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EMDOM-MM CBDU (Contractor BDU)

7/25/09 - This is the CBDU (Contractor BDU) from EMDOM USA. It's a limited-run custom modified BDU shirt and pant that was originally designed as an enhanced BDU for private military contractors, or anyone else that can make use of its practical features.

This project actually started in December 2006, when Ken from EMDOM asked me if I had any ideas for modified BDUs. 'Custom/enhanced' BDUs have become more commonplace now; back then all you had were BDUs that you took to the tailor to modify. Most of the BDUs were geared towards the military; less so for the civilian or PMC. Since PMCs can't wear camouflage, and some civvies dislike wearing camo to tactical classes etc, there were some modifications that I had in mind that I thought would be practical, and that I could make use of on the range while running around. So, while these BDUs can be worn by anyone who can use its features, we always referred to them as the 'Contractor BDUs', so the name stuck. The main goal was to provide practicality, additional elbow and knee protection, comfort and load bearing capability over the standard BDU without a noticeable increase in weight.

CBDU prototype

The CBDU is built from Propper 65% poly 35% cotton Battle Rip (ripstop) BDUs. They are purchased, then sent to a tailor for modification, who has to remove stitches, modify them and add on the extra features. They're not built from scratch at a factory. As a result, they're not inexpensive.

This project took a long time, simply because other projects were always on the front burners. As more improved models of BDUs were introduced by manufacturers, I was ready to abandon this project as there were a lot of good BDUs out there with excellent features. But, we decided to continue with it because there weren't any that had the exact combination of features that we added in the CBDUs or a couple of the more unique features. The development process would be an iterative one, where Ken at EMDOM would bring the BDUs to the tailor, who would make the requested changes, return them to Ken who would send them to me for testing and evaluation, and I'd send them back to him with more changes and alterations. All the minor tweaks took a lot of time, but we eventually arrived at the final version you see here.

CBDU Shirt - The CBDU Shirt was designed primarily as a warm weather BDU top, with its unique 3/4 length sleeves, but that provided more elbow protection with 500D cordura reinforcements.

Collar up


Rear (cuffs tight)

Collar rear

Cuff loose (L), cuff tight (R)

Collar down

Rear (cuffs loose)

Features - Here's a summary of the features on the EMDOM/MM CBDU shirt:

  • Letterman jacket-style collar - I wanted a collar that was more comfortable than a stand-up mandarin collar in the front and less restrictive at the front of the neck when moving the head around. Much of the time, when I'm wearing BDUs with mandarin collars, I have them folded over. I looked around at collar designs and remembered the letterman jacket knit collar, which is high in the back and tapers down at the front. The CBDU collar is 2.3" tall at the back and tapers in a curve, down to a V in the front, where the two sides overlap at the button. The rear and sides provide more protection for the neck than the standard fold-over BDU collar from slings, hot brass and sun, while the V neck in front provides more comfort than a mandarin stand-up collar. At the rear of the collar is a 4" x 1" strip of velcro for name tape, ID etc, and a small 550 cord loop for clipping or dummy cording cap to so that it doesn't blow away with a sudden gust of wind. If you're like me and don't like wearing the chin strap of a boonie hat around the bottom of your chin, but want some way of securing your boonie from blowing off, just stick the little leather piece on the boonie chin strap through the 550 cord loop and you can wear the chin strap behind your head, and you won't lose it.
    The CBDU collar can also be folded over where it'll sit neatly without any loose velcro tabs or lapels.

  • 3/4-length sleeves with velcro tab cuffs - This is the probably the more unique/distinctive feature of the CBDU. After a prototype I was wearing in my CTOMS X-Belt writeup photos were posted, I received quite a few emails asking "What's that BDU shirt and where can I get it?" The reason behind the 3/4" sleeve was based on my own experience in warmer weather - I'd roll up my BDU shirt sleeves to mid-forearm length and also fold down my glove gauntlets, to get either out of the way. Why not just wear a t-shirt? Because depending on what I was doing at the range, I'd sometimes want the protection from sun and abrasion on my elbows if I went prone without elbow pads. With a 3/4 sleeve length, I don't have the added bulk of a rolled up sleeve, and if I want some forearm protection, I'll just wear longer nomex gloves that bridge the gap instead of those that end at the wrist. The other advantage over rolling up the sleeves is that I have the option of cinching up the flight-suit style cuff, or leaving it open for ventilation. Since it's 3/4 length, the opening is larger. One note of caution - at the range, before the shooting drills start, I close up the cuffs. When open, hot brass can find its way into the large opening. If you find yourself rolling up your BDU sleeves more than not, the CBDUs are the ones for you!
  • Reinforced elbows/pad pockets - The elbow and bottom of the forearm is covered by a 500D cordura patch, which doubles as a pad pocket. It'll accommodate a 7.5" x 7.5" foam elbow pad (not included). It will not fit Crye elbow pads. Here, I've illustrated it with some old 5.11 elbow pads. I wanted the CBDU to provide more protection than a standard BDU against abrasion and knocks when going prone, and also give the user the option of adding his own padding. It is much more comfortable than wearing strap-on elbow pads. The CBDU comes with the coyote shade of 500D cordura because custom-matched fabric would have been prohibitively expensive in such small quantities, and wasn't available.
  • Slant chest pockets - Large 7.5" tall x 6.5" wide expandable chest pockets with velcro flap closure. They're slanted towards the center for easier access by the opposite hand. Pen slot in left pocket.
  • Double-layer shoulder pockets - The shoulder pocket measures about 7" x 6", and has a velcro flap closure. It's actually two pockets in one, and has outer and inner pockets. The outer one has bellows for expansion at the rear, and is accessed through the top opening which is slanted forward slightly. The pocket underneath it is accessed by the front vertical zipper, and is a flat pocket. I added the 550 cord zipper pull myself.
  • Velcro on shoulder pockets - a loop velcro 4" x 4" patch is sewn to the outside of the shoulder pockets for ID, flags, etc.
  • Flight-suit style cuff - the flight suit style tab is tapered an utilizes 1.5" velcro to secure it to the sleeve. The cuff can be cinched up tight around the forearm, or opened up fully for max ventilation.

