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Skully's tactical gear

Skully’s Tactical Gear Guide | Part I

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This entry is part 1 of 3 in the Skully’s Tactical Gear Guide

Hello, reader. Skully here once again, this time to help guide you to prepare yourself properly for uncertain and violent times. In this piece, I’ll show you what tactical gear I recommend, as well as why. With all the recent news and talk at home and abroad of such, this list assumes the scenario of military conflict or civil war. 

Let’s start with consideration to your environment: are you in a city? Woodlands? Desert? Tailor all your tactical gear toward blending in with your environment. You know what the area around you looks like. We’ll start with what to keep on your person. 

HELMET

Your helmet will be essential to for protecting your head. Your brain is your most dangerous weapon, and without it you can’t and won’t survive, both figuratively and literally. Whether from blunt force trauma, explosive shrapnel, or from gunfire, your helmet is an essential piece of protection against the dangers of modern combat. A bike helmet won’t cut it, and your German grandpa’s Stalhelm he wore when he was an electrician won’t fare much better in modern combat. You need better, and in particular a helmet that can mitigate pistol rounds and shrapnel. A rifle shot to the head is still likely to be lethal, but some modern helmets have on occasion done their job against rifle rounds. For those on a budget, you can easily buy a US military surplus PASGT helmet. It worked for US soldiers since the 1980’s and was standard issue until after the Iraq War. They’re still used by foreign militaries today and have a new home in the SWAT teams of several police departments. My own personal recommendation is the ACH helmet. I wore it during my time in the US Army and had zero complaints. You can find them easily available online. It comes with internal velcro attachments and pads that can be removed and customized to fit your head comfortably. The velcro also conveniently can be used to attach a helmet cover that goes over the helmet and can help blend into your environment. You can buy an H-Nape chinstrap from military surplus stores online to replace the normal military issue chinstrap. It also comes with a pre-drilled hole in the front which can be used to attach a base plate for a night vision system. There are other more expensive and modular helmets out and available for the more economically-advantaged, to whom I recommend the MICH, but take the ballistic safety of your head seriously.

EYEPRO

Next up is eye protection, or eyepro for short. While nowhere near as powerful as body armor, it can and does protect against fragments and certain projectiles that could otherwise end up in your eyes. It also serves as a shield for your eyes in dusty environments. I personally recommend the ESS Crossbow. I carried two of these when I served. The first was shaded for daylight operations, and felt like sunglasses when I wore them. The second was clear, which I wore at night (unless you’re Corey Hart or the Blues Brothers, don’t wear sunglasses at night). 

EARPRO

Of equal importance is your ear protection, or earpro. There’s actually some options here. The easiest is to get simple earplugs. You can find these at WalMart, your local outdoors store, and certainly your local gun shop and shooting range. The gun shops and shooting ranges often will sell two plugs inside a small box used to store them. I’ve found the more gelatinous ones to be more comfortable and secure, perfect for most operations. For the more tactically-inclined, there’s also the PELTORS system. This noise-cancelling system can be hooked up to your helmet and radio, and provides superb hearing protection, while also allowing you to communicate with your team on whatever radio frequencies you’re on. There are headband styles that can be worn under your helmet, neckband styles to go around the back of your beck, or ARC attachments that attach to the helmet itself. Be aware, the PELTORS systems are fantastic, yet they go for a seriously pretty penny.

HEAD COVER

You’ll also need to find a hat. There are many varieties, such as ball caps, patrol caps, berets, boonies, etc. In a predominantly sunny and open environment, I recommend the boonie cap to give yourself some shade. They usually also come with an adjustable band, so you can keep it tight if you want, or tuck it under the hat to wear it loose. You can also keep it hanging by the band around your neck (not recommended, a sneaky enemy could choke you from behind with it). You can find boonie caps online from Tru-Spec, Rothco, and Propper. Make sure the camo pattern matches the local terrain. There are also hats with flaps available as well to help protect your neck and ears from the sun and the cold. You can improvise one by sewing a piece of fabric onto the back half of the inside of a patrol cap or ballcap. Another quick word on headgear: don’t rely on headgear to save you in combat. There’s a reason they’re only worn in non-combat operations, and that’s to deal with the sun and the environment. Officers and leaders should have different headgear than the rest of the men if they so choose, but in combat, all men should basically look the same so as to prevent targeting of leadership. 

