Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: 5.11 ATAC A1 flashlight

Along with the cool belt that I got free-bee'd with my recent pants purchase, I also scored a handy pocket flashlight, in the ATAC A1 flashlight from 5.11 Tactical. Now, we've had something of a moratorium on me buying more lights, as I have QUITE the collection (in my tent peg, IR flashlight, LazerBrite LED glowstick, Packlight LED Strips, Surefire 6PX, and various keychain fobs, so when one just magically falls in my hands, I'm always happy.

This aluminium bodied, 87g (3.1oz) light, with a max 103 Lumen Cree-XP-E LED powere3d by a AA battery, packs quite the punch for its pocket-size. The lens end has quite broad crenelations for heat dispersal and ouchy-wackiness for those close-encounters .

The rubber end-button allows for silent "momentary-on" and by sequentially tapping it, give you access to the three modes: High / Low / Strobe. The "High" being the 103 lumen setting, with a purported 50 minute runtime, and "Low" having a 11 lumen output with 28 hours of runtime, whilst the strobe again packs 2 1/4 hours of 103 lumen razzle-dazzle. 5.11 Tactical report a 99m throw at "High" and 32m at "Low".

The tail end also plays host to three additional features; a steel clip for belt and pouch retention, nothing special here but it'd nicely made and mated. There is a squared ring of rubber projecting from the base, which gives you no-clank, anti-roll functionality. A drilled lanyard hole connects to 5.11's Break-Away Lanyard, the lanyard of which features a no-slip rubber slide, and the Break-Away component is sturdy and rugged, requiring quite a yank to pull loose, but certainly less than arm-trapping amounts. No accidental de-luminations here.

This is a petite light,as matches its single AA power source, as seen here beside the 2 CR-123 Surefire 6PX. This makes it ideal for off-hand use, pocket or EDC stowage, or in your car. I found the momentary-on mode-switch a little fiddly to use, and had to practice to get from "High" to "Strobe" smoothly, but with everything, practice, practice, practice.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: 5.11 Tactical - TDU belt 1.75"

A quick one today. I got some pants from LA Police Gear recently, and a tasty treat was thrown in with each pair, a colour matched belt! At first I was skeptical. The pants themselves were already on special, what kind of belt would just be thrown in for free. Well, let me show you the TDU Belt from 5.11 Tactical.

The belts are 1.75" (about 45mm) wide and made of a really heavy nylon webbing, stiffer and thicker than seatbelt material. A very sturdy polymer buckle sits low and flat, with only a slight tab protruding from the belt-facing side. Being a non-metalic polymer, this buckle will be metal-detector safe, meaning it's one less thing for me to take off when I visit an airport. I have yet to fully field test it with my partners, but initial studies indicate that being of a more traditional style, it not as tricky as a Cobra buckle to undo at first pass.
The webbing is triple stitched, with a broad bartack, giving it a stiff connection to the buckle, without adding any more bulk. The tongue of the belt is heat-cut at an angle, for easy feeding through the buckle, with plenty of slack at the size I have to double-back for extra security, a habit I picked up both in SCUBA and rock-climbing.

This is a lightweight but very sturdy belt, simple in the extreme and made to last. Even though I've had no problems going through metal detectors with my Ultimate Riggers Belt, the all-plastic look of this one would make it less of a drama.I'm really happy with this, and it (and its tan-coloured counterpart) give me a couple more belt options to add to my collection. Having your pants fall off at the wrong time is BAD for survival.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: CountyComm Premium EMT / Combat Shears

These are another part of the batch of gear that I got from CountyComm, I've had a set previously, but I passed them along to a my partner Anna, who had need of them. These are the Premium EMT Shears by Maratac. These are the full size versions, but they also make a much more compact version, but I wanted the full sized version to maximize my cutting power.

