Ammo & Gear Reviews

Gear Test: Brad Thor Alpha Jacket takes concealed carry to the next level

Mike Piccione Editor, Guns & Gear

When I found out Brad Thor had designed a concealed carry jacket, I was intrigued. I figured it was just another jacket hurried to market to take advantage of his popularity, knowing that Brad’s name sells. So with unbridled skepticism, I went to his website to check out the product.

When you’re a successful author of suspense novels and you decide you want to be a concealed-carry garment designer, you better get your gear right — the gun community can be an unforgiving bunch. Putting your name on the jacket is even riskier, since it can label you as a maker of junk for the rest of your career.

I’m the guy that used to test products for the NRA and determine if they were good enough to bear the NRA label and be marketed to NRA members. Let me assure you that there is no tougher audience than NRA members and if you make claims that the product won’t support they will call you out with a barrage of four letter words. That means this test is written for people that work hard for their money and don’t have any extra cash laying around. More importantly, the product has to work correctly.

The claims for this coat were lofty. There is even a Sun Tzu quote on the website and acronyms like RAPs (Rapid Access Panels) and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). Sounds good, but does it do what it was designed for – give me fast access to my gun? I’ll only know when it arrives. So I ordered one. They were out of stock. I wondered if it was because of good marketing or good product. To their credit, the product shipped when they said it would.

By all counts I’m an extra-large, but after reading the reviews of the jacket and hearing it runs big, I ordered a large. I’m 6’1” and 220 lbs and wear a 46/48 long jacket. I’m about as big as a large will fit. I’m thinking an XL would be about right for me if I had on body armor.

My first two thoughts when the jacket arrived were: This is a very expensive jacket to make and this is a very well-made jacket. The expense part is because of the sheer number of pockets and compartments built into the jacket. The quality is apparent in the stitching. It is tight — real tight — with incredible attention to detail.

The Brad Thor Alpha Jacket is the only garment you will find that comes with an operations manual.  That’s because the jacket was not just designed for concealed carry, as we’ll see.

How does it look?

The Brad Thor Alpha Jacket is clean and crisp looking with smooth lines. I would call it more classic than trendy. It’s longer than most concealed carry jackets, and if you are wearing jeans, the jacket comes almost to where your front pocket ends. The front chest pockets are long enough so that it doesn’t look like the typical break-open pockets on a carry garment.

Most importantly, it doesn’t have the “shoot me first” attributes of a concealed carry garment. It is not a cop jacket at all. It is quite the opposite.

The color is a medium/dark gray but black is now available. There is no exterior branding to give you away. The fabric does not shine. To speak plainly, you just don’t notice this coat for anything other than being a nice-looking coat. The website says the fabric is IR (infrared) reduced.

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What is it made of?

The exterior is a synthetic softshell material. It is quiet. While they can’t claim it to be waterproof because the seams are not sealed, it sure seems to be waterproof. After extensive rain walks, the exterior was wet but the interior was dry. I even put it in the shower to see if I could breach the exterior with water. No luck. Call it weatherproof.

The main zipper is heavy. One of my main complaints on clothing is a junk zipper. Good on them for making a zipper that will last.

Temperature range:

Wearing a t-shirt and a sweatshirt, I spent three hours outdoors in 35 degree weather with a 10 MPH wind and was comfortable. That is because the interior cuffs, the zip-to-the-neck collar and the slim profile doesn’t let cold inside. There is no drawstring at the bottom but because of the fit I didn’t need one, and drawstrings usually hampers access when you have a piece holstered.

Top end for the coat is probably 60-some degrees if you are zipped up. The fabric doesn’t breathe much but that is the trade for the weatherproof construction. Just open the zipper if you are warm.

Pockets:

There are more pockets and compartments in this coat than stuff you can put in there. There are pockets for everything: pens, phone, knife, passport, i-Pad — you can even fit a small laptop in the front chest pockets if needed. One great feature is the RFID-blocking pocket, which makes it difficult for electronic skimming.

Think of this as a backpack built into a jacket.

Carrying a gun:

This was the fun part. In my left chest I had a 14 shot FMK 9mm. Right chest, a Sig M11-A1. Left hip, a slide holster with a Kahr K9 9mm. Right hip, a holstered Beretta 84 .380. In the money spot, the right hand pocket, I alternated a Sig 226 and a Beretta M9. If your primary piece is in your right pocket, you have plenty of options for a back-up gun.

In the upper chest pockets you could see a small bump, but you could not tell it was a gun. It just looked like stuff — but not noticeable enough to raise any concern.

Inside the right hand pocket, there is an elastic loop designed for a water bottle. The better use is a full-sized handgun. It holds a full-sized gun easily. There is no such loop on the left side.

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There are two zippers, one on each side, for access to a holstered gun. They unzip to give you access, but the unzip process is somewhat slow so I recommend a partial zip and using your thumb to pull the jacket up to grab your gun.

What would I change? 

There is not much to change with this coat. I’d modify the zipper so that you can partially unzip the coat from the bottom while you are sitting down. That’s it. However, unzipping the side panels enables you to accomplish the sit down easily.

Final thoughts

I’m going to make a bold claim here: This is the best travel jacket you can buy. With the neighborhood of three dozen pockets, there isn’t much you can’t carry. The styling is clean enough to go anywhere. The product is durable enough to use regularly. This is easily a $275 jacket and it is priced at $200 — worth every cent.

When manufacturers consider a new product, they typically think of the price-point first and the features next. What makes this product unique is that they clearly delineated everything they wanted in a concealed carry jacket and built exactly that — a jacket that a professional would be proud to own.

As far as a carry jacket goes, Brad Thor has designed the most technically competent jacket on the market.

The customer service at SCOTTEVEST is outstanding. Once you go to the site, a pop-up window will appear and a live body will ask you if you need help. The feature list is on the website. Visit them by clicking here.