Salt Mining with FirstSpear

I originally received the FirstSpear Asset shirt back around December 16, I tried it out straight away during a night skirmish to see how it might fare when paired with a plate carrier and a t-shirt underneath in temperatures hovering around zero C, including a moderate level of wind chill. I see a lot of people wearing t-shirts under combat shirts at all times of year which I don’t usually do myself or recommend because it negates the advantage of the design, but in cold weather it can be a comfortable solution.

I didn’t encounter any issues with the shirt to give me concern during this first run, however I don’t usually wear combat shirts in these sorts of weather conditions (that’s what Lvl 5 is for) and I didn’t want to review this thing without trying it out in the heat first. The Propper TAC-U was a key learning point for me in that when I first purchased one some years back it seemed like a fairly standard combat cut shirt, but turned out to perform very poorly indeed in hot weather, the materials were simply far too thick and heavy. If I’d published content on that piece before actually running around in it under a strong sun I’d have given some very misleading information. Fortunately that episode highlighted some important things for me when assessing clothing.

I own a few different pieces of UK/US issue and commercial Flame Resistant apparel now and generally find such items tend to be comprised of fabrics that are a little more weighty and rigid than your conventional cotton blend uniforms. The sleeves on the Asset actually are surprisingly light and flexible for a fully FR shirt, although the torso is tangibly thicker than standard no-melt no-drip offerings from Crye and Arc’teryx. This combined with my particular shirt being in flat black drove me to ensure I picked a good, warm day to do some running around for the next try out.

I spoke to a buddy of mine at FS to check they were ok with me hanging on to the shirt over the spring time and waiting for a suitable summer day and they had no issues in that regard. As you can see, despite me opting for a chest rig on the day in question instead of a plate carrier I had no problems in producing some findings with regard the heat and sweat transportation properties of The Asset.

I’ll be discussing more about it in a video in the near future.

Top Materials – Less Money

In the process of going over these Explorer model field type trousers in A-Tacs Camo by Leo Köhler GmbH & Co. KG, I wanted to take the opportunity to run down the 2 most commonly seen fabric types used in most camouflage/tactical gear.

Now it isn’t as simple as just poly/cotton vs nylon/cotton because there are variances in fabric weights, weave and balance of the blend (especially on the py/co side) but the basic differences do remain pretty much the same. As per usual with stuff I post, the moral of the story is if you take the time to learn and look around, you’ll find that within the commercial space you can spend less money for a better product than *some* ‘big’ personalities might make you think.

Flecktarn.co.uk do not, for some reason, have a page here on facebook but for those of your in Europe looking to buy kit for sporting usage of any kind, I recommend checking them out for military surplus apparel and commercial camo and load bearing kit that delivers a lot of quality for the money.

There are probably better places to go when you want equipment for life-on-the-line work and anyone who’s also serving or in the police/contracting world etc is always more than welcome to post here or message me directly if they’re after advice in that regard. I can certainly point you to lots of good resources.

Bit of Aussie

Not had the chance to take any leave at all for a couple of months, but I’ve been waiting for a good opportunity to get outside to a game in some warm weather and combine said game with a visit to a good guy I know that fixes my RIFs when they’re not working quite the way I’d like. I’m rather obsessed with ‘efficiency’ in that way, a bit like the way I’ll carry far too many heavy, awkward bags of stuff from the room to my car in one go because 2 trips is entirely out of the question.

Ambush Adventures ‘The Billet’ is a small site as they go so only recommended if you’re happy with getting some properly weird looking deep purple bruises. We were hitting at least 30C (that’s around 86 Freedoms) if not a bit more, which was exactly what I was looking for. I drank nearly 3 litres between 10 o/clock and 4 yet never needed to piss; really amazes me the people who continue to turn up to airsoft games and bring nothing to drink or eat.

There were 2 pieces of kit I was looking to get some time on (prior to review) during the day and the bright sunshine, warmer temperatures and occasional breeze were ideal for finding out how the fabrics responded to being soaked in sweat then drying out. Specifically the FirstSpear Asset shirt and the PLATATAC VM Chest rig were in my spotlight for trial running.

Here’s the full break down:

RE Factor Tactical cap, 3M Peltor Communication Solutions Comtac 2s and my usual ESS/Mask combo when in game.

-FS Asset FR combat shirt, P-TAC VM Chest rig, SKD Tactical PIG FDT Alphas (Gen 1 touch model), basic Casio solar watch.

