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Steyr Elite

The Scout Rifle is "a class of general-purpose rifles defined and promoted by Jeff Cooper in the early 1980s".  The concept is for a bolt-action, .30-caliber, carbine-length rifle, that can hit man-sized targets out to 450 meters with iron sights.  Such a rifle has obvious advantages, or at least little or no disadvantage in many traditional roles, such as hunting.  In combat roles beyond Close Quarters Combat (CQC)

The Scout Rifle is "a class of general-purpose rifles defined and promoted by Jeff Cooper in the early 1980s".  The concept is for a bolt-action, .30-caliber, carbine-length rifle, that can hit man-sized targets out to 450 meters with iron sights.  Such a rifle has obvious advantages, or at least little or no disadvantage in many traditional roles, such as hunting.  In combat roles beyond Close Quarters Combat (CQC) distances, it's effectiveness compared to modern semi-auto battle rifles is less clear.

A key performance indicator of combat is that you have to actually hit the enemy with accurate fire, or if you have a bad vantage point on him, you must get as accurate of fire on him as possible to "make him more concerned about not getting shot than he is with shooting at you or moving" so that you can maneuver. Movies and TV have given really whacked-out perceptions of how this happens. Soldiers fire their rifles on semi-auto almost exclusively, even though they have selective fire capabilities. To a soldier, "rapid fire" is probably about 30 rounds per minute, and normal firing rate is probably around 15/min. If this sounds unexpectedly low, think about the fact that a rifleman is likely only carrying 210-390 rounds, and you can see that firing 1-2 rounds a second, extremely rapidly, would deplete your ammunition too quickly and you'd have nothing left to finish the fight.

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If you've been to any of our advanced courses, you likely have heard me talk about "combat dueling".  What is "combat dueling"?  It's what you're learning in most other instructors' "tactical" training courses, in my opinion.  Ok, so it's not exactly "an arranged engagement in combat between two individuals, with matched weapons in accordance with agreed-upon rules", but it's close.  Let's investigate why, and why you owe it to yourself to evaluate your goals and if you need to go much further with your training.

If you think about an old fashioned pistol duel, what are some factors that make significant, or trivial, differences in the outcome?  Let's list some examples:

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I picked up a set of Wild Things Tactical's windsuit a couple months back, and haven't had a chance to really use or test it yet.  While we normally only get about 15" of rain a year, we are currently in the middle of a torrential rain storm that has dumped 10" in 24 hours!  What better time to get outside, and test some gear?

I wore the windsuit outside for about 2 hours.  This included a 40 minute walk with the dogs, at a brisk 15 minute mile pace.  Underneath I was wearing 5.11 pants and a t-shirt.  It was overcast, raining continuously, about 65°F, with about a steady 8 MPH wind.

Materials

The windsuit is made of a very lightweight ripstop nylon.  It feels even thinner and lighter than "parachute cloth".  The weave is very tight, and high quality.  Wild Things Tactical states that the threads of the fabric are individually encapsulated with silicone, adding significant water shedding capability.  The fabric does not stretch, and while not "silent", is not as noisy as most alternatives.

My windsuit is in Crye MultiCam pattern.  Though it hasn't been washed yet, the initial colors are very correct and vibrant.  The camo pattern appears very crisp and with less bleeding or fading than regular 50/50 NYCO fatigues in this pattern.

The zippers used are very lightweight, with very narrow teeth.  This caused the leg zippers to be easily clogged with dirt and grit after stomping around in the rain and mud.  While I would have preferred heavier duty zippers, especially on tactical clothing, they don't seem out of place with the thin, lightweight fabric.

The shirt and pants set weighs in at only 18 oz (1lb 2oz), and packs down to about the size of a can of soup if rolled tightly.

Finish

The manufacturing quality of the garments is excellent.  The stitching is all straight and correct, and the seams and pattern are well thought out.  The pants include two slash hand pockets, in their typical spot on the upper thigh, a back pocket, and 18" leg zippers to the top of the calves to aid donning and doffing.  The shirt includes a zippered breast pocket on the wearer's left side, 2/3 zipper from the neck down for donning and doffing, and a waist shockcord cinch on the left hip.

