Despite better judgement, this was a bit of an impulse buy. Many issues with a potential clone First Spear rig have been noted across the board when this was first announced – notably durability issues if lesser materials were used for the repro version of both 6/12 and Tubes.
For whatever reason, I still ended up ordering a TMC Strandhogg Plate Carrier (CB) from EBAirsoft – I was having a hankering for something new (namely a new rig) at the time that I ordered it. Despite having previously made up my mind that I would not purchase one, I figured it would be at the very least something nice to put up here on Overhoppers Blog. Here’s hoping that this (preliminary) review is something worth reading for you:
As with TMC products in their CB, the Taiwan made material is 500D nylon. The external velcro patches are in the greenish-tinted Khaki that TMC uses, works as it should. Hardware bears the TMC name and is made from a hardy polymer – more on that later. Construction appears quite good and the stitching is likely to hold up just fine, as with other recent TMC products.
Shoulder strap & pad assembly as is out of the package – why in black, TMC? I mean, I’ve seen that you have the appropriate brown coloured material to do this properly as on your newer version of the JPC repro.
Pictured here is the shoulder strap in the midst of me sizing it; Tubes allow quick disconnect and reattachment of the various components of the TMC Strandhogg, making fine adjustments with the plate carrier off the user’s body easier to do as there is less material flopping around.
The hardware used to connect the rear plate pocket and shoulder straps – the D-shape allows for adjustment of the shoulder strap, as well as limited rotation of the shoulder strap that does lead to greater comfort for the wearer. Note that the large D rings are in fact moulded polymer; I’m a little bit concerned about long term durability on there.
Now onto a functionality issue – the reproduction of First Spear’s “Tubes” system. This is one of First Spear’s proprietary technologies that is touted to makes the real Strandhogg work so well for quick donning and doffing. The real Tubes are produced by ITW, though are not available for individual purchase – First Spear themselves will not even send out the buckles for warranty issues, but rather will demand that any broken items equipped with Tubes is sent back under a RMA. (Note that First Spear does produce and sell a cummerbund upgrade kit that features a similar design with Tubes and 6/12. Though the kit alone would cost more than this TMC repro plate carrier, it is compatible with most other plate carriers and could be retrofitted into this TMC if all other attempts to figure out a way to fix the TMC Tubes replica fail.)
Unfortunately, though TMC has the concept of Tubes correct, they did not manage to clone it in a fully functional version. I’ve found that under tension from wearing the TMC Strandhogg at a comfortably tight fit can cause the TMC Tubes to unlock. As per the design of Tubes from First Spear, at the very least… they won’t fully release the cummerbund from the front plate pocket until it is actually pulled up (or down) and off the other half.
This is the fix I’ve been toying with – using electrical tape to shim the TMC reproduction of the First Spear Tubes system.
Note that the electrical tape is an attempt to shim the automatic locking mechanism to enhance the grab that it has… though it works decently enough, too much tape can cause the Tubes to bind. On one of the buckles, my attempts to do so have not yet been successful – it seems to have worked on the other 2 that weren’t working 100% before (the 4th and final buckle works just fine as is). If you, the reader, have ideas on how to better accomplish this, I would be glad to hear them.
As mentioned, note that while under tension, this tab (the same that is ordinarily pulled outward with the cord pull to release the Tubes) is prone to releasing itself for the locked position. This one is the one for the right cummerbund attachment up front – this one in particular tends to release itself prematurely more often than all the rest on my TMC Strandhogg.
Depicted here is the front left shoulder strap Tube – this one locks in place just fine as is, even without the tape shim I’ve put on this one. There’s definitely some lack of consistency going on here.
TMC did a good job replicating First Spear’s 6/12 functionality (at least, from what I’ve seen in pictures) – cut 6 channels by 12 rows. The TMC Strandhogg 6/12 appears to be cut with something like a really hot blade as the cuts are clean, straight and the nylon has been slightly sealed (melted) on the edges. However, I’m not 100% sure if the method was done the same way as the real First Spear is produced. Spacing between the slots is consistently correct. This system is backwards compatible with MOLLE pouches, as well as forwards compatible with 6/12 pouches (no China-made repro pouches utilizing 6/12 technology are on the market yet). Pictured here is a HSGI TACO magazine pouch, which are generally very tight fitting with the included short Malice clips.
Do note that cut rows in fabric to replace PALS webbing is not a new concept – tailors have been previously experimenting with this as a way of simplifying pouch attachment and minimizing weight.
Even while trying to wiggle the pouch to try to get any ripping sounds out of the cut slots on the front plate pocket resulted in nothing – the TACO pouch remained solidly attached and the TMC material did not tear.
