My buddy TX2Guns over at The Tactical Hermit sent in his take on chest rigs after linking to my last post on the topic of gear for low or untrained people. . He knows his stuff, having been on the two way range a time or two. Read and heed. – NCS

No, not that kind of War Rig….

I recently wrapped up an ongoing project to finish all of my “ESG” or Essential Support Gear (The rigs I use to haul mags and other swag). The 2 main rigs that I use are Chest Rigs and a War Belt. I also have Mag Bags (also called Tactical Diaper Bags or Bandoleers) packed to grab when I have to BUG out in a Survival type situation.

Now God knows there are PLENTY of  other resources out there on the websites and forums by the gear whores on this subject, so I am only gonna show you what I use and then you can tweek it however to meet your mission specific needs.

  1. Chest Rigs

Now at the moment, I have two main chest rigs:

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My Primary FIGHTING Chest rig is a Gen 1 Shihan which holds (4) AK Mags. There are (4) Pistol mag pouches located in front under the two flaps. In these I keep a multi-tool and light and depending on how I am loaded out, I can keep 2 G21 Mags or a spare folding knife and a swedish fire rod. The radio pouch on the left can also fit most cell phones and what looks like a 7.62 mag pouch on the rights is actually my blowout kit. This Shihan rig also has storage in the back for various small items like pad and paper.

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My DM (Designated Marksman) Chest Rig, an ATS Tactical 7.62 Modular which holds  (4) AR-10 (.308) Mags,  The dual pistol mag pouch on the left can carry either (2) G21 mags or a Surefire G2 and a Multi-Tool. The black radio pouch on the right is identical to the one on my Shihan and can carry most cell phones. My Blowout kit is the small utility pouch on the front. This particular rig also has a middle pocket to store small items that is accessible by pulling two tabs apart.

The one perk with having a rig for each fighting rifle is it keeps your ammo and mags in one location and it also makes it much more “grab n’ go” in the event you have to BUG out.

Being that both of my chest rigs are toting .30 Caliber mags is it does not take long for the rig to start getting REALLY heavy. That being said, 3 to 4 Mags is typically all I tote in either. In both rigs I have the option of using one of the mag pouches as a holster that my G21 will fit in perfect, but that is only if I am not going to wear a war belt or standard holster.

So, beside the mags, what else should you carry on a chest rig? Experience has taught me to go with the “minimalist” school in regards to “other” gear, strictly because I have learned that before you go out into the field, having all this stuff hanging off of it SEEMS like a good ideal, but wait until you are a few hours into training or a long 10 mile hike and you will definitely be re-thinking that “great ideal”. That being said, besides lots of Mags, I typically try to have One of the following: Blowout Kit, Multi-Tool, Flashlight, Radio/Cell Phone. And if the mission calls for it, a couple of extra pistol mags.

Blowout/IFAK 

Of all the “other” stuff on your rig besides mags, this is the one piece of kit you should dedicate a tremendous amount of forethought and finance too. I am gonna spend some time on this talking about the contents and positioning and when you are finished reading this, you go do the same with yours!

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Going into the field or the fight with the minimum amount of medical gear to patch either yourself  or your buddy up with could mean the difference between making a trip to the ER or the morgue. As far as the contents of the kit, depending on how big a pouch you want to carry, you can do a simple “Blowout” (or Individual First Aid Kit) that will have everything you need to patch yourself up with, while a “Trauma” kit will have more stuff to treat more than one person. Obviously, if you are working in a Small Unit capacity, your Medic will have a fully stocked Trauma kit, while every man will have his own IFAK/ Blowout kit. Now it should be said here that your kit’s contents should reflect your mission. In other words, if you are going to a 3-day rifle course, in addition to your blowout you should also pack a simple “boo-boo” kit with band-aids, antibiotic ointment, insect bite creams, sunburn ointment, etc. For those of you that have trained in the field regularly, you know that comfort items like the ones mentioned can mean the difference between having a good training experience and a bad one and squeezing every bit of usefulness out of that few hundred dollars you just laid down for training!

