Commercial Camo Showdown – 2/3 – Undecided

Yes that’s right, it’s what you have literally all without a shadow of a doubt been waiting for, literally hanging off the edges of your seats, it’s the Commercial Camo Showdown part 2 of 3 – Transitional edition (Nothing to do with all the noise the US Army is making back and forth about certain people serving).

From left to right we’re looking at the following:
– Kryptek Outdoor Group Highlander, VERTX 37.5 Combat shirt
– PenCott Camouflage Badlands, Husar EXO Combat trousers
– MultiCam Original, Patagonia L9 Combat trousers
– A-Tacs Camo iX, ur-tactical.com Gen 2 IDA Combat shirt

NB – The ATACS is cotton jersey from the shirt body rather than the NYCO in the others, because OPS pattern and cut their shirts in such a way it didn’t want to sit flat (which is a good thing), but the representation is still pertinent.

Of the 3 categories, this one is different from the rest in that transitional patterns are actually far more commonly coming from commercial manufacturers. Military adoptions of transitionals are comparatively speaking much smaller in scale than the 2 woodland/arid book-ends when you look at this from a historical perspective. Also there’s the fact that US and UK selections of Scorpion W2 and MTP respectively are *pretty much* just multicam, especially in terms of colour palette. From what I’ve seen Germany is also looking at a pattern that is their own MTP, i.e. it’s the geometry of Flecktarn in Multicam colours. Wouldn’t surprise me if lots of other nations do/are doing the same thing.

The other aspect of this comparison I find interesting is the large gaps between the colour palettes of the different options. To my eye the disparity across this range is significantly more than you see in the aforementioned book-end options.

Highlander contains barely any green, when I first purchased some I thought I’d gotten Nomad until I actually looked up Nomad. I don’t think this actually precludes it as a transitional pattern you just need to stick to areas with more brown and less green. Now Badlands adds a bit more green to the mix, but then there’s also less browns and a strong showing from the light tan, similar sort of situation to Highlander.

In retrospect the area of Multicam I’ve shown isn’t the best representation since it’s more green-dominant than MC is on average, but all things being taken in to account the overall colour palette has the best performance in a variety of environments that I’ve seen. Against light green foliage it always blends well but when you take it out to the brush-type desert (I took some MC US issue kit with me to afghan alongside my MTP) it also does a fine job. My personal feeling is that Caleb Crye is a secret time traveller and knew just the right time to create and sell a pattern that was best suited to Afghanistan but that’s another story.

iX at the far end has plenty of greens and very dark browns, even borderline black areas in the pattern. Not much in terms of khaki and tan shades. I’ve found it work really incredibly well in some soggy English woodlands. I’ve not seen any images of the pattern in a properly transitional environment so no comment on that right now.

Overall it’s a rather subjective area of camouflage because different swatches of fabric and people’s perception of colours and dominant shades in patterns definitely vary a lot; so classification can get a little muddy. While I am somewhat ‘bored’ of Multicamand and its’ derivatives now as far as uniforms go, I think you’re pretty ignorant of the reality if you try to knock its’ effectiveness in context. Or you’re a never-served airsofter, which I also nearly am but I can segregate my personal tastes from reality.

I’ve seen barely any Badlands or iX out there being used by anyone, airsoft or service people. Highlander was definitely popular for a little while there but generally the woodland variants of Kryptek, PenCott and ATACS seem to be by far the most widely distributed. So let me know in the comments what you like, own and use and where you use it.  Brand, patterns etc.

MOE-Back Thursday – Illumination

Bit of a throwback for this one, but if you have any of the pre M-LOK Magpul Industries Corp. furniture laying around like I do, I recommend looking at these MOE Illumination Kits.

I don’t think it gained as much traction as it deserved because it wasn’t ‘gucci’ compared to the quad rails that used to be all the rage around the same time period, but I think the MOE slots (which were universally interchangeable in sizing) were a superb system. As long as you weren’t trying to mount a laser that needed a zero, it took a little chopping and cutting sometimes but you could create a super light, slick and all over smooth setup for the forend of your rifle. Light mounts, pressure switches, sling mounts, foregrips, rails for anything else, all catered to and all meshed together in a genuinely organic fashion.

The joins between a VFG and the handguard for example were/are infinitely smoother and more comfortable than anything you’d get with 20mm picatinny. Yes you had to screw things on and it’s not as quick as M-LOK, but if you did a little digging you could find manufacturers making parts to suit basically any configuration you wanted, especially once the system had matured a bit and Impact Weapons Components [Official Fan Page] got in on the game.

