After leaving the army you quickly realise just how expensive all the cool shit you’re used to using is, and one big chunk of this for me is my Garmin Foretrex 401. We’re not going to get too deep into the “what do you need a GPS for in airsoft?” argument, mainly because fuck you I do need it, but instead look at the challenge of owning something cool without it getting fucked up by a BB strike.
As I’m sure you’ve all noticed, airsoft isn’t real. For the 99% of us who have firing brain cells it’s a game where you get shot and “die” repeatedly, unlike real life where getting shot is pretty final. This is important in the context of protecting your gear as in real life, if your optic, GPS or even your phone are shot, there’s a good chance it’ll be the least of your worries as you’ll either have a reasonable hole in you, or you’ll be dead. In airsoft you are very unlikely to die for real, and so when your precious bit of glass is shot you are faced with a very big problem, you’ll have to go home and explain to the missus why you’re forking out another couple of hundred quid replacing your broken toys.
This was my biggest worry with my Garmin Foretrex 401. I’d used and seen them used enough to know that they’re hardy little buggers, but I wouldn’t like to risk shooting the screen with a projectile to find out if it can take it. Because of this I began to pursue ways of protecting the 401. While looking for this solution I was also hoping to find a way around the other issue I have with the Foretrex series; they’re bloody uncomfortable. If you’ve never worn one the wide pill shape is to blame, as it extends out past what would be normal to a watch, and so digs into the back of your hand when worn in a normal position on the wrist. To get around this many people either wear it higher on their forearm (in sleeve conflict territory) or take it off completely and have it dangling from their gear. I had opted for the second option, but the screen facing outwards was also setting off my panic about smashing the screen up.
I had actually heard of the Luminae GPS holders some time ago, but completely forgot about them recently and so wasn’t even considering them for my GPS solution. After entering a competition on Facebook I have found myself being bombarded by posts from Kamouflage Ltd, who seem to be a partner business of Luminae. In one of these posts, a man was shown rocking his GPS on a mini navboard type mount off the front of his rig. If anything, it was the tactile “click” each time he opened and shut the holder that had me interested, but the screen facing in design also lined up perfectly with the issues I was having. I reached out to Luminae asking if they would be interested in sending me one of their mounts to review, and they told me to buy one.
The Mount Itself
Upon receiving the mount the first thing you notice is how simple it is. The total sum of its parts are a sheet of kydex, a hinge and spacer, the mounting hardware and two small straps that hold the GPS in place. Everything is tightly screwed together and it does have quite a robust feel to it. It is worth mentioning that the TekLok supplied with the mount isn’t genuine. I’ve spoken with the owner of Luminae about this and he was very open with the information that it is a Japanese clone, used simply because the genuine ones would double the RRP of the finished product. Now for me this is far from a deal breaker, as one of the first mods I did to the mount was to fuck the TekLok off altogether and go with a pair of old Malice clips as mounting hardware instead, but I know some people get funny about this sort of thing.
Installing your GPS is also simple, just unscrew the two cross bars holding your wrist strap in place, slide them out and drop the strap, put the two Luminae straps in the corresponding places and reattach the crossbolts. You then loop the longer top strap over the back of the mount, and loop it through the triglide that is attached to the tail of the bottom strap. This system securely holds the GPS in place on the mount. It is also worth mentioning here that I don’t believe the triglide here is ITW, it is still perfectly adequate however. After using the mount for some time there was one modification I decided to do that meant I had to take the triglide off facilitating some stress testing. The triglide stood up to being placed on an anvil and repeatedly smashed with a hammer. It deformed quite spectacularly but it still retained the strap and so would have still held your GPS, in the end having to be cut off with a hacksaw.
The hinge of the mount is probably its key part, and it doesn’t fail to impress. It feels very solid, as it should do being the load bearing part between your mounting hardware and GPS. It has quite a stiff range of motion which is good for keeping your GPS in the stowed position, and has a very positive friction lock when in the open position. For me I definitely would have liked to have had these positions reversed, with a positive lock in the closed position and simple friction keeping it open. That being said, I understand that this is a new product and is being made from parts that are currently available. As time goes on and Luminae can afford to make their own bespoke parts I would expect to see this change made, and I would be interested to see if it is already a feature on their ATAK boards. With all of the above being said, I have yet to have my GPS drop open while running about and so don’t feel that it is too much of an issue.
Now it’s no secret that I like to fettle with my gear, sometimes for the better, most of the time for the worse, but the Luminae GPS holder is a prime candidate for some bastardising. Firstly, upon arrival I slapped my mount with some woodland gearskin, as it was going to be being used exclusively on my Platatac Peacekeeper.
