That seems to be the dilemma with the season change. The Smith & Wesson Shield is probable the most popular firearms right now because everyone is getting them with a $75 rebate and from a local gun shop. It’s still cold this May of 2017 in Pennsylvania, but as soon as it gets hot, it’s pretty much shorts and a t-shirt for most of our customers. We’re actively researching new products lines because many of the pocket carry friendly clothing brands we use to sell are no longer available. It’s also getting harder and harder to find real CCW vests because so many of them are overly designed and tactical.
The Rothco Under Cover Travel Vest and the Rothco Concealed Carry Softshell vests are exactly what caught our eye that we knew our customer base would like. We’ve only been selling their products for a few months but they are reasonable priced and cut for CCW. There are other Rothco Concealed Carry Vests, but I wish there was a 100% cotton version of the Rothco Professional Concealed Carry vest because it looks exactly like the Eotac 102 lightweight vest that so many IDPA competitors wore, but it is slightly heavier weight which might be an issue with some of our customers.
We have always had a very strong presence in the competition shooting sports, primarily because an enormous number of people that shoot IDPA, 3 Gun ect. wore the extremely popular Woolrich Elite 4424 Light Weight Tactical Vest, and we are proud to have attended and watched people use them at the IDPA Nationals that were hosted 2 times here in Pennsylvania several years ago. There are plenty of vests out there that you can wear on the range, but can you wear it on the range and wear it with your EDC? 5.11 Tactical has always had several options, but some of their vests are too tactical or they design them and discontinue them before you can get around to getting one. Tru-Spec had 2 vests and discontinued both of them and were not seeing a new one yet, even though we heard rumors they were working on one. We’ve recently picked up the Rothco Vests and the majority of the Rothco product line because it really seems to have grown in the concealed carry market which, compared to many other tactical clothing lines, they don’t do CCW very well.
I can speak for the long term quality control of the entire product line, but seeing that Rothco has well over 100,000 Facebook likers, they have a lot of people where their stuff. It still amazes the number of Rudy Project Competitors that were still wearing the Woolrich Elite 4424 and Eotac 102 Vests were have long ceased to exist, but in 2017 we really only can suggest people consider the 5.11 Tactical or Rothco Vests for competition sports or Concealed Carry. There is always going to be issues and complaints about the material that is used, in hot weather, people want 100% cotton ripstop, but good luck trying to find a manufacturer for that, the majority of them are going to be 65/35 Polyester Cotton Ripstop or the Rothco 60% Cotton 40% Polyester. The stiffer material sweeps better but it doesn’t breath as well as the all cotton.
This is a niche market but it appeals to a very hardcore group of people. Much of it is preference driven whether it’s Condor tactical vests, molle gear or Vertx product line. The costs of jackets could be from $89.99 to over $400 depending on what features and quality you want. We all remember what it was like to shop in an Army Navy store and buy surplus military gear, especially those of us that remember the fall of the Eastern Communist Countries and all of the stuff that was sold off in military depots. Some of that was cool to have, but the smell had to be washed out and most of it was in the BDU category and not a lot of features like some of the newer tactical clothing companies like 5.11 Tactical or Tru-Spec make.
We’ve seen various companies take adventures in making certain tactical pants but the quality was never there. Only hardcore clothing companies have been able to cut into the tactical clothing market and that is only about a half dozen companies that still make user friendly and quality shirts, pants, shorts, vests and jackets. Tru-Spec makes some new jackets that are knock offs of the old M65 jacket but once you put it on and feel the brand new quality, you’ll know why it was time to update or clean out your old jackets especially if you are concealed carry holder. It seems Woolrich Elite Series Tactical has been sold off so that’s another Fail for the tactical clothing world but you never know when someone has a new design that catches everyone’s attention.
In 2013 we saw the launch of the Tru-Spec Simple Tactical product line and considering how well it has sold so far I expect that there will be a womens line and possible a few more colors. The Simple Tactical product line is basically a mild tactical pant that probable has 40% fewer pockets if you compare it to 5.11 or other Tru-Spec tactical pants, namely the 24/7 series. That’s a really nice pant for $39.95 and sometimes you can get them cheaper especially during the 1,2,3 sales that Tru-Spec has done atleast 2x’s. Some people don’t like particular waistbands and the Simple tactical is more stretch. You will notice that those will be tru to your waist size and you won’t be able to stow gear is pretend you are really a smaller waist.
This year we took on a few 5.11 products which we normally stayed away from but now that Woolrich Elite Series Tactical is no longer making their product line, we brought in the 5.11 covert Khaki 2.0 which is a good improvement over the regular Cover Khaki. These pants are now the least tactical pants we (looking that is) and after washing an wearing I didn’t notice any of the shrinkage that so many of our customers complain about. I guess 5.11 put a little more quality into their white color tactical clothing. We’re still testing out various types of shirts to see if we can find anything anywhere near as nice as the Woolrich Elite Series concealed carry shirts. We really missed that product line.
This year was a very successful year for us in the Delaware County area in launching our tactical store and we double the size of our business in the first 6 months. People are still finding out about us via word of mouth whenever they need a new holster, police boots or even just Ambulance companies hiring and people needing to get a pair of pants. Much of the product line we stock in our store is for people to checkout instead of buying it online. Duty gear like handcuff keys and various police belts are things that people in the Law Enforcement industry lose or wear out over time and are always in need of. Police vests, tactical pants, uniform pants, belts, hydration unites, SWAT team bags are things that are always wearing out and need to be replaced.
