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Magnum Boots Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi

Magnum Boots long awaited Multicam Sidewinder HPi has arrived- and was entirely worth the wait.

 

By MILTECHREV Editor Tom Demerly.

Magnum Boots has released their new Sidewinder Combat Desert Multcam HPi boot after initial changes in the delivery schedule. This outstanding boot is worth the wait. The Sidewinder Combat Desert HPi is not an entirely new boot for Magnum Boots. A previous version in solid desert tan has been available and evaluated by over 1456 “testers” in 192 countries according to Magnum Boot’s website.

The primary difference with the latest version of the Sidewinder Combat Desert HPi is the Multicam pattern that covers the entire boot, including the sole. This concept of camouflage boots to provide better concealment for the soldier is relatively new but already proving to be effective and popular. This trend in tactical uniforms marks another functional step away from uniforms that were initially designed for garrison wear such as black or solid color boots. 

The Magnum Boots Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi is packed with technical details that work together to make this an exceptional tactical boot. The features and benefits range from subtle changes in fabric and design philosophy to more conspicuous changes in the outer design of the boot such as the overall camouflage scheme and the unique fast rope panel on the medial instep area.

Three testers wore this boot in size 9.5 US including wear tests while carrying a pack, on technical, rocky desert trails and for long road marches on pavement at speed. We even had the opportunity to do some PT running in this boot.

The packaging and the "Magnum Challenge" 60-Day wear guarantee nomenclature when we received production boots. This is the consumer packaging.

Ion-Mask: Better Boot Performance in the Real World.

A key feature in the Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi is ion-mask technology. The ion-mask protective layer on the Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi is an ultra-thin coating layer over a thousand times thinner than a human hair. This coating does not wash or rinse off and is as durable as the material it is applied to. Ion-mask treatment repels water, grit and dust at the fiber level, allowing the fabric to remain breathable and quick drying. It is not a waterproof treatment, but rather, a means of making individual fibers less permiable, more durable and actually improving the breathability and drying speed of the overall fabric made up of the individual ion-mask fibers. Ion-mask even makes stitching on the boot water repellant, making it stronger since it will not soak up water or stretch.

Side views of the boot inside and outside. Notice the fast rope device above the instep on the left.

The ion-mask treatment on the Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi effectively moderates overall boot comfort, function and performance in the real world. Ion-mask does not fight the losing battle of trying to keep your feet entirely dry in a wet environment. Instead the design of the Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi works effectively with the environment to protect feet from blisters, moisture and injury. Your feet can get wet in these boots, but they will dry out faster and remain more comfortable than an entirely waterproof boot. If this idea sounds familiar think back to the original jungle boot from the 1960’s. These boots did not fight the losing battle of keeping water out, but rather, took a more pragmatic approach of controlling ventilation and moisture with boot design.

A comparison of relative boot heights for the Lowa Zephyr Desert Boot (left), the Magnum Sidewinder Desert Multicam HPi (center) and the Danner TFX Hot Boot, A-TACS (right).

A drawback to waterproof boots is ventilation and breathability. While most waterproof boots use a waterproof/breathable microporous sock liner to prevent water from getting in they tend to be long on water repellancy but short on breathabiltity. Even the best designed waterproof/breathable boots are noticeably warmer than a similar non-waterproof design. The result is, while your feet may not get wet from external moisture like rain or stepping in water, your skin does get moist from perspiration inside the waterproof sockliner of the boot. As your foot perspires your skin become vulnerable to blisters from being wet. Your footwear system is more reliant on your socks and frequent sock changes, not always possible in the tactical environment. The ion-mask treatment on the Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi prevents the fibers from soaking up water, allowing them to dry faster, provide better ventilation and prevent soaking.

The Multicam color scheme is even executed on the lacing eyelets, a nice detail.

Another benefit of the ion-mask treatment is the boot stays cleaner since foreign matter does not stick easily and what may stick cleans off much more easily than non- ion-mask boots.

No More Stink: Agion Silver-Based Treatment.

Another proven technology built into the Magnum Boots Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi is the use of Agion anti-microbial treatment to reduce odor. Agion relies on silver ions to reduce the accumulation of smell from the boots. The boots don’t gather bad smells from perspiration. This silver-molecular impregnation has been used successfully in athletic apparel by endurance sports brands like Pearl Izumi (they make bicycling, running and triathlon apparel). For tactical applications it means you can wear your boots on a week long patrol, pack them in your deployment bag and put them on a C-141, fly home, open the bag and not be gassed by the smell of your own boots.

The unique design of the heel and toe of the new Vibram outsole improves traction and handling when climbing and when walking downhill.

SuperFabric: Making Fabric Boots that Wear Longer.

Wear of the boots, especially the fabric sections, is enhanced by using HDM Inc.’s SuperFabric. SuperFabric is a plating technology for increasing fabric abrasion and tear resistance. The earliest versions of fabric boots had the advantages of being cool, lighteweight, quick to break in and functional but they also wore very quickly. SuperFabric armor makes fibers more resistant to abrasion while retaining breathability.

Ortholite Insoles: Aftermarket Athletic Shoe Performance.

Another fabric/material/design feature on the Magnum Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi is the use of Ortholite insoles right out of the box- the boots come with them. Ortholite is a brand partner with Nike, Merrell, Timberland, Adidas and New Balance. They do insole/orthotic manufacturing for many of these brands and sell their own line of aftermarket orthotics. The advantage to an Ortholite brand insole is materials, engineering, performance and durability. This is a thicker, more anatomically correct and more durable insole than the generic Cambrelle type insole.

The mesh ventilated lining with the Ortholite insole installed (left) and removed (center) and the Ortholite insole removed.

The Boot Design.

Great fabric technologies are no good without good basic footwear design. The Magnum Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi uses a number of solid design cues to optimize the fabric technologies.

Firstly, the boot is an in-between 8.5″ (21.5 cm) height. I’ll argue this is an optimal height for most purposes. It can be donned easily, provides good ankle stability (along with the outsole- more on that in a moment) and retains reasonably light weight. The boot has a padded and scalloped upper collar. The lacing on this boot is superb. Good boots are a matter of details and this boot has attended to the details. Firstly, the laces: These laces mimmick the feel and weave of .550 parachute cord. The weave of the laces is dense, making them slide through the eyelets more easily and last longer. Before you discount the importance of decent laces consider the awful cotton laces one high end tactical boot supplies their boots with. You have to replace them right out of the box or suffer the consequences in the field. That brand’s boots are great- but the laces are awful. Speaking of lacing, the eyelets on the Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi also show attention to detail. They are Multicam color keyed and the fourth eyelet from the top is a locking eyelet that helps secure the adjustment of the boot tightness when donning.

At 787 grams (27.7 ounces) The Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi is a relatively lightweight boot.

The boot lining is perforated and padded adding to both breathability and out-of-the-box comfort. Tongue design integrates with the rest of the upper to prevent debris from entering and folds easily when donning and lacing. We wore several different weight socks during our wear testing and all worked well, even a very light sock-liner worn by itself.

Toward the bottom of the boot there is a hefty fast rope panel on the medial instep to help dissipate heat and get a grip on the rope. It also helps with rope climbing. The mid sole is described as dual density molded construction. Given the relatively cushioned feel this technical hiking boot/trail running shoe technology seems right at home on this tactical boot.

