Welocme S.W.A.T. Magazine Readers!

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Welcome to Banda Tactical Fitness!  My goal is to provide you with the best strength and fitness training protocols and information, allowing you to both play and fight at your best.

If there’s any topics you’d like for Banda Tactical Fitness to cover, please send us an email: info@Jessbanda.com

Occasionally, we cover topics beyond strength and conditioning, such as our Vertx Tactical Pants Endurance Test and our Tactical Gloves Endurance Test.

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Get A Grip: The Program

Admit it…you’ve never really given your grip strength serious thought.  Grip strength is only given any consideration when truly needed, such as when you’re hanging over the edge of a cliff, à la Sylvester Stallone in Cliffhanger, rolling on a ground with a perp who’s trying desperately to wrestle your handgun away from you, or when the wife is prying the credit card from your (soon to be broke) hands. And if you ever find yourself in either of these situations, you’ll soon realize that the time to have started your grip strength training is long past.  

A bit too late to be wishing you’d been training your grip

In my blog post 3 Tips for A Strong Shooting Grip, I demonstrated a devastatingly effective grip strength program utilizing hand grippers.  Since that posted, I’ve received numerous request for an expanded grip program, employing equipment commonly found in commercial gyms.  This 4 week program, delves deeper into grip training techniques, which will not only improve your firearm handling abilities, but in controlling resisting subjects, regardless of whether you grab a jacket, arm, or leg.  For a review on the importance of grip strength for law enforcement/military personnel and the responsibly armed citizen, review my blog post 3 Tips for A Strong Shooting Grip.

Here’s the program:

A1. Wrist Extensions – Decline 3 sets x 10-12 reps

rest 60 seconds

A2. Pronating Forearms 3 sets x 15-20 reps

rest 60 seconds

B1. Wrist Flexions – Incline 3 sets x 10-12 reps

rest 60 seconds

B2. Supinating Forearms 3 sets x 15-20 reps

rest 60 seconds

The notations A1 and A2 mean to superset those 2 specific exercises.  For example, you would do one set of the A1 exercise, rest for the prescribed amount of time, and then do one set of the A2 exercise, alternating back and forth until all sets for both exercise are completed.  Start all exercises with the non-dominant hand.

An added benefit of a properly design grip strength program, is the reduced incidence of overuse injuries, such as tendonitis, due to the balancing of strength levels among the different forearms muscles.  Additionally, to further accelerate your grip strength levels, make certain to perform my “prehab rolling” I have included towards the end of the video.

From personal experience, I have found that the optimal training frequency for grip strength is twice per week, with at least 2 days of rest between your 2 grip training workouts.

Give this program a try and don’t be surprised to find your ability to mitigate firearm recoil greatly improved!  Just be certain to send me some photos or videos of your training.

An advanced grip strength program, which has been widely utilized by SpecWar and security contractor personnel, can be found here. For only $1.99, you will have complete access to my 3 phase, 9 week grip strength program.  Check out the free preview!

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Vertx Tactical Pants Endurance Test: The Final Week

Yeah, I know…I’m a few weeks behind schedule, with this post near 4 weeks late.  No worries, I’ll make it up to you.  This final installemnt of my Vertx endurance testing, will combine weeks 6-7.

Let’s recap, here’s what the Vertx pants looked like July 1, 2012.

Here’s what they looked like August 18, 2012.

As I stated in my Vertx Testing Intro video, there are 7 movement patterns universal to every person, regardless of occupation.  And my goal, was to utilize these movement patterns in my endurance testing, condensing 10-12 months of use into a 5-7 week period.

As a reminder, the Vertx pants utilized for testing were purchased with my own funds directly from U.S. Cavalry.

Over a period of 7 weeks, here’s what the Vertx pants endured:

Final Endurance Testing Thoughts

These pants are tough.  I subjected them to anything and everything I could think of and the only wear and tear my endurance testing inducted, consisted of minor surface abrasions.  The dark smudges on the right thigh, are a non-issue.  While the pants were washed weekly, they were washed using a short wash cycle and cold water, without the benefit of laundry detergent nor stain removers.

Over 3,100 tire flips within a 7 week period and this is the only wear.

