5.11 Tactical's Clothing and Luggage Line
Written by Mick Williams
5.11 has steadily increased it's line of clothing from the well known tactical pant to a plethora of clothing options for uniform, tactical, and plain clothes officers to choose. 5.11 has also introduced a line of tactical gear bags and footwear as well. Addressing the needs of users in the field, 5.11 has focused on introducing head to toe clothing solutions and accessories.
5.11 Tactical Pants and Shirts
5.11 was first known for the tactical pants that were issued by the FBI. The 5.11 Tactical Pants are made with heavy cotton and have the distinctive pocket layout. While the standard tactical pant is a good pant used around the world, there were a few changes that users requested from experience wearing these pants. The small utility pocket on the front of the pant has been used for cell phones, spare magazines, and hand held lights.
One issue with the utility pocket has been the placement on the right side of the pant, which makes it fairly nonfunctional as a hasty pocket for a spare magazine or light for right-handed shooters. 5.11 has now moved the pocket to the left side and put a magazine divider in the pocket. This move makes it more functional to put a light or spare magazines (the pocket will accommodate a double stack magazine or 2 single stack magazines) in place as emergency reloads or back up light.
The corner seams of the front pockets and the rear slash pockets were reinforced with extra cloth to withstand the constant wear created by knives and flashlights with pocket clips. The reinforcement on the pockets is effective in protecting against wear and also gives a pocket clip a sturdier attachment point. The tactical pant has the well-placed cargo pockets on the legs with Velcro closures. The utility strap is on the right side. This is not a drag strap, but a utility hanger strap.
The shirt in both materials has a vented back to help keep the user cool. The shirt has a button down collar, bellowed chest pockets, and roll up tabs on the long sleeves. The shirt has the now familiar vertical opening large chest pockets for large items such as PDAs, larger documents, and cell phones.
While the design changes are significant, the biggest addition to the tactical clothing line is the addition of a rip-stop nylon version of the tactical pant and the tactical long-sleeve and short-sleeve shirts. The nylon shirt and pants are approximately an ounce lighter overall than the standard cotton canvas tactical line.
The nylon shirt and pant breathe better in humid weather, allowing better wicking of sweat away from the body. Though the material is lightweight, it is very durable; taking a knee on the range or ground-fighting training were no problem for the nylon tactical pant. The tactical clothing line is being offered in all the standard colors, plus 5.11 has added their own digital desert camo pattern as an option.
5.11 is offering a unique accessory for the tactical pants. The pants have long had a pocket in the knees to insert a kneepad. 5.11 now offers a soft kneepad that will fit in the pocket, without being overly bulky. The pad moves with the knee as it bends, offering very good soft protection. The value of kneepads has been shown in keeping an operator from taking himself out of a fight by damaging his own knees.
The soft pad gives protection against hard surfaces, used brass, and protects the knee as one moves across a surface on the knees or a low crawl. The soft kneepad, while offering good protection, is not recommended for surfaces such as gravel or in structures where puncture threats, such as nails or glass, exist for users. For such environments, knee protection with a hard exterior shell is recommended.
5.11 has two models of polo’s available: the tactical and professional model. The tactical model uses Dri-X-treme® wicking pique knit and a fully gusseted side panel. The Tactical Polo has hidden mic pockets on the shoulders to clip a mic to while on patrol. It also has two hidden pen pockets on the left sleeve. The Professional is a 100% cotton polo that is well suited for embroidery. It does not have the hidden mic pockets, but does have dual pen pockets. Both polo’s wear well in warm weather on the range and look nice in the classroom.
5.11 has come out with a few options for readers’ feet. The first is the HRT Boot, a well-made 8” boot. The HRT has a number of unique facets based on user feedback. The HRT uses a mix of Armortex® Kevlar® nylon for the side panels and waterproof leather for the outer shell of the boot. The toe is covered with a rubber to reinforce and protect when climbing. The outsole near the front of the boot has what 5.11 calls Prone Position Grip, which is a small amount of nubby tread. This is used when one has flattened one’s feet out to prone out behind a rifle or low crawling. The inside heel is reinforced with a hardened rubber to assist in the prone position.
The boot also has Sympatex® lining for waterproofing and blood borne pathogen protection. The sole of the boot has nice tread throughout and onto the heel which helps dig the heel in when going downhill. The arch has rope grip texturing which, according to 5.1, was added to assist in rope work such as fast-roping. The HRT uses a Shock Mitigation System™ to spread the shock from the heel striking the ground. The HRT also has a non-metallic shank in it to protect the foot from punctures.