A thoughtful detail on the lacing system is this locking eyelet that allows intermediate adjustment of how tight the boot is.

A particularly nice feature for steep terrain is the radiused-grip heel on the molded Vibram sole. The heel of the boot is partially rounded with a series of grippers molded in. The grippers are angled downward to provide some purchase on the back of the boot if your weight shifts rearward. This is especially important when walking down hill wearing a big ruck. You should already know to keep your weight over the ball of your foot when descending with a ruck on, but this feature is extra insurance if you start to slip or have to descend fast. This technology is borrowed from Vibram’s successful S2V outsoles. These molded, integrated outsoles represent a new direction for Vibram.

Even little details like more durable, tighter weave laces (bottom) are included on the Magnum Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam.

The toe portion of the sole wraps upward for better traction. This will also make the boot last longer since a lot of boots die when the toe section of the sole delaminates from upper.

Overall our test boots in size 9.5 US weighed 787 grams or 27.7 ounces (1.73 pounds). Volume in the forefoot and instep/saddle area were spot on for a 9.5 slightly wide foot with average arches. The boots fit well directly from the box. No break in was required.

How Did They Work?

We have been looking forward to this boot for so long that when we finally got them we absolutely beat them. Three testers tag teamed these boots over 2 weeks. They were almost constantly on someone’s feet, almost constantly in motion. When they weren’t marching on pavement they were rucking in the mountains. We hammered them, likely putting 2 months of normal wear for one owner into 2 weeks with three testers sharing one pair.

I put 8.5 hard miles on these boots wearing very thin, low socks directly out of the box. No blisters, no hot spots. The boots felt light and agile and provide good shock absoption. My first impression wearing these is the boots ride “high”. The midsole, insole and outsole are thick. I am taller with these on. There is a lot of “cush” to the soles.

A visual comparison of the Magnum Sidewinder combat Desert Multicam HPi (left) and the Danner TFX Hot Boot, A-TACS (right).

Wear testing them in lose terrain on an 8 mile up, 8 mile down technical trail that climbed to 9,000 feet while wearing 25 pounds at the start (got lighter as the tester ate and drank from their hydration reservoir) was equally impressive: no blisters, great stability, handling and excellent traction, especially descending. No hot spots at the ankle or ball of the foot. Laces stayed tied and adjusted.

We didn’t get the boots soaking wet or swim with them but we did one rope descent on a static trainer- the grippers on the inside are sticky and grip the rope well if you are light and not wearing a pack. We did pull a pair of swim fins over them and they work well with the little Force Fins. I installed a pair of Grivel Air Tech Light semi-rigid adjustable crampons on these boots and, once adjusted, they worked fine. Clearly there is a lot of versatility with the design of these boots.

No review is complete without some criticism and, although any complaint with a boot this nice is about impossible to find we did miss a heel loop to help with donning. Beyond that, we couldn’t find a thing to change.

A close look at the Multicam colored outsole. The soles are slightly lighter since soil will cause them to darken slightly with field use.

It took a while for the Magnum Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi to reach the market but they are absolutely worth the wait. Magnum did well to delay the release of the boot until everything- including reasonable supply- was ready for the consumer market. This boot has been extensively tested around the world in several versions and is absolutely proven now. The new Multicam color scheme adds another layer of function and appeal. The Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi comes with Magnum’s “Magnum Challenge” 60-Day Guarantee: According to the hang tag in the boot box from Magnum, if you are  U.S. customer you can return the boots within 60 days for a full refund if they do not work for you. That suggests Magnum has a high degree of confidence in the performance of this boot.

Our tests also reinforce a high degree of confidence in this boot. They have excellent out-of-the-box comfort and show almost no wear after hard use. Each of us found the boots comfortable, maneuverable and lightweight. None of us developed blisters or hot spots even on varied terrain across wide temperature ranges using different socks and carrying a load. It’s hard to not be impressed by this boot. They were truly worth the wait.

Magnum's new Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi took some time to hit the market but is absolutely worth the wait.

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County Comm Government Products Group Embassy Pens

By Tom Demerly.

County Comm Government Products Group has made a limited number of their lightweight 6061 T-6 Aluminum Alloy and heavyweight Stainless Steel Embassy Pens in the "REV 2" versions available to the non-government market.

The “tactical pen” has become a big category in the last decade. The cottage industry defense contractor, County Comm Government Products Group, has released a limited number of their heavy-duty Embassy Pens in both lightweight alloy and the heavy stainless steel version.
 
The “tactical pen” was given life by writing instrument innovator Paul Fisher of the Fisher Space Pen Company. Fisher invented a refillable pen cartridge that could work in different pen “bodies”. He went on to develop a more dependable pen cartridge using thixotropic ink. Thixotropic ink is more leak proof, less messy, dries faster and applies to varied surfaces more evenly since it remains in a mostly solid state inside the pen until the action of a rolling ball pen tip causes it to liquify, coat the pen tip, then flow evenly onto the surface the pen is writing on.

The heaviest of the County Comm pens we tested, the Stainless Steel version (silver, 3rd from left), is nearly ten times more substantial than a standard Parker T-Ball Jotter retractable pen. You can read the weights on these pens for comparison by clicking on this photo to enlarge it.

 
Fisher went on to fill the thixotropic ink cartridge with nitrogen gas at higher than ambient pressure. This pushes the ink out of its storage vessel, onto the tip at all angles. This system does not rely on gravity to feed the thixotropic ink onto the rolling ball writing surface where it is liquified. The pen always writes dependably- at any angle. It is not reliant on gravity to feed ink to the roller ball. The pen can literally write upside down, in a zero gravity environment and even in a limited negative G environment. Fisher was granted a U.S. patent in 1965, Patent # 3,285,228 “Anti Gravity Pen”. Three years later the pen was made famous as the “NASA SEB 12100051 Data Recording Pen” by NASA Astronauts on the Apollo 7 mission. Fisher Space Pen Co. claims NASA tested the pen “for two years” before implementing it in the Apollo Space Program.

The threaded cap and surface knurling on the County Comm Stainless Steel Embassy Elite Pen (REV 2) is beautifully precise and well done.

 
On a practical level there are few things more frustrating than a pen that doesn’t write, except a pen that leaks and ruins clothing or a brief case and documents. Fisher’s Space Pen Cartridge proved remarkably reliable and caught on quickly. Market share steadily grew as Fisher Space Pen released more models. A satirical episode on the TV sitcom Seinfeld was even written featuring the Fisher Space Pen.

Handling and feel on these pens is very nice. The Fisher Space Pen pressurized cartridge produces good quality, dependable print even upside down, like this sample was made.

 
 
The pens from County Comm Government Products Group are large, precision machined bodies for the Fisher Space Pen Cartridge. The heavier Stainless Steel Embassy Elite Pen (REV 2) is large and heavy enough to use as an improvised weapon like a kuboton. The kuboton is a hand-to-hand combat weapon developed (and patented) by Takayaki Kubota in the 1970’s for use by the Los Angeles Police Department. As a result of its improvised weapon capability, the TSA likely won’t let you take one of these pens through some airline security inspections.

