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

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

By Brock Carter


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.


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): and 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. 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. 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 and, 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, 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 ( – 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 ( – 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”

Fight and Flight Tactical ( – 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 ( – See above. OC puts out quality kit that actually serves a purpose — functional and failproof.

215 Gear ( – 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 ( – 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. ( – 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: – 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 … – 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.


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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  • Great article! I agree 110%.

  • Luke

    “…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?”

    Why you ask? Because people are idiots. To each their own – if people guy crap gear, it will fail on them when they need it most, and that’s on them. You can’t enjoy the dollar you saved when you’re dead. On another note: S.O. Tech makes great gear as well.

  • Hunter

    As Pig Moneky, +1.


  • fuspar

    Seems to me that a huge segment of the market for knock offs and cheap isht are airsoft and couch commando types. Most serious personnel I know buy quality gear and do so sparingly (for budget reasons).

    One other company I’d like to add to the mix is Tactical Taylor. US made stuff and great service.

    Like they say: “Vote with your dollar!”.

    • Chris

      Tactical Tailor* And yes they make very good products, I have quite a bit of their stuff.

  • Nice one – the honest “personally-tested and recommended” route is always the one to go down. If you’re reading reviews on the intarweb, then make sure you also inform yourself about who’s doing the review (what are their qualifications / experience / motives) and in what context have they reviewed it. Did they just pull it out of the box and go, “yeah, that looks nice”, did they just copy content from the manufacturer’s website? If they did test it, how and to what extent did they do it? Can they show that they’ve actually used it over a lengthy period of time? Or did they just dress their kid up in it to go play airsoft?

  • James

    There is a flipside to this though – the guys who spend on the latest gear and ignore the more important factors. It doesn’t matter if you have the best holster/boots/webbing or whatever if you don’t have the ability to use it. You can think of this as Strategy > Tactics > Skills > Kit or even paraphrase Front Sight as ‘Any tool will do if you will do’.

    Of course for me it makes sense to buy the most efficient kit I can, and to support those who invest in bringing this stuff to market. I’m just careful not to fall into thinking it has that much to do with keeping me & mine safe.

  • Kommander

    Interesting article. First full disclosure so people know where I am coming from: I work as an armed guard on an armored truck. Not the most “tactical” of jobs. So I will admit to not only purchasing some cheap imported gear for use on my job but also being happy with it.

    However there is some places where one simply can not scrimp. My gunbelt, vest, holster, knife, flashlight, and of course pistol are of high quality. If my pants rip or my gear bag handle fails (and they haven’t) then while annoying it’s not life threatening. If my gun fails when I need it I am going to be SOL. If I did have a job where any sort of gear failure could kill me I would be certain to have only high quality gear. Oddly enough I did once try a pair of name brand tactical pants but I found that they fit rather poorly.

  • Great article! I totally agree! It reminds me of a tweet I saw awhile ago:

    “If you sit on, sleep on, stare at, or touch something for more than an hour a day, spend whatever it takes to get the best.”

    There just are some things that you can’t “go cheap” on. True quality usually costs.

  • John

    One of the best articles to date!

  • Tim

    Everyone is aware that many of TAD’s items are produced in China right?

    • Nate Newcomb

      And to add on to that, isnt Condor’s stuff made in the US now?

    • straps

      TAD’s course of first resort is US manufacturing, but there ARE situations where certain competencies either no longer exist in the US (sophisticated textile processes) or aren’t done here (seam welding and certain textile lamination processes). TAD’s reputation has taken a beating in the recent past, for their customer service on the phone (I can walk there, so I can’t speak to this), for the credit info compromise (got caught up in that) and for some of the causes they espouse support for–mostly in nature stewardship (to each his own–I’m conflicted about breaking ties with people because they’re not 100% in line with 100% of my thinking). In short, it’s buyer’s choice, but TAD has something to offer professionals who work away from their desk.

  • Good to see, quality gets harder and harder to come by. A lot of work and effort is put into making good products here in the US.