Note that the plate pocket fit isn’t as tight as it could be; there is some wiggle room for any pouches attached to its surface. However, when the carrier is worn with something inside (fake SAPI in this case) and with suitably snugged up adjustments, it does add some tension to the plate pocket surface, resulting in more stability for attached pouches.
This is the second half of First Spear’s 6/12 system – velcro hook-compatible backing attached to the inside of the cut webbing slots.
Shown here as well, under different lighting. The fuzzy velcro-compatible material on the flip side of the 6/12 is visible at the centre of this photo. There is mesh on the opposite (picture: left).
Front plate pocket – closure flaps have small strap hanging off of it, though it is sewn into the top and bottom of the plate retaining flap. It doesn’t really do anything to help open up the plate pocket, as I assume it is there for.
The flap for the rear plate pocket with the included dummy SAPI plate installed. Note that there is a slot for access to the shock cord at the rear of the cummerbund, however – the elastic cord does in fact have the knot tied at the top of this slot, rather than at the bottom, rendering this slot much less useable as is.
Inside of the plate pockets has these lovely pontoons that remind me of pillows. These thick foam pads helps to enhance air flow, as well as to make wearing of plates padded and hence more comfortable.
The contours of the TMC pontoons within the front and rear plate pockets is shown here.
Drag handle – TMC decided to velcro down the handle in the centre.
Depicted here are the pads inside the cummerbund – note the Tube on the top of the photo, as well as the shock cord weave that allows for cummerbund sizing adjustment as well as elasticity.
The cummerbund includes these side plate adaptors – within the velcro-enclosed slot in the cummerbund, the user could install side plates and retain them using these flaps.
The cummerbund padding is visible through this access slot – it appears to be some sort of dense foam. It is actually quite comfortable to wear.
Inside the rear plate pocket. Not a super tight fit, but also not much wiggle room for a large dummy plate. Special note: the plate pocket flap position is sewn onto an opening into a thin pocket behind the plate pocket pictured – it appears to be designed to carry soft backers in there.
Shown here is the included dummy SAPI from TMC (as per usual, the markings indicate medium but sizing is close to large). Honestly, these are not the best fake hollow plastic plates out there as they are thin and tend to flex. If I could have had an option to not get these for a lesser price, I most definitely would have. Alas, this leaves me with one more set of dummy plates to experiment on in attempts to fill them with various materials to add rigidity, solidity and some extra weight… either that or throw them out.
Personally, I don’t like the shiny black material attached to the TMC Strandhogg shoulder pads – it looks sloppy on TMC’s behalf to have cut this corner on colouring, and doesn’t aesthetically replicate the laser-cut material First Spear uses.
I replaced mine with a leftover set of Mayflower 3D mesh pads from my APC in RG.
The padding under the TMC Strandhogg shoulder pad is quite thick – very comfortable to wear, despite the odd colouring. The Mayflower pad is obviously thinner.
The only First Spear products I’ve personally seen and poked at are two 6/12 cummerbund retrofit kits that Ali and Eddie (both friends, geardos and employees at DS) are running in their respective plate carriers. Any reference I made to the real Strandhogg is based upon research from what I’ve read, seen or watched online, and hence I’m not claiming to be an expert on First Spear or anything like that. Rather, I thought it looked functional as well as tacticool, then determined that the price tag is more than what I’m willing to spend on a product I can’t hold and feel before buying, then realized that there was a clone in the works. And as with many of my repro gear purchases, this TMC Strandhogg serves as a test bed to see if I like the fit of a Strandhogg-esque plate carrier.
Last updated: November 17, 2013 @ 20:26
Belated update: April 7, 2014.
I’ve totally forgot that I took these photos of the TMC 6/12 after loading everything up a few times as a bedroom commando. My apologies for not posting these sooner. Please excuse the fuzzy cell phone pics, as it was all I had on hand at the time.
Honestly, the quality of the materials isn’t enough to meet my personal standards for a “gameable” plate carrier. The TMC fabric won’t cut it for long term usage with heavy loads – I only put an item as heavy of an item as a GHK AK74 GBB mag into a HSGI Taco on the front. Minor fraying is evident at the corners of the slits in the front plate bag – definitely inferior to the real deal.
The TMC Tubes will take a bit of DIY to still be useable for heavier loads paired with a snug fit, but it should be useable if one is willing to work on the plastic.
In semi-related news, I did have the chance to poke at a real First Spear Strandhogg quickly while down in the States a few weeks ago – definitely better quality there (you get what you pay for).