Once You Go

Really excellent little skirmish at Ambush Adventures ‘The Billet’ last night. Small site and some that was shut,but with only about 20 or so players it worked really nicely. Cold, dark, very close quarters.

Discoveries and gear lessons learned:
-First time out with the FirstSpear Asset shirt, Mk3 combats from PLATATAC and Gunfighter belt from TYR Tactical, LLC. I knew this was all quality gear going in and it was no doubt going to work well; I was not let down.

-Micro red dot from Primary Arms, LLC has brightness settings for every condition. (y)

-The Haley Strategic Partners MP2 inserts got their first proper usage and as I expected, they are superb all around. Solid retention yet still with an easy draw and so much easier to index and re-insert magazines with all your gear on compared to almost any other option on the market.

-Bone stock TM SCAR-L on a fresh new 7.4v LiPo cycles and shoots like a damn champ. Only lock-ups I had on the GB came from firing as fast as possible on semi and not fully pulling the trigger in the correct manner. Other than that, my trigger finger could not out-run the gun.

-The Stark Arms, LLC G17 Gen4 was not behaving at all. First time I’d tried to use it in a game, it functioned fine at home with no BBs, but the ammunition in the mags was seemingly preventing the slide cycling properly. Sometimes it would get stuck trying to move to the rear, sometimes the loading nozzle to stop behind the top round in the mag. Being in brand new condition with almost zero oil or grease and a fairly coarse finish on the slide, it clearly needs a lot of breaking in and lubrication. Or I’ll just use all-plastic TM guns when I’m outdoors in the winter, rather than metal slide guns.

-I have an INFORCE WML (standard version) with a switch between momentary and constant functions. Unfortunately the position for momentary is with the toggle switch facing towards the shooter meaning it gets bumped forward when your thumb goes for the pressure pad. At first this seemed to be causing the light to get stuck in a super low-level output mode that was entirely useless. But then I put in a fresh CR123 and the problem went away. The issue was incredibly intermittent during the game though, and the fact the light was switching down to a low output mode was confusing. I know now it was obviously an emergency low power setting, but when you’re so accustomed to electronics that simply die (or bleep or flash) when the battery is low/dead it does confuse things. I do bring spare batteries for everything electronic with me wherever I go, but as the voltage in the battery was obviously slightly ‘regenerating’ while not in use, the full power output would return inbetween attempts leaving me unaware that I simply needed a new power source. All that aside however, the output of the light is extremely impressive for something so small and feather light.

1st World Problems

Initially I debated whether to film this now or wait until the end of next year when a fairly large portion of the collection (probably 30-40%) will have been swapped out and changed.  For anyone who’s been following this site and my other streams in the past couple of months you’ll have seen a lot of the items that will be ‘moved in’.

 

Forget Gold, Invest In Cryes

I started writing this post which should’ve just been about displaying some recent acquisitions, before I knew it I was an excel spreadsheet deep in to cost vs performance discussions.  So for now, I’ll just say, I have what I have and that’s about all there is to it.

I’ve mentioned it briefly before, but to re-iterate, I decided around the start of this year that trying to change and ‘perfect’ (as much as is possible) all my camo and my load-carrying kit and my replicas all at the same time was proving to make progress in each area painfully slow.  So I decided to spend 2016 just hunting down the tactical apparel that I ‘needed’ to complete the collection idea that I had completely fabricated within my own mind.

More talk after the picture.

For those who saw the last Mail Call post back around September time, this is everything I’ve had show up since then, minus review items and a few very small bits and pieces that are purely for airsoft usage.  Keeping all this in boxes for months and not ripping open all the packaging was pretty tough I’ll say that.  Now, without getting either a UAV or some kind of scaffolding rig, this was the best I could do picture wise, and even this involved me spending (what felt like) a long time on a really rickety old plastic garden chair placed precariously on the edge of a step in the paving.  Paving covered in slug trails, recent rain and a thin layer of green lichen.

Lucky I survived the never-ending karma sutra of photography and lived to get in another weird, awkward position to take pictures another day.  Though being as unimaginably old as I now am, the 2 hours or so I spent in a non-stop squat/kneel getting everything arranged might also have ruined my joints for the next year or so.

So why so many Crye things?  As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I deliberately avoided Crye to an extent for many years, pretty much right up until I deployed back in June actually.  Really it boils down to wanting to put out good information for folks.  I’ve had a fair few comments on YouTube and other places from people saying they were struggling to find information on some certain piece of gear that I happened to post about, and that for me is a solid achievement.  Talking or writing about a lot of Crye products doesn’t provide anything new by this point, the merits of their combat apparel in particular have been well and truly covered on many media platforms.  The fact has always remained however that Crye are the objective best options available for certain colours and patterns.

Going back to my fabricated list of tactical clothing I decided wanted to obtain this year:

-Temperate, transitional and arid combat shirts and trousers from families of Pencott, Kryptek, ATACS & Multicam.

-At least partially replace temperate and arid FROG MARPAT sets with AOR1 and 2.  I’ve got pretty much zero interest in NSW outside of watching the odd movie about SEALs, I just like the patterns and they’re comparatively fairly commonly available in the forms of modern, quality clothing vs a lot of other patterns that have been seen military usage.

-UCP, purely because the experimental Crye Army Combat Pants can be obtained relatively cheaply and despite the patterns’ poor performance in Everywhereistan it is very much rooted in history at this point.

-Standard multicam; given that everyone wears it and MTP looks just like it, I am rather sick of the look of the stuff in a way.  However it’s just as common as solid colours when it comes to all type of tactical gear and given the level of military usage, the high end companies are all producing Multicam in large quantities, making good MC gear of all sorts common and easy to find.

The rest of the items pictured are either already marked for sale, replacing things I already have, or were somewhat impulse buys based on lots of time spent trawling ebay and forum classifieds.  I do still ‘need’ combat shirts in Multicam Arid and Pencott Badlands, as well as a good, non-insulated softshell in some sort of green (so there’s another Crye order), but once those are out the way 2017 will be all about load-bearing kit.  I’ve got a couple of PCs and belt rigs that need total overhauls and the few items you see below the red sleeve in the first picture are pieces from Tyr Tactical that will be test beds for some ideas I’ll be trying out, then potentially implementing on all of my LBE during the course of next year.

Make Slings Great Again

When I attended SHOT show this year for the first time, the very first booth I headed to right out of the gate was Blue Force Gear.  I was lucky enough to chat to a nice lady at BFG who hooked me up with a pair of the new (at the time) ‘Uber loop’ sling attachments to try out and show to you good ladies and gents.

Whether it’s a firearm or a replica, if you use anything other than an AR-15 type rifle, or even if you do, and you like elegant, well designed and executed sling solutions; I can definitely recommend the U-Loops.  I try to showcase as many products as I can that actually fix a problem I’ve experienced myself.  Genuine innovative thinking in product design that makes a tangible different.  Small as it is, this is one such product.

Can’t Admin in the Dark

Something I very quickly learned the value of during basic training was a head mounted light. I’ve tried to do stuff at night while biting down on a torch because I couldn’t locate my head lamp in the dark (yeah…) and that is not fun.

I’ve had cheap ‘camping’ head torches before which can often be had with low-power lights (sometimes even red lights), but when I wanted something higher quality for work use and when attending longer airsoft games, I opted for the Princeton Tec Remix Pro. I know this was a good choice because Mr Black at ITS Tactical has recommended this light on an episode of #GearTasting. Which is about as strong a recommendation as you’ll ever get.

This is a gear item I’ll always store in a very easy to reach place where I know for damn sure I’m not going to lose track of it. When you’re trying to prepare food or pitch a tent or clean a rifle at night – you need to be able to find your head torch.

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The plastic of the body does seem rather cheap looking in the pictures, but as you’d expect from Princeton it is of course in reality, a well built little unit. Little is the right word as well, it’s just big enough to contain a CR123 within and that’s about it, they were certainly very efficient with the LEDs and control unit. It’s also ridiculously light; one of those items you pick up and will be genuinely surprised by. Exactly what you need when packing a bag for any sort of long walk.

The main body pivots on the mounting piece and stays exactly where you put it, and the head band feels extremely high quality (comes in colours other than multicam, but the colour matching on the elastic is pretty nice). The small red and green and large white LEDs put out a really good amount of light considering the size of the unit, if anything almost too much for those times you’re trying to navigate safely without being seen. The Pro model here includes an IR bulb as well, which doesn’t light up anything much past more than about 2-3m when viewed through NV, so if you’ve got a unit with built in IR illuminator you’re probably better off just using that. But then again if you do for some reason need a subtle IR light, you’ll be covered.

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Given the space available on the outside of the unit I’d have liked to see more than 1 button, because you need to remember 3 different pressing sequences to access all the different modes (and there might be even more than I’m just forgetting) and there’s nothing on the unit to tell you how to access each function; something very early Inforce WMLs also suffered from that was rightly changed in later models. If you do forget, or like me, pick up the light after not using it for a while, this is a bit of an issue. I’m also not sure how well it performs in terms of battery efficiency, but it certainly doesn’t drain in under an hour of being constant on with the larger, bright white light.

Overall, certainly pleased with this purchase. When it comes to picking a frequent use item like this, well worth the investment over the more common cheaper options you tend to see in standard outdoor stores.

