Plat-A-Tac ‘Harry’ Combat Jacket

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I’ve picked up a lot of good deals over the years as far as apparel goes through a combination of paying close attention to sales and end-of-line clearances, as well as scouring the second hand market from time to time.  But of all the bargains I’ve nabbed, this softshell from Aussie gear experts Plat-A-Tac is a very close competitor for the top spot and I really, really don’t say that lightly.

If I’m honest with you all, at the time I purchased this jacket I didn’t actually know what I was getting, not exactly anyway.  I knew I had a tactical jacket addiction and having purchased a fair bit from Plat-A-Tac already I nabbed this little number quick sharp when I saw a sale that discounted the already heavily slashed price.  However, at that time I really did not have an understanding of a modern foul weather layering system that included softshell items; primarily because the clothing system that I’ve been issued and used in through training never included them (though I think we’re getting there… gradually).  So this jacket arrived, I hung it up and there it stayed in my cupboard for a few months.

Then I decided I was going to have a go at a ‘milsim’ type airsoft game in order to (amongst other things) provide a good test environment for gear I’d never be allowed to wear on an exercise with work.  Given the location and time of year of the milsim I knew I needed to prepare for cold wind, rain and potentially snow yet still remain comfortable when running around with kit on, not overheat and soak myself from within by sweating too much inside non-breathable, slow-drying apparel.  This led me in to spending many, many hours over the course of a good couple of week reading up on the US PCU/ECWCS issued deployment uniform ensembles, as well reviews covering a wide range of high end foul weather kit that provided similar capability amongst the after-market options.  ITS Tactical and Military-Morons articles were especially helpful in this regard and all the information I took in gave me a completely new understanding of the advantages of a properly administered layering system that includes a good softshell (i.e. the stuff is worth far more than just appearing tacticool).

Fast forward to actually trying the jacket out ‘in the field’ and I was actually slightly disappointed, as despite being in the depths of Wales at the start of November we had pretty much no rain, little wind during the day and comparatively warm temperatures throughout.  Luckily however we started the game at 2am on the Saturday morning by patrolling slowly along a completely exposed hillside and spending a lot of time either kneeling stationary, or lying down in the undergrowth to avoid detection.  The temperatures were unusually higher for the time of year but there was certainly a chilled wind blowing and I didn’t feel any of it through this jacket; no feeling of cold or damp when lying in the undergrowth for a little while either.  On the other hand, roughly 30 hours later Sunday morning it was 18°C with bright, clear skies and a strong sun shining while I ran around a fair amount and simply never felt clammy or overly humid underneath this jacket.  I adjusted the main zip up and down slightly to suit the conditions and utilised the under-arm zips on occasions to alter ventilation levels, but having only used cotton-based upper layers in the past this jacket was a serious revelation in terms of keeping me comfortable in a good range of conditions.  I wore a simple issued synthetic t-shirt underneath which did the job a base layer should do as far as moving sweat away from the skin initially and the Harry jacket did a superb job of carrying on that process.

Now, bear in mind, I was fortunate in that the temperature range I encountered during this event was quite ideally suited to a jacket like this, which sits at level 5 within the PCU system scale.  Had I not been somewhat active most of the time or the temperatures had dropped lower than the 8-9 degrees we encountered, I’d probably have been looking at adding a level 2 fleece layer and when I stopped completely to rest I put a level 3 (or my issued equivalent) fleece over the jacket to prevent shivers setting in.  I’d also say that around 25 degrees would be the absolute upper limit for any amount of physical activity in this jacket when worn with just a t-shirt, more than that and you’d be swapping down to a NYCO shirt or less, though I may experiment with this jacket in the summer just to see how it does in terms of breathability vs NYCO or poly-cotton once we hit the low 30s come June time.

