Viktos Zerodark™ Vest: Staying Comfortable Between the Seasons

Intended for the intermediate climates between the heat of the summer, and the frigid temps of the winter, the Zerodark™ vest gives shooters the ideal blend of core temperature comfort and freedom in range of motion.

Comprised of Fitelite™ nylon, the Zerodark™ vest has a lightweight outer chassis designed by Viktos with an added water-resistant Dupont™ Teflon® coating for longstanding outdoor use. The Zerodark™ vest also includes an inner layer of 100g Thermolite® insulation for temperature regulation and to serve as a windbreaker.


At the top, the Zerodark™ vest has a high collar roll to protect from rifle sling abrasion or wind. A full length YKK zipper has a nylon pull tab with rubberized ends.

The sides include Viktos’ Attackposture™ design, that incorporate four-way, flexible back and underarm panels to give improved flexibility to accommodate a variety of shooting stances.

Along the bottom there are two chest-rig stylized cargo pockets in the front (one each side). These are secured by hook-and-loop, and include nylon draw-string tabs with shrink-tube ends. A low-profile side pocket on each side behind the cargo pockets include a zipper enclosure with a plastic pull tab.

Both sides of the Zerodark™ vest include Viktos’ Gunvent™ design, a unique, dual-zippered side that allows for immediate access to range belt or holstered sidearm while wearing the jacket.


The interior sides of the Zerodark™ vest have one large and one small angled accessory pocket on each side. In addition, the Viktos “Undefeated” logo appears on the right side front interior.

The Zerodark™ vest is available in Nightfall (featured), Ranger, or Coyote and sized between Small to 3XL.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostGood (4/5): Viktos currently has the MSRP for the Zerodark™ vest at $120, but is discounting it to $102 as the company prepares to rotate stock for the 2020 spring. With its materials and design, the Zerodark™ vest is both lightweight and functional that keeps the upper core warm despite the wild environmental changes of the spring or fall. In comparison, vests of similar make/material include the 5.11 Peninsula Insulator Vest ($99), Triple Aught Design Syntax Vest ($170), or Arc’teryx Atom LT Vest ($189) – all of which demonstrate the market for designer tactical clothing. As such the Zerodark™ vest, at its current available price of $99, makes it very competitive and among some of the more balanced options on the market given its design and materials.
  • Comfort Good (4/5): Given its lightweight material, and thickness of the insulation layers, the Zerodark™ vest was very comfortable in the early spring weather here in Missouri. Worn in average morning temperatures of 50s-60s, rising to low 70s by mid-day, the Zerodark™ vest allowed for comfortable regulation of temperature and adjusting comfort. The only notable negative aspect was in light winds where the Zerodark™ vest was limited in keeping the overall comfort maintained simply because of the lacking sleeves. Viktos does offer a full-length light Zerodark™ jacket made from the same design and materials, should there be those more interested in overall upper body coverage. The high collar did an excellent job of mitigating abrasion from the sling, and the Attackposture™ design did well to adjust to the more dynamic movements of the upper torso on the range.
  • Durability – Fair (2/5): There was an almost grid-like stitching pattern on the outer shell of the Zerodark™ vest that lends to its overall strength in durability. The outer layer was permeated with Teflon which gave it an almost slick feel between the fingers, and helped resist abrasion from things like sliding slings, gun belt, or other accessories. There was minimal double line or overlap stitching, and what was observed was around the zipper or collar line to reinforce the material there. While some thread excess was noted (and easily removed), it was most likely attributed to the manufacturing process. However, prior to conducting range drills there were at least two missed stitches observed; one at the collar line and the other on the interior liner that could also be explained by lapses in the manufacturing process. While minimal, and unlikely to affect the durability of the product in the short-term, over a longer period the threading could become compromised. Indeed, following use on the range, the missed stitch on the collar had broken and the threads needed to be cut. Obviously one recommendation for Viktos would be to consider adding bartack stitching in/around the zipper, along the pockets and its hook-and-loop panels, or high abrasion/tension points.
  • Functionality Average (3/5): The Zerodark™ vest adequately fulfilled its role as a base layer vest for light-to-moderate use—as well as served as an alternative to the Zerodark™ jacket. In that role, the material did keep the user’s central core very comfortable, while the sleeveless design helped to regulate excess heat. On the range, the high collar proved well placed and the Attackposture™ panels did provide for good flexibility in more dynamic movements to the side or in twisting. The YKK zippers for the front and on the Gunvent™ sides provided for smooth and quiet function. The chest rig pockets were very wide and allowed for multiple rifle magazines to be kept there, though it did increase the bulk of the vest. There was sufficient material to close the vest with an IWB CCW holster worn, though access through the Gunvent™ was a little tricky as opposed to simply lifting the vest and conducting the draw. With a gun belt worn (secondary handgun, mag pouches, IFAK), the vest did not have sufficient material to cover the belt and still be closed in the front. It was only with the Gunvent™ open on the side, to allot for room for the OWB holster, was there sufficient material to close the vest. It was noted that much like the Gunfighter Flannel Jacket, the Gunvent™ zippers would inadvertently open from the bottom if the sides of the vest were slightly pulled. Again, this is a common problem with other fleece and light jackets with a similar side opening, and one resolved by having a covering material (secured via snap button) over the bottom of the zipper to secure it as well as reinforce the closure. Viktos may want to consider that as an improvement in its next Gunvent™ design.
  • Weight Good (4/5): Extremely lightweight, the use of the Thermolite as an insulation later allowed the Zerodark™ vest to weigh in at 13.7 ounces while still maintaining the core temperature without excessive bulk. The Zerodark™ vest was even light enough, that Viktos added a loop behind the collar by which to hang the vest to dry when wet. For tactical vests of this type, the market runs the gambit in both material and design (of various weight reflecting those factors). For instance, 5.11’s Peninsula Insulator Vest (16.8 ounces) runs the more traditional design, similar to the Zerodark™ vest with its insulation, pockets, and a quick access sides. Whereas in comparison, the Arc’teryx Atom LT Vest (7.8 ounces) is a more minimalist design we few pockets and intended more to serve as a base layer in conjunction with other outer garments. Regardless, the Zerodark™ vest was still one of the lightest vests available that offers insulation and some level of tactical function. Viktos could likely add additional reinforcement stitching to key areas without significant increases to the product’s weight.

