Buying Cheap Gear: Killing Yourself and the American-based Tactical Product Revolution

by July 14, 2010 07/14/10

You get a call on your phone and it’s Fate, you pick up: “Hey friend, this is Fate, just wanted to give you a heads up that you’re going to be put in an aggressive and dangerous situation next Tuesday. Be prepared.” And the phone call ends. What do you go out and buy? Do you go to WalMart and buy some knee pads, khakis, and an outdoor shirt (or maybe a casket?)

Or do you Google “best damn protective gear evarrr” and whip out the debit card? Most of us will probably choose the latter, but why do some go beyond bargain hunting and try to buy the cheapest gear available for kit up purposes? Why are we putting our safety and the hinging success of numerous American-based tactical companies at risk?

Why are we killing ourselves and the tactical/adventure companies of America?

Buy Quality

Maybe we simply don’t realize it. We’re all focusing on our budgets and making sure we can afford everything we want; but do we actually step back and ask what pieces of kit are essential, what pieces are pure Gucci-gear, and what are we actually spending our money on? If you work for a living you want your dollar to go far, you want to buy quality and promote good business, but if you’ve ever bought a knock-off product (see also: Condor) then you’re doing exactly opposite.

If you had to buy a pacemaker would you buy the best you could possibly afford, or would you buy some pace-o-matic from a design-stealing firm overseas that pays below-ethical wages and changes between making pacemakers and carburetors each production shift? If you said the latter then stop reading now, you don’t belong in this article or in the group of people reading it that recognize the conscious power they have when they spend their money (you would probably feel more comfortable with the group of people who spent their “stimulus” check on overseas goods; see also: Bad Idea).

Now that you’ve been guilt-tripped into buying quality kit it’s time you get the high from owning top quality gear in the form of “what’s the difference,” a method to determine what really works for you along with a list of resources you can use to make the best decisions to fit your requirements, and the names of places I recommend you patron and the names of places I recommend you steer far away from.

What’s The Difference?

Built-in Quality — as a degreed engineer I’ve been abused in the ways of manufacturing processes and even developed somewhat of a fetish for rooting out what makes a product quality. I know the difference of acid etching a product before it’s fluorescent penetrant dipped for surface crack detection. The devilish details that a manufacturer uses when making kit will save your life.

This is as true for bartacked nylon stitching as much as it is for staked gas rings and stress-relieved metal components. Know how the manufacturer designs and makes your gear. If it’s in a sweatshop that makes tablecloths for Target one day and plate carriers the next day then skip it — quality comes from dedication. Skilled and dedicated workers will produce better gear than a seamstress who really enjoys making napkins, but for her $0.30/day she’ll begrudgingly make chest rigs, too.

Research, Development, and Innovation — the frontline companies who unroll the new designs do it because they put money, thought, and technology into their products and reap the rewards of innovation. If you’ve been paying attention, Propper has just expanded their team by hiring some of the best in the adventure clothing and textile business. Why? Because they care about the people who use their stuff more than they care about pure profit.

You think the knockoff companies care about saving your hide? No, they don’t. Sorry if that’s a spoiler alert for some of you but it’s the plain truth. The company that just sent you the $14 tactical MulitCam pant doesn’t care if it fails you in the field (which it will). Conversely, the company who just delivered you a $50+ dollar tactical pant does care about your ability to function — that’s why they’ve researched the gusseted crotch, that’s why they made sure to use plastic hardware that isn’t IR hot, and that’s why when you call them you get to speak to someone who understands your need and whose ultimate goal is to get you what you need — not to get to the next call in as short a time as possible.

Care and Economy — this point will be saved for the end of the article but I want you to be very aware that this aspect is hugely important.

Resources

Research and action are the two things you need to be successful in acquisition as far as this article is concerned. First thing you should do when you’re in the market for new gear is to identify your no-kidding requirements. You may also call these needs, it doesn’t matter, just make a list of objective performance measures that the chosen product must hit. This can be a certain color, a certain carrying capacity, a certain blade length, a certain compatibility with other gear, whatever, just list it out. Seriously, write it down.

Next is the always-fun current product research. It’s unlikely you will have such a need that you contract out an independent or custom gear maker to get you what you need (but if you do, don’t settle for anything less, do it what it takes to get what you need). Thanks to Al Gore’s internet you can find out nearly (if not literally) everything you need to know about almost anything just by logging on to the world wide timewaster, I mean, web.

Google is your first stop; using keywords simply query what you want to know. What may also help is the addition of the term “review” or “reviews” to the end of your query. Looking for a chest rig? Then try “tactical chest rig” or “tactical chest rig reviews.” Need a new knife that can also safely cut webbing? Try out “knife cut webbing,” “knife that can also cut webbing,” “strap cutter knife,” or “knife safe cut straps webbing.”

Sounds like I’m speaking engrish, right? Google’s query engines are smart enough to pick out the meat of what you want from the internet’s information ocean so don’t worry about sounding third-world English or a little under the influence, just make sure you query your needs. Compile all the good info on all the products that appear to meet your needs and then get ready to make a decision matrix. Sounds like a lot of work but it’s actually resource light and will keep you from making decisions based on subjectivity instead of facts and data.

The Decision Matrix

Your brain is programmed to NOT do decision matrices. You read that right, the human brain is actively designed not to do that. Instead your brain wants to use pre-determined neural patterns to influence your decision; it does NOT want to list out positives, negatives, and mitigations. So we have to beat it. How? The decision matrix. List out all of the needs you previously defined in columns on the top. Next, list out all of the products in rows going down the left. The fun begins by ranking, numbering, or otherwise quantifying the ability of the researched products to meet the pre-defined needs.

I like to use a score system that ranges from 1 through however many candidates/products I have. For instance, if you have 5 products it would range 1 to 5 and you would rank each product according to its ability to produce what you want. I give the good products higher numbers so I can simply tally points at the end and see the best candidates by which have the most points. If two or more products do equally well against a certain criteria then give them both the same score, just make sure this is an accurate decision. Don’t ignore cost completely in your decision so make sure to have a cost section in which you can place the actual dollar amount of the purchase (include shipping and taxes as applicable, again, accuracy is the key to making sound decisions here).

When you’ve filled out your matrix you should have a clear understanding of what products will shine and which will fail. At this point if there isn’t a clear winner then list out the pros, cons, and ways to mitigate the cons of the top two products. When that’s done sit back and give it a common sense look over and, barring any bad gut feelings, make the purchase. One thing you always, always want to consider when choosing products is customer reviews.

If you’re new to the manufacturer or the product this is imperative. Also review the site from which you plan to place your order. If Product ABC is $50 from a sells-it-all megasite but $60 from a small, focused, personable, and product/industry-specific site then consider supporting the smaller site (this is going to hit home again when I go into the aforementioned Care and Economy topic).

Further Resources

The following are resources I personally use to influence my decisions and a brief description of their value (don’t forget, Google is incredible on bringing tailored results from little-known or un-mentioned sites that may have the exact info you’re after):

www.DIYTactical.com and www.DIYTactical.com/forums: created by, and endowed with, custom nylon and tactical gearmakers, DIYTactical is a stronghold for information on tactical nylon gear that works. They are full information on what makes good gear good, can direct you on what products pass their standards, and even offer you avenues of custom and personal gear makers who make some of the best kit I’ve ever handled.

www.militarymorons.com: operated by a private individual, this straight-to-the-point website offers personal reviews on some of the most popular items in the tactical realm. Since the owner, much like Mr. ITS, does all of this at no charge to the masses, they don’t have the bankroll to do every tactical item in the world. So while the MultiCam Hanes boxer brief (not real) may not be reviewd yet, there’s still a large range of gear that is. Chock full of photos, militarymorons is a solid stop for your review needs.

www.edcforums.com: EDC, or Every Day Carry as most readers will know, encompasses just what it says — the things you need and want every single day. The focus of the EDC community is to do it comfortably and covertly if at all possible — a goal all of us need to keep in mind in the civilian realm. The forum puts a lot of solid info out on items including query-based comparisons from the decently large forum base. Stop by, do a search, and if you like it sign up (just make sure to put a link to ITS in your sig, wink).

Lastly, make sure you stop by industry-specific retail sites to scope out their pro reviews or customer reviews. Example, if you need some standard outdoor gear (think climbing kit, tents, stoves) you can try sites like www.rei.com and www.backcountry.com, each has a customer base that is quite large and often features a least a few reviews for products they sell. For more tactical products hit up www.skdtac.com, they focus on gear providers that are thoughtful about who they support, where they work, and the quality of their kit.

The Pro’s and the No’s

I’ll be blunt: I don’t like crap. I don’t like people who steal others’ designs. I don’t like people who support subpar working conditions and wages. And, I don’t like people who eagerly take the money of those that put their lives at risk for their country all the while knowing they are selling these heroes crap. I have personal experience with the following and either personally endorse them or publicly scorn them. Keep in mind, though, that this is one person’s experience and your results may vary.

The Pro’s:

TAD Gear (www.tadgear.com) – if you don’t know, find out. TAD (Triple Aught Designs) makes some of the best, most innovative, most functional clothing and items known to man. They are active in the wildlife support community and are serious about producing in America.

ITS Tactical (www.itstactical.com) – if one group of people can say they research what goes into what they provide, it’s ITS. If you need help being convinced of this just check out their “blowout kits” http://www.itstactical.com/its-tactical-store/.

Fight and Flight Tactical (www.fightandflight.com) – between F&F, OC, and 215, you can’t get more innovative in tactical design and quality construction. These three have inspired numerous products that are continuously replicated by others. F&F has provided me with the two things I love most when it comes to smart operations — the Leader’s Armboard **link** and the Kneeboard **link**. And quality? I’d trust my life to them, time and again.

OC Tactical (www.octactical.com) – See above. OC puts out quality kit that actually serves a purpose — functional and failproof.

215 Gear (www.215gearstore.com) – conveniently linked as one of ITS’ sponsors, 215 continues to lead the way in innovation. From GPS straps and accessories to life-saving retention lanyards, 215 puts stuff out that makes you think you just hit the life-saving easy button.

SKD Tactical (www.skdtac.com) – SKDTac, as mentioned above, is a large retailer that refuses to offer subpar kit. If you end up buying from any of the numerous companies on their site you can be confident that you’re purchasing quality stuff from a trusted name.

ADS Inc. (www.adsinc.com) – the world’s largest special operations distributor. They work with US companies (with a focus on Berry Amendment compliance) to provide good prices on quality gear. They are a large operation that can reach into many industries to provide for their consumer base. They, like SKDTac, only support quality gear makers with their large list of available brands.

ITS Sponsors — If you trust the crew of ITS like I do, and like you should, then you should check out who they allow to be on their site. You’ll find sponsors displayed in tiled links on the right side of the ITS home page and you can check the “Links” tab for more trusted groups. Also, if you’re a Plank Owner or Crew Leader then you’ll notice a Vendor Discount Link in the welcome page that takes you to sponsor pages that provide you discounts on their kit — these discounts can easily cover your membership in one click of the “Submit Order” button (PS — a discounted ETA Kit is another such perk for Plank Owners and Crew Leaders… jackpot).

The No’s:

www.lapolicegear.com – think the exact opposite of TAD Gear, SKDTac and ADS Inc. While they do offer some great name brand kit, they hugely plug their in-house brand of gear that has, time and time again, failed me. And even more criminal, in my opinion, is their apparent eagerness to copy designs from quality gear makers only to produce them so cheaply that it screams out “questionable manufacturing and labor”. I was once an active supporter of the site but once I had been duped enough times and made aware of how they achieve such low prices, and again, steal designs, I quit for good. Do not buy from them. Do not support them with one cent. Especially don’t buy their re-labeled …

www.condoroutdoor.com – disgust. Equate those two terms. Cheap kit, zero care about their customer base, and huge desire to copy the designs of companies that care about their customers is what you can expect from Condor. Add those ideas into your mental definition of Condor gear. While I’ve heard rumors that their gear is improving it doesn’t change their MO. If you have any of their stuff throw it out now and replace it.

NOTE: Again, this is one man’s opinion and experience. Do not take this as libel, slander, or any other legal term that overly-litigious groups are eager to use.

Care and Economy

If you get one thing out of this article then get this. The companies that I listed as pro’s, and other companies that fall into the criteria I’ve used to list them as pro’s, are the exact companies that are going to make the American solider successful in the years (and hopefully decades) to come. This is true for your endeavors, too. They put money and thought into what they sell and make sure that they are giving back to the American economy and supporting solid labor practices.

Every time you bypass their kit only to buy cheaper stuff two or three times over you sabotage what they so dearly inspire to do by employing Americans and offering fair prices against their wages and goods. Not only are you victimized by buying kit that will fail you, you’re supporting companies who steal the designs that these good groups put millions of dollars into creating, and you’re depriving American workers earning a decent wage the opportunity to provide you with quality kit from right here in the states.

If you don’t understand the economic turmoil that we are very much still in then at least understand this — the companies that are stealing the designs and dollars of our in-country companies desire nothing more than to pillage the American economy and consumer for every last penny it can get. They are taking advantage of you buy offering you cheap junk at cheap junk prices produced by impoverished workers in sub-human working conditions. Stop them. Support the companies that are working hard to bring America back to the hard-working nation that every soldier is out their fighting for.

Notes

I have a saying: buy quality, buy it fair and right, and be proud of what you bought. I know this is borderline patriotic propaganda but it’s the absolute truth. If you’re reading this then you know what it means to dedicate yourself to a greater cause, so expand on that and dedicate your gear-destined dollars too.   One way to help make sure you get what you want is to buy smart; fill out the matrix as mentioned above and don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer to talk about their product.

I’ve talked to every single “Pro” above and was happy to end up buying from them, do the same (by the way, none of them push their products, they each speak objectively about what they can or can’t provide to meet your needs). I can assure you that you will be happier with your gear, proud to talk about your experience, and eager to recommend it to others when you heed the information in this article. So stop killing yourself and the American tactical industry — go buy some good gear.

Editor’s Note: Please join us in welcoming Brock Carter as a contributor on ITS Tactical. Brock is a Engineer for the DOD and an avid shooter & outdoorsman.


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go7roo7
go7roo7

I agree with most of this but at the same time I dont. I can understand this applying to someone who is in the "armed job market" if you get what I mean, but for us monthly shooters or guys/gals who are still trying to get a foothold of a good career, sometimes "condor" is the best we can currently afford. I purchased a condor chest rig stupid cheap, now do I think this is my SHTF rig? No, not if I can help it, but since I cannot put gear over food on the table, for the time being Condor will have to do. But hey I dont think I am doing that much damage, since I built my AR using all US made parts, and I ALWAYS encourage others to do the same. So like I always say 50% of something, is better than 100% of nothing.