The size and heft of the County Comm pens give them some "weapons capability" in the most desperate circumstances. Because of this the TSA may not let you carry these on a commercial flight.

 
County Comm Government Products Group offers three versions of the Embassy Pen: The Titanium Embassy Pen made of 6/4 vanadium/titanium alloy ($85),  the exotic Solid Copper Embassy Pen ($175), the Stainless Steel Embassy Elite Pen (REV 2) and the 6061 Aluminum Alloy Type 3 Anodized Embassy Pen (REV 2) ($44.50). We tested the Stainless Steel Embassy Elite Pen (REV 2) ($55) and the black 6061 Aluminum Alloy Type 3 Anodized Embassy Pen (REV 2).

The top of the pen unthreads once opened to insert the Fisher Space Pen pressurized cartridge.

 
Tactical pens are basically metal housings for the Fisher Space Pen cartridge. The thing that sets them apart is the level of workmanship and the design. The County Comm Government Product Group pens are unique because of their hefty design, nice finish, pleasing shape and good ergonomics. The heft is especially apparent with the 107 gram (3.77 ounce) Stainless Steel pen we tried. These things feel substantial in your hand, especially the heft of the Stainless Steel version which we weighed in at 107 grams, about the same weight as a coin roll. It feels nice to write with a heavy pen- as long as you don’t have to write too long. The heavy Stainless Steel version is a great choice for a police officer writing a short ticket or someone taking notes. I wouldn’t want to write out a report with one of these pens though. The lighter weight aluminum alloy version is very nice for longer writing projects though.

Pen sizes for comparison: Bottom, Fisher Space Pen. 2nd from Bottom, Parker T-Ball Jotter, Top two, County Comm stainless steel and anodized 6061 T6 aluminum.

 
These pens are not retractable, you unthread the forward, cap section and remove it to write. Many high-end pens have this construction.  One thing that struck us as less than elegant is that, once you unthread the cap you have to do something with it. It doesn’t slide or thread onto the back of the pen or otherwise conveniently store itself. I’m worried about losing the cap. That said, the pens handle very well. The knurling turned into the forward section and the taper formed by threaded area mean you can grip these well even when wearing gloves, and that is a big advantage to these pens over smaller “space” pens.

The nice machining and functional shape give these pens durable, functional appeal. These are the threads inside the removable pen cap.

 
Each pen has a 301 grade stainless steel clip bolted to the main body with two Torx threaded fasteners, a big improvement over the little Fisher Space Pen that has a clip-on pocket clip that can slide up and down the pen body- and eventually fall off. That won’t happen with the County Comm pens.

Disassembly of the pens is easy, simply unthreading the cap and the top of the pen exposes the Fisher Space Pen cartridge which fits precisely inside the housing.

 
Writing with and carrying these pens is a joy. They feel great and, as mentioned, are one of few pens that work well wearing Nomex flight gloves or tactical assault gloves. Another nice feature, especially of the robust Stainless Steel pen, is that you can find them easily in a pocket. Since these pens are large they are easy to find but may not fit in all pen tube storage holders. Triple Aught Design had a small Velcro pen storage tube some time ago and this pen is too large for that little fabric/Velcro accessory tube. The function and robust nature of the design, quality of the manufacturing and engraving and overall fit and feel of the pen make it functional and attractive. Pull this out in a board meeting and it will get attention. Jot down coordinates or radio freqs in the dark cockpit of an EC-130E Compass Call and it won’t fail you.

The County Comm pens on top of a Spec Ops Brand check book holder.

 
 
County Comm Government Products Group is a fascinating company with a host of useful items that are difficult or impossible to find anywhere else. Many of these are County Comm designs, some are sourced from other companies and compiled into their quaint and convenient shopping portal. Their unique tactical pens are just one product category of many. County Comm’s website is a worthwhile stop for the military, law enforcement, tactical enthusiast and technology fan and their tactical pens are a great introduction to their products.
 
 
 

Boonie Bust Up: A Tale of Seven Boonie Hats.

By MILTECHREV Editor Tom Demerly.

The evolution of the boonie hat started in the early 1960's in popular U.S. military culture and has continued to evolve for five decades.

By popular accounts the “boonie hat” or soft hat evolved from locally procured full brim fabric hats during the Vietnam Conflict beginning with the French occupation of Indochina and accelerating with the arrival of U.S. Special Forces advisors in the early 1960’s. Most early boonie hats were procured locally in South Vietnam. The local manufacture of boonie hats became a significant cottage industry that survives to this day in modern Vietnam. Now the hats are sold in Vietnam mostly as souvenirs of the “American War”.
 
The boonie hat came into popular use by Special Operations teams such as the U.S. Army Special Forces and ARVN units along with counter insurgency units such as Naval Special Warfare teams. The most photographed users seem to be the U.S. Army “LRP” or “LRRP” teams, “Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol” teams used to locate and harass the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong insurgents and provide bomb damage assessment after air strikes. These teams favored the soft boonie hat to a helmet since it was cooler to wear, did not interfere with hearing and broke up the outline of the soldier’s head assisting with concealment. The brim also provided a measure of comfort against monsoon rain and hot sun.

The original Vietnamese boonie hat in tiger stripe camouflage. Notice the missing camouflage loops and the pointed top. This example was purchased in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam.

 
The original Southeast Asian campaign boonie hats came in a number of colors but the “Tiger Stripe” camouflage was the most commonly used. Tiger stripe uniforms never had a U.S. stock number and were purchased locally including the tiger stripe boonie hats. The hat became synonymous with the Vietnam Conflict and is featured in the statue The Three Soldiers (alternatively referred to as The Three Servicemen) by artist Frederick Hart at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. In the John Wayne movie The Green Berets characters wore the tiger stripe boonie hats on secret missions to kidnap a North Vietnamese officer and to repatriate a Montagnard village.

The boonie hat was popularized in U.S. military culture by Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) Teams such as this one in Vietnam in 1968.

 
 
Another locally available version of the boonie hat still seen today was a solid color reversible version with desert tan on one side and solid Olive Drab on the other. This version was made popular by intelligence organizations and private military contractors who were either discouraged or prohibited from wearing camouflage apparel or military uniforms. The Olive Drab side had vertical loops sewn onto the side.

This boonie hat is reversible from desert tan to olive drab with the olive drab side having loops to insert foliage for camouflage. These were never issued but used by intelligence organizations and private contractors and are seen everywhere as casual wear from beach tourists to Abercrombie alterna-teens.

 
The loops on boonie hats have remained a fixture although there is confusion about what the fabric loops around the crown of the hat are actually for. Some people (mostly civilians) thought the loops were to store ammunition, which would not have worked. The purpose of the loops is to thread pieces of foliage as natural camouflage to further break up the outline of the soldier and help them blend into their surroundings. U.S.defense contractors did begin to produce official issue boonie hats for servicemen deployed to hot weather regions after the success with locally procured ones in Southeast Asia. The U.S. Army and the U.S. Marines were early adopters of issue boonie hats, solid olive drab for the U.S. Army and later woodland camouflage and then the “digital” pixelated camouflage schemes for the U.S. Army ACU’s and in the U.S. Marines’ distinctive desert and woodland pixelated scheme. The U.S. Army also adopted a “chocolate chip” or five color camouflage boonie hat and a later (still used by some units, especially Naval Special Warfare) three color camouflage. Some Middle Eastern countries also adopted these uniforms, most notably Egypt with the five color desert uniform.