The overall impression of quality is that it is top notch.  Considering how lightweight the suit is, and how small it packs, I would have liked to have seen it pack into its own pocket by design, or include a small stuff sack.

Fit

The windsuit generally fits quite well.  Wild Things Tactical describes the fit as being intentionally athletic and close fitting, to keep out wind.

The stow-away hood does not feel bulky or awkward when stowed, and fits close to the head.  It does not have a pronounced brim, and while I was wearing a ball cap underneath it, I felt slight downward pressure that the weight of the shirt was riding on the brim of my hat, making me want to look at the ground instead of keeping my head up and scanning the area.  The hood is close-fitting enough, and the material thin enough, to put a helmet over comfortably.  The sound of the rain on the hood, while noticeable like most raingear, wasn't overly loud or distracting.

The fit of the pants waist is fairly narrow.  While wearing the windsuit I was carrying my standard gear - full-size pistol, multitool, cellphone, knife, flashlight, and spare magazine - on my belt.  Without this equipment, the pants would have fit fine, but the pant's waist was just barely able to fit over the equipment.  Because of where the shirt's waist falls, it was necessary to pull the pants over my belt and equipment if I wanted to keep it dry.  I would have rather preferred the jacket to be long enough to pull down over.

The jacket's cut is close-fitting, but not restrictive or cumbersome.  The neck zipper made it easy to get in and out of.  With the presence of the elastic wrist cuff points, and the shockcorded waist, the shirt stays in place and protects the wearer.  The breast pocket is mesh inside, making it useful for storing wet items or things you want to keep handy while not wearing body armor.

Wind and Water Resistance, Plus Breathability

I realize this is marketed as a wind layer, but it's also proclaimed for enhanced water resistance, so today's rains were a good opportunity to test both.

From the wind perspective, while today's 8 MPH winds are mild, essentially no wind was felt through the fabric.  I am confident that even at faster gusts the suit would perform very well.  The streamlined fit and appropriate cuffs and cinches allow only trivial wind entry at those openings.

For water resistance, the suit also performed better than expected.  The thin, uncoated fabric feels like water should pour right through, but it doesn't.  The silicone treating on the fabric promotes excellent water shedding, and most water beads up and falls right off.  I haven't yet washed and worn the suit repeatedly, but I expect the performance to continue.  I did get a little bit of water transmission through the suit, exclusively to the front of my thighs and my "hand pockets" areas on my pants legs.  This may have been from water being trapped in the folds, and forced through the fabric mechanically, as I walked.

The breathability and comfortability of this suit is exceptional.  It doesn't feel as if you're trapped inside a plastic bag, the way many other rainsuits feel (e.g. Army issue "plastic coated cloth" wet weather set and Gore-Tex set).  It feels like wearing a smooth, lightweight set of silk clothes.  My tactical pants had been a little wet from being outside without coverage prior to wearing the suit, and they were actually able to dry off through the fabric.

Even after a long brisk walk, I did not feel like I was overheating or sweating excessively inside the suit.  Armpit zippers would have been a nice improvement, to aid ventilation from the shirt.

Conclusion and Tactical Assesment

I am very impressed with the light weight, breathability, wind resistance, and water resistance of this suit.  It's ability to pack small, and keep weight down, are great combat advantages for the operator in the field.  The thinness of the fabric and small size of the zippers means that it is best suited to occasional use, such as in environments analogous to Colorado's, that need this type of protection infrequently.  In areas of operation that require more frequent use, a heavier duty garment would be advisable to ensure a useful life.  It would also be smart to wear kneepads over the pants, to protect known contact points, though the rubbing may introduce water through the fabric.

The fit allows the wind suit to be easily worn underneath body armor, fighting load carrying equipment, and helmet.  Combined with the color-true camo pattern and mild noise signature, this should provide an active operator with enhanced comfort and protection, while remaining tactically effective.

I recommend these pieces of kit, if your operating environment doesn't demand frequent wind and rain protection, but you would like to carry a lightweight option to get the job done when needed.