CAMO UNIFORMS

Going down next, we’ll get to the uniform. Get 2 of whatever you choose. Tru-Spec, Rothco, and Propper all make uniforms, and then there’s the various military surplus stores both in your area and online. There are many choices in camo available, from Rhodesian Brushstroke, to KLMK, to Alpenflage, to UCP (shudder). Your German grandpa’s Pea-Dot 44 uniform can work great in the right environment (a green/brown one). Consider your environment again. You wouldn’t wear white winter camo in a green environment.  For a green environment, my 3 recommendations are M81 Woodlands/ERDL, MARPAT Woodlands, and Flecktarn. For a more tan or desert environment, I recommend either multicam/OCP, or MARPAT Desert. Multicam/OCP is the US Army universal issue, and is wildly popular and available online and your local suplus store. For the MARPAT in both desert and woodlands patterns, they’re common at most military surplus stores as well. You can usually find M81/ERDL as well, and for those with a dirt-cheap budget, you can even shop around in other stores where ERDL pattern clothes may be sold as generic ripoffs. However, don’t expect them to last long in a combat environment. 

TOPS

Now that we’ve passed the camo recommendations, let’s get to your actual top. In a very hot environment a T-shirt may be all you can bear, but in most conditions, you can get either a regular blouse/field jacket, or a combat shirt. I typically wore the US Army OCP issue blouse in garrison, and a combat shirt in the field. The advantage of the combat shirt is that it’s lighter and can hold almost as much as the blouse. However, the blouse can get warmer and has two chest pockets to carry extra items if required. The combat shirt is also designed to be worn with a plate carrier over it, and while you can do so as well with the blouse (or anything else for that matter), you’ll lose easy access to those two chest pockets if you use them (which I sometimes did). Most US Army issue gear and its copies, as well as quite a bit of foreign surplus have loop sections on the front and sleeves. For the front, this is meant to display your name, service branch, and rank. On the sleeves the US flag is displayed on the right with the blue field facing forward (as if being flown into battle), below the flag was the patch of the unit the soldier had deployed with, and on the left sleeve the unit the soldier is currently assigned to. A quick word on it: foreign surplus is often set up different from US-produced gear. Some of it is on par with American gear. In some cases better, and in other cases worse. Do your research before looking at foreign gear. I learned this the hard way with Soviet surplus.

PANTS/TROUSERS

Next is your uniform bottom/pants. Ideally you want them in the same camo as your top. I highly recommend combat pants with built-in kneepads for all field operations. The gold standard has almost always been straight from Crye Precision. They’re expensive and well worth the price. If you’re not as inclined to go the expensive route, get regular issue uniform pants in the same camo pattern as your top. You can buy kneepads to wrap around them later. 

GLOVES

Next, it’s time to protect your hands. I always recommend a good pair of tactical gloves to wear with the uniform. Mechanix Wear makes some fantastic gloves you can get. I’m also a big fan of the leather issue gloves the US Army issues. Although many soldiers hate them because they can’t retain heat in cold environments, I love them for tactical situations. For colder environments, get a pair of insulated gloves from Mechanix. You won’t regret it. 

BELT

Now we get a little bit lower. You’ll need a belt to keep your pants up. This’ll be especially needed if you’re crawling in a combat environment.  I like the Propper Tactical BDU belt. Whatever you do, don’t get one of those automatic belt buckles like what’s common in most military surplus shops. Those are made for decoration and dress uniforms, not combat, and they will bend and break quickly under combat conditions. Save your time, money, and yourself from the headache. 

UNDERWEAR

Getting a little bit intimate here, but your underwear is another important component. Aside from its obvious function, it can be a hindrance, or not so much of a hindrance. By this I mean that cotton underwear typically absorbs sweat and causes friction. Combine these with the environment of your inner thigh and your genitals, and you’ve got a recipe for infection, bacteria buildup, and possibly jock itch if you’re just one of those sick unhygienic freaks. But there are things you can do to mitigate such risks. I personally like nylon and polyester together in a moisture-wicking configuration, and I’m a fan of something that doesn’t look like tighty whities. Enter the hilariously-named Ranger Panties. Silky smooth, lightweight, quick-drying, non-cotton, and designed for intense exercise in a hot and humid environment, these are the absolute best in my opinion. They’re practically Daisy Dukes for men, and you can show off a good bit of your quads (and your covered-up manhood) with these things. And your lady may like seeing you in them too. Gruntstyle sells these; so do Patriot Tactical and Zero Foxtrot. Get at least 7 pairs and change every other day, along with taking care of your hygiene, especially if you’ve been PTing hard or its combat equivalent to prevent any possible issues that could require medical attention.

