The TYR Tactical PICO-1 Plate Carrier (ESAPI pockets) and GPC/PICO
- T4416 External Cummerbund w/ Side Plate Pockets used by James G in Iraq
So after wearing my Paraclete Armor Carrier to the point it was basically a de-threading mound that smelled so bad even my Iraqi teammates were spraying cologne on it while I was sleeping I went on the hunt for a new Armor Carrier.
It had actually been a while since I went looking for an Armor Carrier, the first ‘serious’ Armor Carrier I bought was a Blackhawk Carrier for my first contract in Iraq. From then on I was issued one for pretty much every contract I have ever been on. Even my old Paraclete was also issued, and it was a great carrier but I wanted something that gave me a bit more maneuverability.
After putting the word out on Facebook I was swamped with different suggestions. But when a few experienced security contractors mentioned a new (new at that time) armor company called TYR Tactical I set my sights on checking them out. And right when I was going to take a look at them they actually contacted me and offered to let me try out one of their Armor Carrier Systems.
So after talking to the folks I went with the PICO-1 Plate Carrier (ESAPI pockets) and GPC/PICO – T4416 External Cummerbund w/ Side Plate Pockets. At the same time one of my former teammates was also in the market for an Armor Carrier so he bought the same one.
Due to some nonsense with a former DVM employee my vest never made it to me here in Iraq. But my teammates Carrier made it here safe and sound where he wore it for around 9 months, then when he left I started wearing it – so in the end it worked out (sort of, I still don’t know what that dude did with my Carrier so I ended up just buying another on myself).
Original S.O.E. Single Point Sling, HSGI Pistol Magazine Pouch – Modular & the BLACKHAWK S.T.R.I.K.E. Utility Pouch – Shooting and looting kit for less than 50 bones a pop
Despite all the reviews I do on 400 dollar tactical jackets, 300 dollar flashlights and 200 dollar knives the gear I use the most usually costs less than 50 bones. Unlike in action movies or on so-called “tactical” blogs written by guys who don’t even pull triggers for a living the most used gear are the simple things.
A pouch for holding your flashlight, QuikClot, Nokia Phone, or a sling to keep your arms from turning into jelly when standing on the side of some shitty Iraqi highway for 4 hours because another one of the old ass Scania tractor trailers in your convoy has broken down for the 7th time that mission.
Below are three of my most used 50 buck or less pieces of tactical gear, feel free to suggest you favorite sub-50 buck pieces of kit in the comments.
Zulu Nylon Gear M4 Double Magazine Pouch – Flap open/flap closed
These days you don’t see much Innovation in the tactical nylon market outside of a few companies like HSGI, SO-Tech and OSOE. Most Tactical Nylon products are basically rehashes of the same old designs with the only difference being a manufacturers tag.
But one Tactical Nylon gear company over the past year has been pushing the envelope of new and innovative tactical nylon products. And that company is Zulu Nylon gear headed up by Joel Z. They first burst onto the market with what is [in our opinion] the best admin pouches out there.
Zulu then jumped into the Tactical man-Bag arena with the solidly built Emissary Messenger Bag. Both are unique tactical nylon products that have raised the bar in both categories.
Recently we here at DVM were fortunate enough to participate in the field testing of Zulu’s latest offering, the Zulu Nylon Gear M4 Double Magazine Pouch.
When Joel first mentioned them to me honestly my first thought was “Really, an M-4 Mag Pouch? The Tactical Gear market needs another M-4 Mag Pouch like it Needs More Chinese Sweat-Shops”. But considering how fresh Zulu’s other gear is I kept an open mind that Zulu’s M-4 mag Pouches would be as good at their other shit is.
When the pouches arrived the first thing I noticed was the unique top flap that held the mags in-place. I am a big fan of a flapped double-mag pouches [but I like a bungee for singles] but one of the biggest problems is the flap. After you open it either re-secures itself down in an awkward angle [in the case of Velcro secured flaps] or it flops around when you run [for side-squeeze secured flaps], I call this “Crazy Flap Syndrome” [CFS].
US Palm AKMP AK Mag shingles at work in Iraq
One of the biggest voids in the Tactical Gear market is AK Specific magazine pouches that fit the unique shape of the AK magazine properly. It seems like every gear manufacturer just doubles the size of whatever M-4 mag pouch they sell and market it as an AK mag pouch.