And while I used tire flips to test the strength of the materials utilized, there was one exercise which tested not only the structural integrity of the pants, but the design and “cut” of the pants…the front squat.

Due to the range of motion required at the ankle, knee and hip, the front squat was the perfect exercise for testing the design of the articulated knees and higher cut rear waistband of the Vertx pants.

During the over 500 front squat repetitions I performed, at no time did I ever feel as if the pants were limiting my range of motion.  Even more telling about the pant’s design, not once did I ever need to “prep” the pants prior to squatting, by pulling up excess material over my knees or at the hip crease.  And to everyone’s benefit, at no time did the rear waist band ride down, exposing my backside.  Additionally, I wore Magnum Cobra 8.0 boots for the duration of the testing and not once did the pants catch or snag on the boot’s high-cut upper.

After 7 weeks of trying to induce a failure point and failing miserably, I am extremely impressed by Vertx’s tactical pants.  Vertx’s attention to detail in selecting a comfortable and lasting material, combined with a design allowing for complete freedom of movement, has resulted in a pair of pants which have greatly exceeded my expectations.  And if the performance and comfort aspects of Vertx’s tactical pants are not enough reason for you to run out (or log onto the internets) and purchase a pair, consider this: you can get your own pair for under $50.

After 7 weeks of endurance testing, I can without hesitation, strongly recommend Vertx’s tactical pants.  As for myself, they’re the only brand I’ll be wearing.

Thanks to everyone who emailed suggestions and words of support, they were greatly appreciated.  I had a great time designing challenges for my endurance testing.  Truth be told, my strong desire to induce a failure point in the pants, caused me to push myself physically and mentally, resulting in setting and breaking numerous personal best in various exercises.

Here are the quick links for the previous week’s updates:

Intro

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

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TACTICAL GLOVES PERFORMANCE ENDURANCE TEST: The Final Week

While the third and final test week of my Tactical Gloves Performance Endurance Test took place on August 13-17, 2002, due to a hectic travel/consulting schedule, I finally have time to post my results.

Week 3 Results and Observations:

During my Week 1 review, I posted photos of a small tear along the inside seam of the small finger. And while I first noticed the small tear during the first 300 tire flips I wore the gloves, due to its location, I believed the tear occurred during manufacturing and was overlooked during the quality control process.  Wanting to be fair and allow 5.11 Tactical a opportuity to explain this apparent oversight, I spoke one of their customer service representatives (August 9, 2012) and explained my issue.  And while the customer service representative was polite and offered to replace my gloves, I stated that I would be willing to post a reply/explanation from anyone within 5.11 Tactical concerning the quality control issue.  The customer service representative stated they would forward my request to the appropriate personnel.  Since I have yet to hear from 5.11 Tactical, I’ll take that as a “No, thanks.”

Small tear along the inside of the small finger, getting progressively larger.

During the three weeks of testing, I have performed over 900 tire flips wearing the gloves.  As a reminder, I wore a 5.11 Tac A2 on my left hand and a Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G. on my right hand.  Here are photos:

5.11 Tac A2 glove after 900 tire flips

Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G. glove after 900 tire flips

As the photos demonstrate, the synthetic leather of the Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G. held up better to the abrasiveness of the tire utilized for flipping.  Additionally, the synthetic leather grip pads of the Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G. extend further along the fingers, providing a greater area of protection/reinforcement and better “gription” along the fingers.

And while the Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G. gloves are thicker, this is not necessarily a good thing, as I noted in my Week 2 review.  A thicker glove increases the diameter of whatever object you grasp, increasing the demand on both your nervous system and forearm muscles.  As such, a 2-3 week break-in period is required for both your nervous system and forearm muscles to become accustomed to the increased demand.

The Good & Bad:

The sweat panel on the 5.11 Tac A2 is the best feature of the gloves.

Sweat wipe panels should be mandatory on all tactical gloves

Conveniently located, the sweat panel is of adequate size and performed better than expected.  At first, I did not expect to utilize the sweat panel, but after a few hotter than normal New England summer days, that quickly changed. It’s location facilitated its ease of use, without affecting performance or the glove’s structural integrity.