The second mod came from trying to attach the mount to said Peacekeeper. In my opinion, TekLoks are shite. Unless you’re running 3 gun or a copper on duty, there’s no excuse for not using Molle. For that reason I immediately chucked the TekLok, and bastardised some Malice clips to fit. This actually took very little doing, as the screws for the TekLok fit perfectly through the holes in a Malice clip and so it was attached no problem. What I was finding though was that the Malice clips weren’t holding steady enough for my liking, due to the lack of a pouch to weave through and provide stability. I got around this by drilling into the non-holed side of the clip and using some spare screws and caps to lock the two together. This is far from a perfect solution, but it works, and it works well.
This is a point I raised with the Luminae guys, and they came back saying they make a Molle variant, but it just isn’t on the site. They also explained why the TekLok was still being used. Apparently lots of guys like to attach these to their bergen straps for use while tabbing. Personally I wouldn’t ever stick my GPS on my bergen as it is the first bit of kit that you would drop in a contact, but if used this way purely during phys sessions then there’s no harm in it, and a TekLok is a good solution.
Finally I realised that with my propensity for sniper taping literally everything in existence, I had neutralised the method of loosening the GPS to change batteries. For me personally, I think having to loosen the triglide isn’t the quickest way anyway, and so decided to swap it out for a spare side release buckle I had lying around. Doing this was very simple, it involved simply cutting the triglide off, and cutting a small cap into the webbing bar on the female clip, allowing me to rock it on like a replacement buckle. Then looping the long top strap through the ladder lock on the male buckle and putting the two together, you get an incredibly secure hold and still have the ability for adjustment. Having played with this system since I have found changing batteries to be a breeze, although there is now the added danger of my buckle being smashed by a BB hit (everything’s a trade off).
Actually using it
I found the 401 mount really easy to use, and it fixed my two issues perfectly. I no longer had a 401 digging into my wrist, and there was no way that my screen was taking a kicking. For bonus points, the nav board style of the mount means that it is held at a really nice angle to be viewed hands free, and even though I have mine mounted relatively low, it remains nice and readable at all times. When recommending this to military guys however, I would definitely advise mounting it quite high on your chest for one simple reason; the light.
I spoke to a few friends to get some other thoughts on this and one issue that popped up from the recce guys was that they would prefer to have their GPS on their wrist so they could cover it while using the night light. This is a really valid point, but I think the Luminae mount actually covers it on two counts. If mounted high, you will still be able to make a light tunnel with your hands between the GPS and your eyes, and while this may be somewhat awkward, it’s the trade off of the hands free mount. This mount does however also help to protect from WLND’s, as if you forget to turn your light off on a wrist mounted GPS there will be a glowing orange marker showing exactly where you and your weapon are. Using the mount instead means that if you leave your light on but close the mount, it will still leak out some light but only as a passive reflection, this is a much weaker form of light and so will be less likely to give you away. It’s not a perfect protection from WLND’s but everything’s a trade off.
Who is this for then?
Well as discussed before the recce guys may have their issues with this product, so maybe it’s not perfect for them, I can say with some confidence that it is spot on for vehicle drivers and commanders. The hands free nature plays directly into the remit of those navigating cross country while mounted. As anyone who has tried to keep the commander’s seat of a Land Rover organised can tell you, it descends into chaos pretty quickly. They can also tell you that when offroading in the space shuttle Columbia anything not bolted down is going to go flying at some point. This is where having an admin panel on your chest containing your map, with a Luminae GPS holder sat next to it would be perfect. As the contents of your cab go winging their way around causing minor injuries to anyone in the front seats, you can sit with a smug grin looking at your perfectly stable map and GPS telling your beleaguered driver where to go, until the fire extinguisher jumps up to say hello at least.
For the ground mounted guys I still think this is a relevant product. Even little tasks like holding your GPS horizontal after turning on while it acquires a signal is made infinitely easier by this mount, as you can walk about with it in the open position and still retain two hands on your weapon at all times. This is also the same when looking at a map and using other tools like your compass to plot positions and pull bearings, not having to sacrifice a hand to turn over and view your GPS just speeds up the process and makes your nav experience a bit easier.
I’ll be honest I’ve been blown away a little by the Luminae GPS holder. For sure it has a few teething issues, but what new product doesn’t, and fixing them myself and totally from spare parts couldn’t have been easier. The one single thing I would like to see fixed in future models is the lock open/closed issue, but even that isn’t really a huge drama. If you also struggle with having your GPS dig into your wrist, and instead mount it around the handguard of your rifle or simply dangle it from the wrist strap from the front of your rig then I would definitely advise taking a look at the Luminae mount. It’s a nice system with a lot of promise and works wonders for protecting your Foretrex from damage. The one thing I would advise is to get in touch with Luminae before purchasing and ask for a Molle variant, as TekLoks are crap and should have been left in the 90’s.
If you do want to pick one of these up check out Luminae’s website here, they are also now UK dealers of Platatac goods so added cool points for that! I would also definitely recommend checking out their Instagram, as they are coming out with some cool products aimed at specialist roles like Snipers and JTACs and are just generally cool guys.
Thanks for reading through my Luminae Design GPS mount review, if you’ve got any questions about it or just want to give me the usual abuse then head over to my Instagram and leave them there!