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S&W Breach-Series Tactical Boots

Written by Tactical Response Staff

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.

Breach-Series

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 grass.

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 cushioning.

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 Response 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 8-inch versions.

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 of ownership.

SIDEBAR:

Tactical Holdings, Inc.

The Smith & Wesson line of boots are made by Wellco. Both Wellco and Altama® are sister companies, both are divisions of Tactical Holdings, Inc.

Wellco
www.wellco.com

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 Corporation.

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 footwear.

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.

Altama
www.altama.com

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 since.

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 rock terrain.

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.

Published in Tactical Response, May/Jun 2014

Rating : Not Yet Rated


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Altama FootwearSmith & WessonSmith and WessonTactical HoldingsWellco Enterprises
 

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