Omega Tactical Vest: Cross Draw
by James Elliott
(aka Walking Target)
BlackHawk? I have been buying Army surplus gear since I was
knee high to a sparrow, so I am not unfamiliar with what is available and
what certain equipment is good for or not. I have always gone for the British
DPM/OD issue gear because I was in the Cadet Forces for a long time and I
am now in an URNU (University Royal Naval Unit) and I can cross use the equipment,
therefore saving me money (good thing!). However, since getting into skirmishing
coming up three years ago, I have been constantly impressed by the American
manufacturer: BlackHawk industries. All of the hardcore skirmishing types
seemed to be using and raving about it, but it was always way outside of my
budget, which is small and rather pathetic, I'm a student after all! I considered
purchasing replica BlackHawk gear, e.g. Guarder
(available from RedWolf
etc.), but I decided that I would only bitch about the quality, so I saved
my pennies for the real thing....
started by a US Navy SEAL, BlackHawk Industries have become the defacto standard
in tactical load bearing and other equipment. The sheer reputation puts them
heads and shoulders above similar manufacturers like Eagle. You may have see
a lot of BlackHawk equipment being used in films like BlackHawk Down and the
TV program Combat Missions. US Army Delta Force, the US Army Rangers and countless
other groups from the around the world swear by BlackHawk kit. I figured if
it was good enough for these distinguished warriors, then it was good enough
a choice...the research There
are currently around 20 different vest products for operations ranging from
Chemical Munitions to general infantry tasks. How does one make a choice from
all of these?!? Well, I wanted something that would be able to carry about
6 M-16 magazines and my pistol. So the choice was narrowed to one of the cross
draw vests, of which there are four: Omega Cross Draw/EOD Vest (for general
purpose missions), Omega Cross Draw/Pistol Mag Vest (three extra pistol magazine
pouches), Omega Cross Draw/Shotgun Vest (lots of shotgun shell pouches (shockingly;)
and finally the Omega Tactical Vest : Cross Draw.
Omega Tactical Vest: Cross Draw was originally designed for team leaders,
according to BlackHawks website. Three of the magazine pouches on the right
hand side of the vest have been replaced with a quick-draw pistol holster.
I am sick and tired of holsters. I have tried two or three of them, all good
ones, and I have never been comfortable with them. I find that they are constantly
trying to pull my trousers down and they flap about when they are on my thigh.
So I loved the idea of having my sidearm on my chest. A lot of the time I
would put my sidearm in a pouch on my chest rig. Many said that it was a bad
place for it, as it would get muddy etc etc, but hey, it happens.
thing that finally swayed me was when I spoke to an ex-USAF Para jumper. These
are the guys that go in behind enemy lines to pull out aircrew. They spend
two full years training before they are allowed out on missions, so to say
they are rather good is an understatement. When I spoke to this rather scary
man, I brought up BlackHawk and how I was thinking of buying a vest. He recommended
the very vest I wanted straight away and said that he used one when he was
operating whilst serving. Again...good enough for him, good enough for me.
does one buy BlackHawk kit from? Well,
I started in the logical place of their website (http://www.blackhawkindustries.com),
after that I looked at some US suppliers and came to the conclusion that there
really wasn't a great deal in price (when shipping is thrown in), so I decided
to buy direct from BlackHawk themselves. The website is quite easy to use,
my only criticism would be that they don't show all the different colours/patterns
available for the various vests in their product line. It is quite difficult
to imagine what a black assault vest will look like in OD or BDU. I originally
wanted a BDU vest, but due to a 4 week back-order, I changed the order to
an OD one, figuring that I would be able to use it for both woodland and urban
placed the order through the website with no hassles and received a timely
response confirming the order. A number of days later, a shiny box came through
my door in America. I ripped it open and pulled out the vest....the heady
smell of new gear filled my room (nothing better ;)). The vest was well packed
and prepared with a receipt and guarantee, no catalogue though which was a
little disappointing, oh well, you can't have everything.