Overall Rating – Above Average (17/25)

Product Link: https://www.viktos.com/collections/outerwear/products/zerodark-vest

IMG_2889_TackenbergI am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.


Vortex Spitfire HD GEN II: Compact But Powerful

Released for 2021, the Spitfire HD Gen II is the latest iteration of the Vortex line of rifle and carbine powered optics. It offers powered magnification, and Vortex’s classic ranged donut reticle for distance shooting that gives the user a broad range of application. With its other features, the Spitfire HD Gen II is one of the most compact powered optics available.

The exterior chassis of the Spitfire HD Gen II is made from a single piece of aluminum, resulting in a shock-proof housing that withstands recoil or impact. The outer layer of the chassis is then hard-coat anodized in a matte black to provide the shooter with a low-glare surface.

Both lenses in the Spitfire HD Gen II are sealed in multiple anti-reflective coatings that maximize clarity. In addition, both rubberized endcaps to the optic can be folded over and attached to the optic’s body for storage, or completely removed if desired. The Spitfire HD Gen II uses Vortex’s HD Optical System to deliver high-quality resolution with minimal chromatic aberration and extreme edge sharpness. Finally, the internal space is purged with nitrogen gas and sealed with rubberized, waterproof O-rings to prevent moisture penetration and cut down fogging in any extreme temperature.

The Spitfire HD Gen II comes in two models (one in a x3 magnification and another in x5) with each featuring a donut-style reticle, with bullet drop compensator markings for holdover up to 650 yards that make it ideal for the 5.56 cartridge. The reticle has 12 intensity settings (with the lowest two compatible for night vision devices) and runs off a single CR 2032 battery.

The Spitfire HD Gen II comes with variable-height mounts (lower 1/3 Co-Witness and Low-Height) and a T-10 Torx Multi-Tool.


  • Magnification……………………x3 or x5 (model dependent)
  • Objective Lens Diameter……25 mm
  • Eye Relief………………………….3.7 inches
  • Field of View……………………..23.3 feet/100 yds
  • Adjustment Graduation……..1 MOA
  • Max Elevation Adjustment…200 MOA
  • Max Windage Adjustment….200 MOA
  • Parallax Setting…………………100 yds
  • Length………………………………3.6 inches
  • Weight………………………………10.3 oz

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • Cost – Fair (2/5): With an initial MSRP of $649 (for the x5 magnification), the SPITFIRE HD is a continuation of the previous variant optic with two variable magnification powers available. This gives the end-user the availability to choose which optic best suits their needs. With the added features of an illumination reticle, ruggedized housing, and variable height mounts, the SPITFIRE HD GEN II offers a lot in a package smaller than most with similar magnification. In comparison, market alternatives would include the x5 Cross Dot Reticle Scope ($385) from Barska, the AR-536 Red Dot Optic ($399) from Burris, or the T332 ($735) from Steiner that all place the SPITFIRE HD GEN II at the upper end of similar market optics with the same magnification, and a fair price for its function and design.
  • Comfort – Good (4/5): The SPITFIRE HD GEN II easily mounted and felt secure throughout the evaluation period, thanks in part to its picatinny rail mount using two Torx screws to lock itself in. The reticle brightness easily adjusted via the + and – marked buttons on the left side, but the buttons themselves did not have a tactile feel when depressed (something that would have been nice). Both the windage and elevation adjustment dials provided crisp and solid adjustments per MOA and it was easy to zero the optic. The optic glass itself was remarkably clear and the retile was bright and well defined, with the darkened reticle also being visible when the illumination brightness was turned off. The optic’s 25mm objective lens gave a larger, more comfortable field of view for the shooter (when the eye was positioned close enough – but more on that in the Function section below).
  • Durability – Excellent (5/5): With the SPITFIRE HD GEN II’s single piece chassis, O-ring gasket seals, and anodizing, it all ensured the optic was able to function regardless of impact, temperature, or moisture encountered on the range. The anodized surface proved very durable and resisted abrasion to a good degree, with only minor surface marring noted from contact with the ground or barricades. Through it all the dot held zero and did not drift despite various stressor and rifle drills. But one of the areas Vortex shines over its competitors is its no-questions-asked Vortex VIP Warrantee where if the optic becomes damaged accidentally at any time, they will replace it (although they will want to hear the story). 
  • Functionality – Average (3/5): Functionally the use of the SPITFIRE HD GEN II was straightforward. Press/hold the + for ON and press/hold the – for three seconds for OFF. The buttons themselves were large enough to be comfortable but not overwhelming. The intensity levels were clear with the higher being the most optimal for outdoor use, and the lowest two optimal for night vision use. One feature the SPITFIRE HD GEN II had that was a nice additive was an automatic shutoff to prevent battery drain that kicked in after 14 hours of inactivity. One element noted during use was the focal point of the optic’s rear lens is very short, almost to the point of being uncomfortable. The optic itself had to be mounted to the extreme rear of the rail (almost to the point where a bill of a ballcap was touching it) to attain a usable position with a full field of view, and this is something Vortex may want to look into resolving. Traditionally, many powered optics do not have this shallow of a focal point. The only purpose for this design would be for the use of an additional magnifier that would be placed behind the optic, so it is something the end-user should be aware of.
  • Weight – Good (4/5): Weighing in at 10.3 ounces (for the x5 magnification variant), the SPITFIRE HD GEN II is several ounces less than its predecessor (most likely attributable to the compact design and battery difference). But the optic itself was neither distracting in weight nor unbalancing to the rifle during function. In contrast, the x5 Cross Dot Reticle Scope (19.2 ounces) from Barska, the AR-536 Red Dot Optic (18.75 ounces) from Burris, or the T332 (14.2 ounces) from Steiner all illustrate the light weight of the SPITFIRE HD GEN II in comparison to older optics with similar magnification and give the Vortex optic a very good weight for its design and materials.

