Under normal circumstances, I review products for Sniper Country and that's that. You read the review, you either like what you see or you do not, and if you choose to purchase it, you track down a vendor with a price you can afford and buy. Sometimes, if I happen to really like what I see, I try to arrange to market them on the Sniper Country PX as a service to our readers. This does not always work as some manufacturers require a large stock be purchased and others require a large first purchase order, which I simply can not afford. But the pattern has always been the same. If, after having given a product a review, I think it would be worth carrying, I ask the manufacturer if we can list it on the PX. Sometimes I can make it happen, sometimes I can not. Either way, I never write the reviews with the intent to sell something. I simply review the products and let them stand on their own merit. However, this review is a little different.
Several months ago I was approached by a manufacturer wanting to market his ghillie suit on the Sniper Country PX. I have always wanted to offer a ghillie but was unwilling to devote the long hours necessary to produce such a garment myself. To do it right, I would have to hire a seamstress, make sure it was built to a spec Sniper Country could stand by, and do it all in a timely manner. With all that in mind, I knew that it was not going to happen so I let the dream die. I just do not have the time to tie burlap to netting, let alone the financial ability to hire a seamstress for the job.
When Chad Francis of Tactical Concealment and Firearms contacted me and gave me his idea, I snapped at the chance to offer a high quality, no-nonsense suit for an affordable price. We came to an agreement. He would produce a suit and if I liked what I saw, I would put it on the PX. I could review it or not, but the main purpose of this e-meeting was to arrange to carry the garments on the PX. The suit arrived. It very much passed muster. Now I had two choices. Carry it and say nothing in terms of a review, OR carry it, and review it on its own merit and hope that my readers will understand that just because I plan on marketing the suit, I will NOT give it a pass just to sell the thing. In this case, option two seemed like a good bet because Chad's background was a hint that the end product would be well sorted out and worthy of carrying on the PX: 14 years in the Army, an Army Ranger, now a full time National Guardsman. On top of that, he runs his state's sniper program. He would obviously have a clue as to how to construct a Ghillie that would last and one that once I had in my sweaty little palms, I would have no worries about blasting as a gimmick suit. There are plenty of folks selling suits on the market. Some are excellent. Others seem to be a lot of effort for something so simple and are priced accordingly: somewhere in the stratosphere. I was looking for a Ghillie that was based on tried and true military standards of production: In other words if you were to go through the sniper program and have to build your suit yourself, you'd keep it simple yet functional. You'd keep it light. You'd make sure it worked and you'd darn well make sure that the thing functioned without a lot of bells and whistles. You might add some features to it for your comfort, but the basic suit would be versatile without going to some crazy extreme. KISS principle at its best.
When the suit arrived I was interested to see that while Chad bases the suit on the current thinking of the military in terms of design, simplistic functionality, he has added some interesting features that both make it user friendly as well as long lasting. He bases the suit on the standard US military Battle Dress Uniform in woodland camo. To this he adds a 1000 denier cordora (the same stuff drag bags are made of) "skid" pad running from the just below the shoulder seam to the bottom of the tunic skirt. This pad also runs nearly to the outside seams, so you have total coverage between you and the ground when in a sniper crawl. 1000 denier cordora was also added from above the elbows to the sleeve cuff and finally to the front of the pants, running from the belt area all the way down from seam to seam to the leg bottom. The BDU base garment is exposed only in the area of the fly, which means that no matter what abrasive material you happen to be crawling over, the BDU base garment is protected by the cordora. Chad chose to use Woodland Camo for his cordora skid pads which blends in nicely with the woodland camo of the suit. Once you've done a few low crawls, the slight sheen of the Cordora will go away and the pads and the suit should match up well in terms of color.
The fly uses the standard buttons as supplied on the BDU pant. I prefer this to other methods as it means quiet operation when you just have to relieve yourself. The outer pant leg seam is slit upwards 12 inches from the bottom of the leg and this slit is fastened closed via a heavy duty strip of Olive Drab or black Velcro. This slit is provided to allow you to easily pull the suit over your boots. Without such a slit you would have to remove your boots to get into the suit. The slit means easy on, easy off. This feature is a must in my mind. It means you can wear your standard BDUs or hunting clothing underneath the ghillie, and climb into it and get out of it without having to undress. The front of the jacket is also secured via a heavy duty OD Velcro strip. This strip is 1.5 to 2 inches wide -- the width of the section on the BDU where the buttons would normally go -- and will assure the jacket does not come open in the low crawl. My only warning here is that you would not want to rip the suit open if in a situation where noise was an issue. Velcro is not quiet upon separation. However, it is fast, and if you ever need to shed the suit quickly this feature means you can be out of it in less time than it took me to write this single sentence. If some idiot ever sets you aflame, you will definitely appreciate this feature! Don't laugh. It has happened.
An Olive Drab heavy duty net is affixed to the back of the pants and the jacket. The seamstress apparently has much more patience than I would exhibit. The netting is stitched on quite securely over the entire suit back and legs. Stitching appears about every inch or so along the sides and down the middle of the netting. It won't be pulling off.