Chest pockets

Shoulder pocket flap

Shoulder pocket zipper

Elbow pad pocket and 5.11 pad

Velcro cuff
  • Waist adjustment tabs - There are two 2"-wide waist adjustment tabs on each side to adjust the snugness of the shirt around the waist. This is to control where the excess material folds for improved comfort and a better fit when wearing body armour over the CBDU.
  • Shirt cut bottom hem - The bottom hem of the CBDU shirt is shortened slightly to reduce excess material when tucking it in. It's long enough to be retained securely, but doesn't go past the crotch. Instead of the straight hem, the CBDU has a rounded dress-shirt type hem, again for better tucking in and better access to pant pockets when worn outside.

CBDU Pant - The idea for the CBDU pant was to enhance a standard Propper Battle Rip BDU pant on which it is built by adding some practical features that add utility and durability to the original product. The size Medium/short CBDU pant is shown here. I'm 5' 7" with a 29" inseam (short legs).




Features - Here's a list of the features on the CBDU Pants:

  • Material - Built on a Khaki Propper Battle rip BDU pant in 65% poly 35% cotton ripstop fabric.
  • Button fly and waist
  • Front pelvis pockets - These are slanted for easy access and are roomier and more secure than a besom-style open-top welted pocket. These are a roomy 6" x 6" and have small expandable pleats. The flip side, of course, is that they're not as low profile as a besom pocket. The flap has two velcro patches to secure the opening and has angled corners to prevent snagging. They're easier to access than the side slash pockets when seated or when wearing a belt rig with subloads.
  • 7 belt loops - The belt loops fit 2" belts. There are also three additional belt loops for 2.5" belts, made out of 1" webbing, located at the front/sides, and the rear center. They have D-rings sewn at the top as suspender attach points.
  • Hidden pocket in waistband - at the rear of the pant is a hidden pocket inside the waist band. It's about 3" wide and 1.5" deep, and provides a hiding place for small items (coins, folded cash, a key, button compass etc) that can be then retrieved in case of emergency. It has a velcro closure.
  • Side waist adjustment tabs - standard BDU style
  • Side slash pockets - standard BDU style
  • Knife clip reinforcement on left pocket - The left pocket has a knife clip reinforcement made out of 500D cordura to reduce wear on the pocket. In addition, the knife clip is covered, providing more security if it snags. The reason the left pocket only was done was because the tailor referred to my prototype as the model, which had it on the left (I'm a lefty). This gave us a chance to try something different for the right side pocket.
  • Knife hanger inside right pocket - A small webbing loop is sewn to the inside surface of the pocket as a knife clip attach point. The knife clip faces the inside instead of to the outside. When I put a folder in my pocket, with it clipped to the outside, I can't reach it if my hand is in the pocket, only if my hand is resting over it with my thumb inside the pocket and my hand outside. Sure, I can leave my knife at the bottom of the pocket where the lint is, but it's uncomfortable and more difficult to reach. With the webbing loop to attach the knife to, it's accessed simply by putting your hand in your pocket, and it's right there. The tell-tale knife clip is hidden from view. The only caveat is that it can be harder to draw quickly from the seated position and it's not as easy to clip the knife onto the webbing as it is on the outside of the pocket. In any case, you can always clip it to the pocket the 'normal' way with the clip on the outside - this just gives you a more covert option.
  • Double seat
  • Rear pockets - Standard rear pockets with the buttons replaced with velcro closure.

