Arktis Update

Time for some more signature straight-up no BS gear truth:

For those that remember the new version Arktis Ranger Trousers I posted up about a few times a couple of months back, after many e-mails and a lot of prodding I’ve finally got some response worth reporting on.

I did a bit of testing (in a non scientific way) with the 2 pairs they lent to me for review and overall they were pretty damn good. Top end materials throughout, bar-tacks and double/triple stitching where it needed to be, all the pockets you might need etc. However there were some minor niggles that I took substantial time to document and report back on, as was the agreement when Arktis sent over the items in the first place. A couple of small areas where parallel stitch lines weren’t quite right, some small suggested changes to the factory kneepad inserts and, primarily, the knee pad pockets being just a hair’s width too short to 100% fully fit G3 kneepads perfectly.

Initially I was told the 2 pairs of trousers I have were first off the production line early models (borderline prototype) and the kneepad fitment issue apparently wasn’t evident on other pairs in the warehouse upon checking. I said ok then, in that instance let me return these sets and I’ll borrow a fresh pair from you guys for actual recording of a video review so that I’m not putting out false negative information about the product.

Now, all this communication was with a gentleman working in the design department at Arktis. There was a bit of a gap in comms, I then received an e-mail that had been shotgunned out by this person to explain he was leaving the company. I didn’t exactly say why but it came across as perfectly normal and amicable, no big dramas or anything.

The next person I moved on to speak to then again (it turned out) left the company shortly after. Maybe I have just a terrible effect on people? Regardless I’ve now been informed that “the trousers are still under review”, from a design perspective presumably, and I should get in touch again later this year when Arktis are planning to have made further changes. What those changes will be and whether they’re actually going to finally listen to the feedback I’ve given them on many, many occasions now, advice that would fix the problems I keep finding with these trousers, who knows?

It’s frustrating that they have such a well established manufacturing location, access to plenty of mil-spec materials and just keep falling that tiny bit short of the mark. The one pair I have here in temperate DPM that were custom 1-off modifications of the earlier model are absolutely top notch and fit Crye pads perfectly, yet, the 2 examples of the current iteration I’ve got here do have small issues that really do bring them down (disproportionately so).

I’ve made it very clear that my assistance is available going forward and maybe they’ll actually take me up on that and I’ll keep that ship sailing straight and true. Maybe not though. I will as always keep you updated.

Anything’s Better Than MALICE

In all genuine seriousness (just for a second), by far the most satisfying and overall cool thing for me with this blog/page/channel is when people like my ideas enough to actually bring them on board to use themselves. That’s no small thing and when it’s related to gear someone has purchased themselves I appreciate there’s a fair bit of risk being taken that what I’ve said will actually ring true in reality. Whether that’s fellow service members or fellow airsoft geeks, it’s either kit people depend on or kit they’ve spent their hard earned money on. It all matters in some form or another. I hope I can continue to pass on some tid bits of useful knowledge based on my experiences as time goes on that may actually be of small benefit to various folks.

Like to thanks my mate Scott for sending over these shots of his TACOs rigged up using the Velcro one-wrap I mentioned in a video a little while back. If you run any MALICE compatible pouches on a belt (especially a belt with a loop lining) then you may find this a handy tip. I’ve not run with it a ton so far admittedly so i wouldn’t call this duty-ready by any stretch, but in the time I have used pouches attached this way I’ve not had any problems at all. They’ve stated glued in place and do hug the belt tightly with very little bulk on the inside.

 

PCU Primer

This may ‘only’ be a product specific video, but if you want to gain more understanding of all this softshell/inclement weather clothing I’ve banged on about in the past, this does an amazing job. Only 6 minutes long yet this is a solid primer for better understanding more in-depth discussions and other pieces about PCU/ECWCS style (doesn’t really apply to PCS since brit kit still doesn’t include a softshell layer) foul weather layering. Also a great video for demonstrating the concept of *not* insulating yourself and fully prioritising moisture management during fast movement and heavy activity.

Hill People Gear have their stuff made by FirstSpear with some more outdoor/mountaineering twists, less military aesthetics and features. The FS Windcheater is a very popular jacket for good reason and I’d strongly consider going for the HPG version of it.

