Oakley introduced the Alpha Ecosystem with the knowledge of the extremely dynamic and challenging environments that the modern operators have to face in combat. This multi piece kit is designed to be quickly and easily reconfigured to each mission without any compromise in either performance or protection.
Oakley has been the leader in the eyewear market for ballistic protection, usability and clever designs that could enhance the performance amongst athletes and especially military forces.
The Alpha was conceived as an ecosystem composed of two main pieces: an M Frame® and goggle. The knowhow gained in the past decade in field interchangeability of lenses joined with the feedback from the battlefield has brought Oakley to the concept of merging goggle and glasses in one of the quite possibly one of the most user-friendly eyewear/eyepro systems ever manufactured.
A substantial advantage of having the same lenses available for both goggles and M Frame® is that it broadens even more the gamut of lenses available for each platform.
Usually Lenses are compatible between different glasses but not amongst goggles, this is not the case for the Alpha ecosystem.
For the Alpha system Oakley manufactures (as of July 2018) Clear, Grey, Prizm Shooting TR22, Prizm Shooting TR45, Prizm Shooting TR45 Titanium Iridium, Prizm Snow Jade Iridium, Prizm Snow Rose, Prizm Snow Black Iridium and Prizm Grey.
1) HALO Goggle:
– Airborne Operations Mobility Platform
2) M Frame® Glasses:
– Close Quarter Combat
3) M Frame® Glasses + HELO Gasket:
– Rotary Wing
– Mobility Platform
– Infil and Exfil (HAFing and possibly very dynamic GAFing)
The array box includes:
• HALO Goggle
• M-Frame Glasses
• HELO Gasket
• Large microfiber bag for the goggles
• Smaller microfiber bag for the M-Frame
• 4 lenses: TR45, TR22, Clear and Smoke
• Antifogging solution
• Strap for the M-Frame for securing the stems during high mobility activities
M Frame® Alpha Glasses
The Alpha were designed with tactical use in mind; the frame has a peculiar shape that eliminates entirely all blind spots that usually can be found in normal eyewear. When shouldering a long weapon, whether it is a carbine or a precision gun, the natural posture includes a slight tilt of the head forward in order to have a better cheek weld and bring the eye closer to the optic.
The peculiar design of the Alphas allows to have an unimpeded view through the weapon’s optic without eliminating the frame (like in the Tombstone model) at the risk of possibly losing battlefield-type ruggedness.
The “free float” design of the lens provides a very high degree of ventilation. Unlike the older M-Frame models, the upper horizontal frame is completely cleared from the forehead giving enough tolerance for a continuous airflow to prevent fogging either on the move or stationary.
Because the M-Frame Alpha has built-in ventilation within the frame the anti-fogging capability is broadened to all lenses available (unlike the older M-Frames, which had specific ventilated lenses).
The M Frame® are extremely light and comfortable: the stems are thin enough to be compatible with over the ear hearing protection or comms while still maintaining the minimum thickness to be forgiving on the ears during prolonged use. The stems , together with the Unobtanium™ nose piece, are capable of keeping the eyewear in place even very effectively, even when exposed to copious amount of sweat.
With only three points of contact and with an extremely wide field of view these lenses can truly maximize and possibly enhance the vision of the user and the situational awareness.
Comparing the M Frame® Alpha to older Oakley SI products for a better understanding, the lens shape is similar to the Hybrid variation on the older M Frame®.
When it comes to lens interchangeability the M Frame® Alpha are truly second to none, the mechanism is very intuitive, repeatable and perfectly secures the lenses even after months of hard use.
The goggle frame is made of a soft flexible polymer that provides enough ductility to allow for a simpler lens changeability. Three venting ports are placed on the upper portion allowing a very natural and seamless airflow through the system. During high intensity activities the foam is very comfortable and does not cause skin irritation, both in hot and cold weather; after the use it dries quickly.
The removable straps included in the kit are made of a durable stretchable material that is lined with two silicone stripes in the inner portion for a secure grip on smooth surfaces of helmets. The closing mechanism is simple but clever; the occipital portion of the strap is slightly thicker and is lined with hook on the inner side and loop on the outer, this is symmetrical among the two straps. Because of the abundance of the hook and loop lined portion, the straps can overlap and it is possible to utilize the goggles even without an helmet, or if necessary cut any excess material if are only going to be used on helmets (this is also possible because the hook and loop section is stitched and intervals allowing to cleanly cut a section away).
The HELO Gasket, as the name suggests, is an accessory that could be mounted between the M Frame® lens and the users eye to seal the optic and block out wind, dust, sand or debris in general from entering the user’s eye. Since it is made of a soft rubberized polymer, the HELO gasket is very comfortable and it can be easily attached to the frame with a tight and secure fit.
Unlike the older generation M Frames, the M Frame® Alpha utilizes the negative notch in the center portion of the frame as an anchor point for the gasket’s hook. This allows to have a very low profile, especially compared to other models.
The Alpha can be purchased either in an array or piece by piece for a specific mission requirement.
The two arrays differ only in the container utilized: a compact square case or a strongbox. The first is more suited for actual practical transportation, while being more compact than the strongbox still provides enough protection and security to the lenses if carried within other bags.
Since the array includes TR45, TR22, Clear and Smoke lenses, if there is a requirement for specific lenses from the Prizm Snow collection, it is recommended to compose a personal array purchasing each item piece by piece.
In the reviewing process, one aspect on which we had focused a lot of attention was the optical alignment of the lens, both in the M-Frame and in the HALO Goggle. Despite the fact that the lens inter-changeability is extremely simple and fast, in both platforms, the three points of contact that hold the lenses in place are very effective and repeatable. All Oakley lenses are well known for the optical quality but the combination of the Prizm technology with this kind of support structure provides unequalled results.
The true innovation stands in the modularity of the whole ALPHA system. After over 6 months of use in all weather conditions we have to say that when it comes to usability Oakley has really knocked it of the park with the Alpha ecosystem.
The use of modular tactical load bearing belts has consistently grown in the past decade. The influence of special operations in tactical training and shooting techniques has brought a very versatile tool in the hands of many users. What is typically referred to as “first line” is, in fact, the primary layer on top of which the users equips himself. This terminology has been applied to professions in which there is a multi-level approach to equipment. In almost all cases the first line is the first to be applied before heading out of the door and the last to be taken off. Different professions require a multi line system for different purposes: Law Enforcement usually add a second-line (chest rig/PC) for special purposes while using the first line (belt) as the main source, on the other hand we usually see the opposite with military applications, in which the belt mounted equipment is a backup for the plate carrier. There are exceptions to this in both professions, for example we see often the positioning of the magazine designated for speed/emergency reloads placed on the belt at the 9 o’clock.
The crossovers between tactical and competitive shooting, ever present in the high end training arena, had brought much influence between the two, in techniques, methods and equipment design and manufacturing. Holster placement and magazine pouches placement has brought a greater level of attention to belt mounted equipment, especially in highly dynamic environments.
To achieve efficiency in biomechanics while maintaining a high degree of modularity, companies like FROG.PRO have brought to market lightweight and modular belt platforms and pouches like the COBRA Operator Belt.
3 x FROG.PRO Pistol-SMG-1-EOT, single
2 x FROG.PRO Multi-1-EOT, single
Gerber Gear MP1-AR WEAPONS MULTI-TOOL
Safariland ALS holster for Glock19 w/ Streamlight TLR-1 HL
FROG.PRO Trousers Inner Belt
FROG.PRO COBRA Operator Belt
FROG.PRO 2-V2M Belt Adapter
Blue Force Gear MICRO Trauma Kit Now!
Safariland Low Belt Mount
Tourniquet mounted on the belt via elastic bands (not shown)
Multi-1-EOT, Single – Multi-platform Rifle Pouch designed for AR, AK and other dimensionally similar magazines.
Function and Performance:
The combination of rigidity and flexibility is achieved through the merge of three high quality materials:
- The Laser-Cut LAHYCO laminated panel provides a versatile attachment point for other pouches or miscellaneous items to the outer portion
- The Elastic fabric enlarges the gamut of magazine types by providing an inherently conforming pressure to the content that is reliable and repeatable
- The Hypalon lined inner portion, in conjunction with the inward pressure given by the elastic fabric, ensures a secure retention of the content into the pouch with superficial friction that is extremely effective with polymer, stainless steel and aluminum magazines
The pouch features shock cord and speed tab for additional retention in airborne employments and operations involving high speed vehicles, but can be easily removed.
Because of the high level of retention provided by the two panels of Hypalon the pouch can be safely utilized without the shock cord and speed tab.
The anchor points of the shock cord are inherent in the design of the laser cut LAHYCO panel, which provide an eyelet-free construction. This feature is particularly beneficial in the reinsertion of magazines when the shock cord is removed, which ensures a snag-free operation.
The pouch can be mounted and effectively utilized on both belt and chest rig/plate carrier platform and allows an effective extraction from both position, also for emergency reloads.
The pouch features a WTFix attachment system for PALS/MOLLE platforms. The pouch utilizes three rows of PALS.
The 100mm elastic section provides a great degree of adaptability in order to accommodate different types of magazine. Its inherently variable compression nature meets the elasticity and stretch needed for retention without the use of bungee cord which are more susceptible to the elements and the test of time.
Lightweight and Maritime Applications:
The Proprietary LAHYCO laminated material from FROG.PRO is lightweight and features a high
level of tenacity and abrasion resistance. Combined with materials such as Hypalon and
(Stretch Fabrics), the textile products from FROG.PRO feature a high degree of water
repellency, which in maritime applications translate to higher mobility and lighter weight.
Pistol – SMG – Pistol Caliber Carbine pouch designed for:
- Single Stack / Double Stack Pistol Magazines
- 9mm / 45mm SMG and Pistol Caliber Carbine Magazines
This medical kit is meant to be a redundant last resort in case of trauma emergency when the main IFAK is not available. This system also becomes useful for training on the flat range, especially when working on the fundamentals without full kit or body armor. The construction of the FROG.PRO COBRA Operator belt and the use of the COBRA buckle allows for practical repelling solution (with the use of an additional leg harness).
