MSM Raw Hoodie – Redux

If you missed my video on the MilSpecMonkey RAW Hoodie I would definitely recommend checking that one out if you are interested in colour options for tac gear.

As I mentioned in the video this is a jacket I wear absolutely all the damn time, constantly. When I want something to put on to warm up, the RAW is what I take out of the cupboard. Many of you that are also in the UK will probably just be getting to the start of the cold weather in the past week or two and since that’s been happening I’ve been living in this hoodie. I am in fact wearing right now as I type this.

As I’ve spent time in it, there’s a couple of features that have really stood out the most to me.

Primarily it’s the fact that it is a fleece, yet unlike fleeces I’ve owned in the past I don’t hate it or find it useless, quite the opposite. Generic fleeces have absolutely zero wind blocking abilities which makes them frankly redundant without a rain jacket or softshell over the top. The MSM Hoodie may not cut the cold wind as much as something like an Arc’teryx Atom AR which comprises a thin nylon shell with synthetic fill, but then it also costs a small fraction of the Atom and frankly for daily wear the nature of the fleece makes it a nicer, more comfortable proposal all around. The RAW is a hard faced fleece so you get the ‘fluff’ on the inside but a smooth appearance and feel on the outside, making it better in the wind and far, far less of a magnet for hair and dirt and bits of plants and whatever else it out there that just loves clinging on to normal soft faced fleece.

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The second key point is that the RAW is not a hoodie. I don’t mind hoodies for lounging around indoors when nobody’s going to see me and they can be ok as a mid-layer for everyday use. However I’m 30 now and for the most part I want to wear layers that fit, not ones that hang a giant kangaroo pouch in front of me and have a generally loose, overly-baggy appearance. Crucially also a full zip allows for controlled levels of insulation which is why I largely despise shirt style or half/quarter zip insulating layers. The issue PCS item for example is very warm, however the thick nature of the fleece and the one-third zip mean if you put it on when you’re cold then run in it you will boil yourself alive and getting the bloody thing on and off is an absolute nightmare and a half. This makes temperature regulation far more difficult than it should be when alternating between slow and fast paced activity.

As far as the MSM Grey colouring goes, well frankly I love it. It does a brilliant job of tricking the eye to switch between appearances of green, brown and grey depending on light/background and balances all 3 colours very nicely indeed. I would certainly jump all over some quality NYCO combat clothing in this same colourway, and indeed some 500D load bearing kit, because to my mind this is the true solid-colour equivalent to Multicam – perhaps even better than MC in some ways, certainly against concrete and buildings. As it stands the Gruppa 99 L5 apparel comes very close to MSM’s colour selection and I intend to pick up some more of their kit down the line. Fingers crossed UF-Pro might produce something equivalent in their Striker series because at the moment their ‘Brown Grey’/RAL 7013 is basically just one tiny shade away from Ranger green and not nearly different enough to Crye’s RG to warrant the purchase for me personally.

 

G3 Combat shirt – The Best For Bookend-Multicam?

I have talked about the Crye Precision G3 Combat shirt in the past, so you can either search here or over on the The Reptile House for the foundational information. That said I’m not one to shy away from absolutely squeezing every single drop of juice out of a fruit so I’ll say a couple of things about this particular example in MC Arid.

First thing’s first – at this time, I am not aware of a better (cost excluded) combat shirt in this pattern that is currently in production and available for sale. Or indeed one that has ever been in production in the past. There are certainly some that might be better value, although again in MC Arid this isn’t as much the case as with other patterns. When looking at commercial camouflage there is always a lower level of take up when it comes to the desert-centric variants, something that was particularly evident when it comes to the PenCott and Kryptek families. Multicam doesn’t suffer that issue quite as badly and enjoys a lot of native support from Crye, but there’s certainly far more choice of regular Multicam out there on the market by comparison to Arid.

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As mentioned however I am not aware of a better combat shirt in this colourway so the CP G3 is what I have in the collection, taking in to account my personal goal of having the all around best quality (for recreational use) garment in any given pattern or colour. As an example, I’ve eschewed the G3 in favour of the UF-Pro Striker XT in MC Black as that design better suits my preferences, though there’s no doubt the Crye offering is the better option for a military application. During my stint deployed I certainly took great strides to avoid ever leaving the base while wearing an issued combat shirt and those feature the same torso fabric as the Striker. The PCS kit is great for 99% of the time when everything’s going ok, but it’s the 1% of course that is actually worth worrying about.