Plat-A-Tac say the Harry is made from an entirely Nanosphere fabric, yet most other softshells from similar high-end tactical brands are described as using Tweave Durastretch e.g. the Arc’teryx combat jacket and trousers or Crye fieldshell and all-weather G3s; with just a Nanosphere finish applied externally to the Tweave.  The Harry certainly looks and feels more than similar to my Arc’teryx Combat Jacket (also in multicam), so again it seems I have some more comparison checking to do in order to establish whether there’s any noticeable difference in performance.  Either way the fabric used is incredibly comfortable and flexible, dries rapidly compared to the standard uniforms you might be accustomed to, packs down tightly for those occasions when you’re angrily cramming 10 pounds of gear in to a 9.5 pound section of your ruck and doesn’t weigh anything noticeably more than NYCO despite all its’ weather resisting capabilities.

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The cut of the Harry combat jacket also stands out and it’s rather reminiscent of the Crye Gen 2/AC combat shirts in terms of the arm pockets, something which is very useful and noticeably lacking from the equivalent non-insulated jackets produced by competing manufacturers.  Most of them have bicep pockets mounted internally which limits your access to those pockets as well as the size and shape of items you can store within them.  The Harry’s pockets are sewn on to the outside of the sleeves as per the AC shirts, which gives you more room and does the job I always look for in any pocket – holding items without the wearer feeling and constantly being aware of them.  There’s a top access velcro lid as well as side access zip, which could perhaps do with a larger pull tab, but it would only be an issue if you had gloves on which weren’t in keeping with the operating condition spectrum that the jacket suits.  There’s a large main loop field on the body of each pocket and then the typical flag-shaped field on each lid, which give great real estate for patches compared to any Arc’teryx offerings, on top of concealable pieces for your IRR needs attached via edging tape.  I’d have preferred the central zip to be tan in keeping with the pocket and pit zips, but we’re obviously getting picky at that point.  My only real gripe is the baffle at the neck, because 90% of the times I tried to fully zip up the jacket said baffle would give me grief.  It never did the full-on “oh shit now I need to use both hands to pull opposite direction to remedy this jam in my zip… please don’t tear” but it was annoying having to try and hold the baffle out of the way when attempting to prevent cold wind getting down in to the top of my jacket.

The other elements of the cut are all spot on.  The 2 main front pockets are well sized and up high to clear any belt in keeping with similar designs in outdoor foul-weather jackets (almost too high some may find) and since these pockets are made of a strong (yet soft) mesh they allow for another ventilation option if absolutely necessary.  The overall shape and construction certainly never hindered my movement and while the cuffs aren’t adjustable the fixed openings seem to be proportionate to the overall size of the jacket and fit my wrists pretty much perfectly. Similar story with the collar height, covered my neck and blocked the elements but didn’t rub under my jaw.  Length for me personally was ideal for a combat jacket and the hem sat right hip level.  Wouldn’t stop your arse getting damp when you sat down but I’ve always found any jacket that does so to be a nuisance anyway

At the time of writing this jacket has sold out from the Plat-A-Tac store and the company is doing some re-organising as far as their product line goes, but I’d certainly like to see a version of this come back in 2016 when they release their planned new uniform line.

An easy 9 out of 10 at least.

Put Something On The End Of It

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Here in the UK, muzzle devices fall under the components of a firearm which it would be illegal to purchase and fit to an airsoft replica (technically just flash hiders, but it’s not worth the risk given the punishments).  So given that rifle barrel thread specs on real comps and brakes are different to those found on airsoft equivalents, it leaves us with replica muzzle devices being the only real option, even though some firearm accessories are quite legal to own and fit to a replica (buttstocks and other simple parts that do not contribute to the function of the weapon).

Within the field of replica muzzle devices I’ve tried many brands (G&P, King Arms, VFC etc) and to cut right to the chase, PTS accessories are always my go-to in this area now and have been for some time.  Most airsoft manufacturers copy various real firearm devices but do not license them, which isn’t ideal in my books and more crucially they also manufacture these items (in most cases) as cheaply as possible.  Often using chunks of cast pot metal with incredibly weak paint finishes.