  • Hahn

    One thing I’d like to throw out there (feel free to disagree, as I am more than open to being enlightened). A large amount of the ‘gear’ I own is made by Condor and/or Chinese knockoffs, and I have been satisfied with everything I have so far. However my justification for buying this quality of gear is compartmentalization. I play airsoft, specifically MilSim, for fun and I can’t think of a single piece of my airsoft kit that is made by ‘the PROs’; conversely all of my EDC kit and the BOB kit I am building does not/will not have any of ‘the NOs’ gear. While I thoroughly enjoy slinging plastic all tacti-cool like I do it on a budget, knowing that if one of my Condor chest rigs fail me I am out less than a hundred bucks and no worse than upset over it. In my very humble opinion I think this is a fine niche for this quality of gear. Anything I want to trust my life on, whether in the day to day, at the range or in the bugger out scenario, I vehemently agree that spending the extra money is more than worth it. One thing I take solace in buying my airsoft gear in lower quality is as stated above high end gear is made by specialists who spend a significant amount of time and energy making each piece of gear from chest rig to MOLLE pouch to carry bag and so on. The downside to this is limited product. While I know people that have spent the money to own multiple loadouts all in Eagle Industries or Blackhawk for playing a game, I’d prefer to let the high end manufacturer’s product go to LEO’s and our Armed Forces that whose lives are on the line. Again let me reiterate that I am not arguing with the intent stated above, but merely suggesting a valid use for this lower quality gear.

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  • Phil

    I have to agree with what Hahn says about there being a niche for the cheap stuff. I don’t do airsoft or paintball myself but I am a costumer and being a former Marine I like doing military style costumes like those found in the Stargates. While the show may be able to afford high end tac-gear (though they do use a lot of knock offs too) I can’t justify the expense just for a costume and for a costume the cheap stuff/knockoffs work just fine. Having said that, if I were still in the Reserves I would definitely find this article very useful and handy, I know how annoying (at the very least) it can get to have cheap gear fail on you. When I was still in I bought like 2 or 3 butt packs over the course of a 1 or 2 years because the bottoms of them would constantly tear open. Had I had a resource like this I would have probably spent the same amount on one butt pack as I did on the 2 or 3 and saved myself a lot of headache to boot.

  • Bill Smerdon

    Great article. In my personal experience I have never regretted purchasing the best item I could get my hands on. Perfect examples are the Jones Tactical duty belts that I purchased. I heard about the belt on 10-8 forums, did some more research on them and confirmed what I heard before ordering. When the first belt arrived I put it into service and found that it worked so well, I ordered another for training purposes. These belts are so indestructable that I am sure that as long as I stay the same size they will remain fully functional. I have learned the hard way that it is less expensive to do some research and shell out the cash for the high quality equipment the first time.

  • Matt Semans

    I for the most part would agree, except for Condor apparel. I am a former infantry Marine, now putting myself through college, and living pay check to pay check. I would love to pay for TAD jackets but its just impossible given my budget. When I can get a softshell jacket (granted its a TAD knockoff) and a microfleece fleece for approximatly 130 bucks, or half of an actual TAD jacket the choice for me is easy. On the other hand would i buy and wear their gear while I was depolyed to Fallujah. Nope, I rock TAG plate carrier and pouches.
    Semper Fi

  • wow. so if i buy Magpul mags at a ‘big box’ gear distributor its somehow bad???????

    you guys are jumping the shark.

    do you believe that the USMC or Army has custom gear of the type that is sold at half the companies you recommended?

    it really doesn’t matter. the tactical gear craze has run its course and half these companies will be out of business within two years.

    the vast majority of those that go out of business will be the custom guys. the market just won’t support the price points in these economic times.

  • Excellent article – shame the decision making process is not applied during the procurement of standard issue equipment. I’ve gone through 5 tactical vests in less than 5 years, all with the same problems (broken zipper pull, zip falling apart). If it was a personnel purchase I would not tolerate such a problem, as its issue it goes back to the stores and a new replacement is promptly issue. I believe that all equipment should be designed with maximum input from the actual personnel that will be using it in the future. Well done to all the companies that go the extra mile and continually raise the standard , you have my full support and repeat custom.

    • 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.

  • I see cheap holsters holding expensive guns, and even worse, cheap guns in cheap holsters. Also no extra magazines and or other paraphernalia associated with the purpose my students are training for.
    I amazes me to no end.
    Very good article.
    Regarding holsters and such, I always say “You don’t put Hankooks (Cheap Chinese tires) on a Porsche do you?”

  • It seems a lot of your readers may have glossed over your points about the beneits of buying American. I enjoy playing airsoft as well but will never use knockoff equipment. Even casual games have a training value if you treat like a proper force on force scenario. It’s counter-productive to your “preparedness mindset” to train (or play airsoft) using kit “ther than you would in an oh-shit situation. Play the game in street clothes carrying your bug out bag. See if it really works. It probably doesn’t.