The wrist adjustment strap of Blackhawk;s S.O.L.A.G. proved to be bothersome.  When tightening the strap around the wrist, one of the edges of the wrist closure would snag and bind within the plastic “loop.”

PITA nuisance

When donning the gloves, I had to ensure the wrist closure would not snag within the loop closure.  And while not a major issue, it was annoying.  During use, especially during activities which required me to curl my wrist back into extension, the wrist closure would inevitably find its way into the plastic loop.  PITA.

Grip & Friction

Very few activities challenge your grip like weighted Farmer Walks.  The loaded bars, due to their independent nature, require tremendous grip strength and control to maintain their parallel orientation and keep you walking in a straight line.

I utilized this exercise to test the “gription” of the synthetic leather utilized by Blackhawk and 5.11 Tactical.  And while Blackhawk’s S.O.L.A.G. was constructed from thicker material, it provided a more secure and comfortable grip.  At no time did I feel as if I was losing positive control of the Farmer Walk handles.

To test the protective element of the gloves against friction, I utilized overhead sledgehammer strikes.  Due to the requirements of the exercise, friction burns due to your hands sliding along the sledgehammer are common.

Again, due to their thicker material, Blackhawk’s S.O.L.A.G. provided better protection against the friction encountered when performing sledgehammer strikes.  Additionally, they also provided a more secure grip on plastic handle than the 5.11 Tac A2s.

The Verdict

So which did I prefer…the 5.11 Tac A2s or Blackhawk’s S.O.L.A.G.?  Well…it depends.  I would feel extremely comfortable wearing the 5.11 Tac A2 gloves on the shooting range.  Their thinner construction, would offer protection while not proving cumbersome during weapon manipulation.  However, if going into harm’s way, or a combat environment, I would much prefer Blackhawk’s S.O.L.A.G., due to their thicker construction.  The thickness of the synthetic leather combined with the larger grip pads, would provide a more secure grip and protection against moderate impacts.  So which pair you purchase, is dependent on how you plan to use them.  But either way, both pair of gloves exceeded expectations.  They withstood thousands of repetitions of exercises selected to test their material, construction, as well as their design, and suffered only minor wear ‘n tear.  Regardless of which pair you choose, they’ll serve you well.

To everyone that sent emails offering suggestions and words of encouragement, I appreciate your time and effort.

Quick Links:

Week 2

Week 1

Testing Intro

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Vertx Tactical Pants and Olympic Lifting

I wasn’t going to post this video, but one of my friends suggested I share this with you, as she felt it accurately encapsulated my Vertx Tactical Pants Performance and Endurance Testing.

Would you feel comfortable and secure performing this lift in your tactical pants of choice?

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Vertx Tactical Pants Endurance Test: Week 5

Week 5 and an additional 800 tire flips have been performed.  It’s only within the last 2 weeks that wear spots have appeared on the upper thigh region of the right pant leg.  Since I was on a consulting assignment and forgot my DLSR camera at home, these photos are the best I could muster.

Left Pant Leg vs. Right Pant Leg

Physical Effects of Being Worn Daily for Five Weeks and Performing over 2,300 tire Flips

Close Up of the Upper Right Thigh

With only a few weeks remaining in my endurance testing, I’m feeling especially challenged in finding a method for inducing a failure point…however, it must stay true to my testing protocol and mustn’t rely on artificial means.

Stay tuned for more info once I return to home base.

Here are the quick links for the previous week’s updates:

Intro

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

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Tactical Gloves Performance Endurance Test: Week 2

Week 2 of my endurance testing continued with more tire flips as well as hanging pull exercises, such as numerous chin up/pull up variations.  Fortunately, the learning curve for my nervous system was shorter than expected and my speed and efficiency in the tires flips improved dramatically.  And while the gloves definitely protect my hands from the abrasive tire surface, my grip still doesn’t seen as secure as it does with skin on tire contact.