Overall Rating – Above Average (18/25)

Product Link: https://vortexoptics.com/spitfire-hd-gen-ii-5x-prism-scope.html

I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Viktøs Wartorn Pants: For Maximum Flexability on the Range

Released in early 2022, the Wartorn Pant by Viktos advances the previous Contractor trouser design by bringing in additional utility features while keeping the same level of durability. The Wartorn Pant is made using Viktos’ Combatgrade™ stretch cotton/nylon chassis that provides improved comfort as well as function. 

Starting at the waist, the Wartorn Pant has seven 3” wide beltloops (four in the front and three in the back) with a padded waistband and patterned stitch line. These features improve comfort when wearing a heavy tactical belt, and have extensive bartack at stress points to maintain durability of the materials. The cut of the Wartorn Pant is slightly bowed due to the articulation slits at the knees and added joist material. This also accounts for deep knee movements common with life on the range or in the field.

At the top, the Wartorn Pant has a button and dual-shuttle YKK zipper fly with excess material under the zipper to protect the more sensitive skin areas from any accidental pinching. This unique design also allows the zipper to function while continuing to wear a duty or gun belt, and not requiring the wearer to remove it.

The two front pockets are a deep slash and angle pattern, with additional bartack and double line stitching for reinforcement, and a secondary pocket to account for retention clip items (such as pocket knives). The Viktos “Unconquered” branding appears on the interior of the front right pocket.

At mid-thigh is a multi-use cargo pocket with two slotted pockets behind the main pocket for full-size magazines (one rifle, one pistol) and one EDC tool (flashlight). The 8” (W) x 12” (H) cargo pocket itself is snap-button secured.

The two rear pockets are 7” wide each and open-ended at the top to allow immediate access when needed.

The knee segments and a crotch gusset are articulated, that incorporate Viktos’ Attackposture™ design, a four-way, flexible panel that provides maximum flexibility to accommodate a variety of shooting stances.

At each knee is an expansion panel for added articulation. Internally, each knee segment is slotted on the inside for knee padding (not included). Behind each knee, a hook-and-loop adjustment strap allows for custom tapering above the end-user’s calf.

Each pant cuff is single line stitched for added reinforcement, and to prevent/limit any fraying or compromise to the material.

The Wartorn Pant comes in Ranger Green (featured), Black, and Coyote. Its sizing runs from a 28” waist to 44” and an inseam from 30” to 36”.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • Cost – Average (3/5): With its MSRP of $115, the Wartorn Pant is an attempt to bridge a functional range/field pant with hallmark features found on other “operator” type trousers. This includes internal knee pad slots, hook-and-loop straps, and a padded waist line. For the price, users get a very durable and functional set of trousers for the range (even if that range includes rock, mud, or sand). In contrast, Crye is the defacto “king” of trousers in this design type and those run between $214 and $273. Alternatively, Direct Action’s Vanguard ($199 USD) trousers are an appropriate comparator, as would be UF Pro’s Striker ($199 USD) trousers, or Massif’s Combat Pant ($275). Obviously there are innumerable market alternatives that are less expensive, such as the 24×7 ($63.95) by Tru-Spec, or the HLX ($59.99) by Propper, but these were trousers that did not have similarities in materials, stitching, or design to the Wartorn. Among the market, this gave the Wartorn Pant an appropriate (or average) level of affordability when considering what it brings to the table.
  • Comfort – Good (4/5): Worn over a period of 30 days for several iterations on the range, and in a variety of stressors, the Wartorn Pant remained extremely flexible and comfortable. While often the gusset is the point where trousers bind in more dynamic movements, the Wartorn had a sufficient oversized gusset to allow for a wide range of motion, as did the Attackposture™ material (which appeared to be a four-way elastic type of nylon) included in the yolk and across the waist of the trousers. Likewise, the expandable slits just above the knee gave the Wartorn a good deal of flex when taking a knee or bringing the leg up into the chest. It would have been of benefit had the Wartorn had similar adjustment straps at the waistline as well. One notable feature for comfort was the padded waistline; filled with a thin layer of open-cell foam, it was extremely comfortable against a duty or range belt and more so against the skin during dynamic movements. Additionally, the ability to add padding to the knees could enhance the comfort of the Wartorn over rough terrain, although it did not come with any neoprene pads nor does Viktos offer any, so the end-user will be on their own to find a pair that fits. The Wartorn does run true-to-fit, so users will need to remember their actual body measurement when ordering and not at other sizes that may vary between manufacturers.
  • Durability – Good (4/5): The Wartorn was made from a cotton/nylon blend that gave the trousers an average level of durability and stiffness for their intended purpose. The conditions the trousers were tested against included water, mud, rock, and on concrete and aside from usual wear – the material retained an appropriate level or abrasion resistance. The trousers were put through four wash cycles and no fraying or loose threading of material was noted. Closer examination revealed that the Wartorn had a high degree of bartack stitching (though not as much as the Contractor series) along the belt line and high-stress points – with double-line stitching on pockets, and crotch gusset. These features all ensured that there was no compromise of the stitching or material during dynamic movement, and if it were to ever become so then it would be limited to the affected area. The only concern was the plastic button anchored at the top of the fly, as it was only secured by a single band of nylon. Under hard usage, similar buttons retained in the same manner can become ripped off by gear or simply broken. A recommendation to Viktos in future designs would be to consider changing the button to a metal snap-type, or a hook-and-loop tab similar to the knee adjustment straps for added strength and stand less chance of being shorn off.
  • Functionality – Excellent (5/5): From a functional aspect, the Wartorn had a large degree of application for those who live a regular life on the range. The number of pockets on the Wartorn were extremely useful, and most pockets easily accommodated a rifle or pistol magazine. It was noted during evals the multi-use cargo pockets on the thigh allowed for additional storage/access, leaving the traditional side pockets available for flatter items or accessories. The fly itself had two shuttles on the same zipper, so there was a good convenience factor with no need in undoing the range/battle belt if visiting the restroom. A good deal of the Wartorn’s functionality was put into making it comfortable while worn for an extensive amount of time (4+ hours) and regardless of conditions. Aspects like the Attackposture segments, articulation joints, and tapered design all allowed for full range of motion regardless of the setting. Finally, the hook-and-loop knee adjustment straps did a good job at cinching excess material around the lower leg to provide a more customized fit to the overall trouser and individual.
  • Weight – Average (3/5): Weighing in at 1.64 pounds the Wartorn had a good amount of blended cotton and nylon fabric, with an appropriate amount of room for movement through the waist and upper thigh of the trouser. While extensive reinforcement stitching was noted, it was neither excessive nor cumbersome. In contrast, the weight of market alternatives noted included the Crye Gen 3 (1.6 pounds), the Vanguard (1.32 pounds), UF Pro’s Striker (2.09 pounds), and the Massif’s Combat Pant (2.0 pounds). All of which places the Wartorn Pant are of an average weight amid the market of alternatives and for the materials chosen.

