GEAR: Your load-out options: discussion & comments

After all the recent talk about rucks and gear in general, I think you will be useful to discuss the rationale, the options, and the factors behind how you build your load out.

There are lots of ways and means of doing this. Some of the confusion arises because people have simply not taken the gear out and gained any experience with it. Or, it is because people are copying what they see in the GWOT, or the SWAT, and are simply following without critical thought. You need make sure that how you rig your gear is suitable for what you’re trying to achieve, and also practical.

Granted, much of this comes from a failure of training philosophy. I have banged on about that ad nauseam, so I’m not going to harp on it in this post. All I will say is that if your philosophy for your ‘modern sporting rifle’ is simply home defense, and you think you can get away with a couple of magazines, in taco pouches, on your belt, then we are not playing the same game. If you decide the situation merits the carrying of a battle rifle, otherwise known as a weapon, then you need to gear up in order to feed that weapon. And anyway, the type of home defense these people are talking about would most likely come down to a barefoot, jim-jam clad, grab for their rifle, complete with whatever ammunition is loaded or otherwise attached to it.

This blog is about the application of light infantry tactics by the armed civilian in an unconventional environment. That stated, let’s move swiftly on.

You’re probably aware, as a reader, that I have been pushing the concept of the battle belt. For dismounted light infantry operations, it simply cannot be beaten as the means of carrying both ammunition and a sustainment load. It works well with both a patrol pack and a suitable ruck. But let’s be clear: a battle belt consists of magazine and sustainment pouches. It is a serious piece of gear that will probably weigh around 20 to 25 pounds, much of that weight being what would otherwise have to be carried in a patrol pack. It will sit around your hips and requires a harness/suspenders. I’m not talking about some kind of enhanced duty belt. If you try and use a properly set up battle belt without a harness, you will end up tightening it too much around your hips, to prevent it falling down, and this will be unworkable on operations.

Thus, the battle belt to which I refer is not some kind of super duty belt with a couple of taco of pouches on it. That kind of thing can stay with the three gun crowd. I talk about the battle belt, with photos, in this post: ‘MVT Battle Belt – Evolution.’

As an interesting anecdote: I was just talking to ‘Misfit,’ who has a background in scout sniper instruction. He explained how hard it is to get people to understand the prone. He and I are on the same song sheet about the prone. Everyone is used to doing things from a standing, sitting, or kneeling position. Even your high-speed direct action guys are rigging for stand up room entry type operations. Apparently, most of the guys he has trained, ended up running a battle belt, with the suspenders run under the body armor.That led to further interesting discussion about the lost art of camouflage and concealment. On the GWOT, an interesting observation is that most people operate in a reactive way. They drive or walk around on some sort of patrol until the enemy decides to hit them. Cue war stories. If you can operate as if you are under observation at all times, utilizing camouflage concealment, you can retain the initiative.

But let’s take a step back from the battle belt. Let’s pull back out of rural light infantry operations and approach this by looking at our options:

Current practice in many militaries across the GWOT is to wear a full set of body armor, consisting of soft armor and ballistic plates. This is combined with a lot of movement in vehicles. Given those circumstances, it makes good practical sense to wear your load-out by attaching the pouches to the front and sides of your body armor. Been there done that. This is not actually great for long-term operations, or for long time periods in the prone position. All the weight is strapped into your your upper body, including all the heat and sweat.

Practical notes on all this:

1) With gear rigged to body armor or plate carrier, it is difficult to wear a true battle belt, other than a few bits of gear on a duty style belt. You need to test this out, because you may find that there is a lot of interplay, crashing and banging, between a full body armor vest and the battle belt.

2) You will probably find that putting a pistol on your belt line when wearing full body armor won’t work that well, particularly if you have side plates and pouches. With this kind of rig, you’re probably better off with a drop leg holster.

3) It became cool to wear a handgun on the front of your body armor, up in the center of your sternum. Very ‘tier one.’ However, if you have a handgun rigged in the center of your chest, try patrolling with your rifle. Enjoy. A great idea for sitting on your ass in a Humvee, but not much else. Placing a handgun elsewhere may work better, more in line with the older school cross draw Blackhawk style vests. But those vests lose so much real estate by doing this.

4) Because a full battle belt needs to be lowered around your hips and supported in part by the suspenders/harness, it will not work with the drop leg holster. Unless you remove all pouches from the belt on the holster side, which kind of defeats the object of the battle belt. When running a handgun with a battle belt, it is best to put the holster on the battle belt itself.

5) Some of these issues can be got around by wearing a small plate carrier, which will work with a battle belt, rather than a full soft/hard plate set with side pouches. The smaller plate carriers limit real estate, so for example you may only have four magazines across the front. That’s fine, if you also have a battle belt.

6) In the military, it tends to be the case that you have to be ready to sit your ass in a Humvee for a lot of time. This made battle belts impractical. Because as a soldier you have to carry some kind of sustainment load, that tends to manifest itself with a bunch of pouches on your front. In effect, it is a battle belt sustainment load across your belly and chest. Again, that’s fine for standing, kneeling, and sitting your ass in a Humvee. That tends to go hand-in-hand with larger patrol packs, of the kind that will not go into a ruck, more designed for a three-day style patrols. That in itself is fine, I have talked about this in previous posts, and depending what you are doing you don’t necessary need a full ruck, and can pack light for shorter-term operations.

7) If you are operating in the military way with the front load, it is not necessarily the best thing to do to attach all the pouches to your actual body armor, for example the military IOTV. Why is this? If you are infantryman in an exposed position, for example where you have to dig in under the threat of enemy fire, you want to be able to wear your body armor and helmet while digging in. Someone will be pulling security, and as you work you need your battle vest and rifle close to hand. It is useful to be able to take the battle load off for such tasks. The Army actually issues the FLC, which is actually a really good bit of kit. Despite being in ACU color, which can be rectified with a bit of Krylon spray to dirty it up. The FLC is a MOLLE vest. Just like a chest rig, it will go on over body armor.

8) One of the conundrums as a dismounted battle belt wearer, is the fact that it does not suit for long-term vehicle operations. It doesn’t mean you can’t sit in a vehicle wearing a battle belt, it is just not ideal. I think the main time that this may be a worry is if you are bugging out, or perhaps conducting some sort of convoy operations post-collapse. Profile considerations may enter here anyway, and full camo and a battle belt may not cut it! It is therefore useful to have an alternative rig, such as a low profile chest rig. I don’t even advocate that this should be a plate carrier affair, as you want the option of wearing your plates or not.

9) As someone who primarily intends to be dismounted with the battle belt (and a battle belt works fine on an ATV, or in the back of a truck), I would advocate having a slick plate carrier available for wear as necessary. This slick PC can be worn with the battle belt, with a chest rig, or both. I would then advocate having a lightweight chest rig, something that can hold perhaps up to eight magazines and an IFAK. This can be worn, along with having a patrol pack available, for vehicle moves. If you are bugging out, put the battle belt behind the seat.

As an aside I would advocate that you carry a minimum of eight standard capacity 30 round magazines on you at all times if running a battle rifle. You can go up to 12, or balance that with a number on your person and the rest in your patrol pack or ruck. You can mix up between extra rounds in magazines, and in bandolier’s on stripper clips with a speed loader

10) I am hoping, in conjunction with the guys at UW Gear, to develop a system. I want the system to consist of a full battle belt, a slick PC, and a low-profile chest rig. I would like the chest rig to carry from four up to eight magazines, but perhaps only routinely carry four. The chest rig can be worn in conjunction with the battle belt and the two will not interfere. There can be an IFAK on one side of the chest rig, allowing additional gear to be carried on the battle belt, whether more medical gear or something else. The movement of at least four magazines to the chest rig allows real estate to be freed up on your handgun side on the battle belt. This allows the handgun holster to go on the battle belt without worrying about losing magazine pouches. Alternatively, use a drop leg, and remove the battle belt pouches on the relevant hip that interfere with the the draw stroke. A low-profile chest rig like this will not interfere with the prone position. It will give you options, such as easier traveling in vehicles, or a lower profile by wearing it under a light jacket or shirt. It is not so in-your-face as the full camo battle belt infantry soldier option.

In conclusion, there are a lot of factors to consider when working on developing your loadout. You need to realistically consider what you will be doing. I suggest that although you need the ability to travel in vehicles in a tactical manner, that will not be the priority in a post-collapse environment. You need the ability to wear or not wear your plate carrier. Operating a tactical environment post collapse is a mixture of survival and tactical operations. That is why you need your gear to be rigged to carry a sustainment load, and also allow you to operate in the prone position. It’s not tacticool square range CQB shite. Camouflage & concealment, the ability to take cover in the prone position, the ability to infiltrate and retain the initiative, are vital.

Till Valhalla!