The first thing to note about these sheers are the cutting edges. The two arms have quite different features, in that one is a sheepsfoot tip (to reduce the chances of penetration) and has a predominantly flat cutting edge. The opposing arm has fine saw-like teeth in the stainless steel blade, no point at all, and a flattened lip that runs at 90 degrees to arms, giving a platform to run the shears against, when cutting clothes off a person, or the like. You can see that the shears have fullers pressed into them, giving them increased rigidity and shear strength.

The area behind the rivet also features two notches, for stripping wire, something I'd be otherwise afraid to do with the shears, as a result of the very aggressive cutting power they possess. These are some no-nonsense tools, and I have every faith that they will serve me well, for all my first aid and emergency trauma uses, they also cut zip-ties to get flex-cuffs off prisoners, open burlap bags to feed my chookens, open packing boxes, cutting tins to make BBQ-coal starters and they even cut coins, for when you get sick of capitalism and need to stick it to "the man".

The handles are an impact resistant composite, seen here in "desert brown" and are smooth edged, and the finger-recesses big enough that I can fit three fingers in a squeeze into the big ring, or two comfortably with work-gloves on. I can't recommend a set of these enough, they will cleanly, and efficiently brutalise anything you need to cut safely and with precision. I don't look forwards to having to cut someone out of their mangled boots, but I ever need to, these will be something I reach for!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Blackhawk! Performance Cotton Pants

Here's a set of pants that I acquired from LEGear, which I must say, I have been slack in reviewing, which says more about my laundry-duties than the pants themselves. I gave this set a fairly reasonable workout, a weeks worth of wear and adventure, and they came up for more.

With both Tactical Baby almost walking and scooting EVERYWHERE, and Triceratops Girl being the most on-the-bounce 4 year old I know, I certainly spent some time crawling through pipes, clambering over logs and obstacles, digging in the veggie garden, chasing chickens as well as looking tidy and professional whilst wandering the server-rooms, labs and corridors of the hospital I work in.

These are some feature packed pants, which were a delight to get into, and find all the options available to me. Here are some of the pockets and what they are good for, and what I used them for.
The main "Angle-cut" hand pockets are deep, and well placed, with flat-seamed edges, to hook and clip pens, money clips and pocket knives to. The right hand side also features a hidden, zippered pocket built into the seam. Good for stowing valuables, papers and the like. The supporting internal stitching keeps it sag-free, which is a great addition.

The front of the top of each thigh has an easy-access, top opening mag pouch, with a hook-and-loop closure. Not humping ammunition around myself, I nevertheless found that they fit an iPhone nicely, or a set of precision screwdrivers, snugly and securely.

The main back pockets are also deep, and sloped to afford easy access and storage, scalloped at an angle rather than vertically as in Levi's. the back right pocket also features a zipperable pocket, to keep your wallet stowed and secure (I still keep mine in my EDC harness but as the weather heats up, I may take this option up.)

 The big cargo-pockets at the bottom of the thigh on each leg also hook-and-loop secure, with two patches on each flap. Each of these pockets feature three wide elastic webbing loops, inside to keep all your needfuls secure and properly oriented. They will fit two TV/DVD remote controls and my Trophy Master skinning knife (just in case, you know?) without even showing a significant bulge. I believe they would suit the designed mag-holding purpose very nicely. As well as the big pocket, the cargo-pockets each also feature a zippered pocket on the inside leg seam, for extra storage, as you can never have too many options. A lanyard loop at the belt loops is another aspect of that.

The pants close with a press-stud and zipper, with secondary botton inside, to give you that extra level of anti-dacking security. A cool feature inside the pants is the silicone grip strip inside the  waistband which kept my shirts tucked in during baby-chasing maneuvers. You can also see here the hidden, elastic waistband slides which kept the pants snug, but gave them some play when bending and kneeling. I really liked this feature. No more pinching!
The pants themselves are made of a rugged wrinkle / fade resistant 8.5 oz cotton canvas, which was double layered in the butt and knees for increased wear and protection. I just threw out a set of pants for tearing through the knee, something I hate. I hate it almost as much as I hate tearing out the crotch, which I do with alarming regularity. The Blackhawk! Performance Pants, however, anticipated this, with their broad crotch gusset, which allows increased movement, less pinching and no snagging of my bling. The belt loops are also generous, being 1.75" wide, to allow easy of feed for rigger belts such as my 215Gear Ultimate Riggers belt. The leg cuffs are also reinforced, which usually isnt an issue for me, being a long-legged as I am, but the 32waist/36leg was a really good fir for me, and when barefoot, the cuffs do actually touch ground, a rare surprise for me.

