The “Blackhawk Tactical Assault Vest” is manufactured by Blackhawk Industries and retails for $134.00 at their online store but can be purchased for $109.98 (available in black and woodland camo) through catalog retailers such as U.S. Cavalry and Brigade Quartermasters.
I have been using this vest since 1995 when I first came across it in the U.S. Cavalry catalog. It has served me well over my many years of scenario paintball and has withstood the harsh conditions and demands that I have put it through. Blackhawk is one of the leading manufacturers in the tactical gear industry and manufactures high-end quality gear.
The vest has many unique features that lend themselves well to scenario play. Some of these features are as follows:
- The six pockets in the front are capable of holding paintball pods.
- The three extra pouches on the front allow you to hold other gear.
- The back of the vest is littered with alice clip loops so that you may attach all sorts of additional pouches such as camel backs, radio holsters, fanny packs, etc.
- The vest comes in “one size fits all” so you do not have to worry about it being too small during the winter months when we have a tendency to wear additional layers of clothing.
- There are inside zippered pouches that are great for holding maps, role cards, mission cards, small objects, etc.
- Velcro belt loops are included so you can also strap web belts.
- There is even a grab handle at the top of the backside.
What I have done is taken Taso’s (for those that remember that far back) hundred-round pods and removed the top lid. I then cut the tubes down so that they fit perfectly into the vertical pockets and can still hold approximately 70 paintballs in each tube. I use the horizontal pockets to hold a pull-through squeegee rolled up and in the other pocket I carry a rag and a small squirt bottle with cleanser for my goggles. The top vertical pocket serves well for holding the push-to-talk unit of my radio.
On the back of the vest I have used alice clips to secure a neoprene camera case that holds and protects my radio from foul weather or paintball hits. I have two separate types of Camelbaks that I use for games; I mount these on the back of the vest. One is the small “Hog Camelbak” that holds approximately one liter. This works great during the summer months because it’s lightweight, and I soak the neoprene cover with ice water in my cooler before a game. When it is attached to my vest, the mesh of the vest allows the cover to transfer that cool wet water to my back, helping me stay cooler.
The second style of Camelbak that I use is a much larger version that is contained in a small backpack with pockets. This allows me to carry some extra items on the field such as snacks, extra radio batteries, or other items.
I mentioned earlier that this vest is a one-size-fits-all apparel. This is achieved with wide Velcro straps at the top of the shoulders. The sides have lacings that allow you to open or close the width of the vest. This is a great feature.
The other thing I like about this vest is that the weight is distributed across the shoulders and absorbed by the wide straps. This design prevents straps from digging in as do straps from suspenders.
After well over 100 washings in the washing machine to remove the many paintball hits I have received over the years, this vest is no worse for wear than when I first purchased it. The material has held up exceptionally well; the only minor problem was the extra-wide zipper that needed to be repaired last year at the whopping cost of fifty cents!
All in all, I have yet to find a better setup for carrying my equipment during a long scenario game where comfort and maneuverability are of the essence.