5.11 Casual Wear

layout of the 5.11 clothing
5.11 Casual Collection; Carson Short Sleeve, Daybreaker Sunglasses, Defender Flex Jeans, Stay Sharp Belt

With a focus on getting back outdoors, I tested out another set of professional clothing from 5.11 Tactical sharp enough to wear to work but tough enough to wear to the range or on the trail. Putting together the Carson short sleeve shirt, Defender-Flex Range Pants, Stay Sharp leather belt and Daybreaker Sunglasses I set out for some days in the sun.

5.11 Carson Short Sleeve in Volcanic Heather, single pocket and logo on back of right shoulder
Close up of 5.11 Rapid Draw snaps

The Carson Short Sleeve Shirt is a regular cut, cotton/polyester blend shirt with a single pocket that creates a clean look. It comes in four different shades of heather and a solid blueblood or volcanic black. There is also a plaid version with five variants for the same $39.99 price. The shirt is a lightweight breathable material perfect for hot days in the sun. I won’t say the material has a stretch to it, but it does give a little during activity. The shirt closure is made with 5.11’s RAPIDraw™ center front snap placket designed with the appearance of buttons continuing the professional look. The back of the right shoulder has a small woven 5.11 [+] label along the yoke seam, however this is the only  one. The shirt is long enough to tuck in, but still short enough to leave untucked on relaxed days. The shirt is what cleans up the outfit and gives off the professional look.

5.11 Defender Flex Jeans in Ranger Green, reinforced beltloops and additional rear pockets
Close up of Defender Flex buttons and logos

From the first time I wore the Defender-Flex Range Pants, I knew they were going to be one of my go to hard-use pants. They have a durable feel but enough stretch for the active days outdoors. They were a slim fit design but not a “skinny jean” cut. I chose Ranger Green but they also come in Khaki and a Brown Duck (think – a little oranger than Carhartt’s standard color). The $69.99 price puts it on par with other hard use pants I have bought in the past and feel like they will last just as long.  The standard 5.11 pant features include reinforced belt loops to support the weight of EDC belts up to 2” and holsters, riveted reinforcement at the front hand pockets and two additional rear pockets at the yoke large enough to fit a 30 round mag or today’s near tablet sized cell phones. The pants were designed with the 5 pocket jean look including some additional stitching in the rear pockets. Besides the rivets and button from the fly carrying the 5.11 logo, there is a small 5.11 [+] label sewn on the right rear pocket and a [+] stitched near  the left seam. The pants held up to multiple day abuse while camping and hiking in the rocky terrain of the Lincoln National Forest. As with any cotton pants, they will eventually show wear from the work and activities you do, but will still protect from the elements.

5.11 Stay Sharp Leather Belt

Since the look was a little more professional than my usual T-shirt and pants, I added a Stay Sharp Leather Belt. The Stay Sharp belt is a 1.5” leather belt with a double prong zinc buckle and built-in keeper. The double prong buckle reduces strap movement and stretch on the holes, while providing a clean look with the 5.11 [+] logo etched on the top and bottom of it.  The Genuine leather holds up to the demands of EDC and the weight of a holster and mag pouch.  Since wearing it, there has been a little stretch to it but only a mild curve that most leather belts take on (similar to the curve built into the Apex T-Rail Belt made of TPU coated B10 webbing). The belt is comfortable and the designer style buckle ties the outfit together. This is one of 5.11’s higher end belts at $59.99 and also comes in black.

Daybreaker Brown Tortoise Polarized Sunglasses

Trying out the Daybreaker Brown Tortoise Polarized Sunglasses is a change in my usual eyewear selection of black wraparound sunglasses.  These glasses have a large Ray-ban Wayfarer shape to them. Unfortunately for me they were too big for my face and allowed a lot of light in through the sides. This also caused them to slide down my nose while hiking and looking at my footing requiring constant repositioning. Only a handful of my sunglasses have polarized lenses, and most have a darker colored lens. The quality of the view through the Daybreaker lens seemed “high-def” during the bright sunny days while camping in New Mexico. It produced a clear, crisp-edged picture, while dulling down the intensity of the bright sun. The quality of construction is above their $69.99 cost, with larger than normal hinges and hard plastic frames.  The ear and nose pieces are made of the same material as the rest of the frame , which has been coated to resist scratches and oil, unlike a majority of my other sunglasses that have started to peel from sunscreen use. These sunglasses should maintain their classy appearance for a good while. The glasses have the 5.11 [+] logo on both ear pieces and a small one in the top right corner of the right lens keeping with the professional look.