Some additional concerns and observations:

  1. A rougher or textured finish to the gloves, whether natural or synthetic leather, would greatly enhance the “gripability” factor and increase confidence while wearing the gloves.
  2. Sweat panels should come standard on ALL shooting/tactical gloves.
  3. The 5.11 TAC A2’s synthetic leather is considerably thinner than Blackhawk’s S.O.L.A.G., making them especially useful when precision or fine motor control is needed or for wearing in high temperatures.
  4. The thicker synthetic leather of the Blackhawk’s gloves would serve well in cooler environments or where the risk of hand injuries are high: climbing walls/fences, barber wire, etc.
  5. 5.11 TAC A2’s “reinforced saddle” between the thumb and index finger would extend the life of the gloves if you repeatedly carry small diameter objects: ammo canisters, buckets, shovels, etc.
  6. Much like tactical pants having a “higher cut” rear waistband, to keep from exposing your backside while bending over, the 5.11 TAC A2’s have a higher cut on the inside of the wrist.  Not only will this offer greater protection for the inside of the wrist (chafing from uniforms or gear), but prevents a gap from forming and keeping debris out, while moving your hands.  Plus the reinforced/synthetic leather tab on the inner wrist cuff is a nice detail.

Inside Wrist Coverage: 5.11 Tactical TAC A2 left hand, Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G. right hand

As I stated last in last weeks update, allow for 2-3 weeks of wear for your hands and nervous system to get used to the effects the gloves are going to have on your coordination and strength levels.  Initially, your shooting times and the amount of work you can perform in them will decrease, but as you continue to wear them, your times and workloads will return to normal.  This will mostly impact activities which require speed (weapons manipulation) or the carrying of heavy implements (ammo cases).

Quick Links:

Week 1

Testing Intro

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Larry Vickers & Shooting On the Move

Today’s post is a follow-up to my “Training Program Guaranteed to Improve Your Shooting Speed”.  Lately, I have been reading blog and forum postings and it seems people have been overlooking or altogether missing the main point of how stronger hamstrings lead to faster shooting times…so here it is: stronger hamstrings lead to reduced vertical oscillation > leading to a less erratic sight picture when shooting on the move > leading to a reduction in the amount of time to get your sights on target – for both your first  and follow shots.

Now, this necessity for reducing vertical oscillation during movement is so important, that Larry Vickers, in his article “Shooting on the Move,” wrote “the most critical aspect to shooting on the move is minimizing vibrations that transfer above the pelvis that in fact affect accuracy.”

Larry Vickers served 15 years in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – “Delta Force”

So if your firearms training takes place exclusively at static ranges and you have no interest in realistic training, then great, you don’t need my training program.  However, if you want to develop a skill set intended for realistic defensive conditions, then you must practice shooting on the move…and this is where my training program shines.

However, my concept of neutralizing vertical oscillation via hamstring strength is starting to catch on in the law enforcement/military firearms training community.  I recently consulted with a law enforcement agency, interested in refining their SWAT selection process. While a previous consultant they hired recommended testing and measuring a candidate’s reaction times to both visual and auditory stimulus, they quickly found that fast reaction times didn’t  translate to accuracy.  This law enforcement agency learned an expensive lesson, you CAN miss fast.  One of my recommendations, was to test a candidate’s hamstring strength with a 3 repetition maximum on the laying leg curl machine.  Now it’s been demonstrated in the scientific literature, that short-term running speed is directly related to hamstring strength, leading to fast acceleration.  And once a candidate’s maximum weight for 3 repetitions was determined, their bodyweight was divided by the weight lifted, giving us a relative strength rating, a rating of the weight lifted in relation to their bodyweight. The higher the rating, the greater the strength levels of the candidate, thereby possessing a greater potential for accuracy while shooting on the move.

Here’s an example based on 2 of their SWAT candidates:

  • Candidate A, with a bodyweight of 205 lb, performed a 3 rep max on the leg curl using 185 lb, for a relative strength rating of .902.
  • Candidate B, with a bodyweight of 195 lb, performed a 3 rep max ont he leg curl using 215, for a relative strength rating of 1.10.

As you can see, Candidate B lifter a great amount of both total weight and weight in relation to his bodyweight, resulting in a higher relative strength ratio.  Ultimately, this higher score will translate to a greater ability to overcome inertia (their bodyweight) while running, reducing vertical oscillation and maintaining a more consistent sight picture.

And while this evaluation technique and training program may be excessive for the most casual of firearms enthusiasts, it’s strongly recommended for those seeking to derive maximum value from their investments in both range time and ammunition.

