice set of features for the price too. As long as those features fit in to what you want/need.

ASMC GmbH carries the Defenders 2s in Multicam, GreenZone, Flecktarn and RG; the first 2 being in NYCO, possibly the RG too; then the Fleck is PYCO as with literally everything else I’ve ever seen made in a Flecktarn pattern.

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ey oh arrrrr

Took a few days out there to travel back home from the det I was on, pick up this delivery then sort through it, still only done half the photography after many hours working through this stuff.

New Crye and Patagonia for the collection (all fits in rather nicely), lots of 1″ hardware to swap ;to matching colours for my OCD.  Then lots of tests to be carrier out with following decisions to be made about how I’ll be using Spiritus and Ferro modular placards/chest rigs and other pieces in my load bearing gear in future.

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Protect The Helmet

If you’ve dropped a big old wedge in to fancy head gear (which could be many, many thousands in some cases) I really have to recommend you spend a comparative smidge more and pick yourself up a FirstSpear Helmet Hut.

I might go over mine in a video at some point but you can pretty much see all you need to see in a picture. There’s padding all around with various rigid inserts to encase all those valuables. The central webbing strap locks down the helmet with both tension and a velcro interface with the loop on most modern designs, as well as helmet covers that mimic the loop distribution of the helmet shell. Then there’s zipped pockets along both sides for all those patches and blinkey widgets. I don’t reckon I actually need to discuss material quality or stitch work.

Personally I put my PVS and mount inside a thickly padded case for an old compact camera that was handed down to me years ago. That case goes inside my Ops-Core where my head would be, then the whole thing is strapped inside the Hut. I leave my ARC rail adaptors on as well usually since there’s plenty of space inside for those to be swung back on top of the helmet with your choice of electronic hearing protection mounted. Depending on your setup, if you can’t swing back your ear defs they can just be detached and ride alongside the bucket.

Given that the rifle and helmet tend to be the 2 main locations for layering on of gizmos, I’m really a fan of a neat, organised and protective container for all of my head mounted kit. Once there’s a helmet in there, there isn’t necessarily huge swathes of storage space in the side pouches for 7 different types of strobe, a dozen spare batteries, multiple pairs of goggles etc but there certainly is space for the key, expensive items you’ll want to treat with care. This keeps the overall size of the Hut down which is handy since you’re likely to be stashing it inside another kit bag, especially for any sort of travel where you’re not in a personally owned vehicle and need to keep all your belongings amalgamated. Definitely a consideration for military folks and for civilians who might be travelling with a full load of personal equipment around their country or around the world.

AMCU Combat Lowers

Ask and thou shalt receive.

Was not easy tracking down these Aus Army issued AMCU combat trousers. I first saw them when being worn by some Australian blokes stationed at a base I briefly transited through in the UAE and I’d never actually spotted them online before then at that point, so being the nerd I am for this stuff my interest was more than slightly piqued. I saw a fair bit more of the stuff in another dusty place shortly thereafter and if it weren’t for the fact I knew they’d probably not have a well-stocked stores in country to replace bartered gear I’d have strolled right up and probably written a blank cheque.

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I certainly got lucky to source a new pair in my size not too long after getting back from that trip, especially since they represent 2 interesting things for me. First they’re another set of combats that are not Crye but will accept Crye combat knee pads, that being a kit niche I’ve been diligently searching for for many years now. Second they are an example of G3-like combat cut pants which have been issued to folks outside the US Armed forces. Again, not a common thing and from what I’ve read online (posted by Australians who’ve served) it’s not the norm for the Aus Defence Force to surplus gear at all, it gets used to destruction or deliberately destroyed so obtaining any of their kit isn’t nearly as simple as US/UK mil surplus.

Originally announced with adoption/roll out beginning at the end of 2014 you can read the official Australian Army fact/press release sheet here:

https://www.army.gov.au/…/files/net1846/f/amcu_factsheet.pdf

The pattern is of course essentially Crye Multicam using the old DPCU colour palette with ADF logos inserted (see pictures), with the exception of the stretch panels which are the same Multicam nylon/spandex fabric used by Crye in their combat pants. I’ve seen photos where the stretch panels appear to have been changed to be matching, though I’ve no idea if that’s just a result of dirt or the lighting of the image. Any proprietary stretch fabric used would more than likely be a downgrade in durability compared to Crye’s material.