The U.S. Marine Corp issue boonie hat had a large brim, four vents, the Globe and Anchor embroidered logo and a built-in sweat band inside the front of the cover.

 
A notable feature on the USMC issue version of the boonie hat is the Globe and Anchor Marine insignia embroidered on the front of the “cover”. These covers (Marine vernacular for hat) were manufactured by Sekri Industries and sold in size names “Small”, “Medium” and “Large”. Marines in Iraq during Gulf II believed that the hat should be worn in the largest possible size for comfort and maximum shade. The Marine insignia is more than a matter of pride, it also signifies the front of the hat, where a sweat band is located to absorb perspiration. The hat features four metal mesh vents nd uses a generous 2.87 inch wide (7 cm) brim. There is a chin lanyard and the ubiquitous webbing loops around the crown of the hat for camouflage.
 
The military issue boonie hats gave way to a storm of commercially produced boonies in various camouflage schemes based on military camouflage. These are used by military enthusiasts, private contractors, law enforcement and foreign government military units. 5.11 Tactical makes a version with a 2.25 inch (5.7 cm) brim, four mesh vents, chin strap, camouflage retention bands and a hidden pocket in the top of the hat for concealing a thin, flat object like ID card or plans for your secret missions.

5.11 Tactical's boonie hat is inexpensive, lightweight, has a nice brim width and a unique hidden pocket in the top. The camouflage mimmicks (but is not an exact match of) USMC desert camo.

In 2004 Caleb Crye  introduced a seven color camouflage scheme intended to be used in all terrains and climatological zones. It provides visual concealment in desert, woodland, arid and even tundra settings. The idea is to replace the need for separate woodland and desert camouflage uniforms while increasing the overall effectiveness of the soldier’s battle dress in providing tactical concealment. The result is Crye Precision’s patented Multicam pattern. Multicam has been adopted by the U.S. Army, many military and law enforcement special operations teams such as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and is popular in the civilian/tactical enthusiast market.

Well conceived details like a drawstring around the crown of the hat, large integrated vents along the side and a Velcro IFF patch holder on top set the Crye Precision Multicam boonie hat apart.

 
Crye Precision produces a Multicam boonie hat that is truly outstanding. The fit, workmanship, pattern and features are all very good. It includes the standard boonie hat features such as an adjustable chin strap and the camouflage retention loops around the crown. It also has a Velcro loop section on the top for infra-red reflective identification friend or foe (IFF) insignia. These small black IFF squares reflect only infra-red light and glow brightly when illuminated by an IR frequency light source such as a night vision scope but remain completely dark to the naked eye. Another thoughtful feature to the Crye Precision boonie hat is a drawstring around the crown of the hat so it stays on well. The early versions of the hat did not use the metallic, round mesh vents but had a fine mesh liner in the upper section and fabric panel vents on each side. More recent  versions have round metal vents. These earlier integral vents are much larger and more effective than the little wire mesh vents. The Crye Precision boonie hat is made in hat sizes like 7, 7&1/4, 7&1/2, etc. Brim on this hat measures 2.5 inches (6 cm.)
 

Crye Precision's Multicam boonie hat is packed with features like a drawstring crown, large discreet side vents, Velcro pile IFF patch on top and a nicely sized brim.

The next evolution in boonie hats tracks with the development of Digital Concealment Systems’ (DCS) A-TACS camouflage pattern. A-TACS is a pixelated camouflaged system using “organic pixels” This camouflage pattern is created from an algorithm of computer interpreted light patterns and is a much tighter, smaller set of pixels more closely mimicking not only colors in the natural environment but also the behavior of light and shadow. The result is a hauntingly effective camouflage pattern. Current A-TACS is intended for arid, rocky, desert and high desert terrains but also crosses over effectively to some high alpine and dry wooded areas. Digital Concealment Systems just released the new A-TACS FG camouflage for use in jungle, heavily wooded and deep foliage areas. This new camouflage pattern is distinctly more green than the original arid terrain A-TACS.
 
A big part of the A-TACS concealment system is the philosophy of applying the camouflage pattern to all of the operators equipment, from battle dress to personal equipment and backpacks to weapons. Obviously headgear is included.

Tactical Performance Corporation of California has continued the development of their evolved A-TACS uniforms with the introduction of two A-TACS patterned boonie hats.

 
Tactical Performance Corporation of California was one of the first companies to show two versions of an A-TACS patterned boonie hat with their C-2000AT A-TACS Boonie Hat and their unique C-2100AT Sniper Boonie Hat.
 
The C-2000AT A-TACS Boonie Hat from Tactical Performance Corporation is a conventionally configured boonie with a 2.5 inch (6 cm.) brim similar in size to Crye Precision’s boonie. This is an optimal size for the brim of a boonie hat in our opinion as it provides adequate sun shade, spills rain and does not interfere with your field of vision as much as larger brim boonie and sun hats. The hat is ripstop 50/50 NYCO fabric and uses the metal mesh vents and small chin strap along with a series of loops around the crown for camouflage. The A-TACS camouflage pattern is uncanny in the high desert. Don’t set this hat on the ground- you’ll have a tough time finding it since it blends in so effectively even at close range.

The Tactical Performance Corporation Sniper Boonie in A-TACS is difficult to manufacture but effective in breaking up the wearer's outline.

 
The second version of the Tactical Performance Corporation boonie hat is the unusual C-2100AT Sniper Boonie Hat. One of the principles of camouflage is to break up the outline of the shape against its background rendering it less recognizable.. The Tactical Performance Sniper Boonie Hat has a brim with ghillie suit style simulated foliage around the outside. This breaks up the outline of the operator’s head, casts unusual shadows and creates visual confusion even at short range. When combined with cut natural foliage inserted into the camouflage retaining loops around the hat it becomes even more effective. The vents on the C-2100AT Sniper Boonie Hat are very similar to the Crye Precision boonie. They are large slots in the main section of the hat instead of little screens. There is also a drawstring around the crown of the hat to secure it. In terms of providing concealment, this is the most effective of the boonie hats since it not only blends into the background due to the A-TACS camouflage pattern but it effectively breaks up the wearer’s outline with the unusual trim on the brim.

Tactical Performance Corporation's C-2000AT A-TACS Boonie Hat has a perfect brim size and uses ripstop 50/50 NYCO fabric.

 
Boonie hats have become synonymous with the special operations soldier, law enforcement SWAT team and military/tactical enthusiast. The evolution of the boonie over the past half century has brought us to the new advanced designs from Crye Precision and Tactical Performance Corporation. More than any time in military history the boonie hat has become an important part of soldier, operator and tactical enthusiast’s wardrobe.

Tactical Performance A-TACS Combat Shirt Gen II

By MILTECHREV Editors including Tom Demerly with Assistance from T. Policastro.

Tactical Performance Corporation's new A-TACS Combat Shirt Gen II uses a unique combination of fabrics, integrated protective pads and all-over A-TACS print to produce a very sophisticated combat shirt design.