Overall Rating – Above Average (19/25)

Product Link: https://www.viktos.com/collections/pants/products/wartorn-pant

I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via High Ground Media, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Streamlight Racker Forend Shotgun Light: For the Bump In the Night

Released for SHOT Show 2020, the Racker by Streamlight is a new edition for the company’s line of weapon mounted lights, and its first integrated design for the Mossberg 500/590 line of shotguns.

Intended as a drop-in replacement for the Mossberg’s forend, the custom light optic produces a focused beam with peripheral illumination that reaches 283 meters before dispersal.

In front of the optic, the Racker included Borofloat glass is designed to have a high degree of heat and impact/abrasion resistance.


The Racker’s integrated weapon light produces 1,000 lumens (20,000 candela) off of two CR123 batteries that give it 1.5 hours of run time.

Along both sides of the Racker, the 4.5” ambidextrous pressure switch allow the operator to select between momentary and continually on function.


The impact-resistant housing of the forend is almost 8” long and made from a polymer/nylon resin that provides ergonomic handling for the support hand.

The Racker is Mossberg compatible to the 7 3/4″ Action slide 500® and 590® series, or works with Remington 870s (with the exception of the Remington 870 Express Supermag).

With its sealed rubber gasket endcap and enclosed housing to provide waterproofing the Racker is IPX7 rated; waterproof for up to 30 minutes.

The Racker comes in Black (featured) and Orange.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostExcellent (5/5): Coming in at an MSRP of $225, the Racker is a larger, intergraded WML for the more common shotgun styles on the available market. With a light source throwing out 1k lumens, the Racker gives as much light output, or more as other long-gun weapon lights. The closest comparator would be Surefire’s line of forend lights for the Mossberg 500/590 ($399-$599) and Remington 870 shotguns ($399-$599). For a short time EOTech also did offer its Integrated Forend Light ($243.70) forend light, but has since discontinued it. Regardless, as technology has developed, Streamlight’s new Racker is an inexpensive alternative to Surefire’s dominance in the market for intergraded shotgun lights.
  • Comfort Average (3/5): For its textured grip and rigid chassis, the Racker proved to be a very comfortable fit in the support hand that, combined with the angled housing of the light module, served as a good hand stop by which to control the forend. The switch module ran nearly the full length of the grip; however, there wasn’t much of a raised or textured surface on the switch to delineate the tactile feel between that and the chassis. The result was sometimes having to look down to check the position of the thumb on the switch. A recommendation to Streamlight would be to improve the comfort of the switch would be to raise the switch’s surface into a rounded or rubberized feel.
  • Durability – Excellent (5/5): The ABS polymer housing of the Racker took a good beating yet never failed. The chassis was struck against the wooden frame of the nearby shooting bench five times each side (10 total strikes) before loading and firing the shotgun, and at no point did the material separate nor become compromised beyond minor surface marring. The light module itself remained firmly inside the chassis and it and the switch module continued to function as normal.
  • Functionality – Average (3/5): Functionally, the Racker was designed to be a drop-in replacement for the stock Mossberg forend while adding an integrated weapon light. Its installation was easy and straight forward; however, it would have been nice to have an included forend removal tool, similar to what was included with the Magpul MOE M-LOK forend replacement. Users should take care in ordering the correct Racker for the Mossberg line of shotguns as the 500/590 variant of the Racker (Part # 69600) is slightly different than the 590 Shockwave (##69602) Racker. The latter will still fit on the full-length 500/590, just with the chassis’ shorter overall length it required a spacer to accommodate for the difference. The 1,000 lumens thrown by the Racker made illumination of interior spaces very easy, with a solid central beam for getting into dark corners. The hand strap of the 590 Shockwave variant did not have any adjustability, and did little to secure the forend to the hand. The switch module did have a tangible feel to it that denoted the Racker’s ON/OFF operation. The battery endcap was a little tricky to remove because of its position/angle, but with a wide flat-end screwdriver it was removed to allow access for the CR123 batteries. The Racker did lack the “Safe ON/OFF” feature as found in its other pistol WMLs, such as the TLR-7 and would have made for a nice feature. All of these gave the Racker an appropriate (or average) score with some room for improvement in function.
  • Weight Excellent (5/5): Depending on the model selected (the Mossberg 500®/590® weighed in at 10.78 oz. while the Remington 870 will weigh in at 11.08 oz.). The weight will vary due to the overall size of the chassis and associated ABS polymer. The switch and light modules are the same in both versions and thus had the same mass. In comparison, the DSF-500/590 forend replacement from Surefire (with 600 lumens) weighed approximately 18.2 ounces and its heavier mass is due to the thicker chassis and rubberized features for added grip. When in production, the IFL from EOTech (with 250 lumens) weighed 12.2 ounces and with its integrated light and design was a closer approximation of Streamlight’s Racker. However, in both alternatives the Racker (with 1,000 lumens) was still the lighter option and demonstrated the excellent lightweight design with current LED technology to deliver superior light output.

