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.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

5.11 Clothing and Equipment

5.11 have got to be one of, if not my favourite tactical brand.  The 5.11 range offers apparel including the legendary 511 tactical pant, jackets and even 5.11 belts, as well as a full range of bags and backpacks.

The 5.11 Tactical Pant is the product that started it all, way back in 1967 when at the top of Half Dome in California USA Royal Robins and his wife Liz noticed that that gear they were wearing for climbing was far from fit for purpose and they set about designing a pair of trousers that were stylish, functional and rugged enough for the rigours of climbing and outdoor pursuits.  The name 5.11 comes from a virtually impossible difficulty level of a climb, the normal scoring system being 5.0 as the easiest and 5.10 being the hardest, 5.11 was therefore presumed to be impossible.

Over the years the 5.11 tactical pant evolved and was adopted by the FBI training centre as their uniform pant, and for a long time the pant was in fact restricted to FBI personnel.  Commercially though the Royal Robins parent company was not doing so well and the 5.11 branch was spun off to develop the 5.11 Tactical Range and Royal Robins focused on the out doors industry.  5.11 Tactical is now one of the worlds largest suppliers of Law Enforcement Equipment.

5.11 now offer a bigger range of tactical pants with specific EMS pants, Security Trousers, light weight trousers, TDU and unform trousers as well as covert and casual pants and trousers in nylon, twill, various different weights of rip stop polyester and cotton canvas.  5.11 also now even offer two varieties of pants which contain a "stretch" material the Stryke and Traverse Pants.

For me though some of the best 5.11 products are the bags, more specifically the Rush series of Backpacks which offer some incredibly well thought out features and design elements along with the build quality and durability you would expect from anything 5.11 produce.  The Rush bags are available in 3 sizes each named after the hours of deployment they were designed to serve, 12,24, and 72 respectively.  For me the 24 is the ideal size for almost any situation, the compression straps mean it packs down as hand-luggage or a normal day sack just fine, yet there is actually tons of carrying capacity in there....easily enough for 48 hours.

5.11 Belts are a popular companion purchase to the tactical pants with the non metallic TDU belt coming in almost all the available colours that the pants do, and even offering their "Double Duty Belt" which is Coyote brown on one side and black on the other.  For those looking for something a bit more rugged, the trainer and operator tactical belts offer 1&3/4" and 2" belts with steel buckles which can support a huge strain.  These belts are also more rigid than the TDU belts and are therefore more suited to loading pouches as they are less likely to twist.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Military Boots

There are a wide variety of military boots available in the UK from a broad range of international manufacturers all the slightly different boot needs of the various military branches in each of their specific roles.

One of the easiest ways to break down the military boot market is by manufacturer.  I will look first at the two economically priced mass produced brands before I look in more detail at the hand made top end boots which are more popular with the military than the police.

Magnum make a small range of military boots, these days narrowed mainly to the Scorpion light weight patrol boots which have been the UK MOD issue tender boot for several years running.  In the past Magnum have experimented with a broader range of military footwear, including the first (and I think only) full multicam boot in existence!  This included a sole constructed from multicoloured rubber, not just a painted on finish, so the multicam would not wear off even as the sole wears down.  However Magnums alternative styles did not prove popular with military users and they have narrowed their focus back to the police and security boot market.

Bates Military boots have crossed over between police and military more successfully than Magnum, mainly due to the popularity of the Bates Falcon Boot with the highly elite and well regarded UK Special Boat Service (SBS).  The Bates Falcon has a very unique tread pattern that has proved to have exceptional grip qualities on wet metal surfaces, eg. the hull or deck or a ship or boat.  Other than the specific needs of the SBS when doing ship assaults the Bates range are not specifically military boots, they are much more a police boot, aimed at the urban patrol/pursuit user.

The more popular military boots are from the German hand made manufacturers mainly Lowa, Altberg, Meindl, Haix and Hanwag, but not forgetting the relative new comer to the scene Turkish company YDS.  Between these brands there is actually not that much to choose from, it is really just personal preference.  All of these brands of military boots boast outstanding reputations for quality and durability as well as comfort.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Review of Handcuffs for Sale in the UK

There are 4 main types of Handcuffs for Sale in the UK, the more traditional rigid, semi-rigid and chain link style metal handcuffs and then the fourth type, plasticuffs.

When it comes to preference most police or security officers prefer the rigid type of handcuffs, though these are harder to find on sale in the UK as the original manufacturer and patent holder of this design (Hiatts) went out of business whilst still in possession of the license and no one was quite sure if they could legally manufacture rigid cuffs.  Rigid handcuffs have long been the most popular as they offer the maximum amount of control over a detainee with the minimum amount of force (and risk).  Users however do have to be trained on this type of cuff to avoid legal repercussions if the detainee suffers an injury whilst cuffed.  Rigid cuffs are now available for sale in the UK from the manufacturer THC.

During the void left by Hiats liquidation ASP (most famous for it's batons) released their semi rigid, or hinged cuffs.  These were a half way house between rigid and chain link handcuffs offering some degree of lateral control if gripped in the centre.  Whilst these were much more effective than chain link they were still not any were near as good or popular as the rigid handcuffs.  ASP do these hinged cuff style in steel, available in black, blue, yellow and pink and a light weight rust resistant powdered aluminium.

