Blackhawk! PCU Level 5 - First Impressions

Ok ok, the Blackhawk! Warrior Wear Gen III level 5 Jacket, as far as I can tell is technically not PCU, it's from the ECWCS line. It just seems like the more I research PCU the more confusing things get. Both systems have seven layers, and are virtually the same as far as I can tell except for some extra velcro. Although the ECWCS system was developed in the 80s, Gen III ECWCS was not fielded until 2007, where as PCU was fielded in 2003. Having owned the ORC level 5 jacket, and now looking at the Blackhawk! level 5 jacket, I honestly think that the only major difference is the label. I may get some arguments about this one, but when it comes down to it, they are both softshell jackets made from Nextec's Epic fabric and have virtually all the same features. 

Let's start off with the obvious differences. The first thing you'll notice with the Blackhawk level 5 is that there is loop velcro for name tape and rank insignia. There is a pull tab on the bicep pocket makes it easier to grab the pocket if you're wearing gloves and they open the same way the ORC jacket does which is from the top. From the limited experience I have with the Beyond Tactical softshell, I think I prefer the vertical opening better as access is a lot easier, but since we all know how gravity works, time will tell if a horizontal opening is better at retaining the contents of the pockets.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the world's more luxurious pit zips!  
When I took my first look at the pit zips, I kind of cocked my head to the side and did the "what were they thinking" face. The opening is tiny, so small in fact that I don't even know why they bothered. There is a button snap at the bottom of the main zipper, but I've never found that feature to be useful past "piece of mind" on any of my other jackets. Like some of the other level 5 jackets, the hood rolls up, and there are generous side pockets, which I suppose could be used in lieu of the pit zips.

The one thing that I will give to the Blackhawk! version is that it has a storm flap over the main zipper. I never had problems with wind and the ORC zipper, but the Beyond version has left the zip completely unprotected. Again, I guess time will tell to see if it is a make or break issue.

In the end, if you are in the market for a level 5 jacket, I'd probably pass on this one. Considering the price, and now that Block 2 is on the horizon, you might as well just wait a few weeks to get the most up to date version with improved features and more colour options.


  1. I'm guessing the pit zippers would possibly allow you to cool off quickly to prevent excess perspiration.

    1. Yup, you're totally right! I'm sure that's what they had in mind when they designed it. However when you consider how small they are, especially when you compare this to the Beyond Tactical version that I also reviewed, it just makes me wonder why they made them so small.

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