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Tactical Gloves Performance Endurance Test: Week 1

Unlike my Vertx Tactical Pants Endurance Test protocol, where I wear my Vertx pants for the duration of an entire training session, I am only wearing the gloves for tire flips and upper body dominant exercises.  However, as with my Vertx testing, the tire flip remains the main exercise to test the performance and manufacturing capabilities of the gloves.

For this first week, I performed over 400 tire flips wearing the gloves…and what a difference they made!  The majority of my previous experience with gloves, dealt with the kind worn during deep-sea diving operations.  And while I have spent over 24 years training in gyms, I can only think of a handful of occasions where I wore gloves in the gym.  However, having worn gloves all this past week (which consisted primarily of modified strongman exercises) I can say wearing gloves for load bearing exercises was a learning experience for my nervous system.

One of my favorite training protocols, is to perform 100 tires flips for time, trying to beat my previous time with every session.  My personal best is 23 minutes 45 seconds, while wearing Vert tactical pants and Magnum Cobra boots. However, wearing the same clothing with the addition of tactical gloves, increased my time to 34 minutes 40 seconds.  And if that wasn’t enough, the gloves drastically increased both the physical and mental effort required to complete the 100 tire flips.

As you can see in the video, I appear to be struggling tremendously…the sad part, I was only 30 flips into the 100 rep challenge.  Once completed, I had to sit down and contemplate which specific attribute of the gloves increased the difficulty of a challenge I usually have no problem performing.  After considerable thought, I came up with 2 answers:

  1. The gloves material/protective spray: the gloves kept slipping off when attempting to lift the tire off the ground.  At first I was perplexed by this, as the tire’s surface is extremely coarse and usually tears into anything it contacts.  Apparently, this excludes both the 5.11 and Blackhawk gloves.  I’m not certain whether it’s due to the type of material utilized and/or the protective (water-resistant?) spray applied by the manufacturers.  The slippage encountered by BOTH gloves (left hand – 5.11 TAC A2 and right hand – Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G.) caused my forearm’s muscles and hands to expand greater force than usual.  After 5 years of flipping tires without gloves, my central nervous system had a difficult time adjusting and learning how to deal with this new development. And while it may seem like a small issue, this learning curve, of my nervous system learning a new technique, is anything but a small issue. Remember, while it’s the muscles which contract and act on your bones to generate strength and movement, the intent is generated from your brain/central nervous system.  And since the gloves cover your hands/fingers, they negatively affect the mechanoreceptors (respond to mechanical pressure and distortion) and the sensory imput or feedback they relay to the brain.  Ultimately, this interrupts the hand’s fine motor control.  Which is not something you want to experience when manipulating firearms.
  2. Due to the altered feedback of the mechanoreceptors and the interrupted motor control of the hands, the muscles of both my upper body (biceps) and lower body worked harder as compensation.  This explains why I seemed to have trouble not only lifting the tire off the ground, but in maintaining it against my right thigh, while changing my hand grip to flip it over.  My central nervous system “realizing” the lessened motor control and strength of the hands and forearms, expanded greater neural drive to other muscles groups to complete the action of flipping the tire.  The increased neural drive, considerably and quickly drained both physical and neural resources.  Additionally, this also affected my tire flipping technique, causing me to further lean into the tire and resting my biceps against it.  This resulted in small bruises slightly above my elbows, which has never occurred prior to using the gloves.

However, it’s not all bad news.  The key is realizing that anytime you try new gear, there is a learning curve, or process of your body adjusting to the new equipment.  So when using new gear, it’s vital for the breaking-in period to not coincide with any life threatening or challenging situations…especially if fine motor control is required.  Ensure you allow for at least 4-5 weeks of using the gloves before wearing them in any dangerous/threatening environments.  This also goes for when switching to a different brand of gloves or model.

Additional thoughts:

5.11 TAC A2 glove – slight tear along the small finger seam

At some point within the first 300 tire flips, the 5.11 TAC A2 glove developed a small tear/split along the stitching at base of the small finger, where the leather finger joins the elastic material.  Since it’s not located at a stress point, I attribute this to the manufacturing process, rather than mechanical stress.