 
 
Tactical Performance Corporation of North Highlands, California has shown pre-production prototypes of their new A-TACS Tactical Combat Shirt Gen II. We had the opportunity to test and evaluate the full uniform, including the Combat Pants for three weeks in November and early December.
 
The evolution of the combat shirt has been a rapid one driven by requirements of operators using new load carrying systems like tactical and load bearing vests and the inclusion of body armor into the soldier’s uniform. Old BDU’s didn’t work with load vests, tactical rigs and armor. As the combat shirt has gained acceptance better adaptations of the early designs have emerged. This example from Tactical Performance Corporation represents the pointy end of the bayonet in combat shirt evolution.
 
From the top of the shirt the neck is 3.75 inches (9.5 cm) high at its highest point. There is an 8 inch (20.5 cm) zipper at the front of the neck that opens the collar and extends downward into the torso. The stand-up collar is 50/50 NYCO NIR (Near Infra-Red) VAT print Ripstop fabric as is the entire upper section of the shirt except the fabric covering the molded impact pads at the elbow, upper arm and shoulder. These padded sections are covered in lightweight, abrasion resistant synthetic that mimics the feel of Cordura. Cuffs on the sleeve have velcro adjusters and the abrasion resistant fabric over the elbow pads extends down the forearm nearly to the cuffs, a nice feature for protecting the shirt (and your arms) when in the prone position.

The lower sleeves feature a three piece articulated pad of 8mm thick EVA foam and a reinforced section of coated fabric with the texture and weight of Cordura for abrasion and wear resistance.

 
” A key feature of the entire shirt is the VAT print fabric.”
 
A key feature of the entire shirt is the VAT print fabric. This process is more expensive than other techniques for imprinting fabric with a camouflage scheme and cause the appearance of the garment to remain fresh after hard wear and repeated laundering. The VAT print adds significant life and value to the uniform. Early generation combat shirts usually only had camouflaged shoulder and chest sections with the torso being a solid color. The presumption is your load bearing vest covers the solid color part of your body. Not only did it look odd, like a BMX jersey, but it didn’t work very well for concealment either. Tactical Performance is one of only a handful of tactical vendors extending the camouflage scheme over the entire combat shirt. If you study the philosophy behind the A-TACS concealment concept it includes the idea that all of the operator’s equipment, including weapon, be A-TACS pattern to maximize visual stealth. This concept is valid not only for concealment but also so opposing forces cannot quickly tell what position an operator is in at the instant they visually acquire them. That split second of visual disorientation coud be just the amount of time needed to get the first burst off, and the difference between who walks away.
 

Unlike other combat shirts the entire garment uses the A-TACS concealment pattern for better visual stealth.

 
 
 
The six innovative padded sections (in addition to the elbow pads) perform a few functions. The elbow pads are obvious, protecting the forearm and elbow while in the prone position. Above the A-TACS patterned velcro patch panels there are three more padded sections per side. The upper arm area is useful for leveraging anything with your shoulder and for protection while riding in a cramped armored vehicle like a Lenco or Up-armored ASK Humvee. The top two pads provide cushioning under the crushing weight of a big ruck. Even though the weight in a big ruck should be supported by the hip belt if you set up your gear correctly there is still a lot “stuff” pressing into your shoulders when you combine your tactical rig with a big ruck. The two pads on the top of each shoulder take the edge off that pressure. The padded sections are 8 millimeters thick and made of flexible closed-cell EVA foam sewn into the abrasion resistant fabric.

Articulated 8mm EVA foam ergonomic pads are built in as bump and abrasion protection at key areas. We found the pads did not make the shirt perceivably hotter even up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

 
Patterning on the shirt includes three separate panels on the back to facilitate carrying a large tactical pack and wearing load bearing vests and body armor. The points where the load is concentrated have no seams. There are separate side panels and two panel construction on the front. The torso is a total of seven separate fabric panels not including the NYCO 50/50 ripstop shoulder/arm section. Joining these panels is flat seam, quad stitching that lays flat and is very precisely executed.
 
The torso section below the upper ripstop shoulder and arm area of the SH-0200AT Tactical Combat Shirt Gen II is A-TACS patterned 100% cotton (no melt) 5.5 ounce per square yard fabric. This fabric is cool and comfortable in a hot/dry climate.

The pads on the shoulders reduce the pressure of pack straps and help keep the straps in place on your shoulders.

 
We got to wear the prototype of the Tactical Combat Shirt Gen II in a wide temperature range from upper 30’s Fahrenheit to nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit (welcome to the desert…). My first impression was that the padded sections did not make the shirt hotter at high temperatures approaching 100 degrees. I was impressed by that. Perhaps the pads are small enough individually that they don’t trap enough heat to make a big difference. The fit on this prototype is very good. I initially thought the neck could be larger,  and perhaps it could be for larger wearers. I don’t have a large neck like some guys who spend more time in the weight room (Marines…). On me, it was “tailored” and precise. This high neck can also be worn unzipped and folded down like a flat collar. I would like to see a zipper longer than 8 inches so the shirt could be removed over a tactical bump helmet. As it is, if you are going to remove your shirt you need to pull off your bump helmet. It won’t fit through the neck opening when unzipped. Admittedly, this is a nit-pick, but I have seen one tactical shirt that had a full front zip and I liked that idea for easy donning and removal without having to sort out your helmet, goggles, comms gear, etc.

One shoulder pocket is built onto each sleeve. Notice the A-TACS camo patterned Velcro pile on the patch panel, a detail missing from many camouflage tactical shirts.

 
In general the fabric and attention to detail on this tactical shirt locate it above versions we’ve seen from many other tactical vendors. It is the nicest we’ve worn. Tactical Performance Corporation has carved out a niche of making very evolved, high-end tactical uniforms with refined features missing on other brands. Some of their items are ready-made versions of popular uniform modifications that previously had to be done by private tailors specializing in uniform modification, a process that is slow and expensive. Tactical Performance has brought those modifications to the production tactical market.
 
We are continuously impressed by the designs and construction of Tactical Performance Corporation’s uniforms and this new example of their upcoming A-TACS Combat Shirt Gen II continues that level of workmanship and performance.
 

Tactical Performance Corporation's A-TACS Tactical Combat Shirt Gen II with full A-TACS patterning including body and velcro patch panels, integrated shoulder and elbow pads and application specific fabric for user comfort and function.

Danner TFX Hot Boots, A-TACS

Danner’s new A-TACS pattern TFX Hot Uniform Boot. A Gore-Tex lined version, the Desert TFX GTX is also available.

Danner is the first footwear brand to release an A-TACS camouflage tactical boot. Their Desert TFX is sold in two versions, the Desert TFX Hot Uniform Boot and the Gore-Tex lined Desert TFX GTX Uniform Boot. Both boots feature a molded A-TACS outsole and patterned upper in the A-TACS camouflage scheme.

This review is for the Desert TFX Hot Uniform Boot, Danner Style no. 26033.  The two boots are differentiated by $20 in price at retail and by the Gore-Tex lining of the Desert TFX GTX version. The Desert TFX Hot boot (no Gore-Tex) is $170 USD MSRP and the Desert TFX GTX (with Gore-Tex) is $190 USD MSRP. Each boot shares the same design and it is difficult to tell the difference between the models by looking at them from the outside of the boot.