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I’m still working through older photography here so I’ve been remiss in not picturing the label, but the fabric is majority cotton, around 60-70%, unlike common PYCO/NYCO that uses 50% cotton at the very most. The manufacturer name is Hard Yakka though their facebook page is expired. Whether they actually manufacture in Australia or do the same thing as the British uniform contractor and out-source to China I’m unsure, though I’d suspect the latter.

Unlike Crye combats the main cargo pockets are zipped closed, the top of the fly is a button, the ankle is cinched down with elastic cord and the waist adjustment tabs are an interesting moulded plastic piece. Other than that the feature set is pretty much what you’d expect from G3s and Crye knee pads are 100% compatible and fit just fine.

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I don’t personally rate the durability in terms of either the fabric, hook+loop brand used or the stitching quality. They have a lovely pyjama feel from all the cotton content but mine have faded substantially from just one short-cycle wash and a piece of the hook that secures the knee pad pocket cover flap is now hanging in the breeze despite being properly secured through said wash. It’s not like I’m not familiar with procedures to take care of/extend the like of uniforms through use by this point either. Still a nice item for the collection and hopefully the MoD will follow this example for more personnel than just aircrew in future.

 

CP G3 – Field Lowers VS Combat

I’ve got a lot of Crye Precision G3 stuff to post in the coming months folks and, I have to admit, there’s not much new I can say about it all that hasn’t been said before by someone else. This is the problem you run in to with buying a type of gear that’s been on the market for the lion’s share of a decade and pretty much represents the end-game of what’s achievable in apparel using a given type of material. Looks like I’ll be scraping the barrel in the old noggin for vaguely-related subjects to chat about when accompanying some of these pictures.

Today, some G3 Field cut lower-halves in the arguably most timeless of all colours, Ranger Green.

The AC/Gen 2 field pants varied really rather significantly from the combat cut ACs, but the gap narrowed in Gen 3. From what I’ve seen of G4, the differences will be even smaller still, which personally I’m a fan of since the combat cut is the more popular overall and it means you’ve got a better idea what you’re getting in to by comparison when buying fields.

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The key features in the field trousers that are most noticeable vs the combat are as follows:
-No stretch panels at all, just 50/50 NYCO throughout
-Draw-string ankle closures in place of a velcro tab
-Fully enclosed pad pockets for the field knee pads, which are basically the combat pads minus the rubbery moulded piece
-No knee pad height adjustment
-Velcro closure on the upper rear pockets instead of zips
-No padding in the waist band
-Waist size adjustment tabs not present
-Button topped fly instead of a velcro tab above the zip

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Quick run down off the top of my head, there will be some other details I’ve missed. There are still 10 pockets total, with elastic retention in the primary cargo pockets and the field pads still do a pretty good job in terms of joint protection.

The thing I primarily dislike personally is the fact that the knees wear through so quickly on trousers like these, the fabric being pulled taut over the front of the knee pad causes the point that touches the ground to undergo an awful lot of abrasion. The combat pants have cheap external kneepads that can be swapped out in under a minute and competitors often reinforce this area with either a webbing strip (a la Arc’teryx) or a layer of cordura on top of the NYCO. Crye actually did just the latter in their Gen 1 uniforms, but cut it from G2 onwards to save weight. Thing is of course they design stuff for people who get it issued and free replacements, so longevity isn’t really the main priority.

Platatac VM Chest Rig – LBT Competitor

The Vehicle Mounted chest rig from PLATATAC. Somewhat old school design, but given how much usage rigs like this have seen you really can’t argue that they work. They’ll definitely take whatever you can throw at them and store your gear safe and sound.

Sadly they seem to have discontinued production a while back, which is a shame because I think they offered a lot better value than LBT gear does. But if you want to get an idea of how they put things together check out my video here:

Honestly folks even if you’re not planning to watch this video I’d really appreciate the click/tap. One of the criteria the NSSF go by when dishing out SHOT Show badges is YT videos with 1k+ views, so if everyone who saw this could literally just watch each video for a second then close it again that will help me greatly in getting to Vegas and bringing the best possible coverage on the very latest gear hot off the presses.

