Last year I became a little more serious about my sniper gear. I started researching in earnest, building a custom stick. I started looking into some of the other less-sexy stuff like packs, shooting mats, slings, and ARD's. I started studying fieldcraft more deeply and camouflage as a whole. And recently, I signed up for an advanced observer/sniper school that focuses more on those latter issues than the former. I was in need of a ghillie suit. I've always wanted one, never had the time, money, or knowledge to properly build one. I searched the web for ideas and how-to's to incorporate into my project. This is when I stumbled upon the Tactical Ghillie Hood by Tactical Concealment, Mfg. Co. It consists of a nylon "cape" that drapes across your shoulders and is secured around your arms and back by elastic and a fastex buckle across your chest. The entire thing is covered with 2" square netting for securing garnish and it folds up small enough to fit into a butt-pack. This looked like an ideal product for the police sniping community because it is compact, quick to don, and provides far more camouflage than a set of BDU's and a boonie.
I contacted Mike Stanchik at Tactical Concealment, Mfg. for more info. He told me that the idea came from military special ops types in need of just that; a compact and fast means of better camouflaging themselves without having to utilize a full ghillie suit. Recon, surveillance, target ID, most anything requiring a person on the ground providing intelligence were the users that this would become popular with. Snipers fit squarely in the middle of that crowd. Its design was based on input from USMC and USN special operators and has become an issue item for several SpecOps units. The base material is Supplex nylon, a quick drying and tough material used in the outdoor industry, with the hood portion utilizing mesh material as well. It comes in either a woodland green or tan color and is constructed in the same bulletproof manner as their full military style ghillie suits. Everything is folded over, sealed, and bar-tacked. Their attention to detail is rather extreme. One of the major design features of this unit is its ability to be used with load bearing gear. An H-harness, hydration unit, web belt, or pack can be worn and used while wearing the hood. Access to any and all gear is a matter of grabbing it and putting it to use since the garment is held close to your body and up at chest and shoulder level. The hood is large enough to fit over headgear including helmets and night vision equipment and the whole thing is adjustable to fit a wide variety of people and clothing. Elastic shock cord runs around the perimeter of the hood, across the back of the shoulder "cape," under the armpits, and around the lower arm portion. Each is adjustable for girth and are secured with barrel locks. Additionally, there are short nylon sleeves sewn along the front of the hood and back of the cape to facilitate attaching a sniper veil or other camouflage.
Mike sent along 4-5 lbs of pre-shredded jute garnish. It came undyed with several different dye colors for me to do myself. I prepared a bunch of the stuff to match my AO and tied it onto the hood. I didn't make it too long to avoid it getting tangled in straps, etc. The process was easy and satisfying. I then went out to my local woodsy area and conducted several practice stalks to evaluate how it "rode" while working with it. It is extremely lightweight and cool; the fabric seems to breath really well. This is important around here due to the high humidity during the summer/fall seasons. Nothing got in the way during upright movement or low crawl and sitting behind a rifle posed no problems. Fields of view were good with only slight reduction in peripheral vision due to the nature of a hood style garment. And it was quiet. Often times when wearing something over your head you get a lot of rustling sounds that can mask the sounds you need to hear. Or make you think you've heard something you haven't. While that was apparent to a degree it wasn't as annoying as I'd expected. Perhaps this is due to the design or the fabric, whatever; the damn thing works and well too. As an exercise I loaded everything into my vehicle and drove in as if arriving at a call out. The point was to see how quickly and easily I could arrive, get geared up, and assume a firing position to take a shot. Putting this item on and getting moving took all of an extra 2 minutes. For the advantages in camouflage that this provides, I think that time is well spent.
Point of contact for this item is Mike Stanchik at Tactical Concealment, Mfg. I've included their e-mail address and phone number below. Full retail for this is $169, which does not include the jute garnish kit. If you're looking for a simple and practical way of obtaining the advantages of a ghillie suit, this presents a viable option. Full retail, in my opinion, is a little steep especially given the fact that you'll need to purchase garnish to even complete the project, however, the LE/military discount somewhat softens the blow. It can be argued that you could construct something like this yourself but you'd be hard pressed to come up with a unit this robust and well thought out. For those of us without access to a paraloft and the mountain of supplies and skilled people there, this solves an important problem. It is extremely versatile, useable, and practical and avoids the time and effort required to build and use a full military ghillie suit. It's important to point out, though, that this is not intended to replace a ghillie suit, only augment its use. Full military ghillie suits will always have their place and a sniper should probably have one regardless of what ever else he has. I will still be building one prior to my date in Oct but this will go with me and remain on my short list of must haves when deployed. Needless to say, I highly recommend this product and feel it's well worth the cost.