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SWATCOM Active8 Tactical Hearing Protection

In mid-2018, MSA finalized its divesture of Sordin to Wikmanshyttan Safety. As a result, the longtime MSA product line of electronic hearing protection (Supreme Pro, Pro-X, and other) was rebranded back to Sordin. Talking Headsets, Europe’s largest distributor of hearing protection, updated the Sordin model with the latest technology and new features and dubbed it the SWATCOM Active8 line of headsets. Today the new SWATCOMs represent the future direction of electronic hearing protection for professional and recreational shooters and is offered exclusively at the USA and Canadian distributor for Talking Headsets, SRS Tactical.


The SWATCOM Active8 headsets feature the same housing design as the former MSA Sordin models, but with a few upgrades. While the traditional three-button functionality remains the same (ON/OFF, Volume UP/DOWN), the battery cap on the external power compartment now features an attached lanyard to prevent loss. A new battery save feature will give the supplied AAA batteries an estimated lifespan of 600 hours by automatically turning off the electronics after four hours of continual runtime. A leather headband protects the cabling and supports the ear pieces.


Featuring upgrades to its Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) and microprocessor, the SWATCOM Active 8 combines low-current audio signals with high performance cutoff that instantly compresses external sound impulses at a safe 82dB(A) level, while reducing them to 18dB level at the ear. The independent twin speakers provide 360-degrees of audio attenuation while maintaining clarity and awareness. Between the lowest and highest audio settings there are four levels of audio signal to choose from.

Screen Shot 2019-06-12 at 8.05.25 PM

Specifications for SWATCOM Active8

  • Waterproof electronics and microphone up to 1-meter for 30min
  • Auxiliary input jack for compatible communication devices
  • GEL ear-seals to ensure complete protective seal around the ear and to the head
  • Leather headband
  • Five-year warranty

The SWATCOM Active8 currently comes in Green (featured), Black, Sand and Multicam.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostGood (4/5): At $330 for high-quality hearing protection, the SWATCOMs are worth every penny. Add into the cost that you are buying the same legacy as the MSA Sordin headsets (which are currently $299), but with updated technology, then the consumer will see the Active8’s value grows. In the end, your hearing is irreplaceable and if you spend a significant amount of time in high-noise environments, then protecting it with a quality product shouldn’t even be a question.
  • Comfort Excellent (5/5): If you have been wearing lower-cost electronic headsets, such as Howard Leight that use foam cell padding in the ear cup, then stepping up into active electronic hearing protection with Gel ear pads is almost orgasmic. The dimensions of the SWATCOM ear cup completely enclose the ear, so the gel seals against the head rather than pinching on parts of the ear (a constant problem for me with Howard Leights). Wearing the SWATCOM for long durations is almost unnoticeable whereas other electronic headsets will cause headaches or soreness in the jaw from excessive pressure as the headset is attempting to clamp the foam earcups against the ear.
  • Durability – Good (4/5): Advertised as waterproof to a degree (and with the AUX cap installed), the long-term durability of the SWATCOMs remains unclear. But the overall system won’t fail in outdoor rain or splash of the occasional water. Otherwise much of the same durability that made Sordin Pros popular is carried over in the current SWATCOM line. The leather headband and gel ear pads will likely bear the brunt of most wear, and sanitation kits are available to keep them clean and functional.
  • Functionality Good (4/5): Functionally the SWATCOM headset is pretty straight forward. When ON the sound mitigation is almost immediate, and the button adjustments provide a tangible feel/click/audible beep when adjusting. But with advancements in the ASIC technology, added lanyard to the battery cap to avoid loss, and automatic power shutoff, the headset has a very good level of improved functionality for both professional or recreational shooters. The 360-audio awareness is notable as the dual speakers in the SWATCOM give an almost surreal level of hearing sensitivity in all directions. It should be noted that while shooting at an indoor range at a pratical 2-Gun match I observed others needing to double up their hearing protection, while I fould the lowest audio setting provided the mest mitigation of the indoor sound mitigation while still being able to hear verbal commands.
  • Weight Average (3/5): Weighing in at 1 pound, the SWATCOMs are hardly noticeable when worn (thanks in part to even pressure holding the weight of the headset against the ear rather than leaving it to pull down on the head). In comparison to other electronic headsets, the SWATCOM is heavier than lower-cost models, but comparative in weight to other professional-grade systems, such as from Peltor or Safariland.

