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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tru-Spec Tactical Response Combat Shirt Review


Tru-Spec Tactical Response Combat Shirt Review
The Tru-Spec Tactical Response Combat Shirt, is a relatively new style of shirt that has been developed specifically for military and law enforcement personnel (or airsofters and paintballers), who find themselves wearing body armor or other form of molle vest system.
In essence I’d describe this product as the love-child of a BDU shirt and a moisture-wicking t-shirt. Basically the designers have mated the sleeves and shoulders of the traditional ACU top, with a next-to-skin, base layer body. Then, they’ve grafted on a few other bells and whistles to provide some added utility, to create a product that Dr. Frankenstein would be proud of.
The logic behind this product is that most of your torso is going to be beneath a plate carrier or other vest, and so the need for camouflage gives way to the need for comfort and moisture control. Conversely, your exposed parts (arms, shoulders) can benefit from the tougher, abrasion resistant fabric offered by the BDU. The designers also realized that normal chest pockets are pretty useless under a plate carrier, and so they added large cargo pockets to each of the shoulders.
My particular shirt comes in the Multicam/Sand sleeves/body combination, but it is also available in a variety of other camouflage and solid color combinations, including ACU, Digital Desert, Digital Woodland, Solid Black, OD etc. The body of each shirt is considered “No Melt/No Drip”, which is a pretty big deal for those that find themselves in real combat situations where flash burns are a very real possible.
The shirt body fabric comes from Cordura, but it isn’t like the typical fabric you might associate with that brand. If you’re like me, you think of Cordura as the stuff they use on high end back packs and molle gear - extremely tough but not something you’d necessarily want to wear next to your skin. Well, this fabric is something entirely different. Called Cordura Baselayer, it is nylon/cotton blend that according to the Cordura website, outperforms 100% cotton in nearly every category from abrasion resistance to drying time.
In practice the fabric certainly looks and feels a lot like cotton jersey t-shirt fabric, and it is equally comfortable next to the skin. Apparently it’s also endowed with powerful moisture wicking properties, although testing this out can be a little tricky without the aid of a science lab. If you’re sweating it’s still going to get damp, but in theory it should dry out quicker than a regular t-shirt. Personally, I still wear another Under Armor-style layer underneath, mainly because I’m a pretty sweaty guy, and I prefer that to the feeling of damp cotton (or Baselayer) next to my skin.
I’ve worn this shirt on some hot days, and also during some torrential downpours, and I have to say that the Baselayer fabric has actually performed pretty well. It does indeed seem to dry quicker than a regular t-shirt, and more importantly it doesn’t soak up and hold water like a regular t-shirt would.
If there are any shortcomings to this fabric those are mainly exposed as a result of contact with the plate carrier worn over the top. As an airsoft player, my plate carrier does not even come close to the weight of a real, fully loaded rig, yet after a day of wearing it, the friction between the inside of the carrier and the shirt tend to stretch it out. While the fabric does have a modest amount of natural resiliency, it looks pretty stretched out and saggy by the end of the day. Fortunately, so far the shirt has always returned to it’s normal shape after washing.
The other issues I’ve noticed is that the fabric has started to pill where it has come in to contact with the vest, particularly across the stomach, where contact with the vest is greatest. The pilling began after the first wearing, so it may be nothing to worry about, but I’ll be interested to see how the fabric continues to wears over time.
As I mentioned, the sleeves and yoke of the shirt have much more in common with a traditional BDU shirt or jacket. These sections are constructed from a much heavier weight nylon/cotton blend, woven in a rip-stop pattern, that seems very sturdy and abrasion resistant. Additional fabric has been used to reinforce the elbows, although there is no internal pocket for additional elbow pads.
The pockets on either sleeve, although well intentioned, aren’t hugely functional. They’re set high up on the shoulder, and so it can be awkward to reach, particularly fishing out small items from the bottom of them. Fortunately the zippers that close each pocket have elasticated pull cords attached, at least making them easier to secure. The pockets are described as “cargo pockets”, and they certainly are big, but I’m not sure you’re going to want to stuff them full. My experience was that running around with full shoulder pockets just made them swing around and twisted up the sleeves. These pockets are probably best for smaller items that you only need occasionally, rather than things you’re going to want to have regular access to.
Each pocket has hook & loop patches on the outside. On the wearers right sleeve you have three separate patches for flag/unit patch, rank and 6” name tape. On the left sleeve you’ll find a larger single 3.5” x 4” patch with room for any other patches you might want. There’s also a small tab across the top to cover your IFF tab. Finally, each sleeve has hook & loop tabbed closure so you can cinch down the cuffs to keep out dirt, bugs or unwelcome breezes.
Anyway, that covers pretty much all of the features of the shirt, so lets say a few words about the fit. Unlike some of Tru-Spec’s other products, this shirt comes in just your basic Small through 2XL, without the Long or Regular options. I’m fairly tall (6’ 2”), but with a slim build and after looking at the sizing chart opted for a Large, thinking that I’d just be swimming in an XL. The result is a shirt that fits well in the body but which has sleeves that are a couple of inches too short. Having said that, with what I’ve learned about the sagging of the body fabric I still think I picked the right size. It’s just a bit of a disappointment that the Long/Reg options weren’t available, since a Large/Long would’ve been just the ticket.
Overall though, despite some fit and fabric challenges, I’m pretty happy with the Tru-Spec Tactical Response Combat Shirt. It’s well constructed, of quality materials, and it makes a good choice for anyone who spends their days in body armor, either by choice our out of necessity. Although it’s a little more pricey than your typical BDU shirt, when you put it alongside comparable offerings from Crye Precision or Blackhawk at more than three times the price, it really is a good value.
Please note this review was written for us by T. Lovering (one of out customers from the great state of Maine) it is his view of the product and we have requested he be as critical or as complimentary as the item really reflects. His compensation is more stuff it's a vicious cycle. Any one who want to participate email me at steve@vtarmynavy.com
Questions email info@vtarmynavy.com or call 800-448-7965

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