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FirstSpear

Pockets and the 6/12 System

 

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Following the initial inceptions of PALS load-bearing rigs and MOLLE pouches, the designs being produced did not see a great deal of innovation for a long period of time.  The same materials, construction methods and attachment systems remained fairly standardised for a significant number of years.  While this was good for the end-user in the sense that they would always know exactly what they were getting, it created a rather stagnant environment in that particular industry.  1000D rigs and pouches are extremely robust when built to a high standard, but by comparison to the new wave of tactical soft-goods that have been surfacing over the last 2 years or so, they entail a lot of weight. Weight which just isn't necessary if modern materials are applied in the proper places.
 
As an example, Blue Force Gear have entirely replaced the standard nylon webbing attachment straps on their pouch line with their new Helium Whisper backings/straps. They have also since that point licensed the technology to both Tactical Tailor and Mayflower R&C.  Two of the best known and highly regarded manufacturers of tactical gear in the US.
 
It is my personal belief that for the vast majority of airsoft players who are using their gear on an infrequent basis and for short periods of time, that this new generation of lighter, slicker load bearing equipment is the way forward.  Financial constraints will of course be a deciding factor in a hobby much more than they are in the real world.  However, if a load bearing rig or pouch is designed to just last a single 4-6 month deployment rather than multiple deployments, that same item should still last a considerable length of time for the average airsofter.  Granted this will vary quite substantially based on the individual's play style, the types of skirmish field they attend and various other factors.  But I still feel for that the majority of players this lighter pattern of gear will provide a length and quality of service more than adequate to justify the cost.
 
Bearing this in mind I've been purchasing quite a few items from the FirstSpear, Blue force Gear and Tactical Tailor lines of newer, lighter equipment over the last 12 months or so to see how they hold up within the airsoft arena.  My personal findings have been extremely positive and it would appear FirstSpear did not entirely hate the video reviews of some of their products which I posted to YouTube. They recently got in touch and sent over a small selection of their pockets which use the new 6/12 attachment system for video review.  These can be seen below by anybody who wants to get a better view of the products than picture alone provide.
 

 

 

Those videos are deliberately generic and not directed at the airsoft market specifically, so here's a bit more information and imagery relevant to this forum.
 
General Information
 
A few points on construction that apply to all of the following items (where applicable with specific regards materials):

  • Entirely Berry compliant/US Made
  • Mil-Spec throughout
  • All multicam items are directly from Crye Precision
  • 500D Cordura
  • Extensive use of grosgrain ribbon in place of webbing where appropriate
  • ITW Nexus Polymer and metal hardware
  • YKK Zips with paracord loops and polymer termination locks
  • All hook and loop direct from Velcro (including both standard product and the 6/12 materials)
  • Jacquard webbing is the new standard on all products, printed webbing has been phased out
  • Thread - Bonded nylon, A-A-59826 Type 2
  • Elastic - MIL-W-5664D, Type 2, Class 1
  • Drainage Grommets - Variant of MIL-G-16491, Type 1, Class 3 with an enamel finish
  • Available with either FirstSpear's 6/12 attachment system or 6/9 which is 100% backwards compatible with PALS rigs

I'll be the very first to admit I don't have a clue what most of those numbers mean towards the end, but I got an e-mail from Ronnie Fowlkes who is the Director Of Business Development at FS and he kindly provided the tech specs, so I'm just passing on all of the information I have.  Sufficed to say, it's awesome *suitcase*.
 
M4 Magazine, Speed Reload, Single
 
http://www.first-spear.com/product.php?productid=17598&cat=259&page=1
 
IMG_0970_zps2f25c566.jpg
 
Not just for M4/M16/AR pattern weapons of course, that's just FirstSpear's nomenclature.
 
Pictured holding a Lancer Systems L5 Lancer 30 round magazine, which doesn't fully seat in to the pocket on account of the external geometry of this particular magazine.  So if you've got the King Arms replicas, take note.  But rest assured your mags will still be retained securely even without the bungee.
 