Overall Rating – Good (20/25)

Product Link:

IMG_2889I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Shadow Tactical Operator Pants: For Duty In the Field

Intending to give the wearer a lean, athletic tactical trouser, the Operator Pants by Canadian manufacturer The Requirements Group/Shadow Tactical is among several in its line of field apparel. The Operator Pants provide a blend of materials that gives sufficient protection in the field, while retaining comfort.

Constructed of a 60 / 40 blend between cotton and Rip-Stop polyester with Coats® nylon threading, the Operator Pant is intended to provide maximum abrasion resistance with a number of useful field features.

At the waist, the Operator Pant has five 2.5” belt loops (two in the front, three in the back) along a reinforced waistband intended to soften wear of a tactical belt and prevent pinching. The rear yolk of the waistband has an elastic section to it that allows the waistline to expand up to 1” on either side for maximum comfort.

The double button fly uses nylon bands to secure the Canadian plastic buttons to the waistline, while a YKK zipper and large groin gusset provide freedom of movement in dynamic ranges of motion.

There are four traditional pockets on the waist (two in the front and two in the rear), angled to allow ease of access, with the rear pockets secured via hook-and-loop. Each has a mesh liner interior for breathability and to keep overall weight in material to a minimum.

At the thigh is a button-secured cargo pocket on each leg with an additional, forward-facing, zipper-secured accessory pocket that is designed to be accessed while sitting.

At the knee is an integrated sleeve for knee padding, that is accessed from the interior and has a hook-and-loop closure.

The bottom of each leg ends with an interior blousing liner that can be cinched closed to prevent insects or water penetration. The outer cuff has a reinforced webbing to help maintain it from folding or fraying. Behind the calf of each leg is a small accessory pocket that is secured via hook-and-loop.

The Operator Pant is available in 18 different color varieties to include; Woodland Digital (featured), Flectarn, Russian Digital and more at sizing between Small and 2XL.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostGood (3/5): At $65.80 USD the Operator Pants are in the mid-line of tactical trousers for Shadow Strategic and offer some of the more improved features of its newer designs while still offering some of the more traditional features. Some notable market alternatives that offer similar styled trousers would be Propper’s OCP ACU trouser ($149.99) specifically for the U.S. military – to their civilian Kentic Pant ($54.99), or Tru-Spec’s Pro-Flex ($63.95). These alternatives all demonstrate that while the market is diverse; with many features of similar design, the Operator Pant does offer some more improved functionality over just any entry-level tactical trouser, thus making its modest price appropriate (or average) within the current market.
  • Comfort Fair (2/5): The Operator Pants had a good amount or room in the thigh and gusset due to its straight-leg pattern and generous spacing. Moreover, the waistband had an elastic yolk in the rear that allowed for some flexibility in sizing and dynamic movement. The overall 60 / 40 material blend however, was very thick with not a lot of breathability. These trousers would be ideal for more temperate climates or fall/winter weather but as the seasons have changed and we’ve moved right into high temperatures and high humidity—these pants got hot quickly. A recommendation to Shadow would be to consider adding a drainage grommet to the gusset, or include some ventilation panels to increase airflow. For its use, the Operator Pants would do well for the appropriate environment or season, but generally as an all weather tactical trouser held a fair scoring.
  • Durability – Excellent (5/5): The high durability of the Operator Pants was the tradeoff for its negative aspects in comfort. The Rip-Stop polyester material and bartack reinforcement proved to be very durable and resisted dragging and direct kneeling against rock and dirt—all without damage to the threading or compromising the material. Multiple iterations were run, sprints, and stretches intended to strain the material but at no point was any failure in the product’s durability experienced. In all the Operator Pants performed excellently as tactical trousers with a high degree or durability fit for any condition.
  • Functionality Good (4/5): Functionally the Operator Pants had more features in it than the basic tactical trousers on the market. The double button fly was a nice feature that added strength to the waistband to prevented one button taking all the abuse. The angle of the front and back pockets was clearly intended to aid in accessing them while sitting or standing. And the inclusion of extra pockets at the thigh and at the calf enhanced the ability to store accessories or other mission items regardless of setting or attire (such as while wearing body armor). One unique aspect of the Operator Pants’ function was in the blousing liner to the bottom cuff that added a good level of protection against insects in tall grass while still preventing the trouser to snag on footwear. This could of ideal use by those who find themselves in very rural settings where ticks and other biting type insects love to wait for the passerby. The only feedback to Shadow from a functional aspect would be to remove the loops on the back of the mid-thigh as there was no perceivable use for them.
  • Weight Average (3/5): At 1.10 pounds the Operator Pants were only slightly heavier than the Gen II Tac Pants, a difference made notable by the amount of heat experienced while worn. Otherwise, the Operator Pants were not excessively heavy while worn. With the more advanced pocket layout, plastic buttons, and all the necessitating reinforcement stitching, there was little excess to wear on the user. In comparison, Propper’s OCP ACU trouser (1.7 pounds) specifically for the U.S. military or the Kentic Pant (1.9 pounds), or Tru-Spec’s Pro-Flex (1.6 pounds) all demonstrate that Shadow’s Operator Pants are of an appropriate (or average) weight for more advanced tactical trousers.