The Windshirt - WT 1.0 and Wind Pants - WT 1.0 each have an MSRP of $109.99, and are available in black, coyote, or Crye MultiCam.  Both are available now.

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Long story short, in my opinion the AR-15 is a specific case where a "brand premium" is not worth it, most of the time. Here's a few reasons why or why not:

  • The manufacturers are all trying to build the exact same thing, and follow the exact same mil-specs. This results in guns that are almost entirely identical, with only small differences in "fit and finish". What would the end results really look like if both Cadillac and Kia were following the exact same plans to build the exact same cars?
  • The difference in prices between economy and premium brands can be significant (+50%). Even if there were minor measurable differences in accuracy or performance, would the overall performance result be better if you bought the economy model and spent the extra money on training, practice ammo, optics, or upgrades? (Probably.)
  • AR manufacturers should be more appropriately called "assemblers", as they are rarely making most of the important parts themselves, if any. There are a limited number of true manufacturers of parts (e.g. upper/lowers forges, barrel makers, stock molders, etc.) so many manufacturers ("assemblers") are building what are essentially the same rifles, from the same parts, and in fact they differ only in "fit and finish" and quality control.
  • There use to be a nice comparison spreadsheet floating around the internet that compared many of the popular manufacturers, though it has since become obsolete and been removed. You can still find screenshots of it with Google to get an idea. My impression was that the key differences were largely quality control (e.g. magnetic testing of chamber, etc.), features that are now almost universal (e.g. M4 feed ramps), or are "optional" or at least less important for civilians (e.g. chrome lined barrel, military/commercial buffer tube size, 1:7 or 1:9 twist barrel, etc.). Here is a link, but note that this is EXTREMELY outdated, and even economy models have many more features now: http://gunfacts.webs.com/M4Chart1.gif
  • Manufacturers that are using CNC machined uppers/lowers are likely doing it themselves, so quality could be all over the board. There are no mil-specs for CNC'd uppers/lowers, because the military's are cast/forged. Also, the CNC'd versions are almost always unique designs to that company, intended to be as compatible with the mil-spec versions as possible, but typically incorporate extensive functional or aesthetic design changes. Since they are pushing the edge, these could be spectacular enhancements or incompetent garage-shop work. Pay careful attention to what you are getting.
  • There are some changes to the AR-15 platform that will causes significant price differences. The most notable example is a piston driven gun (instead of the standard Direct Gas Impingement [DGI] system). The addition of a piston requires non-trivial modifications to the gun, and all the manufacturers have their own proprietary way of doing it. Early attempts to convert AR-15s to run with a piston had some long-term reliability issues, that have largely been worked out now. However, there are still some budget-minded piston kits available that use the older designs. Expect a piston AR-15 to cost 30-60% more than a DGI equivalent (e.g. $1500+ vs. $700+). One notable "sleeper deal" on a piston AR-15 is the Ruger SR-556e ("e" for "economy") model - at about $1100, it is a great buy considering the features. Overall, the safest recommendation, if you are in the market for a piston drive, is to buy a gun that was completely designed as a piston drive from the ground up, such as the FN-SCAR, Bushmaster/Remington ACR, ADCOR BEAR, etc. (all of which are up in the $2500+ range).
  • You aren't going to "go wrong" with a premium AR-15, though.  You'll just pay a lot more, for a few more features.  It's a great example of the Law of Diminishing Returns.  A $1500 gun may be 10% better than a $750 model, but costs 100% more, for example.  If you demand the added features, then there is no question that you need the better gun to meet your expectations.  If your need of those extra benefits is questionable, then the dramatic price increase is likely not worth it.  I have also personally seen $650 economy AR's out perform $1200 premium models.
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12 years ago today, we were attacked on our home soil.  Nearly 3000 Americans lost their lives in just a few hours that morning, and several thousand more perished in the years since while taking the fight to the enemy, where they lived.  We will remember our lost and fallen, and we thank the members of our armed services, law enforcement, and first responders for their continued dedication to the preservation of our safety and freedom.

Today is Patriot's Day.

- The Paladin Lead Delivery Systems Team

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