Hard cases have become an effective tool in equipment and valuable protection; in certain industries, for example expedition photography, it has been a vital necessity for sustaining the lifespan of fragile instruments in harsh environments.
With the development and expansion of industries and activities which involve the use, transportation or storage of valuable and expensive equipment there has been a growing need for an effective and reliable system that could provide this degree of protection.
When it comes to the firearm industry there is also a fourth factor that corroborates the need of a hard case: the security. Whether it is for travel for a match or tactical training away from home, for staying overnight in a hotel, or simply for raising the level of security of a truck gun the implementation of a tool such as a hard case could mean the difference between a gun in the hands of a good guy and a gun in the hands of a bad guy.
This contemporary firearm training [nomad] lifestyle that involves a much more dynamic and mobile approach to tactical training, in which users often times move domestically in the US requires a high degree of protection, security and practicality. A tool such as a high quality hard case becomes almost as a “mobile safe”.
Because of the extremely high quality standards, Explorer cases are able to sustain the shift of action from an everyday “urban” approach of protection from iniquitous acts to the conventional protective purpose from the elements out in the field; which is the actual origin of this type of case.
Depending on type of use, time of exposure and other key climatic factors, the field can be an extremely demanding environment to which only very few quality-focused cases can withstand.
The gasket’s design is usually a noticeable failure point for water-tightness; in order to overcome this possible issue, Explorer, has focused on the manufacturing process rather than the design itself. Instead of utilizing the ubiquitous rubber-polymer tube of which the connection point could potentially be the weakest point, they have implemented a system that extrudes a foam-like material directly into the gasket housing. This innovative manufacturing process has proven to be effective and reliable.
The IP67 waterproofness rating and the fact that it is retained without compromise throughout the lifespan of the case is directly related to the ruggedness of this gasket design, compared also to the weaker hollow-tube design.
Temperatures play a key role in the longevity of a gasket or sealant and Explorer does not utilize rubberized material O-ring or glue. As the temperature is decreased the rubber passes from a soft (easily deformed) and elastic state to a more rigid state and finally to a brittle glass-like condition. On the other hand glues tend to a detachment process when reaching higher temperatures, as well as freeze towards glaciation.
The water tightness is achieved also through an intrinsically mechanical strength of the closure design. The latches are sized to obtain a strong, secure and constant pressure along the perimeter between the case and the lid. Despite this the opening and closing process are facilitated mainly by two factors: the double-action of the mechanism (with two pivotal points) and the relatively large surface of the latch.
The hinges mechanism is reliable and the action is smooth and repeatable.
The hinges are designed to optimize the efficiency on the field by opening up to 90Deg and by staying open without the necessity of two-hand manipulation. Unlike other products on the market, the Explorer case does not tip over when opened empty…
Differently from similar products on the market, once closed, the Explorer cases latches do not make any [annoying] noise, which (even though it is not carried into direct combat action) is still, in our opinion, inappropriate in a “Tactical” weapons case.
One aspect in which we really wanted to focus was the tolerances between the parts of the assembly. The very high grade of precision in the dimensions of the lid, main case and metal rod protects the mechanism from any external agent, even after prolonged use in dusty and sandy environments.
The smoothness of the hinge mechanism is usually a substantial differentiation between high quality cases and less quality after some use in the field.
The case is provided with three handles, a primary, larger, and two secondary smaller. The handles are well built and very durable, the injection-molded polymer is tough and does not bend under the heavy load of firearms. Explorer produces all hinges with extreme accuracy; even after prolonged field use, with the case exposed to the elements, the movement of the handle is solid and repeatable, and the metal rod does not show weak points or corrosion. Even after the testing and evaluation process the handles stay in position, which is an explicit indication of quality.
The two secondary handles locate at the exact opposite side from each other provide a very comfortable two-men carrying solution, especially with heavier weapon systems. Of course with the 9413 one could only fit enough items, but with the larger models this feature could be vital.
In the central portion of the case, between the primary-handle attaching points, are located the air valve and the luggage nametag. The manual pressure release valve is a key component for operation with variable barometric excursion. The valve is designed with an internal stop ring, for preventing the user from overrunning it and completely extract it.
The nametag is protected by a translucent polymer shield and is only accessible when the case is open.
Four latches are located relatively to the four hinges of the case. Next to the four latches are positioned four padlock-able points, and with two of them being metal plated there is the possibility to safely lock the case with either standard padlocks or TSA approved ones. Explorer offers three different padlocks, a combination, a heavy-duty brass with key and TSA-approved. The combination padlock is designed with the chamfering of the edge inherently constructed in the dimensions, covering the entire pin (for enhanced security from tools such as bolt cutters) as well as tightly securing it and preventing it from swinging, which may be causing noise.
The case is provided with ball bearing wheels that enable a more comfortable and effective transportation of heavier items. The wheels are exposed enough to allow the case to be pulled from a wide range of angles, but the overall dimensional extremities still allow the case to stand in the upright position very solidly, even when loaded with firearms. The wheels are designed to be utilized also for pulling the case from a horizontal surface with an extremely low angle; this provides a high level of mobility when loading or unloading weapons from trucks of vehicles.
Even after carrying the case in all types of terrains for several months, the wheels spin smoothly and freely, do not show any stress point or failure points, and are still very silent.
The foam insert set consist of a convoluted panel for the lid, two pre-cubed sections and a thin stabilizing layer for the body. The pre-cubed foam allows for a high degree of customization by the user and seems to withstand weight and time.
As for the material utilized the main case sections are manufactured from an injection molded copolymer Polypropylene compound, which seems to have a good balance between rigidity and elasticity, for maximum toughness and protection. Throughout the heat of the summertime, the case has not shown any brittleness from the extensive direct sunlight exposure.
On the bottom side of the case are located eight rubberized feet for better stability both on surfaces and for stacking.
The Explorer Cases 9413 comes in three color-ways: Black, Desert Sand and Military Green, all available with or without the foam insert.
Below are some details and specifications:
Length: 939 mm | 36.97 in.
Width: 352 mm | 13.85 in.
Depth: 137 mm | 5.40 in.
Lid: 43 mm | 1.69 in.
Base: 94 mm | 3.70 in.
Length: 989 mm | 38.94 in.
Width: 415 mm | 16.34 in.
Depth: 157 mm | 6.18 in.
Weight (empty): 6.70 Kg
Weight (with foam): 7.70 Kg
For more details please visit: ExplorerCases.com
The assault pack has become widely popular in the last years because of its versatility in very dynamic applications such as direct action. The main function of this platform is to provide an augmentation of carriage to the user without compromising speed and efficiency. Because the environments in which the current asymmetrical wars are fought are usually very confined and hostile it is mandatory for the operator on the field to be as agile and unrestricted as possible, we are therefore experiencing an evolution in equipment in which compact, slick and efficient designs are prominent.
The category of direct action assault pack has morphed into a carrying system that varies in volume from the size of a Camelbak® to a maximum of 30 liter (usually and in theory). The main function of an assault pack is to allow the user to carry either supplemental combat essential equipment or lower-priority items without compromising mobility.
This type of equipment has gained a lot of traction also in the non-operative world due to the mythicization of “high speed” special operation forces in popular culture. Nevertheless the function of such a system is to allow the user to carry extra essential equipment into theater and to be utilized as a site exploitation bag if need arises.
Because of its essential nature the Blackhawk! Cyane Dynamic Pack is not provided with an internal rigid structure but it features a sheet of flexible polymer, of which the main purpose is to hold shape when the pack is empty.
The design of the pack focuses on the efficiency of movement and operation of the user; the narrow design and the ability to attach it directly to a plate carrier render this pack even more compact and volumetrically low profile.
Despite the very compact size, the pack is comprised of 5 separate pockets, which define the high level of usability of the pack. Because it is extremely vital, in dynamic environments, to be able to quickly and efficiently access essential gear, this feature is highly valuable.
In the upper area is locate the routing port for hydration and comms, which makes it convenient for ambidextrous use.
The numerous attachment points on the outer portion of the pack allow for external attachment. It could be said that is even possible to securely attach more equipment on the outside that it is possible to stow it inside.
The Cyane Dynamic Pack is provided with various sections of PALS webbing. Four main areas are spread throughout the outer surface of the pack: two lateral sections (7 rows x 3 columns each side) and two frontal sections (on the top 3 rows x 3 columns | on the bottom 3 x 4 columns). The size and position of the PALS panels allow to capitalize the area available with, for example, two or more ammo pouches.
During night MTB rides, and for signaling in general, we have secured on this surface red and green Chemlights or Nitizes on the respective side. The loop panel on the 3 x 3 PALS section is extremely useful for attaching S&S Precision V-Lites or Manta Strobes. It could also fit the CORE Survival HELSTAR 6 but because of its larger size and weight we don’t recommend it.
The shoulder straps are provided with copious attachment points, both vertically and horizontally, allowing the user to attach items like Princeton Tec light, strobes and of course hydration tubes.
The sternum strap can be moved vertically in order to accommodate most body types. The padding of the shoulder straps is extremely comfortable while maintaining a very low profile. Usually comfort comes at the expense of size, in this case Blackhawk! was able to manage a good balance between the two.
The inner portions of the pack are very minimal in design and material, the only internal organization available it the mesh pocket for hydration which is voluminous enough to accommodate up to a 3L reservoir.
The beavertail design allows the user to expand the size for storing items like rain gear, helmets or even tripods. With a very secure 6 points attachment the beavertail section can be tighten and released via QD buckles and webbing. When not expanded the beavertails “pocket” collapses and can be really reduced in footprint via adjustment points. The beavertail design effectively secures the equipment carried, this portion could be utilized as a secondary site exploitation carriage if need arises.
The inner portion of the backpack can accommodate more sensible material, like night vision and thermal; while the more exposed and more accessible pockets can be utilized for IFAK or medical kits in general.
The size and nature of this pack could be very suitable for transporting extra equipment during quick night hunting sorties.
The layout above displays the equipment that we utilize for night mountain biking in very rural areas. Everything shown is either worn or carried in the Cyane Dynamic Pack.
We have been using this pack since last spring and the quality of construction is on point where it needs to be. We would define “efficient” the quality of material and craftsmanship because it provides very good durability while maintaining a relatively light weight and a very competitive price point. The material used for the pack are Multicam® certified CORDURA® fabric and 500 rip stop fabric.