Front pockets


Knife clip reinforcement

Knife clip hanger

Knife clipped to hanger

Rear hidden pocket
  • Side cargo pockets - The standard pleated side pockets retain the button closure, but with the addition of a velcro closure in the middle. That way, the buttons can be left undone for quicker access and closure of the flap. I also wanted to be able to organize a couple of items in the cargo pocket instead of having everything end up at the bottom rattling around. We added two sturdy 2" elastic loops sized to fit M4 magazines. Sometimes at the range, if I'm not wearing a rig and want to carry a couple of extra 30 round mags, the elastic keeps them oriented vertically in the cargo pocket for easy retrieval, especially with magpuls or ranger plates on the bottom. It also prevents them from clanging together around in the pocket when moving. The cargo pocket will still sway with the weight of full mags, but it's a lot more 'controlled' than without the loops. It's also a lot more discrete - people will hardly notice that you're carrying 30-round mags in your cargo pockets as they don't print as much when vertical and held against the leg instead of expanding the pocket. The elastic loops will also organize sunglass cases, rolls of dressing or bandages etc.
    Note that the pants shown is my prototype pair, which is medium-short. The front corner of the pocket had to overlap the knee pad pocket due to the shorter length and was modified. In the production version as seen on the EMDOM website, the knee pad reinforcement overlaps less, and didn't require modification of the corner - it's just sewn over it.
  • Knee pad pockets/reinforcements - The knees are covered in 500D cordura which greatly increases abrasion resistance and also provide pockets for knee pads (not included). The pocket will accomodate knee pads up to 9" tall x 8" wide which are inserted through a velcro-secured opening at the top of the pocket. Shown below is the Skydex knee pad insert. The 500D reinforcement is more durable than same-fabric patches and provides better protection for the knee, even without a knee pad. Using knee pad inserts is lighter and more comfortable than wearing external knee pads.
  • External knee pad loop provisions - On each side of the knee reinforcement/pocket is a small 'tunnel' through which a 550 cord loop can be tied. This provides a loop for external knee pad straps to pass through, so they won't slip downwards. Using the loops allows the external knee pad straps to be left a bit looser and more comfortable.
  • Elastic shock cord leg cuff closure - elastic shock cord with a cord lock.

Side cargo pocket

M4 mags in side cargo pocket

Side cargo pocket elastic loops

Knee pad pocket/reinforcement

Notes - The Contractor BDUs were intended for warm weather use, when just a t-shirt doesn't provide enough protection. Wearing the CBDU shirt is obviously hotter than just a t-shirt, but the added protection and load bearing capability are features that the user must weigh. By featuring 500D cordura elbow and knee patches, abrasion resistance and protection against minor scrapes has been added without a noticeable increase in weight. By making them double as pad pockets, additional foam pads can be added without the inconvenience and discomfort of straps.

Overall quality of the Propper Battlerip BDUs is very good, as far as BDUs go, and the tailor has done a decent job on the modifications. With my prototype, there was only one issue with attention to detail that I was dissatisfied about - the ends of the webbing for the additional belt loops were not heat cut or sealed, and started to unravel when I pulled a belt through. I brought this up to Ken and he had the tailor make sure that he sewed an additional line across near the end and also stitch the cut end down to prevent this from happening on the production versions.

I've been wearing the prototype CBDU pants for at least a year, and the production version for a few months, for every day wear. I wear the top at the range when I can. Out at the range, the 500D cordura on the knees and elbows do provide some relief from stones and brass cases when shooting from prone, and adding pads inside the pockets makes them all the more comfortable. The pads inside the pockets don't shift around or slip, and are lighter and more comfortable than external/separate knee and elbow pads. Other BDUs also have pad pockets, but unless they're made of a tougher fabric like nylon, instead of the same fabric as the BDU, they can be subject to quite a lot of wear and tear and start wearing thin and rip if you take a knee often, and especially if you have knee pads inside.

For small items, I use the front pelvis pockets most frequently, just like the front besom pockets on other brands of pants. I'm so used to having them I miss them if they're not present. The elastic loops inside the side cargo pockets really work well, in my opinion. If there's an item that will fit, like an M4 mag; it's held against the leg and is much easier to retrieve than if it were horizontal at the bottom of the pocket. Using the elastic loops for heavier items keeps them close to the leg for less swaying. If you put two full mags in each pocket, they WILL sway around when you run. There's no stopping that. It's not the most comfortable, but it's a lot better than loose mags inside the pockets. Also note that I've run around with four mags (two in each pocket), and a good belt is essential as the substantial weight will try to pull your pants down. If you're planning on carrying four mags as a habit, simple suspenders might be a good idea. Anyway, the elastic is there if you need it.

In summary, the EMDOM/MM CBDU is a set of khaki BDUs that offer more elbow and knee protection than a regular set, with some different features than what's currently offered on other BDUs.



Arc'teryx Chimera Shirt LS

11/4/10 - The Chimera Shirt LS from Arc'teryx LEAF (Law Enforcement & Armed Forces) line is a highly articulated, very light weight long-sleeved combat shirt. It's one of LEAF's newest armour-compatible garments and its light weight makes it suitable for the hottest weather.

Named after another mythological beast like the Arc'teryx Gryphon half shell, the Chimera was initially designed as a jungle shirt, providing the minimum amount of protection to be worn with full kit in a hot, wet environment. The users who requested the development of the Chimera wanted a militarized version of the Arc'teryx Ether Comp Crew LS shirt. The features requested were an extended collar for neck protection from slings and commo wires, bicep pockets, velcro on the sleeves, and American-sourced materials for Berry compliance. The Chimera was the result, and initial field testing showed that the fabrics selected were more durable than expected. The Chimera is recommended for hot and humid conditions where keeping your core temperature low and quick-drying performance is more important than flame resistance and no melt/no drip properties.

Materials - The Chimera is made up of two American-sourced fabrics. The yoke, shoulders/sleeves are made of Tweave® Durastretch® LT 520e, and the torso/underarms are Cyberknit 571n.

