50 Shades of Tactical Gray
Words By: Jonathan Higgs
Photos: Justin Harvey
In early 2012, Arc’Teryx introduced a new gray color optimized for urban and industrial margins called Urban Wolf. The theory behind it is that as light fades, black begins to stand out in the concrete jungle. Urban Wolf Gray works in these modern environments by allowing you to blend into low ambient light areas and shadows far more effectively.
But, up until 2013 Urban Wolf had been limited to clothing. Well, Blue Force Gear changed all of that with the introduction of the color option into their full gear line early this year, and made it available to the masses in an affordable lineup from a proven US-based tactical gear company.
AT A GLANCE
Who Makes it: Blue Force Gear
Plate Carrier: PLATEminus in Urban Wolf
Magazine Pouch: Ten Speed Triple
Radio Pouch: Multi-Radio Pouch
Materials: TEX 70 bonded nylon thread ULTRAcomp™high performance laminate INVISTA® Solution Dyed CORDURA® fabricITW GhillieTEX™ Low IR hardware Tweave fabric
Overall Construction: Very well made in the USA of name brand materials and milspec stitching.
Capabilities: Lightweight, extremely low profile, concealable Plate Carrier platform.
PLATE minus – 334g (0.75 pounds)
Ten Speed Triple – 78g (0.17 pounds)
Multi Radio Pouch – 86g (0.19 Pounds)
Total as tested – 498g (1.1 pounds)
PROS AND CONS
+ Lightweight (1.1lbs total)
+ Modern Urban Wolf Gray color for blending into urban and suburban environments
+ Solid construction, made in the USA
+ Easy on/off
+ Plenty of MOLLE space for pouches
+ Low Profile
– Could use shoulder pads for long use
– Some break- in required for Ten Speed pouches.
I’ve had my eye on the Blue Force Gear (BFG) PLATEminus ever since I saw it at SHOT Show in Las Vegas in January. BFG stepped out of the mold and incorporated modern manufacturing elements like laser cutting and laminated materials and brought them over to the tactical world to decrease weight while retaining durability. The PLATEminus line of products have left the traditional nylon MOLLE straps behind and integrated them into the line itself through these new modern processes. The laminated material allows for an extremely strong platform to mount pouches while eliminating most of the weight and bulk associated with stitching and webbing on top of thick cloth. The result is a small, thin and very lightweight package. It’s so small and light that you can actually roll the plate carrier and pack it into the same space as a t-shirt in your gear bag.
Stitching was cleanly executed using matching thread, and edges are clean thanks to the laser cutting method used. And examining the inside of the PLATEminus reveals the use of the slightly darker MAS Gray color Tweave material, made popular by London Bridge Trading, for the elastic cloth used in the expandable plate pockets.
Externally, although it looks different, you can attach any pouches just like you would to a standard MOLLE platform. We were provided a BFG Ten Speed Triple Shingle and Radio Pouch (in matching Urban Wolf) for our review.
Both attach using BFG’s patented Helium Whisper backing, which is also laser-cut from the same durable material used in the plate carrier. I had no issues attaching the provided pouches and other test pouches I had laying around that used a more traditional MOLLE attachment method. The best part is that the new design doesn’t mean new pouches. Your favorites from any manufacturer will still attach without issue.
When you are looking for a light loadout, especially one for urban CQB fighting, you want it to be easy to get on and off. Fortunately the PLATEminus does not disappoint in this area. It dons easily with a single buckle for each side, and the height adjusts simply by using Velcro in the shoulders. The low profile design makes it easy to wear under a shirt or jacket, or just over top of a t-shirt for an easy setup for fast games.
Plates fit well into the inner pocket, with some vertical room for adjustment of fit. We tested a size large and had no issues getting our plates in quickly for a game, but make sure to buy the PLATEminus in the correct plate size, as it is not a one-size-fits-all carrier. We tried a set of medium training plates in our large carrier for laughs, and while they did fit, they unfortunately allowed extra space for bouncing around while running.
The Ten Speed Triple Shingle is a versatile pouch that can hold many types of magazines securely, but does take a bit of breaking in to get them to fit in on the fly. But even though it holds tight, it’s very easy to index and draw for a fast reload, making it a great universal CQB setup.
And for our games that I do run radios, the BFG radio pouch fit the bill. However it is designed for medium to large radios, so this isn’t for your bubble-pack Midlands. It fit our Motorola HT-100 just fine, as well as a MBITR replica we borrowed from a teammate. It’s adjustable using a Velcro flap at the bottom, as well as the webbing retention at the top, so most mid- to high-end radios will fit just fine.
A CQB vest deserves some CQB, right? So why deny its destiny! I took it out for a few quick games to see how well it performed in its native environment. The first thing I noticed, or should I say didn’t notice, was the weight. This vest is very light, so light that you can easily forget you have it on unless you really have it loaded down. The material in the BFG is comfortable and conforming, and flexes with you better than traditional nylon. One thing I did notice when I was using the carrier with the heavier training plates in was the lack of shoulder pads.
Since this plate carrier is made for a low profile, it does beg for some padding in the shoulders when you start to really load it down for long periods of time. It’s not a deal-breaker, but rather something to think about. The good news, however, is that BFG has a set of matching LMAC shoulder pads to upgrade your rig if you plan on using heavier plates.
Using the Triple Ten Speed Shingle, I had three magazines at the ready for fast games, and it held both High and Mid Cap mags easily. As I mentioned earlier, re-inserting a magazine in the pouch was a bit of a challenge, but having experienced “broken in” Ten Speed pouches, I know that is only a temporary issue and can be remedied with just a few uses.
Overall, the PLATEminus and Ten Speed pouch in Urban Wolf are a CQB players dream. With the ability to blend into city environments while wearing a full features low profile armor carrier is a huge value in a very lightweight package.
Star Rating (1-5): 5
Overall the entire setup was solid, and I was impressed with the Urban Wolf’s ability to pick up surrounding colors, allowing me to be less noticeable when confronted. The PLATEminus filled the niche of a low signature plate carrier well, and was comfortable and light during the tests. The addition of the Triple Ten Speed Pouch and Radio Pouch added negligible weight, and really opened up the PLATEminus to be more than just an armor platform. Whish showed that this is more than just a one trick pony. So, if you are looking for a sleek and extremely lightweight plate carrier for urban environments, Blue Force Gear’s Urban Wolf lineup has earned my vote.
Blue Force Gear blueforcegear.com, (877) 430-2583