For a pack with this kind of design and volumetric capacity we have found some interesting applications that go beyond the operative theater, from hiking and mountain biking to climbing.
Overall, this backpack has a great potential for this industry. The average “tactical” user lives his daily life with a mindset that is tightly connected to efficiency and practicality; with this pack, because of its size and design it is possible to apply that same mentality and mindset of preparedness also to sports and outdoor activities in general. The Cyane Dynamic Pack is also available in solid colors for a more settle presence (Black, Coyote Tan, OD, Ranger Green and Urban Grey).
Blackhawk also produces a slicker version that does not have PALS webbing panels on the front and on the sides: the Cyane™ Stealth Pack. It also comes without the direct attachment to the plate carrier.
We appreciate the opportunity given by Blackhawk! to review this product.
Outdoor Research manufactures, without a doubt, some of the finest textile products in the outdoor industry. The Seattle-based company has mainly built its brand around the climbing, mountaineering and exploring community; and is now gradually increasing traction also in the tactical-military apparel market.
In the past OR, has manufactured gloves, beanies, hats, bivies and other products specifically oriented for the tactical industry. At SHOT Show 2017 we have covered the launch of a new line of tactical apparel(LINK), designed to be extremely versatile thanks to a modular layering system.
The first garment that has been released is the outer hard shell, the Infiltrator jacket.
Compared to a PCU (or Protective Combat Uniform) the Infiltrator jacket would be a level 6, which consists in a non-insulated hard-shell garment. In a PCU system the level 6 jacket and/or pant should be worn both with and without insulation underneath as it is designed to provide water protection both in warm and cold environments, as well as during both dynamic and static activities.
As we all know, insulation and warmth come at the expense of size and bulkiness, and therefore there is an issue with the mobility of the user, since traditional hard-shell fabric don’t provide any elasticity.
The revolutionary feature of Outdoor Research Infiltrator jacket is the GORE-TEX® Fabric with Stretch Technology, which is designed to solve the previously mentioned issues.
There are two specific advantaged related to the elasticity that we have experienced in the testing process: unaffected agility and ability to comfortably add layers underneath.
Unrestricted freedom of movement during high performance activities or gestures related to weapon manipulation. The GORE-TEX® Fabric with Stretch Technology panels are strategically placed in high mobile areas of the body, such as the inner-arm/ armpit as well as back / lats. These key points need to anatomically be free to expand in order provide enough liberty of movement.
Usually it is possible to feel a slight impeded movement when doing ready-up drills when wearing standard waterproof jacket; if you don’t, chances are that the garment fits loosely (which may be good for mobility but not as good for bulkiness).
With the Infiltrator, those key areas are well stretched and shooting with the jacked feels the same as shooting without, which in our opinion is the ultimate goal for a “tactical” garment manufacturer.
Ability to layer even with a very athletic fit.
The strategically placed stretch fabric panels provide a close fit in warm climates in which the jacket is worn without insulated layers underneath. At the same time, the fabric can stretch and expand to accommodate voluminous insulation layers in colder environments.
We appreciate the athletic cut of the Outdoor Research products; it is one of the features that differentiate their products from standard “military” manufacturers.
The background in the alpine, climbing, mountaineering and high-performance outdoor markets has brought a great level of know-how on their drawing board when designing a new tactical apparel line that would render the user’s movements as efficient as possible; we have, in fact, experienced negligible restriction of movement.
Freedom of movement, lightweight, pack-ability and durability of textiles are features that have been improving the “tactical” apparel segment and have originated within the performance-based outdoor community.
The streamlined design of the Infiltrator jacket provides higher comfort when wearing plate carriers, chest rigs or even backpacks, especially in dynamic environments.
The two areas in which we applied thoroughly testing were the sections considered to be under the most pressure when wearing a plate carrier, a backpack or a chest rig: the yoke and the shoulders.
The presence of a stretch panel in the cervical area of the neck provides a high degree of comfort and, in conjunction with the other stretch panels, keeps the yoke and shoulder areas wrinkle free under the weight of equipment. Under heavy rain, the fabric has kept waterproofing also in the areas in which pressure was directly applied.
As with all GORE-TEX® hard shell textiles, in warm and humid climates, the fabric has difficulty expelling moisture and heat from the inside of the garment. Therefore, we believe that quick drying is a mission essential feature that both the GORE-TEX® Fabric with Stretch Technology and the “standard” all-weather GORE-TEX® Military fabric are equipped with.
The hood was designed with a high degree of versatility in mind. It allows the user to comfortably cover the head when wearing a helmet as well as without headgear.
The “Halo-Hood” consists of a draw cord that runs the whole circumference of the head for precise adjustments and can be controlled via a cord-lock located in the occipital area of the head. The cord is enclosed in a mesh compartment sewn inside the hood, in our opinion this is a key feature if one uses tactical helmets that, equipped with lights and rails, may be caught by the hood itself.
The “Halo-Hood” provides extremely important adjustability especially if a helmet is not worn, due to the larger size of the hood in order to accommodate most helmets.
With or without headgear, the adjustments allow the user to closely secure the hood to the head; and because of the stretch panel located in the cervical area of the neck there is a large freedom movement (extension/flexion, lateral bend and especially rotation).
Vertical adjustment is provided by symmetrical draw cords accessible from the front that cinch down the hood from the temple area and are secured by cord-locks.
The helmet worn in the photos is an OpsCore helmet equipped with two S&S Precision V-Lites, a CORE Survival Helstar 6, a Princeton Tec Charge MPLS, a Princeton Tec Remix MPLS and a Oakley SI Alpha Ballistic Halo™ Goggle.
The hood provides protection to the elements even with this equipment mounted. We believe that all “tactical” oriented hard-shell should have such a feature-rich helmet.
SIDES and ARMPIT
The side of the jacket features a panel of GORE-TEX® Fabric with Stretch Technology that runs from the armpit all the way to the waistline; this section mostly allows the jacket to expand when worn on top of other insulated layers. The armpit has a no-seam construction and is not equipped with vent zippers, which could become uncomfortable after wearing with backpack straps and rifle slings for a prolonged period of time.
In order to cool down the user can open two symmetrical side vents located at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions. The two YKK® AquaGuard® Vislon zippers can be opened from the bottom, exposing the belt area or from the top, retaining a higher degree of protection from the elements with the internal storm-flap while cooling down.
The side vents can also be used to access holsters or belt mounted equipment. Shown in the photo below is a Safariland ALS holster with low-ride belt attachment.
The jacket features two capacious symmetrical front pocket (160 x 300 mm) that can be accessed via AquaGuard® zippers. The opening of the pockets is placed high enough in order to not interfere with harnesses or belt straps of backpacks.
The inner part of the pocket is built with a mesh fabric in order to allow the pocket to be used of venting, giving the user two different techniques for cooling down.
The materials used are undoubtedly innovative and, in our opinion, are truly going to raise the industry standard. Overall the Infiltrator jacket has been utilized for rucks, runs, hikes and for shooting and it does not show any sign of wear.
The equilibrium among freedom of movement, lightweight, durability, breathability, climatic adaptability and overall waterproofness truly render the Outdoor Research Infiltrator jacket a unique piece on the market and a must have in any environment.
The Infiltrator jacket is available both in Berry-Compliant and non Berry-Compliant version in Multicam, Coyote and Mas Grey.
For more information on the Outdoor Research Infiltrator Jacket please visit: Outdoor Research Tactical
The Blackhawk! Omnivore holster is designed to accommodate more than 150 types of handguns. What differentiates the Blackhawk! Omnivore from other multi-fit holsters on the market is the retention mechanism.
In the past we have seen various manufactures designing a multi-fit holster that was based on multiple handgun sizes and makes. This did not allow almost any of the firearms to have a good (and safe) level of retention because of the large tolerances that were needed in order to fit multiple models of pistols. This design, based on an engineering compromise could not ensure the consistency in the draw, the re-holstering and most importantly the retention; it was therefore not considered a valuable product by most consumers in the industry.
Blackhawk! has rethought the whole process and has designed the holster around the weapon mounted light and not around the weapon itself. This allows to have a very precise mechanism that retains and secures the weapon inside the holster. Since most modern pistols feature a rail attachment systems of some sort (below the fore-end of the barrel) this design is able to standardize the way that the holster gains the purchase on the weapon system. Blackhawk! has also designed the holster around those users that are not interested in utilizing a weapon mounted light.
The Omnivore Holster is available in three variants: for SureFire X300, for Streamlight TLR-1 and TLR-2, and for pistols without a light there is a very low-profile accessory that attaches to the rail.
The firearm is secured with a level 2 retention system that can be disengaged with a thumb activated mechanism. We have tried without any success to pull the gun out of the holster without pressing the thumb switch, even with rough force.
It is remarkable that Blackhawk! has designed an efficient and secure retention system that only locks on the weapon mounted light and not on the weapon’s frame itself. In the past we have witnessed some issues with other holster manufacturers that failed in retaining the weapon (and the holster was designed to utilize the whole frame of the gun for the retention).
The Omnivore holster also features a free-floating weapon design that was implemented mainly for avoiding any premature wear on the firearm caused by the friction of the draw and the re-holstering. We found this feature extremely useful when doing longer range sessions in which the firearm would heat-up and the free-floating design would help to cool it down faster. It is also useful for eliminating any issued with debris and dirt that may interfere with the weapon in rougher environments.
The thumb release is provided with three different sizes and it features a rubberized texture for a secure engagement under critical stress. With the thumb release mechanism adjusted to the correct size of the hand, the draw is very smooth and efficient; and with some practice it can deliver a very quick pistol presentation. The retention mechanism doesn’t disengage if the weapon is pulled at the same time, for added protection and security for all duty applications.
The holster comes with two different injection molded belt attachments, a standard curved belt loop and a paddle. Once the preferred attachment system is bolted to the holster, the whole system is very solid and does not bend or loosens under the weight of the sidearm.
We have mainly used the standard belt loop because it can accommodate both larger tactical belts (works also with a Cobra buckle) as well as smaller standard leather belts, for which Blackhawk! does provide an attachment that eliminates any unwanted movement.
