Saturday, October 31, 2009

Eotac Operator Field Jacket Review

Last Saturday I attended the Second Annual Zombie Shoot at Langhorne Rod and Gun Club.  One of the shoot sponsors was Rogue Elite, owned by my friend JY.  He gave me an Eotac Model 502 Field Jacket in Lizard camo to T&E.  The jacket is also available in OD, coyote brown, and black.

I've had a couple different kinds of field jackets/combat smocks over the years -- a couple American M-65s and a replica of a British WW2 Second Pattern Denison Smock from What Price Glory.

The M-65 field jacket design draws its roots from the M-43 field jacket that GIs wore during WW2.  It's a cotton shell with an insulating liner that buttons in.  From WW2 through the 1980s it was issued in OD green, then in woodland camo. (Commercial copies have been made in other colors and camo patterns, like black, navy, and desert camo.) It's a pretty good Winter coat, but even with the Quarpel treatment, only water repellent, not waterproof.  The M-65 has four pockets and a hood which rolls up into the collar.

The Denison smock was originally intended as a garment which could fit over a paratrooper's clothing and web gear during a drop.  It provided camo, extra pockets, and was intended to prevent the web gear from getting caught in the parachute's lines.  It also became popular with the Commandos and some officers wore them as status symbols.

The Denison has four external pockets and two internal.  WW2 Denisons have only a half zip and are thus pullover garments.  They are a shell only.  A notable feature of the Denison smocks is the "tail," which hangs down from the back and can be snapped between the wearer's legs so to prevet it from riding up during a jump.  They do not have a hood and are made from cotton twill.

The Eotac field jacket was based on a 1950s European (I believe it was French) design.  Like the Denison, it's made from 9 oz. cotton twill and is therefore somewhat wind resistant.  The fabric is preshrunk has been given a DuPont Teflon treatment to add water and stain resistance.  This won't make it waterproof but should extend the life of the fabric.  I may spray it down with Scotchguard to add a little more water repellency.

Like the Denison, the Eotac has a half zip for the top half of the front, while the lower half can be secured via snaps.  Unlike the Denison it's not a pullover, which makes donning or doffing it much easier.

What I really like about the Eotac field jacket is the number and arrangement of pockets.  There are no less than seven pockets on just the front of the jacket:

  • Two cargo pockets near the bottom.
  • Two more on the chest,
  • Zippered Napolean pockets behind the chest bellows pockets, and
  • A pen pocket sewn to the front of the left chest cargo pocket.

There is also a small zippered pocket with a pen slot on the top of the left sleeve.  This might be a good place for a bandage or a space blanket.  All four cargo pockets have elastic loops sewn in, which can be used for securing flashlights, pistol magazines, knives with pocket clips, etc.  The cargo pockets can be secured shut with snaps; there are two rows of snaps per pocket which you can use according to how full each pocket is.

Aside from the exterior pockets, there are also four pockets on the inside, two near the bottom and two on the chest.  These can be securely shut with Velcro straps and also have the elastic loops.

All the snaps on the cargo pockets are covered with rubber, so they don't click when they bang against something.

The cargo pockets are perfectly sized to hold a S&W J-Frame revolver in a pocket holster.  My Springfield XD-9 with a 4" barrel will fit in the cargo pockets without flopping around.  A 5" M1911 is a little too big to fit in the pockets but it looks like a Commander would fit.  The elastic loops in the pockets can be used to secure revolver reloads in a Bianchi Speed Strip.  If you're packing an autoloader, the elastic loops are sized to properly fit a double column 9mm or .40 S&W magazine or single column .45 mag.

With all these pockets one could lose track of gear you're carrying.  That said, if you keep things organized, for some who is in a situation where full "rattle battle" gear is overkill, a properly setup Eotac Field Jacket could act as a form of load bearing equipment in lieu of a combat vest.  If a situation develops where you need to investigate something around the home or farm in a hurry, a properly setup Eotac FJ would allow you to get ready quickly with a sidearm, reloads, flashlight, battle dressing, etc.

Other features of the jacket include a Mandarin collar, epaulets, a drawstring around the bottom, and elastic cuffs with adjustable snaps.

Like the Denison smock, the Eotac FJ lacks both a hood and a means of adding an insulating liner.  Of course, one can still layer, and if you have the proper size FJ, wearing it on top of a fleece jacket or vest would be a good combination down to around 30 degrees, possibly a bit colder.

So why in this age of modern fabrics like softshells would you want an old fashioned cotton field jacket?  Ruggedness, for one.  Softshells are nice (AAMOF, I have an expensive Mountain Hardware softshell), water and wind resistant.  But if you think you'll be going prone, busting through brush, or other activities which similarly abuse your clothing, it's hard to beat the tough wearing appeal of cotton.  Additionaly, compared with syntehtics, cotton breathes much better.  For example, at the aforementioned LRGC Zombie shoot where I got the Eotac FJ it rained all day, with temps in the 60s F.  I wore a set of German surplus rain gear (parka and pants).  They kept the rain off but I sweated quite a bit, so by lunchtime I was soaked anyway.  I would not have been much wetter had I worn my Denison to the shoot.

Also, it's my understanding that as long as you don't wash a cotton garment with detergent that has brightners in it, it'll be less visible through night vision gear than nylon.  One could layer the Eotac FJ over a modern technical fleece or softshell for the best of both worlds.

Finally, compared with synthetic hardshells, a cotton jacket is quite a bit quieter when you brush against foliage.

There are a couple things which would improve the Eotac FJ, in my opinion:

1. As mentioned above, a full-length, two-way zipper.  I understand the rationale behind the current half-zip, but I prefer a full length two way zipper.  I may take mine to a tailor and have it replaced.

2. A roll-up hood similar to the one on the M-65 FJ would be nice.  At least some of the current British combat smocks, descendents of the WW2 Denison smock feature this.

With those two nit-picks aside, the Eotac Field Jacket is a really nice piece of kit with excellent attention to detail.  The quality of workmanship is top-notch.  The fabric is high quality and the sewing is excellent.


Anonymous said...

The link to the Eotac Field Jacket doesn't work

Dave Markowitz said...

Link fixed, thanks.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of questions about the difference between the Eotac Field Jacket vs. Woolrich Elite Jacket. There was a person at the Zombie shoot that had the Woolrich Elite Jacket and saw the differences immediately. The Woolrich Jacket had all velcro on the pockets while the Eotac one had snap buttons. The fit of the Eotac Jacket is also superior. The Woolrich Jacket has funky sleeve lengths and got a lot of complaints and returns because of that.

Anonymous said...

Is this jacket as long as an M65 field jacket? I wasn’t sure if the jacket was waist-length or if extended past the waist like the M65.

Dave Markowitz said...

It's about the same length as an M-65.

Anonymous said...

thanks, I was just worried that if I wore my ECWCS fleece jacket as a insulating layer, it would poke out from the bottom of an EOTAC jacket.

John Black said...

How is the sizing? I'm 6'2", 250ish, broad shoulders. I want to be able to move in a jacket and have a sweater under it, but I also don't want to be wearing a GP medium if I don't need layers .

Dave Markowitz said...

I found the sizing true to size.