Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blue Force Gear Helium Whisper

Blue Force Gear is close to releasing their new Helium Whisper line of ultralight pouches with compact, innovative PALS attachment straps.  Matthew of has written up a thorough review at:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

HSGI Taco mag pouch

Military Times GearScout Blog has a great review of the HSGI Taco mag pouch.  This is one of the most versatile mag pouches out there.

Photo credit: Military Times GearScout

Monday, March 22, 2010

DBT Short Open-Top M4 pouch

Nice overview of this pouch on the Jerking the Trigger blog.  I haven't tried one myself but it looks like a potentially good option for a speed reload pouch.

Photo credit: Jerking the Trigger

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Midway USA 42" tactical rifle case

The Basics

Inside dimensions: 40" long x 12" high
Weight: 29 oz (1 lb 13 oz)
Exterior material: PVC-coated polyester
Retention of contents: Zipper main compartment; 4x 2-mag pockets with velcro flaps; zipper pocket for incidentals
Carry methods: Carry handles - nylon webbing with velcro-secured wrap; Shoulder strap - sewn in on one side for over-the-shoulder, sling-style carry
Available colors: Black
Midway's website description: These heavy duty tactical weapons cases are engineered to provide exceptional protection for rifles and carbines of all shapes and sizes. These cases are constructed with an advanced dual density bonded padding system that provides superior impact protection compared to basic foam used in other cases. Other enhanced durability features include heavy duty, Hi-Abrasion resistance ballistic fabric construction, oversized self repairing coil zippers, fully wrapped webbing handles, reinforced seam stitching, metal hardware, shoulder strap and snag-proof 420D lining fabric.
Price at time of this writing: $16.99 (sale); regular price is $29.99
Made in: China

Pouch Central Overview

I happened to be in the market for a rifle case and when I noticed this case on sale.  For the screaming low price of $16.99 it seemed like a no-brainer. Of course I was a little skeptical, but the reviews on Midway's website were mostly positive, with just a few negatives, and I figured that my risk was pretty minimal at this price. So I ordered one to try it out. Midway's service has always been good in my experience and this was no exception as they shipped the case out the morning after I ordered it.

When it arrived my expectations were low, and I half-expected the case to fall apart in my hands as soon as I took it out of the box. Not only did it not fall apart, the materials actually seemed pretty decent. The exterior fabric is reasonably heavyweight (just a guess; I don't know the exact weight) and the foam padding is thicker than I would have expected. I broke out the calipers and the foam measured 7/10ths of an inch thick on each side. I was expecting something more like 1/4".  At nearly three times that thickness, this should be plenty to protect my rifles from dings and scrapes in most situations short of dragging them down the road behind my car.

The overall appearance of the case is pretty standard for a tac rifle case. Black is the only color offered, unfortunately, and it would be nice to see other colors offered as well.  I'd also like to see the shape of the case made rectangular to provide a more discreet profile.  This is important to a lot of folks who live in urban environments and don't like to advertise their hardware to the neighborhood every time they take it out to the car.  A rectangular case would also be more flexible since it doesn't matter which way you put the rifle in.

One other thing I noticed right away was a strong odor from the synthetic materials, probably due to outgassing from the PVC.  I took the case to my garage and left it sitting open for a few days.  The smell mostly disappeared.  I have no idea what plasticizers were used in the manufacture of this case, but it's made in China so your guess is as good as mine.  I'm not taking a stand on the health effects of things like phthalates, but if you're concerned about such issues I would take this into consideration and probably avoid storing the case in someplace you spend lots of time, such as your bedroom.  Here's a Wikipedia article on PVC for your reference.

Moving on to the layout, one side of the case has the pockets and pouches, and the other side has a shoulder strap but is otherwise clean.  On one side there's a small Midway logo in the center that seems tasteful and not too blatant.  But if you don't like it you could probably black it out with a sharpie or (if you can sew) you could cover it with some loop Velcro and use the space for a nametape, flag patch, etc. 