It is also possible to attach the belt loop with various angles for better efficiency with the draw or for some specific requirements.
Blackhawk has kindly given us the chance to try and test this product, and after two months of hard use, the rugged and tough nature of the holster comes to the surface. The finish and the injection-molded frame still hold their shape and detail even after some bad falls and the retention system is as crisp and consistent as when it was new.
In a world of expensive and custom-made tactical products, we appreciate how Blackhawk has successfully designed what is, in our opinion, a high quality, affordable and effective standardized system that is capable of delivering great performance for most users of different segments of this industry.
You can find more information on the Blackhawk! Omnivore holster at: blackhawk.com/omnivore
High quality hard cases are a vital piece of equipment for maintain the best reliability of your tactical or sporting shooting gear. When you store a gun (possibly clean…) inside a Peli Case, you know for sure that it is going to operate the next time you use it.
Some may argue that soft cases are more flexible and versatile. In our opinion, the whole gear should be stored in both hard and soft cases. When it comes to weapons, scopes, electronics and precision items the hard case is the obvious choice; but for soft-goods and tactical/outdoor equipment in general soft cases provide the best flexibility.
Pelican offers a very wide gamut of products, from SD memory cases to rifle cases to even large cases for aircraft replacement parts; which provides a protective solution tailored to the operator’s needs. In addition to this Peli provides the cases with multiple inserts such as “Pick and Pluck” foam, regular foam, padded inserts (ideal for cameras and electronics in general) or simply empty. The foam inset helps booth helps with keeping all the equipment nicely organized and protects any fragile items from accidental bumps. In this article, the 1450 case is provided with the “Pick & Pluck” foam insert.
The watertight gasket protects the content from dust, sand and water. All pelican cases have proprietary valve that allows the pressure to be stabilized equally between the inside and the outside of the case. This particular feature may not seem important but is vital both for very fragile electronics and for operating at different barometric excursions.
The handle is rubberized and heavy duty, allowing to comfortably carrying a hefty load. Peli cases are designed to exceed military requirements, in both protection and practicality. The locking mechanism is tough and reliable; and when on the move all of the components quietly sit in position, leaving an almost invisible sound footprint. It is safe to say that all of the material used in the construction of this product are of very high quality.
The hinge’s action is smooth and reliable; we have extensively used this case in bad weather, mud and sand and there has never been an issue opening the lid. The quality of the foam inserts utilized is also high; even after long range sessions the heat of the weapon did not affect the integrity of the material. The pick n pluck design allows the user to quickly and effortlessly cut the insert with the best layout for the specific content or mission. It also supports the weight very well.
For a gun owner this product serves as a vital piece of equipment. There is, in our opinion, a huge gap between your gun being store in a safe at home and pointed towards the target at the range; this is the area where a mobile and lockable safe storage system comes into play.
A hard case is one of the most secure places to store a firearm when on the move, especially in a car. It is possible to fly with a weapon, these days, it is mandatory that it is stored in a lockable hard case. In our opinion, whether at the range or on duty, your pistol should be in a Peli Case as soon as it exits your holster (of course this applies also to long guns).
We believe that this product can apply to the lifestyle of the all of the members of the gun community, from the Elite Operators, to the Hunters, to the Competitive Shooters or simply to the gun enthusiasts. These high-quality hard cases provide protection to the equipment as well as safety in the surroundings; it is vital that all weapons must be stored inside such cases, especially when on the move. For a long time our equipment will have a very safe place to stay, inside a Peli Case.
The LWPC is designed with maximum versatility and speed in mind. The ability to conceal this plate carrier allows the operator to maximize the effectiveness of this platform even in uncertain environments where low-profile is the number one priority. The possibility to unzip a Jacket and attach a placard with all the mission specific equipment really makes the transition from low-profile to high-profile just a matter of seconds. The ability to change configuration in a brief period of time allows the end user to quickly adapt to the specific situation as the environment changes. The biggest feature of this plate carrier, aside from its incredible light weight, is the versatility and modularity provided by the SwiftClips. Velocity Systems and MayflowerRC have, for a long time, believed in the concept of a modular armor and load bearing system that shared the same support structure. For many years we have seen great redundancy in the operators’ equipment; a popular set-up used to be a standard chest rig worn on top of a low profile armor carrier. At the time the only alternative to this system was the bulky PALs webbing/MOLLE plate carrier (which required a lot of time to reconfigure pouch by pouch) but it would not provide the ability to quickly change set-up (from 5.56 to 7.62 or to mission specific role) like the chest rig and plate carrier combination.
To this need Velocity Systems and Mayflower RC have responded with modular placards and chest rigs that would provide the operator with the comfort of a single piece of equipment while having the versatility of multiple pre-configured modular set-ups.
In our opinion, there is a substantial difference in the set-up of this product in the various applications of agencies and civilian use.
For a military or agency type of application this product would be suited for some sort of low-profile operation in which the operator would be required to constantly wear armor, comms and, perhaps, a medical kit. The low-profile nature of the carrier would quite possibly be unnoticed but would offer protection and the ability to attach a fully equipped chest rig placard within seconds.
As for the civilian use, we think that this system could offer much more versatility that a standard MOLLE vest. The use in a civilian application would, hopefully, be for a shorter period of time and it would not require the user to wear comms and med kit on a closer level. In an event in which the civilian should respond with armor the medical kit and radio would probably store within the placard itself. The MOLLE version allows to carry 6×6” armor side plates and offers 6 columns of PALS webbing attachment.
This is why we find the MOLLE version of the cummerbunds more suitable for low-profile operations and the elastic (lighter and slicker) cummerbunds for civilian use. Off course, the interchangeability of them will allow the user to configure it to the mission requirements. The low profile nature of the elastic cummerbunds would also allow a concealed carry citizen to use his/her inside the waistband holster at the three o’clock position without any interference with the plate carrier itself.
The lower half of the front of the plate carrier is covered with loop Velcro, stitched right into the front flap. On the sides of the upper portion are the two SwiftClips, which can be removed. There is a low-profile admin pouch, also stitched with a loop Velcro panel. If you happen to have the Multicam version of this plate carrier, as we do, the “admin” and back loop Velcro panels visible from the outside are matched with the camo pattern.
It was a pleasant surprise to see that this Light Weight plate carrier has all of the features of “Standard” plate carriers. Often times, due to the weight reduction, companies tend to “lighten” the adjustability and user-configurability, not Velocity Systems and Mayflower R&C. The cummerbunds can be adjusted both from the front and from back panel. For primary fitting, it is possible to regulate on the back panel the position of the cummerbund, the end of which is provided with both hook and loop Velcro on each side; this ensures the stability and the overall ruggedness of the product. For field adjustment (or secondary adjustment), it is possible to fit the size by lifting the dedicated front panel. On the market it is usually is rare to see two fully spec’d adjustment points on such a lightweight platform.
The top straps are also adjustable, allowing fitting the perfect height of the plate carrier (on a side note, please stop wearing your plate carriers low, you know who we are talking about…). The top strap is provided with a cushioned sleeve, for load bearing comfort and cable routing. We only wrote cable and not hydration tube routing on purpose, this plate carrier is meant to be lightweight and therefore used in atypical (or asymmetrical warfare) type of scenarios such as urban and low-profile application in which there should not be the need of “field” requirements like continuous hydration on the move. If the possibly of attaching a panel or an hydration bladder is an important characteristic we suggest checking out the other plate carriers from Velocity Systems and Mayflower R&C like the SCARAB.
Both the stitching and the material used are impressive. The attention to details and the well thought design differentiate this product from a market full of plate carriers that have become almost a commodity without any peculiar feature. Velocity Systems uses 500-denier Cordura fabric for the outer layers; this provides high mechanical properties while still maintaining a low-weight discipline.
Velocity Systems and Mayflower R&C proudly use materials and workmanship that are 100% made in the USA.
For more information, please visit: VelSyst.com
The most important accessory for your firearms (both pistols and long guns) is quite possibly an illumination tool. Uncertain firepower will almost always lead to trouble, if either you miss your target or you shoot at something you were not intending to destroy. A simple and quite inexpensive solution for this problem is a weapon-mounted light (or WML). This tool will usually provide a tactical advantage, and, most importantly, will take away the uncertainty of where those rounds go.
Unfortunately, even nowadays, many gun owners think that the only applications of weapon mounted lights are in the military and Law Enforcement field. In reality, this tool is almost mandatory for low-light/no-light engagements, especially for civilians. One of the most important applications for such a tool is home defense, a scenario in which almost every gun owner can see himself or herself involved.
In this article, we are mainly going to focus on personal defense applications for civilians: both home invasions and concealed carry. Statistically, vastly majority of attacks occur by nighttime; the intruders or attackers utilize darkness as an advantage, so a flashlight is a vital tool.
For many years, the use of a handheld flashlight in conjunction with a handgun has been the choice for many professionals. The benefit of having a separated handheld light is that you do not have to point a loaded weapon at the possible threat that you are investigating on. While the main cons is of course the impossibility of any one-handed weapon manipulation, which also excludes any long gun application.
Utilizing a WML on a handgun also allows the operator to work both on the light-switch and on the trigger with a single hand, which is essential when wounded or when helping others to safety.
The preferred method used, in the past few years, by many professionals has been the application of both weapon mounted and handheld lights used simultaneously. This will provide the tactical and practical advantages of the weapon mounted light and the safety of the handheld (for all those further investigations on possible “false alarms”, you really do not want to point your gun at the neighbor’s dog that somehow has escaped…)
A weapon mounted light, according to many military and LE users, has to be as simple as possible in order to be operated effectively. While many hand held flashlight have on average 5-7 features (between strobes, brightness levels and special functions), it is mandatory that a weapon mount light only has two
functions: Momentary ON and Steady ON (some people use strobe, but we are not really huge fans).
The operator should not have to focus on the light instead of on the threat while cycling through the light’s functions. Streamlight has applied a very interesting rotatory switch to their weapon mounted light. It can be worked with both the trigger finger (index) and the support-hand’s thumb. If toggled
clockwise it will provide steady ON mode, while momentary only if toggle anticlockwise. This is a very simple and effective solution that requires very little training and practice to be operated. The light comes with the strobe mode pre-installed; if you want to disable it, quickly toggle 9 times the momentary on and keep it pressed on the tenth. This process will able or disable the strobe function.