Final Thoughts: This outfit had a nicer look while still being rugged enough for any outdoor activity.  The Carson shirt will be a little tight in the lats (it’s a large) as I get back to lifting instead of running, but should still give a clean, professional appearance. . The Defender-Flex pants will go next to my Apex Pant as far as comfort but will outperform them in durability.  I will continue to use the Stay Sharp belt until it falls apart because of its strength and good looks.  I will be going back to my wraparound black sunglasses even though the Daybreakers were made well, they are just too big for my face.

By the numbers:

Comfort – 5/5 Aside from the Daybreaker sunglasses being too big for my face the rest of the outfit was a good fit and the stretch of the Defender-Flex Range Pants meant all day comfort

Durability – 5/5 The shirt and pants are constructed of top of the line materials and appear to be of sound construction. Most seams are double stitched and the front hand pockets were riveted for reinforcement. The oversized belt loops were reinforced to handle the weight of a holster. The Belt buckle was double stitched in place on genuine leather.

Functionality – 4/5 All items performed as advertised and were designed for active lifestyles, the Daybreaker sunglasses were just too big to stay put while hiking and moving about the outdoors..

Weight – 4/5 the Carson Short Sleeve Shirt was lightweight and built for a warmer climate, the Defender-Flex Pants were a little heavier being 97% cotton but not unbearable in the warmer temps of summer.  .

Value – 4/5 This outfit was on the higher end of shirts and pants that I would look at for work clothes and the belt was on par with competitors pricing for similar quality genuine leather belts. The prices were what I would expect to pay if I was buying clothes to talk to future business partners and clients.

Overall rating: 4.4/5 I might have to keep the shirt and belt for more professional use while I plan to wear the life out of the Defender-Flex Range pants and buy another pair when I do.

I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.

Originally posted on Spotterup.com November 2020

Have Guns, Will Travel – Savior Equipment’s Ultimate Guitar Case

Savior Equipment – The Ultimate Guitar Case

I have been traveling with guns since I left high school. Even more so, I have been flying and staying in hotels with multiple guns both on official orders and unofficial trips. It’s pretty hard to maintain a low profile dragging a long gun case through the lobby or back and forth from the rental every day. I have tried transitioning them to other soft cases or backpacks after the flight, but that is just a big inconvenience. I have ditched all my big coyote or black rolling duffle bags for colored rollers and hiking backpacks, but in order to fly I still need a hard-sided, lockable case. I own several Pelican cases in varying sizes and have had very few issues with them while flying. Every time I fly with them, I get asked by other passengers and hotel guests or clerks about what’s inside. My favorites are the ones that joke about it being a sniper rifle. I just smile.

Case Foam

I am not sure where I first saw the Ultimate Guitar Case, maybe social media? It was a picture of a hard-plastic guitar case with foam inserts and the ability to secure it with padlocks. It had three layers of foam that could be custom cut for your firearms and gear. When I began to do more research and found the Savior Equipment’s webpage, I was shocked at the price, only $149.99. Replacement foam inserts were only $39.99, if I wanted to change up the contents or better yet, bought a new rifle. Their company info was also attractive. The company was born from a gun enthusiasts desire to have affordable cases that were made of high-quality materials. Coupled with a belief that companies should be measure by their dedication to their products and their customers. They listen to feedback from customers to improve gear and incorporate into their future designs. They also believe that companies should stand behind their products and they offer a Lifetime Warranty with an easy process.

Arrival of the Ultimate Guitar Case
Delivery of the Ultimate Guitar Case

A couple weeks later, the Ultimate Guitar Case showed up at my house. It came in a very sturdy and well branded box. When I opened the case, it had foam glued to the top lid and three separate 1.5” thick layers of foam, same high quality as in my other cases. I decided to cut the bottom layer for magazines, leave the second layer uncut and cut the top layer to fit two different rifle/pistol combinations. I added a sling and Surefire X300 (or other brand) pistol light cut out to add to the options. With the foam all cut out, I added a layer of felt under the bottom layer of foam to keep the noise down from the loaded magazines. Cheap fix at $3.99 from the local craft store, but well worth the effort. I used a cheap hot knife for the first time to cut the foam. I have done better work with a long utility knife, but it was a good learning process. Of note: the hot knife needs to exceed 300° and I think that a DIY jig saw style frame version would have provided cleaner cuts. It turned out good enough to use and later I will order replacement foam (because it is so inexpensive) once I figure out the final load out. The current lay out left the back end a little heavy, not bad when using the wheels. By leaving the middle layer uncut, I can just remove the top layer and will be able to load out any configuration I desire.