Click any photo for a full-size image

There are two ways to carry the case. First, there are dual grab-handles with a Velcro-secured handle wrap. This works just like it should, and the webbing is stitched all the way down both sides of the case so it doesn't look like it will come loose anytime soon.

Left: Grab handles
Right: Detail of shoulder strap attachment

Second, there's a shoulder strap that runs the length of the case on one side, for over-the-shoulder, sling-style carry like the way you'd carry a hunting rifle. The strap is sewn into the case at both ends, with no QD option, but it lays flat and doesn't add any bulk so I don't think the QD option is really necessary. The strap is comfortably wide.  The stitching and plastic ring holding it to the bag don't look too stout though.  I would keep an eye on this area as a potential weak point. It's obviously not intended for heavy-duty use, but it wouldn't stop me from buying the case.

The main compartment has a single zipper.  A double-zipper would be better but I'm sure this is a cost-saving measure.  When you zip up the case, the zipper sits at the wider (buttstock) end. Given that we're stuck with a single zipper I'd prefer to have it zip up to the muzzle end, so that when carrying the rifle muzzle up using the shoulder strap, I don't have to worry about the zipper opening and dropping the rifle out the bottom. But for this price I can suck it up and sling it muzzle-down.

The main compartment's inner dimensions measure out at 40" long by 12" high. As you can see it's quite spacious for my carbine in both length and height.  The height should be sufficient for any scoped AR. Lengthwise it just fits my 20" AR with A2 stock, but if you want a little extra room for a rifle that size I'd go with the 46" version of this case (same price).

Towards the front of the bag there's a medium-sized, unpadded zipper pocket that can hold a small notebook and other incidentals. It doesn't have much depth to it but it's handy for the one or two things you forgot to throw in your range bag. The notebook in the photo is 8.25" tall x 6.5" wide x .5" thick, so you could probably throw a few extra magazines in there but it's not deep enough to accommodate a spotting scope.

In the center of the bag, behind the Midway logo is a small, Velcro-secured pocket that's big enough for a magazine and/or odds and ends like pens and tools.

Towards the rear of the bag are four magazine pockets, each secured by a flap with a Velcro closure.  Oddly, the two end pouches will each hold two M4 magazines, while the center two pouches will hold one each, for a total of six.  The flaps will close over mags that have Magpul loops or Ranger Plates.  You can also fit one M14 or G3 7.62 NATO magazine in each pouch, although they'll fit snugly in the middle two pouches.  I don't have AK mags so I wasn't able to test them.


For the money this is an unbeatable value.  In fact I'm going to buy a second case since the $16.99 price is still in effect at the time of this writing, even at $29.99 I wouldn't hesitate to buy another.  While it has a few minor shortcomings there's nothing that would make me hesitate to recommend it.  Putting the value issue aside for a moment, I've listed my likes and dislikes below, just in terms of the features and functionality.  You'll see that my dislikes are mostly "nice to have" features rather than major flaws.

  • Materials seem to be good quality
  • Size accommodates most tactical rifles
  • Handles/straps are solid enough for most uses, and a Velcro-secured wrap is provided for the grab handles
  • Thoughtful layout of pockets makes good use of the real estate and provides a variety of storage options
  • Foam is thicker than I expected
  • Shoulder strap attachment is a potential weak point
  • Lack of a double-zipper
  • Zipper should zip up to the muzzle end
  • Mag pouches should all hold two mags
  • More colors should be offered
  • It would be nice to see this case in a "discreet", rectangular shape rather than the traditional rifle shape.
  • There's nothing to protect the muzzle from the zipper, so if your barrel doesn't have a muzzle device you might want to add a muzzle protector
  • Shipping costs - it's expensive to ship on its own because it's a bulky item. If you have the chance to bundle it with several other items you'll save some money on shipping.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tactical Tailor 3-Mag 5.56 Pouch

