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Keeping Your Cool in Competition

Staying comfortable in competition is one of the hardest things to do even for the top competitors. Dressing properly to stay comfortable in the hottest temperature situations is something that can be accomplished by carefully selecting every article of clothing you put on including whether you use a shooting vest or not. Fabric choice is the most important thing along with fabric weight in selection, then design and features in the items you select.

Being in hot and humid situations during a shooting competition is something Iím sure we have all experienced, and Iím sure youíve felt your energy and enthusiasm drain out of you as the temperature got hotter and the humidity got higher. I had it happen in the 1998 Texas Sporting Clays Championship being held near South Padre Island. On the day before the shoot in May, a practice day, it was a pleasant 85 degrees. On the day of the shoot the temperature soared to 105 degrees with very high humidity. People were dropping like flies. The owners of the Rio Grande Shooting Center were running around with ATVís delivering iced water bottles, soda and chilled bananas to the shooters. They did an outstanding job helping the shooters dealing with the heat that caught everyone by surprise.

Until last year I always shot with a shooting vest on because of the pockets for shells, hulls and other accessories. The big problem in wearing a shooting vest in real hot weather is it just makes you warmer than you need to be. The tighter fitting the vest, the warmer youíll feel. By eliminating the vest in real hot weather, youíll feel much more comfortable and shoot well and wonít feel drained during the day. The product that changed what I wear on hot shooting days is the Cabelaís half vest. Itís a half vest made of a tan polyester mesh and cotton fabric with leather trim around the double fabric pockets on both side along with an empty hull pouch on the back with a zipper on the bottom for quick emptying. It comes supplied with a leather belt that keeps the pockets open and separated. It also has a loop on the backside for hanging up the vest when not in use. It also has two D rings attached on either side for towels or stuck wad removers or whatever else you feel necessary to carry. The RN# is 5683520304. It is excellently made and designed and functions perfectly for those very hot days. The medium I was supplied fit well but the belt supplied with the unit is a little short because itís being worn over other clothing. If they added a few inches to the belts in each size because they are being worn over other clothing it would be perfect.

Pavilion Shooting Clothing also makes a half vest as well. Itís constructed out of a cotton fabric that is available in several colors rather than a mesh, but the empty hull rear pocket is mesh with a zipper on the bottom for quick disposal of the empty hulls. It comes supplied with a nylon belt with a Fastex closure and each of the three pockets are independent of each other. The only problem with that design; the fabric and belt combination is that the individual double pockets on either side and hull pocket seem to slide or gather together with weight in one of the pockets and it makes it a little hard to get your hands into the pockets at times. Otherwise itís a great value for the money. In talking to the manufacturer, they indicated they are looking at supplying their system with a leather belt as well and/or making their pocket assembly a one-piece design so they wonít move around on you.

I hope other vest manufacturers get on to the bandwagon and start producing half vests which make shooting in hot and/or humid weather much more comfortable. Iím sure one will come out with some great innovations as well. Shooting with a half vest and a good shooting shirt really lets you feel ten degrees cooler than with a full vest on.

The following evaluations were conducted in New Mexico in dry hot heat conditions and in hot and humid conditions along the Rio Grande River in heavy timber. There were several days of 102-degree temperatures along the river that allowed for ideal testing conditions. On some days there was no wind and on others there was a slight breeze. There were three experienced shooters involved in the testing to determine if all the conclusions were going to be the same or if there would be any difference of opinion about certain products. For your information, all the testers basically came to the same conclusion about the products. There were some very minor differences noted in the different models in the traditional cotton shooting shirts, but other than that it was pretty unanimous about who had the cooler and more comfortable shooting shirts.

There were a variety of fabrics that were tested and a variety of cottons that were tested as well and they all gave different results. There are basically three different types of cotton fabrics available in shooting shirts from manufacturers. The Lewis Creek cotton shirt is made from a very tight and dense weave cotton fabric that doesnít breath as well in the hotter temperatures, but will probably out wear most other shirts. The majority of the shirts tested fell into the second category that is the traditional cotton fabric found on a variety of cotton shirts, in slightly different weights (4oz. to 5oz.cotton fabrics), not just used on shooting shirts. The third cotton fabric tested was a very loose weave made from very soft and supple cotton strands that was used in the construction of the Browning-shooting shirt. But cotton did not win the most comfortable seal of approval; a synthetic took the top honors.

The most comfortable shooting shirt in the marketplace today came from Beretta, it was unanimous. It was due to an excellent choice in fabric and in design. The fabric is a loose weave of 85% Polyester and 15% Rayon and it has a RN# 10833. It feels cool to the skin and allows the fabric to pass air easily. It has a mesh back and the mesh is incorporated into the two vertical slits on either side of the back panel with a pleat in the mesh (keeping the back panel open) allowing the air to pass through easily either from body movement or a slight breeze. It will actually catch the breeze and pass it along your back. This design of a vertical slit below each shoulder made a major difference in the comfortableness of the shirt. It also allowed for unrestricted arm movement. The traditional cape back with one horizontal opening just does not allow the warm body air to escape from the shirt that fast or easily. The fabric was a blue check pattern with button down collars, a button flap pocket (with the Beretta logo) on the left side and long sporting clays lightly padded shooting patch on the right side. The other attributes of the shirt are that you can hand wash it and hang it out to dry and it will dry very quickly. You can be wearing it while the cotton shirts are still dripping water. If you wash it in a machine and partially dry it in a dryer or fully dry it and take it out right away, you wonít even have to iron it. It required the least maintenance of all the shirts evaluated. A true winner for the traveling shooter or the person that doesnít like to iron shirts. It showed excellent workmanship throughout and is designed to wear in or out of the trousers or shorts. I would like to see it in some plain neutral tan or traditional green colors. My hat is off to Beretta for producing such an outstanding comfortable hot weather shooting shirt.