Visible wear of over 400 tire flips

The 5.11 TAC A2 is displaying signs of wear on the fingers.  This may have been expedited by the “cut” of the synthetic leather utilized.

5.11 TAC A2 sweat wipe panel

The sweat wipe panel was extremely appreciated and worked well, especially during the “heat wave” experienced in Connecticut.  The cut, location and size of the sweat panel facilitated its use and didn’t interfere or affect performance of the glove.

Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G.

Compared to the 5.11 TAC A2, the Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G. displayed  less wear and the seams appeared to be better constructed during the manufacturing process.

A sweat panel would have appreciated and donning/doffing the gloves takes some effort, as the wrist openings were obviously designed for osteoporotic anorexics.

Conclusion

While both 5.11 and Blackhawk promote a secure grip in their marketing literature, they may want to rethink the synthetic material and/or any protective coatings they utilize.  Old and worn heavy earth moving equipment tires are some of the most abrasive objects you’ll encounter…and if your gloves have problems “biting” onto the tire, there might be some issues.  And while they don’t have to be as tacky as a pair of football wide receiver gloves, they should prevent slippage across a wide variety of surfaces.

However, in all fairness, they might need a breaking-in period to “wear down” any protective coatings.

It’s still too early to draw any conclusions, but I’ll keep plugging away and see what develops.

For a review of my testing requirements and protocols, visit here.

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Vertx Tactical Pants Endurance Test: Week 4

Over 1,500 tires flips performed in 4 weeks

Week 4 has come and gone…and my Vertx pants are finally displaying more than the casual wear generated through ever day use.  While I have performed over 1,500 tire flips and hundreds of squats, Olympic lifts and deadlifts, the wear exhibited is due to tire flips.  Examining my photographs, you’ll notice the wear is contained to the right pants leg — specifically the upper thigh region, which is the stress point when using the leg to assist in flipping the tire.

Right pant leg – thigh region

Oblique view – to better view the fabric’s wear

Upon a thorough examination of the pants, I can find no other fault…either in the stitching, bar-tacks, zippers, elastic side panels, nor the waistband button closure.

While some catastrophic failure would make for interesting reading, at least in determining what caused the pants to reach their failure point, the pants are currently exceeding Vertx’s marketing claims.

Additional thoughts:

Don’t let the zipper’s appearance fool you – it’s held up to thousands of repetitions of extreme and forceful movements.

Concealed zippered security pocket – Up until the end of this week’s testing, I had completely forgotten about the concealed pocket.  However when I first received the pants and examined the security pocket, I was somewhat disappointed by the small and somewhat anemic zipper.  While I tried to remain neutral and avoid any preconceived judgements, I thought that if there was going to be any failure in the pants, it would be security pocket’s zipper.  However, even after 4 weeks of wear and hundreds of violent and large range of motion exercises performed, the pocket and its zipper had gone by unnoticed and more importantly, still functions as new.  Yes, the pocket and zipper are that unobtrusive.

Side cargo pockets – Having worn BDUs in the US Navy, I couldn’t tell you how uncomfortable and unsightly the cargo pockets become after frequent use and washings.  Having the cargo pockets sewn to the outside of the pant leg, while reducing cost and labor, would cause them to snag and rip once they expanded when you carried anything in them.  The Vertx low profile cargo pockets, with their inset design, prevents any snagging and doesn’t scream “tactical.”

Articulated knees – easily my favorite feature of the pants, the articulated knees have exceeded my expectations.  When I first performed deep squats (hamstrings touching the calves), I was extremely worried they would either split down the crotch (not good) or the material around the knees would squeeze the *&*% out of them.  Fortunately, this didn’t occur and my knees were greatly appreciative.  The articulated knees allow for full and quick bending motions without need to “prep” by pulling excess slack up over your knees, prior to moving.  And while I have seen other tactical clothing manufacturer’s attempts at articulated knees, Vertx’s version doesn’t appear baggy or as if you’re wearing knee pads underneath.  Which is a good thing, especially if you’re marketing the pants for discrete wear.

Coming up: Week 5

 Here are the quick links for the previous week’s updates:

Intro

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

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