Jim’s Product Review: Brad Thor Alpha Jacket

Most SurvivalBlog readers have heard of Brad Thor. He is a contemporary novelist who is a master of the techno-thriller genre. Several of his books have become bestsellers, and one of them reached #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Brad recently teamed up with the clothing maker Scottevest, to design a quite versatile concealment jacket that they call the Alpha Jacket. Brad arranged to have them send me one of these for test and evaluation.

When the jacket arrived I was impressed from the start. The only disappointment was seeing “Made in China” on the tag. Like so many other manufacturers, Scottevest has found that offshore production is the only way to stay cost competitive. Seeing any product from an American company that is produced in China chafes me. But in this case, I can see why it was a necessity. This jacket has a very complex design (with an amazing 35 pockets!) that is very labor-intensive to produce. If it were produced in the U.S., I suspect that the high production cost would necessitate a retail price near $350. Even with offshore production it is priced at $200.

This jacket’s design is so advanced that it has an operator manual. The pockets and special features are so diverse that for the sake of brevity, I’ll just refer you to the maker’s web site for details. Even a large handgun can “disappear” in this jacket’s voluminous pockets. (In my tests, using a Glock 21 and a Glock 30, I found that it was best to use a holster clipped to a larger rectangular piece of sheet hard plastic to eliminate any “printing” of the pistol’s outline or any telltale sagging of the jacket. (I used a “roto” paddle-style holster clipped to a piece of plexiglas.) Even someone physically groping the jacket from the outside would just think that it was a large paperback book or perhaps a Kindle or a similar-size electronic device.

The jacket’s exterior is a quiet and nonreflecting charcoal gray fabric with an unusual texture. The maker claims that this fabric has a reduced IR signature. (I didn’t have a chance to verify that with my PVS-14 night vision scope.) It should be great at night, in shaded forests, or in urban environments, but black is a color not often seen in nature (except in shadows), so it would stand out in high contrast in most natural environments, during daylight.

The jacket that I received is a size Large, and it fit me well, although it was a bit baggy in the midsection. (I’m 6’2″ and a fairly muscular 193 pounds.) I suppose that once you loaded up the jacket with a pistol, extra magazines, a cell phone, a Surefire light, a Kindle (or Netbook) and assorted do-dads, that all of that extra roominess would be appreciated. And I’ve been told that some of the roominess is intentional, for an “armor cut,” meaning that it allows room for body armor to be worn underneath.

The jacket’s main zipper is quite stout, but most of the others seemed a bit lightweight, for my preference. Time will tell if they have sufficient durability.

One interesting feature is an RFID-blocking pocket, designed to protect your passport or “smart” credit cards from scanners.

Another neat feature is a cell phone pocket with a clear plastic window that allows you to operate the phone while it is still in the pocket. (Or if you have an iPhone or MP3 player with a display, you can read the details on the music track that is being played.)

One other feature that deserves special mention is a pair of short vertical zippers in roughly kidney position at the waist. These can be zipped up to allow fast access to a pistol carried on the belt over the buttocks, for either right-handers or left-handers. For those who carry concealed, this feature alone makes the jacket worth buying!

All in all, I was impressed with the Alpha Jacket. Brad Thor came up with an exceptionally good design, and it was well executed by Scottevest. For serious preppers, this would be a great jacket to acquire for everyday wear, since the 35 pockets could be loaded up as a veritable “wearable bug out bag” that would not attract any suspicion.

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