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New gear helps plainclothes operators stay under cover

Throwing a duty belt over your plainclothes is not always tactically sound; these products offer a more stealthy approach to carrying your gear

Over the years, your mission or assignment may change as you advance in your career. Sometimes it feels like as soon as you leave uniformed services, the good gear abandons you for the SWAT team. Never fear! There is solid, useful equipment available for officers who protect and serve while wearing plainclothes.

Here are a few items I saw at SHOT Show 2018 worth checking out for compatibility with your mission.

Maxpedition Entity 23

Maxpedition makes tough, utilitarian bags for a variety of people. While their durability is beyond par, their subtlety – think morale patches, MOLLE, camo or military tones – left much to be desired. Not everyone wants to advertise they are carrying a gun.

The company’s newest creation – the Entity – scratches that Gray Man itch. Swathed in an urbane gray that would look at home in a coffee shop or on campus, the Entity does a marvelous job at hiding its more tactical heritage on the inside. No severe external badging, MOLLE or PALS webbing appears on its surface. It presents to the world as a sleek, sophisticated bag you’d pull your laptop out of while sipping an Americano. But the Entity is a series of different-sized bags with hidden, tactical features.

The exterior, as mentioned, is a svelte gray composed of 500 denier Kodra fabric. It’s tough, but won’t scratch you with casual contact. Set up in a general “clamshell” configuration, two zippers run down either side of the mouth, which open the main compartment. Magnetized tabs at the top third of the zippers prevent the flap from opening all the way. This is great, because you can open your main compartment and retrieve something without exposing the contents of the bag. If the tabs get in the way, they fold back and stick to each other, allowing full access to the main opening. Internal straps mirror this function. The zipper pulls are amazingly functional, with a small piece of plastic that keeps them open.

There are adjustable shoulder straps, chest harness, and a padded and vented back as you’d expect on any decent backpack, but there is also a deployable waist belt on some models. Side sleeves fit the bill for water bottles or whatever you need, and zippered side pockets conceal larger items – such as 30 rounds magazines – that you might need on your mission. A pocket close to the back is designed for a laptop or ballistic panel. Even closer to the back is a secret compartment, accessible from either side, where with a quick zipper pull, you can retrieve a pistol and magazines. Side-carry handles help make this transition quicker.

The Entity is one of the most intelligently produced bags I’ve seen in years. I tested it with a foldable carbine, backup pistol, IFAK and radio. It carried all these things with ease and is one of the few bags I’ve seen that looks as great next to a firepit as it does on a table in the library. MSRP: $209.99.

High Threat Concealment (HTC)

Duty gear is designed to carry your patrol loadout with strength and maximum utility. It’s tough, usually heavy, and most of all, bulky. Officers not in uniform often find it cumbersome and extremely difficult to conceal. Don’t worry, High Threat Concealment has some solutions for you.

Consider the HTC Low Pro Belt. The belt is designed to appear as normal leather up near the buckle, but the rear blends in the performance of a tactical rigger’s belt including 1.75” wide nylon webbing. This belt is super tough but looks completely ordinary when paired with an untucked shirt, especially a button-down that allows the buckle and leather to peek out. The Low Pro can be worn through belt loops on its own, or can be thrown on over an underbelt, attaching with hook and loop, no keepers needed.

This belt was sturdy but comfortable during testing. It held everything in place and looks like it will last for many years. MSRP: $100.00.

Combine the Low Pro with a Vantage Holster and you’re set up for success. Crafted from premium Boltaron – no Kydex here – the HTC Vantage is a low profile, outside the waistband holster designed to hug the curve of your hips while providing a rigid platform to carry your weapon.

The Vantage includes adjustable belt loops (not clips) and comes standard in a zero cant draw. However, you can lower the front loop for a 15-degree forward cant. In addition, the holster comes with a custom tension screw so you can set it up how you like. This thing is both tough and concealable, perfect gear for non-uniformed personnel.

During testing I was able to smoothly draw and re-holster with ease. The unit held my Glock 17 in place with no issues and also did not allow the weapon to rattle during running. MSRP: $94.00.

Finally, the HTC Dual Mag Holder perfectly complements the Low Pro and Vantage. Also made of Boltaron, this critical add-on allows you to keep feeding your shooter. This unit also comes with an adjustable tension screw so you can set up how tightly you want your magazines secured. It also has adjustable belt loops.

This mag holder is the perfect accompaniment to the Vantage. I enjoyed its minimal profile and curved bend, which mirrored my beltline. The tension screw allowed me to increase retention ever so slightly. MSRP: $62.00.

Both the magazines and holsters are available for several gun models and come in different colors. They are part of a modular system that HTC offers where you can install additional components for rifle or SMG mag holders, radios and other accessories.

Stealth Gear USA IWB Handcuff Carrier

After carrying handcuffs for nearly 20 years, I felt like I’d seen every configuration out there. I’ve tucked them over the back belt loop of my jeans, and used double and single cuff pouches, but I’ve never seen anything like the IWB Handcuff Carrier by Stealth Gear USA.

This low-profile carrier fits in the waistband of your pants and lays the cuffs next to each other instead of stacked – creating a slimmer profile. Using Ventcore technology, the unit is very breathable and even tucked into my pants on the hottest days, did not cause discomfort in the middle of my back while hiking or seated in a car. It even stores an extra handcuff key just in case.

One thing that is different with the IWB Handcuff Carrier is the draw. Depending on the depth setting, you may only be grabbing the chain or double-strand. With some familiarization you can quickly draw and acquire a pistol grip or whatever technique your arrest control dictates. Without a doubt, this unit is the most concealed and comfortable way I’ve ever used to carry handcuffs. MSRP: $64.95.

Gearing up for Plainclothes

I have seen officers throw on a duty belt over plainclothes because time was short and necessity dictated those tools be handy. The above companies understand there is a market filled with people who have a job that requires a more stealthy approach, without losing functionality. Law enforcement officers who labor without a uniform have one of the most important missions in this category.

Sean Curtis is a law enforcement professional with over two decades of experience, serving with SWAT, diving and swift water rescue teams in Colorado. He has also served in wildland fire, search and rescue, EMS and emergency management.