Heard You Like Belts

I’ve got a fair old collection of loop covered inner belts at this point, though mostly they’ve come with other belts whereas this inner belt from G-Code Holsters is one I did purchase separately a while back. If I remember my own thought process correctly (from March 16) the G-Code was offered in grey which was fairly uncommon at the time, I was placing an order with G-Code anyway, I was considering buying the Velocity Systems Operator’s Utility belt in grey and wanted something to match. The Vel Sys OUB however came out at a time when the PALS belts featuring 3 full rows were dying off and the 0.5/1/0.5 belt was really taking over the market.

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This inner belt closes slightly differently to others in that there’s an adjustable G hook. On the one hand, with the way velcro works it takes an immense amount of force to separate if you try and pull it apart laterally, rather than simply peeling the 2 parts in the usual fashion. So the chances of your inner belt coming apart in such a manner are pretty much as close to zero as makes no odds to my mind. On the other hand, if you do want to 100% fully guarantee security the option is there for serious users. As you’ll note in the 2nd image I removed the G hook and folded the 1″ section entirely back on itself, reverting back to a purely velcro closure. Many other inner belts work in the same manner and for holding up your trousers as well as interfacing with a PALS belt it works perfectly well.

Construction is a 1.5″ webbing, stitching is straight and secure as you’d expect of course with a full and complete outer covering of loop.

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M81 Hair Cut

I have a somewhat similar attitude to caps as I do combat shirts – If I can find a good quality one that’s fully patterned I’ll go for it.

If you’ve ever owned a FlexFit hat this FirstSpear iteration in US Woodland isn’t a huge departure. I’d call it more of a merch item rather than proper kit designed for duty use, given the rivet has been left up top which means it’s not ideal for wearing with Comtacs and the like. Comes pre-faded in a cotton blend fabric which is certainly comfortable to wear, just not practical if you’re expecting any actual weather.

ReFactor Tac do produce a woodland version of their blasting cap and while I’m generally a big fan of said cap’s design, the M81 looks really fake and most of the material is plain grey stretch. Much better sweat wicking that way of course, but the FirstSpear has it by far in the looks department and if performance is the concern instead of aesthetics then you’d be better served by other options.

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More Modularity – Holsters

One of my SOC Rigs from G-Code Holsters; I picked up a new light shroud which unfortunately turned out not to work on an x300 but I chalk that up to airsoft gun dimensions. Either way it was a good reason to mention these holsters today since they’re not very well known, but I think they should be. I also need to post the HSGI high-ride leg rig I’ve got for mounting these at some point, because I made it long before tactical social media was a thing and it also far predates the common Safariland UBL + 1 leg strap setup that’s ubiquitous these days.

As far as both these holsters and the aforementioned leg rig, I found them via a good buddy of mine who used to work for PTS and was a trail blazer in the tac gear world for civilians who play airsoft and take weapons manipulation classes (which are the ‘grown up’ equivalent of bbbattles for a lot of folks lets be real). At the time, the universal fabric holsters that nobody with sense would dream of using these days had finally died their death, kydex was coming on strong, but any time you wanted to change light on your pistol you’d have to wait goodness knows how long for Raven, G-Code or whoever else to get around to making the very specific new holster you wanted.

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With just a few screws the lower cowling on the SOC can be changed and all the commonly available quality pistol lights are catered to. Combining this with the G-Code RTi system you’ve got an awful lot of modularity as to which sidearm you sling on your hip and how said weapon is configured. By comparison to a fixed kydex pistol caddy on a belt slide mount it’s an absolute breeze to change things around and doubly so if you’re running lots of PALS compatible belts vs just a plain 1.75 or 2″ duty belt.

The hood retention is flipped down by spring pressure when the user presses straight down on a button upon initially creating the 3 finger grip around the frame, so it’s a perpendicular motion to Safariland. It certainly functions fine but I have found that when you wear the SOC Rig on your hip and also wear gear on your torso then lean to the side, your torso rig can end up podging down on the retention button leaving the pistol only held in by friction. This has never been a problem for me in hobby usage and this design has been for sale for many, many years with no serious complaints being abound online that I’ve seen. Quite the opposite.

