One of the great things about being an editor with Sniper Country is that you get to try out a lot of cool stuff. Of the myriad of gear we took with us to Storm Mountain Training Center, the Light Tactical Ghillies from Custom Concealment, Inc. were some of the most interesting. Custom Concealment is an outfit located in Zanesville, Ohio. Their specialty is ghillies, for all occasions and all seasons. Custom Concealment produces a number of law enforcement and military ghillies, including Light Tactical; Full Tactical; Light Military; and Full Military. When the two of us heard that we were going to Storm Mountain for two weeks of intensive training, we looked into trying out some of Custom Concealment's fine products, with a side-by-side comparison with our own hand made suits. What we found was that their Light Tactical suits are of very high quality, though are more suited to police work than military operations. Custom Concealment describes its Light Tactical Ghillie, designed for the tactical community, as follows:
The parka - Weighs 8 lbs.
The leg chaps - Weigh 2.5 pounds
Customers can purchase the Light Tactical with added padding in the arm pads, and added inside batting. As Custom Concealment notes, "The extra padding is nice, but does add to the heat and weight of the suit." Customers may also get extra chest and leg pads. Very important, all Custom Concealment suits are made of rot-resistant materials with double stitching, with KII fire-retardant and water-repellant protection.
We had arranged for Custom Concealment to send two suits (custom made by the company to our size specifications) to Storm Mountain for our use during the advanced course and for our review on this page. Sure enough, come Sunday, Custom Concealment came through and we had two suits waiting for us. Unfortunately, the second week left little time for us to field-test the suits, though we did give them a good "looking over." What follows, then, are our thoughts.
We found Custom Concealment's materials and workmanship outstanding! Without a doubt, these were some of the best-assembled suits (as opposed to designed) we have ever seen. The coloration was very good and quite pleasing. Custom Concealment customizes the coloration of each suit to match the foliage of the intended area of operations. Further, while Custom Concealment brushes out the burlap, they do not fray it for the customer. That's your job; you do it to suit your tastes and the types of operations in which your are engaged.
Unlike any military style ghillie, the Light Tactical suit has burlap on both the front and back. This could be very useful for the law enforcement sniper who isn't, or can't be, in a prone position for extended periods of time. Also, the Light Tactical is set up to minimize heat build-up, a bane of the sniper (and a real danger for those snipers who fail to properly hydrate). One interesting feature is the set of ventilation tubes in the parka hood. One other interesting feature -- and Custom Concealment's most innovative -- was its use of parka thumb loops. These are excellent! They sure beat taping your sleeves to your gloves to keep your arms from showing, hands-down!
The suit was somewhat shiny and could indicate the wearer's location. Custom Concealment has indicated that wearing the suit in the field and getting it dirty (just as any good ghillie should be) will take out the shine. Next, low crawling in the suits was very hard because of the burlap material on the front of the suit. This tended to snag every piece of vegetation en route. Having material in the front of the suit only hinders the progress of a sniper during the most important portion of his stalk - The sniper crawl. As well, the Light Tactical has some long strips of burlap on the front of the hood - a beard or sorts, designed to mask the wearer's front when standing - which was a constant cause of aggravation (and not just because our instructors made some unflattering references to ZZ Top). The fabric was at chin level and hung almost to the waist. It caught on a lot of ground cover, forcing the sniper's head down abruptly. On the positive side, if it's your suit you can leave it on, if it works for you, or you can remove it.
The hood was overly large and looked like a Soviet tanker's helmet. It was unwieldy and obscured vision. In fairness, though, we should mention that some of the size is due to the ventilation tubes sewn into the hood, which -- as we mentioned before -- helps greatly in carrying heat away from the body. Custom Concealment does offer the hood as a detachable option and on their military ghillies, they use a totally different approach. As well, the length of the burlap material on the arms was a little excessive and tended to snag on vegetation. Simply shortening this material will suffice. The ghillie material also went all the way to the wrist. In our opinion, this is less then desirable as it is better to leave the forearms free. This extra material was a real hindrance. Plan on cutting this material away and using it to fill in other areas.
