Wednesday, January 11, 2012

REVIEW: Original SWAT Classic 9" Side Zip Boot, Coyote

       In case you are a new reader to the blog, I feel it is necessary to link you to the review of the 5.11 ATAC Boot w/ Side Zip since to date, it is the golden standard to which I measure all boots up to. Here is the link to that review REVIEW: 5.11 Coyote ATACs 8inch. Have you read that one yet? Ok, good, so you probably know now that after going through a pair of those boots every six months over the last year and a half, I was in pretty bad need of some different footwear than 5.11 offerings both on and off the field. There was a sale on Original SWAT boots down at First Response Duty Gear back in mid June-early July, and I decided that there was no better time than the present to check out the offerings of a non 5.11 Tactical company. Of course, since I have enormous mutant feet, I had to find a size close to what my feet were and then guess what size I should order. On to the fit and feel of the boot.
       At first try on, they feel about as good as the 5.11 boots, at least around the sole, but they lack some of the additional padding which the ATAC boots have running up the back of the ankle. As a result, I've developed some blistering on the skin over my heel bone due to the lack of cushioning. I can't complain about any other friction or pressure points with the boot, however. In spite of the boot being a 9 inch boot, I have found that it feels like the top of the boot rests at a lower point on my leg than 5.11's 8 inch ones, and to this day it still feels a bit alien to wear them. This might be due to the fact that I continually switch between my nearly worn out 5.11 boots and the newer Original SWAT's.
      Design wise, the boots leave a lot to be desired. Although they have a few features that the 5.11's have, the features aren't nearly as heavy duty. The side-zipper isn't as robust, though I can't say that it's ever given out on me. The anti-bacterial sole doesn't do as good a job at minimizing foot odor. The boots have no one-way ventilation points on the inner sole like the 5.11's. Along the back and front of the sole, there are two layers of very wide stitching which for me have broken in several places so I now have tassels on the bottoms of my boots; I have no idea what these are for in regards of the construction of the boot but given how huge the stitches are, they can't possess any structural purpose. Last comment is regarding the quality of the materials used in these boots. Although they are still wearable and in one piece, they are deteriorating, especially where the boots have to flex. There are small holes forming on either side of the base of the ankle on them and it won't be long before the holes are the size of the eyelets the laces are woven through.
Something is falling apart in the sole
      The chief redeeming quality of these boots is the soft sole they have, it's nice to walk on, and it's significantly softer than the 5.11 boot sole, albeit, the sole and treading is quite a bit thinner. I accidentally developed a clever means of testing the softness which involved foot breaking on a longboard and seeing how effectively the boot could slow me down. These boots are quite grippy and can stop a person in motion very effectively, so much so that they've nearly caused me to fall forward on several occasions. As a result, taking off into a sprint is similarly easy as your feet don't slide around at all. But there is a downside to the soft sole, and that's on tile and linoleum floors, especially when the soles are wet. Every step will squeak absurdly loud if you go from outside to in on a wet day. Not much of a big deal for a paintballer, but if you're a curious law enforcer or military type reading this and thinking these might make for a boot that one can sneak around in, I'd recommend avoiding these boots, everyone will know precisely where you are at all time if these boots are moist.
Material falling apart in where there's flex
       Overall, I feel like the Original SWAT's aren't a boot which is worth 30-40$ more than the 5.11 equivalent. A lower price point might make me feel a little more fond of them, but I paid for these on sale what I would have paid for 5.11s at full price and am not convinced it is in any way superior, in fact, I think these boots lack some of the features the 5.11 ATACs have, and feel that the next time I need to make a boot purchase I will go with what's been tried and true for me.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

REVIEW: 5.11 TDU Rapid Assault Shirt

       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.