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Updated on August 24, 2011
Throughout the years, the tactical gear industry has been gaining momentum. While more established tactical kit companies dominate the market, several up-and-coming tactical gear manufacturers have been drawing the attention of industry experts.
Tactical Gear Blog asked some the most trusted and respected bloggers who they thought were shaking up the industry. Some of the companies are brand new; some are established but recently branched into the tactical world. Here are the ones to watch.
TangoDown has one mission — to produce the highest quality products for the warriors of the United States Armed Forces. However, tactical operators may find these tools useful as well. The company places a heavy emphasis on the non-apparel gear. While t-shirts and caps or available, the majority of the products include items such as mounts slings, bipods, magazines, pistols, scopes and grips for rail, rifle and vertical.
“Operators today find themselves moving faster and pushing harder than any other time in history,” its mission reads. “Their load is considerable. We seek to make that load lighter, stronger and more lethal.”
Probably the newest tactical gear company on the list is 782 Gear, which is a division of Duro Textiles, one of the largest dyers, printers, finishers and distributors in the country.
President Dave Ruiz explained that the name 782 Gear has Marine Corps roots. Back in the day, this was what Marines called their issued gear. With over 20 years of experience working with Marine Corps gear, the former Marine stated that the focus of the company is to revisit older pieces of gear. Utilizing new sewing techniques and new features, 782 Gear is not looking to reinvent gear, but make it stronger and last longer.
“It comes full circle,” said Ruiz. Sometimes past designs are just too good to put on the shelf. With designer Brian Abrams (formerly of Adventure Tech), the team of 782 Gear has over 50 years of industry experience and world class in-house design capability. Products include baselayers, midlayers, parkas, headgear and packs.
Zulu Nylon Gear
A company everyone seems to be buzzing about, Zulu Nylon Gear has been providing high quality custom tactical nylon to military, law enforcement and civilian customers since 2007. The Chicago-based company uses mil-spec components and is so sure of its quality that it will repair or replace any defective product free of charge.
Geared to meet the needs of the tactical operator, Zulu produces pouches, bags and accessories to help organize even the most intricate of missions. The durable nylon is guaranteed to hold up despite whatever elements — natural or otherwise — come up during a mission.
“The main thing with Zulu is to emphasize new ideas,” said Joel Zaruba, founder of Zulu Nylon. “Many products designed to fill common requirements, like magazine pouches for example, are nearly impossible to distinguish from one company to the next. My goal with starting Zulu was to approach some of the more common items and a few niche products in ways that set them apart from the competition, both in form and function.”
Beginning in 1986, Granite Gear primarily served the needs of the outdoorsman. “We started Granite Gear 25 years ago and our mission is the same now as it was then,” said Jeff Knight, CEO and designer for Granite Gear. “We’ve always been driven to make the best piece of equipment we possible can. We look at issues like carrying and packing loads as problems that need to be solved in the simplest most effective way and believe that less is more. By focusing on the problem and not how others have solved the problem, we have come up with gear that works for hardcore users.”
Recently they have extended their knowledge to tactical gear with the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC). “We’ve been working on tactical gear and load carriage pieces for over six years now,” said Knight. “We’ve been fortunate enough to win some contracts, but more importantly we’ve become passionate about making great gear for our soldiers — the individuals who put their lives on the line for all of us every day. We have the highest level of respect for them.”
To ensure performance and great strength to weight ratios, they have devised their own testing programs for all materials. “We’ve designed and built our own testing equipment so we can thoroughly test all materials and components.” Currently, the TCCC has a few products available, such as a compression sack, dump pouch, zipp sacks, and padded patrol belts. The 2011 catalogue can be viewed online or downloaded.
Recently reappearing on the tactical gear scene, Kitanica manufactures tactical pants, tactical shorts, fleece and jackets. First established in 1995, founder Beej Cronin decided to put the company on hold in 2001 and pursue a career in teaching. However, it would seem that Beej was destined for the tactical gear industry.
“We founded our company to make clothes that could take abuse, because, in short, we are hard on equipment,” said Chris Cronin, of Kitanica. Originally, the brothers started the company to make heavy duty industrial clothing, but not finding a market for that, they started to design armored motorcycle jackets out of ballistic nylon. “The moto scene had no real appreciation for our made in the USA industrial envelope-pushing aesthetic.”
Mythbusters co-host Adam Savage wore a MARK IV jacket on an episode of the show. Almost immediately following the show, people began wondering where they could buy the jacket. In 2007, a longtime friend of Beej contacted him about the jacket-induced frenzy. The renewed interest in Kitanica products spurred Beej and Chris to revive the company with the help of their cousin Len Riccio.
“We have since found/created a home in the high performance tactical gear market,” explained Chris. “There is a lot of appetite and an appreciation for stuff that is well thought out, well made and durable among both the consumer and professional tactical community.”
Kitanica garments are guaranteed against any craftsmanship and manufacturing defects for the life of the owner. “The fact that we make everything in the US is also important to us and our customers,” Chris said. “Another passion we have in common with the tactical market is we both love new gear and we have a bunch of new stuff coming, so there’s definitely a lot to be excited about.”
Have you noticed any new players within the tactical apparel industry?
Comments were added to the Kitanica and Granite Gear companies on April 22, 2011.