We’ve learned there are so many types of handcuffs, swivel and hinged doesn’t always narrow it down, some are different weights and types of metal. The items we have brought in this year are the Safariland lightweight handcuffs and in our region there are no Philadelphia Police Supplies shops around here and many of our Law Enforcement Officers are very happy to see a business like this open up. Tactical vests, body armor are all things people need to be sized up on and this is something that has to be done right so that there are fewer returns. We stock a large number of Blackhawk serpa holsters, safariland products, pepper spray, mace, tasers, batons, police badge holders and more and more duty gear.
It looks like Woolrich Elite Series Tactical is no more and the clothing has been drying up for some time now. They never seemed to be able to move on and market their products after Backyard outfitter ceased marketing their products. Even after all of these years of selling things that competed in the market against the 5.11 products, we still have customers coming in and bashing the 5.11 product line as having sub-par quality control. It’s one reason why we don’t stock their clothing in large quantities. Much of the fabric shrinks or falls apart and we don’t want to deal with the customer complaints for tactical pants, tactical shirts, tactical vests or jackets since this happens so much. They are truely a monster of a company but there are better quality products out there for less money.
Finding shirts that fit you is something you are going to have to try out for yourself, the Blackhawk and Tru-Spec product lines have very good quality control, but sizing and fit are going to be different. Everyone asks us how the cut is and every shirt and even some styles are cut differently. TruSpec tactical apparel has uniform and tactical shirts as well as concealed carry shirts and the fabric, lightweight and ultralightweight tactical shirts are very different. The gunny tactical line gives a different angle to the product line and the Tru-Spec 24/7 Series clothing and the Tru-Spec Simple Tactical clothing is going to really cut into Blackhawk and 5.11 tactical market just based on quality control and price points.
Lately I have been carrying different gear with me at work and during classes. Recently I was on a road trip and re discovered ankle and shoulder holsters and forgot what it was like to carry in those positions while driving 8hrs in a day. There are plenty of reasons to consider ankle carry holsters but they are really meant for backups. One thing I have noticed with various tactical pants is the cut of the pants near the ankles. Not that I think people need bell bottom pants but this is something to seriously consider when you are carrying in this position. Some styles of pants will not give you the movement you need and you will end up with your pants riding up on you.
When it comes to carrying handcuffs and batons, wallets and other paperwork, you are going to see huge differences in the types of pants out there. Call me an old timer but I still don’t have Vertx tactical pants in my wardrobe although in 2013 I plan on getting some. I have found I have learned to love the Blackhawk lightweight tactical pants because they are holding up very well to all of the useage I have given them and the only negative I have so far are the lack of a left side wallet or ID pocket. The pockets are a little too deep for a wallet and I often feel like I lost it because it’s about 2-3 inches lower than it normally would be. It’s not just about the material like 100% cotton ripstop or 65/35 poly cotton ripstop.
We have seen the tactical clothing market explode in the last 10yrs and have seen companies come and go. Some of the companies we sold products for were really original and well made but they just didn’t get their foot in the door and gain traction. Some of the products were, even though well made, not easy to sell online because people wanted to hold it in their hands or try it on to make sure it fit them. Some of the sizing issues aren’t just about chest sizing it’s also arm lengths and waist tolerances. I have been using the Woolrich Elite 44903 tactical vest for almost 8yrs and it has very good durability and very comfortable compared to some molle vests.
The 44903 vest is a cotton canvas tactical vest and has so many pockets that only a well organized individual won’t have problems losing his gear in it. You will have a place for a radio, water bottles and the Woolrich Elite Series tactical vest has plenty of room to hold 4-8 magpul pmags depending on how you stack them. The new Gen 3 pmags are a little thinner so you will easily be able to stack on 8 magazines and even more depending on how crafty you are with your pocket usage. The rear pocket, I find is good for elbow pads and gloves.
Now that so many people do their shopping on Cyber Monday or just order things from Amazon and Ebay, many small business have been put out of business. One thing that hasn’t changed though are returns and exchanges. Sometimes people mis ready technical details about the size of a product or they order a wrong color. When it comes to buying shoes and certain types of clothing, people really want to walk in a shop, hold it in their hands and then walk out the same day. We’ve had several people tell us that we should stock certain products and many of our nearest competitors do now. Nobody wants to walk in a retail store, order something online and then go back in and pick it up when you can easily go home and look it up on google and get it in a couple days.
With holster sizes, flashlight and laser accessories its very hard to know what you are getting with a gun holster. In the area we are in we draw a lot of customers looking for Philadelphia Law Enforcement supplies that are willing to drive several hours just to try it on and get it right the first time. You can be one size in on line of tactical apparel but another size or in between sizes with another and only when you are standing in front of a mirror will you know if it’s for you. Whether you’re looking for a gun holster for your Glock 21 with a TLR-1S light or a new pair of boots, we stock most of what local law enforcement personnel are looking for.
Its looking more and more like the Woolrich Elite Series Tactical product line is no more. We’ve seen several clothing companies and various other tactical gear manufacturers pull out of China and the task of retooling the the machines and launching the products in a bad economy have been rough. We recently heard that Tru-Spec is now making their clothing in Honduras which is a major shift from our standpoint because just about everyone making tactical clothing came in from somewhere in Asia. India, Cambodia, Vietnam, China it seemed like everyone had a manufacturer over there, but cost increases have really hit some companies and from what we see it can cause a certain percentage of your customers to switch to another brand.
Now that we have such a large Law Enforcement customer base, many of these guys and gals have a clothing allowance and increase the cost of tactical clothing by $10 per item means they may can few items. The differences between 5.11 tactical and TruSpec shirts are considerable as far as pocket designs and such, but many of the Tru-Spec and 5.11 tactical clothing products are made of similar materials. The differences are quality control and sizing consistency. We here so many complaints about 5.11 products getting expensive and the truth of the matter, they are not the only ones, Vertx pants are usually over $60, Woolrich Elite $50 and from what we see Tru-Spec products from Atlanco are the best priced products.