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A couple of points to mention as far as labelling goes. First off I know some folks have had queries about the lack of white box around the label on some G3 items. Some pieces of apparel feature said border around the label and some do not. Both are common and perfectly legitimate however, certainly since this shirt came directly from the CP web store and, as you can see, does not feature the border. Second, just for interest’s sake I wanted to upload a shot of the ‘Multicam’ brand label which will sometimes feature the words Arid/Tropic/Black. The NYCO fabric itself will also on occasion do the same, though seemingly not on every batch of fabric and it’s not terribly common to actually find the script on a given garment since it doesn’t repeat very often within the print.

I’ll say one thing, if Crye release Gen 4 combat shirts down the line with colour matched loop fields and torso fabrics in MC Arid (and Tropic) I’ll definitely be a happy camper.

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The Ultimate Modular Panel/Chassis.. ?

*Queue jumper alert*
 
A lot of the time when I get some custom piece of cordura gear made it ends up as a highly successful commercial product about 12-24 months later purely down the the principle of multiple discovery. Multiple discovery being a term I just had to google myself and references different people who’ve never communicated with each other all coming up with the same concept at the same or similar time. It’s pretty well documented through history back to the inventions of weapons like bows and arrows.
 
All that in mind I wanted to post up my idea of a modular placard that I’ve had made by Roman Kurmaz (who you can find on facebook via the Replica Linderhof Tac grouo). Obviously there’s no huge revolution here for the most part it’s generally a combination of ideas others have had before me, but to my personal tastes this is the ‘best’ that a placard can be and it forms the ideal core to my notions of a supremely flexible load carriage system for box magazines.
 
If you’ve not seen the previous blog post that details my ideal of a system of plate carriers and chest rigs that can very rapidly adapt to any common magazine type then you can check it out here:
 
http://thefull9.net/picnmix/
 
The key element with the above system is the placard itself, or chassis if you use the Spiritus terminology. It is the almost-literal glue that binds everything else together and connects the magazine specific inserts to the mounting platform of your choice.
 
On the market at the moment there are already some great options for modular/convertible placards that will accommodate various mag types by swapping inserts. Prime example would be the Spiritus Systems Mk3 Chassis, Whiskey Two-Four PIMPs accessory panel, Haley Strategic Partners D3CR-M and the Ferro Concepts Kangaroo front flap.
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They’re all genuinely brilliant options in the world of gear, but me being me I didn’t quite find any of them to be 100% absolutely perfect. So, as per usual, I drew up a mental list of what I wanted in a panel/placard type micro chest rig kinda dealie-thing.
 
1. Single cell like the Ferro kangaroo to enable a slim profile and migrate extra kit that might be stored in a front pouch to extra PALS pouches at the sides of a PC/Chest rig. I have a real thing against any stacking of gear where at all possible and I never use more than 1 mag even in a double magazine pouch.
 
2. Somewhat taken as read, but it needs to be compatible with the Mayflower/Vel Sys mounting spec that’s become standard in terms of size and placement of 1″ male buckles along the top as well as the inclusion of a hook field on the rear. While the Ferro Kangaroo fulfills requirement number one it also uses G-Hooks at the top instead of 1″ plastic hardware and most brands have taken the side release buckle route. I also hate G-Hooks in almost all applications.
 
3. Another size consideration is being able to fit all the best inserts on the market. The Spiritus chassis is, as I discovered a bit too late, smaller than the inserts made by Ferro. The Spiritus inserts are great for a lot of reasons; very light, fast and effective, compact to store and economical to buy with a wide selection available and I’ve tried them out and like them a lot. I just want the very maximum possible modularity here and it only takes a small amount of extra cordura to achieve that.
 
4. Full interior lining comprised of loop for compatibility with the Spiritus inserts (of which I have many) as well as the HSP inserts. Ferro and WTF inserts will work with the simple addition of a piece of hook sewn back-to-back with another piece of hook velcro.
 
5. Ability to hide the four 1″ webbing loops on the sides for placard use when a harness/back strap is not clipped directly to the chassis.
 