If you still have any of the old MOE handguards, the PTS replicas thereof, or any model of the PTS ACR/Masada airsoft rifle and you want to get a nice light mount setup going on, this kit is excellent. Comes with 2 different pic rail pieces that can mount any popular weapon light with built in clamps for picatinny, remote pressure switch clamps for current and old (very old) styles of SureFire, LLC tail switches, as well as alcohol pads for surface prep and seriously strong ahesives to get those rubber pads 100% secured.

I’m a huge fan of the SureFire switch when setup as pictured there on my AEG ACR forend. It barely sits more than 3-4mm proud of the surface, integrates nigh-on seamlessly and the overall ergonomics of actually manipulating that switch are just an absolute dream.

Leo Kohler/NfD Tactical Non-Cryes

Here’s the trousers that prompted me to pick up the corresponding Leo Köhler GmbH & Co. KG shirt (also from ASMC GmbH).

These are pretty interesting. With the exception of the incredibly weird PALS webbing inside the groin area, they are pretty close replicas of the Gen 2 Crye combat lowers that were worn by certain German SOF. Pictures I’ve seen of the CP originals also featured the large CS95 style taped buttons on the cargo pockets, something I’ve only ever seen Crye put on to the Gen2 Flecktarns (presumably a special request). Much as I’d love a set of the real things, I’ve literally never seen a pair that was in my size up for sale and if I ever did they’d cost so much more than these copies I’d have to think long and hard.

The primary fabric is 88% cotton – 12% polyamide (which is apparently different to polyester) and seems different to the issued Bundeswehr gear I’ve owned in the past, as well as the Gen 2 Crye combat shirt I have in the same pattern, so I’m not sure what’s going on with that exactly. However it is most definitely rip-stop and though a little lightweight feeling I don’t have any massive concerns about it. The brown stretch panels on the other hand seem to be the exact same fabrics as Crye G3s, if you go by the manufacturer specs on both there’s 1% difference in the fabric mixture and the nomenclatures are slightly different, but to the touch and eye they seem the exact same when put right next to each other.

The stitching I can attest to be at least on par with CP. I spent hours unpicking all the bar-tacks that had been used to stitch on that absurd PALS on the legs and they used legit 1″ webbing for the job to boot. The other odd feature were a set of 3/4″ buttons running around the inside of the waist band, presumably to attach a yoke of some kind. No idea if the originals had these but I removed them.

I see a lot of people online talk about their TMC/Emerson etc Crye combat uniform knock-offs being quote-unqoute “basically just as good as the real thing” which unfortunately is an opinion born of ignorance of the quantifiable facts. I’ve taken close looks at various really cheap clones and they do not hold up to real scrutiny at all. If that’s what people wish to buy and run for airsoft that’s genuinely 100% cool with me, but if you think the materials used or the stitching and construction is on par that only goes to demonstrate you’ve got more to learn about the details of military gear. That aside and as you might guess from their pricing, these copies when laid down next to some Cryes are very very close indeed and I don’t say that as a throwaway statement; absolutely up to the level you’d want and expect for duty usage. Material selection, stitch alignment, stitches per inch, location of bar tacks and other reinforcements as well as the overall cutting and patterning of the fabric pieces are all very good.

One label inside the waist I’ve not pictured says ‘NfD Tactical’, a company I’ve tried to dig in to and found very little about. From their designs it’s pretty evident they’re related to Leo Kohler in some form or another and there’s a fair few reviews out there, but they’re all in German and mostly written quite a few years ago with now-broken links. They have a facebook page with one post from 2011 and no website. My guess would be a sort of shadow company within a company who can infringe on things without getting the larger brand in hot water. That’s a fairly common practice. If anyone has any more relevant information though please share, always keen to learn.

To conclude – they’re certainly not cheap, but these are an awful lot cheaper and easier to come by vs the CP originals. A pair of these will also look far better and last FAR longer than anything you’ll find on a dubious chinese airsoft store. So if a combat cut trouser in this pattern is what you specifically want I’d give them a look because they hit a pretty sensible middle ground when you take in to account the options on the market for this exact type of item.