JamesFred
JamesFred

I agree for the most part, but I have to defend LAPG.  I have gotten the best deals on all my boots from them, and I find their house brand pants are way more comfortable and useful than 5.11's.  I use them for shooting, training, and extremely hard wear use at my civilian job (railroad) and I love them.  Now Condor on the other hand, i would never buy a rig from.  Little pieces and hats, sure, but not big ticket.

Respirator
Respirator

I agree with almost everything that has been said in this article. BUT I work armed security in low income communities. I have been in more than my fair share of showdowns. Nothing close to combat overseas, but enough so that i'm allowed to wear a plate carrier. I'm a big dude that has eaten well with not enough exercise over the past years and have developed a substantial table muscle. I'm not totally worthless, but could benefit from more exercise. I looked for over a month for a reasonably priced carrier that would fit my fat ass. after a month, it came down to buying a custom rig $700 plus without ballistics, or a Condor for $130. I went with the Condor. That was three years ago and my carrier has held up from everyday use as well as training and range days. (We look at training as play time and we play HARD!). While there have been a few issues with my carrier it has held up to my abuse and use. I may even take it overseas if I had to, but would opt for a name brand if I could afford it. The gist of my comment, A lot of us would love to purchase and really wholly support the brands listed above, but most of us just can't afford it. Even with knowing our lives depend on it. It appears almost everyone here buys the best quality they can afford. And for that, I'm grateful fr companies like condor. (The only "knockoff brand" company I will purchase from) So I think I'm saying Condor is a good choice for those who CAN'T afford better.

ThatGuy
ThatGuy

Thanks for taking the time to write this up - I found this after a pretty average run with maxpedition gear and thanks to what you shared I have now found some brilliant, less mainstream brands that offer super gear at reasonable rates that is far more likely to suit my uses.

I love that you shared so many links to other sites - only a true authority would be so selfless, and it is the mark of a quality blog.

THANKS I.T.S!

ThatGuy
ThatGuy

Thanks for taking the time to write this up - I found this after a pretty average run with maxpedition gear and thanks to what you shared I have now found some brilliant, less mainstream brands that offer super gear at reasonable rates that is far more likely to suit my uses. I love that you shared so many links to other sites - only a true authority would be so selfless, and it is the mark of a quality blog. THANKS I.T.S!

John Hosszu
John Hosszu

I have always limited my purchases of kit (even when I was 17 buying a stereo) to something of high quality and have never regretted my choices. High quality kit typically isn't that much more expensive than knockoffs or cheap crap. I have always preferred to go without than buy low quality. I own some nice stuff from CP Gear and some pieces from Eberlestock that I think are money well spent. Paying for quality kit only hurts once.

downrange
downrange

Although I can agree with purchasing quality American-made gear, do not be so quick as to shun other companies. Many companies are improving the qualities of their products and moving their production to the U.S.A. (case in point, Condor) while others have done the opposite (Eagle Industries and Blackhawk!). Do you want your gear to fail at a critical moment? Absolutely not, however if a snap falls off your MOLLE strap and it cannot be buckled are you likely to die because of it? No. It's called a zip-tie. Now if the buckles on your plate carrier fail you and it falls to the ground, you might be in for some serious problems. I know that when I was a young E4 deployed I often had to procure my own gear for one reason or another. Did I have the income to purchase a top-of-the-line SAW pouch for myself? No, and $20 for a Condor made one was perfectly acceptable. Did any of that gear ever fail me? No, it didn't. In fact, I still have those pouches, and they are still 100% functional. If it works, I don't see the problem with it. Would I trust a 600D armor chassis... no, I wouldn't. But that calls for making a responsible decision to begin with. A 600D pouch for a flashlight probably runs about $8-10 for a "NO" versus $25 for a "GO." Both perform the job equally well. I am for supporting the American economy, but to exclude the possibilities of other gear because it isn't domestic is folly. What right do we have as Americans to elevate our tactical gear above anyone elses? That sort of elitist mindset doesn't drive commercial competition which creates better product. Besides, if you are a professional you should have enough experience to purchase quality gear for yourself. What works best for you, regardless of origin.

Anecdote: As far as DoD contracts go, I fully support the Berry Amendment. I believe that all U.S. Government products should be domestic. Unless they are being developed in an international partnership.

downrange
downrange

Although I can agree with purchasing quality American-made gear, do not be so quick as to shun other companies. Many companies are improving the qualities of their products and moving their production to the U.S.A. (case in point, Condor) while others have done the opposite (Eagle Industries and Blackhawk!). Do you want your gear to fail at a critical moment? Absolutely not, however if a snap falls off your MOLLE strap and it cannot be buckled are you likely to die because of it? No. It's called a zip-tie. Now if the buckles on your plate carrier fail you and it falls to the ground, you might be in for some serious problems. I know that when I was a young E4 deployed I often had to procure my own gear for one reason or another. Did I have the income to purchase a top-of-the-line SAW pouch for myself? No, and $20 for a Condor made one was perfectly acceptable. Did any of that gear ever fail me? No, it didn't. In fact, I still have those pouches, and they are still 100% functional. If it works, I don't see the problem with it. Would I trust a 600D armor chassis... no, I wouldn't. But that calls for making a responsible decision to begin with. A 600D pouch for a flashlight probably runs about $8-10 for a "NO" versus $25 for a "GO." Both perform the job equally well. I am for supporting the American economy, but to exclude the possibilities of other gear because it isn't domestic is folly. What right do we have as Americans to elevate our tactical gear above anyone elses? That sort of elitist mindset doesn't drive commercial competition which creates better product. Besides, if you are a professional you should have enough experience to purchase quality gear for yourself. What works best for you, regardless of origin. Anecdote: As far as DoD contracts go, I fully support the Berry Amendment. I believe that all U.S. Government products should be domestic. Unless they are being developed in an international partnership.

Dave
Dave

Apparently I'm the only one wondering this, but what's so wrong with the quality of Condor gear? I've had several pouches and bags for a while now. Clever designs and good quality.

I'd like to hear why it's not the brand to go with?

Dave
Dave

Apparently I'm the only one wondering this, but what's so wrong with the quality of Condor gear? I've had several pouches and bags for a while now. Clever designs and good quality. I'd like to hear why it's not the brand to go with?

John M Smith
John M Smith

Thanks for having the comment section open for an article like this. It allows others to get points across that might benefit fellow readers. Nice to see you respect others opinions by letting them have a voice.

Raymond Tan
Raymond Tan

Good Article.

Drop $400 on a Chinese made TAD softshell??? Fuck that! As much as I love TAD products, (i almost have each of all of their US made products).... I will not shell major dollars and encourage companies to ship production to cheap China. I'll spend more and and shell out on Canadian Arc'teryx LEAF softshell and hardshells. This is to force TAD to return back their manufacturing here in the America. Let the Airsoft crowd spend $400-$500 on China made Patagucci, tadgear shells..

One more thing that I appreciate TAD is that they mention the manufacturing origin in their website. That is class act for tadgear. So yes i spend on their force 10 pants, EDC fastpack bags, Ranger Hoodies but will not touch their Stealth and Spectre china made shits. And also will not touch Arc'teryx that is not LEAF.

Buy only what you need. And buy Quality locally made products. You'll be happy where your hard earned dollars goes into,... American Economy!!!

Raymond Tan
Raymond Tan

Good Article. Drop $400 on a Chinese made TAD softshell??? Fuck that! As much as I love TAD products, (i almost have each of all of their US made products).... I will not shell major dollars and encourage companies to ship production to cheap China. I'll spend more and and shell out on Canadian Arc'teryx LEAF softshell and hardshells. This is to force TAD to return back their manufacturing here in the America. Let the Airsoft crowd spend $400-$500 on China made Patagucci, tadgear shells.. One more thing that I appreciate TAD is that they mention the manufacturing origin in their website. That is class act for tadgear. So yes i spend on their force 10 pants, EDC fastpack bags, Ranger Hoodies but will not touch their Stealth and Spectre china made shits. And also will not touch Arc'teryx that is not LEAF. Buy only what you need. And buy Quality locally made products. You'll be happy where your hard earned dollars goes into,... American Economy!!!

Jason Dellinger
Jason Dellinger

Bryan,

Thank You and the ITS crew for producing such a great site. Furthermore, Thanks for creating and maintaining a professional atmosphere that as a result of excellent content encourages valid and informative discussion among members and visitors alike. ITS is one of the finest sites of it's kind on the web.

Jason Dellinger
Jason Dellinger

Arcteryx is a Canadian company and their high-end hard shells and jackets are Canadian made. They also offer Berry complaint products through their LEAF line. Therefore, even though they may offer Canadian made products, they are still produced in their own factory in their own country. Not all of Arcteryx products are Canadian-made so shop wisely. However, I would (and do own) one of their Gore-Tex Pro Shell jackets and it is top shelf.

Other recommended US gear vendors:

Tactical Tailor

Spec-Ops

SO Tech (although they do offer offshore manufactured versions under another brand (Paladin) of their products for civilian use, they are very clear that all SO Tech-branded products are US made)

Zulu Nylon Gear

Not Recommended:

Eagle Industries: I purchased a soft rifle case and was disappointed to find that this was not US made. Eagle has built a reputation as one of the finest US gear manufacturers. I'm disappointed that they've moved some production out of the US. They are not clear about which products are US made.

Blackhawk!: Nearly all of their product line is now imported. Another manufacturer that started out domestic and then went overseas. Furthermore, they use material called Nytaneon which is a Cordura knock-off.

Finally, do we suggest that a soldier, police officer, citizen do without a piece of gear because he can't afford the US-made products? Absolutely Not!!!

A person cannot and should not live beyond their means. However, most of the time this is a simple matter of priorities. It's amazing how many people can afford to buy cheap two or more times but don't want to buy a quality product once. Furthermore, you'll notice that the goods from the US manufacturers listed here are competitive in price and offer superior quality.

Jason Dellinger
Jason Dellinger

Arcteryx is a Canadian company and their high-end hard shells and jackets are Canadian made. They also offer Berry complaint products through their LEAF line. Therefore, even though they may offer Canadian made products, they are still produced in their own factory in their own country. Not all of Arcteryx products are Canadian-made so shop wisely. However, I would (and do own) one of their Gore-Tex Pro Shell jackets and it is top shelf. Other recommended US gear vendors: Tactical Tailor Spec-Ops SO Tech (although they do offer offshore manufactured versions under another brand (Paladin) of their products for civilian use, they are very clear that all SO Tech-branded products are US made) Zulu Nylon Gear Not Recommended: Eagle Industries: I purchased a soft rifle case and was disappointed to find that this was not US made. Eagle has built a reputation as one of the finest US gear manufacturers. I'm disappointed that they've moved some production out of the US. They are not clear about which products are US made. Blackhawk!: Nearly all of their product line is now imported. Another manufacturer that started out domestic and then went overseas. Furthermore, they use material called Nytaneon which is a Cordura knock-off. Finally, do we suggest that a soldier, police officer, citizen do without a piece of gear because he can't afford the US-made products? Absolutely Not!!! A person cannot and should not live beyond their means. However, most of the time this is a simple matter of priorities. It's amazing how many people can afford to buy cheap two or more times but don't want to buy a quality product once. Furthermore, you'll notice that the goods from the US manufacturers listed here are competitive in price and offer superior quality.

Christopher C.
Christopher C.

I've had a bad experience with LA Police Gear. I bought a Luminox watch from them for everyday use, no mention on their website at the time but.....a YEAR later the watch battery died and they said they wouldn't replace it, fix it, or send it off and that I had to run that watch to Luminox themselves. Now....probably because it was a recurring issue they have a notice on the website.

I do like the other pages and sites, good stuff, great information. Thanks!!

Chris

Christopher C.
Christopher C.

I've had a bad experience with LA Police Gear. I bought a Luminox watch from them for everyday use, no mention on their website at the time but.....a YEAR later the watch battery died and they said they wouldn't replace it, fix it, or send it off and that I had to run that watch to Luminox themselves. Now....probably because it was a recurring issue they have a notice on the website. I do like the other pages and sites, good stuff, great information. Thanks!! Chris

DualBerettas
DualBerettas

I agree two. Although I have a buddy who is going thru HARD financial times...

He says, I'd a love a TAD softshell but I can't afford it...so do I do without the Condor softshell that I can afford?

DualBerettas
DualBerettas

I agree two. Although I have a buddy who is going thru HARD financial times... He says, I'd a love a TAD softshell but I can't afford it...so do I do without the Condor softshell that I can afford?

Jeanette K.
Jeanette K.

Great write-up, TP. Excellent information here... bookmarking this for future use.

Cryptic
Cryptic

Your blog post suffers from a flawed premise- that, if it's not American-made, then it's not the best, and you and the United States will suffer for it.

Why is it flawed? Because you make two assumptions: that the best gear is made in the United State, and that if it is made in the United States, it is the best gear. Two easy examples are Arcteryx and TAD Gear.

As the two examples above illustrate, they can have built-in quality, have superior R&D, and care about the community- regardless of the community is in the US, Canada, Korea, Russia, etc.

I would have to argue that the human mind IS built for tackling decision matrices, some people just ignore it in favor of emotional-based decisions, such as buying all American gear. See above for reasons NOT to buy "Made In America."

When you address the costs involved in purchasing a product from a "megasite for $50 or from a small, focused, personable, and product/industry-specific site for $60," (wow, you weren't stacking the deck here or anything, were you?) you fail to illustrate the reason why people buy knock-offs. They buy them because they perform well-enough for the cost, which is normally HALF to ONE-QUARTER the cost of the small, focused, personable and product-specific site. This would be the reason why a lot of the American-based tactical manufacturers offer lower-priced gear or have cheaper options. This is a good thing!

As for your "Care and Economy" section, I can sympathize, but you're wrong. Support companies that make great products, do their research and development, care about the community, and support their customers - wherever the company is located and wherever their products are made.

As a final note, please research the criteria for labeling a product as "Made In USA."

