Today’s guest article is from Mike Haytack of EAGLElement. Mike is a combat veteran (JTAC) who is fast becoming one of the industry’s go-to guys for independent review. Seriously, we figure he might eventually become the go-to Tactical Consumer Reports guy if he plays his cards right, which is why we’re happy to have him as one of our many
wretched groveling damn dangerous minions. EAGLElement, Mike’s company, specializes in thorough, professional, unbiased reviews of military and outdoor gear.You should check them out. Just be aware that he’s got a very serious mien (grunts: mien). As in some sort of weird mixture of Leon, Eeyore and Dolorous Edd Tollett.
Tactical Tailor is Doing What’s Right.
Mike Haytack with EAGLElement Looks at the Fight Light Gear Line from Tactical Tailor
The extended network of Tactical Tailor (TT) approached EAGLElement, LLC right around the latter half of February requesting test and evaluation (T/E), and review on their current applications. I’m honored to be selected by a company that has weathered many storms to come out on top and continually provides a positive example to the tactical and outdoor communities. Given this unique opportunity I chose applications I think any current warfighter can appreciate, and they hail from TT’s Fight Light (FL) gear line. Sensing Uncle Sugar wasn’t in any hurry to lighten the current battlefield load, TT began development of FL gear with the help from 2nd Ranger Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group and the US Army’s Stryker community. I chose the FL Large plate carrier, triple mag pouch, the Joey Pouch with bladder and Large Battle Belt.
Before I get into my thoughts I think it’s worth mentioning I’m 6’5” and weight about 225lbs. I love pizza, ice cream, fine cigars and blowing “things” up. The take away is this, I’m not the smallest or lightest dude on the patrol, I enjoy some of the finer things in life, and it’s safe to say I have some level of hypertension, so lighter is better. In the past, I’ve stepped to the objective with no less than 2 X PRC-148 MBITR radios or 1 X Harris PRC-152 radio, (associated cables) full antenna farm on the posterior, with 120oz of water, 6 X 30 round mags of 5.56, and at times a A-320 amplifier with a battery. Oh and some type of video downlink device. All strapped to my upper body. I’ve worn the PASGT, ISAPO, RBA, Interceptor/IOTV vest, Paraclete vest/plate carrier, Mayflower plate carrier and many others that will remain nameless. Sadly, those days of me hauling all that stuff to the fight are over. That’s ok, my future is bright, and I’m stepping into the lighter and faster world of combat tactics and firearms training, so the opportunity to get acquainted with lighter applications and provide feedback is appreciated.
Progressive Force Concepts (PFC) Instructor Development Course provided me the first real opportunity to test out the kit. This is a two-day invite only course that is essentially a practical interview for gunfighters. Bottom line, it’s not your typical pistol or carbine pow-wow and the tone was set early. “The 10% will NOT affect the 90%. The good of the unit, will always outweigh the needs and problems of the few. Individuality, selfishness, apathy, quitting or indecision are not welcome here.” The course wasn’t about how we performed at our best, but how we performed at our worst. During the course, my intent was to wear the plate carrier with associated items and the battlebelt. I attached a kydex holster in it’s final stages (Tier 4) of T/E and quickly concluded the holster lacked the weapon retention required. The FL TT battlebelt had nothing to do with the retention issues. Needing to run a secondary weapon, I used my go to kydex holster and Ares Ranger belt for most of the shoot. Subsequently I wore the plate carrier during the TACP Association 24-hour run/ruck challenge. My 7-man team relayed for 24 hours and accomplished 126 miles. I personally accomplished 20 miles in the plate carrier with a 25 lb. ruck made by High Ground Gear. I intend to conduct long term T/E on all the items discussed here, so expect a follow up report later to include more details regarding the battlebelt. For the most part, I think the kit got a fair initial shake down.
Like the other applications, the plate carrier is constructed of 500 denier. In addition to the denier, TT has taken things a step further and built in a flame resistant liner. This material provides flash flame protection. A simple system of MALICE CLIPS® are used at the rear of the carrier to join the cumber bum and allows easy disassembly and maintenance. Regarding the fit, I immediately noticed subtle angles and stitch points that allow the carrier to fit more athletically and stay with me as I moved dynamically. TT achieves this mainly by constructing a Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) slot sized near exact for each standard plate (M, L, XL). I say near because TT has designed just enough room to accommodate a soft armor (backing) insert. The shoulder straps originate from the top aft of the carrier, verses the front. This allows the plate to ride more naturally against the body. High quality mesh is sewn on the interior of the shoulder straps and you’ll find removable shoulder pads with cable routing in all the appropriate places. Two slide locks are located rearward of the shoulders and act as quick releases. Of note, both are smartly covered by attached stretch loops to allow stowing cables and help prevent accid
ental release. One of the finer features I appreciated the most was the high density foam pads that are anatomically stitched inside of the plate panels. Finally, along the frame of the back plate carrier, TT has sewn a single strip of MOLLE webbing to allow strapping or micro daisy chaining items as needed.