Overall Rating – Good (21/25)

Product Link: https://www.streamlight.com/products/detail/index/tl-racker

IMG_2889_TackenbergI am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.


RMA 1155 Ballistic Plate: Quality Protection at an Affordable Price

Nestled in among the rolling corn fields of Centerville, Iowa is a body armor manufacturer that has been gaining in popularity over the last year thanks to its quality ceramic body armor at an affordable price for civilians. RMA Armament counts among its products the 1155 Model Hard Body Armor, an NIJ Certified Level IV (NIJ 0101.06) ceramic plate that can withstand most of today’s common threats.

The 1155 is in the industry standard of a 10” (W) x 12” (H) x 1” (D) plate dimension, and comes with the associated SAPI/ESAPI style cut that allows for more opening in the shoulder pocket and range of motion. The plate has a single vertical curve to allot for standard male upper torso curvatures.

The plate itself is of a standard monolithic aluminum oxide ceramic core, with a polyethylene backer that enables the plate to sustain multiple hits. Around the plate, RMA uses a 600D water-resistant nylon cover to help mitigate heat and moisture from the upper body.

As with all of its products, the RMA 1155 is made entirely in the USA. The 1155 Hard Body Armor plate itself is available in only in Black, although RMA does offer the 1155 separately with a “Back the Blue” logo on it in lieu of the RMA logo.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • Cost – Excellent (5/5): RMA offers ballistic protection at a variety of levels and cost ratios. The set of two, NIJ Certified, Level IV 1155s is currently listed on RMA’s website as $270 although it also does offer individual plates at $135 per plate. The 1155s are a single curve and made of the more readily used ceramic materials found in much of the industry. In contrast, market alternatives to the 1155s include anything from a set of the Level IV Hercules ($550) from Spartan Armor Systems, a set of Level IV 4601 ($467) from Hesco, or a set of Level IV Triple Curve (Model # 26605) ($539) from Hoplite Armor. All of which places the 1155s at an excellent price point amid its competitors which all share a similar NIJ certification level.
  • Comfort – Average (3/5): Comfort wise, the 1155s had only a singular curve that accommodated the vertical curvature of the upper torso comfortable and appropriately for the male physique. Females may still find this curvature uncomfortable due to variances in upper body type. Perhaps the most notable effect to comfort on the 1155s was the weight (as noted below), as worn for longer durations (1hr. +) it became very apparent in the shoulders and lower lumbar region despite the use of a quality carrier for evaluations. This was the tradeoff for having an affordable plate with the same protective ratings as more expensive brands, using the more commonly available ceramics. With its 1” thickness, the 1155s also had an appropriate (or average) profile off the torso and (properly sized for the individual) the corners did not poke or gouge unnecessarily. The inclusion of padding/buffer around the core ceramic material also added to the comfort, ensuring that no hard edges/angles were felt despite dynamic movements.
  • Durability – Average (3/5): Obviously the durability of ballistic plates lies in that they perform to a known (and consistent) standard (even as a minimum). The 1155’s are NIJ Level IV Certified to stop projectiles at under 3200fps, or as the NIJ tests for—a single hit form a 30-06 AP round. Assuming the end-user does nothing that would otherwise compromise the integrity of the plats, the 1155’s should withstand time. RMA does offer a 10 year manufacturer’s warranty with all its ballistic plates, so they do support their product and its performance for the appropriate (or average) timeframe as other manufacturers. As noted in our editorial series on body armor, the warranty merely reflects the manufacturer’s interest to support the customer while still ensuring performance. Ceramic doesn’t “expire” in the sense that it degrades just over time and usage, but 10 years is pretty average for what manufacturers are willing to ensure the product for. Added to the durability of the 1155s was a padded/buffer layer to the edges and front/back side of the plates. This was to aid in drop protection and avoid the ceramic from cracking (although most modern ceramics are very durable) if accidentally dropped. One issue noted from a durability aspect was the nylon cover around the plates had some cuts/holes in the material upon receipt. This was merely cosmetic, and did not fray further during evaluation while in the carrier, but something the consumer should be aware of due to the thin layer of material itself.
  • Functionality – Good (4/5): As noted, the 1155’s are NIJ Certified and readily found in the CPL, which means the RMA plates themselves have already been submitted to the most stringent of scientific testing and evaluation, thus passed in good order. Therefore, the plates will functionally protect the end user up to a specific rated velocity (in the case of 1155’s Level IV), to include those readily found in some of the most common rifle and pistol calibers. As such, there is little that could be done to the plates for evaluation on function (such as submersion/soak testing, drop-testing, and ballistic testing) that hasn’t already been performed and well documented. It is the position of STL Shooting Enthusiasts that “backyard destructive testing” is neither a scientific nor credible means to evaluate body armor, specifically if the plates themselves are already NIJ Certified. Such means could provide a glimpse into the performance of the armor to a degree—but not one that could be considered reliable due to variances on ammo velocities, projectile materials, and even ambient air temperature.
  • Weight – Fair (2/5): At 8.3 pounds per plate, the 1155s were notably heavier than other plates that utilize more advanced and lighter materials. The weight of each 1155 is directly attributed to the ceramic composite material, which have sufficient density to defeat projectiles for the NIJ rated velocities stated. In contrast, a Level IV Hercules (6.9 pounds) from Spartan Armor Systems, a Level IV 4601 (6.4 pounds) from Hesco, or a Level IV Triple Curve (Model # 26605) (6.5 pounds) from Hoplite Armor all show that while the 1155s are the more inexpensive options, they are also one of the heavier and fair among the market of alternatives.