Overall Rating – Average (17/25)

Product Link:

IMG_2889_TackenbergI am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.


SB Tactial SBA4 Brace: Bringing Adjustability to the Fixed

Released at SHOT Show in 2019, the SBA4 is one of the newer AR pistol braces offered by SB Tactical, and among many along its AR, AK, and shotgun models. Highlight features to the brace include an adjustable length, a wider polymer body for increased support, and a QD mounting point that all provide improved comfort and function for shooters.

The SBA4 is intended as a follow-on to its predecessor, the SBM4, with the A4 having a more rigid forearm support sides, and a 1” hook-and-loop strap to secure the brace to the arm. However, where the A4 differs is the newer brace now accepts any 7075 mil-spec carbine buffer tube (included with brace) and thus has a 5-position adjustable length.

The older SBM4 only accepted pistol buffer tubes and was not adjustable. And unlike the older SBM4, the newer A4 brace now also includes a metal ambidextrous QD mounting point for slings forward of the buffer adjustment pin.

Fully collapsed, the A4 has a minimal length of 7.5”, while on a fully extended carbine buffer tube measures 10.25”. Understanding these measurements can become impetrative when determining the overall length of an AR build to meet ATF regulations on AR pistols.

With its wider angled polymer body, the A4 also enables an improved cheek weld for the user. This is an improvement over the SBM4, and for comparison an improvement over the smaller, thinner, and lighter Magpul CTR buttstock.