The HRT is comfortable to wear for extended periods of time in a variety of conditions from snow to hot days. The boot is light and not bulky, while still offering waterproofing and protection for the feet. The HRT is available in black and desert sand (the desert sand has waterproof suede and condura instead of the leather and Armortex®).
5.11 also has the ATAC, a side-zip 8” boot. The ATAC is also offered in a non-zipping 6” version, though it was not reviewed. The ATAC has several of the same features as the HRT, including the shock mitigation system™, Prone Position Grip, rope grip in arch, tread layout and outersole material, non-metallic shank, and Drilex® lining. The ATAC is not waterproof and uses cordura on the upper. However, the toe of the boot is all leather, which allows it to be polished as opposed to the HRT.
The ATAC has a small hidden pocket on the back of the upper. The zipper was easy to use and the boot slipped on and off easily. The ATAC was also found to very comfortable. One user commented that it was the most comfortable 8” boot under $100 he had worn. By the time of publication, 5.11 will release the ATAC Shield, which will be a waterproof version with a composite safety toe.
5.11 rounds out the footwear system with their socks. The sock is available in a 6” and a 9” over-the-calf version. The socks are 80% cool-max, 8% nylon, 8% spandex, and 4% rubber. 5.11 considers the socks an integral part of the Shock Mitigation System™ and designed the sock to be part of the compression process. The socks were very comfortable to wear during a couple of ten plus hour training days, especially the over-the-calf sock which provided great support. The socks are only available in black at this time.
The use of the compression type shirt as an undershirt in law enforcement has grown extensively over the past few years. As officers have realized that police work is sometimes an athletic event, the benefit of performance enhancing clothing has taken hold. The compression spandex shirt offers the user a cooler shirt, as well as better support for the muscles during strenuous activity. 5.11 looked at the compression shirt from a performance standpoint and came up with a few options.
The Muscle Mapping™ shirt is a forward leap in the compression shirt. The MMS uses 80% Tactel® nylon, 7% nylon, and 5% Lycra® spandex. This is a light, tight fitting shirt that wicks away sweat and is very breathable. Unique to this shirt is the set up of three different compression zones; the shirt tightness does not feel the same all over the body. The lowest compression is in the underarm where the knitting is much more open and breathable. This prevents seams from rubbing on the body.
Medium compression occurs in the chest and upper back. This area fits like a standard spandex compression shirt, offering some support while it is very mobile. The highest compression is in the abdomen and lower back; here the shirt is very tight. This gives the core of the body support (similar to a lifting girdle), yet is allows for mobility and is breathable. When used under body armor and a duty belt, the difference in support can be felt throughout a workday. The Muscle Mapping™ shirt is very comfortable through a shift and makes a great base layer shirt.
5.11 also offers a Tight Crew shirt in a long sleeve and short sleeve version. The Tight Crew is 80% polyester and 20% spandex, with even compression throughout most of the shirt. The Tight Crew has mesh fabric gussets in the underarm area to increase breath-ability in that area.
This also addresses one of the complaints about spandex compression, chaffing in the underarm by tight fitting seams. The long sleeve Tight Crew is a great base layer under a turtleneck and body armor in cold weather, as it allows body moisture to wick off the body. This keeps the body comfortable, especially when going in and out of cold weather.
The 5.11 vest has been very popular as a cover garment because of the functional pocket design, but as one friend has said, it could be renamed the “shoot me first vest.” 5.11 has taken the functionality of the vest and put it in more discreet packages.
The Jean Jacket and the Monterey Jacket are well made jackets with no overt tactical pockets. Both jackets have the Back-Up Belt System with the vertical opening just inside the jacket between the exterior of the jacket and the liner, similar to the vest. The Back-Up Belt System allows attachment of a holster and set of pouches (baton, flashlight, OC, and cuffs) to the inside of the jacket.
One very good feature about the jackets is that the pouch system can be accessed through the standard slash pockets on the jacket. This allows the wearer to access the weapon or equipment by doing nothing more than putting his hands in his coat pocket if he has oriented the pouches to allow access from that angle.
