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BlackHawk Duty Gear

Written by Mick Williams

BlackHawk is a well-known manufacturer of nylon equipment. A large percent of the tactical community uses BlackHawk gear for their load-bearing vests and gear. In addition to its tactical gear, BlackHawk recently introduced a line of patrol-oriented duty gear. The company knows many agencies use the nylon duty gear as part of a class “B” uniform. Officials consulted with law enforcement end users and developed the Duty Gear line to address patrol uniform needs.

The basis of any duty gear system is the belts, i.e., the trouser belt and the duty belt. These will be what will make the system comfortable to wear and use. The BlackHawk system uses a trouser and duty belt that is mated together with Velcro®. This method is the best way for distributing weight and keeping the duty belt in place. It minimizes the stress on belt keepers and minimizes the number of keepers needed.

The trouser belt is not excessively thick but is stiff enough to support the weight. The belt is made of Cordura™, and the edges are taped, which helps prevent fraying. The duty belt is also made of Cordura with Velcro on the inside to mate to the trouser belt. The duty belt has, as do all the pouches, a five-layer laminate to add strength and crush resistance.

We used the belt for SWAT call-out gear for a time, and it had a drop holster and a drop thigh rig attached to it during that time. These items tend to crush the belt when loaded down, but over a period of a couple of months, the BlackHawk belt stood up to the weight. Using the belt during SWAT training, it did not pile or scuff due to low crawling, going through windows, etc.

The buckle is a tri-lock design. To close the buckle, you just push the two ends together. To open it however, you have to squeeze the sides and push on a small tab on the center of the belt. People who have had their traditional side clasp buckles pop open when bending over to get something can appreciate this feature.

The duty belt adjusts for size by moving the belt through the buckles and folding it back, like most nylon duty belts. Putting pouches on the belt was relatively easy; it is always somewhat difficult with a new belt and new pouches. The keepers are a polymer lo-vis material that is very strong.

All of the pouches are the same laminated Cordura as the duty belt, and all the edges are taped. All of the pouches are molded to keep shape for easy reholstering and for strength. The pouches attach to the belt via a plastic belt loop bar tacked to the back of the belt. This is not excessively bulky so as not to create a “hot spot” on your waist during long shifts.

All of the pouches use hidden one-way snaps to give the pouches a durable uniform appearance, so you don’t have worry about scratching exposed snaps. The magazine pouches were easy to use and have double snaps on the flap to adjust for the size of the magazine. The edge tape on the inside of magazine did have to be worn down a little bit, as I would occasionally snag it a little when extracting a magazine during a speed reload.

The Mk III sized OC holder worked with a variety of manufacturers’ canisters without a problem. The handcuff pouch has double snaps to adjust for size of cuffs, Peerless and Smith & Wesson cuffs worked well in the pouch. The radio pouch has a hard plastic belt attachment that allows the radio to hang low on the belt and have some movement. Also the pouch can detach from the belt attachment for those who don’t like to use radio mics.

The baton holder is open top and held the baton in place without issue. The flashlight pouch has a flap and holds most 6-volt lights. While the nylon flashlight pouch is good, the best option for a tactical light is the Night-Ops CF light holder. This is simply the best polymer light holder I have used. It was designed to be used with the Night-Ops Gladius and Falcata series lights, but it will work with any light with a 1-inch diameter tube and a 1.25-inch bezel.

The light can be carried bezel up or bezel down with the same level of security. The Mod-U-Lok allows for the carrier to go on and off a duty belt without removing the other gear on your belt. The holder can be adjusted for angle and height, as well. The pouches have held up well to crawling, being thrown in a duty bag, and all the usual abuse we put our duty gear through. They are easy to clean and maintain.

The BlackHawk Duty Gear line will meet the needs of most users wanting nylon duty gear at reasonable prices. The fit and finish are on par for the industry standard that BlackHawk has become known for around the world.

Mick Williams is a patrol officer, SWAT team member and defensive tactics instructor with the Bloomington, IN, Police. He can be reached at williamm@city.bloomington.in.us.

Published in Tactical Response, Sep/Oct 2006

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