    This article isn’t about picking tactical gear. That’s only the example. The article is a primer you should use for all your mindless consumerism. American products are expensive for a reason. There’s more overhead in the process from concept to creation to distribution to purchase to use. But if everyone started caring about enough about the state of our country and realizing the impact they could have on it with their dollar, American products would become more affordable. If there were any airsoft guns made in the US I’d buy them instead too, even though I’d never be in a situation that my life would depend on that item.

    Tactically and practically speaking, unless you are a high speed low drag operator with a government paycheck, you should only be using one setup and kit. If you’re getting in play or practice using different ones you’re destroying your muscle-memory. If you buy cheap because you have a desire for different flavors of tacticool do us all a favor and quit bullshitting yourself about how effective you’re actually going to be when reality strikes.

  • 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!

  • Robert

    Well said my friend.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Joe

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

    Semper Fi-USA ‘Till I Die!

  • 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.

  • 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, 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.


  • 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.”

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

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

  • 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?

  • 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!!


  • 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


    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.

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

    • Jason Dellinger


      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.

    • 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

      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!

  • 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!!!

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Very good article.  As a custom tactical gear maker, I’ve had to explain many of these things to potential customers when they ask questions like “I saw a sling like this on for $14, and yours cost $31, can you make it for $14”.  My answer is “I can, but I won’t, because I don’t use junk materials, and I actually take pride in what I do”.

    Every second I am working at my sewing machine, I am faced with the sobering thought that the reliability of what I am making could mean the difference between life or death for the user years down the road.  

    Some commenters here make good points that I can sympathize with regarding not being able to afford top line gear.  My advice is to find out what items you can go cheap on.  This is something I have found out through climbing mountains in Colorado.  I can probably skimp and buy the $10 trekking pole from Walmart, I don’t need the $189 one from REI that is made of titanium.  If my hiking pole breaks, I will just pick up a stick or go without.  Boots on the other hand, you can’t really skimp on.

    Also, decide what you absolutely need, and what you can do without.  Some new whiz-bang sling made from nomex webbing and two cobra buckles is probably a good sling, but will cost about $100.  It will get the job done, but going to a junk yard, and paying $2 to cut a seatbelt out of a car, then tying that through your sling points will get most people 90% of the way there.

    Never be afraid of a little DIY.  You can get antique sewing machines on craigslist for $25 sometimes.  It’s a good place to start.

    I started making my own gear years ago for two reasons, there was a ton of crap gear out there that kept finding it’s way onto my kit, and when I did want good custom gear it was expensive.  I just started making my own stuff.

    If you have questions about how to get started making tactical gear, feel free to hit me up on Facebook.  Username is “Two Way Trauma”

  • Macgyver1294

    I would love to buy some of the products from these companies, but they’re so expensive! I am willing to pay up to about $150, maybe a little more, for a solid USA made backpack, but these cost more than twice that. I don’t understand why it’s so expensive. I have a ton of friends who would jump right on some great USA made gear, but they can’t afford it either. Do you know of any more affordable companies that make their gear in the US?

    • Macgyver1294 Backpacks in particular are very expensive to make in the US because they’re very labor intensive to make. Depending on the complexity of the build, a pack can take anywhere from a couple of hours up to five or six hours to make. Materials are not inexpensive for US made products, but labor is by far the largest part of the price. It’s very hard to get around that to any significant degree.

    • MorrisDeckers

      L.L. Bean guaranteed for life no questions asked

  • klamer

    So basically, continue to spend our money at places that provide you guys with gear and money, and not at anywhere we might actually find a good deal on a piece of gear. Got it!

  • toklas

    Anyone get tired of crummy gear review sites, ITS included, loadout room, etc – Half of the “content” is a gun mag review of a water purifier, or something they sell in their store.
    It’s become clear when we have guys with frankly, questionable experience and credentials, reviewing gear and explaining why it’s better – It becomes super obvious in the backpacking/mountaineering gear on this site, but the gun stuff is pretty apparent too.

  • Smokeybehr

    I’ve got 2 pair of LAPG pants that are OOS because of one simple thing: the zipper. They were part of my everyday rotation that included 5.11 and EoTac until they failed. I had another pair of Woolrich “tactical” pants that had the crotch blow out as I was getting into my truck. Luckily I was at home and could swap out. 

    I know that Condor is cheap, and that’s why I use it for my light-duty EDC. When it wears out or blows out, I will have received more than my money’s worth of it, and I will have saved up enough to get a decent pack.

