zZz Custom Works Gunfighter Gear

We all know that there isn’t a lack of kydex holster companies out there, it seems that new shops are popping up as fast as a Black & Decker toaster oven can be purchased.

A few months ago I did a review on some kydex gear sent to me by zZz Custom Works. I like the gear so much, that when the company’s owner asked me if I’d be interested in being their East Coast sales rep, I enthusiastically agreed.

Take a look at the current catalog, and be prepared for some unique new ideas coming soon. If there is anything I can help you out with, let me know!

 

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zZz Custom Works Holster review

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Anyone in the tactical, concealed carry, or shooting sports world knows that there are a ton of companies building kydex holsters and accessories. Some copy – if not make – exact clones of systems that are well-known and highly regarded. Others have unique ideas and sport great craftsmanship that separates them from the K-crowd. zZz Custom Works is one of the later.

Martin Zatrapa says that the decision to start creating his own kydex products came about because of long wait times, and/or the gear didn’t meet his standards. Many of the big-name kydex makers are still producing square holsters, magazine and accessory pouches with straight lines and tons of extra, unneeded material. Many are still using thin .060 kydex which, in my opinion, is fine for inside-the-waist holsters where a bit of flexibility and lighter weight is a plus, but not for use on first line gear or the trendy “warbelts” that nearly everyone wears for for the multitude of tactical shooting classes. zZz Custom Works is building their standard holsters with .080 kydex, and use .093 for their heavy duty holsters, large knife sheaths and tomahawk sheaths.

The holsters supplied to me by zZz Custom Works were each built for my full-size Smith & Wesson M&P 9. Martin sent me one of his standard, OWB strong side holsters in tan (or FDE if you only use “tacti-cool” colors), a matching double magazine pouch, and a matching single M-4 Speed pouch. Also included was a holster I wasn’t too sure about using when he and I talked on the phone… but more about that in a bit.

First impressions are important to me and, as the saying goes, “image is everything.” The holster and mag pouches are very nicely finished. The edges are smooth – nothing sharp to snag clothing or skin, and the zZz logo is nicely pressed on the outside. A drain hole is cut on the back of the holster as well in each magazine well. The belt loops are some of the strongest I’ve come across, built from .125 thick kydex. All the edges are cut close enough to the gun/magazine to minimize material, but there is plenty to provide a secure hold. One nice touch that I haven’t seen before is the use of allen-head screws instead of smooth or slotted ones like other makers use. You’ll need an allen wrench if you want to remove the belt loops, but I had no problem adjusting the tension screw by just holding the outside with my finger and using a flat-head screwdriver on the back.

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As I said, the belt loops are made of a thick .125 kydex, and are built to the size of your belt – in my case 1.5 inches. The loops have enough depth to allow easy belt threading, but aren’t so overly large that the holster and mags sit too far off the body. They are angled, from top to bottom, which, as I’ve experienced, allow the holster/pouches to be snugged tightly against the body for concealment, but push the grip or top of the magazine out just enough to clear the tiny bit of “love handle” my 40+ year-old body carries. I have to say, it’s nice not to be poked in the side by the top of my magazines!

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Retention on both the holster and magazine pouches are excellent. I had a bit of a problem with the double mag pouch at first, as the front magazine would pop right out if I turned the pouch upside down. But after a bit of discussion with Martin, I found it to be user error. Usually is with me! I messed with the tension screw just a bit and actually seated the magazine into the pouch, and now they stay where they belong, even with my 20 round extended mags.

PMAGS snap securely into the well-made M-4 Speed pouch. Like the holster and double pistol mag pouch, the M-4 Speed pouch features the same heavy duty belt loops. I have to be honest and say, other than a few minutes on the range one day, I haven’t had the opportunity to really run drills or use the M-4 Speed pouch. But I can compare it to other custom-made pouches I own and say the zZz M-4 Speed pouch is MUCH better. I have a carbine class coming up in a month or so and I’ll run it then and update the review.

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The final piece of gear sent to me by zZz Custom Works is their C.A.C (Concealed Appendix Carry) holster, designed in partnership with Falcon Operations Group in Huntington Beach, CA (www.falconops.net). I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical of a.) being able to conceal a full-sized pistol in the front of my pants, and b.) having said pistol pointing at the family jewels. Now, I do have experience with AIWB (appendix inside the  waistband) holsters, I’ve been carrying a Kahr CW9 that way for several months now, but I really thought the longer barrel and much larger grip of the M&P would be not only impossible to conceal, but down right uncomfortable. Boy, did zZz Custom Works prove me wrong.

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The C.A.C. Holster is a simple but effective design that is held in place with a single belt loop that can be adjusted to position the holster in that “sweet spot” that everyone who carries AIWB knows about. The holster sits deep in the waistband, but still provides plenty of purchase for a proper grip and draw. Re-holstering is easy, though I still feel the need to look down and make sure my shirt isn’t getting caught up In the trigger as I do. And yes, I can conceal my full-sized M&P easily under a polo shirt with the C.A.C. Actually, it conceals far better than with my old tried-and-true Raven Concealment Systems holster.