Streamlight offers the latest version of their TLR-1 HL model with a single 800 Lumen output. The light is powered by two lithium CR123A batteries and it has a runtime of 1.75 hours. The light-beam generated by this light’s LED appears to be very versatile for both indoor and outdoor engagements. A glass-like material prism refracts the light through itself providing the internal light enhancement properties and making the whole product much more rugged
than those using a metal-like reflective mirror. The “spill” of the outer circular beam has a very wide angle making the TLR-1 HL an ideal light for close quarters combat and for peripheral vision, while the very hot center provides a very good “throw” with an approximate reach of 300m, a necessity for distant target acquisition and engagement. At these distances, it is probably going to be mounted on a long gun. Below are two examples of the light beams at 25m and at 50m in total darkness (the camera is in the same position).
The Streamlight TLR-1 HL comes with 4 mounting accessories for Glock, Beretta 90Two, S&W pistol and 1913 Rails. The aftermarket accessories for this light include a remote switch and a dedicated door-switch for rifle applications. If you are interested in purchasing only one weapon-mounted light to be alternated between your handgun and your rifle this is just the right product for you. Most other weapon-mounted lights on the market are offered only as water-resistant while the Streamlight is IPX7 Waterproof.
The light comes in three different colors: Black, Flat Dark Earth and Flat Dark Earth Brown colors; in this article are shown the FDE and Black models.
For more information regarding the Streamlight TLR-1 HL weapon mounted lights please visit:
Blue Force Gear is well known for quite possibly the most low profile PALS-Webbing / MOLLE pouches on the market. They have put together two incredibly thin and durable materials: the military grade elastic and the ULTRAcomp laminate. The combination of these two fabrics created the well-known Ten-Speed pouches. After the great success with the MOLLE platform, Blue Force Gear has decided to apply this technology to the belt pouch. For many years, leather and Kydex were the two only material utilized in belt pouches, the only problem with these was the bulkiness and impossibility to have them “collapsed” against the body when not in use. Although Kydex remains a good option for more overt applications, the Blue Force Gear belt pouches are suited for more covert applications for both military and civilian use.
The belt-mounted line of pouches are designed specifically for:
- rifle mags (low rise and high rise pouches available)
- pistol mags
- dump pouches
- pepper spray
These products serve three different category of users simultaneously: Military personnel, LE officers and concealed carry civilians.
For this article, we had the chance to test the pistol mag pouch in the two configurations: single mag
and double mag. These two mag pouches are designed to be quickly and easily accessible, even under
stress. They work with both single and double stack magazine. The high quality elastic material allows
to switch between double stack and single stack mags without losing any retention capability.
Although fast speed reloads are ideal for this type of pouch, tactical reloads are also possible with just a
little practice. The main feature of this system is that once you extract the content, the pouch collapses
on it-self reducing any extra bulk. In our opinion, this feature is ideal for EDC and CCW.
For everyday carry purposes we have found that this pouch is incredibly useful not only for pistol mags
but also for multi-tools, battery racks and flashlights.
For CCW we usually like to carry appendix or 3 o’clock (both IWB and OWB). For appendix carry the use
of a mag caddy is quite comfortable, but when carrying at the 3 o’clock position having an IWB Kydex
mag caddy at the 9 o’clock is pretty uncomfortable.
This is why we now have decided to go with the Blue Force Gear mag pouch Outside the Waist Band.
These mag pouches also work perfectly in conjunction with a plate carrier or a chest rig. They are easily
accessible also with the Blue Force Gear Trauma Kit NOW! placed right on top; both in the loading and
In order to attach to the belt these pouches utilize a very versatile hook and loop system. This allows the pouch to be mounted to classic leather or tactical nylon belts of up to 2″ in width. The pouch can also be easily detached from the belt without having to take the whole system off. Attaching the pouch to the belt doesn’t require much time or effort, making it a valid option for extra emergency mags stored elsewhere. For example we always carry the single pouch on the belt with an extra Glock 19 mag, but if needed, within seconds, we can mount, to the belt, the double pouch with two Glock 17 mags that we keep in an EDC backpack.
As for all Blue Force Gear products the quality of construction, stitching and material is outstanding. The are constantly providing clever products that bring more efficiency and are lightweight, the belt pouches are the proof.
For more information on the belt-mounted line of pouches please visit: BlueForceGear.com
Steiner Optics is one of the most reputable optics companies on the market; they have been manufacturing some of the finest glasses for decades. With great attention to quality and detail, Steiner stands behind their product with extensive field-testing and quality control.
In many situations, being able to see beyond the human eye capability is key for planning and decision-making. Even if we have great-magnified optics mounted on rifles and carbines it’s not always possible to point them in any direction; especially in urban environments, where a long weapon may not be available and the binocular may be the only vision enhancement available.
Other than in surveillance and navigation, a compact 8 x binocular could be used for many other defensive tasks. From a civilian point of view, items like the Steiner T824 could be easily
carried in a EDC backpack or sling and it could be very helpful in dangerous contingencies. In an active shooter situation occurring in a public location, after having deployed the concealed carry weapon and having assessed the situation (and the distance from the shooter), a compact binocular could be utilized to provide precious intel on suspect to the first responders and the authorities.
The Steiner T824 is one of the most rugged binoculars on the market. The body is entirely covered with a rubber mold for shock absorption, while the N2 filled lenses proved waterproofness and antifogging. Quality of sight and toughness are just mandatory when dealing with companies like Steiner.
The most impressive feature of the T824 was the size of the whole product. Keeping in mind all the features that we have listed above this product is incredibly small; and furthermore easily deployable to many different situations and environments.
In the world of optics you often have to finder a compromise between size (lightweight and compact) and optical performance; the Steiner T824 provides a crystal clear 8x image in one of the smallest and lightest binocular system on the market.
The ruggedness and quality of the T824 is exceptional; after more than six months of hard everyday use it does not show any sign of weakness or failure. The rubberized coating makes this optic is almost indestructible, it has fallen several times from various heights and it did not break or scratch. The N2 filled optics are very effective against fogging, even during high intensity activities (in both freezing winter and humid summer) they keep a crystal clear transparency.
On the range this compact pair of tactical binoculars have showed to be more useful than we thought. When you are working on carbines and handguns on a flat range, you usually tend to leave the spotting scope at home; unless you are focusing on specific long-range shooting sessions. The Steiner T824 are compact and lightweight enough to be always included in your range bag and they can be very useful for some quick check on the target without having the whole range going cold.
The Steiner T824 is the smallest model (in both price and dimensions) of the line of tactical binocular. The Tactical series of Steiner binoculars include optics from 8 x 24 up to 10 x 42, available either with or without reticle.
For more information, please visit the Steiner Optics website
Whether you are an operator overseas or a civilian carrying a concealed handgun at the mall, one of the most important aspects of urban operations is blending in. Camouflage is a interesting subject when it comes to being unnoticed to the human eye. How it works in the wilderness is clear to everybody, and we are not here to discuss that; but as soon as you reach civilization, it becomes a more complicated.
Two of the main aspects of urban “blending in” techniques are:
- Try to move with the crowds and avoid seeking any attention
- Dress casual and stay away from camo gear.
In this article, we will focus on the second category: dressing casual (or in conjunction with the environment).
As of 2016, a good portion of the world shares some common “fashions” or “dress codes”. One color or piece of clothing that is well distributed and utilized throughout the globe is denim; this makes our job at “disappearing” much easier.
In the past years there has been a good variety of jackets, button shirts and even shoes on the market specifically designed for the tactical/performance segment of the market (concealed carry or “covert operations”); but casual pants were missing from this selection.
For a long time there has been a very wide gap between tactical pants and casual denim; the first being versatile and comfortable during high performance activities but with a lack of casual aesthetics, while the second being the exact opposite. Now Triple Aught Design has made the right connection between these two much separated segments of market.
The Intercept PD pants are extremely well crafted and are made in the United States. Triple Aught Design has really focused a lot of attention in quality and design through the development of this product. The Performance Denim comes from America’s oldest working denim mill, from North Carolina, and it is woven with 1% elastane for better comfort during high performance activities.
As far as pocket usability the Intercept PD are basically a pair of Cargo pants that look like jeans; it is as simple as that. The five traditional pockets provide a classic look and feel to the product, while closer to the belt line are placed the 4 concealed pockets, designed with performance and weight bearing in mind. The close proximity of the pockets to the waist allows the user to carry heavier items (spare mags, multi-tools, flashlight, medical kits and much more) without any movement limitation, even while seated.
The Intercept PD are engineered with noise reduction in mind: instead of the classic zipper TAD has implemented a button closure of the groin (to avoid any noise of metallic moving parts) while the 9 pockets are deep and kept close to the user’s body by the elastic fabric, reducing any sort of movement of the content.
The belt loops are large and heavy-duty, which is vital for carrying a tactical belt (especially with a holster, both Inside the Waistband and Outside the Waistband). Triple Aught Design has applied hidden triple needle stitching and bartacks throughout the whole product. Applied on the two front pockets is the TAD diamond reinforcement to protect from premature wear from knives, tools or flashlight clips.
With the Intercept Performance Denim TAD is delivering a product of which the development really revolved around the operator. If you are looking for a way to disappear from the radar in an urban environment you should really add the Intercept Performance Denim to your list, they are worth each and every penny.
For more information please visit Triple Aught Design’s website: store.tripleaughtdesign.com/Intercept-PD-Pant
The Blue Force Gear Trauma Kit NOW! is an emergency access medical kit that can be quickly deployed. It is designed to hold the medical contents of the Armed Forces IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) but it can also be customized by the user to be suited for every environment.
The medical pouch is one of the most important pieces of equipment that an operator can carry. It has to withstand hostile environments, be rugged and easily accessible so high-quality is the first priority.
For many years there have been different types of medical kits on the market but most of them are not, in our opinion, suited for emergency situations. Most of these kits are organized kits designed to be attached to the webbing of backpacks or vests.
