Smith & Wesson®
brand boots have been around for a few
years. Both the S&W names of “Guardian” and “Shield” were used for lines of
footwear in addition to handguns. S&W has three new lines of boots, each of
which are serious upgrades to the previous footwear lines. These new footwear lines
are the Breach-series, Tac-series and Hiker/Tracker-series.
The Tac-series uses waterproof leather, both black
full-leather and tan suede. The Tac-series is an upgrade to the previous Performance-series.
Both kinds of Tact-series boots are available as lace-only and zipper/lace. The
Side Zip versions use the YKK® side zipper All Tac-series boots are 8-inch
versions. The Tac-series includes one full-leather version with puncture-resistant
insoles. These have an MSRP of $86 to $93, with the puncture resistant boots
running $114 to $120.
The new Hiker/Tracker-series includes the Tracker 8-inch
brown suede boot and the Concealer Xtreme 9-inch Realtree™ camo pattern,
Thinsulate™ boot. These have and MSRP of $90 and 125, respectively.
Of Smith & Wesson’s new lines of boots, the Breach-series
has the largest selection. The Breach-series is an upgrade to the former
Defender-series. The lightweight Breach-series boots include 8-inch black
leather, 8-inch black leather side zip, and 8-inch tan suede side zip. These
are obviously geared toward tactical operations. The two patrol-oriented Breach
boots are the 6-inch and the 3-inch black leather versions.
The Breach-series is a bit more “athletic” and a bit less
“tactical” than the Tac-series. The Breach-series boots have an MSRP between
$72 and $86. We field-tested both the S&W Breach 3-inch Oxford and the S&W
Breach 6-inch Boot.
As of early-2014, the Breach-series, Tac-series and
Hiker/Tracker-series are only available in Men’s sizes, generally 6 to 13 R/W.
Be careful on the sizing. The first impression may be that the boots are
undersized. Based on the two pairs we tested, the S&W footwear actually
runs quite true to size, both length and width.
Don’t make the mistake of getting too large of a boot based
on the straight-from-the-box fit. Most hard-use, long-lasting boots have the
design, materials and fabrics that require a wear break-in period. The initial
fit on both the 3-inch shoe and 6-inch boot was both snug and stiff with one or
two tight spots. Expect a break-in period of 3 to 5 days, even on this
“athletic” style footwear.
The Right Materials
The S&W boots use all the right materials in the sole
and upper. The outsole (tread) is made from carbon rubber. Blown rubber is
lighter, but not as durable. Carbon rubber is more durable, but heavier and
stiffer—good traits for patrol or tactical footwear. The outsole is also oil
and slip resistant. In fact, this slip-resistant traction even on wet surfaces
was one of the first features we noticed. The outsole tread on these S&W
boots is non-marking, i.e., the sole does not leave scuff marks. Of course, the
aggressive, saw-tooth pattern gave a lot of traction on dirt, mud, gravel and
The midsole is located between the outsole and the upper and
is an extremely important part of the boot. It stabilizes excess foot motion
and provides cushioning and shock absorption. The insole sits directly beneath
the foot. The premium materials for these parts of the shoe are EVA (ethylene
vinyl acetate) and PU (polyurethane). EVA is a foam that is light and gives excellent
All of the S&W Breach-series, Tac-series and Hiker/Tracker-series
boots use EVA midsoles. PU is also a foam, but it is denser, heavier and more
durable than EVA. All of the S&W boots use removable PU insoles. The PU
insole helps distribute the weight of your body evenly over your heel and arch
to reduce trauma.
The upper on the Breach-series is a combination of leather
and coarse-grade, knitted nylon mesh. The 600-denier nylon mesh side panels run
ankle to toe, and include the tongue. This gives flexibility to the boot. The
nylon upper panels also allow the foot to breathe, which helps to keep your
feet dry. All these EVA, PU and nylon materials make the Breach-series of
footwear extremely lightweight. That alone adds to their comfort.
The S&W boots use a Gore-Tex® waterproof breathable
membrane. This Gore-Tex mesh combination gives the Breach-series boots breathability
for hot weather comfort but is still waterproof. It is perfect for the heat and
humidity of summer and fall months, but still surprisingly weather-tolerant for
the cold and wet of winter and spring months.
The S&W boots use Cambrelle® non-woven synthetic fabric
as linings and the EVA footbed has Aegis® antimicrobial treatment.
Field Test Results
Laces were heavy-duty and the boots were easy to cinch. Both
the 3-inch Oxford
and the 6-inch Boot have what look like hooks at the top of the lacing. These
are actually nylon eyelet loops. They work quite well in allowing the laces to pass
through to cinch up the footwear and to be pulled back to remove the footwear. These
nylon glides reduce lace wear. We did not test a Side Zip boot. YKK zippers
have a good reputation but the leather webbing on side zip sometimes limits how
far the boot upper will open.