Number 5 is for the most part a vanity/OCD consideration on my part and it was the one feature I can most definitely say I devised for myself and I’m fairly sure has not been done previously in this context. The 1″ webbing here is of course adjustable in position via the velcro and the fact there’s addition hook on the rear face means there’s no loss of staying power when the placard is mounted. It’s not necessary for one end to be un-sewn of course with the advent of split-bar field repair 1″ hardware but it is actually slightly less awkward to remove the buckles this way. Side benefits (apart from hiding the webbing when desired) include the ability for a manufacturer to use all the non-split bar hardware in their inventory if that’s all they have and if the end user wants to swap the female buckles for expander wings of some sort that attach via closed loops of cordura they can do so which is a lower profile option compared to adding yet more layers of velcro between the placard and mount (and they really add up if you’ve got expander wings, a drop pouch and whatever else).
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The size requirements, mounting spec and fitment of inserts are of course all also covered off. As you can see the Ferro Kwik Triple Shingle that incorporates the HSP MP2s fits in beautifully and 30rnd 556 mags are retained in what I would personally call the ideal fashion if one is not hopping out of an aircraft. Further down the line I’ll be showing off the F9 Placard (which is what I’m calling this specific configuration) in other setups, fully loaded with SMG mags and attached to a plate carrier etc etc.
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There are certain companies I’m a big fan of but my philosophy remains that I’d rather integrate the best features of a variety of the best brands out there where I can and you never know maybe someone might see them and take the ideas and bring them to a wider audience. Not something I can personally do on account of not owning a large nylon sewing business.
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If you want one of your own drop Roman a message and show him one of these pictures or ask for the setup Chris got, he’ll know what you mean and he can make them in a variety of colours I’m sure. If you get one and get a good enough pic I’ll obviously feature it here.
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G-Code RTi System

This is a big if, but IF you’re like me and want to use lots of different pistols types (with lights/lasers fitted) and also fully encase your pistols then I can recommend the G-Code Holsters RTi system. It simply allows you to attach a modular wheel to any tac gear be it belts or PALS, then if you have the right hanger on the rear of your holster you can swap holsters around with no tools in quite literally about 5 seconds. A big plus for me is that it’s not just the G-Code holsters that work in the system, they also make hangers to attach to Safariland (and Blackhawk), so when you factor in the fact that almost all the hundreds of custom kydex companies out there use those 3-hole drill patterns on the rear of their products it turns out you are extremely well catered for.

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That said, it should be mentioned there are 2 perhaps better alternatives of course in my mind:

1 – Just stick with one pistol type, whether it’s airsoft or firearms you’ll always do better by practicing more with one weapon type and you’ll be able to keep better track on maintenance issues. Also saves money by just using the one holster in the first place. Not to mention magazine, ammo and parts compatibility.

2 – Where you can, use a universal type holster. If you’re not using pistol mounted lights or lasers then there are some good Safarilands or the Warrior universal which will serve you nicely. If you want a light then consider the light-grabbing holsters from S&S and Surefire.

The equivalent system from Safariland is also well worth looking at, though I’ve had zero issues with my RTi items from G-Code and I own a lot of them at this point and have been using them for longer than I can actually remember; definitely 5 years or more. Reliable and robust equipment that can provide a very useful function if it meets your personal gear needs and requirements.

‘Custom Cryes’ and where to get them

I’m not 100% on whether I’ve posted this shirt before or not, but it’s kind of hard to keep track at this point. Also apologies I’ve only got this plain front view instead of the usual many close-ups, however this combat shirt was my very first ever Roman Kurmaz/’Replica Linderhof’ purchase so it certainly warrants some discussion. If you’ve not seen it already you can search here in the earlier post covering my Rhodesian camo G3 set. Lots more items from Roman are going to be featured here in future and I’ll be doing a video about the kit as well, so stay tuned if you’re interested in seeing more Crye cut apparel in non-standard camo patterns.

First off, to cover the basics for anyone who’s interested, you want to head to this group and sign up:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/807151342686715/

Be VERY sure to take the time and go through the pinned post as well as the actual albums under the photos section. Between those things you’ll be able to answer the vast majority of questions you might have. Roman is a one man army in terms of all the manufacturing and running the online side of the business, so don’t go flooding him with a ton of ‘How much?/How long?/What camos?’ questions when all that stuff is pretty well covered already.

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To cover the absolute bare bones, the materials used throughout are all either the same or extremely close to those used by Crye and it’s the same story with the stitching work. There have been plenty of Roman’s items used on deployments by various military folks out there so it’s more than up to the task and is overall much better quality than standard issue military apparel (PCS, ACU etc). The sizing (certainly with the G3 replicas) mimics Cryes’ spot on so use their sizing chart or compare against a Crye item to find your size. I don’t have any of the custom ACs so I can’t comment there but my scratch-built G3s all fit just fine and as they should. From placing your order to receiving the items you’re looking at a wait somewhere in the region of 4-8 weeks very roughly speaking, that’s my experience in the UK anyway. The shipping part of that will take around 2 weeks on average I find.

