Monday, 1 July 2013

Hexarmor Needle Gloves

Probably one of the best known needle resistant glove brands is HexArmor, competing with Turtle Skin for dominance in the marketplace for tactical, safety and industrial uses.

Hex Armour use their own proprietary "Superfabric" technology to provide the needle and cut resistance within their products, layering it several times to increase the protection levels in their most protective gloves and only using perhaps two layers in the gloves designed to give the maximum tactile feedback.  The Hercules NSR Hex Armor Glove for example offers the highest levels of protection and is ideal for sifting through waste or handling potentially hazardous materials, while the Hex Armor 4042 Needle Gloves offer lower levels of protection but a much more responsive glove for fingertip sensitivity.

The Hex Armor Superfabric is developed by sticking small hard "Armor" plates over a base fabric.  The small hard plates fit close together to allow a flexible "Skin" whilst maintaining cut and puncture resistance.  Traditionally the hard plates were in hexagonal shape for multi-directional flexibility which is where Hex Armor gets its name. To maximise protection and avoid any small protrusion between the hard plates the SuperFabric is layered normally a minimum of twice, often more times to increase the force the gloves can resist cut or needle pressure from.

Although a lot of the focus for HexArmor is for industrial and safety gloves they do offer a good selection of tactical gloves, mainly designed for the police and security market.  In price ascending order these are:

Hex Armor Point Guard Glove: - Designed to be worn under a surgical glove this is ideal for pat downs as it has a good mix of protection and sensitivity on the face of the hand but none on the back.

Hex Armor 4041 (superseding the 4042): An ideal General Duty glove it has a smart professional appearance with high levels of cut and puncture resistance on the palm and backs of the fingertips and offers some cut resistance on the back of the hand without being overly restrictive.

HexArmor Hercules: This glove offers the maximum all round protection but sacrifices dexterity and tactile feedback.  It is mainly used for high risk searches of people or hazardous waste.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Handcuff Keys

Police Handcuff keys are pretty homogenous in design and function as they must conform to the basic standard of being able to open issue handcuffs.  There are few fancy handcuff keys out there that come with an LED light, a built in window punch or additional novelty features but the primary function of any handcuff keys remains the same, be able to lock, unlock, and double lock standard cuffs (double locking is the process of locking the handcuffs in such a fashion as they will not close any further onto the detainee to prevent injury).

Most forces issue a tiny little silver handcuff key to new recruits when they first join up, however it rapidly becomes apparent that it is next to useless for any practical application being too fiddly to manipulate if the suspect is struggling or you are wearing gloves (winter or slash resistant!) so most officers upgrade their handcuff key pretty sharpish!

There are a few gucci handcuff key brands out there, like ASP who do theirs embossed with the company logo in gold etc. but the standard for the UK market is the Zak Tool (or ZT colloquially) range of handcuff keys.  The most popular model is the shortened round swivel handcuff key which at 6.5cm long is the ideal size for most police officers being large enough to handle easily whilst still compact enough not to be a cumbersome inconvenience. ZT also offer a number of other handcuff keys, the standard slightly longer key, a light weight (but slightly fragile) carbon fibre  key, the covert pocket clip key, the extra easy to use flat knurled swivel key and a key with spring loaded window punch.  The handcuff key with the spring loaded window punch is very handy in what it allows you to do - break a car window, quickly, easily and with relative safety however this feature means the key cannot double lock handcuffs.

Streamlight do a small cuff key with an LED light built in which allows you to illuminate the handcuff key hole whilst trying to get your key in.  There are two variants  one with a right light and one with a red light.  The key with the white light provides brighter, clearer illumination of the handcuffs, but it will also diminish your night vision and be much more visible to others if you are trying to maintain a low profile or covert status.  The red light version does not provide such a bright or clear illumination but doesn't not have such a negative effect on your night vision and is less eye catching than white light at night.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Law Enforcement Equipment

There are many important factors that people in law enforcement need to consider when joining, one of the most important factors is what equipment you need and how much you want to spend on the products that could make a big difference to your performance. The most important aspect when purchasing law enforcement equipment is the quality of the product, realistically the amount you spend reflects on the specifications of the law enforcement equipment you buy.