I also tried out a PTS TMAG (identical shape to the M-Version PMAG), PTS EMAG and a KWA LM4 magazine.  Pictured with the bungee hooked on, but tested without.
 
IMG_0963_zps70a6373f.jpg
 
IMG_0966_zps680a3f54.jpg
 
Removing the bungee retention is a 10 second job and entirely reversible.  My findings have been that there's absolutely no reason to keep it on, the real beauty of this pocket is the fact it will securely retain basically any 5.56x45mm 30 round style magazine while allowing for instant, unhindered access when required by the user.  Regardless of whether you're using super light plastic midcaps for your AEG or LM4 GBBR magazines (which are the heaviest STANAGs/PMAGs out there to my knowledge).  The bungee really does nothing but diminish this quality, though if you really are uber-worried about losing magazines then feel free to keep using it.  The pull tab itself consists of a strip of webbing encased in the same Trelleborg material that BFG use to make their Helium Whisper backings, which adds a significant amount of grip texture vs. the nylon fabrics most manufacturers employ in this area.
 
There's also a trough of loop inside the pocket.  This allows for velcro retention of the magazines, if that's something you want to use on top of the security provided provided by the polymer insert.  An insert which (surprisingly) seems to add almost no weight at all to the pocket, which is impressive indeed.
 
If you're looking for that ideal pouch to mount on your hip for that go-to speed reload mag, this is the one you want.
 
M4 Double
 
http://www.first-spear.com/product.php?productid=17600&cat=259&page=1
 
IMG_0971_zps0c7bce93.jpg
 
This basic design is one that most people are going to be familiar with, almost every manufacturer of PALS pouches makes it.  That said, there are a few key factors which make the FirstSpear iteration stand out from the crowd.
 
First off is the weight, or lack thereof vs. the same pouch made to the 1000D pattern with webbing straps/press stud attachment; there is a very noticeable difference.  Second is the use of webbing for the lids rather than multiple layers of cordura.  Webbing is a highly resilient material, a fact that is going to come in handy if you put one of these pouches in the standard place on your carrier and go crawling along the ground.  Third is the space inside and the elastic retention.  Unlike a lot of so-called double pouches you can actually get two magazines in here without entering in to a pitched battle, but if you tuck in the lids you've instantly got shingles and a good level of retention is maintained on a single magazine.
 
The tabs on the lids along with the shaping of them makes access to ammo with the lids secured an easy matter when you really need more rounds right this instant.  Also worth reiterating is that the jacquard webbing shown on my pocket is the way that FS now make these pockets, despite the image shown on their website.
 
IMG_0972_zpsc5978a32.jpg
 
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Pistol Magazine Pocket, Speed Reload, Double

http://www.first-spear.com/product.php?productid=17623&cat=260&page=1

 

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The version I have here for review is constructed to fit M9 and P226 magazines.  Despite the similarities in size, Glock magazines will not fit this pouch (tested with RS & KWA G17 mags).  So you'll need to be sure to buy the pocket that fits to your specific handgun.  The following types are available:

  • 1911
  • M9/226
  • G17/19, M&P 9mm, USP-9, P2000 & P30
  • G22/23
  • G21

Compared to a BFG Pistol TenSpeed or pistol TACO, there isn't a lot of versatility, it has to be said.  However, if you're primarily just running one type of pistol, then the functionality is certainly there in spades.

 

Essentially what you have is a miniaturised version of the Speed Reload M4.  So the polymer insert is present inside as the primary retainer and you've also got the option of bungee and velcro retention on top of that if you so choose.  That said, my recommendation is to get rid of the bungee and forget about velcro, because the retention on my TM P226E2 magazines simply using the basic pocket was excellent.  I'd almost say they were perhaps held a little too tightly to facilitate optimal reload speed, but that might be partially be a case of wear-in.  Either way, I'd rather have to put a bit more effort in to grabbing my magazines than have them fall out on to concrete and break/fall out in to the dirt and get lost in the woods.