SOCKS

Let’s get to your feet. Your brain and then your feet are your most dangerous weapons. Your brain to plan the operation, and your feet to get you there and back again. Foot care is essential in the field. Let’s get you squared away first on socks. Many companies like Dickie’s offer some good boot socks, but I personally like Fox River tactical boot socks. They form to your feet, they’re cushioned to absorb impact and shock, they can stay reasonably warm, they’re moisture wicking, and they’re extremely comfortable. You can find these socks on the Fox River site, or even Amazon. Get at least 14 pairs. For a 2-week field rotation, you’ll have one pair for every day you’re out there. Change your socks once a day or into a new pair every morning, or every other day if you haven’t really done anything the previous day. Maintain your foot hygiene religiously. Athlete’s foot and trench foot are nothing to toy with and can be prevented with simple hygiene procedures. Make sure to also include foot powder and foot cream in your kit and don’t forget to air your feet out. 

BOOTS

Finally, let’s talk about your boots. They’re just as important as your socks. Your boots will also take the wear and tear on a march, so good soles are essential. You also want a boot that’s not too tight, but not too loose. A march with loose boots can cause friction, which can lead to foot injury. I personally dislike a lot of the cop-style and old military stiff leather boots for this reason, along with the fact the soles can often dig into the Achilles tendon, which can make walking painful. Fortunately I found a great alternative to this situation with Oakley’s Light Assault Boot. It comes in weighing almost nothing, fits like a shoe, can take the beating of a gruelling ruck march, and serve great both in the field and in garrison. For those still serving, these boots come in AR 670-1 compliant tan, and also in black.

ACCESSORIES

Boot blousers are something I loved in garrison, as it meant I didn’t have to spend time tucking my pants into my boots. In the field, I simply wore my trousers over the boots. If you choose to use them, wrap them around your leg just above the top of your boot, hook together, and then roll your pants beneath the band.

I always kept a Rite-in-the-Rain waterproof notepad on me, usually in a shoulder pocket. I usually had a Zebra F-301 compact retractable ballpoint pen in the pen pockets on the sleeve of the uniform as well. Yes, I got THAT specific. They were the only pens that never fell out. 

If you have any extra space, you can also insert a headlamp in somewhere as well. White light is great to light up the dark, but make sure it can switch to red, which is hardest for an enemy to spot in the dark. 

Various Tips and Tricks

Some easy cool-guy tips to make you look cooler:

-The US Army OCP uniform contains pen pockets on the left sleeve for your pens. You can put a small notepad in one of the sleeve pockets. You can fit a cellphone in your other sleeve pocket. 

-There are 8 pockets in a US Army OCP pair of trousers. Your regular pockets can hold your wallet and vehicle keys. I often used the side cargo pockets to hold my cap and gloves. In the bottom two pockets I usually kept my eyepro and a tourniquet. This freed up my back pockets for the rare occasion that I needed to use them.

– The ACU-cut uniform includes a flap on the collar that can close the blouse around your neck comfortably for an added camo effect. The cuffs also contain velcro attachments for easy adjustment.

-You can loop a pair of dog tags through a belt loop and leave them in the back pocket of your pants. Soldiers do this while wearing dog tags around their neck as well. The reason is that some enemies like to steal dog tags from the neck to complicate an already-tragic situation. Most do not think to search back pockets for more dog tags.

-You can tie the respective ends of your boot laces to prevent them from coming out when loosening the boot strings. 

-Most surplus patrol caps come with a small pocket on the inside of the cap. While you can’t hide anything major up there, it does make a convenient place to store paper or a few dollar bills.

-You can utilize your hat to temporarily hold something. 

-Removing the pads and liner from your helmet can turn it into an improvised pot to hold water or to use as an improvised shaving basin. 

-Your belt can be utilized as an improvised tourniquet. Use it above the wound on a limb to stop bleeding. Do not try this on your neck or someone else’s, that creates a risk of death by strangulation. 

Tune in next week for Skully’s recommendations on your rucksack, assault pack, and essential field gear! See you next week!

Series NavigationSkully’s Tactical Gear Guide | Part 2 – Rucksack Rumble >>

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Excellent article, thanks.

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