The biggest issue with internally organized medical pouches attached with PALS webbing is the difficulty with the application and the handling of the medical components. Usually, when attached on a full kit, the medical pouch tends to be mounted at the 6 o’clock position on the battle belt or on the sides of the plate carrier; sometimes in this position it is hard to look and access directly the content under the stress of an emergency.
The alternative for a long time has been to carry a standard pouch with all the medical content loose inside, which does not ensure success in finding what needed.
This new philosophy of use applied to medical kits seems to have caught the eye of both military personnel and civilians.
Blue Force Gear has decided to utilize the “blowout” system for their Trauma Kit. What sets this product apart from others similar on the market is the ruggedness and the lightweight of the pouch. After the release of a version made of standard 500 denier fabric they have decided to apply their patented Helium Whisper material. The inner supply carriage has been redesigned and constructed out of laser cut ULTRAcomp to reduce the thickness of the fabric while maintaining shape and strength.
One though shared throughout the military and firearms community is that the medical kit should be the first to put on and the last to take off. It is obvious that with this mindset the light weight and the comfort for prolonged use is ideal.
The kit can be quickly and easily deployed with the external pull tab, which contains a small weight. The medical sign color can be changed from red to black within seconds to ensure the perfect requirement for every situation or environment. It is extremely important that the content is secured to the pouch during the deployment, to ensure this Blue Force Gear has applied a very robust high quality elastic keeper.
In the assortment of the medical content we took in consideration both the needs of the standard IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) and those of a Combat Trauma Kit. This specific pouch can be also utilized as an extensive and enhanced EDC medical kit. The internal blowout kit can be closed on itself without using the external MOLLE pouch, making it even more compact and lightweight. In the middle section is applied a panel of loop Velcro, in which we have attached the SWAT-T Tourniquet with a small piece of hook Velcro and some glue.
(1) SWAT-T Tourniquet
(1) Fox Chest Seal
(1) Quick Clot Hemostatic gauze
(30) Band-Aids (4 Sizes)
(10) Band-Aids Backup (Vacuum Sealed)
(25) Vacuum Sealed Gauze Pads
(1) Combat Elastic Bandage
(3) 3M SteriStrips
(2) Pairs of Nitrile Surgical Gloves
(1) 3M Medical Tape
(1) Aluderm Aluminum Gauze Pad (20cmx20cm)
(2) Aluderm Aluminum Gauze Pad (10x 10 cm)
(3) Burn Gel
(2) Antibacterial wipes
(1) Emergency blanket
(1) aLokSak 3″x7″ waterproof bag
(1) Hi intensity 30′ Red ChemLight
(1) Fine Point Surgical Tweezers
(2) Amoxilline (Antibiotics)
The Blue Force Gear Trauma Kit NOW! Is available in Multicam, Tan, Black, Wolf Grey and OD Green.
Eye protection is probably one of the best precautions to take both on the field and on the range. After lots of eye injuries suffered by many during deployment, the DoD has decided to take measures against this big issue. Companies like Oakley have revolutionized the materials and the manufacturing process in order to meet these ballistic requirements. It has been many years since the US Gov. has issued the first Oakley Ballistic protective goggles and since then Oakley has produced different variants for different missions.
The SI Ballistic Det Cord sunglasses are the latest addition in Oakley SI’s line of eye protection. The low-profile design meets the requirements of many covert operations, while still having that “Oakley DNA” for aggressive environments and when things go south.
With the constant presence of threats in high risk environments, asymmetrical warfare seems to be the keyword of this century. In the last few years brands like Oakley SI, who have always equipped armed forces, have found themselves designing and manufacturing more discreet products for the tactical market.
The lens placement on the Det Cord is slightly different from the usual sunglasses (aside from the ballistic protection). The frame design allows the lenses to sit very close to the user’s face, providing a very wide field of view. It also shields sunlight from any direct contact with the eye, above or beneath the lenses.
This design seem interesting also when speed is involved; with the lenses positioned so close to the user’s face the Det Cord appear to give some very good protection also from dust and wind.
Oakley has designed these glasses with the tactical operations in mind. The thin construction of the ear stems allows the glasses to be comms compatible (or ear pro). Not having this feature would lead to the loss of the seal of the muffs, causing them to lose any hearing protection capability. A thinner design of the frame is also very important if an helmet is worn. If you are carrying a ballistic helmet with night vision, lights and accessories attached you will end up with quite some weight; so it is important to have a secured and comfortable fit.
The DetCord are manufactured to conform to the ANSI Z87.1 – 2010 requirements. To meet the ANSI Z87.1-2010 rating the eye protection must exceed specific high mass – high velocity tests and provide continuous lateral coverage. Most competitors on the market don’t provide lateral coverage; the presence of a “+” after Z87 will assure the lateral coverage compliancy.
The DetCords high purity optical-grade polycarbonate also meet the ballistic fragmentation MIL-PRF-32432 required by NATO forces and DoD.
To enhance the performance of the product under stress Oakley has applied a very interesting material for the nose-piece. It’s always annoying when, under stress, sunglasses (or even worse eye pro) slip down on the nose because of the presence of liquids on the skin. To solve this issue Oakley has applied a rubberized material on the nose piece, and even after some pretty hard use it does not seem to come off.
Another issues that, with other optics, appears on similar activities is fogging. This phenomenon is due to the body heat and moisture condensing in small drops on the lens itself. When shooting it’s usually frequent to have fogging in the winter when utilizing a rifle or a carbine; usually after some sort of dynamic action. We have had the opportunity to test this product from late summer until now and, due to the coating applied to the lenses, we haven’t had a sigle issue.
The this version comes with Cerakote applied to the entire frame. This superficial finish enhances the anti-reflection capability of the Det Cord and it also provides longevity to the surface of the frame. When used in conjunction with helmet systems and comms usually eye-pro and sunglasses get scratched a lot, the application of Cerakote prevents this from happening.
What you carry on your person everyday (or at least accessible close to you) may dictate the success or the failure of a difficult situation.
Whether it is a medical, practical or defensive scenario carrying basic or advance equipment is really important.
If you live in an urban environment and you are not always close to your vehicle it’s suggested to build an EDC kit in a backpack or a sling-bag.
In our opinion your self defense tools and equipment should be at all times on your person. We only use our backpack to store extra mags, but not our primary firearm. If the situation does not allow us to reach for our EDC backpack we sill have a concealed-carry handgun with mounted light and extra mag, a folding blade, a smartphone, a wallet, a tactical flashlight and a tourniquet. Keeping our EDC defensive tool in the same location will also provide efficiency and accuracy to the situation.
We like to divide by priority and importance our daily-carry equipment into different levels.
Level 1: the EDC items carried on your belt and pant’s pockets.
Level 2: items in your bag directly accessible from the outside.
Level 3: items organized in pouches and dividers inside the bag.
About the backpack:
One of the key features that we really like of the Blade’s design is its side-access. This allows us to open and extract the content without dropping the bag or revealing what’s inside. Arc’teryx has padded this bag like a tank, it is comfortable, light and extremely protective towards electronics or fragile items.
The Blade has many pockets, some visible and some hidden. On the top, next to the handle, there are two pockets: one specifically designed for eye wear and one for GP items. On the side there are three pockets: the admin pocket (with stitched organizers for admin tools), the main compartment and the laptop (or even ballistic plates) compartment. All the internal parts of the bag are made of hi-viz nylon for better efficiency. The hidden pocket is located on the lower back close to the body, and it is intended for documents, extra cash, copy of conceal carry permit or passport.
Even on the road this backpack is really handy, in case of an accident (especially at night) you can grab it, exit the vehicle and move towards a safe location without keeping any valuables in the car. In the admin pocket we have placed two S&S Precision V-Lites and a Manta strobe to mark our presence to other drivers or the authorities until we have access to roadside flares.
This backpack is efficient and feature-rich without screaming “tactical”. We like the adaptability of PALs webbing and we like Camo but in most urban environments it just stands out too much. The clean design of the Blade 24 allows to be “undetected” or just not to stand out too much.
Bag, Pouches and Cases:
Arc’teryx Blade 24
Maxpedition Fatty Organizer
Maxpedition Mini Organizer
Salewa Med Pouch (With personal kit)
6×6 Pals Multicam Pouch
Thule 13″ Laptop Case
Items directly accessible:
Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket
Outdoor Research Halberd Sensor Tactical Gloves
Princeton Tec Remix MPLS Headlamp in Multicam
Boker VAT tool
Princeton Tec Switch light
S&S Precision V-lite Green
S&S Precision V-lite Blue
S&S Precision Manta Strobe
Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen
Oakley SI Ballistic DetCord in Cerakote
Surefire E2D Defender Ultra
Pick Lock Kit with Tecnora and Kevlar Strings
Vapur 0.7 Water bottle
Items stored in pouches:
Pelican 1010 Case
Samsung 250gb T1 SDD
Storacell 123 Battery holder
Gerber MP1 Multiplier
Gerber Shard Multitool
Surefire EP-1 C Ear Pro
Steiner T824 Compact Binoculars
Altoids Tin with basic Survival kit
Inforce 6vx backup Flashlight
Rite in the Rain notepad
Cyalume 6″ green
Samsung 13000mAh Battery Bank
Chargers for electronics
1 x QuikClot Combat Gauze
2 x Gauze Pad (4″x 4″)
1 x Elastic Bandage
1 x Tourniquet
3 x Pharmaderm Antibiotic wipes
3 x BurnFree Gel
10 x Normal Band Aids
8 x Special Shape Band Aids
3 x 3M Steri-Strips
1 x Aluderm Gauze Pad (8″x 8″)
2 x Aluderm Gauze Pad (4″x 4″)
1 x 3M Micropore Tape
1 x Surgical Tape
2 x Sterilized Gloves Nitrile
2 x Ketoprofen
10 x Ioperamide
2 x Paracetamole
2 x Amoxilline (antibiotics)
4 x Aspirin
4 x Iburofen
1 x Fine-Point Metal Tweezers
1 x Space Blaket
Inside Altoids Tin:
3 x 3M Steristrips
2 x Bandaids
2 x Iboprufen
4 x Antihistamine
4 x Water tabs
1 x 3M Ear Pro Backup
1 x Pencil w/ 1ft of tape and 20 ft of floss
4 x Stormproof matches
1 x Exotac firestarter
1 x Clip Compass
2 x BurnFree gel
1 x Alchool wipes
The Outdoor Research Helium II is a light-weight waterproof jacket ideal for many outdoor applications. This product was originally designed for climbers and runners to be worn for a short period of time during a storm. The main concept behind this product is to always carry it with you.
