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) –

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.

Husar EXO Combat Pants – PenCott Camo

As some may know, although I’ve bought a fair few pieces from Crye in recent years I spent even longer before that trying to collect all the quality alternatives that I could find around the world. The prime example would probably be the Mk2 Tac Dax from Plat-A-Tac (mix of AC and G3) but during that period I also gained an interest in the PenCott Camouflage family and began looking for a quality set of uniforms with modern features.

My search ended up at these EXO combat trousers from Husar, which were not a part of their 1st team line-up, as it were, even at the time and I’m not sure if they’re even producing clothing at all at this point, especially given their strong leanings towards the load bearing side of the house. That said I would not be at all displeased to see them get more in to the apparel realm as I’m overall quite pleased with the EXOs.

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They’re something of a blend of a Crye G3 and UF-Pro Striker XT with some hints of older Level 9 PCU contract gear in the form of the slanted pocket lids. The construction is all 50/50 NYCO (no stretch) and there are 500D cordura panels sewn over 3 key areas; namely the seat, kneepad pockets and the insides of the ankles. For me the kneepads are the key reinforcement point but the seat and ankles would come a close 2nd and 3rd without a doubt. Overall of course with the addition of cordura and removal of stretch nylon you are gaining some weight and losing out a touch on the flexibility front, but the durability is most certainly present from a construction perspective.

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Present and accounted for are the adjustable/padded waistband, wide and heavy duty belt loops, adjustable knee pad height, full compatibility with Crye combat pads, a total of 10 pockets, zip and velcro fly, velcro cuffs on the ankle and behind the knee and a partridge in a pear tree. More interesting and unique features include the no-metal/spring cord lock for the knee pad height adjustment as well as the integrated ties that protrude from the rear of the main cargo pocket and can be wrapped around the thigh to really clamp things in place, particularly larger gear that might be carried within said pockets. Don’t go too tight of course as you don’t want a chronically thin tourniquet around that part of your leg.

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For those who like equipment security you’d also be well advised to enquire after the EXO combat trousers as, as notable from the close up of the open pocket, there is an actual ton of velcro square footage to keep that pocket closed and that is a theme throughout the trouser. There is of course also the pair of zipped pockets on the glute region a lá G3s.

Definitely an intriguing Eastern European twist on the New York formula and certainly one I’m pleased to both have in the collection and be able to discuss here.

OPS CORE Counterweight

Something of an irony – to best compliment what is probably the most complex and expensive piece of equipment you might have on your person, you are likely going to want to add something that is comparatively very cheap and could have largely been manufactured thousands of years ago.

Being quite obsessive with lightweight gear and having been in that mindset for a number of years it was a bit of a wrench to force myself to purchase the Gentex Corporation/OPS CORE Counterweight from ODIN Tactical. However having tried out my PVS-14 both with and without any counterbalance it is very clear that having the counterweight is the superior option. It certainly felt very counterproductive to do something deliberately that is known to be the inferior way of doing said thing, but in the long run it does give you a reassurance with regard to the superior method. It can also help to somewhat ease the sting in the wallet region when you have to outlay on a piece of gear.

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The OC Counterweight is a mixture of primarily cordura and hypalon with internal elastic loops (burly elastic at that) and an awful lot of Velcro brand hook and loop. The supplied weight blocks are 70g each with a thick coating and are presumably made of lead given their size to mass ratio. Each block can of course be replaced with more useful items like batteries so that you’re actually getting some potential benefit out of having all that mass added to your head gear. Though the key aspect really is that without having any of that weight at the back of a helmet you’ll have to really crank on your headband adjustment in order to keep the whole helmet stable with NV mounted and that is just not comfortable by comparison to the alternative.

The pouch itself has a window cut on the front for a miniature cyalume to shine through if required (think of a ghetto alternative to an S&S Manta) as well as loop on the outside for a small square of glint tape. Whatever you choose to store inside the pouch is secured with a heavy dose of one-wrap style hook and loop.

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There are 2 methods for mounting the counterweight. First the hook on the rear of the pouch and then the extended replacement screws as depicted which go through the helmet shell. If your helmet/cover is of quality and features good, thick-pile loop fields the velcro interface alone will actually serve very reliably and enables much faster changing of colourways by changing helmet covers. I opt to remove the plastic hardware that facilitates the screw mounting and just tuck the hypalon straps away and for most of my purposes the velcro mounting alone is more than secure enough. For military folks deploying/jumping or indeed civilians who need a counterweight on a sky diving helmet, adding in the certainty of the screw mounting will of course be the way to go.