This particular shirt came about as a result of an issue I had finding something in PenCott Camouflage Badlands to compliment the Husar EXO trousers that I’ve posted here previously. Unfortunately at this point, from what I generally see, GreenZone is really the only PenCott pattern being made in quantity by any of the high quality brands and in a cut/style that I personally like. That meant the commercial market wasn’t an option for precisely the item I was after. Annoyingly I can’t remember where I first found out about Roman and his work, but fortunately my standard never-ending gear quest does serve me well in terms of hunting down folks like him who can make stuff that no standard manufacturer is making.

As with purchasing any custom or scratch built tac gear I can’t urge you enough to know EXACTLY what you want when contacting the maker. They cannot read minds and they do not know the image you have in your head – make absolutely no assumptions about what they will do because there’s zero guarantee it’ll be the same as what you’re picturing. If you’re not fussed about details then sure feel free to be vague, but if you want a CB torso instead of a Tan one you must say so. If you want green velcro fields on something instead of black, or a certain colour of thread to be used in the stitching or a specific colour zip then again you must be sure to specify all of those details and this is of course by no means an exhaustive list.

Roman can make small deviations form the Crye templates such as the solid loop fields shown here on a G3 cut shirt, he can also fairly easily remove features and most of my combat shirts from him do not feature the pen loop on the left shoulder pocket for example. He cannot make entire new types of garment though just for your 1 custom request and with the volume of product he’s making the catalogue is fairly locked in, so again as I mentioned earlier be sure to look through the picture albums in the linked group to see what is actually available and manage your expectations within those boundaries. That said however, he does offer a good range of apparel to suit various tastes as well as lots of chest rigs, small packs, placards, pouches and other small cordura items so it’s not like the catalogue is small and certainly not once you factor in the camo options available. In fact in my opinion for a single man operation the variety in choice is frankly staggering.

I own quite an amount of his product at this point to include a variety of combat apparel, a couple of field cut shirts and some cordura kit, all with varying levels of customisation and all of which I’m very happy with, especially given the prices and the upper-end quality of workmanship. His English is not 100% perfect but infinitely better than any of my other languages and if you simply posses the very small amount of patience necessary to allow him to make what you’re after, you’re essentially guaranteed to be very happy with the end result. Certainly given the fact that he’s one of the only people on the planet who offers the services that he does.

Crye Precision Combat Shirt – Generation 1

There is already an excellent piece on militarymorons.com which covers Crye Precision’s first commercial offering of a combat shirt, however since that was written just before the initial release of the Gen 1 combat uniform to the public I still wanted to take the opportunity to put together this post and look at the product with a slight modern slant and throw in a couple of comparisons.  If you are curious however you can read the original review here:

https://www.militarymorons.com/gear/crye2.html

We take the concept of a combat shirt for granted now, but around the turn of the millennium the only ones in existence were perhaps a few personal field-chop mods done by/for a small number SF guys on deployment and maybe some early production and prototypes from Crye.  That is the jist of the origin of the thing at least, as with anything, trying to find ‘the first’ and say for certain that any given example is the de facto original example, is a bold claim.  One image I enjoy is this one posted on Soldier Systems that depicts some incredibly early prototypes from Crye Associates.  Presumably they were manufactured before Scorpion (the progenitor of Multicam) fabric had even rolled off the production line.  As you can see, the t-shirt type torso with NYCO camo sleeves is evident; interesting early examples of the combat trousers too showing that the design of the knee pad really hasn’t changed in a long time.

 

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Unfortunately I’m not aware of any information that’s publicly available which really explains in any detail the progression of prototypes leading up to the Generation 1 commercial release (i.e. between the items shown above and G1), so I’ll have to skip over that topic until such a time I can perhaps get a hold of the appropriate dates and details.

The first thing to note about the G1 uniforms is that the multicam fabric is not the 50/50 Nylon/Cotton ripstop fabric that has now become so ubiquitous.  It is 50/50 NYCO, however it’s twill rather than ripstop and the lack of telltale grid pattern within the weave becomes apparent as soon as you know to look.  Generally speaking though, in spite of its’ age, there’s nothing much outlandish about the design of the G1 shirt or indeed anything to suggest that designs following it took drastic departures from the template.  On a basic level, there are plenty of combat shirts being manufactured and sold to this day which still use the same layout and ideas.

