By Scott Smith
Over the last several years we have seen more and more women becoming involved in the shooting sports and in hunting. This growth is reflected in the number of companies manufacturing clothing, footwear and accessories specifically designed for/or works well for women. The holiday season is an ideal time to look at a few of these items.
One arena we have seen a marked increase in female participation is in action shooting sports; three-gun, USPSA, IDPA etc. In discussions with competitors and on shooting forums it seems, “what do I need to maintain my firearms,” is one of the most often asked questions. If you are new to action shooting or expanding the games you shoot I generally suggest kits that have brushes, jags, swabs to fit a variety of firearms and calibers. One of the best kits I have seen is KleenBore’s Tactical Maintenance System (TMS) which retails at $87.90.
The TMS is built to meet the needs of law enforcement to clean agency weapons which coincidentally are generally the same calibers as those used by action shooters; 9mm, 45ACP, .223Rem, .308Win, 12G. Since this kit is targeted at law enforcement, the rods and tools are all top of the line unlike many of the bargain kits you will find at big box stores. Another strong point of this kit is the multi-pocketed zipper pouch with each brush/jag in its own plastic container not a generic cut out in a sheet of cardboard or foam. This protects the brushes and keeps the kit clean.
When I looked at the contents of the kit it obviously had the required lubricant, brushes, jags and patches; but it also had No.10 Copper Cutter. Copper Cutter is specifically formulated to help remove copper fouling; general cleaner/lubricants are not. Over time copper fouling like lead fouling will degrade accuracy. The compact size (9.5″x7″x1.5″) will allow you to easily pack this kit in your range/competition bag so you can keep your firearms clean on the road. KleenBore’s Tactical Maintenance System will serve the new shooter or the seasoned competitor, making it a good gift idea for any shooter on your gift list.
Over the years I have been using various backpacks for competition, because they are just easier to carry than a traditional rectangular range bag. While a generic tactical backpack works, a backpack built for shooters would be great. One such pack is the BackPackPro01 from Ernie Hill Speed. For those of you not familiar with the name Ernie Hill, he is one of the world’s fastest fast draw shooters and has been building holsters for shooters for years. In the 80s Ernie Hill Speed Leather was the holster of choice for USPSA and then IDPA. Ernie sort of retired but is back with a vengeance and the BackPack Pro 01 is but one of his latest offerings.
The Pro 01 has a flat solid weatherproof bottom so the pack sets upright, thanks to a semi-rigid frame while protecting your gear. The first zipper at the back of the pack is a moisture proof pouch to carry your hydration bladder. Next is the dual zipper main pocket to carry your ammo, snacks, etc.; you will find a built-in zipper pouch to store your shooting glasses or to carry the pack’s rain cover. The front dual zipper pocket is a where I store my hearing protection and stuffable rain jacket. Under this you will find a pocket designed to carry a hard cased handgun; I found it works well with various OEM pistol boxes. On the sides of the pack you will find four large zipper pockets to carry cameras, cleaning kits, water bottles, etc.; the top left pocket has a security strap to secure your keys.
What distinguished the Pro 01 from generic packs were the carry options. While designed to be carried with padded shoulder straps, we know that is not always the most convenient way. To make one-handed carry or grabbing the pack out of your vehicle, there is an over molded carry handle sewn into the pack straps. For those times you have to carry your gear into the range there is a removable waist strap. Last you will find two large adjustable outer straps to secure larger items like a shooting mat or coat.
While the BackPack Pro01 is designed for function, it also looks good. The cordura body is semi-gloss with contrasting piping and lettering. Colors range from black on black to yellow, white, red, and blue; which match the colors of Ernie Hill Speed’s MTS belts. The Pro01 retails for $175, which may sound expensive until you consider all the features and how it protects your competition handguns/gear.
The primary way competitors carry a handgun is in a quality holster. If you run an M&P or a Glock 17/22 or 34/25, I suggest the Proctor OWB. Designed by Frank Proctor, owner of Way of the Gun, this holster works well for both men and women. Frank had this holster built by Off the Grid Concepts to offer a holster that works well for range and competition. This holster is IDPA and USPSA legal for ladies.