Assuming I didn’t have to use the AWFUL issued Radar rig, I don’t know if this would be my absolute number one choice for duty use given one knows which light they’d be using and sticking with (for example) a certain model of SureFire, LLC X300 for many years. But the build quality is of course right up there with G-Code. The plastics can take a beating and all the metal hardware and operating parts are built to go the distance. Any time I’ve got a pistol/light combo that can fit in a model these guys offer, that’s the option I’ll take.

PCU Primer Pt 2 (Things You Should Learn If You Haven’t Already)

I mentioned over the weekend I’d be sharing a very important article; why important? Because if you’ve read the aforementioned post along with perhaps some of my previous posts about layering as a system for inclement weather, then this piece right here is THE definitive guide all written down in one place.

There’s a couple of good online resources about PCU (though not too much that’s recent) and ITS Tactical not only has one of the newest written pieces on the subject but between their YouTube channel and website it’s certainly one of the best resources when it comes to this topic. Especially how it relates to the military and any outdoor pursuit, be it camping, hiking, hunting, extended types of airsoft games or anything else where you need to look after yourself away from hard shelter.

If you’re perhaps still scratching your head on what PCU stands for, it’s Protective Combat Uniform, and has been issued in various forms to US SF for many years now; longer than you’d probably expect given the fabric technology used. The standard US Army clothing system known as ECWCS (extended cold weather clothing system) works off essentially the same numbering and layering system. There’s slight variations in patterns, cut and fabrics but it’s overall really quite close to PCU. Now the old CS95 we used to have here was a rather obsolescent interpretation of the same idea but PCS implementation has brought our issued kit much closer to PCU and ECWCS, with the main exception of a lack of Level 5 softshell layer and that we’re hanging on to the smock.

The general concept and the archetypes of clothing items you find within each level of PCU can be seen mirrored in various civilian style outdoor/mountaineering type clothing lines produced by all sorts of companies.
Gaining an understanding of what each layer or level can do for you will be truly invaluable knowledge. Often a manufacturer will work to the same system but won’t use the numbering in their product nomenclature, leaving you the consumer to figure things out. Arc’teryx being a key example but O P Tactical Gear Store have a great sub-section of their clothing section which assigns layer numbers to items for you. However once you have this sort of information yourself you will make you look back and think “bloody hell I was doing seriously stupid stuff before” AND crucially you’ll be able to instantly recognise where any given item you’re looking at buying will fit in with the rest of your gear and whatever your end usage is for said gear.

Now, you don’t need to own every layer from 1 to 7 to utilise this sort of setup, far from it actually. You will basically never end up wearing every layer at once. But from the perspective of the duty and hobby usages you personally are most likely envisaging, the fact these items are so widely issued by the military means you can pick them up relatively cheaply as surplus and integrate them in to your gear bags and loadouts.

Now this is a long old read, no doubt, but if this is a new subject to you don’t fret at first like I did when I was trying to gain and understanding. If you can just grasp the basic intentions and the foundation of what the key layers will (and won’t) do for you then you’ll be in a far better position of understanding than you were yesterday, I absolutely guarantee that.

Protective Combat Uniform and Equivalents

Seeing an awful lot of people online/out on the actual streets shockingly under prepared for the unprecedented snowfall we’ve had here in the UK.

I removed (by various means) a blanket of a good 6″ of snow off my car roof and windscreen earlier then shovelled out a channel in front of it before the sun went down in the hope said snow wouldn’t all freeze solid overnight. Then I did the same with my parents’ car. Currently crossing all my fingers that the gritters will get around to me by the time I try and go anywhere tomorrow. I’m in the suburbs of London here, so it must be a hell of a lot worse further north and in the countryside and yet even here the sheer weight and volume of snow on my roof was genuinely impressive.

Good opportunity here of course to break out all these layering items that sit dormant through a lot of the seasons. Not that I was going on an epic trek (far from it) but I’ve learnt over the years to layer down when I’m running around and bulk up when I’m not really moving far, the latter being the case today. Also remember that regardless of the task you’ll always do a better job if you’re concentrated on said task rather than shivering and when it’s 0 or below you will get bloody cold in under 5 minutes without good insulation.