The only issue I found with these pants is that they seemed to pick up every piece of fluff or dust that I came into contact with. I had thoguht this might have just been because they were fresh out of the bag, and would die off after a wash, but post-laundry (where I remind you again of my general lack of care whilst doing this chore) they seem to have the same issue. Hopefully in a few more washes this will soften up the cotton until it no longer collects crud, and they will look as snappy as they aught to. Rock solid adventure-wear, great storage options, and rugged as all get up. These are pants to see you through some tough times

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Review: Platatac - MAC Mesh Back Pack

This unusual piece is a now discontinued line from Platatac, something of an experiment of theirs that didn't pan out commercially as well as hoped. I however, think they are a great idea. The concept is that a daypack has been mated with the Medium Armour Carrier back-piece.

You'll remember from recent posts that I got this particular piece of gear as part of a deal along with the Front Opening Panel which I reviewed not too long ago, but this is interchangeable with that as well as the closed front MAC plate carrier that makes up the front of my usual rig.

The ability to chop and change these pieces gives the wearer the ability to have a permanently mounted pack, integral ballistic plating carriage and modularity to connect it to an existing front piece.

As with all Platatac's main-line gear, I chose khaki, to suit my aesthetic, and is made of the same 1000d Cordura material I've come to expect from their gear.

As well as two spacious "most of the way to the bottom" unzipping side-pocket, each with a set of 3 row, 2 column PALS/MOLLE, but also with a large  "1/3 of the way opening" main compartment. Inside the main compartment there is an elasticized internal pocket, up against the back wall, suitable for a hydration bladder, or soft-storage. At the top of the pack there is a vent, cut and covered to prevent the casual ingress of water and dirt, which would allow a hydration tube and/or cables to exit the pack.

The pack also has a beaver-tail flap, which is fitted with multiple cinch straps, two fastex-style clips, one on each side, and a criss-cross of shock-cord running through D-loops to give additional storage. The beaver-tail will fit most ballistic helmets, I read, but for my purposes, it fits my Pro Tec Classic skate helmet just nicely.  For all my brain-bashing adventure needs!

The "inside" of the pack shows off its plate-carrying nature, with a heavy hook-and-loop closing pouch, allowing your vitals to have that much needed protection. Below this, you can see here the belt-pouch, where it is possible to run a waist belt, or the strapping needed to secure the bottom of this piece to the bottom of one of the front components of the MAC family.

The inside of the belt-pocket has another patch of hook-and-loop, to secure any strapping you use to prevent it sliding one way or another. You can also see some additional loops and attachment points. These came in very handy when I rigged this pack for solo-wear, by running two meter-long lengths of webbing from the bottom, up to the fastex-style clips at the shoulders. There are also two sets of wide elastic cable/tube keepers sewn into the shoulders, and additional d-rings for further attachment options.

Underneath the beaver-tail helmet carrier, there is extensive PALS/MOLLE real-estate, with 6 rows of 7 channels, the top one being hook-and-loop loop field, with an additional band of MOLLE-spaced loop-field below that for unit, name or morale patches.

The pack was just big enough to fit my ubiquitous CSI folder and most of my daily needs. I also fitted my bottle-carrying FUP pouch, and my half-med pouch, as well as some other needfuls, as you can see here.

All in all this is a very interesting hybrid. I would have made some further adjustments and recommendations if Platatac were looking to continue the lin, namely to the placement of some of the loops and attachment options, but all in all, it was a worthy investment. Now i can kit out another member of my household, and put a pack on them that cant be lost or forgotten!

Good thinking, and staying prepared!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: CountyComm Breacher Bar sheath

Here is another part of my recent haul of gear from CountyComm, a kydex sheath also made by CountyComm to fit their very rugged Breacher Bar. I have been so happy with my Breacher that I wanted to get this piece to compliment it. Up until this point, I have mounted mine on a PALS/MOLLE panel on the front of my MAC plate carrier.

The opportunity to have  a purpose built sheath was too good to miss, and these hand-made kydex sheathes by EOD/ CountyComm, which come equipped with not only a tight friction lock of the Breacher Bar, but also offers several different attachment options. The sheath is designed to fit the Blade Tech line of TekLoK systems as well as being able to accept lacing and other means of attachment. The two bottom holes, the six along the sides, two at the top and three through the middle give ample options to lash with paracord, or fit a variety of other attachment options.

I have attached a short MALICE clip to mine, which will enable me to mount mine to the MOLLE of both my chest rig, and also to any of the bags of belts that I may have in play at any given time.

The fitting hardware that came with the EOD sheath consisted of four screws and threaded eyelets as well as a spacer ring, deep enough to match up against the depth of the sheath itself from the edge holes.
A drainage hole at the bottom finishes the package.

The sheath itself is a very good fit, taking some vigorous bouncing to shake the breacher loose, and more to pull it free. I'll still be mounting it in a "upwards draw" just to be sure, but it pleases me no end to have a purpose made, and properly fitted sheath for this very useful piece of kit.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Home Front: Injury and Illness

Being sick sucks. Being injured sucks. I've been both often enough just in the last year to make me strongly consider what options and risks would be apparent in the event of a disaster both for those with chronic illness or injuries, and those with incidental illnesses and injuries. One of my partners has some fairly hefty pharmaceutical requirements for the condition she has. The other has torn cartilage in her knee and a history of respiratory problems. The idea of loss of access to the medical facilities and the pharmacopeia that modern industrial society provides us is chilling. Even the idea of long trips "off-grid" would require significant stockpiling, and preparation, and this is not a bad thing, but costly and difficult to arrange.

Even taking stock of our little bathroom medicine cabinet at home, just to take stock, made me realise how dependent we are on the infrastructure both to have such things produced and also distributed. I recently watched the disease-thriller "Contagion" which really impressed me with its sensible and pretty accurate portrayal of both lab-science and disease epidemiology. It reminded me that in the event of a wide-spread disease, resources will become scare not only due to demand, but also as the infrastructure required to produce and disseminate it is affected by the disease. Not only medical supplies, but later on, all supplies and services, depending on the severity of the outbreak could be unavailable. Healthcare workers are often on the front lines, as the very sick are brought to hospitals and from there, it can spread. That not only means my workplace, but also the people who would care for and supply treatments to my loved ones, and children.

Fortunately, there are several sources for being kept aware of these kinds of events, both sickness, and natural.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
The World Health Organization (WHO)

both of which I follow via Twitter on:

I'm also fortunate enough to be sent bulletins like these through work, from the Bureau of Meteorology

Sent: Tuesday, 4 September 2012 3:15 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: ** State Health Command Advisory - damaging and destructive winds **

Good afternoon all,

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds in the following forecast districts:


Northern Country
North Central
North East
South West
West and South Gippsland
East Gippsland

Damaging winds around 60 to 80 km/h with peak gusts of 100 to 120km/h are forecast to develop over the Southwest and Wimmera districts this evening, and will extend to remaining districts overnight and early Wednesday morning.

Over Alpine areas, winds are expected to average 80 to 100 km/h Wednesday with peak gusts of 140 km/h

The Victorian health sector should:

Maintain situational awareness via the Bureau of Meteorology website:

Consider the dissemination of this advisory

Being aware is part of the battle, looking after my family and loved ones in the event of such an event, short or long term, is another. I have first-aid kits, but when it comes down to it, do we have enough medical supplies laid in? No.

Do I know where to go to get some, and what to get? Mostly. More work required.

It also occurred to me that improving my First-Aid training is always a good thing.
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