Tweave® Durastretch LT 520e is a technical stretch woven with 92% nylon and 8% lycra spandex. It is a durable, abrasion resistant, water and wind resistant, low-bulk, breathable fabric with excellent stretch and recovery properties. The Multi-directional (4-way) permanent-stretch spandex has 100% memory for shape retention. The LT 520e is a lighter weight version of the 520e used on the Gryphon. Cyberknit 571n is a very light and stretchy, moisture-wicking100% polyester fabric similar to a bike jersey or other lightweight performance top. It's anti-microbial treated to repel odours. The Chimera is available in Crocodile and Black.

Collar front

Collar rear/yoke

Closeup of the two fabrics

Articulated sleeves

Pocket closeup

ID label

Here are the main features of the Arc'teryx Chimera LS Shirt (Crocodile, Medium shown):

  • Tweave Durastretch LT 536e yoke, sleeves and shoulders with DWR.
  • Moisture wicking, lightweight and breathable torso made of Cyberknit 571n torso and underarms
  • Gusseted underarms
  • Double collar - higher rear for neck protection and fitted internal collar panel for comfort.
  • Low-profile zippered sleeve storage pockets - Each shoulder has a approx 6" x 8" pocket with front vertical zipper access sized to fit a 6" bandage (or can of dip). Cord zipper pulls with rubberized heat-shrink tubing.
  • Long torso for tucking in.
  • Relaxed athletic fit
  • 4" x 4" Loop velcro patches on sleeve pockets.
  • Stretch cuffs.
  • Durable, quick-drying and anti-microbial treated for minimal odour retention.
  • Weight - 8.3 oz.

Observations and notes - The Chimera is listed on the LEAF site as having an 'athletic fit', and that usually means 'snug' to me based on past experience with Arc'teryx products. It's definitely a relaxed fit; not snug, and will fit a wider range of body types than some of the more form-fitted Arc'teryx garments. It's sized like a light weight long-sleeved t-shirt, but not as baggy in the torso. It's a comfortable cut, with enough stretch and room to allow unrestricted range of motion, and without much excess to add bulk under a rig or armour. It's low profile enough to wear as a base layer under another top like an Alpha LT.

The collar design is interesting; there's an outer collar sewn at the rear of the the standard crew neck collar to protect the neck against abrasion from slings, wires etc. When I first donned the Chimera, I heard a popping sound from the neck seam, and saw that a couple of stitches had popped on the second line of stitching that holds the primary seam flat. I promptly forgot about it and put it through use and the washing machine/dryer a half dozen times before I was reminded of it again. It hadn't unraveled or gotten worse, so I'm not worrying about it. I did bring it up to Arc'teryx, and they said that there should be no degradation of performance from the current construction, but they're still going to switch back to the neck stitching they used on the inital samples.

As mentioned above, it can be considered as a jungle version of a Combat shirt, for use in hot and wet environments where FR or no melt/drip is not a requirement. The Chimera is very lightweight, and I was very interested in seeing how the Tweave LT 536e material would perform. This was the first time I had encountered the LT 536e material, and I was a bit skeptical about the use of Tweave in a hot, sweaty environment. I wore the Chimera in the desert and also at some range shoots over the summer. The temperature one of those range days was over 100°F and the desert was in the 90°s. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it actually performed very well, and didn't feel stifling nor stuffy in the heat. In fact, I found it more comfortable than standard NYCO BDU sleeves.

Upon closer examination, I discovered that the 536e fabric is actually more breathable than NYCO or 100% cotton ripstop BDU fabric. I did an unscientific 'blow test', where I held a single layer of fabric over my mouth and tried to blow through it forcefully, and compare the resistance between fabrics. The 536e fabric was significantly easier to blow air through. While the other BDU fabrics are very resistant to allowing air to be forced through, I can expend a full breath of air through the 536e very quickly, with almost no resistance. The larger 'pores' in the weave of the 536e is the key to allowing air to pass through the fabric while providing protection from radiant heat from the sun.

I also wore it while running on some hot days, but didn't get a chance to test it in a very humid environment. When running, I was of course pouring sweat, and the torso fabric would soak through and evaporate the sweat. The sleeves don't really soak up sweat, but my arms didn't feel any wetter/sweatier than when I run with bare arms. The Chimera doesn't hold moisture like a cotton top, nor does it get as clingy and heavy when wet. I lived in the tropics (S.E. Asia) for 9 years, with high humidity, monsoon seasons and bugs all over the place. No matter what I wore, I was always sweaty - there was no avoiding it. Back then, a very thin/light cotton top would be recommended for day trekking in the jungle, but any more than a couple of days and the cotton would take on a stink. During my last visits to the tropics, I compared both natural and synthetic garments and felt that synthetic garments had an edge over the natural ones, especially for extended use without the luxury of changing to clean, dry clothes every day. A lightweight synthetic top like the Chimera that doesn't hold water with and has an anti-microbial treatment is more resistant to rotting, smelling and falling apart in the jungle than natural fibers. To be honest, the tropics just suck, and I basically resigned myself to feeling constantly sticky and uncomfortable, no matter what I wore. Another good reason for wearing long sleeves in the jungle or forest is protection from the bugs and plants. Not only mosquitos, but friggin' huge ants, centipedes, scorpions, spiders, leeches and all sorts of other creepy crawlies. There are also stinging plants and razor-sharp grasses that will slice you open.