I’ve been carrying the M&P quite a bit in the C.A.C. holster and am happy to be carrying a full-sized gun. Even more importantly, I’m happy to be carrying a full-sized magazine – especially on those days when I’m doing high-risk activities, like shopping at the local Bakara market (ie Walmart). After practicing with an empty gun (as to not blow my nuts off), I recently put the holster through some draw-and-shoot drills. And, as I have experienced in the past with AIWB carry, draw and presentation of the gun is FAST from the C.A.C. rig! The C.A.C. is quickly becoming one of my favorite concealed carry holsters.

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Overall, I am extremely pleased with the design and quality of zZz Custom Works products. Their team has extensive military, law enforcement and nuclear security experience and it shows in the care and workmanship they put into their holsters. Not that I expect to need it, but zZz Custom Works provides a limited lifetime guarantee on their products and their customer service is wonderful.

You can contact zZz Custom Works at:

www.zzzcustomholsters.com

or call at

951-442-6163

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Gear Review – Vigilance Tactical appendix belt clip holster

The Appendix Carry belt clamp holster

and

Quicktuck magazine holder

by

Vigilance Tactical

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Several months ago a friend showed me his new kydex holster from Vigilance Tactical while on a range trip. The holster looked very well made and Mark was real happy with it so I touched base owner Chris Moon about having some work done. I’ve been carrying my Kahr CW9 in a Galco leather holster, and while well made, the holster didn’t do a very good job of concealing my tiny 9mm.

After a bunch of missed attempts to drive over to Manheim to meet with Chris, I finally got to visit Vigilance Tactical about two weeks ago. Located in a beautifully remodeled barn, the shop is small but neat, and very well stocked with enough nylon to excite a gear whore like me. Chris showed me some of his recent work, and we talked in detail about my holster design. I decided to go with an appendix carry, inside the pants rig because it just seemed to offer the best concealment available. I also ordered a holster for a spare mag.

I was lucky to hit Chris up between projects and since I left him my daily carry gun to wrap, he made extremely quick work of putting together a quality holster for me. A few days later I was back at the shop and picking up the new kydex gear.

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The appendix carry belt clamp holster is made of a single piece of kydex, this one being .60 in thickness. Chris usually uses .80 or .93 thickness kydex, but since this is an inside-the-pants design, the thinner material is perfect. The first thing I noticed about the holster was the lack of “extra” kydex that a lot of makers include. The holster is cut very exactly to the shape of the gun and the front of the holster is cut down to the ejection port. The trigger mechanism is completely covered, a feature that is required for a holster that carries my firearm so close to the “family jewels,” and there is a full-length slot for the front sight, which will reduce wear on the little plastic front sight that Kahr uses on the CW9.

A single belt “clamp” is located directly behind the trigger guard. The way the clamp is designed, the holster is held in place by looping over the top of the pants, and behind the belt. Instead of a solid belt loop, the clamp is “C” shaped when viewed from the side, and while having plenty of purchase to hold the gun in place during wear and draw, it is very discreet, showing only the tiniest amount of black plastic above and below the belt. With a black belt, this would blend right in and by utilizing the built-in slot, you can actually tuck your shirt in and be concealed.

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Using an appendix carry rig is a bit of a pain, literally, at first. If you are not used to it, which I wasn’t, the first few days of wearing it will cause a bit of discomfort. I’ve been wearing my daily for the past week and am getting used to it. This is not a problem with the design of the holster, it’s a problem with body shape. If you have flat, six-pack abs, you will no doubt, take to carrying an appendix rig quickly. I’ve got a touch of the 40 plus year old gut, and while I don’t overhang my belt, it’s enough to put added pressure on the top of the gun, pushing it into my groin.

Concealing the holster and gun is amazingly simple with the Vigilance Tactical appendix rig. A t-shirt or polo will conceal the gun easily and unlike a traditional inside-the-pants holster behind the hip, your gun will not print while bending over or stretching above your head. Matter of fact, the only way I can print with the appendix rig is to do a near back-bend, and I guarantee you, I won’t be doing that out where the public can see me!

Deployment from the Vigilance Tactical appendix holster is fast, like really fast! I haven’t had a chance to do a range trip but I have run a bunch of dry-fire drills wearing it and I can attest to the fact that an appendix carry holster is a much faster draw, at least for me, than a traditional hip holster. Chris knew I was concerned with having the ability to get my fingers around the small grip of the CW9. Most inside-the-pants holsters hold the CW9 way to deep to be able to get a secure grip on the draw. He designed my holster to hold the gun a bit higher from the belt enabling me to get three full fingers around the grip on the draw. Removing the gun is smooth and the holster stays put on even the most rapid draw strokes. Re-holstering is just as quick and easy once I remembered that my holster was now in the front of my pants instead of behind my hip bone (did I mention I never used an appendix rig before?)

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The Quicktuck magazine holster is just as well thought-out and made as the appendix rig. While designed to be used inside-the-pants, Chris suggested I place the mag holster between my belt and my pants, it is just as secure and it’s one less thing taking up space inside my waistband. The suggestion is a sound one and after fiddling around a bit with placement, the mag holster is just as concealing as the appendix rig.