One very important piece of gear is the footwear; boots are an incredibly vital element to working in Law enforcement as they are worn every hour of every shift. Footwear needs to be comfortable, sturdy and very light for law enforcement personnel as they need to be easy to run in and last under pressure and for long periods of time. Boots such as the YDS goliath are a great example for a hard wearing, waterproof, lightweight boot that will last for years even after everyday usage. Other good boots for law enforcement are lowa recon paras, magnum cobras, bates gx-8 and op systems climate 6.

Kit bags are also very important to carry around all your other law enforcement equipment and tactical clothes. Bags such as the 5.11 Police Bag or the op zulu duty kit police bag are perfect for carrying large amounts and keeping different items in. There are also brands that design backpacks with water hydration packs included; this is very useful for soldiers who have been stationed in a tough, hot and unforgiving environment.

Clothing such as trousers and shirts are priority equipment for law enforcement groups. Most will want you to wear smart clothing such as navy, black or white shirts with black smart but tactical and long lasting trousers. A top brand for this is 5.11 as they fit nicely to suit a professional look and they are durable as well as breathable.

Torches are an important bit of law enforcement kit for any officer, they are used for much different reasons and an officer should have one or two with him at all times. The uses of torches vary, you can use them for signalling, seeing in dark areas and at night. Special light torches can also discover evidence not seen by just the human eye. If you are an officer of the law and you do not have a torch you might want to get on as soon as possible. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Army Boots

There are various types of Army boots available on today’s market, whether it’s a certain type of military footwear you are after or a particular brand, there is enough choice of military shoes to suit all needs regardless of budget.

Lowa offer a great range of military boots, mainly in black and sturdy good quality materials they are a perfect choice for anyone after military shoes. They all are lace up military boots as is the case with most military footwear, with the exception of 5.11, who have also steered clear of the common black military boots and currently have a desert colour boot, which in comparison to the Ops system desert colour boot, is a cheaper option of military footwear. Another strong contender for army boots are YDS, providing waterproof boots for the military and non waterproof military boots, all at various price ranges the army footwear offered are varied. Adidas have also ventured in to the military footwear market with a smaller variety of military shoes to some of the lead contenders in the market at medium price. One of the more expensive army boots on the market today is from Danner – with a more classic look which is almost stereotypical of boots for the military compared to the previous military boots mentioned.

Army footwear on the whole has improved dramatically in appearance and perhaps have a more casual look to some of them previously, a fine example of this is Meindl’s army boots, they have a rugged chunky look, but still obvious they are military shoes. Of course all of the army boots mentioned above are not the only military footwear on the market today, GS have also taken part in the contest of producing military boots with a fairly hefty price tag and a very casual appearance of the military shoes mentioned. Last but not least of the boots for the army is UnderArmour’s entry, again at a fairly hefty price, and a casual appearance they offer a lightweight trainer in comparison to the other army shoes mentioned, but with plenty of features they lead the way on the style front for army boots. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Tactical Socks

Given how much is spent on police and military boots it is surprising to find how common it is to neglect making a proper investment in some quality socks.  Personally I think a lot of people blame the poor comfort levels of their boots on the fact they haven't bothered to select some proper socks and in fact I think a lot of people end up spending too much on uber Gucci boots when they could get away with spending a lot less on the boots and bit more on some quality socks.

Personally I have experienced quite a few different brands and styles of socks over the years as a civilian and going through Royal Marine Recruit training.  As a civilian I had the luxury of a pair of nicely broken in Lowa Mountain Boots (in limited edition Sepia) as an RMR Nod it was pussers issue CAB boots (some of the other recruits replaced their insole with a more Gucci footbed but I did my training with the standard footbed.)