  • Couldn’t agree more.  Those looking for quality American made gear may want to check out the American Gear Guide at

    • Sorry for the messed up link typo. I reposted above.

  • Agreed.  Those looking for quality American made gear may want to check out the American Gear Guide at

  • Sindri

    Agreed, and not agreed… Guess I’m not in that USA made mindset like you, being from Europe… But since my first blackhawk pants, I never went back… First atwood i received was like a revelation… Nonetheless, German, Danish, Swedish, … metalworks, Italian leatherworks, … I’ve even found a great Polish stampmaker… (Polish over here in Belgium is almost synonym for cheap, badly executed stuff), who does a superb job… Sorry if I hit a sensitive snare with all you Americans here, but being eclectic, I must say, some things non-USA are equal or might even be better sometimes. All depends on WHO makes it, and how… But anyhow, USA-made or not, pa the extra dollar, euro, pound, or whatever, buying quality pays off, even if it’s only that it makes you buy only once, worth it, it might save your hide one day too…

    • Zack Duff

      Sindri While everyone is welcome here-This is an American site clearly aimed toward American military, LE and otherwise.  Your response  (and several below that are much worse and dense) come off as banal and petulant.
      I repeat. All are welcome but  this is an American site clearly aimed toward American military, LE and otherwise.
      Having Non US citizens posting they do not feel the need to buy US is retarded. Yes of course. Buy whatever is closer and more convenient for you.   For most of us on this site that would be American made. We like to keep our money in our own country as much as possible.  Why you feel the need to post this on an American site does my head. I would not go to a German forum and post about how I would not buy everything German made. 

      This is almost as bad as me having to explain that Canada, USA and Mexico are all not “Americans” to dumbass milennials and snowflakes who cannot be bothered to look at a map or atlas (The United States of America is the name of country..not just the US).
       “But…but you are all in North America!”

      Uh yeah.  So we are in North America and have the word America in our name so we are Americans twice over.  No other country has the word America in it to include North and South American regions.

      Sorry for rant. Stupid things make me angry.

  • robertthesurvivor

    @downrange You wrote this like 50 years, but it’s the most spot on comment on the board. In fact it’s more spot on than the post. Here’s the deal that I have figured out.  THere are dudes that just have the cash flow to own 8-10 AR’s, running cans on all of them.  Own Eagle Industries plate carrier with level iv plates, running HSGI or whatever rigs and they love to love themselves.   I just put together a Tactical Tailor kit, and it wasn’t cheap -by the time I was done – but I also tried to shop smart.  I compared pouches – some pouches I got at TT and some I got at Amazon.  Yes I bought Tactical Tailor at Amazon. Believe it or not some of their pouches were a savings of over 50%.  Straight up 1/2 the price.  Now with my weapons, I make sure I buy quality.  I’m also prior service, so I do lean towards that gear – except KAC, who is stupid expensive…but point is – if you shop smart you can get good kit.  Sometimes you just need to save up… I did not buy a Condor chest rig because when I bought part of that kit, I wanted to buy once.  So I saved up  my money and bought as good as I could get.  It’s good stuff too – Tactical Tailor.  I’m impressed with it.  Let me clarify – before that I didn’t own a Condor, but I did own a USGI military issue load bearing vest.  I’m not saying to go buy some LBE, but you can pick up a decent Load Bearing Vest for 20-30 bucks at a Surplus/tactical store.  Then I slapped some double mag pouches on it and pretty soon I had a load vest, running 10 ea 30 rd mags, iFAK, Hydrations, and a few other utility pouches.  I used some pouches I had, the others, I bought used at a local tactical store – in the end I had about $60 bucks invested including the vest itself.  Was it as tacticool as my TT chest rig? No… Was it as good? wasn’t that either.  But it was sufficient until I could put together a solid piece of kit in that area of life support.  I think that’s what these guys with unlimited funds miss.  Sometimes you just have to get something to tie you over until you can save up…. Nothing wrong with that at all.  I’d rather have something than nothing when whatever happens happens. My 5 sense.

  • robertthesurvivor

    @Cryptic That’s a great name because your post albeit old is cryptic.  It really makes no sense. I get the feeling that you are ranting about something, probably “made in the US.”
    Next time you rant, shoot for consistency and shoot for simplicity.  Afterall we are just dumb Americans and obviously haven’t attained the higher level intelligence that you yourself have attained to.  Good luck with that.

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