The new TRU Tactical Response Uniform from Tru-Spec® by Atlanco is designed to take tactical uniforms into the next generation. Based on the Army Combat Uniform (ACU), the TRU provides operators with enhanced functionality, durability and comfort.
Because the TRU is essentially an improved version of the ACU, let’s start our review with the ACU. The ACU was officially unveiled by the Army with much fanfare in June 2004. The ACU is the successor to the Army’s BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) and DCU (Desert Combat Uniform).
The ACU was designed with the input of Army NCOs. It was initially tested by Stryker Brigade soldiers in Iraq. The ACU wasn’t just a cosmetic redesign of the uniform, it was all about function and the soldiers’ ability to execute their combat mission. The ACU is the first major change to the Army’s combat uniform since BDUs were introduced in the early-1980s.
The ACU was over two years in development. In developing the prototype ACU, a number of different uniforms were looked at. The development team took the best part of each uniform and combined it into one. The ACU went through three prototypes before the fourth (and final) version was developed.
The Army put considerable thought into the design of the ACU. The chest pockets on the shirt are now slanted for easier access when the OTV (Outer Tactical Vest) is worn. The bottom pockets on the shirt have been removed and relocated to the shoulder sleeves so that soldiers can have access to them while wearing the OTV.
The buttons on the front of the shirt have been replaced with zippers, which open from the top and bottom and are reinforced with Velcro® for increased comfort and a smoother surface when armor is worn. The patches, tabs and recognition devices are affixed to the uniform with Velcro for greater flexibility and to allow them to be removed before laundering for a greater patch lifecycle. The button fly and reinforced seat have been retained on the ACU, however the waist tabs have been replaced with a drawstring waist.
Other changes that were made for the ACU include: two-way mandarin collar worn up in combat to fit the OTV and down at other times, elbow pouch with Velcro closure for removable internal elbow pad inserts, knee pouch with Velcro closure for removable internal knee pad inserts, draw-string leg cuff with front closure tie for more comfortable closure outside of boot collar, pockets with Velcro closures, three-slot pen pocket on bottom of sleeve, Velcro sleeve cuff closures, integrated blouse bellows for increased upper bottom mobility, and IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) tabs on both the left and right shoulder pocket flap. IFF tabs are IR (infrared) reflective and can be seen with NVDs. They can be covered with hook-and-loop material when not in use.
Upgrades also include two forward tilted thigh pockets with elastic drawstring (as well as Velcro) for closure, bellowed calf storage pocket on the left and right leg, moisture-wicking tan or brown T-shirt, a patrol cap with a double thick bill and internal pocket, rigger belt, tan suede hot-weather desert boot or temperate-weather boots, and moisture-wicking socks. It should be noted that the addition of the Rigger belt and moisture-wicking socks were not directly related to the development and introduction of the ACU.
Of course, no discussion of the ACU is complete without some mention of the new ACUPAT (Army Combat Uniform PATtern) camouflage. It’s one of the first things that one notices about the ACU. The goal in developing ACUPAT or ARPAT (ARmy PATtern), as it’s also known, was a single multiple environment camouflage pattern to provide rapid deployment options without the need to retrofit personnel with extra uniforms.
Although the ACU underwent considerable field testing before its final adoption, as with everything, there is always room for improvement. Some issues that have arisen with the ACU include Velcro attachments / closures that fray and rip easily and don’t grip well, and uniform pockets and crotches that rip easily due to weak stitching. The Army appears to have fixed the weak stitching issue by now utilizing a more durable stitching. Tru-Spec TRU
The Tru-Spec TRU Tactical Response Uniform is based on the ACU but differs slightly from, and improves upon, the ACU. In developing the TRU, Tru-Spec looked at the issues that have arisen with the official-issue ACU. The designers also solicited input for improvements from several tactical officers around the country, including members of the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE SRT team in San Diego. The ICE SRT in San Diego also helped test the prototypes of the TRU. The ICE SRT team was the first tactical team to adopt the TRU when the final version went into production in 2006. Both shirt and trousers exceed the MIL-SPEC for the ACU (MIL-44436).
The TRU incorporates proprietary improvements that are aimed at functionality, durability and comfort in the field. Tru-Spec has more than succeeded in its aims. The TRU is everything that the ACU should be and more. The design improvements incorporated in new TRU include zigzag stitching on the hook-and-loop of both the sleeve cuffs and the mandarin collar, extra deep front trouser pockets, double reinforced front trouser pocket openings to protect the pocket from wear and tear caused by the clip-on pocket knives, all hook-and-loop fastenings are secured with new YKK PowerHook® and hidden 5” x 5” pockets in each side of the trouser cargo pockets.