If I start with the best and work my way down to the worst.

1000 Mile Fusion Service Socks
These were the socks that saved me when my feet were already wrecked from an earlier poor choice and once they had carried me home I quickly bought 3 more pairs of 1000 mile socks and never looked back!  1000 mile socks are slightly unique in their 2 layer system, the inner being a 100% Tactel super comfortable, high wicking base layer and the outer being a 40% Merino Wool, 29% Nylon, 23% Polyester, 6% Cotton and 2% Lycra blend.  The two tier system is not unlike the sock and sock liner combinations that are on offer from other brands like Bridgedale, but with 1000 mile it is just in a handy single unit and it works incredibly well, being super comfortable and both warm when its cold and cool when it is hot!

Magnum MX3- Patrol Socks
These were a surprise high performer! The socks are a fairly basic "mid thickness" single layer sock made from 70% Mag-Dry, 27% Nylon and 3% Spandex. Given their "weight" they are actually quite warm (too warm for the summer), but the material blend is incredibly comfortable and highly  wicking, keeping your feet fresh.

Lion Workwear Ultimate CoolMax Tactical Patrol Socks
I am not sure of the exact blend of these socks but the description mentions CoolMax, Elastane and Polyamide.  These socks are toasty warm, which is why I pulled them on during a particularly cold exercise  however that backfired after a we embarked on a hefty yomp and my feet soon started to suffer.  Whether it was the heat induced sweating or the construction of the sock itself I don't know by the soles of my feet soon started to blister up nicely...They might be ok in colder climbs!

At the bottom of the list - Milcom Patrol Socks very basic in every way, made from 63% acrylic, 28% wool and 10% polyester they offer only minimal improvement over pussers (standard) issue socks...if any really.  I found them to be kind of itchy and offered minimal blister or pinch prevention and were not especially warm.  On the flip side they do come with a years guarantee, but as they lived a the bottom of my sock draw there was minimal chance of them being worn out within that time frame with me.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Belt Pouches

There are a variety of belt pouches available on the police market in any number of different sizes, shapes, colours (mainly black) and materials and all at different price points.  Today I will talk about different belt pouch materials first and then move onto some of the different belt pouch brands and also look at some of the product specific pouches for batons, handcuffs, torches etc. in later articles.

The 4 main types of materials used for the majority of belt pouches are:

  1. Polyester
  2. Nylon
  3. Cordura
  4. Leather
Polyester is probably the most commonly used material for most belt pouches, however even within the polyester category there are a number of different "Deniers" or "weights" of fabric.  For belt pouches anything between 600 and 1500 is used with most manufacturers opting for something around the 900-1200 mark.  Lower than 900 seems to be the cheaper end of the market an the products are generally accepted to be less durable though of course lighter in weight, over 1200 is generally overkill for a pouch as it is not usually going to hold that much weight, heavier Deniers are more commonly used in kit bags rather than pouches.  Polyester is probably the cheapest material available, but that does not mean it is not fit for purpose, though some more picky users complain that the "black" you get with polyester belt pouches is not true enough.

Nylon for all intents and purposes looks and feels much like polyester, and again you can get nylon belt pouches in a variety of different Deniers. A lot of users report nylon to have a much better "black" than polyester.  Nylon is slightly more expensive than polyester

Cordura is in fact a special type of Nylon which has been trademarked by DuPont.  Famed for its durability and widely used in rucksacks, commercial luggage, motorcycle clothing and military belt pouches.  Cordura has become synonymous with quality products and is often specified in military or police tender documents when purchasing belt pouches or other fabric equipment.

Leather is more popular for police belt pouches than military due to the shiny black finish providing a neat and professional uniform appearance but not being suitable for "cam and concealment" in military roles.  In terms of durability leather is generally the most durable material for belt pouch construction  but it is heavier than polyester, nylon or Cordura.