Due to the extremely light-weight we have kept the jacket stored in our EDC backpack every single day for the whole season. With an astonishing weight of 180 grams you literally forget about it. The jacket is so compact that can fit even in a small cargo pocket. If you actually compress it with a vacuum machine it reaches the size of an energy bar.
We have already seen some very small and lightweight jackets on the market. What makes the Helium II unique is not just the weight but the waterproofness of the fabric. We have use this jacket in many unpleasant weather conditions and it has always kept us dry. To reach this kind of excellence Outdoor Research has utilized a 30D ripstop fabric with a Pertex Shield+ 2.5L coating. At first we were quite skeptical about the longevity of the waterproof shell due to the way the fabric compresses when the jacket is stored, but even after some pretty rough use it hasn’t showed any sign of weakness.
For example if you compress some other waterproof shells on the market like Gore-Tex the layers of the PU film could break, making the fabric permeable. Gore-Tex works with a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) membrane with a hydrophobic PU film; in some cases if the fabric is folded too much there could be a loss of waterproofness.
One of the greatest features of this garment is its breathability. Keep in mind that this product was not actually designed for prolonged use, this is why OR focused more on the weight than on the features. This is a jacket to always have in a backpack or just keep stored in a bag. Even if it does not have armpit zippers (like the bigger brother Helium HD) it still offers enough breathability to get the job done.
If you plan to wear this jacket for a longer period of time please take a look at the Outdoor Research Helium HD, it features a more complete type of hoodie and pockets, for a slightly larger size and weight.
Outdoor Research has done a great job designing the hood. It features a bungee cord that runs from the forehead to the back of the head, and if pulled tight it really secures the hood and the visor, offering a very smooth and “noise-free” motion. The visor is made of a much stiffer material allowing a very comfortable wear during storms. This feature really comes handy when shooting (both handguns and rifles) under bad weather.
We have chosen the black/hydro version of this jacket because it does not scream “tactical” while still offering some decent concealability. The blue OR logo and zipper don’t really stand out too much but are keen to make the user appear as a civilian. On the range this jacket is fantastic, due to the lightweight it can always be packed in a range-bag, and as soon as it starts raining you have backup. The elastic on the wrist allows to keep a clean motion during weapon manipulation, without risking of getting the garment in the way.
The choice between Helium II and Helium HD is only driven by the application of the user. Both offer lightweight, waterproofness and breathability. So because we like to carry this shell 24/7 in our backpacks we decided to go with the more lightweight/small version rather than the feature-richer one.
For more details about the Helium II please visit the Outdoor Research website: OutdoorResearch.com
SureFire is the leader in military-grade illumination tools. One of their most versatile products is the E2D Defender Ultra flashlight. This light is made in the United States and is designed to meet the standards of the military professionals.
The E2D Defender Ultra is a 500 Lumen compact multipurpose light designed both for everyday carry and tactical operations.
Like most other SureFire lights it also feature a lockout tail cap, which prevents accidental activation during storage or transport.
With a maximum output of 500 Lumens, the virtually indestructible high-performance LED and the Total Internal Reflection (TIR) lens provide a level of light than can be effectively utilized to overwhelm an aggressor or identify a threat. In an outdoor environment this light can be effective for hundreds of yards. The TIR Lenses are designed to with versatility in mind. The 500 lumens LED combined with the lenses allow this flashlight to be effective both during tactical operations (for example entering a dark room) and for long-range urban/rural tasks or engagements. The light has both a very good throw and spill; the central hot beam has a very good range while still maintaining an optimal peripheral vision. 500 Lumens seem also a very good compromise between close quarters and long range engagements. You really don’t want to have more than that for CQB operations while still maintaining a punch for the great outdoors.
The flashlight has two output levels: 500 lumens high for maximum light and 5 lumens low for extended runtime and for admin tasks. This allows the E2D Ultra to be effective even in everyday outdoor applications. The low output setting is just enough to be able to see in the close proximity without interfering with our night vision.
The light is built with heavy duty in mind. The E2D is made of aircraft grade anodized aluminium which feels solid and tough as soon as you grab it. Because of its aggressive design, the bezel can be used as a striking tool or even to brake glass, in case things go very south. The light is also provided with a built in two-way clip, for easier carry when a sheath is not available.
For the pure tactical application (CQB, even weapon mounted) we prefer to have a momentary only switch. But this product still does a very good job for personal defense scenarios. In all these months that we have been using this product (and we didn’t treat is very well) we have never experienced a failure of any kind. We have accidentally dropped this light for quite some distance and everything was fine, and even underwater it worked magnificently.
We recommend this light for its adaptability, and as soon as the sun goes down this light is in our pockets. The E2D Defender Ultra’s adaptability and versatility make it a tool you must have. The fact that you can utilize this light for personal defense, search and rescue and general outdoor/tactical applications definitely make this flashlight probably the best we have ever owned.
We really think that if you are a professional or an enthusiast of the defense/tactical industry you must own at least one SureFire, and we think this could be the one. In the past years we have owned many SureFire flashlights; they are just the toughest! But even if they break don’t worry they are covered by a lifetime warranty.
This flashlight is made in the USA, MSRP $265. This is probably the best multiple-purpose illumination tool you can find on the market, but if you don’t want to pay this amount for a flashlight Surefire also makes some really interesting less expensive simpler models .
For more information please visit the SureFire website: surefire.com/
The multi-tool is the most versatile and useful piece of equipment that can be carried, whether you’re in a urban area or out in the country you should never leave the house without one. The multiplier is the updated and more complex version of this tool and it’s usually equipped with a set of wire cutters and needle nose pliers.
Sometimes dangerous, and potentially deadly, environments surround us. Whether you are overseas behind enemy lines, lost in the wilderness or a survivor in natural disaster a fixed blade knife is the tool that will always get you home safe and sound. A survival knife can provide the right help for water, shelter, fire, food and protection. It is the most versatile piece of equipment that we can carry. Gerber produces one of the milestones in the mil-spec survival blades: the Gerber LMF II Infantry. The Infantry is the definition of the survival knife, with an overall length of 269 mm, a blade length of 123 mm and a well-balanced weight of 330g this beefy knife can be utilized for tasks of different nature. The Gerber team is well known for providing the user with well-engineered products, and they seem to have reached a very good standard with the LMF II Infantry. They have chosen a 420 high carbon steel for this blade, which makes it very good against corrosion and hard use; in fact the Infantry can be even used as a prying bar in an emergency situation. To meet the compliancy of the aircrews’ standard issue, Gerber had to design the LMF II with two main features:
- It had to be tough (so that it could be used, by the crew, as an escape tool from the aircraft after a crash).
- It had to electrically insulate the user from any live wire he could find while escaping through the fuselage or the cockpit.
To accomplish these two requirements Gerber developed a very interesting design that meets both strength and protection using a combination of 420hc steel and hard composite materials in the body of the handle. The Blade: The use of the 420 High Carbon steel makes this knife incredibly resistant against rust, especially with application of the black non-reflective coating. Even though the Tanto design looks much cooler on a tactical knife, thankfully, the LMF II has a drop point design, which makes it a much stronger knife for any bushcraft or survival use. Due to its design and the 5 mm blade thickness, this knife is a great tool for chopping, prying and digging. The spine of the blade has a 90 degrees angle with no chamfer applied, which allows to light a fire with a Magnesium bar or flint fire starter. The blade has a drop point plain edge with 47 mm of serration closer to the handle. Even though some people believe that a knife has to have a plain edge, we know that a survival/bushcraft knife MUST have a serrated edge. The serration of the blade makes it much easier to cut through harder material, cords, fresh vegetation and it retains much better a sharp edge. Serrations are mandatory on a 420 HC steel survival blade to help maintain sharpness in the field, since this material could lose edge after some use. Sharpening this knife in the field is very easy. The sheath of the knife houses a V-shaped sharpener for the drop-point part of the blade that allows the user to carry an always-sharp blade, no matter what. If you really need to sharpen the serrated edge on the field, Gerber makes a great tool that makes it very easy: the Bear Grylls Field Sharpener. The blade also features two lashing holes to use the knife as a spear; this feature becomes very interesting when you have to find some food in the wilderness. We have used this method in the past to catch fish in a small river and it really can change the situation from a disaster to a memorable moment. One of the basic rules of providing food in the wild is that you do not have to use more energy than the one you’re going to gain from what your catch will give. To accomplish this goal the spear is the perfect tool since it doesn’t always require much running. The spear is very easy to make with very little cordage and it can also be used as a self-defense tool from wild animals. The Handle: Because of the large production scale of these knives, Gerber was able to use an injection molded handle with a diamond texture on its surface. This handle has a rubbery feel and really sticks to the user hand even when the surface of the handle is wet. The large pommel at the end of the grip allows a much more secure and firm grip. It also functions as a striking tool and a hammering surface. When working on bushcraft tasks, quite frequently, we have to grip the knife from the very end of the handle and strike on the back of the blade with a large piece of wood in order to chop down through a log; with this design, it is much easier and faster to do so. The Sheath: We believe that one of the most important parts of a knife is its sheath. For us, good retention, slickness, protection (both of the user and the blade) and different attachment options are key features in a good quality sheath. The sheath is made of ballistic nylon with a fire retardant coating. The retention of the knife is due to a friction lock mechanism that secures the knife in place even if attached tip-up on a plate carrier or a chest rig. The Infantry can be carried both right-handed and left-handed since the knife can be stored in the sheath either ways. The LMF II comes with many different mounting options. The knife can be carried on the belt, on a MOLLE system and, because of the leg straps, also thigh and calf carry. We gave this knife a very hard time, we have used it for a while now and we are very happy with the results. The overall package seems very durable and stiff and even the sheath after many drops seems to retain the knife without any wobbling. At first, we were quite worried for the black coating of the blade but even after hitting some rocks it did not seem to peel off at all. This, for sure, is not an EDC knife: it’s beefy and not light. But when you will need it, you will be glad of its weight especially when chopping wood or cutting down a tree. One of the features that we like the most about this product is its 25 YEARS WARRANTY and the fact that it is MADE in the USA (Portland, Oregon). If you are looking for an excellent-quality versatile survival knife for an affordable price, the Gerber LMF II Infantry is the perfect choice. For more intel please visit Gerber’s website.
