The first piece of tactical gear Shadow Equipment owner Sean Parker ever made was a set of sling silencers. Parker was hanging out with a buddy who complained that his QD mounts jingle-jangled on his AR. Parker saw that the solution was simple.
“I bought some elastic, folded it in half and stitched it a few times,” he said. “My friends bought a bunch of them. I only spent $10 on materials, and this was fun. I thought maybe this could be a thing – a way I could get more into the gun community, since I don’t have an aerospace degree to make firearms.”
Shadow Equipment was born, and Parker has been on the cutting edge of high-quality tactical gear ever since.
Parker, 34, is somewhat of a rarity in the tactical gear world. Before we spoke, I assumed he had a background in special operations or law enforcement, since his products are definitely made for professional end-users. He has neither. Parker has an arts degree from the prestigious ArtCenter College of Design – an intensive three-year program that “prepares artists and designers to share their creativity with the world.” Parker is definitely sharing his creativity, and the medium he has chosen is Multicam, Multicam Black and Multicam Arid. His “art” has created a lot of buzz and interest among folks who demand the best.
Today, Parker is a one-man operation – think boutique tactical. He still has a day job as a project manager for a construction firm building custom homes, but evenings and weekends are devoted to his tactical gear passion.
“I went to art school, so I have this creative thing that needs fulfilling. Construction was getting old. I wasn’t feeling like I was allowed to be creative,” he said. “Now, I do everything: product photography, maintain the website, make and package products, develop new products, assist with prototype products for other people and work as a design consultant.”
His expertise did not happen overnight. Parker is self-taught, so he purchased and examined scores of chest rigs and other pieces of tactical gear.
“With my art background I can visualize how to put things together and how to improve upon what’s been created in the world,” he said. “Each product goes through various iterations before it’s released onto the market.”
If you’ve always had an idea for a piece of custom tactical gear, Parker’s Boise-based firm can make it a reality.
“I do custom stuff all the time – it’s about half of what I do,” he said. “A lot of people want a one-of product.”
Like all American tactical gear manufacturers, Parker knows there are cheaper imported options available on Amazon.com and other websites. Most of these Chinese imports couldn’t withstand the rigors of an Airsoft match, much less real-world use, but Parker said these $20 rigs can serve a purpose.
“They’re good for trying to figure out what you want – how many pouches do I need and where do they need to live on my body,” he said. “A full chest rig is expensive, and that can be a barrier for a lot of people. ‘Do I want to get into this thing?’ That’s why my products are modular, so they can get into it slowly, without a financial barrier.”
Parker sent me a Multicam Arid chest rig to review. It’s four components – placard, harness, back strap and mag insert – would have a combined MSRP of $154.80.
It will be the last chest rig I’ll ever need.
It’s minimalist and modular, which I prefer, so it’s easily expandable given the recent interest in larger recce loadouts. The cuts are incredibly precise – Parker uses a laser cutter. It’s over-stitched so nothing will ever blowout, and it’s very, very light.
The rig takes about a second to doff and don, and it is far more comfortable than anything I’ve used before – period. More importantly, the rig stays put, with or without the backstrap. I will run the rig independently, but it could easily be added to a plate carrier.
All of Parker’s components come with a lifetime guarantee.
“I’ll fix it, for life, but I have never had anyone return anything yet,” he said.
Bottom line: I highly recommend these products.