I also wore it when the weather got colder, and it works very much like a lightweight baselayer, and fits well under other garments like the Alpha, or Atom LT.

As far as abrasion resistance goes, I shot from prone when in the desert on rocks/sand and on dirt/concrete at the range. The thin fabric offers no padding for the elbows, but I observed no noticeable wear after cleaning the dirt off. In my limited experience, Tweave Durastretch is very abrasion resistant and holds up well to wear. As mentioned before, reports from the field have proven the Chimera to be very durable. The high rear collar does provide more protection than a regular crew neck against a sling, the sun, or hot flying brass. The sleeve cuffs are the same material as the torso, and stretch enough to pull back the sleeves up the fore arm. The only thing I'd change on the Chimera would be to get rid of, or relocate the heat-transferred ID label inside the shirt on the upper back, which is put there for identifying the shirt with a permanent marker like a Sharpie. No biggie, but I could notice that little patch stick to me under gear occasionally since it doesn't breathe. I think it'd be better located at the bottom hem of the shirt. It's a nitpick, yes, but there's very little to complain about the Chimera.



Massif Lightweight Tactical Shirt

12/28/11 - The LTS (Lightweight Tactical Shirt) from Massif is a long-sleeved tactical shirt designed for hot-weather, high exertion missions that don't require FR protection.

The Lightweight Tactical Shirt follows on the heels of the Integrated Tactical Jacket, which was Massif's first item in their line of non-FR clothing. While Massif has built its reputation on FR gear, their understanding of the end users' needs and experience when it comes to tactical clothing design translates well into the non-FR garment arena. It made perfect sense to start their own non-FR line (which started with the ITJ) to provide gear to customers who like Massif's designs and high performance fabrics, but don't need FR protection.

Sleeve (top) and torso fabric

Materials - The LTS uses two different stretch-woven fabrics in its construction. The sleeves and yoke feature a stretchy, 83% nylon/17% spandex fabric that disperses moisture for rapid drying and has a DWR finish for rain protection. It's a completely matte finish, smooth-face fabric.

The breathable torso fabric is a 77% polyester/23% nylon ultra light fabric with a fine visible grid pattern. It's not as stretchy as the sleeve/yoke fabric, and has permanent antimicrobial properties to prevent odour buildup. The LTS is available in OD Green (shown here) and Black/Grey.

Here are the main features of the Massif Lightweight Tactical Shirt (OD Green, size Medium shown):

  • Multi-fabric design for compatibility with armour, packs or vests. Both fabrics provide UV protection (UPF 50+)
  • Moisture wicking, lightweight and breathable torso.
  • Designed for use under armour or as a base layer for layering in cooler weather.
  • High collar protects against gun slings and hot brass.
  • Zip neck for ventilation and easy donning/doffing.
  • Low-profile zippered sleeve storage pockets - Each shoulder has an approx 8" tall x 6" wide pocket with front vertical zipper access. The zippers have cord pulls. The pockets are mesh lined for additional ventilation (when the sleeve zippers are opened).
  • Long torso for tucking in.
  • Relaxed athletic fit.
  • Flat seams for comfort under armour.
  • 5" tall x 3.25" Loop velcro patches on sleeve pockets.
  • Torso anti-microbial treated for minimal odour retention.
  • Weight - 8 oz.

Observations and notes - The LTS is a very light weight shirt, weighing only 8 oz. The first thing I noticed when donning it was that the sleeve cuffs didn't have any elastic nor velcro tab adjustment. I was surprised as this was different from every other Massif top I had. I asked Massif about this, and they replied "...we’re always trying to balance performance & functionality with the needs of the end user. We’ve traditionally put some type of fastener on the wrist because of either cold weather, FR requirements, or sand storms. For this shirt, we envisioned a different end user (law enforcement, SWAT teams, etc.) that wouldn’t necessarily encounter these issues. Our design team decided to go with a more streamlined sleeve, taking advantage of the stretch in the fabric & tapering the sleeve so that it was more narrow in the cuff."

While I understand their rationale for going with the open cuff design, I feel that an elasticized cuff or adjustable one like that on their LTJ would have been better, as I like being able to adjust the cuff as needed. Being able to cinch it around my wrist ensures that it doesn't interfere with my gloves, no sand/debris enters when prone, no hot casings from shooting go down the sleeve (I've had this happen once with an open cuff - it was from someone else's gun), and there's no open cuff that might snag when I go down for the handgun. Another reason I like an adjustable cuff is that I don't like the cuff to come down to my hand, where it might interfere with something. You can see that the cuff extends past my wrist down to my hand, and I felt like I needed to keep pushing them back so they didn't touch my hands. When shooting, I resorted to folding the cuffs back so they were behind my wrist. The fit around the neck was also a bit loose - but I don't have a thick neck. I wouldn't have minded it being a little more close-fitting.

