Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: First Spear Oagre Tactical Vest

I was very fortunate to receive one of these
Operational Assault Ground Reconnaissance Exploitation (OAGRE) Tactical Vest made by First-Spear from the folks at LEGear. You may remember I reviewed a couple of things from their lines, the Maxpedition SITKA bag and iPhone holster, and they were kind enough to hook me up with this cool vest. Cool to review and cool to wear, but we'll get to that. The first thing I noted was the sheer amount or real-estate on it. Not being a plate-carrier, like my Platatac MAC, it doesn't have to conform to the function of fitting armour plates, and can wrap right around the body. This is First Spear's khaki, which is a tab more brown than the Platatac khaki.

The main front zipper which secures the vest, is supplemented by three ITW G-hook closures, in adjustable webbing, which not only give a rock-solid close to the vest, but also allow for it to be secured shut without being fully zippered up, a benefit in hot conditions.

As far as PALS/MOLLE real-estate goes, there are 5 rows of 8 channel loops at the bottom of each front panel, with an additional 5 channel row on top and a 4 channel row above that. A loop field for name and designation tapes sit adjacent to the top MOLLE loop, as well as an additional downward loop of webbing, (mirroring one on the bottom, which correspond to the attachment by more G-hooks for the First Spear Beat Up hard plate armour.) Remember that this is a vest, not a plate carrier, but having that option would be a welcomeP one, for those in need. Each of those loop-fields features an access buttonhole, to feed cables or tubes, as needed.

The shoulders have a high friction panel at each shoulder, giving a good place to rest the butt-stock of a rifle or simply the straps of a pack, and afforded a nice solid placement. Those panels didnt move or slip, even when the vest was "naked". The shoulder straps also featured tube and cable securing elastics. On the back lay 7 rows of 6 channel PALS/MOLLE webbing. A drag handle is secured with a narrow hook-and-loop piece, to reduce snag risks, and is sewn down the whole length of the vest. A second hook-and-loop patch gives another ID point.

The front and back panel are joined at the waist by a series of buckles and webbing, which in and of itself isn't too exciting, but they allow for a variety of sized and shaped wearers, and the excess webbing is kept tidy by a very cool method: A Tactical Toggle is integrated in the end of each webbing, and bundles it away by rolling and looping with the shock-cord end. Clever use of an ancient system.

Here are a couple of close ups of the metal G-clips and nylon Tactical Toggles. It's also worth mentioning the "downwards through-MOLLE" quick-release belt loops, featuring a hook-and-loop and press-stud closure, and Fastex style quick release, these give the wearer the option to fasten the vest to a belt, useful if you've ever found yourself dangling upside down. Having your kit sliding up around your ears does not make freeing yourself (or force-pulling your Lightsaber) any easier.

One thing absolutely worth mentioning is the use of closed cell foam pads, in the shoulders, at the waistline and lumbar region of the vest. Secured and kept in place with pockets, these pads act as a buffer between you and your kit. Especially useful if you are going to be laden down with a lot of steel to sling, the placement of the pads acts to cushion the bottom most rows of MOLLE, where pouches would intersect bony hips (mine especially). These pads are easily removable to replace or augment, and First Spear suggest they add to the positive boyancy of the vest. Certainly do no harm in that regard. The back panel also has a hook-and-loop strap for securing a hydration bladder, up to 3L in capacity.

Additional to  all the innovative closure systems, intergrated padding, ample PALS/MOLLE real estate and loop-fields, one thing I haven't yet touched on is the material itself. At just over 1kg (2.24lbs) and made from a heavy-duty mesh, the entire body of the vest (apart from the shooter-shoulders) is breathable, and wicking. This is a rig for the greenhouse and the sandbox, for sure. The construction of the whole vest is excellent, with closed seams and heavy stitching. This is a dependable and feature rich platform that would give the wearer many many options.. Options are always worth having, especially in a medium to low-profile vest such as this.

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