Monday, 1 July 2013

Turtle Skin Gloves

There are two main brands in the needle resistant glove market, Turtle Skin and Hexarmor.  Turtle Skin use a different technology to Hex Armor, Turtle Skin base there products on a unique material made of a patented blend of coated Aramid knit where Hex Amror use their "Superfabric".  Due to different technologies used TurtleSkin Gloves come in slightly cheaper than Hex Armor gloves and offer comparable levels of protection.

The specialised Aramid technology that TurtleSkin use makes their products 40 more abrasion resistant than a standard Aramid knit of the same thickness.

The specialist material used in TurtleSkin gloves is manufactured in Warwick Mills in the USA who have been producing specialist fabrics since the 1870s including products used by NASA for the Mars landing and high performance tyres and yacht sails where durability and light weight are essential.

Turtle Skin not only do a wide range of gloves but also a selection of slash resistant under garments for protecting the body and legs and a range of "Snake Bite Resistant" trousers, gaiters and chaps (not so relevant to the UK market).

The main Turtle Skin gloves for the UK tactical Market are the Alpha, Bravo and the Turtle Skin Duty Glove normally retailing between about £45 and £60.  The Alpha and the Bravo glove are slightly lighter weight than the Duty glove and offer a marginally lower level of protection.

Turtle Skin undertakes their own proprietary testing of their gloves.  Normal EN tests use a 4.5mm metal probe that has a relativly blunt tip compared to the 1.27guage hypodermic needle that is used in Turtle Skins own test.  Turtle Skin do however ensure their gloves conform to EN standards for cut, tear and abrasion resistance as well as their unique puncture protection tests.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Bates Boots

Bates Boots are probably the biggest rival to Magnum boots (probably even more so in the USA than in the UK) offering a wide range of lightweight urban police boots at reasonable prices.  The major difference between bates boots and Magnum boots is the fact that Bates do not certify their boots for the European Market.  Now whilst this is probably not an issue for most individual users/purchasers, anyone from a corporate or public sector organisation who is issuing footwear will want to issue a certified much as to cover themselves against lawsuits should someone claim the footwear was to blame as to ensure the boots are fit for purpose.  (I am in no way implying that Bates boots are not fit for purpose!)

The recent surge in the popularity of Bates boots is in part due to their high profile use of the Bates Falcon by the highly elite and secretive British Special Boat Service.  The unique tread pattern on the sole of the Bates Falcon boot meant that the boot offered exceptional grip on wet metal surfaces, like the decks of ships or airplane wings etc.  They are often also used by the Royal Marines Visibility Team and RM PTIs as they are lightweight and flexible as well as offering good grip.  However the popularity of this Bates boot with elite forces has lead to its adoption by regular police officers, PCSOs and security patrol officers when it perhaps is not the most suitable choice.  The very characteristics that make the Bates Falcon a fantastic specific response boot means it offers very little cushioning or protection.

There are other Bates boots which are much more suitable for standard police foot patrol like the Tactical Sport Side Zip, the Gore-Tex Lined waterproof GX8 and the Delta-8 Side zip.

The Bates Tactical Sport Side Zip can be found online for about £60 and offers a mix of full grain and action leather with nylon panels in the upper and a shock absorbent EVA footbed and rubber outsole.  The boot is from the "Ultra-light" series and as the name suggest is is a lightweight unit which has proved to be exceptionally comfortable and hard wearing.

The Bates GX8 boot is an enhanced version of the Tactical Sport boasting a more aggressive design, an EVA midsole (rather than just footbed), 1680 ballistic nylon panels and full grain leather upper complete with a Gore-Tex waterproof, breathable membrane.  As you can imagine the Bates GX8 comes in at around £90 rather than £60.

The Delta 8 Bates Boot is similar to the GX8 however it is not a waterproof boot, but it does have a unique adjustable comfort system which allows the wearer to adjust the angle and sponginess of the footbed.  

Friday, 24 May 2013

Lowa Boots Review

My Lowa boots (pronounced LOW-VA) have been the first and last army boot purchase of my career....that is not to say my military career has been spectacularly short, just that I have been so impressed with the comfort, fit, style and longevity of my Lowa Mountain GTX boots that I have not had any need to even look elsewhere for new boots since that original purchase!

