From Far-Away Lands

I posted this on my Facebook page relating to one specific eBay link which I’ve not included since this article will be up long after the item has been sold, but the underlying point (about buying smart when it comes to gear) remains:

“I was just a couple of days away from posting up to discuss my US Army issue ECWCS kit when these pop up in my my daily ebay trawls.

I don’t know of a higher quality softshell jacket in multicam that can be sourced for such low prices. Sure there’s tons of Multiscam-ATP-whatever floating around cheap and SOME of it is perfectly serviceable for sporting usage (if you choose carefully), but this is a deal I really wanted to highlight in my crusade to get people to buy decent, non-lined Level 5/Softshell kit and wear it in applicable situations in place of cotton blend uniforms. Bearing in mind that if you’re in England those situations constitute 95% of the time. 99% in Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

I’ve not been able to ascertain if the ECWCS Level 5 items use the exact same softshell fabric as the PCU system that I covered in an earlier post, but from a close examination and spending some time wearing trousers from both systems in generally dreary weather, they certainly do appear to perform on a level with each other. I’d also presume that all ECWCS items are US made, though unlike PCU and a lot of other SF issued items, they were quite possibly sewn in American prisons… can’t say that bothers me personally.

Either way, the current PCS layering issue does not contain a softshell layer, either because the MoD is ignorant to the crucial importance or refuses to spend the money on us. One of the US equivalents to PCS however (ECWCS) consists of the same layering options as PCU and because it’s issued on a massive scale to the US Army that means tons of the stuff ends up on eBay.com and intelligent gear buyers can snag great deals; particularly compared to commercial offerings at the same price points. For those of us in Europe however that isn’t a lot of help given shipping costs, so when American kit appears on eBay UK I like to shout about it.

It’s when I’m out pewpewing and I see people wearing knock-off stuff that’s often costs more money but is stitched together using worse fabrics to a far lower overall quality of construction, that’s when I cry a bit inside. I want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them. But I can’t because the police didn’t take kindly to that last time.”

HK History

Another example of how my time on the internet works.

I’ve been eyeing up the new TM iteration of the 416 and trying to decide which rail I might fit to it if I purchased one. I googled for any other commercial offerings that might be outside the usual which lead me to a review on The Firearm Blog talking about the Strike Industries options in that realm. Within that article was a link to this PDF which if you’re a gun geek like me you’re going to love:

http://static.hkpro.com/straightgrain/docs/TheHKDecades.pdf

If you’re not much interested in the history of HK then scroll down to the pictures at the bottom (I think Larry Vickers is in there?). There’s some really cool shots of stuff like a 762×39 G3 variant, the very first test versions of the 416, versions of the infamous caseless G11 rifle and lots more.

Here’s a couple of examples of early generations of the XM8 rifle for example that you’ve quite likely never seen before:

MOE-SL on TM

Modified some Magpul Industries Corp. MOE-SL Mid length handguards the other day.

Needed a new forend for one on my Tokyo Marui ‘SOCOM’ M4s (NGRS with the front wiring) and simple plastic handguards definitely fit the bill.  Plenty of space inside and easy to open up for access. The metal heat shield needed removing from these however in order to create enough space for a battery, which turned out to be no easy task. The rivets used to hold in the shield were both extremely tight and made of seriously tough stuff; yet at the same time loose enough that when I tried to drill them out, they simply span.  Holding the tails on the back face while drilling was a difficult job even for 2 people.  I tried a Dremel bit with embedded diamond dust, however the rivet metal just ground off the diamond and cut in to the metal of the dremel bit in a matter of seconds.

Got there eventually with a combination of drilling followed by a hefty hammer and punch. Cleaned up the holes by drilling out the scuffed up portions with a larger diameter drill bit and scraping out any flash left over.  With a fake mid-length gas system on a 12.5″ Dytac barrel using a standard delta ring and standard circular handguard cap behind a low-pro gas block, the fit is absolutely solid. Not nearly as gucci looking as a freefloat rail system, but this setup is light and enables a solid direct connection between the LiPo and the workings of the gun, as well as permitting usage of basically any stock.

DAS Update 2

As promised, better quality picture of the GBLS DAS I modified to accept the Fortis Manufacturing SWITCH 556 KeyMod forend; sent by the owner of the gun.

If I ever pick up a DAS and they don’t change the location of the hop adjustment, the QD Fortis rail would definitely be high on my list for fitment. Potentially there’s a whole other upper on the way as well for this specific gun which will likely get outfitted with yet another AR-15 handguard. I’ll report the news as it rolls in over on Facebook.