PTS hold licenses from AAC and Griffin Aramament (amongst others) and produce a wide range of very high quality flash hiders, compensators, muzzle brakes and everything inbetween.  They’re made using good aluminium with tough anodising on the outsides, meaning they not only look and feel far nicer than most of the competition, they interface with the relevant silencers that PTS also manufacture very nicely indeed; not to mention many of them come supplied with spacer and alignment washers to ensure you don’t have to purchase any other parts to get a correct fit on your gun.

Does this quality come at a price?  Yes somewhat, you’ll certainly pay more for a PTS hider or comp than you would an unbranded chinese copy that’s been made with the sole aim of selling at the lowest possible RRP.  However in my experience your muzzle is something that will definitely take some wear and the brunt of a few knocks when using a gun, regardless how hard you try and keep it off the ground, so it’s not something to skimp on.

Pictured above is a PTS Griffin compensator fitted to a TM recoil M4, as well as another of the same comps which I purchased based on the quality displayed in the original item.

Patches AWOL

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I’m afraid to say that at this moment I’m all out of patches to post for #MoraleMondays.  I have some in the collection that I might not have already posted, but it’s hard to be sure without spending an inordinate amount of time going through years’ worth of Monday posts.  Had a pretty solid run though so I hope you’ve all enjoyed the feature thus far.

It’ll be another month or two at least before I get more in, but I am fairly picky and I don’t tend to buy any if I feel they’re not relevant to me personally.  Some may have noticed the site has changed aesthetically and that is to facilitate better integration with shop software as I slowly work towards the opening of the new and much improved version of the REMF Tac patch store.  It’ll have a lot more stock than the previous simple store and initially it will be other companies efforts in stock rather than my own, but hopefully over time that will change as and when I come up with good ideas for patches.

For now, here’s the back of the new work t-shirts we’ve gotten in here at Benson Armoury, featuring our native Puma 2 aircraft, the ever-present explosive hazard symbol and some belted 556 ammo.  Not my design and not 100% what I’d have gone with, but it’s a fitting enough design when I’m fixing guns in the bat and some pretty high quality custom work from Moosejam Tactical.

An Educational Game That Doesn’t Suck

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Whether you’re trained up to the gills on medical procedures (a refresher NEVER hurts) or literally only posses the knowledge that Vinnie Jones has bestowed upon you via that TV ad one time, you should checkout this little gem of a free game.

Relive is essentially a first person Sci-Fi puzzler that teaches you the bare-bones of Dr ABC along the way.  It won’t teach you triage or secondary surveys or sucking chest wounds or how to apply a tourniquet, but during the middle chapter of this entirely free game your character is required to pass a CPR test and learn to use an automatic defibrillator in order to get a certain card and get through a locked door.  The way this learning is implemented in the 3D environment is really rather good overall, certainly less weird feeling than blowing in to those monstrous looking, featureless training dummies.

I felt the responsiveness check that was demonstrated was actually rather poor and could seriously aggravate a spinal injury; also I’d have liked to have seen a better explanation of the way to properly lock the arms and give effective chest compressions, but realistically this is the sort of knowledge that EVERY single person in the world should be getting in school at a young age (I will fucking never needed to extrapolate and expand upon the meaning of a poem or solve a simultaneous equation) so getting at least some grounding through is better than nothing.

There’s no voice acting at all but the music track is literally too good for a game that costs zero pounds and the Borderlands style graphics are actually better than any Borderlands game, in this blokes’ opinion.  The puzzles are really basic and not terribly well done overall if truth be told, it’s also a bit annoying how slowly your character walks and given that the physics engine is key at certain points it’s rather overly energetic in terms of the way things react.  It’s also a very very short game and for some reason after you’ve learnt the CPR sequence you only actually use it ‘in anger’ one time, despite the fact the entire planet is under threat by a monumentally huge cloud of murderous nanites which have formed a hell of a storm around your base.

