with Lindsey J. Bertomen
Product Review: High Gear training suit
I recently tested the Blauer Tactical Systems High Gear training suit by Tony Blauer. The High Gear suit is a padded and articulated suit designed for close quarter training. This suit proved to be one of the most lightweight and maneuverable suits in the industry.
Back in the 1980s, officers were introduced to the S.P.E.A.R. (Spontaneous Protection Enabling Accelerated Response) system, a combative innovation by Tony Blauer that capitalizes on what a person does when reacting to a threat. The S.P.E.A.R system is unique because it simply augments natural behavior.
As the combative system evolved, Blauer Tactical Systems developed the High Gear suit. The design goal was to produce an effective training suit which allows natural movement and does not impede the peripheral senses.
Essentially, Blauer Tactical Systems developed the High Gear training suit. If Randy Couture uses one, I like it even more.
The High Gear suit consists of various body protectors and sections made of soft and semi rigid panels with articulation areas between the panels. Rather than use the approach of a fully impact resistant suit, it is designed so the user can feel the dissipated strikes. It does not offer complete coverage, which is not the intent of the design.
The advantage to the High Gear™ design is the ability to manipulate weapons, grapple and train using realistic scenarios and environments. Most of the protective areas shield natural defensive surfaces, like the forearm and the shin. The semi rigid areas offer striking protection without slowing the user down, which may cause training to operate at an unrealistic tempo.
I tested the High Gear suit by using several different testers who donned it and took it out for a spin. Originally, I thought the Blauer Tactical Systems folks had made a mistake. The fit chart said it would fit a person my size, but it appeared too tight on the first try. Actually, we were used to the closed cell foam types, which fit loosely and subsequently slide around a bit.
It did fit, and it fit my testers also. It was snug and moved naturally with body movement. It didn’t slide around when practicing control holds, not did it shift when bending and twisting. Many similar products have issues like having the knee pad shifting after the user does a full squat, which means the scenario must be paused and the training value is lost.
I recommend wearing lightweight breathable material, like running gear, under this suit.
The High Gear suit allows training to be conducted at a realistic tempo. The fabric surface also skids a little, meaning it doesn’t brake quickly on a foam mat or gym floor surface, a common source of injuries. At 7.5 pounds, it doesn’t add or take away anything from the training plan at hand.
I tested this product for impact resistance and found it was less “dead” feeling than closed cell foam products. It is impossible to prevent strikes from making it through the spaces between the padding. The product has to maintain a balance between maneuverability and articulation and protection. The High Gear suit offered a moderate amount of protection and a lot of maneuverability, except in the front plates of the Torso Protector, which overlapped at the sternum. I could take a pretty deliberate baton (duty, not practice) strike there. There was confidence building protection at the head and neck, both from strangle holds and marking ammo penetration.
Let me be clear about this: A marking round or baton strike can get in the articulations of this product, which are lightly padded, except in vital areas, which are well reinforced. For me, this gives the training more training value.
The Combat Shorts component is a one piece stretch fabric knee length padded piece which could be pulled on by one person. Remember those training days where the instructor in the suit had to do a little planning in order to get a restroom break? Not necessary with this set up: It’s a solo venture.
The Combat Gloves component allows for punching and grabbing. I liked the completely exposed fingertips, which allowed for realistic weapon manipulation. In fact, one can strap on a duty belt or sling a carbine with almost no interference.
The Head Gear for this system is a pretty complete solution, offering full combat coverage for marking products and face strikes. I am a big fan of Airsoft products for training and endorse the High Gear and Airsoft combination. The bonus is the fact that High Gear wear was designed to accommodate clothing and uniforms to be worn over the panels, kicking the combat thing up a notch. This is ideal for seamless scenarios which include vehicle stops, foot pursuits and force decision making.
Blauer Tactical Systems states that the High Gear training suit allows for proximity awareness during training. I felt that this was true with this product, except for the Head Gear. The Head Gear really protects the head without being bulky or damaging the limbs or fingers attacking the user. It allows for a large portion of peripheral vision and stereo hearing. However, training headwear will always be a compromise. I think Blauer Tactical Systems has produced a better compromise, but I had only moderate hearing with the Head Gear on.
This product agrees with many defensive philosophies, especially combative systems which recognize gross motor skill responses. The officer under duress often can use grappling rather than joint manipulation and limb trapping rather than complex maneuvers. This particular product allows for both.
The High Gear training suit is clearly a superior training product. It doesn’t need a team to put it on or take it off. In fact, the wearer can put it on in minutes. It breathes and articulates better than closed cell foam products. It is lighter and more maneuverable, allowing for more realistic scenarios than many similar products. It has a proven and respected track record.
And, of course, Randy uses one.