Cryptic
Cryptic

Your blog post suffers from a flawed premise- that, if it's not American-made, then it's not the best, and you and the United States will suffer for it. Why is it flawed? Because you make two assumptions: that the best gear is made in the United State, and that if it is made in the United States, it is the best gear. Two easy examples are Arcteryx and TAD Gear. As the two examples above illustrate, they can have built-in quality, have superior R&D, and care about the community- regardless of the community is in the US, Canada, Korea, Russia, etc. I would have to argue that the human mind IS built for tackling decision matrices, some people just ignore it in favor of emotional-based decisions, such as buying all American gear. See above for reasons NOT to buy "Made In America." When you address the costs involved in purchasing a product from a "megasite for $50 or from a small, focused, personable, and product/industry-specific site for $60," (wow, you weren't stacking the deck here or anything, were you?) you fail to illustrate the reason why people buy knock-offs. They buy them because they perform well-enough for the cost, which is normally HALF to ONE-QUARTER the cost of the small, focused, personable and product-specific site. This would be the reason why a lot of the American-based tactical manufacturers offer lower-priced gear or have cheaper options. This is a good thing! As for your "Care and Economy" section, I can sympathize, but you're wrong. Support companies that make great products, do their research and development, care about the community, and support their customers - wherever the company is located and wherever their products are made. As a final note, please research the criteria for labeling a product as "Made In USA."

Kevin Larkin
Kevin Larkin

Thanks for the article. I am all for buying Made in USA/Western Europe!

While review sites like MM are good sources of real-world pictures that weren't taken in a dust-free studio, I have a feeling that there is a distinct lack of objectivity in his (MM) reviews. I have yet to read one negative review of the many products included on his site. A lot of review sites make a living (well, not quite) out of cranking out favourable reviews - at least some of them get "review items" for free. Actually, a similar topic has been made on the Kifaru forums by "straps" regarding the Army Times article on privately-purchased gear.

An obvious source of gear reviews that was conspicuously absent from the article above is Lightfighter.net, where there is a serious depth and breadth of opinions on just about every piece of gear you could/would want to buy. Seriously, check it out.

KevLar

Kevin Larkin
Kevin Larkin

Thanks for the article. I am all for buying Made in USA/Western Europe! While review sites like MM are good sources of real-world pictures that weren't taken in a dust-free studio, I have a feeling that there is a distinct lack of objectivity in his (MM) reviews. I have yet to read one negative review of the many products included on his site. A lot of review sites make a living (well, not quite) out of cranking out favourable reviews - at least some of them get "review items" for free. Actually, a similar topic has been made on the Kifaru forums by "straps" regarding the Army Times article on privately-purchased gear. An obvious source of gear reviews that was conspicuously absent from the article above is Lightfighter.net, where there is a serious depth and breadth of opinions on just about every piece of gear you could/would want to buy. Seriously, check it out. KevLar

JC
JC

I think it's also important to keep in mind that high-end mountaineering gear isn't designed for tactical environments - just because it's a subdued color doesn't make it "tactical." You need to look at the materials the products are made from, too. Some of the "gucci" kit on the market will melt to your skin and give off noxious fumes when it's near a flame.

Joe
Joe

I love American made gear for all uses! For paintball I use FullClipusa.com and Marztg.com for my real world stuff...great American made gear with a lifetime warranty of most of the gear!

Semper Fi-USA 'Till I Die!

Joe
Joe

I love American made gear for all uses! For paintball I use FullClipusa.com and Marztg.com for my real world stuff...great American made gear with a lifetime warranty of most of the gear! Semper Fi-USA 'Till I Die!

Custom Gear Report
Custom Gear Report

Excellent Article, I've had one similar on my mind for CGR for some time, hopefully I can add to what you've already said.

Unfortunately a few commenter's just don't get it.

By the way thanks for the references to DIY Tactical.

Custom Gear Report
Custom Gear Report

Excellent Article, I've had one similar on my mind for CGR for some time, hopefully I can add to what you've already said. Unfortunately a few commenter's just don't get it. By the way thanks for the references to DIY Tactical.

theotherryan
theotherryan

Add Tactical Tailor to the good list. They make great stuff and will work with you to figure out the best setup to fit your unique needs. I have some of their stuff and it is bomb proof.

Jimmy
Jimmy

However what you fail to realise is that 80% of the people who buy tactical pants are never going to be in a situation where the ruggedness of their pants is going to be the difference between life or death.

Why? cause they have a regular boring office job like you and me and they live in the suburbs.

Jimmy
Jimmy

However what you fail to realise is that 80% of the people who buy tactical pants are never going to be in a situation where the ruggedness of their pants is going to be the difference between life or death. Why? cause they have a regular boring office job like you and me and they live in the suburbs.

Jp974
Jp974

The fact is that I paid a great amount of euros (item price + Customs fees + shipping to france) from Tadgear to get a well known Battle hoodie, which is, according to Tad, made for enduring battlefield, montainous countries, etc. I get mine at christmas 2008 and it "felt down" at june 2009, with holes at the level of the wrists. I have to say that I am a "made in Usa" or "proudly made in Usa" enthusiast, and always get great piece of clothes like for example B3 from Goodwear, spyewake, real levis Xxx, etc and never been disapointed, until this. I think I will look for a Beyond clothes which looks to be better.