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It’s temping to just not admit this part, but I’ll say it anyway since it’s a rare example – I did actually try a nasty, cheap Chinese made knock-off of this pouch before purchasing the OPS CORE original, however the weighted blocks were made of raw steel and arrived absolutely covered in rust and the pouch itself was badly sewn with poor quality ‘velcro’. It might well have done service for hobby usage if attached using the screw system, but I wasn’t happy with it overall, especially since I wanted the ability to quickly tear off the counterweight yet still have it securely retained by the velcro alone. Years ago I’d sometimes succumb to the allure of cheap clones when it came to very simple gear items like this which fulfil an incredibly basic function, but personally it’s burnt me too many times to ever forget my lessons learned.

A more featured, modern alternative option to consider would be something like the TNVC, Inc Mohawk OEM’d by Spiritus Systems. The Mk3 Mohawk is optimal for NVGs running a battery box and for a PVS setup like mine the Mk1 would be a great choice (if your helmet/cover has the right loop fields to match up of course).

Baby Got Modular Back – Tyr Tac Assaulters’ Panel

So you’ve got modularity on the front of your rig, that’s good, probably the priority, but now what about the back?

Check out this article if you’ve missed it for a detailed discussion on what I find to be the ‘perfect’ assembly of gear to form the optimal modular magazine carriage:

With the front business out of the way it’s time to look at the party in the back, in this case in the form of the TYR Tactical, LLC Standard Assaulters’ Zip-On Platform. 70oz hydration size to be exact. If you happen to use something like a JPC 2.0 or Vel Sys Scarab then you will already have zips built in to your rear plate bag and a few choices of modular back panel available to you. The great thing with the Tyr product however is that as long as you’ve got enough PALS real estate you can mount it to absolutely anything. Since the zip mounted panels aren’t currently something FirstSpear offer integrally with their PCs and I wanted that modularity on the rear as well as the front, I thought I’d see what I might be able to puzzle together.

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There is a very substantial caveat here in that you need to really take the time to count your PALS rows and columns before purchasing any piece of kit like this. Especially from Tyr given the fact they not only are they a brand that’s up there in quality and price but also build almost everything to order and have a fair lead time. If there’s one thing buying lots of gear over many years has definitely taught me, it’s that it is crucial to take a few minutes and do a careful visual check of your current kit vs the size of what you’re buying. It may make you feel like you’re going a tad cross eyed trying to count PALS rows on a small website image but it’s so much better in the long run than waiting ages to get something just to find

This can apply to sizing on things like belts as well, but for large pouches and platforms it most definitely comes in handy. If you read the above linked article for example you’ll have seen a custom setup on the front of my MBAV cut FS Strandhogg – I had to very specifically buy the MBAV to make that whole thing happen as the SAPI cut I already had in my possession at the time simply lacked the necessary number of PALS rows to attach both the loop field and the female 1″ buckles. Just the same happened on the back as well, with the SAPI cut having the steeper angles at the top it lacked the necessary height of PALS rows, but the more rectangular MBAV provided more space and just manages to fit the Tyr panel.

As you can see the Tyr setup is simple to install, you just thread on the 2 separate zip mounts and you’re ready to attach any of the numerous panels that are on offer. There’s simple PALS panels like this one which have an internal space for a hydro, then there are other variants with sewn on pouches, one with a small pack and even one for specific breathing gear. Swapping between any of those, or indeed just going back to slick, takes around 30 seconds. The zip mounts have internal stiffening and are also available to buy on their own, so once you’ve bought a panel you can share that between multiple platforms if desired. Exactly the sort of product line-up that I like to see.

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Construction wise they definitely went all out on bar-tacks and webbing as you can see in the pictures. Personally if an option was available with none of the loops on the panel itself and with slicked down zip mounts I’d go for that. Even though I’m often a critic of hypalon I’d actually like to see the zip mounts made from said material, or even just a lighter cordura since they’re mostly going be covered and protected when in use – that would shave a nice bit of bulk and weight by comparison to the current all-webbing design. There’s no denying the long term durability you’re getting here though.

The only slight shame is that there’s no commonality or cooperation between manufacturers even though these rear zip panels have become quite popular now. For example, just off the top of my head I know Crye, Tyr Tac, Velocity and LBX are all making them but none of them are interchangeable on account of the zip types and panel sizes. There has been some standardisation on the Velocity Systems spec for front placard mounting so it is possible, but there’s been a lot more demand in the market for the placards by comparison to rear panels so you can see how the current situation has come about.