The A-TACS camouflage scheme on the Desert TFX Hot boots is highly effective.

The choice of whether to use the Gore-Tex or non-Gore Tex “Hot” version is determined by your exposure to wet conditions. If you operate in an environment where you are walking on wet ground or in shallow water the Gore-Tex Desert TFX GTX version will be worth the extra $20 to you. That said, it is not a “better, best” progression from the $170 TFX Hot boot up to the $190 TFX GTX boot. They are simply intended for different environments. Desert and arid users will be more comfortable in the Desert TFX Hot version. Even though the W.L. Gore & Associates Gore-Tex sock liner built into the TFX GTX version is thin and breathable it still makes any boot warmer than an identical non-Gore-Tex version.

The Danner Desert TFX Hot (left) is a tall boot compared to my trusty Lowa Zephyrs (right).

This is a tall boot. It measures 10.75″ (27.5 cm) from bottom of sole to top of tongue. If you wear pants that have lower pockets and still want to blouse them at the top of the boots it may get crowded. If you want the ankle support and stability of a higher boot this is a great choice.

The boots use 10 eyelets per side with the bottom five being round grommets and the top five a closed speed lacing system. The boots are Airborne compliant since there are no open speed lace hooks. The top speed laces are not very speedy though with the laces provided. It takes a moment to put on and take off these boots since all of the top five eyelets need to be loosened up to get your foot in or out. For users who put on their boots at the beginning of a long operation and don’t take them off for 20+ hours it isn’t an issue. If you need to frequently remove and replace boots in a hurry this boot will be a challenge. In general the benefits of an Airborne compliant lacing system and great ankle support are worth it. I’m not in favor of a zipper side version since few of those work or last well.

The upper of the boot uses a heel loop for donning. The top “speed lace” closed eyelets are Airborne compliant.

The top of the boot has a padded collar and a study 1.25 inch (3 cm) pull tab for donning. The tongue is built into the entire upper section with no opening at the side of the tongue. This design prevents entry of dust, sand and debris. It also prevents accidentally pushing the tongue down into the boot while donning. The liner of the TFX Hot Boots is a perforated moisture wicking mesh. The thoughtful design of the interior of this boot is one of the best I’ve worn.

Another look at the camouflage sole. The boots are light and responsive on all terrain. They provide excellent protection and support considering their light weight.

The upper is 1000 denier Nylon with all seams double stitched at 10 stitches per inch. The upper fabric reminded us of Cordura but is not listed as such in Danner’s sales literature. There is a distinct molded toe box and heel counter under the fabric to help the boot retain its shape and improve durability while providing a measure of foot protection. The upper is built on Danner’s “TERRA FORCE X” platform. TERRA FORCE X is a patent pending motion control system that resists torsional load at the arch/midstep making the boots more stable while protecting the arch. An internal shank section is combined with an insole plate to improve the “ride”. TERRA FORCE X is also used in the Danner 453 GTX and Instigator hiking boot among other Danner footwear.

The sole is a molded unit, not a series of bonded layers like some Vibram outsoles attached to a closed cell midsole. This one piece molded design is durable, lightweight and allows the molded in color of the A-TACS pattern. The sole is joined to the upper with bonding and stitching at the forefoot and heel welt. It can’t be resoled the way an older outsole boots could, but we didn’t see that as a disadvantage. There is a radiused section at the instep that might work well for fast-roping but may wear after repeated rope descents. Admittedly, none of us had the opportunity to do a rope descent in this boot due to bad weather. Mr. Patrick Schneider of Danner’s Public Relations Department was kind enough to mention that Danner does have a line of boots designed specifically with fast rope insertion capability. The Danner DFA series includes 6 boots specifically built around fast rope insertion. Here is a video showing DFA technology from Danner: Danner DFA Fast Rope technology

 

“The patent-pending TERRA FORCE X sole system adds comfort, stability and durability.”

The molded sole is light, provides good traction and is flexible in the forefoot but stiff enough to be protective in the midsole. The external features of the TERRA FORCE X sole are visible here.

The A-TACS coloration of the outsole is slightly lighter in shade compared to the upper A-TACS camouflage colors. This is done on purpose since the sole will turn darker as wear and dirt accumulates. The concept of camouflaged boots including the sole is absolutely a valid one in the modern tactical environment. Older solid color boots were designed mostly with garrison wear in mind and don’t suit the modern tactical environment. Even the recent generation of green and coyote/tan color boots don’t blend well with camouflaged uniforms. Given the effectiveness of the new camouflage patterns like Multicam and A-TACS it’s only logical that footwear manufacturers build their boots to work with camouflaged uniforms for overall visual stealth. Even in the prone position the sole of the boot remains difficult to see since it is also camouflage patterned.

” The concept of camouflaged boots including the sole is valid in the modern tactical environment.”

The integrated tongue prevents grit, sand and rocks from entering the boot. The mesh lining dries quickly and provides good breathability.

My first impression when donning the Danner Desert TFX Hot Uniform Boots was a new pair of issue jungle boots combined with a trail running shoe. Since these are lined they are more comfortable than old jungle boots and provide a supportive light, maneuverable feel. The outsole design is very good, a substantial improvement over more traditional style, stitched and glued-on Vibram style outsoles and old Corcoran style sole construction (even Corcoran has gone to a molded outsole boot in their 8″ JAC Boot). The boot soles feel similar to the Adidas GSG-9 and Oakley tactical boots but in a more robust, field combat boot construction. Footing and flexibility is very good even on loose scree and uneven terrain.

“…they are comfortable and supportive but still retain a light, maneuverable feel.”

The light, molded outsole makes these boots feel nimble and easy to move in while providing good traction.

Two testers wore the boots on rocky desert terrain that was flat to extremely mountainous. Wear and tear on the boots is better than I expected for a fabric upper, molded lower boot. They also clean up well with a wet cloth and soft brush. This non-Gore-Tex boot dried very quickly in desert terrain after stream crossings and remained comfortable even when wet. Although we did not swim in the boots we did fit them with swim fins to see how they worked. The Omega Aquatics Stealth Max folding tactical swim fin in the larger sizes worked with our size 9.5 US test boots.

While I normally wear a lower boot I see a lot of advantages to a boot this light and nimble with a higher upper. For a fast-rope or Airborne insertion, especially onto rugged terrain followed by a long ruck I would absolutely rather have these than lower boots. The Danner TFX Hot A-TACS boots are also much lighter than they look at 25.9 ounces (736 grams) per boot measured weight in a size 9.5 US.

In general this is perhaps the strongest offering in a fully integrated camouflage boot from any manufacturer so far. Following the delays of the Magnum Multicam boots, which may become available this week after a 6 month delay, it becomes obvious that this isn’t an easy concept to execute on a production level. Danner is an experienced, high end footwear company with a long history of professional grade footwear. The Danner TFX Hot A-TACS boot continues that legacy of solid construction and performance along with impressive innovation.