Now before we get started, Lowa, like Meindl and Haix, are a company of two halves, operating a commercial arm aimed at the outdoors industry and a specialist tactical arm aimed at police, military and specialist security.  The tactical range from Lowa is know as the Task Force Collection and comprises of around 21 styles and varieties of police and military boots.

The core Lowa Boots from the task force range are the Patrol, Mountain and Combat boot all hugely popular with army and military personnel.  The 3 profiles are quite similar for the Lowa Patrol, Mountain and Combat boots, the Mountain being a Gore-Tex lined version of the Patrol boot and the Combat being a higher leg version of the Mountain (still Gore-Tex lined).

Additional the the 3 main Lowa boots are a selection of desert boots including the Lowa Zephyr mid and high leg (with the mid being available without Gore-Tex) and the Elite Jungle Desert Boot (the Elite Jungle Lowa Boot is also available in black).

There are a couple of varieties of the Lowa Patrol Boot, the higher leg Mega Camp and the leather lined Super Camp.

There are also Lowa boots aimed more at the police market, offering lighter weight, more flexible models like the Urban Military and Para Recon boots, both of which are available in Gore-Tex and non Gore-Tex models.

More recently Lowa have introduced the limited edition Sepia green Mountain GTX boot and are soon to release a range of boots in the new MOD brown which is replacing both the traditional black and desert boots for the UK military.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Police Vests

There are only a limited number of police vest manufacturers on the UK market and the standard vest design doesn't seem to vary that much.  There are 3 main vest configurations, the "Standard Police Duty Vest", the "Mini Vest" and the "Molle Vest".

The standard duty police vest forms a zip up "waistcoat" with a variety of pockets and pouches on the front, most commonly:
  1. Cross draw baton pouch
  2. Spray Holder (with or without lanyard)
  3. Cuff Holder
  4. 2 x Radio Docs
  5. 2 x Large internal pockets
  6. .....a variety of smaller miscellaneous pouches or loops
The obvious advantage of this police vest is also it's disadvantage, it comes as a quick and complete set up unit, but is limited in how you can modify it.  Take a look at the Op. Zulu Advanced Tactical Duty vest for the best police vest on the market.  Clever features like the rear stash pocket and the elasticated belt attachment points make it a stand out above the rest and has clearly been designed by those who know the job.

Mini Vests, carriage systems or harnesses are hacked down versions of the full police vests, normally comprised of straps or a small amount of mesh across the back they offer much more limited carriage capacity and are often only designed to hold specific pieces of equipment, often for use under a coat or jacket in undercover situations.

Molle vests are a relatively new entrant to the market but allow for a much more customised end product.  Once you have the police vest you can add as many pouches as the vest can hold for any number of different pieces of kit.  As Molle is an international standard you can get pouches from a huge number of manufacturers including Blackhawk, 5.11, Arktis, etc etc. which are all compatible with a standard MOLLE vest.

The three major vest manufacturers in the UK market are Arktis, Op. Zulu and MLA.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Police Earpieces

There are a wide variety of Police Earpieces on the market, whether you need an Overt or Covert Earpiece, listen only or with Push To Talk (PTT) and Microphone, whether you want in ear or headset, D Shape, G Shape or Acoustic and choice is to be honest 100% personal preference! What I will do today is run over the basic pro's and con's of each type of police earpiece and their normal uses but ultimately you have to try a few different types and find what works for you.

With covert ear pieces you have a couple of options a wireless in ear receiver and hidden mic that runs to a minimum of £200 and probably more like £500 or the more common acoustic earpiece with clear coiled tube which will set you back anywhere between £12 and £20.  The clear tube runs out of the back of the wearers shirt collar and loops over the top of the ear and into the ear canal.  There are two options then for fitting the tube into the ear canal, either the standard "Mushroom Tip" which blocks the whole ear canal of the "Gel Earpiece Insert" that fits into the ear well to hold it in place and then a smaller tube runs into the ear canal allowing both clear transmission of comms without the earpiece completely cutting off ambient local sounds.  Acoustic Covert earpieces can have a 3 wire PTT and Mic allowing the mic to be lapel mounted or hidden in a sleeve or listen only.

G Shape police ear pieces fit like an inverted G made of black plastic or rubber, hooked over the top of the ear with the earpiece speaker coming down to the opening of the ear canal (some ear pieces have it swivel mounted others don't).  General consensus is that the G shape earpiece is the most comfortable for the most users.