SierraJulietHotel
SierraJulietHotel

I agree, best advice I'll probably ever get. Curious about how Arc'tyrex fits in the Pro's or No's. I would say Pro's but have no experience with them other than what I read on SSD. Legit alternative to TAD?

(I do on the other hand own a handful of TAD products and am very proud I do)

SierraJulietHotel
SierraJulietHotel

I agree, best advice I'll probably ever get. Curious about how Arc'tyrex fits in the Pro's or No's. I would say Pro's but have no experience with them other than what I read on SSD. Legit alternative to TAD? (I do on the other hand own a handful of TAD products and am very proud I do)

Bergman
Bergman

I once, years ago, made this sort of mistake. I had been admiring Camelbak products for some time, then saw a knockoff item in a catalog for $20. I bought the knockoff, which flavored the water (very bad flavor) from the start, began leaking after a month, and fell apart completely in three months.

The Camelbak, on the other hand, cost me $120, and the reservoir alone cost 50% more than the entire knockoff package. I still have that Camelbak and reservoir now, over a decade later, and while the pack is a little ragged in places, both function just as flawlessly (no added flavor in the water, no leaks, etc) as the day I bought them.

Pay for quality, get quality. Pay for worthless junk, get worthless junk.

Bergman
Bergman

I once, years ago, made this sort of mistake. I had been admiring Camelbak products for some time, then saw a knockoff item in a catalog for $20. I bought the knockoff, which flavored the water (very bad flavor) from the start, began leaking after a month, and fell apart completely in three months. The Camelbak, on the other hand, cost me $120, and the reservoir alone cost 50% more than the entire knockoff package. I still have that Camelbak and reservoir now, over a decade later, and while the pack is a little ragged in places, both function just as flawlessly (no added flavor in the water, no leaks, etc) as the day I bought them. Pay for quality, get quality. Pay for worthless junk, get worthless junk.

Will Comptis
Will Comptis

Great article, but there is no way I could afford $100.oo pants from TAD. I spent almost $50 for my 5.11 Tac-Lite Pro Pants and they're exactly what I wanted. I am not deployed overseas, so I cannot write about my combat experience with this particular pant. I can however say that for everyday use and for work - they are great.

bob
bob

Great article. Good comments (mostly). If you don't like TAD gear making some of their jackets in China, don't buy one so I can.

I also enjoy BlueForceGear.

bob
bob

Great article. Good comments (mostly). If you don't like TAD gear making some of their jackets in China, don't buy one so I can. I also enjoy BlueForceGear.

Robert
Robert

Well said my friend.

collis
collis

TAD Gear has stated that they don't make zippers that they use KYZ zippers which a some of the other makers use. I love TAD Gear but their business model sucks.

John Hodgkins
John Hodgkins

I could be wrong but I was under the impression that condor actually does a lot of the contracting work for some of the bigger brands and that they modify the design slightly and advertise it as their own design.

Other than that great info, thanks for the links!

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

That's a hell of a compliment Jason! Thanks for all your kind words and support! It's the community we're after and what we're trying to achieve for everyone.

Crooks
Crooks

I agree with you COMPLETELY on Craphawk (Can't believe they got the USMC's Holster Contract with the SERPA) but completely disagree on Eagle Industries. Eagle Industries makes a lot of their gear right here in the USA with phenomenal quality, ALL of their non-USA Produced Kit is made in a Trade Compliant, non-hostile, developing Country (Dominican Republic) with the same quality control and same materials. For me it is not about boycotting all foreign production, but all hostile country production (China, Pakistan, etc.). You can be assured quality with Eagle, London Bridge Trading, S.O. TECH, TAG, Shellback, OSOE, HSGI, Tactical Tailor, Crye Precision, Beyond Clothing, etc.

P.S. How was the quality of that bag though? I bet pretty darn good. LOVE their Ranger Green!

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Great addition to the article Jason, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Crooks
Crooks

I agree with you COMPLETELY on Craphawk (Can't believe they got the USMC's Holster Contract with the SERPA) but completely disagree on Eagle Industries. Eagle Industries makes a lot of their gear right here in the USA with phenomenal quality, ALL of their non-USA Produced Kit is made in a Trade Compliant, non-hostile, developing Country (Dominican Republic) with the same quality control and same materials. For me it is not about boycotting all foreign production, but all hostile country production (China, Pakistan, etc.). You can be assured quality with Eagle, London Bridge Trading, S.O. TECH, TAG, Shellback, OSOE, HSGI, Tactical Tailor, Crye Precision, Beyond Clothing, etc. P.S. How was the quality of that bag though? I bet pretty darn good. LOVE their Ranger Green!

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Glad you enjoyed the article Jeanette! Keep up the great work yourself!!

Jason Dellinger
Jason Dellinger

Bryan, Thank You and the ITS crew for producing such a great site. Furthermore, Thanks for creating and maintaining a professional atmosphere that as a result of excellent content encourages valid and informative discussion among members and visitors alike. ITS is one of the finest sites of it's kind on the web.

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