The world is full of unknowns, so we must “Always be ready.” This is not just a motto for 5.11 Tactical; this is a mindset that its founders built a company around. No one can possibly predict what’s going to happen every minute of the day, but if we choose to, we can prepare for it. The gear we carry, the clothes we wear, the mindset we hold—whether we are on or off duty, in a big city or out of cell range—no matter what happens, we push forward, not out of the absence of fear but in spite of it.
5.11 Tactical Origins
It all started with a pair of pants. The FBI training academy adopted the original 5.11 pant as its preferred training pant in 1992, forging a decades-long relationship that drives 5.11’s commitment to public safety and the first-responder community. 5.11 Tactical began developing a more extensive law enforcement line in 2003. The company didn’t just want to make clothing that was suitable for public-safety professionals; they wanted to make gear that really worked for those public-safety professionals.
Commitment to Service
So, designers worked collaboratively with their target audience to create gear that meets and exceeds the needs of real people in the field. In 2012, the company rose to the challenge of redesigning the women’s collection to create better-fitting and higher-performing options. The 5.11 women’s category has grown to include premium uniforms, covert clothing, fitness apparel and much more.
Today, 5.11 is expanding into the outdoor and fitness markets with products like the Base shorts and the ABR trainer. 5.11 Tactical seems to be determined to meet these new challenges with the same grit and fortitude that has always defined the brand.
I knew the company’s background in the public-safety industry but never thought of the company as anything but a tactical clothing company until the year when I attended my very first SHOT Show. I visited the 5.11 Tactical booth expecting to see the latest and greatest in clothing and hoped to find a replacement for my 5.11 range bag that was now just too small for my needs.
Instead, I spent hours at the booth as Kristen, the company’s public relations and advertising manager, took me on a tour of the complete product line and blew me away with all the products the company now offered. I saw 5.11 hard cases and backpacks, shoes and boots, knives and tools, flashlights and tactical gear for professionals and civilians alike.
In The Bag
I’m a professional photographer in the outdoor industry. I travel with very expensive photography equipment and computers that I need to make sure are protected as they get knocked around in the field heading to and during photo shoots. I have always purchased very expensive but extremely well-made waterproof hard cases that work great but definitely hurt the bank account a bit when I need a new one.
As my business grows, my equipment cache expands as well. I recently outgrew my old hard case, so when it came time to purchase a new one, I decided to try 5.11 to see if it could compare and meet my needs.
I ended up with the 1750 hard case with foam due to its size. With this case, I can fly with my equipment as a carry-on instead of having to check my case. I just don’t trust TSA with my equipment, and these cases are engineered to outlast the harshest environments.
The hard cases are injection-molded from lightweight, high-strength poly-propylene copolymer resins, which makes them completely crush-proof and dust-proof, and they are fully submersible and watertight. With this case, I am confident that my gear is safe and secure during transportation. The best part is the cost; with an MSRP of only $150, I saved almost 50 percent over the same-sized case from the competition.
Bags & Backpacks
If a hard case isn’t what you need, then you can look at the wide variety of bags and backpacks that 5.11 has to offer. Almost every bag has concealed-carry-ready pockets, laptop compartments, hydration-pack compartments and enough pockets to make sure that everything has a place. There’s some sort of bag for everyone, every job and every occasion.
I like the 25-liter Mira 2-in-1 Pack, as it brings function and form together in a colorful way. This versatile pack features a storage pouch that attaches to the front of the pack and can be removed and used as a cross-body bag. This front pouch features a concealed-carry-weapon compartment with a magnetic closure. The main compartment features a dedicated 15-inch laptop compartment, zippered sunglass pocket, external mesh water-bottle pockets and amazing padded shoulder straps as well as padding on the back so the user can carry it comfortably all day.
Sometimes, I’m on my feet for 10 to 15 hours a day during a photo shoot, so good footwear is a must. Turns out, 5.11 Tactical has me covered when it comes to my feet as well; the company offers a wide variety of footwear for every occasion. I picked up a pair of Union waterproof 6-inch boots as well as the XPRT 3.0 boots. Both of these are waterproof boots with the Vibram XS-trek formula providing excellent grip and balance, so you can feel confident traversing both wet and dry terrains.
But most important is the comfort, and the new Ortholite X-25 footbed gives you the kind of relief you feel right away as well as the cushioning that you appreciate all day. I can wear these boots during indoor and outdoor shoots in any weather and on any terrain without my feet getting wet or fatigued.
I loved those boots so much that I decided I needed that kind of comfort even when I don’t want to wear boots, so I got a pair of 5.11 ABR trainers in regatta blue. The color looks as good as these shoes feel on my feet—they deliver all-day support and comfort during virtually any daily activity.
In the realm of tools, we can see how 5.11 Tactical has really widened its reach. For example, 5.11 flashlights have set the benchmark for tactical flashlights around the world. Used by officers and first responders from coast to coast, these flashlights are extremely bright and durable. In addition to a full line of high-performance flashlights, the company also offers flashlight accessories that allow you to customize your carry options. From flashlight holsters to tactical battery cases for extended operations, 5.11 has the tactical flashlights and accessories you want at an affordable price.
I added the Rapid L1 to my everyday-carry arsenal. The Rapid L1 is new to the lineup of 5.11 flashlights this year. The L1 offers three modes: high, low and strobe. Powered by only one CR123 battery, it’ll run on high for two hours and offers 290 lumens of visible light, giving you the advantage in low-light scenarios. Tactical features like bezel tips and enhanced grip as well as being waterproof and impact resistant made this an easy choice for everyday carry.
5.11 constructs tactical tools and knives to withstand tough treatment and unforgiving environments while remaining completely reliable and very sharp. I got my hands on the Compact Operator Axe to use when camping. Quickly, I discovered that 5.11 doesn’t lie when it says that its tools and knives are ready-sharp. I showed my wife the axe and just happened to touch my thumb to the blade. And I ended up splitting my thumb wide open, bleeding all over the axe.
I honestly don’t even know if my thumb touched the blade. I think the blade is so sharp that just the thought of touching it split my thumb open. 5.11 offers an extensive selection of styles, sizes and configurations of tools that are role-specific. It provides the gear and utility you need to get the job done. And 5.11 tools will work as hard as you do.
5.11 Tactical really does offer something for everyone, and that’s amazing, considering the company opened its consumer division only six years ago. The sheer variety and quality of the products this company offers will outfit active, outdoor, tactical and lifestyle-focused consumers alike. For more information, visit 511tactical.com.
This article is from the Dec-Jan 2021 issue of Personal Defense World magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.