Keep A Cool Head

This one’s a little off the beaten path. MilSpecMonkey make a few hats which are extremely well designed and their CG Hat Mesh is one that stays in my skirmish bag all of the time, it’s not leet-0perator DELTASEAL looking, it’s kinda mall ninja looking truth be told, but it’s comfortable and functional with the fabrics used and that’s all gravy with me. The CGHat RAW variant comes in a few colours and most are just your standard tactical ballcap, but Flexfit Headwear base with a few added touches. The multicam option is a bit of a different beast however, the price is a fair bit higher but you’re getting an actual softshell material in a baseball cap design and not a lot of folks make those. The only other one I’ve seen is from Outdoor Research and that’s a strong indicator of a good idea.

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MSM store link:
http://milspecmonkey.com/…/head-gear/51-msm-cg-hat-raw.html…

For those unfamiliar with the properties of good softshell fabric:

-Some reasonable water resistance
-Blocks wind completely
-Dries way faster than almost any natural-fibre based fabric, whether the water comes from rain outside or your own sweat inside
-Inherent stretch
-Incredibly high abrasion resistance
-Colour almost never fades

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For a situation where you’re not needing specific head protection but the weather’s looking down, this cap is bloody good. Unlike the hood of a jacket you don’t lose peripheral vision and hearing, and the cap peak does a better job keeping rain out of your eyes. I pair this with a neck gaiter from Fortyone Tactical in a similar material to ‘close the gap’ and it works far better than putting up a hood in a lot of crucial ways.

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Cannot Even

So as I do, I’m on a forum trying to help folks out and give good advice on kit, even if it is mostly like banging your head against a titanium wall.. covered in spikes.

Anyway I come across a thread and a guy mentions a vest of some description made by Flyye that supposedly retails for £400. Can’t be right I think to myself. Yet Google proves me wrong:

http://www.military1st.co.uk/…/fy-vt-m020-mc-flyye-spartan-…

THIS, IS, INSANITY

How you choose to spend your personal disposable income is entirely up to you, but you’re still being really stupid if you spend anything like that amount on knock-off gear that’s sewn inconsistently using inferior materials with inferior quality checking and assurance; that’s before even getting in to stuff like warranties and other customer service concerns. Flyye gets a fair few decent reviews and you can definitely do worse, but when you get to £100 or more you can step up to Warrior kit (or Grey Ghost as you can see below) and that’s simply going to be far better built in every way that matters.

I went straight to the plate carrier section over on Tactical-Kit just to see what was available in the UK for under £400 and unsurprisingly the competing options very much confirmed what I already suspected.

http://www.tactical-kit.co.uk/blue-force-gear-lmac-lightwei…
http://www.tactical-kit.co.uk/ferro-concepts—assault-solu…
http://www.tactical-kit.co.uk/grey-ghost-gear-minimalist-pl…
http://www.tactical-kit.co.uk/firstspear-stt-plate-carrier-…

So you can have some superb options Blue Force Gear, Inc., Ferro Concepts, Grey Ghost and FirstSpear for far less money (heck even a Crye JPC when they’ve got stock). All original, intelligent designs that use the best materials the market has to offer and most importantly are stitched consistently well. I’ve got a good mate who picked up an FS STT not too long ago and absolutely bloody loves it, being able to get the full 6/12 rig with the Tubes for ~£200 is a really outstanding deal to my mind.

The thing I’ve always said is this; it’s never about spending a ton of money, it’s about spending your personal budget wisely. You can get yourself a really robust and practical chest or belt rig for well under £40-50 if you pick the right things. On the flip side, as we can see, you can also spend enormous amounts of money on a bulky, poorly made, obsolete design of armour carrier that’s going to hinder your movement and kill you via dehydration in the heat of the summer.

You don’t have to buy gucci, just buy smart.

John Wick 2

If anyone’s considering seeing John Wick: Chapter 2 (if you’re here, you must’ve seen the first right??) I’d say it’s a solid follow-up.

You’ve probably all seen the training videos of Keanu ripping it up 3-gun style in practice for the film. You can definitely see that coming through in the final piece. The biggest gun fight is actually conducted with a 9mm pistol/556 AR/12g Semi combo. There’s a standard ‘go to the armoury and hear about how custom all these guns are’ which is.. not terrible, the stuff the guy in the assassin store actually says isn’t total BS. Nice Magpul Industries Corp. and Trijicon, Inc. on the Bravo Company USA AR-15 (full suite of Gunfighter polymer furniture with a KMR rail on the front). The Taran Tactical Innovations G34 and G26 aren’t as fucked up and fugly (trigger alert:) as the average Salient Glock either.

There’s a mag flip reload in there with the AR that would make Dynamic Pie Concepts proud because John flips out a pair of PMAGs coupled together. Some uber bullshit scenes where guys pop silenced pistols off at each other in crowded public places and supposedly nobody notices; also the bro dawg beard-oil no-cardio crew that the main henchwoman employs look fucking stupid in the context. But when almost every pistol kill in the film is a kneecap followed up by a headshot, I can forgive a lot of things.