Clothing featured in this article:
Vertx Tactical Belt
Swiss Eye is an European producer of optics for the sporting industry. In addition to that they have released a very wide line of product for the tactical user (Full masks, goggles, full-frame glasses and half frame glasses). They sent us two pair of their bungee goggles: the Infantry, both in clear lens and smoke lens. The Swiss Eye Infantry lenses are made of a single piece of poly-carbonate with an anti-fog coating named “ultimo”. Their frame-less design and the insert of a foam liner all around the optic allow the Infantry to be very flexible and to adapt to the user’s face with comfort. The Infantry uses a clever design that allows the operator to use this system both as a stand-alone and attached to an helmet; the bungee cords end with a double-sided Velcro attachment that can either attach to itself or to the hook-and-loop panel of an helmet. To adjust the length of the bungee you just make a new knot at the desired distance. This simple but effective design makes the Infantry the right optic for many uses (parachuting, tactical operations and mountain biking). We have been using these goggles mainly for biking, we have used them a lot in any sort of weather condition. We believe that this is a very interesting product for all those that, like us, like to go with their bikes into deep vegetation and need to have a very good eye-pro. We really like the fact that when not in use the Infantry goggles remain attached to the helmet, not like any normal glasses (that otherwise have to be stored in a secured position). The Infantry follows the NATO STANAG 2920 standard for fragmentation protection, so it is very indicated also for all those activities where eye protection is key. We have been using this optic in conjunction with an OpsCore helmet, S&S Precision Manta Strobe, two S&S Precision V-Lite, Princeton Tec Charge and Princeton Tec Remix Tactical. Between the clear and the smoke lens we used more the clear one, usually with another pair of sunglasses. Using the normal sunglasses that you would wear in any sort of sporting activity will leave you exposed on the eye-protection front, and if any sort of heavy movement of the head is involved there is a chance of loosing the glasses. This is why me liked having our goggle always strapped to the helmet. As you can see there is no need to un-hook the Velcro when you want to take off the helmet, this feature makes all this package very practical in virtually any situation. Whether you are a professional or just an outdoor/tactical enthusiast this is a very affordable and interesting product that can make your life much easier and safer when enjoying the great outdoors.
For more information please visit: SwissEye.com/
It’s always hard to get the job done when the sun goes down. Powerful lights have been helping us in many of these situations, but unfortunately we can’t always use such devices: in some situations we need to be able to see while not being seen. This is why, in the outdoors, we want use our eyes to adapt to the darkens and navigate through the environment using the surrounding natural light. However we don’t always have the possibility to utilize the light from moon or the glare of a nearby city reflecting off the humidity in the clouds to get the job done. Sometimes ambient light is just not enough. This is why, sometimes, is nice to have a device that is able to help us boost-up our night vision. To do this we had a chance to field test for about 6 months a night vision device: the Bushnell Equinox Z. Bushnell is well known for its quality product at an affordable price. Its well placed mid range product line was just the perfect fit for our needs. Yes, Gen2+Night Vision Devices are cool but they are so damn expensive! It is close to impossible for a non professional user to buy a decent quality gen2+ device. Since only a few years ago, if you didn’t want to buy one of those really expensive ones, you had to move on to an old Soviet built analog device. Luckily there are companies like Bushnell that in the last few yeas have been producing good quality DIGITAL night vision system that are affordable and well-made. Unlike first generation NVG units, the Equinox is totally digital, mounting a CMOS digital sensor this device is capable of delivering a good crisp image to the user. While doing so the device is also able to record both still and moving pictures. The behavior of this sensor is similar to the one of a digital camera, but in this case it is optimized for infrared light. While it’s night vision, these units can’t see in total darkness without help up to 200-300 yards. In this video the device’s IR illuminator is switched off so the only light source is the moon (1/4).
The Equinox Z monocle comes in three different variants: 3 x 30 mm, 4.5 x 40mm and 6 x 50 mm. Of these we had the chance to try out the mid version, the 4.5 x 40mm. The main difference between the three variants, apart from the dimensions, is the quality of the image: a bigger diameter of the lens will provide a more detailed image, especially at distance. Only measuring 164mm x 98mm x 62mm this device seems very compact and discreet and when not in use it can be easily stored in a cargo pocket. The weight is around 600 grams and considering it carries 4 AA batteries and it is IPX4 it isn’t bad at all!
The 4.5 x 40 mm version has quite some features and buttons, in fact it took us a while to get familiar with the device, especially at night time. The top side of the Equinox has 6 buttons well protected by a rubber armor: ON-OFF, Zoom In – Zoom Out, IR settings, illuminator settings and Record. On the lower side of the device is the tripod attachment point, with the traditional screw system. Next to it, under a protective cover, are three ports (TV Out, Mini USB, Micro-SD slot) and a switch (for still or moving pictures). t also features a Picatinny rail is on the side for mounting a more powerful infrared illuminator.
The unit we have reviewed has a lot of magnification for night vision. The more magnification you get, the narrower the field of view and this cuts into situational awareness. If you are scanning a large area, it is harder to spot something. On the other hand, if you do spot it, the higher magnification makes it easier to figure out what it is. To show you what the magnification on this system can do we have recorded with a tripod an S&S Precision Manta Strobe (IR beacon) moving out to 1300 yards from one hill to another. The light conditions were not even the best, there was about 1/4 moon and it was cloudy. To raise the bar for the Equinox we also recorded the same video in the same light conditions at the same distance with two green S&S Precision V-light blinking. What we really liked about this night vision device is the crispness of the details in very low light conditions at a not so-close distance with the IR illuminator ON, to show you here is a video of a car moving from 50 yards to about 130 yards. (This video was recorded on a tripod) This is a still image shot at about 40 yards to show you how, even with the 3 x magnification, you can shoot a crisp image while standing and with no light other than the IR illuminator. As you can see this device is capable of great results for a very affordable price, by the end of Q2 2015 it should be around $ 300. The many features of this device make it really adaptable and versatile for many conditions, whether you are a tactical shooter, hunter or just outdoors enthusiast the Bushnell Equinox Z is perfect for you. Because we didn’t treat it well at all we can actually saw that this device is pretty of tough, so maybe it wouldn’t be bad also for some semi-professional uses (nothing too risky, we wouldn’t rely on this in a life or death situation but it still gets the job done).
We have used the Equinox Z mainly in rural environments and we feel that this is its playground, it could be used also in a urban area provided that the IR illuminator is switched OFF (even with naked eye you can see a little red glare coming from it) or you can mount a third party IR flashlight on the Picatinny rail on the side. Other than that, we loved playing with it and we feel that from now on we aren’t going anywhere without it.
Urban Survivor Blog
Gerber is a recognized leader in military-grade tactical products. We had the chance to test for a few months one of their new Cortex flashlights.
These lights are proudly built in the US and are designed to meet the needs of the military professionals. The Gerber Cortex series is comprised of three flashlights: the Cortex, the Cortex Compact and the Cortex Rechargeable. This line of lights features the Gerber’s patented Omnivore technology, which allows them to operate on multiple powers sources. The Cortex and Cortex Compact can operate on either AA or Lithium CR123A batteries, while the Cortex Rechargeable runs on Lithium Ion 18650 battery but will also accept disposable CR123A batteries.
The Cortex Flashlight is built with adaptability in mind. It can run on either three Lithium CR123A batteries or two AA batteries. The Cortex accepts both alkaline and lithium, providing the operator with flexibility when battery choices are limited. With a maximum output of 675 Lumens (when running on three CR123 batteries), the Cree XML LED provides a level of light than can be effectively utilized to overwhelm an aggressor or identify a threat. In an outdoor environment this light can be effective for hundreds of yards.
As you can see from the images above the light has a very wide outer beam, while still having a focused hot spot in the middle. We believe that Gerber has found a good balance between wide-external and focused-central. This fine combination allows the operator to enhance its situational awareness while still being able to utilize the tool actively and selectively. The tail switch cap allows to select between three modes: high, low and strobe. The low mode provides an output of 40 Lumens and is well suited for administrative tasks.
The light is built with heavy duty in mind. The Cortex is made of aircraft grade anodized aluminium which feels solid and tough as soon as you grab it. Because of its aggressive design, the bezel can be used as a striking tool or even to brake glass, in case things go very south.
The light is also provided with a built in clip, for easier carry when a sheath is not available.
We believe that this flashlight could be very interesting especially for those who live in Europe, while other US made flashlights are very expensive this seems to have an excellent Quality/Price ratio. For the pure tactical application (CQB, even weapon mounted) we prefer to have a momentary only switch. But this product still does a very good job for a personal defense task. In all these months that we have been using this product (and we didn’t treat is very good) we have never experienced a failure of any kind. We have accidentally dropped this light for quite some distance and every thing was fine, and even underwater it worked magnificently.
We recommend this light for its adaptability, and we would definitely keep it in my car or in a Go bag. The Cortex’s adaptability and versatility make it a tool you must have. The fact that you can utilize this light for personal defense, search and rescue and general outdoor/tactical applications definitely make this flashlight one of the best we have ever owned.
So if you need to purchase a flashlight that can do the work of 3 or 4 we strongly recommend this. If you are looking for a light to keep on your person when hiking in the mountains, operating overseas, rescuing, hunting or even as and EDC tool, this is the one.
The Gerber Cortex flashlight is available at GerberGear.com for € 192.00
Being able to see properly is one of the most important skills, it can increase your survivability in almost every dangerous scenario. Since most of the time the two biggest obstacles to our “gift of sight” are darkness (at night) and being blinded by the Sun (during day) we’ve decided to focus on a Flashlight and a pair of sunglasses.
Since most of the time we end up being in an urban environment we wanted to find two practical, durable pieces of gear. We also didn’t want to draw a lot of the attention looking all tacticool but fit a bit more in the environment.