Da Bomb

A while back I decided that I liked the Flexfit type caps most, quite a few tactical-type brands manufacture them and for good reason. I mentioned the MilSpecMonkey CG Hat a while ago which is a great Flexfit option and the softshell multicam version is superb in sub par weather conditions, but I still wanted an all-multicam cap that would be optimal in hot weather and not expose a big area of my forehead when worn backwards with goggles.

Grey Ghost *used* to make a really great multicam cap in NYCO that had an elastic band around the inside which functioned like a Flexfit and retained the useful, resilient properties of 50/50 nylon-cotton vs a thinner stretch fabric. Luckily I still have mine and it’s great for anything other than the height of summer, however NYCO does not wick very fast because of its’ cotton content and given that the head/forehead is one of the areas we sweat the most under exertion, fabric selection when it comes to headwear is worth paying attention to.

This is my 2nd RE Factor Tactical ‘Blasting cap’ and to my mind these caps give you everything you’d want from such a product. Loop fields front and back with heavily embroidered edging to prevent any frays and the conventional top button replaced with loop to allow more patch mounting and avoid unpleasant interference with ear pro. The primary stretch fabric used to cover the bill and for the main body is certainly on the thin side, if you want a cap that’ll last forever this isn’t it. But if you want super light, permeable to some breeze coming in and heat/sweat going out, it’s a great choice. I wore this one for a bit while I was deployed, just as some protection from the sun for my scalp and eyes (it’s pretty bright when you’re high in the mountainous desert) and for general work around base it was great to have. Stows pretty easily and tightly down in to a cargo pocket and performed as I’d have expected in the warmer weather.

In a military context there’s only ever really 1 type of explosive I’ve ever used or might potentially use, so having ‘Relative Effectiveness factor’ for different compounds inside doesn’t really matter either way to me. However these caps are a product of some ex US mil guys who did EOD stuff within their jobs and encountered lots of different type of explosives, so these numbers are printed inside their caps as a partly practical reference for serving blokes, part homage to their time in. I’m not EOD trained myself so I’m presuming the idea is that if you lose your note book with this crucial information written down, you can still gain access to it.

How useful the blaze signal panel might be (you can just about wear the cap inside out if things go far south) I’m not sure, it’s a very small surface area, but it would of course stand out against the desert sand and scrub better than multicam does. Best used in conjunction with some sort of signal panel or reversible backpack cover that’s got hi-vis colouring.

Picked this one up at SKD Tactical where they carry a really good range of these things with some of the best customer service you could ever ask for.

Indoor Deserts

Loadout shot from Sunday 26th March, first game I’ve played at my favourite site since before I went to afghan.

The gear ‘testing’ (as far as I can test stuff in airsoft at least) continues. With the exception of my eye/ear pro and gloves basically everything I had on me was going through its’ first usage.

Head pro – ESS (Eye Safety Systems) Turbofans, 3M Peltor Communication Solutions Comtacs and Mr. Colion Noir (@MrColionNoir) #thepewpewlifeFlexfit

Upper – Rasputin item G3 Combat shirt copy in PenCott Camouflage Sandstorm (future video – cryes on a budget?)

PC – Dead Coyote Tactical Nylon front, straps and placard with FirstSpear retro-fit cummerbund, deluxe shoulder pads and AAC back, TYR Tactical, LLC zip-on hydro panel, old af High Speed Gear TACOs in OD (rest is RG), Tactical Tailor GP, Source Tactical Gear bladder and ITW Grimlock.

Sling – Heavily butchered FS 2-pt with Blue Force Gear, Inc. Uber loops to create a 1-pt that works extremely well with the Evo

Gloves – SKD Tactical Gen 1 PIGs

Lower – PLATATAC Tac Dax Mk3 with D3O Trust HP Internal knee pads

Belt – FS AGB with Slimline AGB sleeve, pre hypalon BFG TenSpeed double pistol, HSGI TACO LT, Platatac BB pouch for Concept Tactical TRMR, pretty fuckin salty Warrior Assault Systems dump pouch, G-Code Holsters RTi belt mount and Off The Grid Concepts LLC Light bearing OWB holster

Feet – Old gen Salomon XA Pro 3D Mid GTX

Primary – Team ASG Scorpion with INFORCE Gen 2 WML

Secondary – Stark Arms, LLC M&P with SureFire, LLC X300U and stippling by good friend Ko-Tac

As mentioned, almost all gear and guns were getting their first run out, which isn’t uncommon for me at the rate I get new stuff and the trouble I usually run in to with actually getting to games. That said, I enjoy learning what all this stuff can and can’t actually do when you put it on and run around and actually get a sweat on putting yourself in to lots of shooting positions and moving through rooms. Gives me plenty of points to discuss when I make videos or write about these products and hopefully give you good folks more information to make good informed decisions.