I have tried a bunch of different brands of AK mag pouches and I have never been 100% satisfied. They are either too big, not big enough, the mag is positioned awkwardly, the flap or bungee doesn’t fit right or they are not properly shaped for the unique curvature of AK mags.
So far the only AK mag pouches that I have been impressed with were the ones that US Palm integrated onto their AK Attack Rack. Unfortunately at the time US Palm did not offer them separately. I actually liked them so much I considered cutting the AK mag pouches off my Attack Rack and DIY’ing them into separate pouches.
Luckily I never had to resort to such radical means to have some solid AK mag pouches for my rig. Back a couple of months ago US Palm started making the same style of AK Mag Shingles they were using on their AK Attack Rack, but as separate MOLLE pouches/shingles.
I was standing by with enthusiasm when I found that out because in my new gig in Iraq I am humping the AK about 80% of the time and I still didn’t have decent AK mag pouches for my rig.
The US PALM AKMP Shingles come in Single, Double or triple Racks in a verity of colors from the evilest of all camos Multicam to solid colors like Ranger Green, Coyote and Black [good on US Palm for making them in Black, not enough nylon gear comes in black these days]. And just like the AK Attack Rack these shingles are made of durable yet lightweight 500D Cordura, and are a US made fully Berry Complaint product.
2 days of light use is all it took for these Oakley gloves to come apart
After years of just using cheap construction work gloves [Stanley is my favorite] as tactical gloves I was convinced by one of the guys on my team to buy a pair of “real” tactical gloves. So I hit up the PX and looked at the different brands of tacticool gloves they had.
The first thing I noticed were the prices, fucking 60 bucks, 100 bucks – all I could think was “come on, these cost 4 dollars to make in China”. The second thing I noticed was they all looked stupid, when did tactical gloves have to have all sorts of plastic shit all over them, I threw-up in my mouth a little when I saw the carbon fiber knuckles they all had.
After washing my mouth out I went with a pair of Oakley “Factory Pilot Gloves’ because I have used Oakley sunglasses before and I was satisfied with the quality and brand [they also make some pimp fedoras]. They were also the cheapest at 45 bones.
Then next day I spent about 10 hours on the range here in Iraq training a group of guys to shoot the AK. That included shooting a bit myself, loading up the gear, prepping the range, cleaning the range, opening a dozen sardine cans of ammo and loading a couple hundred magazines. The next day was the same except no training, my team just shot a few thousand rounds each and did the usual loading a couple hundred mags and prepped and cleaned the range.
The next day I was sitting around our team room playing some Call of Duty Black Ops with my teammates when one of the guys said “Damn bro, you need to get some new gloves”, I thought he was talking about my old Stanley gloves so I said “Already dude, I gots a pair of pimp ass Oak’s”.
He said “Bro, these are your new Oak’s” and tossed them into my lap
the 888 Professional S.O.L. Knife – a new take on an old school spy knife
I have been a long time fan of anything to do with Cold War clandestine operations, Tech-Ops, and tradecraft, I have every book, documentary or magazine that even remotely mentions this; lined up in the library at DVM HQ.
Minox cameras, pens with hidden Garrotes, tape recorders hidden in briefcases, microdots and poison tipped umbrellas are just a few of the pimp gadgets the OSS threw together in some “Q-Like” Skunkworks lab no doubt hidden in a basement somewhere in Northern Virginia. When it came to hiding tradecraft tools into everyday objects the OSS was the golden standard.
I guess it was a combination of growing up during the ass-end of the Cold War in the late 80’s and Q in the James Bond movies that really sparked my interest in spy tools used by the OSS and CIA.
One of the neatest OSS Toys was the OSS Thumb Dagger, a small double edge knife meant to be used as a last ditch weapon or E&E tool. The OSS Thumb Dagger has a thin leather sheath that could be sewn inside a Lapel or Sleeve making it hard to find if someone frisked an agent.
It was really a clever little idea, and recently a few versions based on it have popped up here and there. Most are small double-bladed knives that require a sheath just like the original OSS Thumb Dagger. But one version made by Triple Eight Professional called the S.O.L. Knife has a cool handle that rotates completely to enclose the blade [sort of like a folder] negating the need for a separate sheath.