 

IMG_0955_zps540552a9.jpg

 

Overall, provided you're able to work with the specificity of the design, the pure simplicity of it really shines through.  Smooth and extremely easy to insert and draw from, no bungee to adjust or move out of the way, no lids to slow you down.  Some of those areas being points which the Tenspeed and TACO fall down on.

 

General Purpose Pocket, Medium

 

http://www.first-spear.com/product.php?productid=17655&cat=265&page=2

 

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For all those spare batteries, tools, cyalumes, gloves, scrim nets/dead rags, pens, maps, phones, wallets, snack bars, widgets, stuff and things.

 

There are many, many utility/general pouches on the market and they come in every shape, size and style imaginable.  What they don't generally do which this one does, is sit extremely flat when empty (or minimally filled) while still allowing a lot of room for expansion when needed.  Basically the same way the thigh/cargo pockets on your combat cut trousers sit flat normally and expand when necessary.

 

Just the right height to place on a standard PC cummerbund or on most chest rigs.  The zip is robust, relatively quiet and doesn't have nearly as much of that annoying tendency to go in to an awkward shape which means you have to end up using your spare hand to put some tension on the pouch to straighten out the teeth.  The redundant closure using a G-Hook on a strip of webbing is unusual, also surprising given that they're trying to save weight.  But the pocket is still extremely light overall and it does help with the zip issue, as well as keeping the actual opening of the pocket more consistent, rather than having the whole thing drop right open and spill your gear when you've got items held in the elastic retainers on the far side from your body.

 

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The elastic is sewn to provide 3 medium sized stowage spaces near the body, with 4 small spaces on the far side.  This really does help in terms of preventing battle rattle, as well as making it significantly quicker and easier to withdraw small, thin items.  Since they're presented to you in an easy to grab vertical alignment as soon as you open the pocket, rather than gradually slipping to a position of lying down in the bottom amongst everything else.

 

IMG_0984_zpsaee9687f.jpg

 

In Conclusion

 

Unfortunately as with so many other things in life, the more you improve something the harder it is to make significant performance gains and even small positive increments become expensive.  It is my opinion that at this time FirstSpear's products are at the pinnacle of PALS pocket design, especially with regards materials usage.  Innovation and quality come at a cost and these items are certainly not cheap, indeed they're probably not value for money as far as a hobby is concerned in quite a few respects.  But if you've already loaded yourself out with conventional 1000D pattern kit and you're looking to take the next step towards lighter, more functional, lower drag equipment, this is the way forward.

 

All the conventional colours are available throughout the entire FS line of pockets as well 6/12 and standard PALS compatible attachment.  Everything is very thoroughly planned out with an attention to detail which is meticulous when really examined, yet not obvious upon initial inspection.  Whether the prices are justifiable to you as an individual is of course highly subjective.  But you can rest assured when you do buy a FirstSpear product you're investing in quality and innovative gear which will function incredibly well for you in the field.

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CK, good write up as per usual.

I have been using the M4 Triple  on my Strandhogg's for the second part of last year and they were by far the easiest tab/lib system I have encountered.

 

I will be putting in another FS order soon for MP7 pouches and hopefully, they might just sell a standalone grey Strandhogg. 

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Thanks, you're not an easily impressed 'softer so I'll take that. :cookiemonster:

 

Not sure if I would use the lidded M4 pockets myself since I'm primarily playing CQB these days, not so worried about covering the mags.  I mean if I was looking for a pouch in that style for whatever reason then yeah they'd be a strong contender.  Certainly for a lightweight, lidded double mag pouch they'd be the one to go for in terms of 2x and 3x configs, seeing as TT and BFG are only offering their versions in a single cell right now.  Unfortunately I have bad OCD when it comes to velcro being lined up perfectly and that'd probably cause me to get hit more than necessary in a skirmish situation, so I'll stick with the Tenspeed up front on my Strandhogg for now.

