Esstac are not a brand I’ve known about for a long time, but those in the know have been using their stuff for longer than you’d imagine. Over the last couple of years their profile has boomed, with the acknowledgment of key influencers they’ve fast become a popular choice for competition shooters and armed professionals the world over.
I first saw Esstac pouches about a year or two ago whilst browsing Tactical Kit’s website, I gave them a cursory glance but it wasn’t until seeing them on Garand Thumb‘s channel that I really started taking notice.
A while back I bought a pair of Esstac Kydex inserts with a hope to place them in my Haley D3CR pistol pouches, not really the application they were designed for but they worked (to a degree).
Not long after this I decided to add a stand-alone single 1911 pouch to another order I’d placed, I’ve now been using this on and off for the past 6 months.
A single mag pouch isn’t a massive amount of use to me as I generally have a pair of spare pistol mags, certainly with the 1911 I use a double pouch wherever possible due to the smaller gas reservoir (Not that my M45A1 or 1911 suffer greatly). But using this as my primary reload pouch alongside another pouch for a second magazine, I’ve found it to be more than adequate for my needs.
More recently, I’ve added to this by buying a single 556 pouch to see if it’s a worthy alternative to the HSGI Taco I’ve used for quite some time. It’s a different pouch with different strengths to the Taco… But my thinking was that for simply carrying a 5.56 Magazine it might be a better fit.
So what options do you have with the Esstac pouches? Well, the answer is lots. There are pouches to suit everything from Subguns to shotguns, 7.62 magazines to pistol mags.
In addition to this, Esstac make many of their magazines in short, mid and tall lengths. The obvious benefit of this is being able to tailor your pouches to your needs, Short allows smaller mags to not become swallowed up and tall pouches provide security for larger or heavy magazines.
A cordura body in the shape of a loop is lined internally on the rear face with loop field Velcro, this is designed to bond with hook field Velcro on a formed kydex insert.
This provides a flexible yet strong pouch with an ability to adjust the retention to suit the load, albeit in a semi-permanent way (I’ll explain later).
The rear of the pouch is thicker than the front and has less “give” in it, this is in part due to the MOLLE compatible loops that allow these to be mounted using your choice of attachment or the included Tactical Tailor Malice Clips.
The pistol, short and mid length pouches are perfect for mounting on 2 rows of MOLLE, the longer pouches can be woven into 3 rows for additional stability.
On some of the pouches you have the option of MOLLE faced or “naked” plain pouches, in addition to this there are several double stacked options for rifle/pistol combos or side by side carriage… Furthermore some of these also come in a choice of either a close or spaced out configuration.
I’ve opted for Multicam in my pouches as most of my belt based load bearing gear is the same, I know it’s boring but Multicam does offer the best all round compatibility with all my loadouts.
However, if you should want something a little less mainstream there are colour options from black to ranger green, coyote tan to grey and more recently a shift to the 2019 camouflage of the year… Multicam Black.
Attachment is a flexible affair, the supplied Malice clips being a fairly universal way of fitting to MOLLE or directly to a belt.
I’m personally not a fan as they tend to dig in on the kidneys, I much prefer the whisper light approach Whiskey Two Four have in their WTFix straps.
Honestly if you’ve not tried them, they’re a game changer. I’d review them independently but there’s only so much even I can talk about a hypalon strap 😂.
Threading through the rear of the pouches is a right ball ache but once affixed to your belt/carrier you’ll see that it was worth while, even with a fully loaded GBBR magazine there is virtually no shift in the attachment… The juice on this occasion is certainly worth the squeeze.
My only piece of constructive criticism would be that a built in webbing attachment might have made the pouch near perfect, but I’m sure that ESSTAC have their reasons for not choosing this type of attachment.
The Kydex Wedge Insert (KyWI) is backed on the rear side with a hook field to link in with the loop on the pouch itself, the front being left blank to allow a bit of movement on the front of the pouch without interfering with the retention.
The Kydex is formed in a shape that naturally holds the magazine it was intended for, sometimes however it can require a little bedding in. Admittedly my 1911 mags are not the same as a real .45acp 7 rounder… A nice little note is the drainage hole drilled into the bottom of the Kydex, as you can see here the pouch is open at the bottom allowing the Kydex to be positioned with a degree of adjustment.
The quality is exceptionally good for something made by a relatively small business, the molle is bar-tacked in place and a triple row of stitching on each side holds the main part of the pouch together.