Overall Rating – Above Average (17/25)

Product Link: https://rmadefense.com/store/body-armor/level-iv/level-iv-hard-armor-plate-model-1155-set/

I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Lead Devil USA Tactical Duty Belt: American Made For the Duty Professional

Building its belts from some of the toughest materials available, the 1.75” tactical duty belt by Lead Devil USA offers a rigid and functional two-piece belt system that allow for customization to fit any need.

Inner Belt

The Lead Devil tactical belt starts with a 1.75” wide inner EDC base belt made from the company’s proprietary Lead Devil Tactical Webbing (LDTW) nylon blend. This includes a nylon weave with a smooth inner facing side intended to pass through the belt loops of the trousers. This blend is then resin treated for greater strength and abrasion resistance. Sum total the nylon has a tensile strength upwards of 5,500 pounds per square inch.

The outward facing side of the inner belt includes Lead Devil’s low-profile unnapped (female) hook-and-loop material that, combined with the double layered Type 3 (male) hook-and-loop material of the outer belt, provides for maximum strength against sheer forces. The sizing of the inner belt is adjusted by a genuine AustriAlpin triglide EDC buckle with the excess capable of mating to the outer layer of the inner belt’s (female) hook-and-loop material for maximum comfort.

Outer Belt

The outer belt of the two-piece Lead Devil’s 1.75” tactical belt is where all the work happens. Made from the same LDTW nylon material as the inner belt, the outer belt features a number of elements that make it ideal for work, duty, or general training. Sizing is done through a 2.25” genuine AustriAlpin Cobra Prostyle belt buckle with any excess again folded over and secured on the outer belt’s exterior hook-and-loop material. This enables for the perfect fit in sizing with any excess secured rather than retained by an elastic cuff.

The exterior of the outer duty belt features two bands of ½” nylon, made from the same material as the outer belt and reinforced using bartack stitching into 0.25” Micro MOLLE-compatible sections. This pattern is repeated over ¾ the length of the outer belt to accommodate left or right-handed users, as well as most pouches or accessories. The outer belt also includes a hook-and-loop fastener that retains the attached D-ring when not in use.

Along the interior of the outer duty belt is a length of double layer Type 3 (male) hook-and-loop that thanks to its larger “hook” mates to the corresponding material on the inner EDC base belt for maximum retention. This also enables for the inner belt to be worn when the outer belt is not necessary, and the outer belt to be easily donned when needed.

Belt Specifications:

  • Small……..27” – 30”
  • Medium…31” – 34”
  • Large……..35” – 38”
  • XL………….39” – 42”
  • 2XL………..43” – 46”
  • 3XL………..47” – 50”

Lead Devil’s 1.75” Tactical Range Belt comes in an outer belt that includes OD Green (featured), Coyote, and Black. The inner belt color can be selected separately to correspond or be another of the other colors available.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostAverage (4/5): The 1.75” wide tactical duty belt by Lead Devil has a $164 (color dependent) starting price, which given its custom rigid LDTW nylon material solid hook-and-loop, and hardware, make the cost good in that its custom materials represents a significant amount of attention to custom design, quality, and function. In comparison, other notable manufacturers with products of similar design are the Delta Belt ($115) by Persec, the T3 Trident Operator Belt ($159.65), or the Ronin Senshi Belt (at upwards of $190) which some use off-the-shelf SCUBA/4088 webbing, or have regular hook-and-loop material. This all gave the tactical duty belt by Lead Devil a very good cost for its custom nylon and hook-and-loop materials, included two-part belt system, and genuine AustriAlpin hardware.
  • Comfort Good (4/5): Perhaps its greatest advantage in comfort, was the ability of the tactical belt to be easily adjusted for any fit needed before donning, or while worn. The inner EDC belt, with triglide buckle, allowed for easy adjustment when donning, and with any excess cinched and secured completely to the side. The outer belt also followed similar design by allowing the cobra buckle to be tightened as necessary and the excess secured to the side as well. As the outer tactical duty belt was worn, over time it loosened up a little from its out-of-box rigidity. But even after a 30-day trial period consisting of a number of shooting iterations, the belt still held a good level of rigidity due to the tightness in nylon weave pattern. This made it good for bearing the weight of pouches or accessories.
  • Durability – Excellent (5/5): Out of the box it was immediately evident to the durable qualities of Lead Devil’s tactical range belt. There was extensive bartack stitching throughout the inner and outer belts, as well as X-pattern reinforcement in key areas that added to its overall strength. Overall the LDTW nylon to both the inner and outer belt was very resistant to abrasion. Despite repetitive adjustment and readjustment, donning and removal, at no point during evaluation did any of the material separate or become compromised. Lead Devil does offer its Exchange Program which covers the belt against wear & tear, damage, maintenance, weight loss/gain for the lifetime of the purchaser.
  • Functionality Average (3/5): Functionally the tactical range belt was very straight forward, with its Micro MOLLE webbing serving as the ideal fit for most pouches and accessories. The inner EDC belt was a rigid nylon webbing that made daily wear comfortable while the triglide buckle allowed for easy and immediate adjustment. The outer belt was likewise easily donned and mated to the inner belt easily and consistently. The cobra belt buckle provided for an easy and audible lock, and retained a solid lock throughout. As a stand-alone belt, a recommendation to Lead Devil that could have improved the tactical range belt’s overall score in function would be the inclusion of features on the outer belt that allow for expansion of the outer belt’s operational role; such as loops for suspenders, or a glove loop.
  • Weight Average (3/5): The size of the belt and materials used often determines the volume of overall mass for the tactical range belt, as well as the amount of reinforcement. In this evaluation a Large was reviewed and held an overall weight of 1.38 pounds. This included the weight of the two-part nylon belt system, with its extensive reinforced stitching and Micro MOLLE webbing, and both AustriAlpin buckles. In comparison the Persec Delta (1.3 pounds), T3 Trident Operator Belt (1.27 pounds), and the Ronin TF Belt (1.2 pounds) all demonstrate that the choice of hardware is often the deciding factor in as little a difference in ounces. In the selection of Lead Devil’s tactical range belt, the minimal heavier weight over its competitors is directly related to Lead Devil’s choice of using genuine AustriAlpin hardware, the extensive bartack and reinforcement stitching throughout, and the density to the nylon weave for the LDTW material. The result is an appropriate (or average) score, and if Lead Devil could develop a way to shed 10 ounces from the overall design then it would score higher amid its competitors.