Plat-A-Tac – The Best Gear You’ve Never Heard About

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Australian gear manufacturer Plat-A-Tac have been busy beavering away making some very high end kit for Aus government contracts (and specifically Aus SF) for many years now; they even did the run of ‘D3 Uniforms’ that Haley Strategic sold some time back in some Kryptek patterns; yet they’re comparatively unknown when put next to the big US apparel names.  Sadly I get the impression that since Afghan has wound down the contracts have largely dried up for them since the selection of kit on their site is now a shadow of what it was even 6 months ago, with them deeply discounting a lot of their apparel to shift stock during that time period (something I took great advantage of and placed many orders).  Customer service from them was always excellent with shipping prices to the UK somehow managing to be drastically cheaper than shipping things here from the US.  I spoke directly to their CEO via e-mail a couple of times who was extremely polite and amicable in general and when there were a couple of slight hiccups with my orders everything was always resolved in a more than satisfactory fashion.  Luckily despite so many of their products now being discontinued (a real shame given the top-end quality shell jackets and modern uniforms they manufactured) there is hope on the horizon and they’ve mentioned multiple times via their social media that a new uniform is on the way.  I hope to see them carry on with the same high quality manufacture in both popular and less-popular patterns and particularly the compatibility with the G3 kneepads in their trouser line.

One product that was briefly sold at a deep discount and can no longer be found on their site was the Patrol Pant – ATACS AU that you see pictured above.  In many ways this is essentially a G3 Field Trouser but with some deviations and a slightly more European feel to a few of the design aspects.  There’s a tough but flexible NYCO employed throughout with all the double layering and pockets that you’d expect from a Field Pant (plus a couple extra) as well as pockets for your field type knee pads.

Unlike the Crye design however you’ll find a button fly, draw-strings at the ankles, button closures on the rear pocket and zips on the main cargo pockets and calf pockets, along with a few other very small minor changes.  I’d have preferred to see tape buttons for strength as per CS95 as opposed to the more pedestrian style buttons and perhaps some zips on the back pockets too, but those would be the only small niggles I’d highlight.  The overall construction feels more durable than Crye and certainly compared to the Propper ATACS-AU trousers which these replaced in my collection, they’re a massive step up.  They may not quite have the pyjama feel of G3s but they just give you that impression that they’re going to hold up for a good long while and having far less velcro than the Cryes is another lean in that direction.  Overall a good looking and comfortable trouser with good, neat stitching throughout.

Speshul Forces

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This is another embroidered patch from Mil-Spec Monkey but one I’d never actually seen before, which is pretty unusual given that pretty much everyone has at least one MSM patch.  It suits me down to the ground anyway.  #MoraleMondays

New Shirt(s) Time

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Here’s the tail-end of the last few months’ purchases.  Normally I’d prioritise deliveries of tacticool stuff like all this sweet camo, but the more actually-practical kit had to get delivered first in preparation for the milsim game.  It’ll be a fair while yet before this stuff gets featured individually, but if you like combat shirts definitely stay tuned.

Milsim – Good For Gear Testing

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(PERSEC for face of someone not accustomed to being in pictures)

I went along to a 36hr airsoft game run by Warzone Battle Simulation this past weekend to try out ‘military simulation’ for the first time and I must say, it was certainly a good experience overall.  I bought in a substantial amount of new gear specifically for this event as it took place in rural south Wales and being the end of October/start of November I was expecting some unpleasant weather conditions, hence the loadout was at least 90% different to what I’ve always used in the past for 1-day skirmishes.  In the end it actually turned out we had the hottest November day that Wales has ever experienced with hardly any rain, little wind and generally warm temperatures throughout.  That said however there was still plenty of night fighting, long patrols out in the woods and extended periods of action; we often didn’t return to our harbour area for 5-6+ hours at a time so the kit still got a really good run out in terms of general comfort when cautiously patrolling and performance when getting more active against the enemy force.