The Basics

Dimensions: 7.5" tall x 2.5" wide x 3" deep 
Weight: 4.5 oz. with MALICE clips
Retention of contents: Flap with Velcro, bungee around the body
Attachment: 2x long MALICE clips (included)
PALS usage: 2 channels wide
TT website description: The Three Mag 5.56 Pouch is designed to hold three 30 round 5.56 magazines. Features include an adjustable hook and loop secured top flap and a bungee cinch system to keep mags from rattling. Constructed from 1000 Denier Cordura nylon with a double ply lining for extra durability.
Price at time of this writing: US$24.00
Available colors at time of this writing: Coyote Brown, Olive Drab, Black, Multicam, ACU, Ranger Green, MARPAT Woodland
Web page:

Pouch Central Overview
The 3-Mag 5.56 Pouch is a pouch which (for lack of a fancier description) holds three 5.56 M4 magazines.  Retention is accomplished via a flap with Velcro closure as well as a bungee cord that can be tightened to prevent mags from rattling when only two mags are present.  The pouch is attached to your gear via two long MALICE clips, which are included.  The width of the pouch is a true two channels with no overlap, so you can mount two pouches side-by-side across four channels.

Click images for full-size views

The pouch is made of 1000 denier Cordura nylon that's coated with a water repellent.  The interior is a black vinyl-coated polyester that improves durability and also provides some slickness to aid in removing items from the pouch.    A drainage grommet is included at the bottom.

Left: Vinyl coating for durability and slickness
Right: Bottom of pouch with drainage grommet

Hook velcro on the underside of the flap

The photo above shows the pouch flap with hook Velcro on the underside.  It provides a generous contact patch for keeping the flap anchored.  The end of the flap has a downward-facing pull tab on the end (which I unfortunately cut out of the frame in this picture, but you can see it in the other photos) that aids in lifting the flap, especially when you're wearing gloves.  The flap can be folded inside the pouch behind the magazines if desired.

The pouch fits three USGI mags comfortably but snugly.  (I did not have PMAGs to test.)  With the bungee cord tightened down over three mags there's enough friction to provide decent retention even with the flap open.  In order to test how good the retention is without the flap, I first removed one mag and tightened the bungee enough to prevent the two remaining mags from rattling. I then re-inserted the third mag.  With the flap open, I turned the pouch upside down and tried shaking the mags out.  I couldn't get the mags to fall out on their own, even with energetic shaking.  However, the mag will come out with a deliberate pull, as you would do when reloading.  This is similar to the level of friction retention I've observed with TT's 5.56 shingles.

With only two mags in the pouch there are a couple of options to keep them from rattling.  One is just to pull the flap down a little lower to snug the mags together. You can also use the bungee.  Since the cord lock requires two hands to set, it makes sense to set it up in advance to prevent two mags from rattling.  After doing this you can still insert a third mag and your pouch is now ready to go.

While this pouch is designed for standard mags, the flap is long enough to accommodate three magazines with ranger plates.  However, this limits the hook/loop contact area to about 1cm vertically so that's something to consider if you're relying on the flap to retain the mags in case of any violent motion.  This is an area where I'd like to see TT make a change by lengthening the flap so that you can carry mags with Ranger Plates without compromising retention.

 Flap secured over three 5.56 mags 
with Ranger Plates

Note that if you use the old-style Magpul loops that slip over the magazine body, you won't be able to fit more than two mags in this pouch due to the extra width added by the Magpul loops.

Finally, this pouch can also serve as a water bottle carrier in pinch.  It's perfectly sized to carry a 1 pint water bottle, either with the flap closed or folded into the pouch behind the bottle.