Browning came in second with a shirt made from 100% cotton and a polyester mesh back called the Super Naturals. It came in a pleasing tan color that almost looked like a corduroy fabric but was a very soft and open weave that allowed the shirt to breath easily. It also had a button down collar, a button down flap pocket (with the Browning logo) with a slit opening for a pen on the left side and an extra long lightly padded shooting patch on the right side. There was extra gusseting under the armpits for freedom of movement. This shirt also had the vertical slits below each shoulder on the back that proved important, but the mesh was not attached to the back panel with a pleat, which help keeps the vents open as on the Beretta shirt. It had a soft comfortable feel next to your skin and showed quality workmanship. It ironed easily but did not dry as fast as the Beretta shirt.

Columbia Sportswear Co. makes a large selection of clothing for the fishing and shooting sports and has a shirt that did pretty well. Itís RN# is 68724 and is made from a traditional medium weave cotton fabric. It comes in several natural colors and has an open pocket on the left side and a small shooting patch on the right side that should be longer for low gun shooters. On the backside it had a polyester mesh panel, the two vertical slits under the shoulders along with the horizontal cape being open on the bottom as well, but it was tacked in the center to hold it in place. It provided better ventilation than most shirts but still tended to be a little warmer because of the fabric. It also required normal washing and ironing. What is disappointing about Columbia is that several years ago they used to make an excellent shooting shirt from Supplex nylon that really kept you cool. They discontinued because they said no one wanted to buy them. I find that hard to understand. 10X also made an excellent nylon shirt that was much cooler than even a cotton T-shirt, but itís no longer available as well. 10X no longer makes any shooting shirts according to their marketing dept.

Lewis Creek makes an excellent cotton-shooting shirt that most people including myself think is the best looking shooting shirt in the market. The shirt has classic and distinctive styling. Even though it has a cotton mesh back panel, and it has the vertical slit below the shoulders on either side and it has a cape style opening on the back it still tends to be rather warm because the vertical slits tend not to stay open as with most of the other shirts as well and allow air to pass across your back. I think the cotton mesh might also have something to do with it. That, combined with a very hard tight weave fabric that doesnít breath well tends to make to shirt too warm to wear in the hottest weather. It has button down collars, a button down flap bellows pocket on the left side and a long lightly padded shooting patch on the right side. There are two special shot shell holder pockets above the main breast pocket that are trimmed in a faux leather material. Itís available in a few natural colors. This fabric took the most ironing to get it looking good. The shirt shows quality workmanship throughout and an eye for detail. A really great looking shirt with pants to match that convert to shorts. They manufacture a very comprehensive line of shooting clothing. Look for a new hot-weather shirt from them this summer.

Pavillion also has a medium weave 90% cotton 10% polyester 5 oz. cotton fabric shooting shirt with a button down collar available in tan and blue. The polyester in the fabric makes the ironing a little easier and it doesnít wrinkle is easily. It has a cargo patch pocket with their logo and a button flap on the left and the longer low gun shooting patch on the right. The patch also has a little more padding than the rest of the shirts. It is vented on the back below the shoulders and at the bottom of the cape and its bar tacked in the center. It had quality workmanship throughout.

Bob Allen has an all cotton 4 oz. medium weave shirt with button down collars and a bellows pocket with a button down flap with their logo on it of the left. It has the small shooting patch on the right that is lightly padded. It is vented on the back below the shoulders and at the bottom of the cape and its bar tacked twice off the center. It had quality workmanship throughout.

Any shirt can be converted to a shooting shirt if you supply a shirt to Linda Shick Shooting Shirts. She can take your favorite shirt and make a shooting shirt out of it by applying shooting patches, etc at a reasonable cost. It cannot have a pocket on the gun mounting side if youíre going to be using it in low gun shooting. She has a source for shirts constructed from either a 5oz. fabric of 50% Rayon and 50% Polyester in a mini houndís-tooth design, style 858 or a 5.4oz. fabric of 70% Polynosic and 30% Polyester, style 850. Both styles have pleated backs with loops. She attaches a quilted padded shooting patch to the inside of the shirts that adds comfort while shooting. The shirts do not have any back openings with mesh but are a lot cooler than the traditional cotton shirt of the same style. They are available in a variety of colors. She also has shirts available from North Face and Columbia made from nylon that can be converted to a shooting shirt if you only shoot high gun, as there is a pocket on the right side of most of the shirts. The Columbia and North Face shirts are fishing shirts and would work well and be very comfortable if you shoot high gun. If you can find a shirt you really like for shooting, sheíll make a great shooting shirt for you if you want a standard shooting patch or a long low gun shooting patch.

Cabelaís shooting shirt is also made from a traditional medium weave cotton fabric. It has a patch pocket on the left side without a flap but with a button to help keep things in the pocket. It has a small shooting patch that should be longer for low gun shooters. It had no openings on the backside or mesh panels to help with cooling. It showed quality workmanship throughout.

Youíll have to check with the different manufacturers to see if they make left handed versions of the shirts. Their contact information is listed below.

Beretta 1-800-528-7453
Browning 1-800-234-2069
Bob Allen 1-800-685-7020
Columbia 1-800-547-8066
Cabelaís 1-800-237-4444
Lewis Creek 1-800-336-4884
Linda Schick 1-877-254-3806
Pavilion 1-877-643-9910

Author:
Jerry Sinkovec
photojournalistjerry@juno.com