Various layers of foam inserts

The case has two sturdy carrying handles, one in the traditional location on the side and one on the underside of the neck for use with the wheels. The one for use with the wheels was designed to lock flat when not dragging your heavy metal around the world. The wheels are mounted to the exterior of the case to avoid taking up space inside the case. This maybe one of its few weak points, only time and a few flights will tell. I have lost many roller bags and cases to a missing or broken wheel at the hands of baggage handlers. The case has three hinges, 6 latches and 2 reinforced locking holes to keep your gear secure during transit. The exterior is made of a high impact polymer shell. It is more flexible than the heavy-duty plastic cases, but this is where you save on weight. The empty case with foam comes in at 11.6 pounds. Once loaded out it came in right at 30.5 pounds, carrying a rifle, a pistol and 5 loaded magazines for each. Balance was obviously toward the wheels with the M4 magazines and pistol located at that end. The case will stand balanced on its side and upright, even while fully loaded. The handles remained sturdy while carrying the load of the firearms and magazines.

carrying handles
Sturdy drag handle and carrying handle
buckles
Close ups of the reinforced locking holes and latches

The first trip out to the range was over 90°, so I left the case out in the sun to see how the heat effected it. The plastic got hot, but didn’t get any softer or less rigid. The glue for the foam on the lid separated from the lid and I had to apply some spray adhesive when I got home. I’m sure that if I had set it in the truck upside down, it would have adhered on its own as the glue cooled.

Final thoughts:
This is a very solid case, capable of meeting the requirements from TSA for checked baggage at an affordable price. I decked it out with Spotter Up branded stickers (ones without guns in the image) and a couple “Fragile, Handle with care” stickers to add to the image. If anyone asks me about the brand of guitar in the case, I play dumb and say that it is my son’s and i dont know. It attracts way less attention than my other rifle cases and transports my firearms safely and securely. I’ll be rocking this case when traveling for a long time.

Ultimate Guitar Case
Have Guns Will Travel

By the numbers:
Design – 5/5 Light weight polymer exterior with 6 latches and reinforced locking holes keep your gear securely locked inside and meets TSA requirements for checked firearms. The three layers of customizable foam allows for multiple user configurations and versatility.
Durability – 5/5 So far, the case has held up for many trips to the range and the abuse from overworked baggage handlers. If it fails, the company stands behind their product with a Lifetime Warranty and a responsive customer service department.
Functionality – 4/5 This case functions similar to other major competitors with reduced weight and modularity. You do give up some additional cargo space by the overall shape not being a rectangle, but isn’t the shape the reason we would buy it?
Weight – 5/5 The weight is similar to cases with the same rigidity and allows the user to keep the full load well under the 50-pound limit for flying.
Value – 5/5 The price point makes this one of the more affordable cases with similar or better quality and features at $149.99 and replacement foam for $39.99.
Overall rating: 4.8/5 This case is a great blend of reduced profile carriage of firearms and gear safely and securely at a reasonable price without compromising on quality.

I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.

Originally posted on Spotterup.com September 2019

MAG PUMP – Pistol and AR Magazine Loaders

mag pump loader
Unboxing of the Mag Pump ar15 and 9mm Pro Loaders and Magdump

I have loaded thousands of magazines over the last 20 plus years. Most by hand, some using devices that utilized military stripper clips and some that need the ammo to be oriented in a certain way for the device to work. I have found the most efficient way to load magazines is to have a technique that minimizes excess movement (key to efficiency and speed) and to keep the talking down to a minimum. I have got to the point that loading is a subconscious movement for me, unless I have to load a specific number of rounds for a drill. I am also aware that with the thousands of repetitions loading magazines, that I am faster (spelled: more proficient) at loading than the casual or weekend shooter. Most of the devices seem to break-even with loading by hand for me, when you have to include the prep-time for most of the devices, excluding the stripper clip loaders.

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Outdoor Collection from 5.11

title pic for 5.11 outdoor collection
5.11 Outdoor Collection; Peak Long Sleeve, Apex T-Rail Belt, Apex Pants, Freedom Flex Short Sleeve

While running through spring on our way to summer, I had the chance to try out some of 5.11 Tactical’s Outdoor Collection: Peak Long Sleeve Shirt; Freedom Flex Short Sleeve Shirt; Apex T-Rail Belt; Apex Pant and previously reviewed Union Waterproof 6” Boot. All of these pieces are designed with outdoor use in mind, while maintaining a professional look to them. Each piece is constructed with quality materials and features that make them as durable as they are comfortable. The Union boots and Peak shirt are made for cooler weather and the Apex pants and Flex Fit shirt are made for warmer weather. With each piece being built for both outdoor and professional use, I was able to wear them both on and off the clock.