Leo Kohler Combat Shirt

The Leo Köhler GmbH & Co. KG combat shirt. I put a review not long ago, link’s here if you missed it:

I fancied a temperate flecktarn combat shirt and they aren’t exactly plentiful on the market so I thought it would make sense to check out European retailers and manufacturers (German specifically). The couple of bits of LK gear I’ve picked up have been very impressive indeed for the money. They hit a very solid position on the cost vs performance curve, they blow the likes of LBX and a lot of the chinese junk that uses knock-off fabrics out the water.

It’s still manufactured in the far east rather than Germany, similar to a lot of other mid-range equipment, but it’s obviously done to a good standard and using genuine fabrics. Everything that’s actually made in Europe these days tends to be very high end, whereas this is the sort of gear I’d recommend to anyone if they want something different from military surplus clothing but also want to make a reasonable amount of money go as far as possible.

I make no bones about it, I’ve replaced this shirt in my personal collection already with something different. But collecting stuff is my passion personally, whereas quite rightly most folks want stuff that just works and you can absolutely achieve that with either military surplus or solid mid-range kit. However, you really must know what you’re looking for. There’s a lot of bad recommendations thrown out there by people who aren’t necessarily doing things maliciously, but simply lack the knowledge of the options out there in order to know what product gives the best value.

The construction with the t-shirt base going higher up than normal is a little unusual and for some reason they insist on sewing the German flag to literally every camo variant they make to include PenCott variants, ATACS, Multicam patterns and the list goes on. However it’s a 5 minute job with a £1 thread unpicker to remove them if desired.

As I say there’s other options out there which can often cost similar amounts or sometimes more, yet build with inferior materials and just happen to have more flashy, modern advertising that draws in the unaware. One of my key aims with this blog is to help everyone reading it ensure they don’t end up being that guy/girl. I put a ton of time in to tracking down what I want at the best all-in price I can possibly get and I’ve seen the results of putting the time in to really researching everything vs just buying the first, most obvious item that comes along. However not everyone has that time so I hope I can pass along some lessons I’ve learned to the small readership we have here.

Kryptek Wolf

Kryptek Outdoor Group Custom Jersey #1 – Long sleeve in Raid. Apart from Altitude and Banshee they offer these things in eeeeevery Krpytek colourway your little heart might desire. Just had mine modified with some loop on the sleeve because patches are important.

Built to order so they take a while but there’s a surprising amount of customisation options available directly through their store. This isn’t a shirt you’re taking to war or up in the mountains, but for sporting applications of any kind it’s certainly light and comfortable, just not the most resilient.

Now if you could all e-mail Kryptek telling them you want to see different apparel items in this pattern so they’ll print a roll of NYCO and I can get the matching trousers, that’d be just fantastic.

Battlefield to BB Field

Not concerned about flash flame/explosive hazards?
Want the high performance wicking of a sports shirt?
Also want camouflage, maybe some upper arm velcro?

You need to start looking at hunting gear. Kryptek Outdoor Group made these Valhalla hunting shirts long before they released their own tactical line that have the conventional poly/cotton sleeves. The sleeves and shoulders are a very slightly different fabric to the torso, but not by much, it’s basically a synthetic sportsman’s jersey throughout. Very, very light and fast to dry.

Sitka and various other hunting brands also offer their own long sleeved, all synthetic shirts in camouflage patterns, but the Valhalla’s the only one I know of out there with the arm velcro, collar and 1/4 zip like a combat shirt. Now, I bought this shirt over 2.5 years ago and if I were to get another one I’d go for a more unusual pattern and take it to a dry cleaners to just have some loop patches sewn on, but I think it remains a good choice.

For any of you not worried about IED or mine threats who can live with something of a decreased abrasion resistance, I strongly advise giving these sorts of garments a look vs the conventional cotton blend military uniforms.

Commercial Camo Showdown – 1/3 – Greens

Took me some time to get everything together to make these posts, but I think I’m sorted now. So here’s the Commercial Camo Showdown, Part 1 of 3, starting with the woodland and temperate environment edition.

If you look around at the product that’s actually stocked and available at retailers in these modern commercial patterns you’ll generally see the majority is temperate, some transitional and the arid variants tend to be less common. A-TACS would be the main exception since they started out with their arid variant and it stuck. Of course Crye also started with transitional Multicam and didn’t release their ‘book end’ patterns until many years later, but due to their popularity they’ve proliferated Arid and Tropic far more than some competing equivalents.

