When Valken made several mistakes with my teams’ first order in summer of 2011, it resulted in my giving a team mate the large Zulu jersey I’d purchased for myself while I waited for his to sell locally and recycle those funds into a replacement. By the time that jersey had sold however, the team had already received order number two, this time for Underground Productz, and it too was incorrect and incomplete. I said bollocks and decided to purchase a different brand of combat top from somewhere that would get it right the first time.
The solution came through First Response Duty Gear, the local mom and pop tactical shop I’d been seeking sponsorship from for boots and gloves for my team. I looked at a few of their Multicam offerings from Tru-Spec, BlackHawk, and 5.11, and settled on the 5.11 TDU Rapid Assault Shirt. It closely resembled Valken’s Zulu offerings but had a few more features I liked, such as the non Lycra (Spandex) torso section, a zip-up front (upper third), a collar, ergonomic patch areas on the arms, velcro wrist cuffs, generally tougher materials all around, and I definitely got what I paid for in the end.
Feel-wise, the shirt is very comfortable. I usually find myself wearing XL everything and hoping it shrinks down to a size between XL and L after the first wash. I grabbed a Large Rapid Assault Shirt and found it fit perfectly right away, not what I was expecting from a company that usually makes gear for those with athletic body types, but I’m not complaining on that one. It was a good fit, not too long on my short arms, and not too clingy on my torso. The material on the arms, shoulder, and collar is a 65% polyester and 35% cotton blend, and the material on the torso is 55% cotton, 37% polyester, and 8% lycra, and while it does have some spandex in it, it’s not super noticeable. The top has integrated elbow pads which won’t save your elbow if you hit your funny bone on a rock, but they are much larger than the elbow pads on the Zulu Jersey and are more than adequate for crawling through unforgiving vegetation. One the topic of arms, they also have quite a bit of real estate for patches, as well as pouches to store small odds & ends. The patch areas are also sewn on at 45 degree angles and contour to the arms which is nice for keeping your profile a little more stream lined and having a few less bits of clothing poking off of you. The zip up collar is a nice touch as well, it’s great to do up on a chilly day of play and you can unzip it for temperature control on hot days as well. The tough canvas it’s made of also means it will take the bite out of balls that hit you in the neck.
After a half season of playing in this top, it has only suffered one war wound. I took a ball to the chest at very close range, and the jagged shell of the ball punched a very small, neat, hole in the 100% cotton material there. I did not get around to mending it, but after playing for the rest of the season and letting the tear do its own thing, it hasn’t spread or become any larger than the day it was inflicted on the jersey. There have been no broken stitches anywhere on this top or any other quality control issues to speak of. The 100% cotton material on the torso is much more durable and breathable than the material on the Valken Zulu Jersey, the arms are also much tougher and heavier duty, but they don’t breathe quite as well on a hot summer day in the desert around Kamloops. The only improvement I can think over there would be some ventilated cotton material running the length of the upper-inner arm around the armpit. But yes, the whole thing is very indestructible, I’ve played several games running only a pistol and have crawled across some pretty gnarly surfaces only to inspect the shirt after and find no frays or rips anywhere
I’m feeling exceptionally lazy today, and don’t want to lug out the big ‘ol SLR to take pictures of my own shirt, so I’m going to link you directly to 5.11’s page for the this top which is right here. And if you’re concerned about the hole I mentioned earlier, don’t be, seriously, it’s smaller in circumference than a Bic ball point pen.