Tactical Gear Micro-Manufacturers

February 11, 2012

Five companies, five questions. Some similarities, some differences. But it’s all good gear and it’s all made in the USA. From the companies themselves, this is what we learned.

 

Marz Tactical Gear

Marz Tactical Gear is dedicated to providing a lot of functionality in as little space as possible. The company makes rugged, long-lasting, easy-to-use gear. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, its products feature outside-the-box designs (like vertical Chemlight holders that feature non-slip lining) that are ergonomic, intuitive, and effective. The company maintains two factories: one outside Los Angeles, the other in Phoenix.

What’s one of your signature products: We put a lot of thought into developing our products with features and designs that make us stand out from the others, while trying to minimize the overall footprint. Our SSE pouch is a prime example: very small footprint and easy to deploy. When opened, it’s one of the largest dump/SSE pouches out there

What’s your bestselling product: It’s a toss-up between our Combat Medic Pouch, Admin Pouch with chemlight slots, SSE, Tourniquet pouch, Patrol IFAK(for the LE community), and our Modular Man Bag.

What makes your company different: It’s definitely our attention to detail and the features built into our products. Everything is designed to minimize overall footprint in order to allow greater mobility and efficient use of real estate by the end user. Our critical-use kit is designed for one-handed operation with gross motor skills

What’s been the biggest change to the tactical gear industry in the last five or ten years: The GWOT has definitely facilitated the advancement of nylon gear by leaps and bounds. People are looking at streamlining their loads. Modularity has probably been the biggest game changer.

Where do you see the most market room for improvement in tactical gear: Adapting to the customer’s needs and fulfilling them in a timely manner.

Tactical Tailor

Tactical Tailor was founded in 1998 on the premise that soldiers needed better, more comfortable, more functional gear. The company’s founder, Logan Coffey, saw this firsthand as a member of a scout platoon of Army’s 25th Infantry Division. With an industrial sewing machine and a head full of ideas, he began modifying and improving gear. Today, Tactical Tailor continues to produce high-quality gear for the military and law enforcement personnel who keep our country safe. The company is based in Lakewood, Washington.

Signature product: The most unique aspect of our construction is the use of our patented Malice Clip. The malice clip allows us to make products faster and save the customer money. The attachment system is a field repair piece for the standard MOLLE attachment system as well. If the Strap and Snap fails on your issued pouch, grab a Malice Clip and you are back in the fight.

Bestseller: The triple 5.56mm panel, the Removable Operator Pack and the Modular Assault Vest line are extremely popular and issued to troops in the field.

What makes the company different: We are focused on the end user. We involve service men and women in our product development, and product improvement programs. We take immediate action to change a product that may need a tweak based on feedback from the field. Our staff has people that are veterans that have real world experience and speak the customer’s language. We also stand behind everything we make and have a very low return percentage. Buy Tactical Tailor once.

Biggest change to the industry: Off the shelf procurement and lightening the load of the operator have become the catalysts for gear design genesis. The operator demands better gear and industry responds faster than any Government program can. Weight has become the issue for the troops in the field currently. Water, armor and munitions are not getting lighter so the industry must make the load lighter.

Most room for improvement in tactical gear market: American Manufactures need to offer a quality product at a reasonable price. We will never compete with the $4 imported bag in price, but we can come close and murder them in quality.

Kifaru International

Kifaru International was born 1997 to handle the backcountry needs of company founder Patrick Smith. Shortly after 9/11, Kifaru adapted its line of hunting packs to accommodate the needs of the military. For everything from gear-hauler sleds to all-season tipis with wood stoves, Kifaru is committed to making life easier for those who travel on foot. The company is based in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, and maintains a staff of about 50 employees.. We caught up with Ttechnical and military gear advisor Mel Terkla.

Signature product: Probably the Woobie or Doobie, which is a double Woobie. Anyone can go to their PX and get a poncho for $35 or $40, but it’s not going to perform anywhere near like ours. Very innovative and very effective. They’re warm, they’re light, and they work great.

