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From tip of spear to back of closet: How the XPRT uniform came to be

5.11 designed its new line of duty uniforms using feedback from operators in the field


Sponsored by 5.11 Tactical

By PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff

It’s easy to view a uniform as just another piece of clothing, but tactical uniforms are purpose-built. They are designed with a specific mission in mind, and a great deal of thought goes into every strand of fabric.

The XPRT uniform (Image/5.11 Tactical)
The XPRT uniform (Image/5.11 Tactical)

The folks at 5.11 Tactical have continued to build on their tradition of creating high-quality tactical uniforms by introducing the XPRT uniform, designed specifically to meet the demands of even the most strenuous tactical situation.

In development for over a year and a half, the XPRT uniform takes what has worked in previous uniforms and combines it with real-world feedback from tactical operators around the world, from Florida to France, in an effort to improve on what’s available in the market today.

Meeting an unmet need

The main impetus to develop a new uniform was the recognition  that officers, members of the military and other field personnel felt that the uniforms available in the market were not meeting their needs , according to David Hein, Professional Division Vice President of 5.11 Tactical.

An unmet need is often the starting point for a new product at 5.11, says Hein. Once an issue is identified, 5.11 begins a rigorous process of meeting with end users, gathering feedback on what’s lacking and what’s succeeding in what are called PDMs (Product Development Meetings), and then using that information to develop the next design. From there, the 5.11 team shares the design with personnel in the field to see how the product will be received by real-world users.

The end result of this long process of refining the product and incorporating feedback from end users is the 2017 XPRT uniform.

Rebuilt from the ground up

When designing the XPRT tactical uniform, 5.11 began with the building blocks: the fabric. The uniform makes use of a new fabric called NYCO Tactical. This fabric, developed by 5.11 Tactical in partnership with Cordura, is designed to provide the durability and comfort of military uniforms but in a lighter weight more breathable fabric.

The 60 percent cotton/40 percent Cordura nylon composition of NYCO Tactical makes it lighter and more comfortable than traditional uniforms while also being more durable. In addition, it is  a no-melt/no-drip  fabric, which helps protect the wearer from potential injury from the uniform melting when subjected to extreme heat.

Specific improvements to meet specific needs

Many of the improvements in the uniform’s design are the result of conversations about specific needs encountered by operators in the field.

Take, for example, the knee pads. Consider how many times an operator may go from prone to standing or kneeling and back in a given shift. Crouching and standing many times throughout the day means extra wear and tear on the knees and the part of the pants that come in contact with the ground.

To solve this issue, the XPRT uniform includes D30 knee pads. This gel-like padding was designed to disperse any impact, cushioning the knees to make transitions from standing to kneeling and back much easier on the joints.

Another innovation arose from feedback from sniper teams in Europe . Sitting immobile for hours on end on a roof with a steep pitch would be uncomfortable for anyone. Add in a body armor plate carrier fully kitted and it’s even more uncomfortable. The pain of the extra weight and the heat from the body armor both contribute to an unpleasant experience.

To remedy this, the XPRT uniform includes OrthoLite shoulder pads. Made of foam used for high-performance insoles, these pads lessen the strain on the shoulders. The uniform also incorporates perforated/ribbed fabric in the back shoulder area to promote airflow. The result is a more comfortable way to wear body armor.

Even the pockets on the pant have received an upgrade. Each uses magnetic closures instead of buttons or zippers for a silent and secure hold that still makes it easy to quickly grab what you need when every moment counts. Velcro is loud, and buttons can be difficult in the heat of the moment, but magnets are quiet, easy and as secure as Velcro.

The XPRT uniform is available in both men’s and women’s styles. Because fit is so important, the women’s uniform is more than just a resized version of the men’s uniform. It offers all the same features, but the design and cut are made specifically for women. Nowhere is this more evident than in the “drop-tail” seat. This feature, designed by female law enforcement officers, is designed to eliminate the need to remove the duty belt to use the restroom.

Each aspect of the 5.11 XPRT uniform is built specifically to be the best for more demanding wearers. While the additional features mean it may not be the uniform of choice for an everyday patrol, officers in a high-stakes tactical situations will appreciate the light weight and durability. 

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