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Summer Options From 5.11 Tactical

Summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime.   Carrying a gun -- let alone all the gear that being on-duty requires -- in plain clothes in the summer heat can be a real "challenge" (which is the polite word).  When I was on my local narcotics task force we did most of our work at night, so at least it wasn't as "challenging" as working in the hot sun.  But still, there were days.  Now, as a civilian, I'm in bed at an hour appropriate to a man of my advanced years, so my gun and gear toting is mostly a day-time thing.  But, of course, in the summer, that's when it's hot. 

There are two problems to solve with respect to hot weather concealed gear carry.  The first is that shorts are a heck of a lot more comfortable than pants, but they need an extra pocket or two to stow whatever would be in our pants and jacket pockets during cooler weather, and they need to look normal enough to blend into our environment.  Which is to say, they should not look "tactical" or military, which too many do.  The second is that we need some sort of concealing garment to cover our belt-carried gear, including our handgun.  The dilemma here is that a very lightweight, flimsy (open front) covering garment won't conceal the paraphernalia very well, and it won't sweep out of the way reliably during a draw stroke, while heavier concealing garments are hot.  We'd ideally like a reasonably cool vest or garment that had enough bulk to conceal and move effectively.

5.11 Tactical has been leading the movement in tactical clothing since before there was such a thing as tactical clothing, and indeed, before they were even called "5.11 Tactical" (back when they were known as Royal Robbins).  From design, to fabrics, to technology, to product classes, 5.11 has been out front for the last 20 years.  There are, of course, a lot of newer players in this market, and some of them make very good products, but I've always found 5.11 to make reliably top-notch stuff -- clothing and gear that's extremely well thought-through and that I enjoy wearing or using.

The 5.11 Covert Vest is advertised as being made from polyester soft shell fabric, which sounds like it would be pretty warm.  Lets' get that out of the way first.  The outer shell is actually a pretty  lightweight soft shell fabric, and the vest is lined with a couple lightweight wicking fabrics.  The whole effect is that of a lighter-weight and slightly thinner soft shell than you are used to, but with the bulk to move out of the way swiftly when drawing a weapon.  I was wearing it last week over a t-shirt in mid-80 degree weather, and it was fine.  Yes, I'd have preferred to have gone without a shirt altogether in that weather, but the Covert Vest didn't make me uncomfortably hot.

I like the totally, well, covert, appearance of this vest.  It looks like it came from REI or EMS, not a cop shop.  It's obviously cut long enough to conceal a belt-worn handgun.  The front pockets are tricot-lined and feature an internal zipper that opens to the interior of the vest, thus providing access to items -- such as an appendix-carried gun -- worn on the front of the belt.  Hook/loop closed Napoleon document pockets on the upper chest are loop-lined so that if desired they can accept hook-backed pouches.  Finally, the left chest pocket is the perfect size for a cell phone.  Not too many pockets (which I find irksome) and not too few -- it's just right by me. 

This has become my go-to vest for concealed carry, and I would have used it in my task force days if it had been available.  It's comfortable, low key, highly functional and available in five colors.  It fits true to size - the large is perfect for my 6-foot, 173-pound frame.

5.11's Switchback Short is made from a tightly-woven light weight cotton twill, providing that perfect summer combination of light weight and toughness.  It has the usual four pockets, plus a coin pocket at the right hip and a cell phone pocket on the right thigh.  It also has hidden magazine pockets on each side of the rear hip.  Double-needle seams, bar-tacking at stress points, and an auto-locking YKK zipper all contribute to the tough construction.  It's 12.5-inch inseam just reaches my knees.  Lo-key, stylish, with enough pockets, and tough -- what more is there to ask for in a short?