Bestseller: That would probably be our Woobie also. But our packs sell very well and are very popular. There’s a scene in the movie Restrepo where the guys are humping fully loaded packs and the camera pans past them and looks out over the valley. As the camera moves past one of the guys, you can see that he’s got on one of our packs. Very cool.

Biggest change to the industry: I would say modularity. It’s driven a lot of design and innovation.

Most room for improvement in tactical gear market: Making everything lighter. We’ve got to lighten the load and that seem to be what’s really driving innovation these days. The less weight our guys carry, the better off they are.

S.O. Tech

SO Tech uses the best material it can find to bring you some of the best gear you can buy. With high-quality construction and rigorous testing, the company doesn’t cut costs on manufacturing or design, and makes sure that every product it offers meets the requirements of the end user. From medical gear to tactical long rifle gear, the products will hold up to whatever you can throw at them. The company is based in Carson, California.

Signature product: Our line of go bags sets us apart.  While most companies are conventional pack makers, we excel in developing the pack and harness to the operator’s mission.  Our staff is heavy in experience so we know how to build in organizational features that allow troops like breachers, snipers and dog handlers to quickly access their equipment rather than have it all dumped into a generic pouch.  We go to great lengths to listen to what the latest tactics and requirements are at the ground level.

Bestseller: The SOTech Go Bag and Mission Go Bag are our most popular items in individual sales.  Probably because they are designed to be so multi-purpose that people keep finding new needs for them.

What makes the company different: Our ingenuity sets us apart.  Products like the internal magazine chest rig, ambidextrous taser holster and the tubular go bag were born from inspiration in SOTech’s design room, and now you see them everywhere you look in the military and law enforcement.

Biggest change to the industry: We’ve been in business for 15 years and I’ve tracked numerous trends, but the biggest is probably the move from super heavy and durable gear to light weight rigs.  It was a major shift in thinking for most.  Modularity, systems based rigs, have also seen changes, but they are more trend based.

Most room for improvement in tactical gear market: I think innovation and thinking outside the norm are and have always been the biggest challenges to people in this industry.  Most companies seem to be focusing on what other companies are doing to find success and not on moving the industry.

Kitanica

Kitanica gear has its roots in farm work. Orignially, the gear was designed to hold up to the rigors of everyday farm and ranch work. In 2007, Kitanica started making tactical gear that looked different, lasted longer, and was more functional. They over-build their products and guarantee them for life. The name comes from Chitin, which is the structural material that makes up the exoskeleton of insects. Kitanica is based in Emeryville, California.

Signature product: We obviously have different and unique products in general, but our MARK I has got to be the most unique simply because of its features and the fact that it is made of 1000 Denier Cordura, is as tough as nails and probably the only jacket in existence that has a break in period. People truly understand what we are up to as a company when they put one on.

Bestseller: Our pants by far. Also known as PNT X.A. They have 12 pockets, Cordura on the knees, massive expanding dump pockets in the back, MOLLE on the side for gear attachment—just to hit a few different items. We honestly can’t keep them in stock. That product alone is pushing us to expand our capacities.

What makes the company different: Every tactical clothing company in business will tell you that they pay attention to quality and design, but we prove it with unbelievably over-built products that have an attention to detail that starts with materials, extends to functionality and rounds out with an unbeatable fit. We also have customer service that doesn’t exist elsewhere.

Biggest change to the industry: Firstly, demand for tactical goods is incredible right now. The MSR movement has got everyone thinking in terms of faster, lighter, stronger, which has extended right on through to clothing and accessories. Secondly-I feel performance fabrics and manufacturing methods will play an ever increasing role in what a piece of clothing can be.

Most market room for improvement in tactical gear market: We clearly see design as the opportunity. Tactical clothing shouldn’t be seen as a uniform anymore. We consider it more of an equipment solution than anything else.

 

Photos courtesy of Marz Tactical Gear

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