Other than my dislike of the open cuffs, I was pleased with the rest of the shirt and impressed with its hot-weather performance. I wore the shirt at the range in unusually hot weather, where everyone else wore t-shirts, and was surprisingly comfortable in it. Due to the heat, I was sweating, but never felt sticky or that the fabric clung to me or got saturated. The long sleeves were also nice to have when shooting from the prone position, and to protect my arms from getting sunburned. The torso fabric is very breathable; air blown through it passes through with ease. The weave on the sleeve fabric is tighter, and doesn't let air through as easily. The tall collar protected my neck against the sun and was comfortable with a rifle sling. I didn't experience any chafing or discomfort from the sling.

The Massif Lightweight Tactical Shirt is a great hot-weather shirt; one of the most comfortable 'combat-style' shirts I've worn. If the loose/non-adjustable cuff issue doesn't bother you, I'd recommend you give it a try.

Collar details

Sleeve pockets


Tru-Spec Combat Shirt

2/7/09 - The Tru-Spec Combat Shirt available from USCAV is Tru Spec's 'Combat Shirt' -style garment which was pioneered by Crye Precision's Combat Shirt. This style of garment, with its BDU-fabric sleeves combined with a lighter-weight moisture wicking torso sans pockets, is a logical design for use under gear or body armour, and emerged in the Army's new Combat Shirt made by Massif and the USMC's FROG2 Combat Shirt (produced by Crye).

The Combat Shirt concept addresses the main issues that personnel encounter when integrating body armour with their uniforms. First, the uniform chest and lower pockets cannot be reached when body armour is worn, rendering them practically useless. Not only is the weight unnecessary if they cannot be used, but they also add folds and bulk under the armour. Pockets are located on the sleeves/shoulders instead, where they can be readily accessed. The second issue is comfort. In hot weather, a standard BDU top under armour is hot and uncomfortable, as it's usually worn over an additional base layer, and doesn't breathe well. By having a torso made of a lightweight wicking, breathable baselayer fabric without any pockets, the Combat Shirt eliminates excess material and bulk under gear while increasing comfort when worn under body armour or gear.

Materials - The TRU Combat Shirt is made up of two main fabrics - the shoulders/sleeves are either 50/50 NYCO rip-stop (UCP and Crye MultiCam) or 65/35 poly/cotton (black, khaki and OD), and the torso baselayer is 60/40 cotton nylon no melt, no drip Cordura® Baselayer fabric.

Cordura® Baselayer - Baselayer is Invista/Cordura's new next-to-skin fabric that claims exceptional moisture management, comfort and durability while offering no melt/no drip thermal properties. It's not advertised as fire-resistant nor retardant, but just that it will not melt or drip onto the skin like polyester when exposed to high temperatures. It will act like most other natural fibers like cotton or wool and provide limited insulation against flame/flash fires.

From the Baselayer press release:

"Initially developed as a medium weight CORDURA® NYCO knit in 2007, the new lightweight CORDURA® brand Baselayer was redeveloped to provide greater comfort to the solider.

The CORDURA® brand Baselayer fabric is constructed with a unique blend of INVISTA T420 nylon 66 fiber and cotton to help protect soldiers when exposed to heat in flash fire situations such as IEDs or vehicle fires. The fabric insulates the body under heat threat, and when exposed to these high temperatures, the fabric forms gels and chars around the cotton creating an entirely new fabric structure with a higher ignition resistance that does not drip or melt onto the skin underneath like polyester.

By combining two popular materials, nylon and cotton, INVISTA has created a revolutionary combat-ready t-shirt that offers superior moisture management performance by drying two and a half times faster than a 100 percent cotton t-shirt. Working with convection and evaporation, the body's two most powerful mechanisms, the CORDURA® brand Baselayer provides exceptional blend of breathability, comfort, and protection to today's warfighter.

The durability component of the CORDURA® brand Baselayer is based on INVISTA's T420 staple fiber, the only nylon fiber that is engineered to be specifically blended with cotton and cellulose fibers for long-lasting performance. The result is greater fabric strength, superior abrasion resistance and fewer failures due to tears, holes and abrasions.

For military and tactical consumers, INVISTA launched a micro site at www.defendyourbase.com to communicate the fabric's benefits and where they can find next-to-skin garments and products that are made with CORDURA® brand Baselayer fabric."


Pocket closeups

Here are the main features of the TRU Combat Shirt (MultiCam, Medium shown):

  • 50/50 nyco rip-stop sleeves with 60/40 cotton nylon no melt, no drip Cordura® brand Baselayer (ACUPAT/Foliage and MULTICAM®/Sand)
  • 65/35 polyester cotton rip-stop sleeves with 60/40 cotton nylon no melt, no drip Cordura® brand Baselayer (Black/Black, Khaki/Khaki and Olive Drab/Olive Drab)
  • Moisture wicking, lightweight and breathable torso - The Cordura® brand Baselayer fabric is thin and very lightweight. It feels similar to DriFire, but with more stretch to it. It's smooth and very comfortable.
  • No shoulder seams to minimize rubbing and chaffing
  • Mock turtle neck for comfort - this protects the neck from armour rubbing on it, while being more low profile than a Mandarin stand-up collar.
  • Zippered sleeve storage pockets - Each shoulder has an 8" x 8" pocket sewn to it with top zipper access. Why TRU went with top access, I don't know, but they should have gone with a front vertical zipper. The top access makes it very awkward to access the pockets.
  • Anti-abrasion padded elbow patch - An oval, very lightly padded elbow patch protects the elbow from light knocks and scrapes. It's a nice feature, but needs to be relocated to be more effective.
  • Gusseted sleeves - underarm gussets for increased comfort and range of motion when lifting arms.
  • Glint tape holder for IR tape on left shoulder - A tab conceals and protects an IR square and can be secured to expose it.
  • Loop on right sleeve pockets for attaching name tape, rank square and flag patch.
  • Hook-and-loop cuff closures
  • Imported