LA Police Gear Operator Tactical Pants Being Field tested in Iraq by James G.
No matter how much I loathe tactical clothing it is something that is a part of my daily life, especially considering my occupation as a Security Contractor in Iraq. I remember getting a big box of 5.11’s on my first gig in Iraq and thinking “cool, free Tactical Clothing for James G.
And after a week of dealing with the saggy ass, flat leg pockets that were just small enough that nothing really fit in them, the “grandpa height” waistband that rode half way up your stomach and the tons of metal hardware that sets off every other airport metal detector I was pretty much sick of 5.11’s.
But at that time I really didn’t have any other option outside of buying pricey climbing gear pants like North Face, and being the cheap type that idea passed in and out of my mind in like 3 seconds.
Fast forward a few years and the Tactical Clothing market was flooded with Tacticool pants… At prices that would make you piss your ill-fitting 5.11’s. So I was pretty much content with wearing issued Tactical Pants that even had my grandfather making fun of me because they rode too high.
Ahhh… but then the Tactical Fairy came and visited me one night right before my latest gig in Iraq and stuffed a pair of LA Police Gear Operator Tactical Pants under my pillow.
I tell ya, it only took a week of wearing them for me to give away all but one pair of my 5.11’s [got to have something to wear on laundry day] and replace all of my work Tactical pants with LA Police Gear Operator Tactical Pants
These pants have every feature that an active Security Operator working in War Zones would need. Diamond Gusset Crotch [great if you have a big package], Double Fabric on the Knees and Ass, fits riggers belts like a glove, a lower leg pocket on each leg right around the calf [I keep my smokes in them] and are tough as nails.
Arena Flakjak Goggles and War Gear
Look. You have to use protective eyewear. In semi- and non-permissive environments, you’ll find that there’s a need to cut the risk to your vision by wearing some sort of protective lens.
At the top of my list of approved protective eyewear is Arena Flakjak Goggles. When I am in the turret scanning for IEDs and bad guys these goggles keep the dust, grit, and flying crap out of my eyes when on the move.
As well, the Arena Flakjak Goggles lens system provides ballistic protection when the rounds start flying and the debris related to combat assails your visual senses.
If you’re kicking around and need a pair of bug eyes, these should be near the top of your list. They most certainly have a nesting place on my head when meeting my objectives.
Wiley-X SG-1 V-Cut Tactical Goggles
NOTE: I have no idea why they call these “Goggles” when they are really just Sunglasses
I started wearing the Wiley-X SG-1 V-Cut Tactical Goggles in Iraq about 5 years ago after destroying about 15 pairs of sunglasses. I managed to toast my old sunglasses in every imaginable way possible – sitting on and crushing, dropping and breaking, placing in my front pocket and sitting down, stepping on, getting drunk and dropping them through a hole in the floor in one of Saddam’s old palaces are only a few examples of the ways I have mangled sunglasses.
So after having a pair of Ray-Bans fly off while I was standing in the back of a Bongo truck I went to the IZ PX and picked up a pair of Wiley-X SG-1 V-Cut Tactical Goggles. The only reason I picked that particular brand and model of “sports/tactical” sunglasses was because I didn’t want to go the Oakley route because I am not really keen on the NASCAR fan look like my brother Bubba G. seems to like.
Luckily for me they turned out to be the toughest pair of sunglasses I have ever owned outside of dedicated safety glasses. Not that Wiley-X’s don’t have their bad points (they have a few), but they are great for the desert environment and they are kick-ass tough
Now That’s a Big Damn Beetle
After resisting goggles for like 10 years (they mess with my depth perception) I was left with no choice but to buy a pair when my job changed and I had to take Blackhawk chopper rides 10 times a week.
Up until then my Oakley M frame hybrids were fine for protecting my eyes from wind on the occasional Blackhawk ride, but after getting stuck with the rear right-hand side seat a few times my old Oakley’s just weren’t up to snuff anymore.
So as usual I hit up the PX and picked up a pair of ESS Profile NVG’s, I didn’t choose this brand for any particular reason, it was the only brand they had.
ESS says in their catalog that the Profile NVG were designed with input from the SF community. But every gear vendor says that, so take it with as much a grain of salt as you do when you hear a tactical instructor says he “Trained Navy SEALS”.