The ghillie material itself, the burlap string, was left in natural color. It's slightly darker than field wheat, sort of a medium beige with a hint of OD. I feel this is an excellent way to go because the individual can then tailor his colors to his environment. A too dark ghillie stands out like a sore thumb and is hard to lighten. Whereas the natural color of burlap blends in better and can be died or spray painted darker if needed. You never ever want to go too dark with a ghillie. It ends up appearing like a black hole in an otherwise mottled field of light and shadow. A better option is to mix a blend of a few darker colors in with a lighter base. Add local vegetation for the final blend. You also never want to appear like a wooly booger. Too much material ends up looking like a tall lump of grass, which is fine until you crawl through an environment with little grass of that type. The suit, as provided, has plenty of ghillie string, but not enough to make the suit heavy or to preclude you from adding local vegetation. The garnish is looped onto the netting in a manner that when the suit first arrives, it would be very simple to undo various strips of burlap by pulling on the loop. I would recommend removing and saving a portion of the garnish for a later date. Chad provided plenty so that you have it, but the amount on the suit is not required. This was a nice touch I thought as it leaves you plenty of room to work. You can lessen or increase the amount of garnish to fit your environment. Each garnish strip is about 16 inches long, leaving you with approximately an 8 inch long strip once you double it through the netting and tie it off. The strips come pre-affixed to the netting so you have nothing further to do, but this method of attachment leaves you the option of removing some or all of the garnish at any time, which will allow you to add vegetation as needed. You can also change the garnish around for various effects once you color it to your area of operation. As installed, it will not pull free. But the method allows you the ability to remove it if needed. I wish I had gone this route when I built my own suit. Instead I frayed the burlap AFTER I tied it on, which made it nearly impossible to remove. On the Tactical Concealment and Firearms suit, the burlap employed is made of long string-like strands and is easily modified. The only thing I would consider adding to the basic suit would be a thumb loop made of parachute cord. Not necessary of course. But I like knowing the sleeve will never creep up on me. It's a simple addition and takes all of two minutes to do on your own.
The basic suit consists of a BDU tunic and Pant. A ghillie boonie hat is also offered for an additional price. For the level of effort, the suit is a bargain as some suits of this same quality have been marketed for a much higher retail price. Tactical Concealment and Firearms will also be offering additional features as requested. In the traditional manner, the outer pockets of the BDU jacket are removed during manufacture of the ghillie. This facilitates the addition of the protective 1000 Denier Cordora material to the outside of the suit. For a very small fee, Tactical Concealment and Firearms will add pockets to the inside of the BDU upon request. They will also offer the suit with a pouch for a CamelbackTM or similar hydration system. You can also have a ventilated back cut into the tunic, which will come with a mesh type camo net sewn into place to allow heat to escape during a long stalk. Finally, you can also have a pocket for a data chart or card sewn onto the outer sleeve on the inside of the forearm (specify left or right arm), as well as an ammo carrier if you so choose. I personally am not keen on the ammo carrier idea but then again I have never tried it, so I can not say how it will fly. I do use a data chart on my own suit and would not go without. Also offered is a Ghillie Materials Kit for those wanting to build their own suit using their own BDU's. This includes everything you need for the basic suit, minus your labor.
Once your suit arrives it is recommended that you place it in your dryer (Cool only, NO HEAT) and tumble the garments for a time to achieve that fluffed and ragged look. This certainly beats the drag-it-behind-the-car suggestion once posted on the Roster You can use the suit as is, but wear and tear only makes a ghillie look better, more natural, so this is a good first step before ever employing the garments. As I sit here and compare my own ghillie to the Tactical Concealment and Firearms ghillie, I almost wish I had met up with Chad prior to my building my own suit. Chad's is more versatile and better colored for overall use. It has more built-in, yet simple features -- I went without chest and leg protection on my suit figuring the brush burns would heal. For the money, it would have saved me a lot of time and hassle explaining to the wife why the house was over run by burlap string and fuzz. Not to mention that it's way easier to remove garnish from his suit when required.
To sum it all up, if you are in the market for a real ghillie, one built to the same standard as those hand-made by your country's employed military snipers, you now have the ability to purchase one outright, hat included. While some say you should never pass up the learning experience of building your own, many people, especially in Law Enforcement, may not have the time to spare to put into such a project. The Tactical Concealment and Firearms ghillie, as now offered by the Sniper Country PX, gives you everything you need in a quickly employed, ready-to-go ghillie. No bells. No whistles, no geegaw BS crap that has driven the price of some ghillies to well over $800. This new offering is everything I wanted in a Sniper Country built ghillie, only I do not have to produce it myself. Best of all, if you still want the experience of building your own, you can purchase the basic suit without the hat. Then examine how its done and copy what you see to make your own boonie. The same goes for the additional touches. While TCF can do it for you, there is no reason you can't personalize your suit to fit your own needs. That's what it's all about.