J-Tac Custom inner loop belt, FS Slimline AGB sleeve, Blue Force Gear, Inc. TenSpeed pistol pouch, P-TAC BB Shingle for the Concept TacticalTRMR, Warrior Assault Systems Roll-up dump pouch, G-Code Holsters RTi belt mount with an old BLACKHAWK! SERPA that’s had an RTi hanger attached.

-Aus issue Hard Yakka AMCU combat lowers with CP Gen 2/AC combat knee pads, Salomon XA Pro 3D Mids, Darn Tough Vermont Socks and Under Armour Shorts for the base layer which were probably one of the most important parts of the kit in this weather.

Tokyo Marui 1911 modified by ESC with a HurricanE Kimber external kit and some other little changes alongside some VZ Grips, the King of G-10 grips.. Really heavy beast of a slide with little gas capacity in the mags, but always runs smoothly and perfectly suited to the heat with standard propane.

-TM SOCOM NGRS Carbine, Laylax 10.5″ barrel, PTS Griffin Armament comp and ASAP plate, B5 Systems SOPMOD Bravo stock and KeyMod polymer handguards, Magpul Industries Corp. MOE light kit rail,VegaForceCompany rear BUIS. Heavily modified FS 2-point sling with BFG Uber loops. Fed with old PTS recoil mid-cap Gen2 PMAGs and Magpuls.

Camelbak Bottles from MSM

One thing I will never claim to be is a nutritionist/health expert/doctor of any kind, I’m also the least likely person to post about my ‘clean’ kale and quinoa salad on Instagram – I like steaks. What I will simply say is that drinking water is good, indeed crucial, for the human body and getting in to a good habit of doing so is a solid idea. I’ve never been one for tea, coffee or energy drinks but if you’re the sort of person who lives on those things I’d bet my Crye collection you’d feel better all around if you swapped a lot of the aforementioned for just a nice cool drink of water (once the shakes subside).

A capitalistic and unnecessary as it may come across, spending a small amount of money on a proper, reusable water bottle will most likely help you in this regard, that’s been my experience. Whether the urban legends are true about the disposable bottles giving you cancer I’ve no idea and I won’t claim to have the answers. You also certainly don’t *need* to buy one of these CamelBak bottles from the Mil-Spec Monkey Store, but they do work, so they’re an option and a good one I’ve found. I specifically asked the monkey if he might send one of these over for review, as I did buy myself 2 of the previous versions and used them every day for years and they served me well; full disclosure there.

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The previous iteration had a weird arrangement with a bite valve and a wide diameter tube going right down to the bottom of the bottle, presumably because Camelbak had a meeting and decided most customers were too lazy to actually lift and tip their bottles to drink. The problem was the bite valve had a hinge and the plastic tube going to that hinge did, after thousands of open/close cycles, wear through and start to leak. As things tend to do when you flex them over and over. Luckily with this new Chute model we’re back to a screw cap which is going to be far more reliable and longer lasting. For reference, here’s the older gen bottle:

http://milspecmonkey.com/…/fie…/114-camelbak-75l-bottle.html

So. what do you get for your $15?

I’ve used the pictured bottle in work every day for a few weeks now (including a couple of range days and the like outside of the armoury) to test out the new cap since that part is the difference on this newer model. The body of the bottle is made of something called ‘EastmanTritan Copolyester’ and it’s moulded quite thickly for durability, yet remains extremely light and transparent as well as being safe to go in a dishwasher. I know from using my previous bottles that you can bash these things around all day long, drop them on concrete over and over, crush them, sit on them; they will not break on you. If they do, Camelbak have a lifetime guarantee that I’ll likely try out some time soon.

There are imperial and metric volume markings up to the bottle’s 1 litre capacity down one side and MSM offer 4 different designs of their own which have been added to the stock product. Fortunately most of their options like the monkey logo and pirate emblem look far more skater than tactical, so you’re good to go there. How the designs are applied I don’t know precisely, but they’re not going to scratch off any time soon that is for sure. They are extremely flat and resistant to abrasion or peeling.

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The thing that had my geek boner up the most was the threading on the main cap body and the smaller drinking cap. Both feature multi-start threads which mean they release and tighten back down in absolutely no time at all, but don’t fear they remain 100% water tight. Also unlike the older version there’s no need to take off the main cap to refill since you can use the drink spout, but that option to open the bottle right up is still there so insertion of ice or getting inside to clean is easy.

