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BlackHawk Alternative Duty Apparel

Written by Mike Boyle

Founded in 1993 by former Navy SEAL Mike Noell, the BlackHawk Products Group came out of nowhere to become a leader in the development of tactical products. Noell’s military experience gave him unique insight into the shortcomings of issue gear and provided him with the inspiration to build a better product. From humble beginnings of producing packs and other gear in a garage, BlackHawk quickly established itself as a major player. The company now offers a very diverse product line to meet the needs of both the military and law enforcement.

A few years ago, BlackHawk moved into the very competitive apparel market. Its clothing line now includes offerings suitable for a wide range of law enforcement job titles, including tactical specialists, trainers, uniformed patrol and plainclothes operatives. To meet the demand for highly functional yet professional-looking apparel, BlackHawk recently introduced several new items ideally suited for Class B wear or non-uniformed operations.

Since the introduction, I have been impressed with both the durability and unique features of the BlackHawk Warrior Wear Tactical Pants. These pants offer a number of features not found in competitive designs. The pockets are especially well designed, allowing me to conveniently carry equipment such as magazines, flashlights and knives, and keep it secure during high levels of physical activity.

New to the line is the BlackHawk Performance Cotton Pant which remains true to the Warrior Wear reputation. Crafted from durable, fade-resistant, 8.5-ounce cotton canvas, the Performance Tactical Pant is an ideal choice for patrol, training or special operations. Both the knee and seat are double layered for increased garment longevity. Reinforced loops accommodate a belt up to 1.75 inches wide, and a silicone strip in the waistband helps keep the shirt tucked in during vigorous physical activity.

There are plenty of pockets for carrying vital gear, and I particularly liked the zippered access and additional compartment in the large cargo pockets. Other zippered enclosures on the right-rear hip pocket and right-hand pocket keep the wallet and other small items secure. I’ve worn these trousers extensively while conducting training, and they have proven comfortable and allowed for a full range of motion.

Next up for consideration is the BlackHawk TNT OPS Tactical Pant. These trousers are lightweight, yet offer an extremely durable alternative designed for the weapon-carrying professional. The TNT OPS variant incorporates many of the desirable features found on the original Warrior Wear Tactical Pants, including well-designed and placed pockets, reinforced belt loops and rubber strips in the waistband. Crafted from BlackHawk TNT material, these pants are both water- and stain-resistant.

For hot weather wear, the TNT OPS Tactical Pant would be high on my list. They look sharp and are extremely comfortable, and the fit is absolutely superb. Combined with an embroidered polo shirt, they would be a great foundation for a Class B uniform.

Although not tested, BlackHawk is also turning out TNT (Tactical–Non-Tactical) Pants that share many of the same qualities with a softer, more contemporary styling that would be ideal on the street or in the office.

To complement its line of trousers, BlackHawk also offers a few different variations of Warrior Wear Tactical Shirts, in both long- and short-sleeve styles. Shirts are available in either cotton or poly/cotton ripstop.

Common features include roll-up sleeves with a cord and button fastener, stain-resistant material, and hook and loop secured chest pockets. Another nice little touch is an elastic cord to secure sunglasses or a pen. A hidden, zippered compartment under the chest pocket keeps small items, documents or money secure and out of sight. Warrior Wear Tactical Shirts are available in black, khaki, navy or olive drab to meet individual or agency requirements.

Another BlackHawk apparel item wellsuited for Class B use is the Warrior Wear Cotton Polo Shirt. This shirt incorporates classic styling along with a number of desirable features in demand with law enforcement professionals. A flat, ribbed, knit collar along with fade-resistant cotton fabric ensures this shirt will hold up over the long haul and multiple washings. A hanging loop on the placket can be used to secure sunglasses or other items. The upper-left shoulder features a media player pocket and buttonhole for routing cord underneath the collar.

For Class B wear, the Cotton Polo with either the TNT OPS or TNT (Tactical–Non-Tactical) Pants would be a great combination, particularly for hot summer weather.

BlackHawk also has a custom embroidery program where you can have an agency logo placed on a Warrior Wear jacket or shirt.

BlackHawk recently expanded its outerwear line to include fleece pullovers, vests and jackets for various law enforcement applications. The BlackHawk Thermo-Fur Jacket, for example, can be used as either an insulating layer or a light outer garment. Its high loft thermo-fur shell has an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio that will keep the user comfort factor high when the mercury dips. Unlike fleece garments intended for casual wear, the fit is optimized for active users, and the Thermo-Fur Jacket allows for full range of motion when drawing a gun or employing empty-hand defensive skills.
The Thermo-Fur Jacket sports a pair of zippered hand pockets and a chest pocket. Its full front opening and pockets are secured by high quality YKK zippers. Gusseted underarms and raglan sleeves are specifically designed to prevent restriction of user movement in any way. Available colors include black and coyote brown.

In addition to the Thermo-Fur Jacket, BlackHawk also offers a 3/4-zip Grid Fleece Jacket, 3/4-zip Grid Fleece Pullover, 3/4-zip Grid Fleece Hoody and a Grid Fleece Vest. For tactical ops or Class B wear, all have something to offer. Another quality garment tested was the BlackHawk RAD Vest–Soft Shell. Made of a tough, wind-defeating outer shell combined with a fleece lining, the RAD Vest is perfect for multiple applications. It, too, features a full front opening, hand and chest pockets with easy grip pull tabs, and YKK zippers. The RAD Vest also has a zippered interior pocket with a draw cord adjustable waist.

BlackHawk states that the RAD Vest features a lean contour cut, something to be mindful of when wearing soft body armor. You may want to consider going to the next largest size to accommodate your ballistic protection. Available in either black or slate blue, the RAD Vest could fill a variety of roles. It doesn’t cast a military appearance and could be used for plainclothes or undercover ops. On the other hand, it might also work with certain uniformed operations. Worn on a number of cold and windy days, the RAD Vest–Soft Shell performed exactly as advertised.

These new additions to the BlackHawk line should play very well to discriminating law enforcement users. No longer must comfort, functionality and good styling be mutually exclusive qualities. With BlackHawk leading the charge, I’m sure we’ll see further apparel innovations in the near future.

Mike Boyle served as a captain with the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife Bureau of Law Enforcement. He is a frequent contributor to firearms and law enforcement journals and remains active as a police academy instructor. He has been on the board of directors of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors since 1996.

Published in Tactical Response, Sep/Oct 2010

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