note: If purchasing in the UK it's worth bearing in mind that any warranties
aren't valid unless you buy from an official BlackHawk UK supplier)
Vest: Features and potential problems The
first thing you will notice about the vest is the overall sturdiness. They
really feel like you could kick the living $%& out of them for a decade
and you wouldn't be able to damage it. The base of the vest is formed by double
mesh tactical nylon, which is apparently the strongest nylon in the world
(according to BlackHawk anyway..I cannot vouch for that). Attached to the
front of the vest on the left handside are the three magazine pouches. Each
takes two M-16 magazines comfortably. The pouches are secured by velcro and
are kept taut by an elastic strap. Although designed for standard 30 round
NATO magazines (M-16, SA80, FAMAS F1 G2 etc etc), I found that it is not a
problem to fit 30 round HK MP5 magazines in them too. Bargain, since I have
holster is sewn at an angle to the right hand lower chest area of the vest,
allowing you to reach with your right hand across your chest to draw the weapon.
I have not been able to test it with my nice new Mauri M92F TAC Master yet,
as it is sat in a box at Tonka's house (fellow WASP)
in England. However, I intend to put a real steel one in it to test it soon
(after all, I am in America, it would be rude not too!), when I do, I will
get pics. The holster boasts an extra pistol magazine pouch attached to the
top. I have heard of a number of problems from people concerning Glock 17's,
18C's etc with magazines falling out of the pistol. I will investigate this
problem and get back to you ASAP.
up, there are two utility pouches, one with Velcro (right hand side one),
the other without. The vest comes with a Velcro shotgun shell attachment.
I doubt I will use this as I do not own or wish to own a shotgun, but I will
hang onto it just in case. From a skirmishing point of view, you should be
able to fit about 1500 rounds in each pouch in a bag without too much hassle.
So 3000 rounds in the vest: a full days skirmish for me.
of the many features of the vest is the "Sniper Shoulder". This is basically
a padded area for where you would put the stock of the rifle when in the aiming
position. I had a good go with this and found it to be comfortable, although
it will take some getting used to. However, it has been known for me to come
home with a sore shoulder from being in the aim the whole time, so this will
loose that problem.
BlackHawk make left handed versions of all of their vests
on the left shoulder is a small field dressing pouch, but it looks perfect
to my eye for a Motorola Talk About radio or similar. This is a good thing,
I am always trying to find somewhere to stick the radio!
you open up the vest, there are two large pockets suitable for maps etc on
the inside next to the zip. The back panal is actually one large pocket which
is capable of carrying a Hydra Storm or Camel pack. I have a Hydra Storm Torrent
Extreme (recommended by BlackHawk for all their vests) on order which should
arrive in a few days. This is a major advantage. Excellent though my aging
Camel Pack is, I am sick of it coming off my shoulders, this feature will
allow me to keep a water supply secure and accessible at all times.
I put the vest on over my combats for the first time, I found myself completely
converted from my chest rig. The vest is so totally comfortable. After some
minor adjustments of the side securing lines, I was happy as Larry. The vest
is very comfortable, everything is very easily accessible, which is always
a bonus in a stressful skirmish situation (mag changes being the main one).
The Velcro makes the magazines easy to get at and the cross draw makes drawing
a pistol as rapid as possible.
impressive, very impressive. The service from BlackHawk was acceptable, even
though there was a short delay due to the 4th July celebrations, but I guess
I can live with that! When I spoke to them on the phone asking for advice,
I was suitably impressed with the reps knowledge and manner, so no complaints
there. The product arrived safe and sound, well packed complete with a packing
list/receipt and guarantee card, so that was fine. Price wise, the vest was
acceptable to me at $135 US dollars, which equates to 86.8446 GBP (approximately
;)) not including shipping. For me, being in America, the shipping was around
$15-20 (can't quite remember), I am not sure how much the shipping to the
UK would be.
is by far the most expensive item of skirmishing gear (other than AEG's and
pistols of course) I have bought. I am very pleased with the vest and think
it is a good sound investment. Like I said, the build quality is so high,
it will last for ever. If it doesn't, I will send it back and get a new one,
a nice perk of BlackHawks after sales service! So yeah, happy with it, buy
one, you know you need it!.....
by James Elliott
(aka Walking Target)