The drinking cap is just big enough to get a high rate of water flow without having to be too careful about gingerly lifting the bottle to just the right angle, as you do with bottles that have a very large mouth/cap and no smaller cap or bite valve. The cap is also tethered with some flexible plastic that should last a very long time indeed and it snaps in to the carry handle out of the way when you want it to. They’ve also threaded inside of the cap and spout rather than the outside, so it’s slightly more comfortable on those delicate lips of yours. Borderline insignificant detail yes, but if your entire job is to design something and small as a water bottle with so few parts to it, you’re going to fully optimise every single thing down to the very smallest design element.

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The only negative I can find is that the drinking cap is a screw and pull rather than being released at the end of its’ threading like you’d get on a normal bottle of soft drink, so you do have to align the key-way each time to pull off the cap. Oh also for those in the US this bottle costs $1 more than the plain version on the Camelbak site. However I’m a huge fan of the MSM store for both the range of patches and useful gear bits they stock. Small things like velcro, field repairable buckles, sling hardware (like the BFG Uber loops I reviewed and now really love), small medical items, note pads, PIG gloves, paracord, carabiners –
the list goes on. No junk stuff either, we’re talking brands I’d take on deployment quite happily any day.

I genuinely recommend placing an order there to combine the shipping because I’ll guarantee they stock something you can use if you’re reading this review. There are other sites out there who do patches, sites that sell the raw material for manufacturing tac gear, but the MSM store is the only one I personally know of that combined a genuinely useful stock of all these small items that make such a big difference when you’re out in the field. Fast shipping and top drawer customer service as well of course, just as you’d expect with an American business selling high end equipment for tactical/outdoor usage.

SOF Rep – Crate Club

There’s a lot of subscription boxes around these days to cover any interest and the list of ‘tactical’ ones is ever growing.  SOFREP.com recently expanded theirs to the European market and my brother decided to go for it. They offer 3 tiers, he opted for the mid-range and this is the first one to be shipped out. I’ve seen a few social media celebrities talk about these sorts of things so here’s my 2 pence worth.

I think if you’re really in to knives, general collectables or unknown surprise items showing up at your door and you can afford to spend the money on a surprise subscription box, then this sort of thing will be for you. If you want to make your money work as hard as possible and you want or need to acquire specific kit for a specific goal, these boxes are a very bad move. This is the sort of opinion that won’t get me in the good books of the companies that want to push wide-appeal type product on social media, but there we have it.

On to the actual contents.

To start we sat down and looked up each item online. My brother opted for the yearly subscription which by our calculations does just about make the contents of the box worth slightly more than the price paid. Included in this middle tier option were the Morakniv Eldris, a Helikon-Tex waist pack and a coin that was a specific reward for the early buy-in folks on the new UK Crate Club. My feeling is the US option will be ‘better’ all around given the US division of this business will have far more access to an unholy amount of the latest and greatest tactical gear with cheap shipping. The manufacturers and stock of the gucci shiz just isn’t here as much in the EU.

The knife I can say very little about, I only own a couple myself and they’re UK carry legal for simple travel usage. I’ve used knives in work but only in a logistical or general role in my trade (and exclusively off-aircraft), not in anything related to warfighting. The Eldris does have a nicely sized rubber handle with a ton of grip and the small blade to large handle proportions definitely make for a very high degree of control. It’s light, certainly looks and feels robust with a reasonably thick blade and it clicks securely in to the supplied moulded polypropylene sheath, no doubting the sharpness either. Apparently the spine of the blade is specifically wide ground to be a great fire starter, but I’ve no survival skills in that regard or relevant tools to make comment.

The Helikon bag is made of mil-spec cordura, webbing and loop with YKK zips and some surprisingly good paracord pulls with knots and heat shrink. The bar tacking on the waist strap mounting points is actually rather impressive and all of the rest of the stitching is good and straight, mostly singular but neatly done and looks more than up to the tasks that would be asked of it. There’s also a sheathed g-hook on one end of the strap so you can remove the webbing entirely to change usage options. There’s 1 hidden external zipped pocket, 1 internal mesh zipped pocket and the internal organiser shown is removable via the hook and loop. The grey is fairly discreet but the external loop is largely unnecessary and I’d have preferred to not see it. The only real let down for me is that I see no ITW/National Moulding markings or anything to indicate the 2 polymer hardware pieces on the waist strap are to spec; they feel rather cheap. Easy to upgrade the fastex with a field replaceable buckle however for increased strength.

Coins aren’t something I collect, but the one included in this box did impress me in terms of weight and accuracy of the moulding I have to say. It came well packaged, as did the rest of the box.