Collar detail

Under arm gusset

Right shoulder pocket

Left shoulder pocket

Cuff adjustment tab

Observations and notes - The first impression I got with the Tru-Spec Combat shirt was that it looked reasonably well put together. Quality of stitching looked on par with their other BDU offerings. The Cordura® brand Baselayer fabric is very comfortable - it's smooth, very soft, and feels like cotton with more stretch. The fit was good - relaxed around the torso without excess material. In comparison to the Crye Combat Shirt, the Tru-Spec covers more of the upper back with the ripstop fabric over the base layer for additional resistance to abrasion in a high wear area. Going over the shirt in more detail and examining the features, I found a few areas that I felt would benefit from changes/improvments.

  1. Shoulder pockets - As you can see from the photos below, in order to unzip and access the shoulder pockets, you have to reach across your chest to the back of your shoulder to grap the tiny zipper pull. Then, the hand needs to be twisted to reach items inside the pocket through the opening. I found it very awkward normally, and practically impossible to reach the zipper pull when wearing BALCS cut body armour. One trick that helped was to lift the arm so that it was easier to slide my hand in there, but it was still very difficult with armour on. This is an easy fix for TRU - just move the zipper to the front of the pocket so it opens vertically.
  2. Elbow pads - I like the design; they look sturdy and the low profile padding does help cushion the elbow when resting on concrete or hard ground. But, they need to be repositioned, at least for me, to be more effective. For me arms, they'd be better if moved about an inch down and one and a half inches to the inside. Or enlarged to cover that area. When in the prone position, the sleeves will ride up some, plus I rest more often on the inside of the elbows than the outside.
  3. Wrist adjustment tabs - I'd rather they be shorter to allow the cuffs to be cinched down tighter and 1.5" wide instead of 1". Just make it like a regular flight suit cuff.
  4. Rather than the three separate velcro patches on the right shoulder, I'd rather have the single large velcro field like on the left shoulder. This is purely personal preference.
  5. Overall quality/workmanship - stitching and finishing is actually pretty decent overall, except that quality control needs to pay more attention. My shirt came with about 7" of the left torso side seam bunched/pinched (see photo below and the front view photo at the top). While it doesn't affect function, it shouldn't have made it through inspection. Another thing I noticed was that a piece of loop velcro was missing under the IR tab cover on the left shoulder pocket, just to the left of the place where the IR square is. The tab covering the IR square is supposed to fold back and secure on itself, but as it is right now, there's no loop velcro for it to do so.

Awkward shoulder pocket access

Lifting the arm helps

Bunched side seam

Overall fit is good and so is comfort. The underarm gussets are nice. The arm length was perfect for me, but I have short arms. They might be a bit short for the lankier fellows. The torso length is long enough to stay tucked in under movement. I wore the Tru-Spec Combat Shirt at an all day range session and the torso was definitely cooler and less stuffy under gear than a BDU top, but with the added arm protection for which I was thankful. If I was wearing body armour or gear in hot weather, I'd definitely pick this over a BDU top. One thing to note is that the low collar is very comfortable, but doesn't protect the neck from a weapon sling rubbing on it, so take that into account. Using a sling with armour often puts it against the neck instead of sitting on the shoulder. When I'm wearing rigs or armour, I usually connect my rifle directly to the rig with the EMDOM/MM URS instead of using a sling, so that's not an issue.

Given that this is the first commercially available Combat Shirt offered by a major BDU manufacturer, it's a decent 'first cut'. They've got good materials and the comfort factor addressed. Other than my gripe with the shoulder pocket zipper location and the quality control issue, the other small details I can live with, but I'd still like to see Tru-Spec address them all. As-is, it's a decent value and will probably prove to be a very popular item.

Tru-Spec Combat Shirt (Gen 2)

7/2/09 - Tru-Spec has released the second generation of their Combat Shirt, which I featured in the above writeup, and to my pleasant surprise, has greatly improved upon their first version.

Concept and materials are the same, so please read the original writeup above for details. Here, I'll focus on the differences between the original release (I'll call that Gen 1) and the new one (Gen 2). The shirt shown here is a size Medium, in Khaki ripstop (65/35 poly/cotton blend).