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After a week or so of use, I have to say that the Vigilance Tactical appendix holster with the belt clamp is by far my favorite concealment holster I’ve tried. It is a well thought-out, well made holster that complements the concealablity of my Kahr CW9. Of course, after seeing how well Chris constructed the appendix rig and mag holster, I dumped my Olight T25 and Leatherman tool on his desk for him to wrap and I have plans for him to build a custom holster for my grand-dad’s S&W Highway Patrolman .357.

If you are looking for a quality holster or have an idea for a custom rig, give Chris at Vigilance Tactical a ring!

Vigilance Tactical

info@viitac.com

717-917-5090

Aside

The Warbonnet Outdoors Ridgerunner Hammock

a first look

Article and photography

by John Pavoncello/pho-tac.com

           Image

Back in October my buddy George and I took off to the mountains for a few days. It was my first real experience camping with a hammock. I’d had an Eno Singlerest for about a year, but only used it in the yard and on family camping trips as a place to take a nap or read.

George has been using Warbonnet Outdoors hammocks for years, and when he got a call from the company asking if he knew someone who would be interested in trying out a new hammock, George told them he had just the guy.

Unfortunately, the Warbonnet didn’t arrive until the day we got home from our three day adventure and with the holidays, work, and just plain lousy weather, I haven’t had a chance to camp with the new system. I have, however, been able to set up the hammock and get a first impression.

John A. Pavoncello photo

The Warbonnet Outdoors Ridgerunner Hammock is what they call a ‘bridge’ style hammock. Unlike most hammocks that just gather material at the ends and create sort of a banana shape, the Ridgerunner has two expansion poles that, when placed in position at the head and foot ends of the hammock, square up the shape, creating a lot more room on the inside of the hammock space. These poles come at a cost in weight, the two add about 9.9 oz to the 27 oz hammock system for a total of 36.9 oz. (2.3lbs). Certain hiking poles can be substituted for the expansion poles,which reduces the overall weight.

John A. Pavoncello photo

Using the expansion poles also causes the system to be a bit more unstable than a traditional gathered-end hammock. Getting into and out of the Ridgerunner can be a trick, especially if you don’t remember to grab both sides while climbing in. The traditional, turn-around-and-sit-down method just doesn’t work with the Ridgerunner, and you may just end up on your backside under the hammock, as I learned the first time I tried to climb in. Once you’re in, the hammock is quite comfortable, and people who don’t care for the cocoon feeling of a traditional hammock will appreciate the open space inside. There is a bit more sway than I’m used to, and I haven’t played around with getting into and out of a sleeping bag while in the hammock yet, but I’m sure that with use, I’ll get the hang of it.

One of my favorite features of the Ridgerunner is the integrated bug net. In the northern woods of Pennsylvania, the mosquitoes can be downright horrifying on some humid summer nights, but I hate the feeling of netting hanging loosely around me. The Ridgerunner’s bug net is well thought out. It has two shock cords, one at the foot and one at the head, to keep the net up and secure, and has a three-sided zipper that allows the user to unzip and store the net in a pouch on those bug-free spring and fall evenings.

The Ridgerunner is available in both single and double layers. The one provided to me is a double layer and features an opening at the head end to insert a sleeping pad or under-quilt – a big plus in my book. I tend to wiggle around a lot when I sleep and I’ve found that I tend to slide around even more if I put a sleeping pad under my sleeping bag. While a lot more comfortable and warmer, I haven’t been using a pad because of problems with sliding. The new Ridgerunner’s double layer will keep your sleeping pad right where you put it.

Other features include two external storage pouches on each side, called ‘saddlebags’ by Warbonnet, that are accessible from the inside when the netting is zipped closed. These spacious pouches have plenty of room to store your flashlight, keys, knife, etc. that you may want close at hand at night time. I tried putting my 1000L Nalgene in one of the pockets, and while it fit fine, the weight really made the hammock off-balanced so I would avoid putting heavy objects in them. The hammock also features built-in head and neck support, so a pillow really isn’t needed.

John A. Pavoncello photo

According to the Warbonnet Outdoors website, the Ridgerunner is designed for people 6’6” and shorter. I’m 5’9” or so and had plenty of length with room to spare around my feet. The hammock is available with two different suspension types  – an adjustable strap system, or a line and strap system.

Mine came with the adjustable strap system, and setting up the hammock couldn’t be easier. Each end of the hammock has a 14-foot piece of webbing attached via cinch-buckle with a loop at one end of the strap. Attach a carabiner to the loop, go around the tree and clip the carabiner back onto the strap. It’s that easy. Go to the other tree and repeat.

The slack, or lack there of, can be adjusted on either end via the cinch-buckles. Warbonnet includes a nifty stuff sack for the hammock that opens on both ends, which allows you to keep the hammock off the ground while hooking up the first end.

Overall, I am very impressed by the quality and design of the Warbonnet Outdoors Ridgerunner hammock. I’m sure that after a few overnight outings, I can make an honest assessment, but on a first look, the Ridgerunner is a winner.

John A. Pavoncello photo