Pat’s Product Review: Blackhawk Products Clothing and Gear

For those of you, who are not familiar, with how Blackhawk Products came to be, here’s a little history: Former US Navy SEAL, Mike Noell, was operating in Iraq. He had to hump a ton of gear by foot in an enemy minefield. The pack failed, dumping his gear into the mine field.  Noell promised himself, that if he got out of that minefield alive, he was gonna make stuff the way it needed to be built, so none of his buddies would have to go through a similar equipment failure. Upon returning to the private sector, Noell started Blackhawk Products in 1993 – and as they say, the rest is history. As I’ve said before, I won’t write about junk – period! And in my book, Blackhawk Products is making some of the best gear, clothing, footwear, etc., on the planet. I’ve been testing a lot of their gear for several years now, and none of it has even come close to failing me – as a matter of fact, every piece of gear, clothing and footwear I’ve received for T&E, has far exceeded my expectations.  

I particularly like the Lightweight Tactical Shirts from Blackhawk, their short-sleeve version. I used to wear a covering photo journalist vest in the summer months, to cover my sidearm. However, it looked out of place for a number of reasons. I now wear the Lightweight Tactical shirts over my t-shirt (my “uniform” of the day is usually a t-shirt and cargo pants). I leave the shirt untucked and unbuttoned, and it doesn’t look out of place, and it covers my handgun nicely, I might add. These shirts come in several colors; black, khaki, olive drab and navy.   Features of these shirts are: durable 5.1 oz poly-cotton ripstop construction, Dupont Teflon DWR finish that resists stains and dries quickly. Concealed collar stay buttons and anti-roll collar inserts, and many more features that are too numerous to list in this article. Check it out on their web site for complete information. Now, remember, quality doesn’t come cheap – the short-sleeve version of this shirt retails for $46.99.   Most days, I can be found wearing cargo pants from Cabela’s – been wearing a certain type for more years than I care to remember. However, when I’m afield hunting, hiking or teaching a firearms class, I’ll more than likely be wearing the Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Pants. They are not only sharp looking, but they are tough as nails. These pants are a cargo-type, and they have a large hidden zipper pocket behind the right hand front pocket. There is also a top opening mag pouch pocket on each leg. Front thigh pockets have size zipper pouch and hook and loop top to secure valuables. There is also a hidden expandable waistband, that slides to increase waist size by up to 4″ for increased mobility – especially after that heavy lunch that you know you shouldn’t have had. There are rubber gripper strips in the waistband to keep a shirt tucked in.  

We’re talking about a lot of features in a pair of pants: reinforced hems on leg cuffs and hand pockets increase durability in high wear areas, too.The front pockets are “angle cut” and have flat edges for proper placement and orientation of knives. There are also extra-wide reinforced belt loops that will accommodate the Blackhawk CQB Rigger Belt (that I also recommend), and other belts up to 1.75″ wide. I’m sure many of you have seen news footage of private security Operators in Iraq or Afghanistan wearing these types of pants – there are a lot of look-a-likes, but only one Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Pants on the market. The look-a-like pants are cheap in price and workmanship. The Blackhawk pants are $59.99 per pair – and well worth every cent. Colors available are: black, khaki, olive drab and navy. For my money, there’s nothing better, and these pants will get you through some tough times when needed. Make sure to check out Blackhawk’s web site or ask for their catalog for full details on these, and other pants they sell.

I’m extremely picky when it comes to footwear – as is anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet or in the field. It might interest you to know, that approximately 95% of the footwear sold in the good ol’ USA is made in China. Heaven help us, if we get into a war with China – the entire country will be barefoot inside of a couple of months. Now, with that said, you can get as good as you want when it comes to footwear from China… if you want cheap hiking boots for $19.99 from Wal-Mart, then I’m not gonna stop you from buying ’em – but your feet will suffer, as well as your chances of long-term survival. When it comes to footwear, please do yourself and your loved ones a favor, and buy the best you can get – even if that means saving up to buy better footwear. Footwear from Blackhawk is made in China, but, it is made to their specs – no junk – simple as that!