Beyond What You Know

I was torn between writing this piece on either the actual features of the Beyond Clothing PCU Level 5 lower or just generally extolling the virtues of softshell layers. I decided that when I eventually gather all my thoughts on L5/Softshells I’ll get a few appropriate items together from different manufacturers to do a full video/write a blog post. For now, know this – good softshells are absolutely THE way to go in any sort of inclement weather when you’re outdoors. I can’t recommend the investment highly enough.

As a *brief* introduction to the bigger picture, these trousers aren’t a commercial offering from Beyond. The PCU system, for those unfamiliar, is in practice a 7 layer issuing of uniform for US SOF. Conventional 50/50 NYCO blend uniforms are sometimes referred to as Level 9, but those are (and this is the part people struggle with) not to be employed with levels 1-7 when you’re talking about cold, rain, wind and snow. Anything with cotton in it sucks donkey balls in those conditions; you want all out synthetics.

The other idea most people have in their heads is that softshell jackets are a ‘cold weather jacket’, when in reality that’s not the way to look at it.  Breaking this concept is the tricky part and it was something I struggled with when I began educating myself on gear options for clothing in less-than-stunning weather conditions. Doubly so with regards choosing a fleece lined vs ‘raw’ shell (pretty much always go unlined with a separate thin fleece item). Sufficed to say, the little bit of time I’ve spent wearing these kneeling in mud, getting rained on, romping through sodden woodland and long grass soaked with morning dew have all made me very glad I had them on in place of NYCO trousers.

Now, these PCU trousers have an interesting layout in that they’re cut an awful lot like an L6/Hardshell/Goretex outer garment that’s intended to be put on when you’re already fully dressed, even when wearing bulky boots. The ankles are split with a zip opening and the waist is split at each side with zips and velcro closure at the tops; doubling as adjustment tabs. Commercial offerings like the Beyond A5 Element pant, Arc’ LEAF Combat pant and Crye G3 All-Weather pants are cut just like your normal tactical trousers in the way you’re accustomed to.

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Fortunately unlike your conventional cold/wet weather over-garment, the pockets in these trousers aren’t just a zip that let you through to the pockets in your uniform underneath. The standard pockets are zipped and closed in the down position which messes with your head, but they’re easily accessible given the looser cut of the trouser overall and you know you’ve got security for whatever you stash in there. The map pockets are roomy with both button and velcro closure options, drainage grommets (stitched, not metal) and double billow/pleats for expansion when needed. Standard ankle pockets as you’re accustomed to with combat pants, best not used unless you’ve filled up the other pockets to my mind given the comparatively slow and awkward access, especially in vehicles.

The ankles are elasticated with what is essentially rubber thread stitched in around the insides, much like the straps on a SERPA drop-leg. They don’t look tacticool because of that, but they grab tightly around your boots and keep wind, snow and splashing water out of the tops of said boots.

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The knees are double layered and articulated, sadly even though there is a slot that could hold a foam kneepad there’s no access to insert one. The seat is also double layered and the fabric itself is tougher than you’ll ever believe. A good set like this will cost you the cash monies on ebay, but they’re worth it. In a moment of really bad goggle fog I quite genuinely walked myself right in to a huge, rusty old reel of barbed wire wearing this very pair of trousers. They were scratched-at all over and punctured in multiple places, yet after a wash they look utterly brand new again, I cannot even find the holes. Can G3 Combats do that? No they can’t. Fact.

I got the chance to speak to a nice gentlemen from Beyond (who turned out to be the President when he gave me his card after I bored him by geeking out too much about how I love these things) at FirstSpear‘s range day pre-SHOT this year. He referred to their PCU line as being made of “the original softshell material”. He explained to me a bit about how the nylon fabric, which is already an expensive material, has silicone physically baked in to it at incredibly high heat and pressure in a gigantic industrial type of press. This process enables the fabric to not only be unbelievably abrasion resistant but also close itself up when punctured. Both properties I’ve witnessed for myself.

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DAS Update

Update for those interested in the GBLS DAS. The upper I modified to accept AR-15 Rifle forends has now be reunited with (most of) the rest of the gun, my good mate that owns it sent over a real quick potato snap. First one of these guns I’m aware of to have a real freefloat handguard fitted.

The Fortis Manufacturing SWITCH is an ideal candidate given that it gives you easy access to the hop adjustment (located on the outside of the barrel near the ‘chamber’) as well as the modern ergonomics that one might expect from an extended, narrow diameter rail. Not forgetting KeyMod accessory mounting of course.

Pistol grip is the PTS EPG, VLTOR stock that’s currently being modified to accommodate and a Magpul Industries Corp. AFG2. I should be getting some better shots of this thing in a couple of weeks so if folks are interested I’ll post those up as well. To my mind this is by far the most interesting and innovative BB slinger to hit the market since the Marui NGRS line.