I opted for just a regular t-shirt, then grabbed my Beyond Clothing A3 Alpha jacket, which was one of their entirely civvie looking variants in grey with no loop fields; thin nylon shell with a thin layer of light Polartec alpha. In terms of insulation it would be rivalled by some thicker L2 items that are considered base, but the A3 also packs down to nothing. Next, since I was going all out, on top of that I went for the Snugpak Original Sleeka that I picked up from PLATATAC in a sale a while back. For those who are familiar the Sleeka is a lot like the Brit issued softie jacket, only the construction is overall a step above in quality. It’s a big and ‘puffy’ PCU L7 equivalent and with the full roll-out of all the layers in PCS a similar jacket now seems to be standard issue, whereas it was deployments only in the past under CS95. I spent a large portion of my time down the Falklands with a softie jacket living almost permanently inside my smock, and for barrack wear (with just a CS95 t-shirt and shirt underneath) that was a winning combination. So I’ve got a lot of love in my heart for the softie jacket these days.

If you were to go off the PCU charts and the way the numbers work, your big puffy L7 jacket would always be the outermost layer and some people seem to imply that should be the case, but I’ve never personally found it better to have a jacket that’s all about insulation on the outside of a jacket that’s about water repellency, so fully encompassing my L3 and 7 I went with the Группа 99 | Gruppa 99 softshell L5. It’s a frequent go-to for me outside of airsoft because it may have arm pockets but it lacks arm loop and it’s not a camo pattern, not to mention of course that decent L5 shells are just immeasurably versatile. The size I ordered turned out to be a tad too long and maybe a tad roomy, which is in actually quite ideal for fully shrouding layers underneath that won’t repel external moisture. With L5 outermost you avoid having snow melting on to the very thin synthetic shell of your insulating jacket, soaking through in to the fibres that are keeping you warm and reducing their effectiveness. The ability to shed a certain amount of rain makes L5 shells very handy indeed at keeping out snow, because the fabric and treatments easily handle the small volume of water that does melt on to you.

I ended up spending a lot of time digging snow out of door handles and around wiper blades with my hands and the Sealskinz Dragon Eye gloves did pretty well overall. Considering the circulation in my hands is pretty poor compared to the average person they weren’t suffering much at all when I got back in. The synthetic leather palms were very much sodden but the insides didn’t seem to be wet. These gloves were very much a compromise purchase for me realistically since they offer good insulation but in a comparatively thin build that actually allows for manipulation of magazine catches, triggers and zips and buckles on kit. I’ve been a big fan of the classic issued leather ‘assault’ gloves for years given they are entirely waterproof, insulate fantastically and still just about allow some dexterity, so those would’ve worked even better for the task at hand given insulation was far more a priority than dexterity.

Hat wise I grabbed my trusty Outdoor Research beanie, which I believe to be their Wind Pro model. It’s a fairly thick fleece lining with a poly/spandex outer that goes around the ears like a champ while still staying just about out of your field of view. Unlike my Arc’teryx beanies which I can’t wear for more than 5 minutes without having to take off to scratch my entire scalp, the OR simply stays comfortable and doesn’t feel like it ever lets the slightest bit of heat escape your skull. If anything it almost does too good of a job.

Now is this huge over analyses for shifting some snow? Yes. But as I said at the start I’ve seen a lot of people today wearing essentially their normal fashion clothes with a basic coat chucked on top with a hat and then suffering for it. My plan at some point is to produce a decent length video explaining PCU layers (and equivalents) further and my experiences of which ones are useful and when.

I think generally in the forces people tend to have a reasonable grasp of their issued layering system – the colder it is, the more insulation, rain jacket when it rains, softie/fleeces under your smock when not running around etc etc. But that’s easier to do when you’ve been issued all that kit and most likely been forced to learn to use it through some inclement weather in phase 1 training. However there’s a tendency for the likes or airsofters and recreational shooters and other outdoors types to see anything outside of guns, plate carriers and helmets (or equivalent popular/key items in a given hobby) as uninteresting – not worth investing the time to learn about them or the money to acquire them. This often seems to apply to eye pro, good boots and any layering other than maybe a budget softshell jacket; though I use the term softshell loosely when it comes to some brands. Also very few people seem to grasp the fact that continuing to wear their regular cotton-blend camo uniforms when it’s wet and freezing is a nonsensical move. Hint – combat shirts were designed for people sweating their balls off running around in armour in the desert, they’re not in any way going to assist you in the cold, mud, rain and snow and are an inferior base layer under a shell.

