Nothing ever stops evolving. The 5.11 Tactical Pants, once so well-known as "Royal Robbins" have changed in different ways across the past few years. A new evolution, exclusively available through Brigade Quartermaster, is now available: the 511 Tactical Holster Pant. Like every good suspicious cop cynic I had to ask, "Is this just another gimmick? Or is there value here?" So, I acquired two pair and began to wear them out...literally. Here's what I found out.
First, the pants are comfortable. Listed in the Brigade Quartermaster catalog as "active canvas with spandex," these pants feel softer--no less strong mind you--but softer just the same. That softer feel equates to greater perceived comfort.
The biggest noticeable difference of the Brigade Quartermaster exclusive 5.11 Tactical Holster Pants is the way the cargo pocket is made on the side. There is still that large cargo pocket with a Velcro-secured flap. However, the pocket itself is bigger and there are also two exterior magazine pockets on the outside of that cargo pocket. The cargo pockets on these pants are 8-inches x 8-inches with a 1-inch gusset for greater capacity. Depending on your needs, you can open the flap on the cargo pocket and tuck it inside the pocket itself and have a soft platform (if you will) to help hold in place and secure a tactical holster platform.
The two outer pockets are perfectly sized to hold rifle magazines, which means they are plenty big enough to hold pistol magazines, knives, flashlights, etc. While the holster/pants compatability is shown in these photos with a Safariland platform, the pants will work with any dual-strap single-hanger holster platform.
The pants also have a few other changes to the basic 5.11 Tactical Pants design. Gone is the magazine pocket on the left side. That pocket that fit one pistol magazine, or a cell phone (depending on model), or a folding knife if it wasn't too big. It's not on these pants. And, in response to comments and requests from contemporary operators, 5.11 Tactical put wallet slots at the top of both hip pockets. While that may not seem like a big deal, I ask: have you ever driven a long distance with your wallet at the bottom of one of those hip pockets? It ends up perfectly placed to make your leg numb on long drives. By putting in the wallet slots, 5.11 Tactical has alleviated that problem.
This second photo shows where the straps go through on the outside of the cargo pocket but under the exterior magazine pockets. This design allows you to use the cargo capacity of those exterior pockets while wearing the holster. If you're wearing a pair of "regular" 5.11 Tactical pants with a thigh mounted holster, then you usually completely lose the use of that cargo pocket. At least with these, you keep some storage space.
I think I'd have enjoyed having these pants in New Orleans when I was there. Many of the guys I worked with were wearing platforms on their non-gun-side, typically holding two to four rifle magazines and, in some cases, a fixed-blade knife. The design of these pants eliminates the need to have that offside platform. And without restricting access to your handgun, you can carry as many as four rifle magazines.
Now, in all fairness and honesty, with the pants on and a holster in place holding my Glock 19 and rifle magazines in both exterior pockets on that side, I did run into the magazines with my hand as I gripped my Glock for presentation. Understand what I'm saying here: it feels different. But it in no way interferes with my draw or securing a firm grip on my handgun.
All in all. I really liked the fit and comfort of these pants more than the normal 5.11 Tactical pants. The addition of spandex into the material makes them move much easier and there's just enough stretch to reduce resistance when you kneel, go prone, bend or twist. The latest catalog I have from Brigade Quartermaster has them listed at $49.99--which is damn reasonable when you consider the price of "regular" 5.11 Tactical Pants.