Overall Rating – Above Average (19/25)

Product Link: https://www.leaddevilusa.com/tactical/tactician-belt-rb2ne

IMG_2889_TackenbergI am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.


G-Code Firebase: Good for the Grip

Introduced in 2022 as a magazine enhancement, the Firebase by G-Code provides the end user with increased surface area for control, and a textured non-slip base for support when needed.

Made from a rubberized polymer, each Firebase (sold in pairs) measures 2.75” (L) x 1” (W) x 2” (H). The Firebase is designed to accommodate a majority of the most popular magazine brands.

With its flexible 1/16” thick sidewalls, the Firebase slips over the bottom of a rifle magazine, giving it an improved texture for tactile control.

A reinforced base with a textured exterior allows the end user to comfortably rest the base of a magazine on a variety of surfaces without concern of slippage.

The Firebase is available in Ranger Green (featured), Black, and Coyote.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostAverage (3/5): At $24.95 for a pack of two; the Firebase is made from a flexible, rubberized polymer similar to many common non-slip devices. The Firebase is compatible to many common types of magazines, and assists in supporting the rifle when needed. In contrast, similar types of alternative magazine support bases (that don’t add additional round count) includes the Base Plate ($19.95) by Mag-Pod, Ranger Plates for PMags ($24.95) from Magpul, and the aluminum Ranger Baseplate ($45.00) by Lockstep Arms. This demonstrates the diversity in design and materials amid the market of magazine accessories (separate from the versions that add additional round count), and place the Firebase at an appropriate (or average) cost amid the overall market.
  • Comfort Good (4/5): From a comfort aspect, the Firebase slipped on the magazine’s base easily, and didn’t come off unless so desired and pulled off. This was thanks in part to the flexible sides that created a slight suction effect to keep the Firebase in place. When attached, the textured base of the Firebase mitigated any accidental slippage of the magazine when a support platform or bench was being used. Additionally, by increasing the surface area of the magazine’s base, it made grasping the magazine from pouches, belts, or plate carrier easier and more readily tactile. Those using a “beer can” grip for magazines would find the Firebase an added benefit while manipulating between magazines.
  • Durability – Good (4/5): The durability of the Firebase was aided by the polymer material, that was the same blended material as popular magazines. This gave the Firebase a good degree of durability and flexibility to resist impact and abuse. Over the course of field use, only surface marring and other marks were encountered but at no point did the material become torn, weathered, or cracked. It is most likely over time the Firebase would take on similar exterior wear as PMags and other polymer accessories, but would continue to function as intended for the long-term. Perhaps the greatest risk would be over extreme usage the non-slip textured surface on the base may become gouged, but this would be consistent to heavy usage.
  • Functionality Good (4/5): Functionally the Firebase offered a simplistic advantage, with its textured magazine base preventing inadvertent slippage while at a bench or over a barricade despite recoil. The Firebase also provided a larger surface area in which to grip on when pulling the magazine out of the pouch. The triangular structure of the base’s interior illustrated the reinforcement and durability of the Firebreak over long-term usage. The principle focus of the Firebase was to improve tactile control, and offer support to the rifle while at rest. Perhaps the only limiting factor to the Firebase is that it is not sold individually or combo packs of three (a consistent number to magazines pouches on plate carriers). It would be recommended to G-Code to consider a 3-pack offering of the Firebase as well.
  • Weight Excellent (5/5): Each individual Firebase weighed in at just 30 grams, which was negligible considering the overall weight to a rifle and other mounted accessories. The Firebase owed much of its light weight to the offset in design whereby the supporting base was a latticework of space-saving triangular supports rather than a solid structure, allowing the design to add thickness to the supportive walls while not becoming burdensome. In contrast, the Base Plate (60 grams) by Mag-Pod, Ranger Plates for PMags (113 grams) from Magpul, and the aluminum Ranger Baseplate (77 grams) by Lockstep Arms demonstrate the lightweight characteristics of the Firebase’s materials, and make it one of the lighter support bases available on the current market.

Overall Rating – Good (20/25)

Product Link: https://www.tacticalholsters.com/product/firebase/-1196

I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via High Ground Media, LLC, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Lancer Systems L5AWM Magazine: Strength Where It Counts

Released circa 2013, the L5AWM is a 30-round capacity rifle magazine by Lancer Systems for a variety of Colt-patterned ARs. The L5AWM gives users a blended design with stainless steel feed lips for strength, and a polymer body for minimal weight.

As a whole, the L5AWM body is made from impact/stain resistant polymer rated to perform in extreme environmental conditions (40F to +180F).


Starting at the top, the L5AWM’s hybrid body begins with a hardened steel feed lip assembly. This assembly is molded to the upper magazine and not removable. It also greatly strengthens the upper tower of the magazine’s body from excessive impacts from the bolt in full-auto or when running suppressors. The L5AWM also features an anti-tilt, self-lubricating follower and stainless steel spring that ensure consistent feeding of ammunition. Slots at the rear of the steel lip assembly help seat stripper clips guides to speed in the loading of ammunition.

The L5AWM has a consistent curve throughout the length of the magazine to aid in reliable function. The bottom half of the magazine has a raised magazine stop line and ribbed grip surface along the exterior surfaces for tactile improved control. The L5AWM comes in a variety of clear and translucent options, each with 20- and 30-round count markings that enable for full-length and immediate visual recognition of ammo count.

At the bottom, the removable polymer floorplate is separated from the interior base plate using a round or similar pointed object to release the locking mechanism. The floorplates also include optional drain holes for those working in maritime operations.

The L5AWM magazine is only available in a Translucent Smoke (featured), Translucent Clear, Translucent Dark Earth, Opaque Black, and Opaque FDE.