I’ve no doubt there are lots of fair weather hobbyists out there and I’ve been guilty myself in the past, but there’s simply no reason to miss out on doing what you enjoy or being uncomfortable doing it for a large portion of each year if you just take a bit of time to learn about different layering options. As I say I’ll be putting together a video on this topic at some point and I’ll also be linking to a truly fantastic article over on ITS Tactical. It’s an article with a much higher word count than even this post, but this post itself will act as a fairly decent primer so that you’re not going in to the full explanation of PCU with no frame of reference. I tried that a long time ago and being a simple-minded armourer it took a lot of mental effort to genuinely grasp the key points that were being put across amongst all the detail that is provided.

Modular Modularity

For those wondering about sizing on the G-Code contact chest rig bags and what I keep in them, here’s a couple of custom made modular PC placards from Dead Coyote Tactical Nylon which fit said bags perfectly. Unfortunately DCTN don’t seem to be in the gear making business any more, but thanks to the proliferation of the modular fronted carrier idea you can get these placards retail from various companies who build relevant PCs. For example Velocity Systems/Mayflower R&CEsstacand Warrior Assault Systems/UKTactical, not to mention any 3-mag chest rig with the right side-release buckles and hook backing like the ubiquitous Spiritus Systems.

Although there’s no universally recognised ‘spec’ for these panels, the sizing format of 6 columns x 5 rows is pretty well standardised across various manufacturers at this point. Similar story with the placement of the male buckles and using hook velcro to back the placards. There are other systems out there of course like the SKD Systema and Ferro Concepts (as well as some very rare FirstSpear prototypes) that use G hooks instead of 1″ buckles, as well as Crye’s velcro-on panels. But I think if we’re looking at this in the context of a format war, then what you’re seeing in the image below is very much in the lead and most likely to win in the long term.

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I opted for solid webbing instead of alternating rows on my panels to allow best placement of any pouch that happens to be 4 PALS rows tall instead of 3 or 5. Also had the corners cut at 45 degrees with webbing tabs for easy removal if necessary, which is more important if you’re using a classic cummerbund that requires fully ripping up the front flap to don or egress from your armour. Height of the buckles is non-adjustable on these, but as you’ll see on some Vel Sys products that’s easily achievable by simply making the 1″ webbing longer with appropriately facing hook and loop to interface with the back of the panel.

These 2 examples were ordered with blanking plates on the backs for storage because I’ve had too many clothing items ripped and eaten up by exposed hook, but if you don’t have a blank the same effect is of course easily mimicked with various other materials. While you can of course purchase lots of different placards of this size which have magazine pouches sewn on in various common and handy configurations, I think the classic PALS setup to allow fitment of any aftermarket pouch is always a safe bet.

Strandhogg Iterative Updates

Went all in on the title I’ll not lie, but hey that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

I picked up a new MBAV cut Strandhogg from FirstSpear only a few weeks back and since it is pretty much their flagship product and they’ve made a fair few changes to the design I wanted to go over those while A) I still had my old one as it’ll be sold off to make room and B) the new rig wasn’t yet setup and covered with all the pouches and modular placards/panel systems I had here waiting to be attached.

To be 100% honest I’m not personally a fan of the interior design on the new cummerbund or the way it adjusts. I don’t mount stuff inside there, the mesh always helps with airflow and dissipating sweat and you lose adjustment range with the new wide elastic attachment vs the old design where the PALS slots carried on in to the back panel and you’d expose more when you made adjustments. Am I however a blurry-faced CAGGRU dude who’s probably put the feedback that lead to the new design? Well… that’s classified.

Occasional Visitor

Only item I own from Special Operations Equipment. Certainly the most pointless thing I posses.