Ops to the Core – FAST Carbon Review

Generally with any given foundation to a system you’ve got a couple of type of options available to you. The first is the older choice that’s been around and popular for years with tons of options and parts support from both the original manufacturer and the aftermarket. Then there’s the new kid on the block, which has some great new features built in but can’t really be customised at all yet; maybe 1 or 2 little bits from the originator but nothing from the aftermarket.
 
My Gentex Corporation/Ops-Core FAST Carbon here represents the former of course, with MTEK creating the latter. You see this phenomenon with all sorts of things and in the realm of helmets the middle ground choice would be the Team Wendy, but I don’t personally favour the middle ground. You can make the older option in to something great by using that aftermarket support and the newest kid on the block obviously shouldn’t need much changing, but the interim choice rarely fares as well to my mind.
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I think a firearm analogy would be to have the AR or AK platform at one end and modern weapons like the HK433 and MSBS at the other. Stuff like AUG and Galil in the middle. I’m hoping you good folks are following me with that one. I’m sure there’s a good car analogy out there too but I’m much too boring to know about cars.
 
So why the FAST Carbon? First off I can’t use a private purchase helmet for work because I’m not cool enough, that leaves hobby usage. I don’t own my own firearms or frequently take shooting courses where armour might be wise to have, so ballistic protection is out and I’m left with impact protection. I’d be losing out on ventilation and carrying more weight with a ballistic threat rated helmet. I wanted to have an OC FAST in my collection to represent one end of the aforementioned spectrum and give myself a project to gradually adjust and add to over time. While the FAST Bump is definitely the economically sensible impact option given the plastic construction, it so happened that ODIN Tactical had a pretty insane sale on the Carbon model in Multicam and in my size, all while I was away on a work trip (if you know why that’s a good thing, you know).
There’s a few major advantages to the FAST Carbon. First off you have to give credit to Ops-Core for finally getting around to integrating an adjustable headband and suspension system in to tactical headgear. We take it for granted now but it took a strangely long time for the notion to jump over from the likes of cycling and climbing gear. Adding a sort of inverted pic rail to allow folks to finally mount lights and cameras without just using a load of tape and velcro was also of course a nice step forward.
The shell itself is obviously the main event here. I had my eyes open going in to this and I’d recommend to anyone that you prepare to not only buy the helmet, but set a fair bit more aside to add and replace various things. If you want to make the whole setup actually comfortable and a good platform for night vision, cameras and lights that is. The carbon fibre is of course insanely light and supremely strong which makes a superb foundation to build on, but it really does need building work.
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I’ve not seen any real info on the new SF model helmets from OC so hopefully improvements are coming, but many elements of the currently retailed helmet package are, quite honestly, pretty bloody bad. Some of the carbon construction on the shell is poor in the ventilation holes as pictured but the biggest culprit is without doubt the ‘padding’ and I use that word in a very loose context. Each pad is actually comprised for the most part of expanded polystyrene (as in what they packaged your new TV in), which is easily broken and provides no cushioning for general wear. Whether the idea is it should crush under a really severe impact I don’t know, but I’m pretty confident that better padding using dense foam would be just as good for that purpose, while of course also being much more comfortable for 99.999% of the time the helmet is on your head.
 
The very thin piece of foam that does sandwich between your head and the polystyrene is lacking in density to say the least, it squashes down to nothing and subsequently wearing this helmet with almost anything attached to it can create a nasty headache within a few short hours. This is compounded by the fact that the occ-dial headband is the main method of securing everything to you. You don’t crank down too hard on that of course, but then again even with fairly mild tension it’s not like the headband is particularly nicely padded either. Personally I wasn’t able to use the pads that are meant to fit to fit in the sides even without ear pro running inside, not without getting a literal instant headache anyway. This means there’s even less stability, especially if ARC mounted ear pro is not used.
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The chin strap uses a tubular webbing that’s smooth and comfortable and the adjustment is self-contained which makes a nice change from issued helmets, but it’s more of a backup retention method.
 
Fortunately moving to the outer surface things do look up quite a bit. The skeletal type 3-hole shroud weighs barely anything while maintaining all the necessary strength. The anodising scratches if you breathe on it admittedly, but not down the metal. The infamous rails are present, well moulded and solidly mounted. Inbetween the 2 previous items we’ve got the bungees that hook nicely in to night vision and will really help take the very last bit of slop out of an otherwise 95% solid NV mount setup. Then there’s a generous dose of loop on the sides, top and rear for attaching all sorts of things that give your position away.
 