The SBA4 is available in Black, OD Green, FDE, or Stealth Grey.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostAverage (3/5): At an MSRP of $169.99, the SBA4 is also available at secondary sites for approximately $129, with some retailer coupons or sales during holiday’s providing the brace for even a lower cost. Given that SB Tactical is the market leader for firearm braces, there is no direct competitor for comparison to the A4. However, its predecessor the SBM4 ($99) with a similar design, does include many of the same stabilization aspects, but the SBM4 is only for use with pistol buffer tubes and as such is not adjustable. Even the more recent SBA3 ($169) is lighter and adjustable, while the SBPDW ($299) is one of the heaviest AR pistol braces on the market. In all this gives the A4 an average price range for its time on the market and amount of materials involved.
  • Comfort Good (4/5): For its comfort factor, the sides of the A4 were very rigid and gave support to the forearm rather well. This prevented the AR pistol from canting, while the support strap kept the overall brace secured despite the weight of the firearm held out at full extension to the body. Indeed, users with thicker forearms may find it more difficult to get a deeper position within the brace at first, until the rubber has had time to adequately break in. The nylon support strap was slightly elastic which made getting a positive/tight bond somewhat difficult, but not unattainable. One notable improvement for the A4 was the wider 2.8” angled polymer body that gave the user more surface for a positive cheek weld. This was an improvement over the SBM4’s width of 2.0” and thus narrower angle/less surface for contact. Internet research showed a number of aftermarket replacement straps to most SB Tactical braces, including the A4 and the recommendation to the manufacturer would perhaps examine improving or offering alternate straps for improved comfort and function.
  • Durability – Good (4/5): The SBA4 was made with dominantly a polymer body; which gave it a similar profile to a A2-style stock but with more rigidity than the SBA3 brace, and provided a stable platform for a positive cheek weld. The forearm support sides were made from a rubberized ABS material that gave the sides sufficient flex to contour around the arm. Over time and use the SBA4’s support sides did not collapse nor overlap, a problem that was a common concern for the SBA3, and rather the A4’s sides were molded to form and maintain a wedge shape when not in use, rather than loop. It is most likely that over time, the element of the A4 that will wear out first will be the hook-and-loop material to the 1” support strap (another reason there are aftermarket straps available).
  • Functionality Average (3/5): From a functional aspect the SBA4 was a little tricky to don on the forearm, it being necessary to fully loosen the support strap and push the arm through the sides. This was the same process similar to securing the older SBM4. The newer A4 also had more rigidity in its forearm support sides. These defiantly improved support to the AR pistol given its wide, angled dimensions that contoured around the arm once the support strap was tightened. Adjusting the position on the carbine buffer was a little tight, most likely attributed to variances in buffer tube dimensions and that not all tubes are a one-size-fits-all. But with a little effort the A4 was able to move across all five (of six) positions on the carbine buffer tube. The ambidextrous QD mounting points were full metal and accommodated a variety of mounting accessories. The feel of the QD point (forward of the adjustment pin and closer to the receiver) gave the overall AR pistol a tighter feel on the sling, and was a little distracting when raising the brace up to the cheek as it put the hardware right there by your face. Some adjustment of your sling may be necessary to accommodate this QD location.
  • Weight Fair (2/5): Weighing in at just 10 ounces (without buffer tube) the SBA4 is relatively lightweight, and among the line of other SB Tactical braces had a fair scoring. As noted above, once secured to the arm, the brace balanced the AR pistol and helped alleviate the weight of the firearm forward of the body. In comparison, the heaviest AR pistol brace in the SB line is the SBPDW (18.14 ounces) while others, such as the SBM47 (15.5 ounces), SBM4 (8.7 ounces), and SBA3 (6.75 ounces) demonstrate the weight of the SBA4 is towards the heavier side given most other AR pistol braces trend to a more minimalist approach with less materials that achieve the same results. The added weight is the payoff for the SBA4 to have that five-position adjustability.

Overall Rating – Average (16/25)

Product Link:

***Editor’s Note: The history and ruling of AR/AK pistol braces is a sordid one. From the initial ATF ruling in 2014, the “clarification” letter by Max Kingery (then-acting Chief of Firearms Technology Criminal Branch) in 2015, and a second ATF ruling in 2017, and the most recent ATF clarification in 2019 the regulation agency has struggled to provide a clear ruling on the application of such devices. Specifically shouldering, the topic of proper use of braces has caused more internet arguments among “internet lawyers”. Currently ATF guidance as of 2019 states as follows:

“To the extent the January 2015 Open Letter implied or has been construed to hold that incidental, sporadic, or situational ‘use’ of an arm-brace (in its original approved configuration) equipped firearm from a firing position at or near the shoulder was sufficient to constitute a ‘redesign,’ such interpretations are incorrect and not consistent with ATF’s interpretation of the statute or the manner in which it has historically been enforced.”

As such, Per the ATF the use of an AR/AK pistol brace comes down to intent. Thus, accidental or “sporadic” shouldering of an AR pistol brace is not illegal. When consistently shouldered however, it demonstrates the intent to subvert regulations on SBRs by utilizing the AR pistol and brace as an impromptu work-around (and thus illegal). The same is said by adding accessories intended for precise accuracy as found with an SBR, such as scopes or utilizing irons. During the course of evaluations, any shouldering of the SBA4 was purely accidental, as efforts are made to test the brace within various range iterations to the extent of design, while still adhering to ATF regulations.


I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.


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