The YKK PowerHook hook-and-loop material used on the TRU appears to be very secure. It’s a substantial improvement over the hook and loop used on the ACU. With the YKK PowerHook, I don’t have to worry about the material failing or pockets accidentally opening, which can be an issue with the original ACU hook and loop, especially on the calf pockets.
Because the TRU was designed specifically for tactical LE, it only has hook-and-loop patches attached on the shoulders of the jacket. However, three pieces of hook-and-loop material are included with the TRU that may be sewn on, if desired, for attaching name tapes and recognition devices. The TRU doesn’t have IR IFF tabs on the shoulder pockets. If desired, IFF tabs may be purchased from a number of tactical suppliers.
Other upgrades with the Tru-Spec TRU include felled trouser inseams and felled jacket shoulder seams, thicker-than-normal leg drawstrings to ensure that they stay tied, reinforced bar tack crotch seam, clean finish hook-and-loop pocket flaps and cuffs, and 1-inch-wide belt loops with 2-1/4-inch openings. The bar tack and felled seams are important. A bar tack is a series of stitches for reinforcing areas in the garment. A felled seam is a stress-resistant seam formed by joining overlapped garment part edges with two or more rows of stitches.
The TRU also differs from the ACU in the available colors / camouflage patterns. Tru-Spec presently offers the TRU in many color choices to meet the needs of practically every agency: black, khaki, olive drab, navy blue, woodland camo, three-color desert camo, digital woodland camo, digital desert camo, digital urban camo, and MultiCam® camo.
The woodland and three-color desert camo used on the TRU is identical to that used on the classic BDU / DCU. At this time, Tru-Spec doesn’t offer the TRU in ACUPAT, although ACUPAT is available from Tru-Spec in its MIL-SPEC ACU. All colors are vat dyed or vat printed for maximum resistance to fading. Coordinated accessory items are also available from Tru-Spec, including boonie hats and patrol caps, helmet covers, T-shirts, shoulder conversion kits and name tape kits.
Agencies desiring a universal camouflage will find MultiCam to be an excellent choice. MultiCam is a special pattern from Crye Precision that was developed in cooperation with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Center. It is designed to work in multiple environments, including woodland, desert and urban.
Before adopting ACUPAT, the Army tested a variety of patterns. According to Crye, the MultiCam pattern came out on top of all patterns tested in two consecutive tests, although the design was passed over in favor of the Army-modified version of the MARPAT (MARine PATtern) for use in the ACU Program.
Although camouflage uniforms have become popular with tactical teams, many agencies still prefer solid color tactical uniforms, the consensus being that they look more professional and less like military. Solid colors are less effective than multiple-color patterns for camouflage because the latter better break up outlines, but this is generally less of a concern for law enforcement.
That said, a solid color can be more effective camouflage than one might think. When it comes to camouflage, color and movement are more important than pattern. Color that contrasts with the environment and motion naturally draw the eye. OD fatigues have been around for more than 60 years. They still do a good job. During Canadian military testing, OD was found to be only 30% less effective than CADPAT (CAnaDian PATtern), the pattern from which MARPAT was derived. Khaki can also be an effective color in the right environment, e.g., dessert terrain.
Black and navy are among the worst colors for camouflage in any terrain, day or night. However, their high visibility is one reason many SWAT teams use them. That and the fact that there color is more like the standard duty uniforms of many police departments.
The TRU is available in 6.5-ounce 50% nylon / 50% cotton ripstop and 7-ounce 65% polyester / 35% cotton ripstop. Although 50/50 nylon / cotton is standard for the U.S. military, most law enforcement agencies prefer 65/35 poly / cotton for maximum durability. Due to its lower cotton content, 65/35 poly / cotton fades less, resists stains better, and wrinkles less than 50/50 nylon / cotton. Although the 65/35 poly / cotton is slightly heavier than the 50/50 nylon / cotton, there isn’t any noticeable difference between the two fabrics for hot-weather comfort.
The 65/35 poly / cotton TRU in OD was selected for this evaluation. The workmanship on the sample was excellent. It was both comfortable and practical. Elbow and knee pads are available from Tru-Spec for the TRU. The same pads also fit into the elbow and knee pouches on the ACU. The pads are made of 100% neoprene fabric. The TRU Tactical Response Uniform is an outstanding general purpose tactical uniform. It is tougher, more functional and provides greater comfort than the ACU. The TRU is fully GSA compliant.
Eugene Nielsen is a private consultant and a former police officer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.