Also inside the liner to the rear of the jacket on each side, there are pouches already set up for a portable radio. There is a wire channel that runs up the shoulder, allowing the concealment of an earpiece wire. This gives the user a very usable concealment system for communications for surveillance work. The jackets also have removable or reversible pockets on the inside of the jacket that can carry spare magazines, pens, and flashlights. The pockets zip onto the jacket liner.
The VIP Blazer was designed specifically for close protection detail personnel, but is very usable for detectives as well. The Blazer has a standard exterior pocket layout found on any common blazer. The look and cut of the Blazer is very nice and looks very good as a work blazer. The interior pocket layout is almost the same as the jackets, the difference being that none of the Back-Up Belt System pouches can be accessed through an exterior pocket. The Blazer also has the same radio pouch and wire channel set-up. Currently the VIP Blazer is only available in Navy.
5.11 has entered the outerwear market with their 3-in-1 Jacket. This jacket would make an outstanding uniform jacket and also works well as a plain clothes or tactical jacket. It is made up of a nylon shell and a zip-in/zip-out fleece soft shell. Either component can stand alone or be combined. The nylon shell is a two-layer waterproof/breathable fabric. It has a stowaway hood and two-way side zippers that allow for duty belt access or vent the underarm area.
The front zipper is two-way as well and also allows access to the duty belt. The shell has a pull out badge and ID panel in the chest pockets as well as a large back ID panel that pulls out of a large back pocket. This allows for covert or overt use of IDs. The shell has a total of twelve pockets. In addition to the three already mentioned, there are two interior chest pouches, two zippered hand pockets, two angled sleeve pockets, and two hidden chest pocket similar to the vertical pockets on the duty shirt.
These hidden pockets have the Velcro™ pile in them for use with the pouch system. The shell has adjustable cuffs and hidden bungee waist to keep the fit of the jacket uniform professional looking. The shell also has two small straps at each shoulder for lapel mics.
5.11 added four gear bags to their product line to support their clothing line. The largest of these is the Mission Ready bag. The Mission Ready bag is 30” wide, 20” deep, and 13” tall. It has three large side zippered pockets for accessing small items, and two larger pockets in the top flap. It has roller wheels with a long walking handle that stows out of the way when not used. It also has carry handles, a storable shoulder strap, and a strap to piggyback a small bag (such as the Two-Day Tac Bag).
The Mission Ready bag was able to hold and transport a set of Point Blank tactical armor, an Eagle Rhodesian Rig with rifle plate, an RBR helmet, a tactical duty belt, a nomex flight suit, and the HRT boots. The bag carried the entire personal call-out kit for a SWAT call-out with the exception of the M-4. The carry handles stitching on one side of the top loosened after several uses with the entire load in it, but the others straps held up with no problem.
The Two Day Tac Bag is a smaller bag that can easily convert from briefcase to backpack. The bag is 20” wide, 6.5” deep, and 12.5” tall with exterior pockets as well. There is an exterior zipper pouch on the top with a flap cover with a smaller zipper pouch on it. The main compartment has compression straps and two separate zipper pockets in it to separate out the small stuff.
The bag has a secondary compartment that is almost as big at the main compartment on the back of the bag. This a great spot for a laptop or larger item that you need to be able to access easily. The bag was carried easily with the backpack straps which quickly became the preferred way to carry it.
The 5.11 Patrol Bag is made for duty use on patrol. The Patrol Bag is 18.5" wide, 8" deep, and 12" tall with a zipper top flap. The top flap has Velcro straps for stowing a baton and a large strip of pile Velcro to attach identification. It also works very well to attach the pouches from the Back-Up Belt System. This works well especially with the handcuff case and the flashlight pouch.
On the inside of the top are two zipper pouches, pen pockets, and another pouch. The main compartment has two removable dividers to organize the space. The front of the bag has three pouches, one with a flap Velcro cover and two with elastic at the top. The elastic closure pouches are great for flashlights or Mk-9 OC canisters. The bag is rounded out with two zipper pouches on each end. The bag has two carry handles and a removable shoulder strap.
Time and space do not allow for a review of everything in the 5.11 line, as they are constantly developing new, innovative products and improving their current items. Furthermore, 5.11 will continue to develop new products by listening to end users and addressing their needs.
Mick Williams is a patrol officer, SWAT team member, and defensive tactics instructor with the Bloomington, IN Police. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in Law and Order, Oct 2005
Rating : Not Yet Rated
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