YOU MAY BE SURPRISED TO LEARN that the wing-style BC was invented a long time ago, probably even before the jacket-style BC that took over from the adjustable-buoyancy life-jacket, or ABLJ.
It never took off in popularity, because divers then were hung up on the idea of a life-jacket being the primary function of a BC, and head-up surface support of an unconscious casualty was the main concern.
Even when the BC as we know it was introduced, there was a lot of resistance to the design because of the risk that it might float a diver face-down at the surface.
It took quite a few years for the training agencies to conclude that it was better for divers to avoid such a scenario in the first place, through perfect buoyancy control, than to focus on what to do only after things had gone disastrously wrong.
So lets dismiss the wing-style BC as an anachronism for the moment, and concentrate on what is really needed, especially for commonly undertaken single-tank diving.
You want the air used for buoyancy to migrate to a position high at the back near your shoulders. You want to be able to stow your weights in various places so that your underwater trim is perfectly horizontal.
It would be nice to have some zipped pockets into which you could stow smaller accessories such as a DSMB or pocket lamp. It would be good to have some D-rings on which to hang a reel, or even a couple of sling-tanks.
When you get to the surface and fully inflate the BC, youll need plenty of support low down and round to the front to give armchair-upright comfort.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the conventional jacket-style BC! The tough new Scubapro X-Force is one that ticks all the boxes.

The Scubapro X-Force employs the unique Scubapro stainless-steel cinch-strap that makes swapping between similar-size tanks so swift. It used to be a bit of a pain to adjust the cinch-strap for tanks of varying sizes, but the designers have addressed the problem and now its possibly even easier than using a conventional camband buckle.
The cinch-strap allows you to pull the BC off a tank without pulling it over the top, and consequently needing to remove the regulator first.

The harness runs within the buoyancy cell, and as such is independent of it. It has an adjustable cummerbund with a 5cm webbing belt with pinch-clips over. There are pinch-clips at the shoulder for easy release and easy getting out of the BC, both on land and at the surface, and the shoulder straps are fully adjustable.
There are four big metal D-rings and two smaller ones. The whole thing is man enough to support the weight of two additional 7-litre sling tanks.
The two zipped pockets are not very large, and sadly what capacity they have is reduced when the integrated-weight pockets are loaded.
There is an elasticated sternum-strap, and a hard but lightweight backpack against which the tank is held tight by the cinch-strap.
A slim back-cushion protects you from any discomfort the tank might cause. Two interesting little pockets are designed to hold the bent-double hose of an octopus rig.

Integrated Weights
Im a large person and, once Im in an insulated drysuit and wearing a lightweight 15-litre cylinder, I need 12kg to achieve neutral buoyancy at the surface. I put 4kg either side in each of the two integrated-weight pouches. These are held closed by zips, and held secure by straps with large pinch-clips, so theres no chance of ditching anything accidentally.
I put 2kg in the rear trim-weight pockets on each side. Again, these are held closed by straps with large pinch-clips over large flaps.

Control of Ascent
If youre looking towards the surface as you head up, or even if youre a tiny bit off perfectly horizontal, you can dump expanding air simply by pulling on the corrugated hose that bears the direct-feed control at its end.
Another way is to pull on the toggle that is connected via a cord to a dump valve at the opposite shoulder.
If youre heading downwards head-down,
and need to leave the surface in a hurry, a dump valve is positioned at the outside of the jacket at the lower back, and if you prefer to do your ascents while horizontal, this valve is perfectly positioned to facilitate that.
You never need to use the oral-inflation valve except for oral inflation of the BC. Those who believe that these dump valves will release all the air in one go simply havent tried it.

Surface Support
Fully inflated at the surface, there was no sign of any discomfort caused by torso squeeze as the buoyancy cell inflated outwards.
It held me comfortably high off the surface in an upright stance, and I was comfortable doing long surface swims, both head-down forwards and head-up backwards.

Buddy Explorer, £362
Seaquest Pro QD, £469
Seac-sub Pro 2000 SWS, £399

PRICE £369
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Yes, with trim weights
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