D Shape Police Earpieces (surprisingly enough) are black plastic or rubber D Shapes with the curve hooking round the back of the ear and the straight part running down the centre of the ear with the speaker mounted in the middle to align with the ear opening.  These do not fit as close to the ear as a G Shape earpiece and people with bigger ears may tend to find they flap about like Dumbo when running!!

Both D and G Shape earpieces are available in PTT and Mic or listen only and will normally set you back anywhere between £10 and £20.

The most common police radio earpieces are for Motorola MTH800 and CP040 Series, Sepura SRP 2000 series and a few models of Kenwood.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Maglite torches

Maglite Torches are the iconic police torch, renowned for their "bomb proof" durability and made famous by hanging from the belt of every US police officer (or Cop) in countless TV shows and films over the last 20 or so years.  The fact that they are still so commonly used today is testement to their build quality, and in fact my 3D cell is over 20 years old and still going strong (though I did fit an LED upgrade recently, doing away with the old filament bulb for a brighter output and longer battery life).

Maglites are available in a range of different sizes from the key ring size Maglite Solitaire to the baseball bat size 6D cell and everything in between!  The basic models have not changed that much over the years, more recently the filament bulbs have been improved to the Xenon bulbs as standard but you still only get the same basic functionality "On" or "Off".

A little bit later than a lot of other brands the the party, Maglite released a range of LED Maglites and an LED upgrade module for each of their traditional torch sizes, however they recently pulled the official Maglite brand LED upgrade module from the market (though there are still a range of third party suppliers out there).  The LED Maglite torches cost a good 20% more than there Xenon counter parts but you soon recover that in a reduced spend on batteries, not only do the LED Maglites offer a better run time as standard, the substantially better light output means you are likely to spend a lot less time looking for whatever you are after in the dark than trying to use a filament version!!!

Even more recently Maglite have expanded their range to offer a lot more of the functionality that brands like Fenix were starting to offer to the police market like, half strength, strobe, SOS and "turbo" modes as well as integrated rechargeable products which could be wall or vehicle mounted and charged from mains or cigarette lighter.  The Maglite Magcharger system is quite an expensive outlay at first, but for a regular user like a night patrolman the money is soon recovered in savings on batteries not to mention the convenience factor.

What's great about the new Maglites is that they have caught up with the technical innovations that other companies had beaten them to the post with, but maintained the traditions of rugged durability and reliability at a reasonable price point.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Law Enforcement Equipment

UK Law Enforcement equipment is a bit different to what is commonly used by our cousins across the pond but most law re-enforcement equipment is developed in the US for the US market and then adapted for UK law enforcement.

The most common difference between American and UK Law Enforcement Equipment is the adaptation for firearms.   Very few British law enforcement officers carry a fire arm, or even a Taser currently (though Taser use is being ramped up) and as such the need for pistol holsters or magazine holders is dramatically diminished.  Most manufacturers of law enforcement equipment however if not actually american themselves, have aimed their products at the much larger American market, so the likes of 5.11, Blackhawk, Vertex, Arcteryx etc have all designed their pants or police vests to accommodate hand guns and ammunition.  Two notable exceptions would be UK based Arktis and Op. Zulu who have a more geo-targeted with their equipment design and manufacture, producing vests specifically to hold UK Law enforcement equipment like PAVA or CAPTA defence spray, extendible batons, cuffs Airwaves Radio system with KlickFast Dock and then another couple of pockets for your pocket note book, sandwiches, etc.

Another key difference in law enforcement equipment needs is the design of tactical trousers (pants) .  Yet again the US market is saturated with trousers built for holsters and to hold spare magazines and pocket knives, but no UK law enforcement personnel carry pocket knives as standard and only a very small percentage carry pistol magazines and even those that do are issued with specific magazine pouches rather than cutting their own detail as if an accident were to occur whilst the magazine is stuffed in a pocket rather than in an officially issued pouch with secure retention etc.

Other than the fire arms issue  a lot of law enforcement equipment has to serve many of the same specifications, needing to be hard wearing, abrasion resistant, stain resistant, water resistant and /or fast drying, if not water proof, re enforced in the major wear points, suitably cut to allow minimise restriction of movement when running, or climbing, or transitioning from any number of positions and reliable enough to function for years in a variety of conditions.