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The Approach Jacket from 5.11

title pic
The Approach Jacket from 5.11 in black

I grew up on the Pacific Coast of Washington state. Rain has always been a part of my life. As a kid, I never really worried about rain gear. We went camping knowing we were going to get wet, we just brought extra clothes. I thought I was being prepared when packing included rubber boots or a heavy vinyl, yellow rain slicker. As I grew up and joined the Army (stationed back in Washington at Joint Base Lewis-McChord), I thought we were just supposed to be wet and cold. Yes, I was issued a Gore-tex jacket and a vinyl poncho. How much work do you think I was allowed to do in those? Only if it required standing still or sleeping. Even then, I don’t remember either one of those staying dry for more than an hour or so. After leaving the Army and making the promise that I would never be cold or wet again (yes, I broke that promise again and again), I discovered updated versions of rain gear that actually worked.

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5.11 EDC PL 2AAA Flashlight

Pocket Dump

As the name states, this is an Every Day Carry flashlight. I have been carrying 5.11 EDC PL 2AAA flashlight for the last several months now, both at work and off duty. More importantly, I have not lost this light in the last several months. I have carried it in the front and “knife” pockets of everything from jeans to uniform pants to outdoor recreation pants. I believe the size and shape of this light is what has kept it in my pocket. The light comes in at 5” long, machined from aerospace grade aluminum with knurling on the body and around the endcap. The knurling on the body assists the user with grip and retention but also is designed in a way that would keep it from rolling away if dropped. It comes with a removable belt clip for retention in your pockets or even in MOLLE straps on your kit. The belt clip in conjunction with the knurling help to prevent it from lifting out of your pockets, even while climbing in and out of the driver seat. Of note is the placement of the belt clip, it is near the endcap, keeping the flashlight oriented in your pocket for quick access and instant index with the endcap. It keeps the lens buried in your pocket; in the off chance you accidently bump the endcap.

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The Packable Operator Jacket from 5.11

unpakcing the jacket
5.11 Packable Operator Jacket

The Packable Operator Jacket has been riding in my Jeep for the last couple months, tucked behind a roll bar behind the driver’s seat. I pulled it out on more than a couple occasions when the wind picked up and the temperatures dropped. It easily fit over my Spotter Up Gunfighter Hoody and kept me warm. I tried it out the few times it rained and wasn’t in the 40s or colder. The water would bead up for the first 30 minutes or so in the heavy rain and much longer in lighter rain. After that, it would start to slowly seep through across the shoulders. Keep in mind this jacket is only water resistant (Passes the AATCC35 rain test), which means it is a coated polyester microfiber fabric and not water proof. It was comfortable to wear, while moving around the range or training venues coaching students.

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The Dart24 Pack from 5.11

5.11  backpack with nalgene bottle
The Dart24 30L Pack from 5.11

As my wife can tell you, I have a lot of packs in my basement. She refers to it as the REI pile. I have several packs that have been issued to me over the last 20 plus years. There are military style packs designed to carry very heavy loads, hiking packs for trips anywhere from 1 to 5 days, packs designed to carry rifles and handguns and many day packs. They range from heavy Cordura® with molle straps to thin nylon ripstop. They come in browns and olive greens to blues and reds. As I have left the enforcement side and moved into the training side of operations, I still want the functionality of the military packs with the appearance of a civilian day pack. I carry a lot of stuff with me on a daily basis, whether it is for work or pleasure. This includes first aid kits, personal defense items, sustainment necessities and the items required for the primary task that day. This requires having clothing or packs that can haul all that around and provide easy access to them.

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The Union Waterproof 6″ Boot from 5.11 Tactical

product shot of 5.11 union waterproof boots
5.11 Tactical Union 6″ Waterproof Boots

As a fulltime Instructor, I spend a lot of time on my feet, so footwear is one of the most important pieces of kit I use. Until recently, I spent most of the last 4 years on an indoor/outdoor range teaching firearms. That meant that I could get away with some quality thick-soled, trail running shoes. The only element that I had to deal with was a little cold in the winter. Nothing a good pair of wool socks couldn’t fix. This last year I have begun teaching a more involved course, preparing people for overseas travel and work. During this course I find myself in the classroom, on an outdoor range, in the woods, driving a car or anything in between. The weather can vary just as much during the day, and I never know what elements my feet are going to need protection from.

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