After materials, the most stand-out design choice on a combat shirt is perhaps the upper arm pockets.  On the Gen 1 we have externally mounted pockets with vertical zips are that are recessed and thus mostly covered.  The zip pulls lack any extra nylon cord or other type of plastic add-on to aid in opening/closing and the superior modern choice would be to simply replace the stubby metal pull tabs with longer, quieter and lighter synthetic cord that is easier to grab.  However for an arid climate garment the lack of pull tabs on the pockets is certainly understandable and the same applies for the torso zip.  As far as loop fields go they are comparable in size to the surface area on the Gen 2 shirts but oriented horizontally over the top of the pocket space.

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Funnily enough, although Crye have often talked about reducing weight in recent years, when putting the G1 shirt on the scale it came out, to the gram, at the exact same weight as a G3 multicam combat shirt – both of mine here weighing 454g.  On the one hand the G3 has saved some weight (and lost a small amount of resilience) by not having the cordura reinforced elbow pockets, but on the other hand the ripstop NYCO will hold up better against the environment in general compared to the old twill.  While the Gen 3 torso may not be FR it is at least no-melt/no-drip, which is certainly the preferable option in a military garment even if it doesn’t dry nearly as quickly.  Overall, a gain in resilience and FR properties for the same weight is a move in the right direction, given the context and intended end user.

As we can see when getting close up on the labels, the system for the nomenclature here is much akin to military issued garments i.e. the words in the name are put in reverse order with commas.  The sleeves (plus collar and yoke) are the 50/50 NYCO twill as mentioned, the sleeve reinforcements are cordura (more on that in a moment) which is 100% nylon of course then we have the torso fabric, which in this instance is primarily polyester with some elastane for even more stretch.  If you want a fast drying material in the area where you’ll be sweating the most then something polyester is a very efficient way to achieve that, the flip-side being it won’t serve you well in the event of being anywhere near fire.  This is something that changed significantly between the 1st and 2nd generation of combat shirt from Crye Precision.

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Next is a close up on the cuff fully opened and folded out with the size and description labels visible.  Although this open cuff is a design feature that Arc’teryx LEAF has persisted with in their combat shirts for many years it was of course abandoned by Crye as soon as they moved to Gen 2.  Some people find this setup superior as far as rolling sleeves is concerned, though I tend to find a standard sleeve permits rolling exactly as high, or low, as the wearer desires.  Whether that be the ever popular hero roll, just below the elbow, or all the way up past the elbow in military barrack dress style.  All can be easily set with a conventional non-split sleeve.

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Had to throw in this close-up on some of the stitching on one of the cuffs, purely because it’s so beautifully bad.  After a fairly close look over the rest of this shirt I wasn’t able to find any other examples of poor work on the sewing machine, but this one really jumps out at you with even a cursory glance.  The stitch line is of course simply holding in the rectangular piece of hook that facilitates securing and adjusting the cuff, all the edges of that hook are held securely and nothing is in danger of falling apart.  I’ve also never seen any stitching this far off the straight and true in any of my other Crye items from Gen 2/3 and the collection comprises a good number of pieces at this point, all of which I’ve checked over at least briefly at the minimum.  It’s one of those issues that really does not affect the garment in any way be it functionally or structurally and when you’re a service person who gets issued this gear and subsequently wears it out in short order before getting a free replacement, aesthetic considerations in stitching matter even less.  That said, from a commercial buyers’ perspective it’s not unreasonable to ask for straighter sewing than seen here when you’re paying high prices for some of the best apparel the tactical market has to offer.

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A stand out characteristic of the Gen 1 uniforms overall (which I wish a larger number of other brands had copied/would copy) is cordura reinforcement in areas likely to be subject to an increased amount of environmental abrasion.  In the case of the combat shirt, the pocket which holds the separate elbow pad is made entirely from cordura, which I’d assume to be 1000D.  The fact that 500D most likely didn’t even exist at the time would tend to support that assumption.  The pass-through inside the pocket facilitates mounting of the pads in the exact same way as seen on the Gen 2/Army Custom combat shirt and the pads themselves are cross compatible between G1 and G2.

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A quick comparison shot of Multicam NYCO; early-00s production twill on the left with brand new 2015+ production ripstop on the right.  Obviously there is some fading apparent in the old twill as a result of aging alongside the fact the shirt did see a very small amount of use before it came to me and has likely seen at least a couple of wash cycles.  What is evident of course is the comparatively far more vibrant palette of the new fabric with a stronger contrast between each colour.  In particular the darkest brown is darker on the new fabric and on this specific swatch the medium brown/coyote is visible in greater quantity.