But when you want a mascot to take away on any detachment or deployment, what better? They come in various sizes but I went for the XL of course. They also come in lots of colours and patterns, but the choice there was even more obvious.

He has a nickname, but I’m not going to post it here.

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Lovely, Lovely Storage

Something from G-Code Holsters that satisfies my OCD immensely – the contact chest rig system bag.

First thing I’ll say is I don’t think the contact chest rig gets anywhere near the attention it should given how goo-goo people get over the Spiritus, but then if there’s one thing we know there’s *definitely* no element of sheep-think or this-month’s-flavour in the tac gear world.

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The idea of this bag course is to house the G-Code contact chest rig when loaded up with pouches and mags etc. It’s sized just right for that purpose. Could you just wrap the thing in a cheap supermarket bag? Sure, it’d keep the mud and grit out of your mags if you stash the rig in the car boot or whatever, no drama. But if you do happen to want a more durable storage or transport option then this bag will serve you well.

Where I realised these bags would fit my desires (“needs” would be a stretch) perfectly is storing placards. I’ve got 3 different plate carriers that are either built or adapted to accept the standardised(ish) size of modular front panel using a pair of 1″ side release buckles and hook+loop. Of course if you have that system it’s pretty pointless to only have 1 placard, so where do you store those spares in a neat and easily accessible manner? Using colour matched bags made from cordura in the expected military gear style fashion. How else you silly sausage?

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With the contact rig being sized for 3 x 30 round 556 mags, the complementing storage bag works out to be just the right size for the most common type of placard, which will be 6 columns x 5 rows of PALS to accommodate 3 commonly available magazine pouches. There’s enough depth in each bag to store at least 3 placards with stiffened pouches like TACOs, but if you use all-fabric pouches or even something super slim like BFG TenSpeeds you could easily fit in at least 6.

Not a terribly complex item as you can imagine. Loop field for whatever you like on the front, coil zips with paracord sheath pulls, built inside-out with ribboned seams and very nicely constructed handle up top comprising 2″ webbing that’s been folded in and sewn in to a more comfortable carry shape. Doesn’t open symmetrically as you’ll note, which means you have a flap or lid of sorts which is pretty nice for accessing the contents. Only thing I’m not a fan of is the field of hook that runs along across the top of the bag on the inside; exposed hook likes to eat other gear and it’s really stitched in to the construction of the bag so no unpicking it. But some cheap loop to cover that won’t exactly bankrupt you.

Whenever I pick up another PC or Chest rig that takes placards in a different colour I’ll honestly be looking forward most to adding another one of these bags on to the top shelf there. Something which is easily done to compliment whatever kit you use because they offer a very wide range of solids and camo patterns when you buy one of these.

Hopefully some of you will find the aesthetic of this 3rd image as deeply satisfying as I do.

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Though You Still Can’t Beat Surplus Prices

I was a bit torn making this video, because I felt I was almost betraying my gear whore principals in a way, but on the other hand I don’t think I’ve ever pretended that buying the super high end kit turns you in to the SF equivalent of Superman either.

Most likely I’m going to bring up the SKD Tactical ‘Enhanced Combat BDU Shirt’ a few more times in the near future because I’ve got a couple of other field cut shirts in original MC that I’m planning on going over and none of them get close to beating the SKD in terms of value. Do they (higher end shirts) look and feel more premium in general, handy little features in the pockets, more pockets maybe, more time and effort put in to cutting the fabric and stitching it all together? Yeah, no doubt. I’ll continue talking about that sort of gear just because I want to put out the information, as I always have, such that if you do want to spend the money you can at least get a bit more detail than a website product description before you invest so much. Plus of course I just enjoy collecting that sort of product and I can only publish info on the products I have.

All that said, for a shirt to cover your torso and camouflage you, carry a few items in pockets, protect you from the sun and certain abrasive things better than a t-shirt will; well I’d be dishonest frankly if I tried to claim that anything from Patagonia, Crye, Arc or Beyond did anything magical that this SKD shirt doesn’t, it can even take elbow pads. At the basic level of things that matter like durability, wearer’s comfort and practicality in usage, the difference between the really gucci brands and this shirt is quite little.