You can do a DIY  blowout/IFAK kit fairly cheap and easy, or my buddy Mark over at E3 Solutions has one pre-built that works great.

The PTK 1.0 contains:

  • Package of Quickclot
  • SWAT-T Tourniquet and Pressure Dressing
  • EMT Shears
  • 4×4 Gauze Pad
  • XL Nitrile Gloves

While some folks prefer the CAT Tourniquets, I think the SWAT-T is better for lone application, which in essence, is what the Blowout kit is designed for. The only thing I would add to this kit to cover all your “oh shit” scenarios is an Israeli Trauma Dressing from County-CommThat 4×4 Gauze Pad may work as a napkin, but it sure is not gonna cut the mustard if you spring a major leak!

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Another piece of kit you might consider adding to your Blowout or Trauma Kit is a Rescue Hook. I have used this one from Benchmade for years. Rescue Hooks tend to foul less than EMT Shears, are safer for the patient, and are also quicker to use in a vehicle extrication (cutting seatbelts) if the need arises. Obviously, they are excellent as gear cutters as well and can slice through leather boots and other tough materials, like cordura and canvas, with ease.

Positioning

Being able to access your blowout kit on your rig is paramount obviously. I have seen some guys place it at their 6 o’clock right over their ass, and other place it on their sides. They key thing to remember in blowout kit positioning is what is called the “Diver’s Triangle”

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The Diver’s Triangle is the area between the shoulder blades and the belt buckle. The ideal here is, regardless if you are face down in the dirt or hiding behind an engine block, your Blowout kit will be easily accessible. Worst case scenario is due to bad positioning, (like behind you or on your side) you have to expose yourself to enemy fire to access it..not good. We are trying to plug holes, not create more of them.

The War or Rifleman’s Belt

These are a great option for folks who don’t want to run a chest rig or maybe for somebody who wants to run a chest rig and have the extra gear spread out for weight distribution. There are many varieties and flavors out there, most all of them basically based on the same pattern. A word of advice here: Be sure and choose a belt with a very soft inner liner and a sturdy inner belt. Remember, you are wearing this thing over your existing belt (think of it as a duty belt) so it has got to hold up and be comfortable to boot.

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This is my Padded War Belt  from ATS Tactical. It is still “Under Construction” as I am slowly adding pouches I deem necessary. The next addition will be a few 7.62 mag pouches. The belt comes with 4 ITW Suspender Loop-Locs, so seeing I already had a pair of Spec-Ops Combat Belt Suspenders, I rigged me up some quick release buckles and whammo. ATS Tactical also sells some suspenders that are ready-made to drop in and use though if you don’t wanna go that route.

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The Holster I am using is also a 5.11 VTAC LBE. It is one of the simplest and best built holsters I have found for training. I like the “Slickstick” system 5.11 created for all their MOLLE gear; it is so much easier to mount and take off than the individual straps with snaps! The kydex black sheath to the right of the holster is a Wilson Combat Cop Tool, although very practical to have, I plan on mounting a small fighting knife, maybe my Blackhawk Crucible, as soon as I can get a kydex MOLLE sheath made for it. Other than that, I have a Multi-Tool, Flashlight, Camebak 2L Water Bottle, Dual Pistol Mag Pouch and my Blowout Kit.

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The blowout kit pouch I am using comes from ATS Tactical also. It is their SOF Bleeder PouchIt is perfect size to fit everything you would need and more. Plus the pouch is designed as a “rip away” in the event you need to get the kit off the wounded so you can work on him without having to move him around unnecessarily.

So there it is, quick and dirty. Remember: Mission Drives Equipment, so always look at your gear in that light and adjust accordingly. If you are going to a 2 day Rifle class, you do not need to gear up like you are a Tier 1 Operator in Kunar Province; on the flip side, you always want to outfit your rig to be COMBAT EFFECTIVE in the event you do have to fight for your life when society eventually shits the bed.

Stay Frosty Gents!

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

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