With his years of experience as an instructor at the Army Special Forces Advanced Combat Course, he designed this holster to be a multi-purpose holster. The Proctor OWB, unlike many other holsters, is designed with a drop offset shank. This offset works well for men and women, something many non-female specific holsters do not do. The Proctor OWB comes in basic black, our sample has been finished with Duracoat and stencils from Montactical; retailing for $92.
Another method of carry that has become popular is using a purse designed for concealed carry. 5.11 Tactical introduced the Lucy Tote in military brown or iron grey. Manufactured from 420 nylon twill this purse looks as good as it is tough. To ensure heavier loads do not blow out the bottom of the purse, the handles wrap the bottom.
With its full length zipper, the Lucy Tote is built to keep your items organized and secure. Inside the main pouch are several sewn pockets to organize pens, glasses, cell phones and there is a larger zipper pocket to secure items such as a wallet or small tablet. The beige interior makes it easy to find items in low light.
If you need to keep your ID or phone handy there are two pockets covered by a flap on one side of the tote. This pocket is on the opposite side of the zipper-secured handgun pocket. The handgun pocket can be accessed from either end with the hook and loop secured pull tab which prevents this pocket from accidently opening if the pull tab is snagged. This outside pocket is lined with loop material so you can easily attach one of 5.11’s TacTec Pistol or Magazine Pouches or a more traditional Holster Pouch. All the ladies at my club who looked at the Lucy Tote raved about the color (Iron Grey), the size, pockets and the fact that it is fairly water resistant; but to the lady they said the pistol pocket needed a way to keep your pistol from flopping around. It seems the vote goes for 5.11 to include at least the TacTec Pistol Pouch with each purse. MSRP is $99.99.
One of the biggest names in action wear clothing, Under Armour, is now offering pants for women that are built to meet the needs of competition, training, casual wear or even duty wear. The Women’s UA Tactical Pant is made from stretch polyester that wears like iron, won’t bind when bending/kneeling, dries quickly and resists holding odor.
UA’s Tactical Pant, unlike many other pants, has belt loops placed to accommodate holsters and magazine pouches and puts the belt at your hips, not low ride like stylish jeans. The rear and thigh pockets are closed with buttons for easy access while keeping your gear secure. Another big selling point of these pants is they come in black, Marine OD, coyote brown, dark navy and desert sand, allowing you to have variety.
Size wise online reviews of the Tactical Pant have varied from true to size to buy a size larger. The sample pants Lisa wore fit and ran true to size. She says these are the most comfortable of the “tactical” pants she has worn. They don’t bind or pinch when bending nor do they show the proverbial plumber’s crack. These pants were washed and dried several times in high heat and showed no signs of shrinkage or fading. At $79.99 these pants are practically speaking perfect range and daily wear pants.
If like most of the country you live where we have winter, you need some warm clothing. Being from the great northeast, LL Bean knows about cold weather clothing and is offering women clothing meant to keep them warm in the field, around the yard or out on the town. The Maine Guide Wool Parka Primaloft will cut all but the harshest of winter weather.
The red and black check is a northeastern tradition that goes back before my day and was called Pennsylvania camouflage in my youth. LL Bean has updated this 85% wool/15% nylon classic by lining it with Primaloft. With the full cut shoulders you will easily be able to mount a long gun or throw a snowball. Like the traditional wool parka of my youth, there is a zipper bag cargo pocket to carry a drag rope or other field gear. On front you will find snap close flap covered pockets for gear, backed by fleece lined hand warmer pockets. To keep the chill out this coat also has an elasticized waist and button up collar.
Fit of the Maine Guide Wool Parka is roomy. While the parka runs true to size, if you do not plan to layer under it; order a size smaller. The arm length with the internal cuffs comes right to the thumb, so gloves/mittens will easily tuck under the sleeve cuff. You can wear the Guide Parka comfortably without a long sleeve shirt thanks to the soft quilted fabric of the Primaloft.
