Photo Credit: Chris Tran
Blue Force Gear: Taking Minimalist to a Whole New Level
Carry all of your cool gear in a svelte, secure, slick, and economical way.
Although having bulk in life is something most men desire (the muscle kind, not the Dad Bod kind), it is not something to be desired when it comes to duty gear. Granted, there will always be the "Tactical Ted" cop who wears the Tac vest in the shower with five billion pouches, four knives, rifle mag shingles AND shotgun shell loops, but for us normal Joes, we want something that works, works well, and won’t exacerbate weight strain injuries to our already-damaged and aging bodies.
Having cool gear is awesome. Carrying all the cool gear sucks. Being able to carry everything you need and nothing you don’t in a svelte, secure, slick, and economical fashion is exactly where I want to be – and I just got there with Blue Force Gear.
Truth be told, I’ve known about Blue Force Gear for a long time, and they’re very well known for their rifle slings, specifically the Vickers sling…you may have heard of him. What I didn’t know, is that they also carry a couple of great lines of pouches; both molle, and the "10 Speed" a line to be worn on the belt, which is the focus of this article.
I was in Washington D.C. last year to attend Police Week, and during some down time, I went to visit Triple Bravo of inimitable gun photography fame, and Jimmy Hat from F3 Tactical. What Jimmy didn’t know, and I didn’t let on about, is that I had observed that he was wearing a really slick, low-profile double mag pouch which I pretty much wanted immediately. Once I got back to Seattle, I took a look online to see what it was, and I re-discovered Blue Force Gear‘s website and saw the new line of items they now carried.
I filed the items away for future reference, but they recently came to the fore a few months ago when I went on a temporary assignment to an undercover unit. Having the opportunity to live and work in a plainclothes capacity really lit a fire under my concealment game, and I immediately remembered the gear that I saw Jimmy wearing the year prior.
I quickly went to Blue Force Gear’s website, and ordered two items from their Belt Pouch Line; the double pistol belt pouch, and their cuff case. Sadly, the cuff case was on backorder, so I went through the next few months carrying a cuff case from High Speed Gear International, which was not nearly as streamlined as Blue Force Gear, but did the job nonetheless.
"Having cool gear is awesome. Carrying all the cool gear sucks."
When I received my double pistol pouch, I was pleasantly surprised. The belt pouch is light; weighing in at 40 grams and very well stitched and constructed. I’ve had experience with other notable manufacturers such as Snake Eater Tactical that also use elastic fabric to act as a retention medium for their pouches, which are excellent in quality. Blue Force Gear differs in that in addition to the elastic material, they use a material called Ultracomp, which is a type of laminate that coats portions of the pouch material.
The double pistol belt pouch is attached to a belt using two hook and loop straps. I was initially skeptical about how well the hook and loop would hold up; would it break away easily? Would it bind? Would it shift too much to provide a repeatable platform?
I’m happy to say that the hook and loop performed very well over the course of 6 weeks, and continues to do so after the initial evaluation period. I opted to use my double belt pouch to host a backup Glock 19 magazine and a Surefire G2 flashlight. Any concern I had about the hook and loop failing was assuaged over the course of time.
The pouch holds mags and lights very securely, and I really appreciated that the elastic material created the most minimal footprint possible, and that when the pouch was empty or partially emptied, the unfilled pouch remains unobtrusive and flexible, with no hard parts or molded corners to dig into the wearer.
A couple weeks after my stint with the undercover unit was up, my backordered cuff case came in. MUCH more streamlined, and of comparable build quality and attention to detail to the double pistol belt pouch. I quickly replaced the HSGI and immediately noted the difference. Svelte, minimal footprint, and without any bungee cables or superfluous material. I haven’t ever used a slimmer, more lightweight carry option before.
Photo Credit: Chris Tran
Life is about compromises at times. In many cases, we as everyday consumers really want the "best bang for our buck," and there is always a decisional balance between quality of gear, price, and availability.
When it comes to real-world gear, especially for plainclothes/covert applications, the most important factors for me are concealability, accessibility, durability, and then affordability. In some cases, levels of accessibility will be sacrificed for concealability, and both factors will be eclipsed by cost in many instances because you get what you pay for. The pouches and cuff case from Blue Force Gear are an excellent balance of all of these factors, with a few high and low points.
The Blue Force Gear belt pouches, loaded or unloaded are about as slim as it gets. The elastic fabric grips equipment well, and I was very confident that neither my mag or my flashlight would inadvertently slip loose without a very conscious and deliberate effort. Due to the thinness of the elastic fabric, there really isn’t much of a conceivable way for the pouch to have a smaller footprint at all.
Unloaded, the belt pouch also brags an advantage that cannot be found most other places; the footprint is tiny, kind of like taping an index card to your belt. I already mentioned is also flexible, which means that the platform conforms and bends with your body, so there are no hard points digging into your midsection or hip. Huge benefit when seated or with a partially downloaded pouch.
Accessibility is where I noticed the trade-offs. What I mean by that is that the deeper the cover/concealability, the harder the accessibility. Now, even though the double belt pouch is carried in the same manner as any other OWB-mounted pouch, the trade-off comes down to the elastic pouches. They’re grippy. Much grippier than leather, and grippier than kydex or laminate with an adjustable retention screw. Due to the elastic material, it obviously follows that the bulkier the item placed within, the greater the tension.
I mentioned above that that I had no concerns whatsoever with the retention of the pouch. I found, however, in running drills in full everyday winter wear, that deploying the mag, takes a little doing. Now keep in mind that I was running a Glock 19 mag, which fully seats in the pouch all the way to the baseplate. What I did notice however, was that in order to successfully draw the mag with any reliable repeatability, I conformed to more of a "pinch grip" on the mag, instead of my typical index-finger-on-the-bullet-tip draw, which caused me to flub a few speed reloads on the shot timer.
Not a dealbreaker by any means, but again, something to consider when it comes to training with your gear before deploying for real out in real life.
In the couple months that I’ve been daily carrying the Blue Force Gear belt pouch I’ve noted that the Ultracomp started to wear down on the corners and fold points of the pouch exposing the weave underneath. I have not noticed any wear on the weave itself though, so I do not believe at this point in time that any structure integrity has been compromised at all.
The elastic fabric has held up well and has maintained the same degree of tension, and I still have no concerns about the mag/light/gear falling out when I don’t want it to…which leads us ultimately to…
The Blue Force Gear Double Pistol Belt Pouch retails at $26, the cuff belt pouch at $30, and the single M4 mag belt pouch at $24-25 – all of these prices are comparable and in most cases, LESS THAN standard concealable duty gear from most major manufacturers.
So in the affordability realm, Blue Force Gear is again on point and there is really no downside when it comes to price comparison.
Photo Credit: Chris Tran
Full of win. Blue Force Gear comes through with winning colors and matches and/or surpasses most of my criteria for quality and real-world worthy kit.
The only weak point I found was the cuff pouch. For most patrol officers, due to variance in suspect wrist diameter, I typically advocate for officers to carry one set of hinged cuffs and one set of linked cuffs to fit most occasions. I did note that the elastic tension on the cuff pouch is its one singular weak point, in that depending on your position (seated in a car, leaning up against objects, etc), it is possible to mess up the chambering of the cuff, and in one instance I noted that the single strand of the cuff (for hinged cuffs) actually started to protrude through the elastic material.
I also found that the retention snap on the cuff pouch is superfluous, and after a few weeks of wearing it, I noted that the M4 belt pouch is of virtually identical dimensions to the cuff pouch. I ultimately ended up buying a M4 pouch and use it interchangeably for cuffs and an AR mag depending on what I’m doing. I’m cheap, and two for the price of one works well for me.
All-in-all, I find that Blue Force Gear, a staple in the tactical weapon sling community, also shines when it comes to belt-mounted pouches and molle gear. I have recently received one of Blue Force Gear’s 10-speed molle dump pouches, and I’ll be using that one in various trainings and classes as the year progresses. Stay tuned for a review on that one as well, it is a very promising piece of kit to add to your nylon arsenal.
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