Chain link handcuffs are the most widely available cuffs on sale and have been produced by a wide range of manufacturers from the tactical, to the novelty.  The leading manufacturer is probably ASP again for the tactical market, and probably Ann-Summers for the non tactical market.  Chain link handcuffs offer the least control over a suspect and do not allow for "stacking" whilst cuffing.

Plasticuffs are designed for mass detention, offering a cheap, disposable solution to restraining detainees as they have to be cut off to be released.  Plasticuffs are a quick and easy option and due to the tight nature of the binding on the wrists offer excellent control over anyone bound in the them.  Plasticuffs are mainly sold by ASP, Monadnock and Deenside.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Police Bags

There are a wide variety of police bags on the market from a huge number of manufacturers and at vastly different price points.  At the top end of the market brands like Arcteryx or Blackhawk can set you back hundreds of pounds for a gucci rucksack or medium sized holdall, in the middle 5.11 offers quality at an acceptable price and at the bottom end a plain black sports bag from Sports Direct might cost you less than a tenner and you can probably stuff most of your kit in there just as easily (but getting the right piece out again in a hurry might be the problem!!!).

A suitable police bag has to offer a certain range of basic features for most officers:

  1. A decent size main compartment for most kit; folders, fleece, custodian etc
  2. A decent selection of pockets for organizing smaller kit; PNB, Phone, Cuffs, etc
  3. Shoulder strap and carrying handles (it is not until you don't have one or the other of these that you miss them!!)
  4. Hard-wearing, heavy duty construction. (Police bags get slung around on a daily basis, often over loaded with kit)
  5. Sensible weight (Lugging your police bag around all day can be a massive chore if it weights a tonne even before you have loaded it)
  6. Water resistance (probably not necessary to be totally water proof but the bag should be able to withstand being caught in a shower without all your kit getting soaked.
When choosing a police bag there are 3 main types, rucksack, holdall and load out.  A rucksack is ideal if you are going to be on the move for a prolonged period, it is by far the most comfortable method of transporting a load and also leaves you with both hands free (ideal for cyclists).  The disadvantage of this kind of police bag is it is hard to access items at the bottom of the bag.

The Holdall or kit bag is probably the most common kind of police bag, a semi rigid rectangular shaped bag often with a divider in the middle and a selection of pockets on the outside and often inside the lid on some of the better designed models.  These kinds of bags allow for easy division of kit and the best access without having to unload everything each time.

Load out police bags are more for PSU roles when you need to get a helmet, boots, coveralls etc all in the bag along side all your normal duty kit.  The best designed bags can be worn as both a rucksack and also used like a kit bag (some also have wheels and an extending handle but I have never found this a particularly essential feature on a police bag.)

As mentioned earlier, when choosing a police bag price is going to be a major factor, but not at the expense of quality!  I have seen one range of products that seems to differentiate itself on price but the quality of their bags and the weight of their kit bags especially is a major let down.  Multiple reports of their day sack failing within a few months of light use for example was common place.  My favourite brand, which you will pay a bit more for, but it is worth it for quality is 5.11, though I have seen a lot of good stuff at a very reasonable price point from the up and coming Op. Zulu brand.

Monday, 7 January 2013

LOWA Boots

If you are looking for quality military boots look no further than Lowa!  These German made hand-crafted boots have set the standard for years in reliable, comfortable, durable footwear and are a long standing favourite of military service personnel the world over.

Lowa do offer a "commercial" range of boots to the outdoors market but these are not to be confused with the "Task Force Collection" of tactical boots.  There are 3 main core Lowa boots in the Task Force Collection (in descending price order) the Combat, Mountain and Patrol.

The Lowa Combat Boots is the highest ankle boot at 9 1/2 inches offering fantastic ankle support and combined with its Gore-Tex lining offers fantastic waterproof protection from wading through shallow water or walking through long grass. You can normally find these online for about £155.00.

The Lowa Mountain Boot is the same basic concept as the Combat but with a slightly lower ankle height of 8 inches this boot is preferred by those who want a bit more freedom and flexibility in the calf.  (I have a pair of these myself and love them).  You can normally find these for about £150.00.

The Lowa Patrol Boot is the same height as the Mountain GTX boot but does not have the Gore-Tex lining.  Now whilst this boot won't offer the same level of water resistance a lot of users find a non Gore-Tex boot more versatile.  When properly looked after with polish and wax these lowa boots will be highly water resistant against brief submersion or patrolling moderate rain and have the added benefit that if completely submerged they will dry out a lot faster than any of the Gore-Tex lined Lowa Boots.  These normally retail for about £140.00.

There are also Desert Lowa Boots like the Zephry Mid, which is a low cut light weight highly breathable suede boot in a coyote tan colour. (This boot is on a slightly narrower last than normal which some users like, but I wouldn't recommend these lowa boots for load carrying).  The Para Recon's are also a very popular style, though mostly used for a "casual" on base boot they are renowned for their comfort and light weight and are often used for PT.

Now you may be looking at the price of these boots and thinking they are not for you, but whilst I certainly wouldn't recommend these as Cadet Boots, if you are a serious user the boots will pay for themselves over their long lifetime.