Tactical Performance Corp. Combat Pants (Prototype)

Tactical Performance Corp's Combat Pants feature high mobility fit and pattern with articulated, integrated knee pads.

 
Tactical Performance Corporation has shown a prototype of their new A-TACS Tactical Combat Pant In NYCO A-TACS Ripstop with the unique VAT Print fabric. Among many unique features on this combat pant the use of VAT print fabric sets it apart from other products in the category. VAT print fabric is more expensive for manufacturers but retains better color fastness in the sun and with repeated washings, an important feature for the field operator with unpredictable laundry facilities. The new combat pants feature built-in, articulated lightweight knee pads for protection and mobility. The pants are 50/50 NYCO NIR (Near Infra-Red) VAT print Ripstop fabric. The pre-production prototype we evaluated is a size 32 waist, regular length.
 
From the bottom of the pants the leg openings use an adjustable Velcro closure instead of the small nylon webbing drawstring sewn into the hem of conventional BDU pants. The Velcro makes adjustments quicker than a drawstring and more convenient since the Velcro adjuster flap is always exposed at the rear of the lower pant leg unlike the drawstring hem that is typically bloused up inside the pants cuff. On our prototype the loop section could have been slightly longer so the hook section on the flap fully attached rather than having some excess free running end. There is an 8 inch (20 cm) vertical zipper on the outside of the leg to make putting on and removing the pants easier.  When the velcro adjuster and zipper is closed the pants hem can be bloused similar to how you blouse normal ACU or BDU pants.

The Velcro tab at the cuff and zipper make adjustment and donning easy.

 
Just above the vertical zipper at the leg opening is a small vertical pocket 5 inches high (12.8 cm) and 3 inches deep (7.7 cm). This small pocket is useful for range cards, commo indices or other small items used frequently in the kneeling position.  Because of the low position of the pocket you may blouse the bottom of these pants slightly lower on your boot than usual.

The lower leg construction including the Velcro closure cuff and zipper along with the ankle pocket are useful design additions.

To the outside/rear of the knee has a Velcro adjuster tab to draw the knee and lower leg of the pants tighter reducing the volume of the lower leg and securing the integrated knee pads closer to the leg. The fit on the pants was very good so I did not need to cinch this Velcro down much to get a nice fit. The back of the knee section of the pants is a separate fabric panel construction seen in high mobility sportswear like running tights. This multi-panel design adds cost to the garment but provides a more precise fit while still allowing free range of motion for running, clearing obstacles and other dynamic activities. There are a lot of design themes in these pants from technical/action sports wear adapted to the tactical user.

The lateral Velcro adjuster tab helps secure the integrated knee pads and improve fit on the already precise feeling pants while maintaining full range of motion.

The integrated knee pads are sewn into the pants, not a separate closed-cell foam insert that rides in a pocket at the knee. There are a number of advantages to this design. You never forget your knee pads when you deploy since they are built into the pants. The pads stay put without creeping down your leg as you move from kneeling shooting position to running and back to kneeling shooting position. The greatest advantage is no series of straps around your lower leg so there is greater comfort, especially in hot weather. Since each knee pad is actually three separate pads with a seam between each for full range of motion this design is also cooler than one large knee pad that covers the entire knee. Placement of the pad is good for kneeling position and for the prone position. The knee section is covered in abrasion resistance coated Nylon/Cordura for improved durability over the 50/50 NYCO fabric used in the main sections of the pant.
 

The integrated, articulated knee pads eliminate the need for straps, can't be lost, are cooler and provide full range of motion.

 
Fit and location of the knee pads will vary from person to person since the length of each person’s thigh and lower leg differ slightly even within the same inseam and height. When two of our testers, including the one shown in the photos, kneeled on these knee pads they rested on the lower of the three separate pads. This worked fine during my wear testing. Two of our wear testers also commented they would rather have this fit for their knee protection than separate pads that slide down or catch on vehicle or aircraft doors and during hasty ingress and egress. One tester told me, “Finally- a knee pad that stays in place”.

The integrated knee pads stay in place and fit most operators well. Our three wear testers had satisfactory or better use.

The position of the pads can be adjusted vertically via drawstring elastic cord inside the forward small cargo pocket. You simply pull the free-running end of the elastic cord to raise the pad up the leg and slide the cord lock down to secure it. The spring loaded cord lock holds the adjustment.
 
 

A cordlock and stretch drawstring inside the front pocket enable you to adjust the height of the knee pads.

The main cargo pockets on the Tactical Performance Corp Combat Pants Gen II’s are expandable bellows style with two Velcro closures that securely close the pockets. The position of the pocket is slightly rearward and angled for better ergonomics while running with a loaded pocket and for access when seated in a vehicle. Items placed in the pocket like notebooks or map cases slide toward the front edge of the pocket making retrieval easier, another thoughtful design element.

Two Velcro closures securely close the top cargo pocket flap. The shape and location of the pocket on the leg make retrieval of items easy in all positions including seated and facilitate fast running when loaded.

 
At the front, upper thigh there are Velcro closure bellows pockets for small items frequently used while standing, kneeling and sitting. This is a good place for a CEOI (Code Encryption Operators Index) or other small notes. The cord lock and elastic cord for vertical knee pad adjustment is inside this pocket.  None of our wear testers felt the shock cord inside the pants while wearing them.
 
 

The upper cargo pocket also has an elastic drawstring inside to adjust the vertical position of the integrated knee pads on your leg.

 
The top/slash pockets on the Combat Pants prototypes have a zipper closure and are relatively low volume, a good idea since this isn’t a great place to carry important items. This pocket tends to be hard to reach when wearing a full tactical rig or while seated. The lower edge of the pocket has a double fabric layer for using knives and tools with a belt clip. The two back pockets have secure Velcro closures and small volume, enough for a man’s wallet or similar sized item.
 

The small zipper pocket at the top of the pants has a reinforced lower section for small tools and knives with a pocket clip.

 
 
On the seat of the pants are two vertical pads of thin foam padding. These pads make riding a motorcycle, ATV or sitting on the bench seat of an MH-6 more comfortable.  The pads seem to align with your “sit bones” or the pointy part of your pelvis, so sitting on the hard ground or tarmac is more comfortable too. Wearing the pants in the heat I was concerned this padding may make them hot and sweaty, but with the fit in the butt there was no issue.  The pads are a welcome addition. I used to cut a small section of ensolite foam from an issue sleeping pad for this same purpose. It makes sitting in an OP on damp, cold, hard ground slightly more tolerable. Nice addition.
 
The belt loops are 2.25 inches high (5.5 cm) so larger belts will fit. Each loop is coated nylon/Cordura bar-tacked to the pants for durability. The kidney area of the pants comes up high and makes wearing a rucksack (which we tried) with these pants more comfortable.
 

Two thin foam pads are built into panels at the rear of the pants over the "sit bones" for comfort while sitting on hard and cold surfaces.

 At the top of the pants the Velcro adjuster tabs enable the user to chnge the waist size of the pants a few centimeters for a precise fit.

Velcro adjuster tabs enable you cinch down the pants for a precise fit.