With that in mind I’ll take this opportunity to pick out some of the items that really worked well and made life easier, as well as a couple of things that didn’t.

The Good

Jetboil Flash – Compared to hexi blocks the Jetboil seriously lived up to its’ name.  Not only is it incredibly quick at boiling water (for food or hot drinks) but the ease of using it really blew me away.  The gas canister, stand and burner ring/igniter all pack away inside of the water vessel and setting everything up takes about 30 seconds tops.  You dial up the gas, press the igniter just like a gas hob in your house and you’re off.  Absolutely night and day compared to the old issued cooking system I used going through basic training.

Muc-Off Dry Shower – This was a bit of a random addition to the kit that I added last minute on something of a whim, but I’m damn sure I did.  The small bottle contains a pink liquid that dispenses as a foam and you can easily cover your entire upper body in 3 presses of the nozzle.  It has a light coconut smell which is a pleasant change when you’ve been sweating in the field and most importantly, boy does this stuff work.  I know my armpits smell after just an average day in work and that;s when I’ve had the opportunity to take a hot shower in the morning and apply antiperspirant to clean skin, but this product absolutely does what it says on the ‘tin’ i.e. kill off the bacteria that actually cause you to smell.  I was waiting in the queue at McDonalds when stopped at a services travelling back from the event and I know under normal circumstances people would’ve been literally recoiling at the smell after 2 days of not showering and running around, but nobody seemed to even notice in the slightest and I was paying very close attention.  The bottle is tiny and weighs very little but it would easily last you weeks in the field.

LOWA Zepyr GTX – Traditional leather boots are now totally and utterly obsolete in my eyes.  These are the first truly modern gore-tex boots I’ve tried and though they use some suede their construction is largely synthetic.  Compared to any mostly-leather boot I’ve spent time in in the past (which covers many different types of issued boot over the past 8+ years) these were a true game changer.  I took them straight out of the box to use them for the entire event and they required absolutely no breaking in what-so-ever.  This is a claim I’ve heard before regarding boots and always found to be false in reality, but in this instance it really stood up.  They were soft and comfortable from the get-go and despite the fact I ended up with a pair that were slightly on the large side for me I had zero discomfort throughout the weekend.  Walking through soaking tall grass at 5 a.m. was no issue for the lining yet I really didn’t feel hot or sweaty inside these at all.

Beyond Clothing PCU L5 Trousers – Wearing these was my foray in to a softshell layer for the lower half and though I didn’t get to see their performance in the rain the way I’d have liked, they still put in a top showing.  I’ll write more about these specifically when I post detail pictures, but sufficed to say I am a convert and I wish there was an issued equivalent in the British stores system.  The way the pocket zips were mounted upside down really messed with my head for a while, but in terms of access when wearing a belt it did make sense overall.

Plat-A-Tac Harry Combat Jacket – This level 5 non-insulated softshell puts the multicam Arc’teryx combat jacket to absolute shame given the price difference.  Something I was never aware of in the past was how these sorts of shell layers really tie in to a clothing system (and retailer sites are rather lacking in info to my mind), but once I’d done a good bit of digging around reading reviews and articles from experienced outdoor people, their purpose became much clearer.  This jacket blocked the cold wind like a champ and still did a brilliant job of breathing, letting out the sweat and generally regulating my temperature the way I needed.  Compared to a NYCO field shirt (which it replaces for usage in less favourable climates) the shell fabric did an infinitely superior job.  The wind flap at the neck did hinder the zip going fully closed sometimes, but I was wearing fairly thick gloves and with airsoft goggles on it’s very difficult to see down.

Standard issue t-shirts – They’re cheap and they wick sweat incredibly well, which is pretty much the main quality to look for in your base layer (cotton t-shirts are just about the worst option going – avoid).   One of the few issued items I highly rate.  I wouldn’t wear one in to actual battle because they are the opposite of ‘no-melt no-drip’, but for training, range time and airsoft they’re ideal.