Not Even With A Barge Pole

A classic example of why there’s only a couple of boot brands I’ll buy these days.

These Oakley SI Assaults were alllll the rage about 7 years ago because everyone thought they looked cool and cool guys on Internet forums who went to Magpul Dynamics classes were buying them.  But as you can see, even though this pair cost plenty, is only about 6 years old and has spent 99% of their lives in a cool, dark, dry place; one rubber outsole has degraded massively more than the other for absolutely no discernable reason.

I’ve talked about how bad the old Oakley Factory Pilot carbon knuckles gloves are/were in other posts, along with the one pair of Oakley shades I picked up to try out (at a heavy discount).  This is a prime example of a company that built a name for itself, then sold out to a conglomerate, moved manufacture to somewhere with cheap labour, dropped quality massively and now hands on its’ old name by a thread and in future will only make sales to people more concerned about fashion and brand names than they are quality.

Always take internet hype with a pinch of salt. Also realise the difference between hype and actual reviews done by people who know a bit about gear.

PenCott’s Urban Entry

Soldier Systems Daily posted up these previews of some ur-tactical.com apparel in a new PenCott Camouflage offering that I’ve been expecting to show up for a while now.

ATACS have LE, and Multicam have Black. Krpytek have Typhon but they also have Raid, Banshee and Altitude they just don’t want to actually get them printed on to rolls of useful, general purpose fabrics (I’ve asked people at Kryptek if they’ll ever get around to it but alas nothing).

Anyway, I was somewhat worried PenCott might fall down the ‘black with a twist’ trap which is pointless in my opinion, you might as well just wear plain black. Luckily however this pattern looks to be a mixture of khaki shades, browns and greys in tones that actually make some real sense in urban environments. Not a million miles off the grey shades Mil-Spec Monkey has been developing.

Sadly very few companies offer well made, well thought-out apparel in PenCott patterns right now. GreenZone is easy enough to find but if you want some high quality Badlands there’s very little to choose from, and if you want Sandstorm you almost might as well forget it. UR-Tac are good at churning out a LOT of different camo options using quality materials though, almost all fully fledged NYCO. I don’t have any of their stuff in the collection these days but I’ve owned plenty over the years and when you want a combat cut uniform and/or a trouser that takes Crye pads in a pattern that other people don’t make there’s always a strong chance these guys will be making it.

If I’ve Said It Once

Quick tips for those attending IWA this weekend (trigger warning btw):

-You don’t actually need velcro on your sleeves to survive in an urban environment.
-Softshells are nice and all but you don’t actually need to wear one 24/7 when you’re indoors in an urban environment.
-You don’t actually need desert boots to be comfortable walking around in an urban environment.
-You don’t actually need a coyote brown backpack dripping in PALS loops and loop field to carry your stuff in an urban environment.
-You don’t have to wear mechanix, OD/CB Helikon trousers and a 5.11 cap to survive in an urban environment.

Pretty much everyone has their airsoft fashion phase, I get it, I’ve been there. But I’d recommend moving past it as quickly as possible, keep the tactical colours and velcro for when you’re on the range or playing games, it’s all fine and dandy in that environment. You will look back at the pictures years from now and think “damn, wish I’d changed up my style sooner”.

I don’t know of anything from Crye that’s not tactical looking, but Arc, Patagonia, OR, Beyond, Tas Tiger, 5.11, Plat-A-Tac, LBX, etc etc all have tactical clothing lines as well as non-tactical ones. Check out brands like Kuhl and get on to either GO Outdoors or Tactical Distributors and take the time to look around at the options for functional, technical apparel that’ll give you the fit, comfort and quality of construction you’re looking for without the 0perat0r bullshit.

If anyone’s about to lose their mind in the comments box:
I’m not saying this to bash people for wearing what they want to wear, I’m saying it so you 1. Don’t look like an idiot to people who’ve really been there and done that 2. Don’t attract the wrong sort of attention in public. The super obvious tacticool stuff is bad enough but even worse if you’re rocking anything with camouflage then people will likely assume you’re in/ex forces and that’s not what you want. If you don’t understand why – You need to read more.

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.”

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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