A few years ago, Tactical
magazine tested 11 pairs of 8-inch tactical boots. The S&W
Breach-series boots can be rated using that same 1 to 5 scale, with 5 as the
best. The Break-In category is 2.5 of 5. All boots need a break-in period.
However, both these S&W Breach-series leather/nylon boots seemed to take almost
as long as full leather boots to go from snug and tight to comfortable and
supporting. Oddly, out of the box, the laces on the 3-inch Oxford were too short to tie. The factory
40-inch laces were immediately replaced with 54-inch laces and all was well.
The Comfort category is 5.0 of 5. The EVA midsole and the PU
insole make for a very cushioned yet supportive feel. The boot does a good job
of absorbing the shock of running on pavement and sidewalks. The padded nylon
mesh upper, tongue and Achilles tendon protector in the 3-inch Oxford are all comfortable and in the 6-inch
Boot give good ankle support and protection. The extreme light weight
definitely adds to the overall comfort of wear.
The Weather category is 4.5 of 5. We wore them in below-freezing,
late-winter, wet early-spring and warm late-spring conditions and the boots
were very tolerant of all weather conditions. To make this issue of Tactical Response
, the review period
ended before the hot and humid summer. However, the large areas of 600-denier
nylon mesh are specifically designed for breathability in these burning/scorching
conditions. Depending on the weather, the Breach-series footwear was warm
enough, cool enough, and definitely dry enough.
The Function category is 5.0 of 5. The aggressive tread gave
excellent traction on uneven surfaces. The slip-resistant tread compound was
just that—very slip resistant—on smooth, wet surfaces. In fact, traction was
the strongest attribute of both the Oxford
and the Boot. The light boot weight and trim overall size and bulk made it easy
to get to the pedals in the patrol car. The overall protection and ankle
support was very good from the 6-inch Boot, very close to the heavier, bulkier
The Durability category is a tentative 4.5 of 5. This is a bit
uncertain simply because we only had the 3-inch Oxford and 6-inch Boot for three months, and
divided the wear time between two boots. At this point, on both pairs of
footwear, the outsole tread shows zero wear. The laces have zero frays and all the
eyelets are fully secure. The cement construction, less expensive than the
stitch down and direct attach methods but arguably less durable, shows no sign
whatsoever of separating between any of the layers.
The Overall rating then is 4.3 out of 5. The S&W Breach-series
is held back only by the slightly long break-in period, which also means the
break-in period is worth the wait. Frankly, the prominent S&W medallion on
the ankle and the Smith & Wesson name on the tongue are a matter of pride
The Smith & Wesson line of boots are made by Wellco. Both
Wellco and Altama® are sister companies, both are divisions of Tactical
Wellco dates back to the 19th century and their first shoe
factory in Germany. In the early 1930s, the German company developed the first
practical method for molding and attaching a rubber sole to a shoe upper in a
single vulcanizing operation. Wellco
Enterprises, Inc. began operations in 1941 under its original name, Wellco Shoe
In 1965, Wellco developed the Jungle Boot for the US Army. As
a result of unsatisfactory performance of previous Army combat footwear in the
jungles of Vietnam,
the Army adopted Wellco technology for the manufacture of its hot-weather
boots, and this product thus became known as the “Vietnam Boot.” Later the
technology used to manufacture the Vietnam Boot was adopted for all Army combat
Through the years, Wellco has participated in numerous
further developments of combat footwear for the U.S. Military. For instance, a
desert boot was developed in 1991 to include features and improvements
specified by General Schwarzkopf. General Schwarzkopf selected the Wellco
Desert Boot as standard issue for troops deploying in Operation Desert Storm.
The present generation of combat boots, with a direct-molded
rubber base sole, a polyurethane midsole, and a rugged high-traction rubber
tread sole can be traced to a development contract awarded in 1995 by U.S. Army
Natick Laboratories. The new, state-of-the-art facility in Morristown, Tenn. is
the largest footwear molding facility in North America.
In their Uniform and Military lines, Wellco also makes
Temperate Weather, Hot Weather, Hot Weather Jungle, and X-4ORCE Combat boots.
Beginning in 1969 as a child’s shoe plant and later adapted
to produce jungle boots for the soldiers in Vietnam, Altama
has been producing Mil-Spec boots
for the Department of Defense ever
The original desert boots were designed to perfectly suit
the hot climates. It used suede and air mesh to create the upper portion and
had a lining that removed moisture and enabled the foot to breathe. The sole
was designed with a lung pattern to ensure good grip in the most loose sand or
Additional features included slip resistance, even in oil
and acid, so the soldier was firmly planted in all conditions. The rubber sole
was non-marking, thus making the boot safe indoors or out. The specially
designed exo-skeleton support eliminated ankle and foot exhaustion. This line
is still being used in the Middle East today.
In their Tactical Operations line, Altama makes the LITESpeed
, EXOSpeed II
, and Ortho-TacX®
versions of tactical boot.