Certainly, the parka could have used more material higher in the arms. "Custom" isn't in the name for nothing; Custom Concealment will add fabric to the customer's request at little or no charge. The company also offers vegetation ties strings as an option. Moreover, if you own the suit (which we didn't) you can remove unnecessary burlap to suit your taste.
The Pant/Chaps were very innovative. Our difficulty with the chaps was the amount of time it took to get into them. This is a real disadvantage in a tactical situation. It took both of us to sort out all the straps and fasteners; a definite no-go. We should note that the instructions, which we reviewed only after we had difficulties putting on the chaps, clarified the chaps' use. Once the straps are adjusted and the proper fit is arranged, it takes about a minute to get them both on.
The rifle cover showed the same high quality of construction and coloration as the suit. We did have a concern about the impact of the material that goes over the barrel; a real point of argument among snipers. Anything touching the barrel can change the point of impact. This is subjective so until a sniper tests it out with his rifle, he will not know the physical impact of a barrel cover. Again, we did not have time to test the cover at the range and so cannot say exactly what impact the cover would have. The design calls for the cover to be tied to the weapon and depending on how you cinch it up, you could easily experience an impact change, in our opinion. Further tests are in order.
The scope cover was a mixed blessing. Certainly, it breaks up the shape of the scope. But, depending upon the rifle, barrel, scope combination, it could affect the point of aim since it fits between the scope and barrel. Now granted, this might not be an issue with a thinner barrel as found on the 700 PSS or with, say, an M21 with the scope substantially higher then the barrel. With the AT1 M24, there was only had about a 16th inch or so gap between the scope and barrel. When we mounted the cover it on the B&L Tactical on the rifle, the cover became wedged in the gap, causing pressure on the scope and barrel. A simple fix is in order. Just cut the material so that it no longer slips between the barrel and scope. Nothing is lost in the way of concealment but you eliminate this worry altogether. Importantly, one must re-zero the rifle once the cover is installed. We regret that time did not allow us to test the rifle/scope cover at the range. It is self-evident that the lack of clearance between my scope and the barrel would affect the point of impact of the rifle. As stated, the cover does an excellent job of breaking up the outline of the weapon it is installed on, but you must take into consideration whether you will need quick access to your adjustment turrets. Most covers suffer this problem and in our opinion, it is be better to just paint the weapon. Be that as it may, the inclusion of the cover by CCI was a nice touch.
The gloves were the most disappointing aspect of the Light Tactical Ghillie. Custom Concealment included with their suit, camouflage gloves from HS Specialties, as a "throw in" item for your convenience. If you need something fast, they are sufficient concealment. Indeed, the gloves might be good for hunters, but for the law enforcement or military precision shooter, they just don't make it. Custom Concealment informed us that this is the one piece of equipment that most shooters replace. If you need something long lasting, plan on purchasing a good set of gloves. We recommend black leather shell gloves or the sage green Nomex flight gloves.
Custom Concealment informs us that law enforcement loves the Light Tactical. This is not surprising. The law enforcement environment can be totally different from those found in military operations. In that sense, the suit is fine, as the operator does not have to travel far to his hide. A military environment would not be as forgiving on the suit, nor would the suit provide the maximum coverage necessary for operations behind enemy lines. We can not, nor does CCI, recommend the Light Tactical for any strenuous work of the type a military ghillie must endure. Our conclusion on the Light Tactical Suit is suitable for law enforcement use. If you were planning on using the suit for more "heavy duty" work, then we would suggest looking into Custom Concealment's Military Ghillie, or building your own. Whatever you do, remember that no ghillie suit is ever done. We learned this basic tenet during our time at Storm Mountain and it is something that Custom Concealment lives by: Ghillie suits must be maintained on a constant basis.