I have several different pairs of boots from Blackhawk, and the one pair I wear more often than the other is the Waterproof ZW7 side zip boot. I can live without the side zip, but they are only offered with this feature. I live in Oregon, on the wet side of the state, so it only makes good sense to me, to purchase waterproof footwear. I have the 7″ tall, desert tan version of this boot, and they are extremely well-made, to be sure. When you put these boots on, walk around, and then put on a cheap pair of boots, the qualify is obvious – Blackhawk wins, hands down. I really like the Vibram multisport oil resistant TC4+ compound outsole on these boots – they grip in all sorts of weather – snow, rain, rock and muck. The waterproofing comes from the Sympatex lining, and it also helps wick moisture away from your feet, to help keep ’em cool and dry in the summer, and warm and dry in the winter. Retail price is $179.99 – once again, quality doesn’t come cheap – you get what you pay for. There are a lot of rip-offs of this boot – but only one quality boot – the one from Blackhawk.

I also have the Blackhawk Black Ops Boot – this is a similar boot to the ZW7 side zip boot, except no zipper (yes!) and a taller boot – and come in your choice of colors – so long as you like black. This boot is a little less money, than the ZW7 – these retail for $169.99 – don’t ask me why they are cheaper – they just are. So, if you are a police officer, security officer, in the military (where black boots are allowed) or just looking for some to hell and back boots for the end of the world, these are the ones to pick in my humble opinion.

My youngest daughter is a combat medic in the US Army – she was issued two pairs of desert tan boots in Basic Training – one pair was too small and the other pair was too big – but you can’t tell that to the supply sergeant they know exactly how to fit boot and uniforms. It was this way when I first joined the military in 1969 – and it is still that way today. My youngest daughter wasn’t able to wear anything except mil-issue boots in Basic Training. Once she got to AIT, she was given some latitude in boots. I immediately ordered her a pair of the Blackhawk Desert Ops Boot – they don’t come in women’s sizes, so we had to adjust accordingly. And, before I forget, it appears that Blackhawk doesn’t normally stock the smaller size boots – my daughter had to take a man’s size 6-1/2 and it was a 6-week wait to get ’em – so be advised if you are a female and you want this particular boot. The Desert Ops Boot is similar to the Waterproof ZW7 boot – except they aren’t waterproof, and there is no side zipper – which I don’t like to start with.The desert tan color complies with the US Army regs on proper color. They also have this same boot in greenish color – which I understand is acceptable for the US Marine Corps – but don’t quote me on that – I could be wrong. My daughter loves her Desert Ops Boot – said they felt like her running shoes from the moment she put ’em on. She has also “sold” a lot of these boots to her fellow soldiers – they saw my daughter wearing these boots, asked her about ’em, and immediately ordered their own from Blackhawk – so my daughter is a walking, talking advertisement for Blackhawk Products. Retail price on these boots is $169.99.

I also wanted to mention the Blackhawk Special Operations Medical Back Pack – my youngest daughter, being a combat medic – carries. It was mine – at one time – but she had more use for it than I did. When she arrived to her permanent duty station, she was the only medic who had a medical back pack – the other combat medics were going to the field with their medical supplies packed in cardboard boxes – I kid you not! Of course, they all wanted to know where she got her back pack from – and she told them. Well, several months later, all the combat medics in her unit now have Blackhawk medical back packs – the other medics have a slightly different version than my daughter has – however, they are all Blackhawk Products medical back packs.

I’d like to once again remind SurvivalBlog readers, that you can always buy cheaper products, but you buy cheap again and again. When you buy quality, you buy once – of course, we all know that boots and clothing wear out. However, Blackhawk Products will outlast cheaper knock-offs by a big margin. When we talk about survival, we’re talking any number of different scenarios – from a breakdown out in the boonies, to the end of the world as we know it. As for me and my family, we want the best – we don’t want to be like Mike Noell was – standing in a mine field, and have our gear fail us – perhaps costing us our lives. If you have to wait a little longer, to buy the best – then wait and save your pennies, and get better gear. In future articles, I’ll cover some other Blackhawk Products that I’m sure will interest SurvivalBlog readers.   – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio