More on Body Armor/Personal Load Carrying

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January 18, 2013

I posted previously on body armor and gear:

HERE, HERE, HERE

Lots of Ammo. Lots of pouches. Heavy.

I’ve been giving it some more thought and reviewing my own tactical load carry set-up. You all know that I have a military and security contractor background. That has taught me, perhaps unhelpfully,  that a full set of body armor is good; a full rig of soft armor inserts and ballistic plates. It is heavy and gives you a permanent sweat soaked undershirt in any kind of warm weather.

However, as discussed previously, the threat in a collapse/civil war situation is different. Mainly, we are not facing IEDs etc. The main threat is from rifle rounds. Pistol rounds are a threat but in general a pistol is not accurate in most people’s hands. The soft armor in your body armor will only stop handgun rounds and shrapnel.

Full body armor is also restrictive and heavy. Heavy is something you can’t get away from when you are carrying ammo and all that you need to fight. But there are degrees of it.

It comes down to a risk assessment. Yes, you can get shot by a handgun and you can also be shot by a rifle in one of the many places where your plate does not protect you. There is no magic pill for this, firefights are dangerous. As an example for the thought process, look at armored vehicles:  they are designed on a balance of firepower, protection and mobility. You should adapt those principles to your set-up. If you reduce protection, you increase mobility. There is no point being protected if your physical fitness does not allow you to move about wearing your heavy full gear. You will soon be exhausted,  you will cut corners, you will get tired/lazy/complacent and you will expose yourself.

There are a couple of other considerations in a civilian environment. Firstly, you want a rig that is practical and that you will actually wear, even when it is hot, for extended periods of time as the collapse or civil war draws out.

It was also brought up that wearing a full set of body armor may make you feel less vulnerable than you are. This may be true, particularly when only the plate portion is giving you ballistic protection from rifle rounds. Wearing a full heavy rig was always for me a sort of comfort blanket, a coping mechanism  When you are going out everyday facing threats from IEDs and small arms fire, putting on the heavy gear was a sort of psychological comfort, you could sort of persuade yourself, like a ritual, that it would all be OK. Because otherwise, you wouldn’t want to go out; and the other option was insanity!

So I am putting down here a recommendation for a way to rig your gear. Take it, or parts of it, or leave it. This is not about makes or brands of gear, just how to rig it up.

1) Battle Belt: This is your basic load. Get a tactical belt and one of those padded battle belts with the MOLLE attachments. Rig it up simply with perhaps three double AR-15 magazine pouches on the one side, and your handgun on the other. Have a triple handgun magazine pouch and also a rolled up dump pouch on the back. Keep pouches off your back so you can sit in a vehicle. You can put other items on, such as a knife or multi-tool or whatever. CAT tourniquet.  Just keep it light. This should be a comfortable battle belt that forms the lowest line of your gear, it can be worn at all times and with your rifle slung you have enough ammo to be going on with, plus your handgun as backup.

2) Plate Carrier: Just get a lightweight plate carrier. Simply have front and rear ballistic plates, no soft armor. The carrier should have enough real estate on the front to fit four double AR magazine pouches across the front.  Keep this rig light with perhaps just a few ancillary pouches/CAT tourniquet You can put an IFAK on this PC, or you can put it in a grab bag if it gets in the way (or put it on the battle belt). This plate carrier will give you the protection from rifle rounds that counts. It will also be relatively lightweight and allow freedom of movement  It won’t be a complete chore to wear, and will allow you to sweat and lose heat where the plates are not. If you desire, you could also put side rifle plates on a  rig, if you had the right rig and wanted to. Put a camelbak on the back if you want. Just don’t overload it! This rig will be lighter and make you feel less protected. Good! It is also low profile enough to be worn under a jacket or shirt if necessary, for a little bit of profile reduction.

The combination of a  battle belt and a plate carrier gives you the versatility to adapt your posture to the situation, ramping up and down your readiness against the perceived threat.

3) Grab Bag/Daypack: This can be in the form of a satchel type ‘man bag’ or a daypack. I prefer the daypack, it sits better on you and is better for any period of time dismounted  You can keep this daypack in your vehicle, on your back if you are patrolling, or sitting next to your stand-to position at your retreat. The type of thing that you will carry in the daypack is not limited to the following: ammo resupply, water, medical, food, ancillaries incl. weapon cleaning kit. Batteries, night vision or thermal if you have it. Spare clothing: socks, wet/cold/hot weather as appropriate. Pack for the situation and mission. But don’t let it get excessive: its not your complete ‘bug-out bag’, it just contains some basic mission essentials.

Physical Fitness: you may note with some sarcasm that even though I say ‘light’, I am still talking about a rig with ballistic plates, 14 rifle magazines, handgun, three handgun magazines, and that is not to mention putting the ‘go-bag’ on. But it’s relative  You could be carrying much more, and wearing much more restrictive full body armor. Bottom line, reality check, is that you need to have a basic level of fitness if you are contemplating taking part in a firefight. This is not about sitting on the front porch, swilling beer and taking the occasional pot shot. So yes, I mean ‘light-er’ than it could be, but you must train to a decent physical level where you can move around in this gear.

Of course, you don’t need to have any ballistic protection at all. But I highly recommend it , if you can shell out the cash for a couple of ballistic plates to put in a PC. If you can only afford the PC outer cover right now you can rig it as a tactical vest and if you are still standing after that first firefight, there may be some freebie plates  lying around for the taking.

Using ballistic plates will significantly reduce the risks of a penetrating wound to the torso HERE, which will be beyond your basic lifesaving ability to do anything for. If you can get them, do.

21 Comments

  1. Thanks for the list and tips. This will be helpful to me someday. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Anonymous says:

    All this “high speed warrior” stuff is great and all. BUT, it costs a S*** load ‘O money, is heavey as hell,and realy not avalable to your average CIDG. You Aveage Guy in the US has kidds he won’t leave, a house, a wife. If he is to defend his AO(likely his street and any nearby farm land) He’ll likely have an military SA rifle clone or deer rifle(IF his group is lucky a few service rife shooters) older field gear and shovels + chainsaws. Teaching this guy/group to form a working defence line with “bomb proofs” and “dugouts” for the wife and kiddies, will keep them alive one hell of a lot longer than teaching them how to do a “shoot and scoot” or a convoy firefight. The other factor in this is hunger, and the progressive weekness that gos with it. Once the chow gets short the heavy gear starts to go in the ditch. Sooner than later Your Troopies are humping nothing they can’t eat shoot or make go “BOOM”. Me I’v little money to spend so its Beans and bullets for me Mate.

    • Max Velocity says:

      I find this comment very frustrating. I think it misses the mark of what I am trying to do here by a barn door. With the stroke of a pen it lumps me into the ‘tacticool’ club of those who are simply trying to teach ‘high speed’ stuff.
      If you read, for example, ‘Contact!’ or my new novel ‘Patriot Dawn’ you will see that considerations of reality, families, all that are taken into account. The whole purpose of ‘Contact!’ was to translate what I know fro a military/contractor perspective into something that can be used in a domestic collapse/civil war situation by real people who live in real houses and have real families.
      Even this post is directed at a realistic view of how to set up your gear.
      Really?

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank You… how about a rig set up for children? I train my children to fight if I go down and only have so many weapons that I can carry. 3 for me 2 each for them. They are verse in shooting each weapon in hand, my concern is body Armor for them… I really do Appreciate your input and thought Max. I never served in the military but have been trained in urban gorilla warfare and tactics if all hell breaks loose… I just want my children to be safe and fight if they have to protect themselves….

  3. Anonymous says:

    I like that you mention physical fitness, it’s the one prepp that only costs time and the most ignored one.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Anonymous says:

    7 weeks ago I ordered from AR500 armor an inexpensive PC with steel plates, and last week received an email saying they were swamped and the order would be delayed. I certainly hope its not a scam outfit, they certainly ran the card fast enough.

    Its a slim line outfit that will fit under a Carhart jacket in cold weather. It might be useful as you say psychologically in helping a person actually go out and do what has to be done. Such as my family having to do a break contact from our house where I actually would have to leave cover and meet a force before they fix us.

    thanks for your work

  5. riverrider says:

    max, thats a very good setup if i’m patrolling kandahar streets but way too heavy for day to day activities. i look to the insurgents and survivors of previous things like south africa. they run light, very light. if i’m working on my garden or fences or whatnot, i can’t be loaded like that. if i have the manpower, i could have a guy decked out, in overwatch. i figure a pistol and 2 mags on my belt, an m4 with an extra mag on the stock or in my pocket will get me to my full battle-rattle, and allow freedom of movement to do my chores etc. here in the eastern woodlands, speed is preferable to armor, at least for my situation. love what you’re doing though. just got contact!, and patriot dawn. plan on reading them next week.

    • Max Velocity says:

      Read it again 😉
      The battle belt is based on a more ‘old school’ approach; the ‘web gear’ that we used to wear. The battle belt carries your handgun + mags. It also carries 4 or 6 rifle mags, depending on what you want, and an empty dump pouch in case you expend them. That is a lightweight set-up. If there is a threat and you are out on your land, you need to have your rifle with you, even if slung on your back.
      Wearing the battle belt is how you do chores. You wear it all the time. It should be pretty light, and with the padded belt it is comfortable.
      You reserve the plate carrier for response to an attack, or if you are going out on a patrol/mission or whatever. But to reiterate, you still keep it light. You need to wear it, not leave it in the house because it is too hot and heavy.
      Bottom line is you need the basic fitness and determination to wear/carry this gear or you will lose out.
      Look on this concept as a modular approach. Battle belt for chores, battle belt and PC for combat! Add go bag/daypack for patrolling or vehicular movement
      As I said in the post, take or leave the advice, just make it work for you.
      I will say that you have to balance totally light versus being adequately equipped and protected for what may come down the pipe. The post is about helping people find that middle ground.

    • riverrider says:

      point taken, thanks

  6. I have both first versions of “Contact!” and “Rapid Fire”. I think MV did a good job approaching almost all of the topics that could be approached as a such with a “cost / benefit analysis” attitude. Also I think “Contact!” did an excellent job relaying tactical knowledge and wisdom for guys who might never have picked up anything more than their deer rifle, let alone gone out on a combat patrol before. That being said, it was far from a “high speed warrior” toned book (as well as all your other posts). It really did speak to the common man, I thought.

    I would humbly offer this to (Anon Jan18 6:24am): I was confused with your post. I don’t know what you are insinuating by “High speed warrior stuff”. I can only assume you mean that the original post does not take into account the average man. If my assumption is correct, I would respectfully disagree with you. Both books of MV’s that I’ve read, and all posts, have spoke to the common man (as the audience preparing on a tight budget) to defend his family and liberties. Also woven in there many times is the following type of comments:

    “It comes down to a risk assessment.” – perfect example of a level headed approach in this post.

    You’ve got to stay alive against threats and you also have to feed mouths. No doubt about it. There’s nothing to defend if the mouths starve to death. But who will defend the mouths without the proper tools? Balance in everything. And that’s what I’ve taken from MV as a writer.

    One of the best ideas that was impressed upon me by a former combat instructor is this . . . “do what you can, but if you can afford it, try doing a little more, your family will thank you in the long run.”

    I think all MV is suggesting is the “little more”. There’s a lot of guys out there who want to do “a little more” and don’t know where to put those efforts or resources.

    Good stuff MV.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “i look to the insurgents and survivors of previous things like south africa. they run light, very light.”

    Uh, they ran light because there was no true Soviet body armor and the in fact, the Soviets would have never given them any but the cheapest old stuff they had.

    Because a third world insurgent does things a certain way, doesn’t mean you should.

    They don’t use ATVs, should you?

    They don’t have Gen 3 NV, should you?

    They don’t have solar chargers, should you?

    They don’t have good boots, should you?

    The biggest point MV is making is that you really, really need to be in shape to even start to fight. If your out of shape, and you don’t have to be fat, then that basic insurgent weighs too much for you even.

    Oh, and dump the pistol for more rifle mags.

    • riverrider says:

      where you gonna get gas/batteries/boots months into the collapse? i don’t care how much body armor you wear if you aren’t moving fast you’re gonna get hit. any hit is as good as a chest hit when theres no medivac/hospital. the average survivor is a better shot, with better equipment than haji, but i wasn’t talking strictly haji, the farmers of south africa, the rhodesian scouts, ira, any insurgent/counterinsurgent you want to pick. many of those were funded well enough to wear armor but didn’t. all that gear slows you down, i don’t care if you’re mr. universe. one round catches up to you, all that gear was for nothing….. and all that ammo? how long you gonna last without air cover/arty/reserves/dustoff/etc….dump the pistol? you never had a stoppage in mid fight? or run dry with haji in hand grenade distance? you’ll want that pistol, if nothing else to eat the last round before capture. i can’t imagine what awaits a pow post shtf….you better be hauling ass, fast and light, and preferably unseen. but i’m not contracting nor bodyguarding, just surviving. and i’m not running anonymous either.

  8. Curtis says:

    Folks, does anything else matter if you are dead?

    The road to hell is also paved with… softness and fluffy.

    Don’t be the average guy next door.

  9. Been trying to figure out my loads so this is timely:

    At very minimum there will be the EDC on my person, which can include a CCW pistol, extra mag, minimal wallet stuff, a little folding knife, a multitool, tiny flashlight and a lighter. This will be on a belt under my clothes and a little wallet like one of those around the neck wallets people wear traveling.

    Then an EDC that can convert to a battle belt but also look kind of like a big purse (I’m a girl). Settled on a plain black nylon messenger bag that is skinnier top to bottom than a laptop bag and I’ll put an army surplus pistol belt coiled up inside it (the kind with a giant plastic click buckle) with some homemade pouches Alice clipped or tied with paracord on it. This will have a bunch of survival stuff, a mini SERE kit, water, clif bars etc.

    I also like to wear cargo pants, and don’t knock the pockets, they’re great and can spread a whole bunch of stuff out so you can carry lots of junk without looking like you are. As a girl I sometimes have to look girly though, and so I’m going to design a girly version of the utilikilt for occasions when I have to wear a skirt.

    This would be in addition to a GHB day pack with food etc. and a pair of boots in the car.
    I avoid camo patterns as being too obvious for “urban gray man” wear, but I do wear a lot of drab colors. My poncho is camo though. It doubles as a tent.

    Battle load, which stays at home until I ever need it which I hope is never:

    Battle rifle (duh). Bigger pistol, with 3 mags. Leg rig.

    Hydration bladder. I have a civilian/hiking kind with backpack straps and it’s gray with a bright orange zipper. That needs to get covered up or colored dark, and a couple loops added still.

    Plate carrier: I bought 2 10×12″ 550 steel rifle plates on ebay last year for like $65 each, sewed my own plate carrier and made it a knockoff of the PIG carrier. The Velcro and webbing was the most expensive part, but I waited for a half off notions sale at the fabric store. I used nylon outdoor upholstery fabric remnants. For straps I bought a used ALICE pack Y-strap and cannibalized it. Also added Kevlar fabric as a spall guard duct taped to the plates. Total cost around $230 but that also included extra fabric to make a couple Marine style rifle shooting jackets. One is going to be brown paisley! hehe, fashion camo for girls.

    So now I’m looking for a 1″ click buckle for one shoulder of the P.C., and making pouches.

    Some guy on survivalblog.com has me way outdone for cheap, he made a plate carrier out of those recycled woven plastic shopping bags. I note that Aldi has tan ones, and they also have the cheapest groceries around, hint hint for preppers. Although the usual plate carrier has the plate coming in and out at the bottom and held in with Velcro flaps, you can just put 2 plates in these bags from the top, and tie paracord to them to make shoulder straps and duct tape some strips of old T-shirts as padding around them. Then tie or duct tape it around your waist. You could make a hobo plate carrier that way for like $5, and spend your money on ammo instead.

    For little kids armor, just get a 6×8 steel side plate or two, for bigger kids maybe an 8×10 plate or two, and sew something up like I did.

    I hope I have sparked some ideas.

  10. I believe Mountain Guerrilla has also discussed battle loads. Typical army ammo load is 210 rounds of rifle ammo. A guerrilla might want to carry less, for mobility and you won’t be so much spraying and praying like current army doctrine, but sneaking and sniping and possibly trying to pass yourself off as a noncombatant sometimes. Also if you are placed in the position of the rebel you won’t get re-supplies unless you steal them. You will want multiple caches too in case one gets busted and so you don’t have to keep going back to the same place. Armor can slow you down, I guess you’d have to try it and see. Steel plates weigh 8 lbs apiece or so. Ceramic is lighter but a lot more expensive. Water is also heavy at 8 lbs a gallon. I would carry as little else on the plate carrier besides mags as possible, that way if you have to ditch the carrier cause it’s too heavy you aren’t losing your survival stuff with it. Put it on the battle belt.

  11. Mr. Jimmie says:

    Good day! In this entry did you use the information from any extra researches or here are fully your personal thought? Waiting forward to hear your answer.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Max,

    I know there is no easy answer to the LBE question but what are your thoughts on the components of the USGI ACU basic rifleman kit like those sold as surplus here?

    http://www.unclesamsretailoutlet.com/New-MOLLE-II-ACU-Rifleman-Set-8465015250578-p/2466.htm

    Yours,

    M1 Tanker 1987

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m not max, but ACU is fantastic camouflage if your AO is a gravel pit, otherwise, it’s total sh!t.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Color can be easily be altered w/ spray paint if SHTF. I was more wondering about the utility/configuration of the set up. Another consideration is the price – when right now $ is going to ammo. The riflemen set from USRO has many components in one package deal.

    If you hate it ok, but when balanced against above listed considerations I was wondering what everyone thought.

    Any specifics or detailed analysis would be appreciated.

    M1 Tanker 1987

    • Anonymous says:

      Max,
      Disregard above! Been working through your blogs and found my answer and learned much as well.
      M1 Tanker 1987