Changes to the Combat Shirt - When I featured the first release of the Tru-Spec Combat Shirt back in February, there were some things that I felt could use some improvement. Since then, based on user feedback, Tru-Spec made some running changes to the design, which are seen on the Gen 2 Combat Shirt:

  1. Shoulder pockets - The Gen 1 shoulder pockets were hard to access, due to the top-opening zipper. With bulky armour on, it was practically impossible. The Gen 2 shoulder pockets is the same size as the Gen 1, but has relocated the zipper ot the front of the pocket; flight-suit style. It is now easily accessed. They've also added an elastic shock-cord pull to the small metal zipper pull, which makes it a lot easier to grab.
  2. Elbow pads - The Gen 1 elbow pads weren't positioned effectively on the elbow, and were a bit too small. The Gen 2 elbow pads are larger (8" x 10" vs 6" x 8") and are postioned much more effecitvely on the elbow. They've been rotated to provide better coverage for the inside of the elbow. In all positions now, the elbow is well protected.
  3. Wrist adjustment tabs - The wrist adjustment tabs on the Gen 1 were too long and narrow, and wouldn't allow the cuff to be cinched down tight (on my wrist). The extra length also allowed it to slip off the cuff at times. On the Gen 2, the adjustment tab has been shortened (like a flight suit tab), and the velcro is now 1.5" wide instead of 1". Now, it's very secure, and allows a wide range of adjustment, plus it can be cinched down properly.
  4. Longer sleeves - I have short arms, so the Gen 1 sleeves fit me fine, but they were a bit shorter than normal. The sleeves on the Gen 2 are 2" longer than the Gen 1, and should fit people a lot better now. Long lengths are also now available.
  5. Overall quality/workmanship - I saw none of the workmanship issue that I observed on the Gen 1. No bunched seams and the shoulder IR tab has the velcro where it should be and functions as intended.

Right shoulder pocket

Left shoulder pocket

IR tab

Elbow patch

Cuff adjustment tabs

Colour comparison

Observations and notes - I also noticed that the mock turtle neck collar on the Gen 2 is more snug than the one on my Gen 1. It's a better fit for me now. Everything else is pretty much the same - the Cordura® brand Baselayer fabric is very comfortable - it's smooth, very soft, and feels like cotton with more stretch. The fit was good - relaxed around the torso without excess material. One last thing I'd like to point out is that the colour shown is called Khaki, but it's more of a desert tan. In the photo above, you can see that the Khaki Combat Shirt sleeve is closer to the pinkish-hued desert tan in the U.S. 3-colour desert (DCU) pattern than the khaki/desert sand colours in the 3-colour desert pattern, or the khaki Propper shirt to the right. Under different lighting, the pinkish hue might be more or less noticeable. In the range pics below under bright sunlight, the pinkish hue is less noticeable. Also, the colour combinations for the Multicam Combat shirt are listed as Multicam/sand torso and the Khaki Combat Shirt as khaki sleeves/khaki torso. The torso on my Multicam shirt is exactly the same colour/material as the torso on the khaki combat shirt - it's a light sand.

At the range session below, temperatures were much higher than when I wore the Gen 1 back in February, and the Gen 2 was very comfortable under my rig. No issues whatsoever. So, kudos to Tru-Spec for making the changes to their Combat Shirt so quickly, and for addressing even the smaller issues. The Gen 2 is much improved, and for me at least, now good to go.


Aircrew BDU's (ABDUs) - Nomex version of BDU's, issued to aircrews for flame protection. The collar can be stood up and closed with a velcro flap to protect the neck. it has a zipper front, and velcro pocket closures and wrist adjustments. A pen pocket is on the left shoulder, just like a flightsuit. The patch came with it.

COMSUBIN jacket is made of a 'gaberdine' material, with cotton elbow reinforcements and pockets

Italy's COMSUBIN is an elite amphibious commando unit within the Italian Navy. Volunteers come mostly from the Battalion San Marco (Naval Infantry), whose members wear a very distinctive camouflage pattern, that has an 'airbrushed' look to it. This blends the colours better than distinctly separate colours would. The COMSUBIN pattern is similar to the BSM. This particular jacket is a COMSUBIN jacket made of a gabardine-like material and is cut baggy. The trousers seem to have 5% spandex in the material to give it a slight stretch. A lightweight and very comfortable set of BDU's. Thanks to Dr. Rich Mcaroy for helping me ID this set. For more info on this pattern and lots more, visit Mcaroy's page.


South African Police (SAP) camo uniform


Closeup of right hip pocket

Short sleeved shirt

Long sleeved shirt

Field jacket

Closeup of field jacket and liner

4/29/04 - Shown here are articles of South African Police (SAP) camouflage uniform (many thanks to Steve B. in SA for his generosity). As I understand it, the SAP Service Durban Reaction Unit uses this camo pattern, sometimes referred to as 'cactus' pattern. The shades of khaki, green and brown are quite similar to those of Rhodesian camo.
Trousers - These are made of a medium-weight cotton material, with two thigh pockets, two slash front pockets and two rear pockets. A small front hip pocket is located on the right front. The cuffs have drawstrings. The fly is button-up, and the front flap closure has two extra buttons for extra security.
Short-sleeved shirt and long-sleeved shirt - Made of light weight, tight-weave material (similar to a Hawaiian shirt), with epaulets and two front flap pockets.
Field jacket with liner - This field jacket is made of the same medium weight material as the pants. There are two large lower flap pockets and two chest pockets. The collar has a tab that comes across the neck to secure it shut. A green polyester fleece vest liner buttons into the jacket.


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