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Overall I feel the G1 shirt is, funnily enough, actually the best option at least as far as the hobbyist user is concerned when contrasted against G2 or G3.  Which means if it weren’t something of a rare collectible relatively speaking, it would be the best Crye shirt ever produced for sporting and recreational purposes.  The polyester torso fabric is by far the quicker at drying when contrasted against the cotton jersey blend of G2 and 3 and the fact its’ FR performance is irrelevant in a hobby scenario.  The loop fields on G1 are much better at securing patches than the two strips on G3 and the G1 pocket access is overall the quicker and easier option compared to the top loading velcro flaps, which is presumably why the G1 setup is what is essentially being brought back for Generation 4.

It will be interesting to try out the G4 combat shirt once that hits the market as Crye will finally be returning to the internally mounted sleeve pocket with vertical zip closure after all these great many years.  The new torso fabric is also supposed to be extremely permeable to airflow and quick drying, so the correlations between G4 and G1 are not just simple and superficial ones.  The fabric technology and the manufacturing techniques have come along a fair way, certainly in terms of the new VTX vs NYCO Twill and a no-melt torso that still breathes by comparison to the old will-melt polyester, but the goals of the garment in terms of what it provides to the wearer really haven’t changed a great deal in a lot of respects.

Custom Cut Desert Night Parka

If you enjoyed yesterday’s post then hopefully there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy today’s even more.

At the same time I had the Woodland BDU shirt modified I also sent off my old Desert Night pattern parka. These things have obviously been pretty hipster-popular in tacticool circles in recent years, but for those who don’t know the origins, the pattern was designed in the US way back around the mid 70s/early 80s as an attempted counter to enemy (Soviet) Night Vision, hence the unusual grid based pattern. I’ve not been able to find any information on whether it had any effect on very early and primitive Russian NVDs, but all reports suggest that even the hand-me-down equipment the Iraqis were in possession of was more than adequate to make this camouflage irrelevant come the early 90s when the American military deployed it in the first Gulf war.

The actual uniform produced consisted of an over-jacket and over-trousers, the idea being of course that the desert can get bloody cold at night comparatively speaking, so you put an extra layer on over your BDUs and, theoretically, also defeat enemy NV in the process. The parka in stock form is incredibly long and over-sized to account for layering underneath, alongside the fact that it is supplied with an insulating liner. It is also designed for the rear ‘tail’ to tuck between the wearer’s legs and be tied to the front vaguely like a para smock so there are features to facilitate that. Whether the idea of that was to keep out sand/wind or something else I’m unsure as it all seems entirely unnecessary and impractical when you actually put the thing on.

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In order to make the parka more practical overall and generally more in keeping with modern ideas, I had the following changes made:

-Lower hem raised by a good 12″ or so and changed from the previous angular cut to a straight and level one. Old cotton draw strings replaced with elastic with toggles on either side to set and hold adjustments.

-The old cuffs were far too wide with no adjustment and flapped around. In fact they could easily just slide right over the hand. Para smock style knit type cuffs were added to create a comfortable fit that ensures the cuff stays in the correct place around the wrist. Wind will also have less opportunity to sneak its’ way in.

-Proper cotton canvas pockets added behind the slots that previously were nothing other than pass-throughs to the BDU pockets that would have been worn underneath. This means the parka can now be worn independently regardless of any under layers and now has storage of its’ own.

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-Old BDU style button front closure replaced with a YKK zip and velcro similar to PCS shirts and smocks. There’s also a press stud added at the very base of the zip. Overall this arrangement sits flatter and makes it simply far faster and much less of a chore to don and doff the parka.

-Material cut from the hem was used to add upper arm pockets in modern ACU/PCS style with the expected loop fields for patches and the like. Both the colour and surface area of the loop are generally a bit more in keeping with the old school theme.

-Again using excess material (and a small section of elastic) a keeper has been added to the centre of the upper back to allow the hood to be rolled in similar fashion to British issued smocks of the past decade or so.

-The inner polyester liner (which is basically a US poncho liner with more shape) has been shortened in line with the hem of the parka, with the appropriate buttons and loops moved and adjusted accordingly so that it can be buttoned inside the parka in the same manner as it could be before any of the work was carried out.

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Could more be done? Sure you could really go at it with tons more pockets everywhere, pit zips, more velcro and a dozen other features, but to be honest just shortening the thing and adding the cuffs really makes a massive difference.

