If you’ve already read our Gajardoni review, where we gush over the design choices and quality they’ve put into their jacket, you might be wondering why we’re doing another jacket review.
The answer - we’re doing it for you! Also because the the author has a problem with buying gear and trying out new things, but mostly for you!
The past year or so has seen an absolute explosion in jacket options, typically falling into one of two camps - reducing ouchies (by making the wearer a tank), or increasing mobility (by increasing ouchies).
Gajardoni was the first to really think about targeting protection, rather than blanketing the fencer in armor. And while I had hoped the industry would start to take more of a modular approach to equipment, I wasn’t seeing anyone moving in that direction.
Enter Destroyer Modz.
DM has been making products for a few years now, mostly either modifications to existing gear, or their famous mask covers.
Josh, the founder and designer of their products, has been quietly working on completely new products, with the first being a new jacket.
Is there space in the market for another jacket? If the past two months are any indication, the answer would be a confident yes.
Review Experience / Methodology
I purchased the jacket through a prototype program that Josh offered to U.S. attendees of Sworfish this year. I paid a discounted price for the jacket, in exchange for offering feedback on the garment.
This means that there have been design changes since I purchased the jacket, and I will do my best to clarify where changes were made, and if the change might have altered my opinion.
Disclosure: Josh is a close personal friend of mine, but his business integrity has been consistently excellent since I first purchased gear from him. Members of his club serve on the governing council of the HEMAA with me. In my opinion he has treated me as a stranger the same as he’s treated me as a buddy.
Construction & Materials
The DM jacket is a completely new design - whereas many jackets on the market take strong design cues from the SPES AP Jacket, Josh designed his from the ground up.
The Silverback jacket (which is what I’m going to call it until Josh officially names it as such) smartly puts protection in the most common or risky areas you might be struck in.
A front zip design, reinforcement is located along the spine, and on the sternum. A leather chest adds an additional layer, and makes painful thrusts merely annoying.
There are pockets internally for shoulder joint protection, and elbow padding.
While I kept the shoulder padding in (I’ve been struck strongly in the shoulder joint in a light jacket, and it dropped me like a rock), I did not use the jacket’s elbow protection. Many have found it sufficient, but it’s not rigid, and I’d rather not find out that my elbow protection isn’t up to snuff by receiving an injury.
It also suffers from the same problem as the PBT 800n pants and the Gajardoni elbows - their integrated protection doesn’t fit snuggly to the joint it’s trying to protect, and that mobility can cause unexpected gaps.
(with that said, I’ve used my trusty SPES elbows with no issue)
Also important to know is that a hard elbow will be optional in January, along with a built in gorget.
The reduction of padding also decreases the weight of the jacket - I was suprised when I first picked it up how much lighter it was than many of the other jackets I’ve tried.
While Gajardoni conceptually does something similar, most other jackets on the market are homogenous in the materials they use - multiple layers of padding through the entire jacket.
While easier to design and arguably cheaper to build, this makes for a heavier, hotter jacket. Destroyer Modz, however, takes their targetting protection design paradigm and leverages it to make it one of the best ventilated jackets on the market.
Ventilation - SO MUCH MESH
Their is mesh fucking everywhere in this jacket. While the spine is protected, there are slats of mesh running alongside it.
You might be worried about the lack of total back protection, but you shouldn’t be - in order for this to even remotely become an issue, you’d have to have your back completely turned to your opponent, with them cutting a fully vertical strike against you. And if that happened, I’d hope your coach forced you and your opponent to do pushups until you were blue, because what the fuck were you doing being so reckless?
The mesh is also deployed to the inner arm - in the prototype it extends to the armpit, but after community feedback Josh has fully covered the pits. Again, the inner arms are rarely a target that can be hit with any kind of force, and the increased ventilation is so welcome that the remote risk of an ouchy is acceptable.
Breathability is critical to me - I overheat easily, and since I have sport induced asthma that’s aggravated by overheating, it’s always on my mind. This is hands down the most breathable jacket on the market, while maintaining protection.
While I haven’t worn the jacket at a tournament yet, I’ve worn it during high intensity sparring for over a month now, and it’s performed well.
There are buckles at the wrist to close up the jacket that I’ve found annoying - Elbows and forearm protection are often caught on them when I’m getting suited up, but once I’m geared up I forget about them.
Note: The buckles are being replaced with elastic in the production model.
There’s also a cinch in the back, which I welcome on any jacket, and hasn’t caused me any issues.
While there is also a zipper in the front, the velcro that augments the front zip was too thin in the prototype, and routinely comes undone. This was fixed in the production model.
My jacket was a little tight in the neck, but it didn’t choke me, even with a gorget on. I also have a thick neck, and probably could’ve gotten away with a size up, so take that how you will.
There is a mounting system on both the arms and the shoulder of the jacket. I’ve leveraged it with my forearms and elbow to great success, and I suspect Josh will be coming out with complimentary products in the future. The only downside to the mounting loops is that the shoulders are forward facing - a thrust could theoretically get caught in a loop, but I don’t think this is much of a problem, given the potential of the system.
Fighting in the jacket is fantastic - you feel light, you can feel the heat being pulled off your back, but most importantly you’re not fighting the jacket.
High guards are fairly easy, and hand speed isn’t a problem. Crossed arm work is less frustrating in this jacket than in other ones (although crossed arm work for us stockier folk is always a challenge).
The only design issue I really have with the jacket is that my spes elbows, unless they’re attached to the mounting system, tend to slide down. This is because the jacket tapers at the elbow more gradually than the SPES or other jackets that quickly taper. This is quite minor, as occasionally pushing elbows up is the least of my problems when I’m fighting someone who is beating my ass.
Josh proposed the jackets to the swordfish team and ended orders about two weeks before the event. And when we arrived at the tournament in sweden…there they were.
Josh has always been an excellent business man, and good to the community.
So, here’s the question - am I going to continue to wear this jacket?
Yes, and no.
I still love my gajardoni jacket, and it will be my default tournament jacket for some time. The internal lining of the gajardoni is a dream, and while the DM jacket is quite comfortable internally, the small edge in comfort is going to win out for me in a tournament setting. But when I’m at the training hall looking to get the shit kicked out of me, the DM jacket will keep me cool and collected.
I once described it to someone that if the Gajardoni jacket is a Ferrari, then the DM Silverback is a fully loaded mustang.
Arguably, due to its populist appeal, the mustang is the more iconic vehicle, and if Josh keeps knocking his designs out of the park, DM might become just as iconic in the HEMA community.