  • Compatible with M4/M16/AR15, SCAR16, HK416, ARX160, SIG556, ARC, SIG MCX, IWI Tavor, IWI X95, SA80, chambered in 5.56x45mm / .223 Remington.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostAverage (3/5): Priced between $16.30 – $21.99 (color dependent), the cost of the L5AWM reflects not only the materials, but uniqueness of its optional clear or translucent body. In addition, the L5AWM is one of the few hybrid polymer magazines with a stainless steel feed lip that brings forward the best of both magazine types. When placed in comparison to other market magazines; the Series 2 ($14.99 – $16.99) by Hexmag, or the Gen2 MOE ($15.95) and Gen3 ($17.95) by Magpul Industries, appear on the higher scale of cost against straight polymer magazines. But in relation to full stainless steel magazines, the price (depending on vendor and quality) can run approx. $16/per with no option for a clear or translucent body. So, it becomes a balancing decision on the part of the consumer where the materials and function of the L5AWM is appropriate (or average) in relation to its cost.
  • Comfort Excellent (5/5): The L5AWM was used for a period of 30 days in various training iterations, and what stood out the most for its comfort was the notable stainless-steel spring, which felt stiffer and held more potential energy than other magazines. This gave the follower a positive and consistent pressure against the ammunition and thus, a solid feeding into the chamber. The translucent sidewalls allowed for immediate recognition of ammo count in light environments or outdoors, and was aesthetically appealing as well. As an AR magazine in general, the L5AWM magazine was as comfortable in the hand as other polymer-based magazine on the market. The robust contour features gave a solid tactile feel over the entire bottom half of the magazine regardless if the shooter was wearing gloves or not. This helped in stripping the magazine out, driving it home into the magwell, or with manipulation in/out of pouches.
  • Durability – Good (4/5): The biggest positive aspect to the durability to the L5AWM magazines laid in the polymer’s resiliency (or the ability of the polymer to flex and then return to its pre-determined shape). The sidewalls appeared to be slightly thinner in comparison to Magpul’s Gen3 magazines, but the reinforced gripping surface of the L5AWM added additional thickness along key areas. Three drop tests to several fully-loaded L5AWM magazines were conducted from a height of approx. six feet, with the feed ramps down in an attempt to get a direct strike. In each iteration, despite striking a concrete surface, only 1-2 rounds were typically ejected and the feed lips or follower were never compromised beyond simple surface marring. Internet research did find at least one example in 2016 of the L5AWM’s polymer follower being damaged during drop testing due to the front end shearing off—and it would be recommended to Lancer to consider bolstering the follower. Other examples demonstrated people driving over the L5AWM with no adverse effects. It should be noted, much like many other polymer-based products, users should avoid prolonged direct UV exposure to the L5AWM in that it may affect the molecular resiliency of the product (i.e. becomes brittle).
  • Functionality Excellent (5/5): From a functional aspect, the biggest positive feature of the L5AWM was its hardened steel feed lip assembly. There was plenty of documented examples of use in the field and on the range, of dropped polymer magazines striking the upper tower, or on full-auto/suppressed, cracking the feed lips. This problem appeared exacerbated by the mass of cartridges once the magazine was fully loaded. Lancer Systems attempted to resolve this concern by making three of the four sides to the feed lip assembly molded steel for added strength. It was noted during evaluations that a fully loaded L5AWM magazine did appropriately seat and lock in the magwell with the bolt closed/forward. The sidewalls of the magazine while thinner, did not bulge and they remained parallel under the spring’s tension of a full 30-rounds. Another added function of the L5AWM was the anti-tilt follower filled up the space inside the magazine more than other brands, leaving less room for potential debris.
  • Weight Average (3/5): With its weight of 4.8 ounces (empty), the L5AWM has a mass appropriate (or average) for its hybrid design—bringing together its polymer body and stainless steel feed lip assembly. The next alternative would be full stainless steel magazines, such as by ASC, which have an average weight of up to 6.4 ounces. In comparison to other polymer-based magazines; Magpul Industries Gen2 MOE (4.6 ounces) or Gen3 (5 ounces), as well as Hexmag’s Series 2 (4.6 ounces), or Daniel Defense’s DD Magazine (7 ounces) all demonstrate the variance in weight due to differences in magazine design and material. This placed the L5AWM within the average weight of the competitors noted.

Overall Rating – Good (20/25)

Product Link: https://lancer-systems.com/product/l5awm-30-magazine/

IMG_2889_TackenbergI am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.


SB Tactical SBA3 Brace: A Minimalist Approach With Adjustability

Released in February 2018, the SBA3 is one of the newer AR pistol braces offered by SB Tactical, and among many along its AR, AK, and shotgun models. The A3 variant was intended to bridge the design differences between the original and fixed SBM4, with the adjustability of the future SBA4. The SBA3 features an adjustable length with mil-spec buffer tube compatibility, and a QD mounting point that provides for improved comfort and function for shooters.

While the SBA3 was intended as a follow-on to the SBM4, the SBA3 has a more minimal forearm support wings, and a 1” hook-and-loop strap to secure the brace to the arm. This gives the A3 a less-bulkier profile overall. However, where the A3 differs is the brace now accepts any 7075 mil-spec carbine buffer tube (included with brace) and thus has a 5-position adjustable length. The newer A3 brace also includes a metal ambidextrous QD mounting point for slings behind the buffer adjustment pin.

Fully collapsed, the A3 has a minimal length of 6.5”, while on a fully extended carbine buffer tube measures 9.5”. Understanding these measurements can become impetrative when determining the overall length of an AR build to meet ATF regulations on AR pistols.

With a narrower 1.8” polymer body, the spine of the A3 provides a minimalist profile for the user that avoids excessive snagging while still giving an angled platform for a cheek weld. This is an improvement over the SBM4, and for comparison an improvement over the smaller, thinner, and lighter Magpul CTR buttstock.

The SBA3 is available in FDE (featured) Black, OD Green, or Stealth Grey.