At the time of this writing the Zipper Utility is offered in Coyote Brown, Olive Drab, Black, Multicam, ACU, Ranger Green and MARPAT Woodland but check the product page for the current color selection.  The pouch pictured here is the older Tan color, which has been replaced by the slightly darker Coyote Brown.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tactical Tailor Zipper Utility Pouch Overview

This is an overview of the TT Zipper Utility Pouch.  It's not a full review because I haven't really used the pouch, but since the info on TT's website is pretty sparse I thought it might be helpful to provide some detailed photos and descriptions.

By the way I should add that the pouch I photographed is a little used so if you see anything that doesn't look entirely new that's not the fault of Tactical Tailor.

The Basics

Dimensions: 7" tall x 5" wide x 4" deep (main compartment); 5" tall x 3" wide x 1" deep (front pocket) 
Weight: 7 oz. with MALICE clips 
Retention of contents: Zipper (main compartment); Vecro flap (front pocket)
Attachment: 2x long MALICE clips (included)
PALS usage: 4 channels wide
TT website description: The Zipper Utility Pouch is designed to hold medical supplies (500ml IV bag, 2 rolls of Kerlix starter kits, ace wrap, etc.) but it is also large enough to hold a 1 quart GI canteen or Nalgene bottle. This pouch is also the perfect size to hold the US military issue Lightweight Handheld Mortar Ballistic Computer(LHMBC). Features include elastic loops on the inside to help keep the contents secure, a small external pouch for extra storage and dual zipper pulls.
Price at time of this writing: US$32.00
Available colors at time of this writing: Coyote Brown, Olive Drab, Black, Multicam, ACU, Ranger Green, MARPAT Desert
Web page:

Pouch Central Overview

The Zipper Utility is a medium sized pouch with a zipper closure for the main compartment and a small pocket on the front with a Velcro flap closure.  The pouch is attached to your gear via two long MALICE clips, which are included with the pouch.

Click images for full-size views

TT also offers an identically-sized pouch with PALS webbing on the front instead of the pocket, called the Modular Zipper Utility (you can see it here).

The pouch is made of 1000 denier Cordura nylon that's coated with a water repellent.  The interior is a black vinyl-coated polyester that improves durability and also provides some slickness to aid in removing items from the pouch.  There are elastic loops on both sides.  There's a single loop on the outer surface (away from your body) while the loop on the inner surface is tacked in the center to create two separate loops.  The pouch has a drainage grommet at the bottom.

Left: Vinyl coating for durability and slickness
Right: Bottom of pouch with drainage grommet

Left: Double loop
Right: Single loop

The zippers are heavy duty and feature cord pulls with plastic keepers on the end.  Compared to conventional metal zipper pull tabs, the cord pulls are quieter and much easier to grab quickly.  Because the cord is significantly longer than a metal tab, and the knob formed by the plastic keeper provides something to grab onto, these pull tabs are significantly easier to manipulate with gloves on.

Left: Top of pouch
Right: Zipper pull detail 

To provide a sense of size using a common item as a reference, I loaded the pouch up with magazines.  I was able to get five USGI magazines with the old-style Magpuls in easily.  If you're using Ranger Plates instead of Magpuls you can squeeze six in there.  It will also hold a 32 oz. Nalgene bottle with room to spare.  The Nalgene bottle is exactly the right size to fit into the larger elastic loop.  The front pocket is 5"x3"x1" and the Velcro flap makes the contents easily accessible.  I used a magazine to provide a sense of the size although the pocket was obviously not meant for that purpose.

At the time of this writing the Zipper Utility is offered in Coyote Brown, Olive Drab, Black, Multicam, ACU, Ranger Green and MARPAT Desert, but check the product page for the current color selection.  The pouch pictured here is the older Tan color, which has been replaced by the slightly darker Coyote Brown.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tactical Tailor Tan Sale

Tactical Tailor is blowing out their remaining tan merchandise at 40% off...for a complete list of sale items, go here.

Some examples of tan items on sale (with many more on their site):

Duty belt $14.40-17.25 depending on size

 Small utility pouch $7.80

1-piece MAV complete with pouches $118.80