I recently had reason to wear tactical body armor every day for about two weeks and I had previously discussed a field test / wear report with Armor Express representatives. As a result of those discussions, I received their Lighthawk XT model in time to get it configured as I preferred for my use. The first thing I noticed when I got it was what it weighed in my hand. That's when I realized they'd included a set of 10"x12" plates with the armor. Now, don't make a mistake: I wasn't commenting on how heavy the vest was; I was commenting on how light it was given that it was fully outfitted and included front and rear trauma plates. The second thing I noticed was the modularity of the armor and how easy it was to tailor coverage to perceived need.
So, let's take a look at everything that came in the Lighthawk XT package and then I'll discuss how I configured it for my needs followed by a report on the wear / field test.
The Lighthawk XT, as I received it equipped with all options, included:
- The main torso carrier and armor.
- Both shoulder flanks (left and right) with integrated Ballistic Collars.
- Both Deltoid Protectors (shoulder and upper arm, right and left).
- Removable throat protector
- Retractable Pull-Down Groin Guard.
- Adjustable Cummerbund with 6"x10" soft armor pockets on each side.
The main torso carrier has a front utility pouch that is held closed by two snaps and hook-n-loop (Velcro). The outer surface of that pocket, like almost every usable surface of the carrier, is covered in MOLLE webbing for pouch attachment. On the front of both shoulders there is a non-skid material to help keep the butt of your weapon tucked into proper position while operating / firing. Additionally, on the front and back of the vest and on both of the deltoid protectors, there are Velcro patch placement spots for ID patches.
Although I received my test vest with all that stuff in place, some of it is optional:
- The Shoulder Flanks with Ballistic Collar
- The Removable Throat Protector
- The Retractable Pull-Up Nape Protector
- The Structured Deltoid Protectors
- The Retractable Pull-Down Groin Guard
- The "Custom ID Tags" (Velcro Patch panels)
For some of the field testing I did, I kept every piece in place and only made adjustments so that the vest fit me properly. I didn't put on any pouches or even use the built-in hydration pocket. While wearing it "fully outfitted" the only discomfort I experienced (that would be avoidable by changing optional pieces or removing them) was from the Retractable Throat Protector. I probably could have made an adjustment in the length of the over-the-shoulder straps to lower the front of the vest a bit, but if I had the main body of the armor fitting me comfortably, the Throat Protector felt high. This may have been entirely subjective and someone who is more used to wearing fully kitted out body armor may not have noticed at all. The easy answer is to lower the Throat Protector or not use it. Both are operator choice, so I'm not complaining - just making the observation.
For the remainder of my usage I took off the Structured Deltoid Protectors, the Throat Protector, the Groin Guard and the Nape Protector. I kept the Shoulder Flanks with the Ballistic Collar pieces in place mostly for the ability they add to guide the quick-release cables. (more on those in a minute). After I had the vest configured as I wanted, I added on the pouches I felt I would need for what I was doing. On the right front side (as I was wearing it) I added a large utility pouch that held my Individual Trauma Pack from Tactical Medical Packs. I carry one of their Battle Packs. On the left side I have a pouch that carries a flashlight (my Night-Ops Gladius Maximus soon to be upgraded to the LEDWAVE PEL-6 Secutor) and a pair of handcuffs. On the face of the vest's front utility pouch I switched out, depending on the day's activities, either a pouch to carry M4 magazines or pouches to carry twelve gauge ammo.