The Multicam doesn’t appear to be “watermarked” with the Multicam logo so I’m in the dark as to if it’s genuine licenced Crye material, I’m also unsure if it’s been IRR treated as there doesn’t appear to be any documentation on this.
Using the pouches shows their real strength, removing and re-indexing magazines is easy and incredibly intuitive, the retention on the 5.56 magazine shorty is exactly right for both Recoil P-Mags and MWS GBBR STANAGs.
I did need to warm up the 1911 Kydex and reform it slightly but as I’ve said before, it wasn’t an issue and expected on a pouch specifically designed for a real magazine of differing dimensions.
I’ve not noticed any issues by using the short pouches but I think if I was in a combat environment I’d go for the mid or tall depth pouches, the risk of losing an airsoft magazine isn’t massive but losing actual rounds, potentially gifting them to the enemy and incurring a hefty fine is not worth that risk.
No matter the pouch you should be incorporating movement over obstacles and reloads etc into your training, so another half inch of pouches impact on your reload speed is negligible.
I’ve started using these as opposed to my HSGI Tacos for specific set ups, whereas the Taco is a jack of all trades… The KYWI is a master when paired with the correct magazine.
Enough about my review though, genuine real world experience isn’t used in reviews often enough… Those who could provide a valuable insight are often far to busy to put pen to paper.
Luckily, I know a guy…
A soldiers perspective
A few weeks ago a good mate of mine popped over for a chat and to drop off a monster load of stuff he didn’t need…
I’ve known him for a fair few years now and in that time he’s gone from an enthusiastic and well known airsofter (through working alongside brands such as Enola Gaye) to full time soldier, Currently serving as a sharpshooter with 1st Battalion, The Rifles.
There’s a few of you who might know him through his airsoft and media channels, but for the sake of PERSEC I’ll be referring to him by his current social media channel @EVOS_MEDIA.
Whilst over we started discussing tactical gear, it just so happened that I’d bought the Esstac 5.56mm pouch and he told me that he’d been using them for quite some time. Always eager to get genuine and valid knowledge in the reviews, I asked him to put in words why the Esstac KYWIs work for him…
“I am a serving soldier in the British army, currently my role is as a sharpshooter in 1 Rifles. There isn’t currently a specific issued pouch for our weapon system, the L129A1 Sharpshooter Rifle.
With that in mind and not wanting to “make do” with other non-specific ammunition pouches I decided to look at private purchase options, I wanted a quick release system for the magazine itself and something reliable to have on both my belt kit and my plate carrier. Based upon recommendations of other guys and by doing my own research I settled on the Esstac KYWIs.
I have been using the Esstac KYWI pouches for over two years now and hands down they’ve been the best pouches for the job! Not only that but many of the other blokes use them both with the L129A1 Sharpshooter and the issued L85A2 Rifle. I have personally used the Esstac KYWIs in Kenya, Georgia, The UK and Afghanistan.
I have the KYWI pouches in 5.56mm and 7.62mm formats in both mid and short length, they’re all good for different tasks and ammo types. I normally use the mid length for the sharpshooter as this is able to cope with the weight of the magazine (Magpul 20rnd 7.62mm Magazine) and not fall out when moving around!
I have also used the 5.56mm mid length pouches while shooting at Bisley for 1 Rifles during various competitions, I find them perfect for quick reloads while under time restraints and they don’t get in the way while I’m moving around. For competitions this was mainly on a belt kit not a plate carrier, so retention is a key issue.
I am now carrying 5 mags ready to go at all times on my personal load-out, this is broken down as 2 on my battle belt and 2 on my plate carrier with a spare empty pouch for ease of movement while reloading (used as an admin reload pouch) and of course, a magazine in the weapon system itself.
For real steel use these pouches can put up with crazy abuse and always keep magazines secure even if that’s running through the Kenyan bush or going up attack lanes in Brecon while you’re piss wrapped!
For Airsoft they would be perfect as the magazines are usually lighter than real steel and will always stay in place!”
It’s not just the regular forces feeling the KYWI love, With “Obi Wan Nairobi” being seen with an Esstac 1 + 1 pouch it’s a legitimate option for UKSF load-outs. The Reptile House covered a complete kit breakdown (Alongside other related articles) for those interested in replicating that incredibly Gucci look.
So there you have it, the ESSTAC KYWI… A less modular approach than some of the competition but one that offers a small amount of flexibility for comparable magazine types whilst retaining a massive amount of strength and retention on your magazine of choice.