There is a new material just hitting the market for belt pouches which promises to have all the durability and shape retention of leather but with the weight advantages of Cordura called Sentinex. Now as you can imagine a product that make such promises comes at a price, however initial feedback from sentinex belt pouch users is very positive.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

511 Tactical Pant

The 511 tactical pant has long been the flagship product of the 5.11 tactical range and despite many other pant evolutions and a hugely diversified range of products since that original concept pant nothing else has ever sold as well as that original 5.11 tactical pant.

If the stories are to believed the 5.11 Tactical Pant was borne when Royal Robins and his wife Liz were climbing in California and came to the conclusion the make shift cut off jeans and T shirts they were wearing were not fit for purpose and they set about designing and creating their own range.  Originally just called the 5.11 pant, the 5.11 represented an aspirational level of climbing difficulty, the normal scale running between 5.0 (easy) and 5.10 (the hardest).  Later on when the 5.11 pant was adopted by the FBI at their training centre in Quantico Virginia (a shared resource with the Marine Corps) and for a long time Royal Robins (the company producing the 5.11 pant) restricted the sale of the 5.11 Tactical Pant to the FBI despite overwhelming demand from potential tactical customers across the globe.  The decision to limit the distribution on the 5.11 pant to exclusively FBI agents was systemic of a lack of business acumen as the company struggled to become a financial success.   In the end Dan Costas, local entrepreneur, chef and restaurant owner  took over the 5.11 side of the business creating 5.11 tactical, releasing the 5.11 tactical pant into the commercial market.

As expected the 5.11 tactical pant was a storming success and 5.11 burgeoned as a company spinning off not just a wide variety of tactical pants but also 5.11 jackets, bags, pouches, vests, shirts, sock boots, even sunglasses, knives and multitools.  Along side the original 5.11 tactical pant 5.11 now offer the Taclite Pant, the TDU (Tactical Dress Uniform) pant - in polycotton, twill, ripstop, taclite and nylon, covert cargo pants, Stryke pants with 2 way stretch Flex-Tac, Traverse pants with 4 way stretch material and even a Jean Cut tactical pant.  So far none of these, apart from the Stryke pant have come close to the sales volumes that the orginal 5.11 tactical pant have managed to maintain.

The 5.11 Tactical Pant has not changed in design very much over the years and maintains a lot of the original features that made it such a popular outdoor pant...with the exception perhaps of the magaize pocket on the front left thigh and internal knee pad pockets.  You still get the rear strap across the top of the right buttock, the gusseted crotch and re enforced panels and stitching to ensure maximum durability. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Knee pads and Elbow protectors

Blackhawk knee pads have proved to be the most popular knee pads in recent years with their V2 Advanced Tactical Knee pad being their latest incarnation.  Apart from all the standard features you would expect the Blackhawk knee pads contoured interior ledge prevents the knee pads from slipping down your leg, and when you combine it with the padded side extensions which not only improve positioning and comfort themselves but also allow the straps to be pulled even tighter without causing discomfort then the Blackhawk knee pads really offer one of the most securely positioned pads on the market.

There are also two other kinds of Blackhawk knee pads on the market, the Neoprene knee pads and the Neoprene slip in insert pads specifically designed to complement their Blackhawk performance pant but which are also compatible with the 5.11 Tactical Pants.  The Neoprene Blackhawk knee pads are a fantastic option when you don't need or want the bulk of the Advanced Tactical Knee pads.  Whilst they may not offer the same level of impact protection as the V2s the Neoprene version gives more than enough padding for comfort when in the kneeling position.  One of the major advantages of the Blackhawk neoprene knee pads is they can be worn under a pair of jeans and still be very covert.

