With unconventional solutions applied to traditional components, First Spear offers forward-thinking approaches to battlefield-critical needs in their 6/12 and Tubes system.
First Spear™ is an effective developing U.S. manufacturer producing advanced tactical textiles. In a short period of time, First Spear products have gained wide acceptance and recognition among Special Forces operators as well as private users mainly because of the innovative perspective of their designers, which is based on broad real-world experience and practical knowledge. First Spear was officially established in 2010 by Scott Carver and John Laplume after leaving their positions with another manufacturer. Scott and John created a team comprised of industry professionals and former U.S. servicemen with a focus on developing and delivering their own products, completely fulfilling the specific requirements of today’s modern battlefield.
As a result of these actions, fresh solutions like 6/12 and The Tubes were brought to life. In this review, Guns and Tactics will focus on the value of both the MOLLE/PALS features of their rigs and the innovative tube-shaped buckles created for First Spear by ITW Nexus.
One of the plate carriers produced by First Spear that is equipped with these solutions is the new Strandhogg which is offered in two configurations: the first one dedicated for carrying SAPI plates (with soft ballistic background or Stand Alone versions), and the second one adapted for the MBAV shaped soft ballistic panel.
The Tubes were designed to solve a few problems that plate carrier and integrated vest users struggle with, the first of which is the speed of mounting and dismounting the platform. In Special Forces and Quick Reaction Force (QRF) operations in particular, quick gearing-up is crucial and may have a decisive impact on the mission’s outcome. Velcro fasteners – currently used by the majority of tactical equipment manufacturers – require time for proper vest adjustment.
The Tubes are longitudinal buckles with a rail shape, composed of female and male parts. Fastening the buckle is accomplished by sliding the female part upwards or downwards over the male part. To ensure a solid connection, there is a characteristic clicking sound that signals the catch. To release the buckle, the user must grab the 550 cord and vigorously pull it forward and up or down. This action can be accomplished in the blink of an eye and is performed easily and intuitively in one quick and natural movement even while wearing gloves, an important factor in emergency situations such as serious trauma, falling into deep water or open flame ignition of equipment or clothing. To rapidly discard the vest, it is enough to unfasten two of the four buckles (side and shoulder) and the vest will easily slide off the side of user’s body. The simple coupling and uncoupling of the fasteners takes less time than any other fastening system available on the market and another important feature of The Tubes is that they are very silent in use. The Tubes also guarantee unified placement of ballistic plates both horizontally and vertically. This is very important when using the side plates because the placement of the torso plates depends only on shoulder straps adjustment and this ensures that every time a user puts on his rig, the plates are stabilized in the same place as previously set, providing consistent coverage to a vital areas.
The polymer material used for The Tubes by the ITW Nexus offers extreme physical performance. First Spear ensures that the damage resistance of The Tubes is higher than of any other buckles used to date in tactical gear manufacturing. A few short videos can be found on the internet demonstrating various sized hammers strikes.
The Tubes are an ideal fastening system for tactical rigs, however implementing them in the construction of the vest means loss of important attachment space. Cummerbund Tubes are positioned in the front area of the vest where crucial equipment and additional magazines are often mounted. For this reason, both First Spear plate carriers and integrated vests feature six PALS columns on the front of the torso.
6/12 provides an interesting solution that in basic theory has already been applied by several gear manufacturers, mainly custom tailors. The methods applied by these earlier developers were not entirely effective because they discovered that removing polyamide webbing lowered the weight, but making MOLLE/PALS-spaced cuts on the main fabric caused damage to the material’s structure which allowed for tearing.
To solve this problem, First Spear went a step further and implemented two important interventions that significantly increased the performance and versatility of the system. The first step was in developing proper technology for cutting the base material, which they did by implementing precise laser cutters that met the stringent requirements of designers. The second step was accomplished by lining the base fabric (CORDURA® 500D) with velour, which provided high stress damage resistance.
First Spear’s focus was on creating a light weight and quick attachment system so the 6/12 system is specifically designed for use with PALS modules. 6/12 modules use small tabs covered with hard Ultramate hook fasteners that are mounted on the back side of the pouch, where PALS webbing can usually be found. The process of mounting the module is simple: the user puts the tabs through the slots and then fastens the hook and loop connectors which are made of Ultramate and Velour. Unfortunately simple weight tests show that the weight of the base material with the slots (lined with Velour) is practically the same as the weight of traditional CORDURA® 500D with polyamide PALS webbing. This means that in order to completely take advantage of the 6/12’s low weight, the user must also use dedicated modules which will result in a total rig weight that will be perceptibly lower.
The Strandhogg is a plate carrier available in two sizes: S/M and L/XL. The rig consists of front and back torso panels, comfort pads set and an external cummerbund with a simple thick elastic cord that is used for adjustment. The internal side of the vest is completely lined with three-dimensional mesh in order to increase critical breathability for the user. For the same reason, the parts that make up the internal torso use pads similar to backpack straps that create a passive ventilation system as well as airflow tunnels eliminating contact with certain areas of the chest and back parts.
The vest is designed to carry a complete set of four ballistic plates: two torso plates and two 6’x6’ side plates. Applying the 6/12 system to the rig improves the low profile appeal of the construction. All of the modules that were mounted on the 6/12 platform adhered better than on standard MOLLE/PALS systems and all of the components on the rig were held closely to the body’s center of gravity.
Visually, the arrangement of both the 6 or 12 platform spaces and PALS modules isn’t perfect. When carrying heavy loads, contractions in the fabric can be seen but when using dedicated modules, this problem does not occur. Limited external webbing and reinforced seams on the external layer of the rig provide smooth and uniform construction making the 6/12 rigs comfortable when using with backpacks or covered by loose external apparel.
The cushioned pads on the Strandhogg are covered with an anti-slip fabric called Treleborg. This solution is helpful when wearing a backpack because it ensures that the straps are stabilized and do not slide over. After a few intensive training tests, the fabric revealed that it has really low abrasion resistance. Wear and tear became visible and the texture lost some of its porosity.
The Tubes applied in the Strandhogg vest’s cummerbund and shoulder straps work simply great. Donning and doffing the platform takes a moment, and platform is placed always the same. At the beginning, the position of the shoulder Tubes raised my doubts. I wondered if the Tubes would interfere with a rifle stock during shooting. It turned out that this problem does not occur because when the plate carrier is properly adjusted and the ballistic plate is at the proper height, the small Tubes are located right on the level of the collar bones leaving the shoulder clear to accept the butt of the stock.
First Spear has hit the market with a strong approach that appears to be a good for both the company as well as the end-user. They offer solutions that are useful and well thought out without, but like every product, some elements still require further development. The Strandhogg, like many of their produces, is not only interesting but is also a fresh and functional alternative for available plate carriers. The wide range of gear delivered by First Spear is constantly expanding and they are dedicated to bringing more high level products and accessories to the market.
The Strandhogg is priced at $411.98. The 6/12 Cummerbund Kit is priced at $159.98. Buy this gear at http://www.first-spear.com/home.php?section=store
*MOLLE – Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment
**PALS – Pouch Attachment Ladder System