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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hatch X-Tak Knee Pads

Kinetic Concepts Tactical

Gear failures are very special things.  Like a wardrobe malfunction with more bullets.  If your gear dumps out on you, hopefully its in your living room.

The first time I had a serious gear failure, it was a set of Blackhawk kneepads in a force-on-force training.  I dropped to the deck to get out of the line of fire and to get a better angle on things, and my kneepads shattered.  Practically exploded.  The plastic impact caps had broken apart, and were hanging on in shards by the rivets.  Pieces of them were all over the deck.

After I got back home, I called Blackhawk, got transferred around a bunch of times, and finally got to someone at the civilian sales contracts desk.  I stated what had happened, and the Blackhawk rep responded like I had lost my mind.  I was told that protective gear was supposed to break, what did I want?  I replied that I wanted gear that didn't shatter when used, and no, I didn't believe that kneepads were supposed to fall apart when used. 

I was offered a generous 20% discount on my next order.  Aaaaand that was the end of that.

After the Blackhawks, I tried a lot of different kneepads, and wasn't really happy with any of them.  I tried the bulky issue Marine Corps pads, the Condors, skate pads, and so many more.  All of them seemed too bulky, and inhibited normal movement.  Finally, another shooter pointed me towards the Hatch X-Tak kneepads, and I haven't looked back since.

That was 5 years ago, and I still have the same pair.  They are battered, dirty, scuffed and dented.  The straps look they have been through a washing machine a few hundred times.  But they are still 100% functional.  And they don't explode when I use them.

The X-Tak series is a base of dense, high-impact foam in a Cordura shell, with two straps to secure them across the knee.  The straps are elastic, and have hook and loop material to adjust to the desired tightness, and to retain the excess strap.  After using these things for 5 years, the Cordura shell is starting to rip at the corners, and the elastic straps are starting to lose their stretch a bit, but by simply tightening down the strap, they are as good as new. 

The straps clip into rugged metal pegs on the kneepad, and stay securely.  I have never had these things come off unless I take them off.  The back of the Cordura shell that contacts the kneecap is moisture-wicking and breathable for comfort.  After using some other kneepads, I really appreciate this feature.  The cap of the pad is a high-impact thermo plastic urethane, which is molded into a unique X-shape, giving these pads their distinctive appearance.  By not covering the entire knee joint in plastic, the user still retains most of their full range of motion and agility.  I have not had any issues with the straps binding or digging into the back of my leg, and the X-Tak becomes even more comfortable when broken in.

The X-shaped impact pad is slightly pinched in the middle, causing the center of the X to bulge out slightly.  This struck me as odd at first, until I really started to get into the dirt with them.  By incorporating a slight bend, the X-Tak can efficiently transfer the shock of impact across the face of the pad as the plastic expands and flattens out.  This allows the X-Tak to deliver shock and impact absorption far out of scale with their size.  The cap is secured to the body via six large rivets.  These have not come loose, bent, or fallen out.

The big thing that worried me about the X-Tak series was their size.  They seem small, almost like they wouldn't be able to provide the entire knee with protection.  These fears proved to be unfounded.  The impact absorbing foam covers the entire knee, and the polymer impact cap is right were you need it, and not where you don't.

In almost 10 years of use, I've knelt on rocks, pavement, broken glass, nails, sharp metal, rubble, gravel, dirt, mud, brush and a whole lot more, and the X-Taks have handled it all and given me a stable platform to shoot from. 

This small rip and some stains and scuffs are all the damage these have taken in years of hard use.

If you're looking for a kneepad that is lightweight, durable, and doesn't feel like you have a ton of bricks strapped to your knees, I highly recommend giving the Hatch X-Tak series a look.

Kinetic Concepts Tactical

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