For the Ultra stealthy the Slip in Blackhawk Knee inserts are a low profile sheet of neoprene cut to fit the specially designed pockets in the front of the tactical trousers.  The neoprene will make the knee slightly more rigid than a normal trouser but other than that will not bulge or distort the line of your trousers to give away the presence of the knee pad below.  Obviously these offer the lease protection.

Similar to the range of Blackhawk knee pads they also offer a range of elbow pads based around the same principals.  The V2 Advanced Elbow Pad is like the V2 Knee pad with the rigid outer polymer for maximum protection and the neoprene lower profile version for mid level protection and concealment with the extra element of mobility.  Blackhawk even do a neoprene elbow insert, though I am not sure how popular this is as even most tactical shirts do not support elbow inserts!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Overt V Covert Earpieces

A lot of people user the acoustic style covert earpieces all the time simply because they look a bit more Ally, but are they really as comfortable and do they offer the same level of audio performance as there non covert alternatives?

Covert earpieces are normally a clear acoustic tube which loops over the ear and runs down the back of the neck to a hidden transducer.  You can also get the wireless covert ear pieces which are a lot more expensive and consist of a small wireless receiver and speaker in a bud about the size of a baked bean which can we inserted into the ear canal.  Wireless earpieces are more covert but will set you back at least £100, normally more like £250 inc a PTT switch and mic etc.  The acoustic tube style is only going to set you back less than £20.

The covert tube style earpieces normally come in two styles, with or without PTT mic.  Without the PTT & Mic (which should only cost about a tenner) you can plug it into a chest mic, now although this kind of defeats the "Covert" element of the earpiece I have seen a lot of operators do it based on the fact they prefer the light weight comfort and fit of the acoustic tube and in ear bud (or gel insert) over the overt G and D shape earpieces. The downside can be a loss of sound quality over the D and G Shape Earpieces, esp with the use of the in ear bud which fully blocks the ear canal, however I have found that by investing in a good quality product there is no loss of volume or clarity with a covert acoustic tube and a definite increase in comfort.

The third type of covert earpiece is an alternative approach, rather than trying to hide the earpiece, try and disguise it!  These earpieces are designed to look like commercial headphones for MP3 players or Ipods.  They might come in white, or another funky colour allowing the wearer to "hide in plain site".

Friday, 25 January 2013

Military Boots

When it comes to military boots I have already reviewed Lowa, Danner and Bates Military boots but there are a raft of army and military boot companies out there that have yet to get a mention and the different styles of military footwear they offer, and more excitingly the boots they are about to offer!

The biggest brands in traditional military boots are probably; Lowa, Altbergy, Danner, Meindl, Hanwag and Haix.  As you can see it is a landscape predominately dominated German made boots!  Not really a surprise there, the Alpine manufacturing heritage and a traditional German eye for quality has established the brands in the hearts and minds of military personnel the world over.  The one notable exception exception is Danner which is a US brand (though only their upper tier models are actually hand made in the US).

Currently most military boots come in the traditional black leather, or black leather and nylon, or desert suede/desert suede and nylon combinations.  Some manufacturers have experimented with different camouflage patterns, including Hi Tec Magnum who went all out with their full Crye Multicam boot which even had a multicam sole!  The sole was made with different colour rubber blocks fused together, rather than just being panted on, meaning that the pattern would never wear off even as the sole wore down.  Whilst this innovation was pretty neat this boot sadly proved ultimately unpopular with the military due to its high price and a few durability issues.  The latest colour innovation in military boots is a new brown colour, designed to complement the Multi-Terrain Pattern used by the British military.  The advantage of the brown boot over the old school black military boot is that it doesn't have the stark contrast line where the boot meets the trousers, and also the brown itself blends much more effectively with a wider range of backgrounds and terrains than black, desert or even Multicam making it much more versatile boot for military personnel.  This new brown boot is going to be the official MOD issue boot going forward.