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The internal label may say 50/50 cotton/nylon though to be honest I’m not convinced this isn’t an entirely cotton jacket as it frays exactly like cotton, all the draw strings burned as as a natural fibre would etc, though it may just be down to the manufacture and weave of the fabric back in the 80s. Either way this jacket isn’t going to be much use in a country like England where you’re going to probably get rain if the temperatures are low, which is realistically true of issue smocks anyway. But then again this parka was designed for the cold and dry desert so I can’t knock it for that and it actually makes a lot of sense in context. It certainly cuts a decent amount of wind chill and the puffy liner is very warm, so for the times it’s cold but without rain or snow it’ll do nicely all things considered. In fact without the liner in, it could be worn in a good range of temperatures since the main fabric isn’t too excessively thick or heavy.

If you want to see the matching G3 cut lower halves, then be sure to stay tuned.

True RAID Mod

Something I’ve been waiting to post for a while, because it’s a piece that is easily one of my favourites despite its’ simplicity and well aged design.

This is a RAID mod shirt in the true sense for me personally, as I bought it in standard BDU form then sent it off to a tailor and chose the specifics of the alterations myself, in the classic method.

For those unfamiliar, you can read my article on ITS Tactical where I touch on the topic of RAID modding for shirts and the history thereof, but the jist is that guys have been taking the pockets off the front of their uniforms and having them sewn on to the upper arms since at least WW2. Whether it was parachute harnesses back in the 40s or common body armour after that, there has been gear blocking access to torso mounted pockets for a long time, yet standard issue uniforms did not adapt, so having your shirt pockets on the sleeve instead of the torso just made sense. The practice ended within the US Army of course when they moved over from the BDU in Woodland/Tri-Color Desert over to the ACU in Universal Camouflage Pattern, since ACUs feature sleeve pockets as standard with the only torso pockets being on the chest and no more pockets on the lower abdomen.

My particular RAID shirt started life as a totally plain jane, 100% standard issue ‘Hot Weather’ coat in 50/50 NYCO Woodland, which originally had a US Air Force service designation tape sewn above one of the upper pockets. This was clearly someone’s barrack wear shirt for a long time as it was fairly thoroughly faded and broken in by the time I got hold of it. The pictures below demonstrate this pretty clearly in the areas where the sleeve cuff is tightened and the lack of sun bleaching of fabric where the lower pockets used to be.

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The modifications I had done include the following:

-Upper/chest pockets removed and relocated to the upper arms with a cant to allow easier access across the body. Closure method changed from buttons to velcro. Loop fields for patches added to the exterior of the pocket bodies and closure flaps, similar to Crye’s Army Custom cut.

-Lower/abdomen pockets removed and relocated to the chest. Placed at an angle to again allow easy access across the body, though I opted not to go for horizontal mounting as contents can too easily fall out when the flap is opened. Closure method is again velcro instead of buttons.

-The previously inaccessible storage area created by the double-layering of fabric on the elbows has been made accessible by the addition of slits with velcro closure at the top of each pocket. Padding can now be added to the elbow areas if desired.

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The main closure down the front of the shirt is still the original buttons. I also didn’t opt for a ‘Mandarin’ collar by adding velcro to it, as I tend to find that simply fastening the very top button and popping up the collar provides plenty adequate neck protection from the sun and the rub of slings or shoulder straps. In service for barrack wear the BDU shirt was worn with the top folded/ironed open in a dress shirt style, much the same as CS95, but fastening all the buttons is certainly the superior method for most practical wear in the field.

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While the individual who carried out work for me certainly did so to a high standard overall, they sadly are no longer in the business of tactical tailoring. Truth be told, even if they were, I would have to refrain from recommending them as multiple promised deadlines were missed and communication was extremely spotty at best. There was a point I was rather worried I’d not see my items again though luckily it did not come to that. It’s a shame that people who posses both the sewing skills and understanding of military uniforms necessary to create such pieces are like hens’ teeth these days, as this particular shirt is definitely one of the coolest looking in my possession. It may not be the most feature rich but it comes very close to a modern, commercial Field cut shirt in function and has an awful lot more character on account of the wear and custom modification.

 

The End of Salomon Blues

The actual end of the trail for my patronage of Salomon. If you missed my earlier post that sums up my whole experience with the brand you’re going to need to read that lest your brand loyalty potentially flares up (if you’re that way inclined, which hopefully most folks are objective and logical enough not to be) – http://thefull9.net/salomon-blues/

When I look over these rather old 3D Mid GTXs, I can’t help but be reminded of Merrell. They made/make a fairly similar line of footwear, they gained popularity in the military and subsequently amongst the community of folks who use guns and replicas thereof for a variety of pursuits. Then they got REALLY popular, became victims of their own success and quality throughout the line suffered drastically. I read dozens of reports from people discussing how their old pairs of Sawtooth shoes had lasted them years of use, then after a certain point each pair would only serve a couple of months before breaking down. Going through the exact same ordeals and wear processes.