As many will be aware, the trend amongst various communities during the past 2 years or so has moved away from these commercial offerings and there’s a lot of demand out there for the military patterns of 10-20 years ago. Somewhat expected because the US Army has basically adopted multicam now in the form of Scoprion W2, similar story with the British military in MTP, fairly similar again with the Australians with AMCU items and plenty of other forces around the world have also used or adopted Multicam or some slight variation thereof – everyone’s looking rather similar to say the least. The old system from the 80s and 90s that so many of us grew up seeing (or being issued) generally revolved a woodland pattern for in-country/garrison wear and a desert pattern for a lot of the deployments. But that system is either gone or going now as camouflage patterns that were largely designed around the Vietnam era come due for replacement or update and smaller budgets combined with the environment of the Afghanistan conflict mean most roads have lead to adoption of a single, transitional camouflage uniform for absolutely everybody.

If you’re interested in this stuff and you collect it or airsoft or use tactical gear for whatever hobby you happen to enjoy and therefore get to choose the pattern you wear, the lack of variety in the look of military kit these days probably doesn’t exactly thrill you. Hence the resurgence of popularity in the likes of US Woodland and temperate Flecktarn. If you look at just Europe in the late 20th century, an awful lot of countries had their own unique temperate and arid environment patterns. You had both types of DPM, Flecktarn, Norwegian M98, Swedish M90, Danish M84, Italian Vegetata, Begian Jigsaw… and the list goes on (if some of those are uniform rather than pattern designations I apologise, I’m just going off Camopedia).

Personally I was really getting in to all this gear stuff shortly before the initial release of ATACS-AU and at that time the only options for camouflage apparel out there were essentially either military surplus uniforms, some replicas thereof and maybe Multicam if you were throwing money around and knew where to get it (certainly the case in Europe). So when ATACS was due to first release, there was a lot of hype generated. It was the first commercial pattern to hit the market in a big way for some years and people were very interested in any alternative to the common selection of surplus BDUs that had been floating around for a couple of decades by that point. Multicam wasn’t anywhere near as popular or widespread as it is now and a lot of people simply didn’t understand the merits of a transitional pattern because they basically didn’t exist in any quantity before MC came along. Obviously you might debate that based on the colour palettes of some older stuff out there, but the concept itself only really gained big traction in the west in the 00s.

In future I’d like to get hold of some more of the old military patterns myself, but my priority is almost always cut and construction over aesthetic and a lot of the old patterns simply haven’t been manufactured in a modern combat cut or using NYCO, so I’ve used what storage space I have available for the commercial offerings that are modern styled and well built. Another factor in this of course is that it’s far more viable for a company to stay up-to-date on their designs than it is for a whole military force to change their adopted uniform every 3 or 4 years.

But for comparison now, working left to right, we have the following, all in 50/50 NYCO:

– PenCott Camouflage GreenZone, UF PRO Strike XT Gen 1 Combat shirt
– Kryptek Outdoor Group Mandrake, PLATATAC Tac Dax Mk2 Combat trousers
– A-Tacs Camo FG, ur-tactical.com Gen 2 Fast Response Trousers
– MultiCam Tropic, TRU-SPEC 1/4 Zip Combat shirt

If you’re searching for a high quality, combat cut of uniform then GreenZone and Tropic are probably your best bets at the time of writing, in Europe and the US respectively. Krpytek was mega popular for a while when HSP was selling it and PlatATac was manufacturing combat uniforms, and it is still around, but not as common as it was. ATACS-FG is certainly available and floating about, seems to actually be quite popular with some Russian manufacturers though I’ve no idea if they use the genuine fabric.

Now you’ve read my thought I’d like to hear what your preferences are in the comments. Temperate patterns and/or companies that make them. Or indeed anything else you’d like to put on the table with regard uniforms and camouflage.

Gen 5

The Firearm Blog throws down the low down on the Generation 5 Glock:

-Ambi slide lock
-Flared and beveled at the base of the frame
-Finger grooves removed
-Bevels at the front of the slide
-More accurate barrel
-More resilient finish on the slide
-2 pin frame design

At the rate the ‘finish’ is wearing off the slides of Gen 4 guns we’re issuing, we’re going to have to either send a lot back to GLOCK in Austria or adopt an L131A2 GSP.

That aside I’m liking all these changes. I specifically hate finger grooves on any firearm, be it pistol or otherwise. It’s certainly interesting to see the way they’ve gone back to certain elements from the Gen 2 after all these years doing some weird things in the 3 and 4. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a look inside one of these to see the difference in the way it’s all held together vs the Gen 4 guns I’ve carried, fired and worked on.