Looping back around to where we started, this skull caddy is certainly a project. I’ve already added a counter-weight and a nice FirstSpear cover to obscure the offensive hydro dip film. There’s no shortage of electronics you can drape on here that can cost you anything from a few hundred to 10s of thousands. Primarily the pad system simply has to be upgraded, which is my biggest irk with a helmet that costs as much as the FAST Carbon costs, but as long as you’re prepared to put the time in to finding quality accessories and replacement bits the option is there to build this thing in to a genuinely excellent system. A fact that has been well proven by a lot of cool dudes for some years now.

Plat-A-Tac Tac Dax Mk3 – Pt2

The Mk3 Tac Dax from PLATATAC. If you missed my video overview on these and you’d like to find out the details click here:

To summarise, you’ve got a mixture here of features based on Crye Gen 2 and 3 combat trousers with a dash of the Patagonia L9s. Good stuff like the 3 stretch panels from the G3s is in there, along with a padded waist and the waist adjustment tabs. I slightly prefer the G3 zipped pockets vs the G2/AC velcro flaps for the sake of security of small items I tend to keep back there, but that’s a personal preference thing.

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You’ve also got a ton of adjustment for the knee pads, way more than any offering from Crye. I think if this trouser took the Crye Airflex or even the Patagonia pads they’d probably be my favourite design of anything on the market, sadly I just did not get along with the D3O Trust HP pad set. They didn’t agree with my knees and they are a tad more awkward to fit and remove compared to other options. I’ve heard from people who have got along with them very well however so this is again my personal experience and it’s annoying from my own perspective to be sure.

Excellent quality throughout though as you’d expect from a company who’s produced a whole lot of gear for Australian SF as well as the regular military, special tactics police and Aus LE in general.

FR Gloves from the PIG Makers

I’ve mentioned before about having an FR ensemble for work purposes, not because it’s at all likely I’d need that, but even if the likelihood of need is tiny I really do not want to have melted polyester from standard uniform covering my skin in the event of something going super badly down hill.

To that end I have issued FR MTP trousers and combat shirt, a Massifbalaclava and these Bravo gloves from SKD Tactical, amongst a few other small items. The popular Alpha and Delta gloves of course make heavy use of common synthetics and would not be FR for the most part, whereas these Bravos retain the patterning of the Alpha with a full leather and nomex construction. Interestingly there’s a vaguely exotic combination of sheep and goat leather mixed in to these gloves with no cow hide.

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Do they facilitate the exact same dexterity as the Alphas? That was my question and probably most peoples’ question. They’re close I’ll say that, pretty bloody close. The FR fabrics through most of the construction are a fair bit thicker than the fabrics in the Alphas, but the patterning is as I say the same, with the same excellent design especially at the finger tips. I only spent a few hours actually wearing this pair somewhere warm-ish but they certainly did not hinder basic weapons handling and I’ve worn lots of issued gloves which do.

They do seem to come up smaller than the Alphas and Deltas, I went with my usual size small and they were a tight squeeze to get on so if I were to buy again I’d go a size up over my Alpha sizing. The materials used however do feel supremely comfortable and supple, so I was extremely impressed in that regard.

Also despite being a fair bit more expensive than the non-FR versions these are actually some of the cheaper FR gloves on the market to come from a quality brand. The FR gloves I’ve seen from OR for example cost a good bit over $100 and I’d be surprised if they offer close to the legendary FDT dexterity. I’ll admit right away I’ve not tried the competitors, but in my search online there weren’t any I felt could beat the FDT Bravos in dexterity and they all cost more, so my choice seemed very clear cut.

For military folks this would definitely be a strong contender in my mind and I’m sure there’s plenty of other applications out there for a glove with great dexterity that can shield against burns.