 

Have you tried the speed reload pockets yet?  They've really impressed me the most by a long shot in terms of bringing a new level of functionality to the table.  You'll see what I mean when your MP7s turn up.  Not to say the standard design isn't a nicely made pouch, just isn't as much of a move forward vs older iterations of the same type of design.  At least compared to the speed reloads.

 

Actually saw a picture of an ATACS-AU Strandhogg yesterday with standard PALS webbing, so I'd say anything's possible.  Fingers crossed.

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Ahh, you see, I tried the BFG Tenspeed on my Strandhoggs and every time I try to draw a mag in a relatively quick motion, it feels like I'm trying to lift the whole PC off over my head as it's so lightweight.

I tried fitting HSGI TACO's, it just didn't feel right.

 

I still think that TACO's remains as my all time favorite mag pouches  :D

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Yeah I have the exact same issue with most airsoft mags, the whole PC comes with the mag when you try and grab it; talked about it a bit in my last post in the Strandhogg review thread.  Only issue I have with new gen lighter kit is that it highlights the differences between the designers intention and the way we use it in airsoft quite a bit.  What I'd like in an ideal world is either a Tenspeed with less retention or a reasonably priced triple shingle/standard pouch in 500D from TT or BFG (or whoever) with a helium backing so I don't have to use my arch nemesis i.e. MALICE.  What I plan on doing for now is picking up a single FirstSpear lidded pocket with 6/9 to compliment the double they sent over, seeing as I've no use for a 6/12 STANAG pouch other than the front of my Strandhogg and the triple Tenspeed hasn't panned out quite perfectly.

 

I've somewhat gone off HSGI recently.  For example, the more I look at my woosatch the more really basic flaws I find in it.  The damn PALS isn't even correctly spaced, and it's quite a lot of the loops, not just one or two and the amount they're off by isn't tiny either.  Also quite a few of my TACOs (rifle and pistol) have some really nasty spots of poor workmanship when you examine them close up.  Chunks of glue sticking out was the main one.  I'm yet to have any functional failures, but for the price paid I'm just not blown away by the build quality.  Function wise the TACO is a really good design I wouldn't disagree, just a shame about the attachment.  I've started running one on my hip for quick rifle reloads, but the FS option is generally better imho.  I've also gone off the pistol versions because all the ones I have simply aren't to spec regards height, they're too short and the MALICE ends up ripping warbelts apart (and these aren't exactly ACM belts I've been mounting them on).  The pistol Tenspeed works just as well for me overall so I'll be sticking to those; long as you don't leave double stacks in them then switch to 1911 the elastic is absolutely fine, far lighter as well of course.

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This is how I'm currently running my Strandhogg's, they're designed to hold six M4 mags but I only put three in this triple pouch and then two more in a double stacked TACO on my HSGI belt.

Pretty much effortless magazine draw and the mechanics and motion of the whole process doesn't come with the problem we've discussed above.

 

dscf0668gc.jpg

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Yeah, I think speed pouches on the belt and standard on the rig is going to be the way forward.  Really liking the idea of folding the extra bit of velcro inside, I've always thought it got in the way when only putting 1 magazine in per cell.  Good extra retention if you (or me, whoever) chooses to tuck the lids in as well.

 

Must be quite an old pocket with the printed webbing on top there.  Standard MOLLE straps with press studs?

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Picked up a few more pouches so if anyone was intrigued here's a comparison short of the 6/12 attachment system vs the new(er) 6/9.

 

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6/12 on the left which requires a 6/12 platform to mount to, the 6/9 on the right works with all the FirstSpear 6/12 PCs, belts etc but is fully backwards compatible with standard PALS rigs.  In fact by cutting out the horizontal webbing straps on the pouch that you'd normally weave through they've not only shaved weight but the pouch will sit closer to whatever you've mounted it on making a lower profile, slicker overall package. 

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