The picture accompanying this post shows the 70oz panel attached to a Medium Ranger Green FirstSpear AAC back panel, I’ve since moved the entire setup to my Medium Multicam MBAV Strandhogg but fortunately both are tall enough to accommodate. Again if this is something you’d like to add to your own kit be sure to take the time and count/measure everything up.

Tyr vs HSGI – Promiscuous Pouches

The toughest kind of gear writing is to try and compare two outwardly extremely similar products, or borderline identical in this instance. So let us examine the TYR Tactical, LLC Combat Adjustable magazine pouch versus the most obvious competition in the form of the standard High Speed Gear TACO (both pictured pouches are Tyr of course).
First thing to note is there are 2 main variants from Tyr, the standard ones that I have here and cost $33 each, then the ‘Happy Mag’ types which include a plastic clip internal to the base of the pouch (presumably kydex) and cost around $50 each. I’d probably find a lot more comparative differences in the Happy Mag version, but for my purposes the extra cost just isn’t justified when the TACOs already work well and I’m not 100% certain the overall function of the pouch would actually be better in terms of what I personally want out of it when the kydex is added.
I originally picked up a couple of the CAPs since I’d seen a few folks rave about them on forums as somehow being miraculously better than the TACOs and in reality the 1st gen attachment on the TACO had, without a doubt, annoyed me significantly. I was also cognisant of the fact that, at that time, I’d not found anything all-around better than the HSG design after many years of trying alternatives so I was keen to see if anything on the market could usurp the current king of the hill.
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Since the differences between the two aren’t necessarily immediately obvious even when holding both in front of you I’ll try to break them down as best I can. The first one that stands out to me is the size change, because they both share a height and depth but the CAP is slightly wider. Only by 6mm/~1/4″ but that is going to make the CAP slightly better suited to 762×51 magazines. On the other hand of course the TACO is perhaps very slightly better at dealing with 556 mags and will fare more positively when multiples of the pouch are stacked up or mounted adjacent to each other. The good thing about 545×39 and 556 mags of course is they fit very nicely and neatly in to the constraints of 2 columns of PALS, whereas other larger magazines can be mildly awkward when positioned next to each other purely on account of the design of the attachment system – certainly if we’re talking about more than 2 magazines being neighbours or a vest that is particularly crowded with equipment. Not a common situation perhaps but some folks will run their gear that way.
Attachment on the CAPs is achieved via integrated webbing strap using the tuck tail method that Crye also uses on the SPS, although the Tyr does not use Hypalon and the ends of each web strap are sewn double thickness to provide friction once doubled back and tucked. Frankly by comparison to current production TACOs I’ve got no real preference either way as once mounted it makes no odds and both pouches will sit securely at the same height.
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Routing of the bungee cord may look different from the TACO but adjustment is accomplished via the same manner and in the same location via a cord lock and the tail can be stowed up amongst the PALS if so desired. A difference is that the sides of the CAP are cordura laminated on to free floating strips of plastic, whereas the TACO of course incorporates a U-shaped injection moulded piece that is riveted in to the base of the pouch.
On the inside the CAP has small sections of non-slip material to aid somewhat in adding friction for retention whereas the TACOs have small areas of loop velcro in the same areas so the end user may add adhesive hook to their magazines. The CAPs also come standard with bungee over-mag retention and while the HSG design incorporates a webbing tap on the front to add the bungee there is none included by default.  The stitch work from Tyr is easily recognisable as the superior of the two products in question. The per inch count is far higher, doubly so in fact at 10 stitches per inch vs 5 on most areas of the HSG pouch. The bar tacks are also far neater and more compact. That said I’ve never had issue with a TACO falling apart on me by any stretch, but the numbers are the numbers.
Drawing of a magazine is smooth and easy on both competing pouches though I think reinsertion is perhaps slightly easier on the TACO. There is often a certain amount of wrangling to be done with both designs, but the CAP tends to close in towards the body whereas the TACO will tend to close up in the perpendicular fashion with the tips of either side of the U-shape insert coming closer together at the top/opening of the pouch. I tend to find that the natural motion of inserting a mag will make life slightly easier with the HSG design in terms of re-opening the top.
Overall, if there are any nuances about the CAP you prefer then by all means go for it, especially since it retails for a dollar less than the TACO (OEM’s websites) and is better sewn. There’s certainly not enough difference to go to the bother of selling all your TACOs and upping sticks, but if you’re in the market for an adjustable or multi-mag compatible pouch I certainly would keep the Tyr offering in mind. Also stay tuned because thoughts on the FirstSpear Multi-Mag will be forthcoming at some point in future and that thing is an entirely different kettle of fish#.