Tactical Performance Corp is based in California and has a number of unique designs that are highly evolved from operator input. They have an extensive line of combat apparel in the new Digital Concealment Systems A-TACS pattern ( as well as other patterns including Multicam, 3-Color Desert and Woodland) that includes many thoughtful features such as A-TACS patterned loop Velcro patches as opposed to solid color patches sewn onto A-TACS apparel as seen from some other tactical vendors. It is obvious a lot of practical thought and design experience went into the Tactical Performance Corp Combat Pants. They are an impressive and advanced battle dress uniform made for the way an operator really uses their uniform.

The Tactical Performance Corporation A-TACS Tactical Combat Pants in NYCO 50/50 Ripstop with VAT print and the prototype A-TACS Tactical Combat Shirt Gen II.

 

The Bin Laden Raid Books: Review of the Top 3 Books.

Two of the most sensational books on the Bin Laden raid and one surprise "sleeper".

It was the single biggest news story since the 9/11/2001 terror attacks. Osama Bin Laden is dead, killed on May 2, 2011 in a raid by U.S. Special Forces purported to be from the Navy’s clandestine counter terrorist unit referred to in the media as “SEAL Team 6”, “DEVGRU” or “Development Group”.

The media widely reports the mission as “Operation Neptune Spear” a code name likely in reference to the trident symbol of the U.S. Navy Special Warfare groups. As of this writing there is no complete, official account of the operation. Perhaps one of the more credible reports appeared in the New Yorker magazine on August 8, 2011 written by Nicholas Schmidle. The account seems credible because of the New Yorker’s editorial policies and the fact that it was written by a journalist as opposed to a source claiming to be associated with the operation. Additionally, a detailed review of the New Yorker account leaves a lot out since the information isn’t yet available in the public domain. That suggests a measure of journalistic integrity.

It was inevitable the publishing industry would quickly fill the gulf of official information with… something. Three widely distributed books have surfaced so far, no doubt on the leading edge of many to come. While I would stop short of calling them historical records, they are relevant works if you are a student of history. One of these is an unusual gem.

Chuck Pfarrer's "Seal Target Geronimo" has drawn criticism as a non-fiction account but is a face paced and enjoyable read.

Author Chuck Pfarrer’s SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden was the first title to grab big headlines and controversy.  Amazon.com reviews and popular press claim author Chuck Pfarrer took significant license with his account of the raid and that parts are fabricated. There are critics from the political and military community officially opposing Pfarrer’s account of the raid. Having met with Chuck Pfarrer in person to discuss the book and its reception by some I’ll suggest Pfarrer may be drawing unwarranted criticism since he enjoys a level of access few other writers possess. As a result, his account may be more accurate than some other insiders are comfortable with. Pfarrer knows his topic as a former SEAL Team 6 Assault Element Commander and screenwriter.

With former SEAL Team 6 Assault Element Commander and author Chuck Pfarrer (left) at the 2012 SHOT show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I can tell you this book is a fast paced, magnetic read that draws you in. There is some of the dialogue found in every Navy SEAL book, staples of the topic- no SEAL book is complete without some context. It is not “read one, read them all” though and Pfarrer’s level of access provides insights not available anywhere else. This book offers a number of fascinating insights into recent Naval Special Warfare operations such as the rescue of the Captain of the Maersk Alabama seized by pirates off the Somali coast in 2009. It is great story telling rife with technical detail. If you want a dramatic, fast paced read taken from the headlines you will enjoy SEAL Target Geronimo. I would stop short of using the book as a de-facto historical record though since, by Pfarrer’s own admission, there are a few minor technical errors in the book largely because of the speed with which it had to be finished. Pfarrer told me he had only four months to complete SEAL Target Geronimo. That being the case it is an impressive achievement and a darn good read.

SEAL Target Geronimo reads like it was written quickly, and that isn’t a bad thing. The casual reader can pick out some minor inaccuracies and feel some degree of license, a feature of good writing but not necessarily good journalism. The book is “non-fiction” and that may be part of what has drawn criticism. It may hit a little too close to the bone among some organizations and be a little too accurate for some. It’s unlikely we’ll know the facts and details of Neptune Spear for some time, so in the mean time, call it a great page-turner written by an expert insider with an unprecedented level of access relevant to a sensational topic.

John Weisman’s “KBL: Kill bin Laden” is sold as fiction, avoiding the controversy surrounding whether it is factual or not.

Author John Weisman co-wrote the massively successful Rogue Warrior series of books by Richard “Dick” Marcinko. You remember Marcinko as the controversial early commander of  the Navy’s Counter Terrorist Unit called SEAL Team 6- the unit predominantly credited with the Bin Laden raid. 

Weisman’s KBL: Kill Bin Ladin: A Novel Based on True Events is as hot a read as the Rogue Warrior series. KBL is sold as a fictional account of the Bin Laden raid.  And, as author Weisman mentions in an Amazon.com interview, “Because the people who put Neptune Spear together and carried it out aren’t talking, and won’t be, for some time” this is a safe way to depict the flavor of the operation if not the facts. The high road is that a fiction book is simply entertainment, not a historical record. As such it has avoided the criticism of Pfarrer’s SEAL Target Geronimo.
 
If you liked the Rogue Warrior books you’ll enjoy KBL. It has the same feel and dialogue. It’s rough-shod, feeling a lot like a Louis L’Amour style action/adventure novel. This is a classic man’s book, filled with ballsy references and testosterone moments. Good. Navy SEAL books don’t belong in Oprah’s book club. I moved through this one faster and with more adrenaline than Pfarrer’s SEAL Target Geronimo. It is more readable, has more engaging dialogue and just feels… “smokier”. It’s a slick read that made me look forward to more from this author.
 
 

A surprise addition to this topic is this interesting- and possibly accurate- graphic novel on the raid to capture Osama bin Laden.

 
 
I met the author of Code Word: Geronimo, Capt. Dale Dye (USMC, Retired) in North Africa when he was there acting as technical advisor to the film Rules of Engagement. He has also consulted to or acted in films like Saving Private Ryan. Dye has an uncanny knack for extracting the drama and tension from military stories and this little book is no exception to his gifts for story telling.
 
This little (74 pages) book is a “graphic novel”, the popular term for “comic book” used now. I was impressed with how engaging and realistic it felt. The artwork, drawn by Gerry Kissell and Amin Amat, lends a shadowy quality to the story telling experience that seems to fit well with this topic. The book also has authentic feel to it and a shameless product endorsement or two (check the wristwatch on page 23).
 
I consider this a little gem since the other books are traditional in the military fiction/history category. Code Word: Geronimo does something the other books don’t- it pulls illustration and imagination into the tale. It makes the story something of legend. Fifteen years from now young men will join the Navy because this little book stirred their imagination and sense of adventure.

Gerry Kissell and Amin Amat's illustrations are fantastic and lend a shadowy allure to the tale already steeped in mystery.

 
 
While this, like the other books, certainly isn’t the historical record I’m looking forward to reading from official sources it is a time-capsule of the era and the lore surrounding the raid on Bin laden. Of the three books, this is my favorite. It simply does something the others do not, and it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. Code Word: Geronimo is an out of left field hit to me. Unusual and entertaining. I have visions of the men who actually took part in the raid reading this one… and liking it. This is a wonderful surprise on a topic already weighed down by controversy.