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A Lifetime Guarantee Doesn't Mean Much When Your Gear Fails in the Field

Equipment failure in the field can be detrimental to any operator, regardless of his job on the battlefield. This was an important lesson learned for me when I was a "new guy" SEAL on probation at SEAL Team 3. 

I was an M60 gunner in GOLF platoon squad one and my standard load out was 800 rounds of 7.62. I carried the rounds in a mix of 200 and 100 round Blackhawk pouches on my h-gear

Like my first baseball game with my dad, I still remember vividly my first M60 and what a beautiful thing it was to get her singing in concert with the three other sixty gunners in my platoon.  That's what we had to do to maintain sustained superior fire power, we would play off each others lull in fire with 5-10 round bursts. 

I can also remember back to 120 degree desert training in Niland, CA, and my Blackhawk M60 pouches falling apart after the third day of use because of stitch failure.  They had a lifetime guarantee though, not that it was doing me much good at that moment in time. 

I was thankful that the lesson I learned was in training and not while I was out on real world operations. 

While Blackhawk may have fixed their QA, I chucked those pouches in the fire and I've boycotted that brand every since.  The irony is that the founder was a SEAL himself and should have known better.  Mike Noell has always had a great reputation, but at what point do you sacrifice quality craftsmanship and swap it for profit and a meaningless lifetime guarantee? 

While I'm a fan of "Made in the USA," I'm also a realist and recognize that labor is much cheaper in Asia and most American manufacturing companies need some sort of Asian sourcing to remain competitive and to remain in business.  I've also been to Asia and know that there's some damn good Asian manufacturers making very good stuff, so quality should never be an issue.

After that lesson in the desert, I really started to pay attention to my equipment. I realized that good gear costs more, is worth it and usually lasts a lifetime (minus IED exposure of course).  A few (not all) of my favorite large scale manufacturer's who have always been committed to quality manufacturing are Eagle, London Bridge and my former teammate Chris Osman's company Tactical Assault Gear (TAG).  I'm sure these aren't all of them but these are my favorites out of the folks that can do massive volume and keep the quality intact.

As operators and end users I think it's important to get the "Quality" point across to the acquisition folks in contracting at your command.  They need to know, and have your support, that the lowest bidder when it comes to gear, doesn't always mean "best value" to the government.  This is especially true when you factor in the useful life of the product.  I'll pay 5 times as much for a London Bridge pouch over a Blackhawk one, because I know it will last 10 times as long and ultimately save the government money on future replacement costs in the long run. 

Chris Farley's character in "Tommy Boy" put it best when he was discussing auto parts.  "Do you want a guaranteed piece of sh&% or something that works".  I'll take something that works.....

Kit Up! contributor Brandon Webb is a former SEAL and author of the book 21st Century Sniper.

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