Entry and exit is made easy by using side slide locks that are attached to adjustable straps. An overlapping Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) panel covers each of the locks, and this is where I had most of my issues. The material is pretty sharp and stiff around the corners and when configured with accessories, this area would pinch or scrape my sides. I use a Tier system during my T/E. Essentially I ramp up the use of an application and eventually subject it to the environment and under the assumed actions the application would be used in. During Tier 4 (highest tier) I attached a FASTmag carrier plus a fully loaded mag to the right front panel and as stated above this is when I experienced most of my discomfort. I removed the FASTmag and then attaching the new MBITR2 and experienced the same if not worse discomfort. In all fairness, TT knows this and has constructed PALS to the interior of the overlap panel. This design feature lets the user attach a radio pouch to the interior and closer to the body, thus snugger. If you’ve ever worked with a PRC-152 or even the PRC-148, these radios get hot when communications are intensive. If I attached a radio to the inside of this area for an extended period, my assumption is that the radio could become even hotter. Additionally, multi-day operations require continual access to these radios, and comparatively speaking I had a hard time accessing the radio in this tucked position. With this said, this is mission set specific, and when I had nothing attached to the panels my experience was pure bliss. I’ve since settled on attaching the FASTmag to the front of the triple mag carrier utilizing a pair of Moly Stix. I would suggest TT consider making the whole side connector section a tad bit wider. Note: when side plate panels are installed it does allow more accessories to be mounted.
Side Note on Side Plates. I hate them! I know that’s taboo in some circles, but it is what it is. TT isn’t to blame for this, I’ll blame it on my large hip bones. Seriously, I have hip bones made for an elephant, and for me there is nothing worse than dealing with stupid side plate rub, and knowing you still have many days of hard rucking a head of you. Hater talk aside, I think TT’s side plate pockets are some of the better ones made. TT has done the right thing and sewn in the FR material in to these as well. If the unit you’re working with requires the wear of side plates, these will get the job done nicely.
Before I get into the battle belt it’s important to remember I had limited time with this application due to poor weapons retention displayed by the test holster. In my professional opinion if you’re going to run a battlebelt, you want to pair it with the best stuff out there or it just becomes a liability. I did use the belt in a limited capacity and my rigger belt of choice is a prototype by Boxer Tactical called the “Zenith”. The battlebelt is actually an interesting concept. It’s a 3 piece design (without riggers belt installed) that is adjustable up to 3” each side and has port holes on each side that allow routing of a drop down leg holster. I have a 36” waist and the large battlebelt fit perfect and if I ever need more length I have no worries given the added adjustability. During my initial research, I found a few common feedback items, and I’d like to address them based on my experience with this battlebelt and others. Some reviewers stated that the PALS strips don’t match the MultiCam®. I really could care less as long as the PALS is a similar and consistent color, which it is (Coyote). A second common feedback item is that there are only 2 strips of PALS webbing, and some wished TT would sew a 3rd row. I didn’t experience any degradation in performance due to the lack of PALS webbing. I think TT did this to keep cost and weight down. The final common feedback item was that users experienced slippage or creep-up with this belt. Every battlebelt I’ve worn creeps up the second I bend, squat or draw an accessory out. I personally found the interior material to be very comfortable. My only concern is the long term durability of the material. For long term T/E I plan on attaching my LBT-9022B Blowout Pouch (pictured) and I’ve since attached my kydex holster from Armordillo Concealment (pictured) I expect to be reporting a positive experience in the future.
The magazine pouch, Joey Pouch and bladder all operated well. I did experience some zipper jamming on the Joey Pouch but this should loosen up as usage continues. During the PFC ass kicking, I had immediate access to water, so only having .75 liters wasn’t a real concern for me. Admittedly, after I finished my first .75 liters, it was just more convenient for me to drink out of my gallon water jug. I’ll caveat that statement and say, I drink a lot of water. I’ve got a buddy who can go on a 3 day mission and drink Pepsi. No joke! Pepsi, Not this guy, call me whatever, I drink water! I feel like I need to caveat this paragraph with this; don’t count on this water supply lasting long. With all this said, I experienced I little drama with the Source Kangaroo bladder, but this was all user induced, I needed to tighten the main cap. After I went through my trouble shooting it functioned perfectly, and good on TT for include the bladder with the Joey Pouch. The Joey Pouch accepts a 32oz. Nalgene bottle too.
I think it’s pretty amazing TT can create such well thought out, quality applications at the prices they do. Over the past 20 years, I’ve been a part of some crappy organizations, and I’ve also been apart of some amazing organizations. The amazing ones have two things in common. The first being the people up top understand the operator’s pains, because they fought through the same tactical problems. In other words, along with experience comes empathy, and it’s impossible to care if you haven’t lived it. Secondly, everybody in the unit understood and believed in the leader’s motto. TT’s motto is “Do what’s right, because it’s right”. This simple maxim guides TT in producing the highest quality American made applications for those who protect freedom around the world.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang-CLEAR!
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(Note:Images copyright 2013 D. Hesiak of LIttle Crown LLC and Jarred Taylor of BOTSTIK Collective, Q.V..)