Grey Ghost Lightweight assault pack – This particular one is made from a Litelok multicam fabric which GGG don’t carry any more sadly, but it did exactly what I needed in terms of carrying hydro, jackets for cold and wet, medical kit, extra magazines and other admin items all within easy access.  More importantly it did so without me ever feeling like it was digging in to my shoulders or hurting my back in anyway.  It probably would do if you had a very heavy load in there (I was only carrying about 6kg of stuff) but the PALS space it has externally along with the easy access of the pockets make for a winning combination as a light patrol ruck.

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The Not So Good

PTS Rail Sling Attachment – Nicely made, but pretty much a microcosm of my reasoning for always using firearm accessories and parts over airsoft ones where physically and legally possible to do so.  I know I sufficiently tightened this RSA on to my gun, but the simple action of the sling loading weight on to it repeatedly (the ACR AEG does not recoil) caused the screw to work loose.  This meant I lost my front sling point and was relegated to purely using my sling in a 1-point mode, in turn resulting in more neck ache and rubbing than would have occurred if I could have carried on in a 2-point.

ESS Prescription inserts within Turbofan goggles – I’ve used these goggles many times and the fans have done me proud in terms of fog prevention, but once the inserts were fitted.. no dice I’m afraid.  This isn’t the fault of the inserts or the goggles to my mind, I’m just a pro at fogging goggles up and the added surface area of the inserts clearly was too much for the fans to cope with.  I’m not a proponent of mesh eye protection for airsoft so I’m pretty much resigned to either getting contacts or laser eye surgery (or always running magnified optics) if I want to be able to ID targets at distance and adequately protect my eyeballs at the same time (which requires full-seal goggles).  A lesson I learnt quite abruptly as it were was that one should take extra caution when their vision is obscured, as in my haste to medic a team mate I ran right in to a massive tangle of rusty barbed wire that I’d mistaken for average brambles through my misty lenses.  I was extremely lucky that all the wire actually did was poke a small hole in my trousers, things could’ve gone a lot worse as it all came right up to my waist when I trampled the centre part of the reel down in an attempt to charge right through it.

Sealskinz Dragon Eye gloves – If I had more of a middling category these would probably go in there.  I went for a small based on their sizing guide but even with my stubby fingers the actual fingers of the gloves were quite a bit too short.  The palm surface was also probably one of the most slippery I’ve encountered, though in fairness the painted surface of my ACR is also incredibly smooth.  However I do suffer in even the slightest cold where my hands are concerned (even when the rest of me is perfectly warm) and considering the insulation in these is quite thin it provided a comparatively high amount of warmth while still managing to breathe.  None of that horrible foreboding when putting on a glove you’ve previously sweated in, taken off and allowed to go cold.

 

There were lots of other items that served me well (never forego a good folding camp bed and a thick sleeping bag when you have the luxury of bringing them) but the above were the things that really stood out from the crowd.  A lot of the equipment I used has yet to come to the front of the queue for its’ own post here on the site, but that’ll all come in due course.

Thanks to the organisers of the event and everyone that took part in good humour and with the right attitude – not every participant did so, but those who came in with the right mindset certainly made it a good time.

Often Misguided Symbolism

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MoraleMondays from Kryptek Outdoor Group.

Honestly I find this whole ‘300’ Spartan hoplite obsession that’s swept the US shooting community to be pretty funny in a lot of ways.  Historically, the actual citizens of Sparta were often regarded as each being worth many of the men of other countries and cultures; and the elite 300 that were selected as the king’s guard were the best of those elites.  However spartan society also revolved around the principal of their actual citizens being served by huge amounts of slaves, not exactly the modern American way.

I like the patch because it’s free of text (which is surprisingly uncommon when you really look around) and the colours are bold with prominent symbolism, but I certainly don’t subscribe to any of this ‘modern warrior’ BS that some companies use to try and sell their products to people who think buying a certain rifle or camo shirt will turn them in to the greatest fighters humanity has ever seen.