One of the up and coming players in the military boot markets is YDS a Turkish based company which has enjoyed a lot of success in the international tender business and is looking to make headway in the UK.  A lesser known brand in the retail side of the military boot industry YDS are looking to grow their presence through a select number of retailers as they continue their approaches to the UK MOD boot tenders.  Having spoken to YDS and inspected their products I am really quite impressed with what they are offering, direct injection sole units, full genuine Gore-Tex breathable waterproof bootie, high quality leather uppers and a price that compares more with a Magnum Police boot than a Lowa military boot.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Gerber Multiplier Reviews

Gerber seemed like the next logical progression in my blog since we looked at Leatherman last week.  The full title of the company is "Gerber Legendary Blades Inc." but to most people they are just "Gerber" (weirdly pronounced "Jerber" by some!!)

Gerber have been around a lot longer than Leatherman, the company being established in 1939 when Joseph Gerber made sets of hand crafted kitchen knives for some of the customers of the then advertising business and the range was picked up by Abbercrombie and Fitch for distribution.  The Gerber brand was purchased by Swedish company Friskars (who also produce the Friskars range of gardening tools; sheers, loppers, pruning blades etc.) in 1987 and Gerber is now the second biggest multiplier brand in the world.  Recently Gerber have teamed up with former chief scout, SAS reservist and legendary outdoors-man Bear Grylls as a marketing tactic including launching a range of specialist Bear Grylls Knives designed for the outdoors, camping and survival enthusiast.

Currently Gerber hold the MOD contract for the issued mulitool to UK soldiers and marines with the Black Gerber Crucial with strap cutter being the chosen model.  This is a particularly fantasitc bit of kit and if I didn't already own a Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Multitool and a Gerber Strap cutter with window break I would certainly invest in one of these!  This model is based on the standard Gerber Crucial, but is finished in "Tactical Black" and they have replaced the carabiner/bottle opener with a strap cutter.  Now I know a lot of people probably mourn the loss of the bottle opener more than they value the addition of the strap cutter...after all what's the point in living through a car accident if you can't enjoy a beer after right!  But seriously, the strap cutter is a great addition and is indispensable for police, military, fire and rescue or ambulance and paramedics (and there are still plenty of tools on the crucial that you can use to pop a beer bottle top ;) )

Gerber also do the Diesel multitool in black which has more tools than the Crucial but doesn't have the "crucial" strap cutter if you will excuse the pun!

Along side the multpliers there is also a wide selection of knives, including the hinderer rescue series, available in red and yellow for the emergency services and as ever a matt black finish for the military.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Leatherman Multitools

The term Leatherman has become synonymous with all multitools, whether made by leatherman or not, much like the words Biro or Hoover are used to describe all ball point pens or vacuum cleaners.

Leatherman were the first company to pioneer what was originally termed the "Boy Scout Knife with Pliers" back in 1983 with the launch of what was marketed as the PST or Pocket Survival Tool by the Leatherman Tool Group.  The novel idea surged in popularity selling tens of thousands of units in the first few years alone.

Today Leatherman offer a wide selection of hunting and survival knives alongside their traditional multitools but maintain a specialist range of police and military tools which enjoy an outstanding reputation.

There are a wide range of cheap imitation Leatherman multitools available on the market retailing at a fraction of the costs, often found near the checkout of outdoors shops or petrol stations.  The old adadge of "You get what you pay for" however has never been truer though and you will probably be quite quickly disappointed with the build quality and longevity of the economy alternative.  In fact you will most likely find it a false economy as the blade blunts and distorts and the screwdriver heads twist and shred. The extra investment in a high quality brand like Gerber or Leatherman is really worth it in the long run, especially if you use it a lot, or need to entrust your life, or the lives of others too your multi tool.

Leatherman do offer a range of tools to accommodate most budgets and needs, from key ring sized "Gift" type multi pliers to the everything you could need "Charge TTI" featuring 19 unique tools in one and the specialist MUT, MUT EOD and OHT military products...and they have even introduced their womens specific "Pink" range of light weight