Half – 1 – Half

Using this TYR Tactical, LLC Gunfighter-E as a jump off point, let us talk belts a little bit. Just as a priming note, from this point on I’ll be describing the depicted style as a simulated 3 row belt, or just simulated 3, since it basically does the job of 3 inches (vertically) of PALS space, despite only being a 2″ tall piece of gear.

First off, why choose the Tyr out of the dozens of options on the market for a belt that features 2 rows of half inch webbing with a 1 inch gap? Well first off bear in mind this was originally ordered nearly 2 years ago now so when I buy another belt of this type it may come from a different brand, however at that point there weren’t quite as many prime cut choices from the big names available. The two options that consistently came up in discussion were the Tyr Gunfighter and Ronin Tactics variant. Every drone and his dog was buying the Ronin which I personally believe is an overpriced piece of gear made by a company which has quite literally zero originality in its’ product design. Granted it is a long running debate as to the fact that there’s nothing new under the sun and especially so in the world of gear, which is somewhat true and almost every company copies some ideas in some form or another, but if your *entire* product line is seemingly comprised of intellectual theft you will not get any of my cash – end of story. That notion will probably rub some folks up the wrong way, but if you came here for niceties and appeasement of the popular brands/products instead of what I find to be the complete and raw truth, you made a bad decision. I think Ronin is great at marketing and social media… and that’s about it.

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Obviously the materials the Tyr uses are more than up to the job, particularly reassuring is the main body of webbing being the same as some parachute harness straps I’ve worn, as well as the AUSTRIALPIN Cobra front and centre. If you want an example with regards the stitch work throughout I’d recommend taking a look at the sheer volume of thread in the zig-zag pattern to the right of the label and any of the bar-tacks that are visible. I’ve had traditional 3″ PALS belts in the past (and indeed plate carriers) where the bar-tacks in the PALS webbing could not take the strain applied over time by the tight MALICE clips on first generation HSGI TACOs. Even though those exact pouches are long out of production, I still judge any traditional webbing PALS (i.e. not laser cut) via an assessment of whether the tacks would hold up to mounting a legacy TACO over an extended period. If the strength is there to withstand that, the strength will be present for aggressive usage. The sewing on the grosgrain ribbon that is covering the cut ends of the webbing adjacent to the cobra buckle is at a low count per inch granted, however it is more of an aesthetic nicety than anything else and despite the appearance in the picture, is very much straight and level.

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So yes it’s all built very nicely, the PALS is neatly in spec, the hook & loop interface you’d expect for a modern belt of this type is present and the spacer mesh ‘base belt’ that comes included is frankly a superb piece of design work. But absolutely nothing is perfect so what are the negatives? Primarily the design of the adjustment, whereby you are losing a good few columns of PALS in an area that will be quite crucial for a lot of people. That said, the disparity is not as drastic as first appearance would suggest and unless you need equipment mounted in front of your pistol on your weapon/strong side it is a simple matter of slightly offsetting the entire belt. It doesn’t take much of a shift to get your pistol mag pouches settled in the spot you’re likely to want to have them settled. Newer designs do facilitate adjustment in a better way and maybe an update would be a good move, however the Gunfighter design has been around a lot longer than many others and from what I’ve researched it did a fair amount in terms of growing the entire concept and popularity of simulated 3 row belts within the gear market.

Is there still any value in older style belt sleeves with 3 full rows of PALS vs a new 2″ belt with two half inch rows of webbing? In terms of full on PLCE or ALICE style setups yes, but I think you need to be mounting a great many pouches around your waist with a substantial combined internal volume before you make that step change to the old ‘warbelt’. Fact is the British Infantryman is the master of belt webbing and as the gear they use shows, PALS isn’t actually necessarily the best choice for setting up a belt as primary load carriage for a large amount of equipment. Some older and less modular, but more robust, systems tend to be the preference and I can understand that entirely. For myself in a hobby context when I only have a holster, dump pouch and a couple of mags on a belt, the much lower overall bulk of an unpadded 2″ belt is definitely the way to go. Even if just from a transportation perspective let alone anything else. Given how many years a great many folks have spent searching for a solution to their belt gear not bouncing around when running or riding up when crouching, there’s just no arguing the merit of the velcro interface compared to the classic old thickly padded 3″ belts that lacked said interface. Especially given that they tended to have extraneous mesh and cordura above and below the actual PALS rows, resulting in a belt that could be pushing 4 or 5 inches tall in places. Not conducive to unhindered quick movement.

In future I’ll be looking to the Raptor Tactical Odin Mark IV and Eagle Industries simulated 3 row belts as potential purchases.

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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.

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.