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As I’ve said in various places in the past, I’m never about trying to discount peoples’ positive experiences and I get the Quest 4D boot line has done a lot of folks very well. Passive Shooter has a couple of pairs that I’ve personally witnessed him get huge amounts of use from and had very good things to say, but unfortunately my own experiences going through a good few pairs have not been that positive by any stretch.

I picked up this pair of XA Pros second hand online from a seller with whom I happened to have some store credit accrued. They came up in my size for not much money, I knew the tab on the rear meant they were of older production and that for general outdoor activities, especially airsoft, I do tend to prefer a much lower cut boot than anything the military issues. Since I already had the regular style Mids to wear occasionally in warm weather, a lightweight shoe with the Gore-Tex lining was a logical addition to my range of options. They ticked all the right boxes for being out in the winter, be it just walking or weekend games. As per usual bear in mind this is all thinking that happened about 2 years ago and I hadn’t yet quite given up on the brand – even after a couple of pairs failed miserably I was determined to give it at least another shot or two purely on the back of the rabid worldwide popularity. In retrospect I personally wish I’d cut my losses sooner.

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This particular pair are simply more rigid (in the right way) and durable to both a visual and tactile inspection compared to my newer Mids. The materials used throughout the upper have lasted far, far better than my newer production equivalents, to quite an extreme degree in fact. Also the soles do not suffer the pathetic paper-thin feel that I mentioned plagued my other Mids in the previous blog. These old boots are just better made, simple as that, hence my analogy to the plight of Merrell. As is so often the case this is a sample size of one and I am always cognisant of that fact, but I can only call the shots as I see them fall.

Arc’teryx LEAF Khyber 50 – Initial Thoughts

Arc’teryx Khyber 50 in Wolf. Quite a feat of engineering.

I’m not going to even attempt to review this pack because the only reasonable way to do so would be after spending many days hiking with it at the minimum and I didn’t join the air force to not spend my time in cushy hotels. In future however if I do embark on any sort of adventurous training (AT) through work this will likely be the bag I end up using. There are in depth reviews already published online though at this point the bag is long out of production and only going to be available through classifieds and other personal sales. The replacement products now offered on the LEAF site are the Assault, Khard and Drypack lines and there are no 50 litre options, just bracketing bags in the form of the Assault 45 and Khard 60. All are distinctly lid-less and follow the clam shell design philosophy, which it has to be said does become very appealing after you’ve spent enough time fishing for things in the bottom of a large bag, trying to hold other gear out of the way with one hand and searching with the other before eventually unloading it all in frustration.

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Gear Whores Anonymous was kind enough to post on Instagram about the pretty crazy clearance sale that was running on these things over at LA Police Gear back in late 16, down from something like $500+ to sub $200. Grey, Croc and Multicam were on offer but I knew the size was inbetween what I’d need for any work purposes so I steered clear of the MC and Grey of course is far more palatable for urban usage than a shade of coyote brown. 50L on the other hand is just about small enough to be reasonable to transport on a train or throw in a car boot with other people’s bags to accommodate perhaps a few days in the woods (if you pack conservatively, climate dependant of course) or maybe a week in the city. Though obviously there’s many caveats to both of those.

A lot of duffels and the issue black deployment bag, for example, may have more raw capacity but if you’re envisaging carrying your belongings any distance then the backpack format is of course the preference. I often see people on the London underground in full hiking gear with bags at least this size and I’m never quite sure why, but I imagine if you’re perhaps moving from one hostel to the next on the minimum possible budget and carrying all your clothes for a multi-week trip then again the pack format will be a lot more practical than a suitcase or duffel.

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I have other packs in the 30L range that are also not tactically-coloured in any way and great for international flights, weekends away etc. But before owning this bag I had nothing above 35L and the Khyber gives me the option to carry a good quantity of stuff in a pack that features no external PALS loops or velcro fields and is entirely unobtrusive in terms of colour. In terms of construction and features I’ll just say this pack feels more like it was built architecturally than sewn, even with the 2 included frame bars removed there is zero sag or bend when stood up. The back and the shoulder straps in particular are the most sculpted pieces of sewing work I’ve ever seen on any piece of gear. They almost give an impression of being unforgiving and overly stiffened but again this is something that can only be determined through a good amount of use.