Another traditional piece of Maine hunting clothing is the Maine Guide Wool Pants. Like the parka these pants are 85/15 blend to strike the balance of fit, function and comfort. While these pants are not the latest camouflage print, they will keep you warm in the harshest conditions whether you are hunting, ice fishing shoveling snow or letting your inner kid out riding a sled. Pockets are traditional slash front and flap covered rear for ease of access and to keep your stuff where you put it.
Unlike many pants on the market today, these pants are high-waisted. With the long tail of the Maine Guide Parka, this helps defeat the chill along the back. The higher waist does not bind nor does it constrict. Lisa tells me the pants fit perfectly true to size. She cautions that because of the wool, you will want to wear leggings or pantyhose to avoid itching. The straight legs are roomy and comfortable squatting, kneeling, and climbing. She tells me the Maine Wool Guide Pants fit and look good enough that you could wear them to the office if you work wear it is kept chilly all day or you are in and out like a salesperson is.
The Maine Guide Wool Parka Primaloft will cost $249 and the pants are $109 a pair. These are not cheap, but this is a case of getting what you pay for. LL Bean’s clothing is known to last for years through the worst weather. Both the Maine Guide Wool Parka and Pants are dry clean only, so we do not anticipate there will be shrinkage or fading. If you get out and about in the winter check out LL Bean’s Maine Guide series. You will not be disappointed and you will be warm.
Also on the list this year is serious footwear built for the fast action of three gun, USPSA and to give all day comfort on the sporting clays field; the Adidas Terrex Fast X GTX. Over the last few years another European company has been the latest piece of cool kit for competition shooters. What I have heard from many competitors is these shoes, because of their aggressive nubs, wear quickly and need replaced yearly. Not only do very aggressive nubs wear quickly but they can be uncomfortable and more
unstable underfoot. Unlike the latest cool “boots”, Adidas’ technology has won Olympic gold medals, set world records and survived countless marathons. Now Adidas uses this experience to make the Terrex Fast trail running shoe family; which is a practically perfect range shoe. I have been wearing the men’s version of the Fast X for the last year and have yet to get wet feet in the spring monsoons or to slip on the wet red clay of the south.
Adidas uses time tested Gore-Tex to keep your feet dry and Traxion to give you secure footing in all conditions, even on wet painted wooden decks. While the nubs of the Terrex Fast are not as aggressive as others, they give long lasting grip. To ensure hours of comfort whether you are shooting three-gun on the most uneven surfaces or standing on a skeet field, the adiPRENE midsole and Formotion foot bridge cushion and protect your feet. Using this technology allows Adidas to reduce the weight without sacrificing support and all day comfort.
Since getting the samples of the Terrex Fast X, the shoe has been replaced by the Fast R. By all looks and from what I can find the only thing that has changed is the colors; the technology has not changed. If you look online the Fast X can still be found for around $135 while the Fast R is retailing for $165. With either pair of shoes you cannot go wrong. Depending on your shoe size you will find many of the men’s models of the Terrex family in sizes that fit many women. The men’s versions run approximately 1.5 sizes larger than a ladies; if you wear a ladies 8, try a men’s 6.5. If you like to wear thicker socks, I suggest a man’s model for comfort.
If you wish to improve a well-traveled pair of shoes/boots or make a new pair warmer and more comfortable, I suggest slipping a pair of SUPERfeet’s Hunt Insoles into them. These insoles have a flexible heel cradle for support, the proprietary sole material dampens shock, they have Scent Lock technology incorporated into them and the upper of the sole is merino wool. Having used several pairs of SUPERfeet insoles, I can tell you they are great. These insoles are an ideal gift for anyone on your gift list at $39.95; whoever you give these to, they will thank you.
Steel reactive targets are integral to three-gun and USPSA but unless you have a range that has practice sessions, how do you practice on steel? The drawback to steel is it is heavy and awkward making something many of us cannot easily practice on. Birchwood Casey has changed that with the $155.60, 9.5″ AR 500 steel Boomslang. What sets the Boomslang apart from other steel targets rated for rifle calibers is the weight. It weighs around 18 pounds versus many others that tip 30+pounds. You will find the Boomslang easy to put together and easy to stick in the ground at the range. If you want to improve your skills on small steel targets, get a Birchwood Casey Boomslang, it will be a good gift for yourself and other shooters on your list.