Keep Your Power Dry

Information is power.

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I’ve taken normal notepads on exercise before and yes, if you bag them up all the time they’ll survive for a while, but even then they get mucky and dog-eared pretty quick. Picked up this Rite in the Rain pad, cordura cover and pen from the MilSpecMonkey store and now I’m covered for any work usage or milsim type airsoft games.

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Took this with me to afghan (where it did bucket down on 4-5 occasions), stored it in the admin pouch on my Osprey, always on hand for noting down absolutely anything. You know it’s going to preserve the information better than basically any physical or electronic solution in existence and that peace of mind is very nice to have. Such a worthwhile upgrade over a standard paper pad.

Mount Up

One real slick (like, seriously) M-LOK Scout mount by Arisaka defence. Having the option of 3 different mounting heights can definitely be a life saver when you’re trying to fit all your accessories as close as possible right up the front of your rail, especially when you take in to account the variances of circumference that different forends are built to.

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I wouldn’t claim the machine work is perfect, but only because absolute perfection is impossible; this thing is as close as you’re likely to get. The surface feels like glass and every edge and corner has been done incredibly well. It’s light, feels extremely robust and is very well priced considering what you can pay for an aluminium Scout series light mount.

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Arisaka offer a literal cornucopia of products related to illumination systems, all built to the spec necessary to work with the best SureFire, LLC lights in the business. If you want to build that ‘perfect’ setup of electronics at the front end of your handguard, it’s well worth checking them out.

Digital Dominance

The last thing you want to do when searching for any kit, is limit yourself to only searching shops that cater to your specific work or hobby. Pretty much everyone makes this mistake starting out, but over time if you keep your eyes open and read around at good places, you’ll soon learn that it’s far better to keep your options open. If you’re in the ‘tactical’ realm, you ignore the outdoors gear market at your own peril and vice versa.
 
I’ve been issued a couple of pairs of SealSkinz waterproof socks at different points in my military career, but at the times I’ve had to walk through water in boots, it’s either been shallow enough for good quality boots to keep my feet dry, or so deep that socks would’ve been pointless anyway; never really experienced that middle ground.
 
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Gloves however are a key piece of gear for me personally during the colder months. I’ve done a lot of tests and made a lot of observations over the years and I know that my hands are just terrible compared to most folks when it comes to staying usable in the cold. The rest of me is about normal vs people of the same build, but my hands get to the point of going ghostly white/purple and useless rather rapidly. It’s annoying but that’s the way it is, all I can do is gear up accordingly and pay attention to the weather. Hopefully this recommendation will also come in handy to other people out there who struggle with the same issue.
 
Now, the British issued thick leather glove is one item of issue kit I genuinely like. You can actually clean them by putting them on then going to a sink as if you were washing your hands, hold them under the tap for a good while and water just does not get through at all. This is probably not the best idea for the leather, but if you do it occasionally and apply some care product after you’ll be fine. The problem with them however is they use a fairly basic insulation that’s very bulky and operating a weapon with any speed gets rather difficult. This is of course the classic issue with shooting in the cold and wet; the thicker the glove, the more dexterity you lose and you have to find the right balance. If you don’t, you’ll either hurt and be unable do stuff because your hands are cold, or, you’ll be unable to do anything without taking the gloves off because said gloves are too thick.
 
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I spent a long time searching for something in that elusive ‘middle ground’ and ended up going with the Dragon Eye gloves from Sealskinz. They’re windproof (which should never be underestimated) and if you do the hand wash test, water will only eventually get through the stitching, the material itself is totally waterproof so no amount of rain is ever going to permeate them. The insulation is enough to do a decent job when it’s getting below 10 and yeah you’ll lose some dexterity for doing very small/fiddly work, but the insulation-thickness ratio is pretty impressive and the shaping and cut overall keep everything fitting close, so operating a rifle or pouch lids or pocket zips is still very much on the cards.
 
Seal do also offer a specific Shooting glove, but if you google it you’ll notice the finger trips aren’t nearly as structured as the Dragon Eye. The trigger finger can be folded away, but unless you’re going for targets beyond 300m with a precision rifle don’t feel a need for that sort of feature. I think you can get better trigger control with a warm trigger finger that’s gloved than you can with one that’s exposed and only getting colder.
 
Infinitely better weather protection than your average pair of Mechanix, Magpul or PIG gloves. Given the quality, materials and design, I’d rate these gloves as an extremely strong option and especially so given the price. More tactical looking offerings from Arc’teryx LEAF do similar stuff but will run you 2-3x the money. When you don’t know what the weather might throw at you, or you’re going somewhere you definitely know it’s going to be shitty; these have got you covered.