LOWA, GTX Boots and Weather

There’s 3 problems with talking about boots on the internet:

1. Actually forming a genuinely informed opinion on even 1 pair can take ages, let alone the line up from a whole brand and double-let alone multiple brands. By the time you’ve figured out what’s good, they might well have stopped making that model given the market demand for constant newness.
2. To review a boot in-depth is intricate as hell, it’s also hard to define a lot of the qualities in a quantifiable manner and very, very personal. I don’t think it’s the kind of gear you can really talk about ‘just a bit’, you either go right down to brass tacks or do a very basic overview. Hard to be anywhere inbetween.
3. Unlike many other aspects of gear a person might use for a ‘tactical’ purpose, footwear of both military design and from the civilian/hiking type sphere is pretty much all applicable. There are lots of companies making amazing outdoor clothing that don’t offer camo for example, but with boots those aesthetics are irrelevant. This then opens up the range of feasible options available to levels that are almost hard to actually comprehend. The only other item that maybe gets close to approaching this issue is gloves, then maybe backpacks after that and just about everything else like uniform, helmets and load-carriage is far more specific to tactical stuff and the viable choices are made by far fewer companies.

Caveat with number 1 of course would be folks on constant deployments who can actually select their own boots, but then they’re usually pretty busy with more important things than doing detailed gear reviews (talking generally here of course).

What I will say is from my *limited personal experience* LOWA are the brand on top of my list. I’ve got an old-school black leather pair that are at least 9 years old now and have spent dozens of hours up to the ankles in bog and never leaked a drop; though they take looking after. When I know I’ll be doing the rare air force thing of actually slogging through mud and being miserable in the elements, they’re absolutely the pair I reach for. Totally the opposite build to the standard issue lightweight crap that I cut about base in when I’m doing some annual refresher that necessitates MTP instead of blues.

I picked up these Zephyr GTX models from UKTactical on a pretty sweet sale about 18 months ago (my usual delay in the gear posting queue). Now do I recommend gore-tex lined boots in general? Hell no. Should you buy nice bright, tan, suede outer layer boots for use in most of Europe? Also no. But when a very high quality product comes up at a very good price that’s also the time you should have been setting money aside for.

GTX lined shoes can and will overheat and sweat-soak your feet in any weather above ‘quite cool’ but as with anything if you make sure your kit suits your environment you can stay comfortable. So don’t wear these things in the summer. I keep them for pure and exclusive winter time usage unless I’m expecting to get very wet in the spring/autumn. The GORE-TEX® Products liner keeps in a decent amount of heat allowing a comparatively thin and light boot to work well under some physical exertion down to typical UK winter temperatures. Despite the arid climate appearances, I found the lack of any venting or mesh panels as you’d see in an actual arid climate boot to create a pretty good balance overall.

They worked borderline perfectly when paired with some good softshell trousers and moving through a lot of common British countryside terrain. Long wet grass, woodland mud and forest foliage that’s all sodden post-rain or dew; or just permanently wet through December. Far from any sort of environment that poses any real danger to anybody’s survival, but still the sort of terrain I’ve witnessed completely soak the cordura boots and cotton blend trousers other people were wearing. They spent the next 6+ hours being damp and uncomfortable, could’ve been longer had the sun not put on a strong appearance. And why did they have to do that? Because they wore all the same gear they do in the summer months and *maybe* brought a Goretex jacket, totally ignoring the kinda-shitty inbetweens that are the actual reality a lot of the time in a lot of temperate countries.

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While that sort of thing may be far from cool to talk about, it’s honestly what I think most people should be equipping for most of the time, certainly in the hobby arena. Like how often do civilians need a tourniquet vs how often do you see people pushing blow-out kits with chest seals on social media? It 100% makes sense to prepare for the worst no doubt but when I build a FAK I put in gel for small burns, plasters, tweezers etc THEN I think about maybe a compact TQ and some bigger bandages. How often have most people in their daily lives encountered an injury that’s just annoying vs one that’s really life threatening? I’m going to wager the ratio is in the region of 100000 to 1, so yes prepare for both to some extent, but definitely make sure you’re ready to deal with the niggling little things and not just the Hollywood moments.

Appreciate that seems like a real tangent, but it’s a good analogy to my mind. These boots have served me well for the bad end of the spectrum of weather that doesn’t require more niche or specific survival gear. This particular model is very light, flexible out of the box, comfortably lined inside and most importantly built to the quality I’ve come to expect from LOWA. I’ve seen the soles come away from tons of other boots, I’ve seen inadequately thin synthetic materials wear through and fail under minimal usage, I’ve seen laces snap far too quickly and eyelets pop far too easily. Not with this brand. Good shoes are crucial. A rip in a shirt? You’ll carry on pretty much just like before, not the case if your boots totally fail you.