Back in 2008, I started using a load bearing system, geared towards what I believed I would need if I had to not only perform survival oriented tasks, but also to carry fighting gear in a non-permissive and highly isolated environment. Having used this system for the last 13 years, I’ve determined I will be sticking to it, come Hell or high water.
I have tried some other systems in that time, to see if I might want to go back to something like the older LC-2 system, that I used for well over a decade in the military, or maybe even some form of chest rig, that has become so popular. After trying both, my answer to both was a firm, “No.” Although the survival rig portion of this system used to use the LC-2 belt, H-harness, suspenders and buttpack, those parts have been replace by their respective counterparts in the Russian SSO “Smersh” load bearing system.
The Russian SSO SPOSN “Smersh” rig comes as a complete system. I have removed the mag pouches, and added a holster, pistol mags, large knife, radio pouch, an accessory pouch, two 1QT. canteens and an accessory pouch on each side of the buttpack. I also replaced the fastex-type buckle it came with, with an older LC-2 type plastic buckle.
Some advantages of the Smersh rig are these.
- The belt is not as wide as an LC-2, and can pass through normal holster slots.
- The belt adjustment is easier to change, since it’s a velcro system.
- The belt pad is wide in the back and extends part way around the waist, thus supporting the areas where most belt systems get uncomfortable in.
- The suspenders are wider than the LC-2 version, spreading out the load, and they have molle slots for any gear you might want to attach there.
- The suspenders have a chest strap for added support, and they also have a drag handle in the back.
Items on the belt, starting from the left side to right, consist of a holster, large knife, 1Qt, plastic canteen with canteen cup, buttpack with survival supplies and two outside accessory pockets, 1Qt stainless canteen with canteen cup and stove stand, accessory pouch that I carry a FLIR Scout thermal viewer in, radio pouch for a personal two-way radio and a pistol two mag pouch.
If I would be using a vehicle, or felt that the bulk of the survival H-harness would get in the way, I would use my “Battle Belt”. From left side to right, this consists of mini-binos, a first aid dressing pouch with a dressing and a Silva compass, pistol holster, large knife, dump pouch, IFAK (individual first aid kit), 1QT plastic canteen with canteen cup (easily removable if need be) and a three pistol mag pouch. The Interceptor Body Armor pictured with the belt can be worn with the H-harness or “Battle Belt” with which ever vest you are using goes over top.
The holsters I use for my Glock 21 or Beretta M9 are the Safariland ALS or the Bianchi UM -84 full flap military holster. Mag pouches used on the belt are the Spec Ops 2-mag pouch or the Safariland 3-mag pouch. The Safariland “Quick Lock” system is what I use, attached to a Bianchi belt attachment, like that used on the UM-84 system. With this modular mounting system, I can attach any of my ALS holsters for my automatic pistols, or my Speed Beez kydex holster for my 4″ Model 29.
Along with the mag pouches I use for the automatic pistols, I use an M-1 Carbine double mag pouch to carry my speed loaders for my revolver. Two speedloaders are stacked, one on top of the other in each mag pocket. This gives you the ability to carry four speed loaders in the same place I’d carry two pistol mags. Total for G21 mags is 26 rounds, the M9 is 30 rounds and it’s 24 rounds for the revolver in the same space.
There are three large knives I have carried on my belt systems over the years. The first is a Gerber BMF that I have had for a long time. It is a heavy duty, 9″ bladed knife with a chisel type saw back. The second one I have used for a good while now is an Ontario Raider Bowie, which has a wide 10″ blade of the bowie type profile. The third one I have been using a lot, and for almost a year now, is the Cold Steel “Survivalist”. It has an 8″ blade, and unlike the standard type of full tang the other two have, this one is made out of a single piece of carbon steel and has plastic, slab-type, inserts in the handle.
The last part of my system is the “Tac Vest”. This vest holds rifle mags (at least 6), some spare pistol mags, a monocular, compass and strobe, along with an IFAK and a large accessory pouch and a 7″ fixed blade knife. The first one I use, and still my primary, is one that was made by Tactical Tailor. I like it better than any other vest I’ve used, and have been using one since 2004. The Tactical Tailor vest is set up for my 11″ ParaFAL and will carry the FAL 30 round mags.
Other vests I have and use are the “Condor MV Modular Style Vest w/ Molle attachments. I have two of these set up, one for an AR-10 type rifle with a StraightJacket barrel ( I call it a “BAR-H”). I have the regular box magazines in 20 and 25 round capacities, but the primary mags for this rifle are the MagPul 50 round drums.
The second Condor vest is for 20 round 7.62Nato mags and can be used with my M1A or my FAL using steel or aluminum 20 round mags. I will carry up to eight magazines (3 UWGear pouches) and all other pouches and the knife are the same as the above listed Condor vest. The Condor vests also have a large map pocket on each side, inside the vest, along with a camelbak pouch in the back.
The last vest type I use is the military aviation survival vest. I use this for a CMMG Banshee in .45ACP. The pouches are configured like the other vests, and it can carry six extended 26 or 30 round Glock 21 mags. The knife is a Cold Steel OSS, which mirrors the above mentioned Randall in blade shape and length. This vest is the least comfortable of the three types, and while the Tactical Tailor closures are fastex buckles on the front, and the Condor has a zipper and fastex buckles for closure, the Aviator vest only has a zipper. The inner part of this vest has several small pockets for small survival items.
Because they are all molle vests, I can add or change the pouches for other weapons I use. I can put pouches on any of those vests to carry eight AR-15 type mags, eight AK type mags, or four pouches to carry 100 rounds of shotgun ammo. Another advantage of having multiple vests, is the ability to hand them to a trusted confidant, for them to be able to use that weapon beside you.
The point of all these different vest and the belt systems is this. Tailoring your load for what you might face is important. If I’m conducting a reconnaissance, I would not wear my body armor. If I was bugging out on foot, same answer. If I was using a vehicle and wearing my gear in that vehicle, I would not use my H-harness, and would probably use my body armor, with the tac vest for the weapon I was carrying over top of it.
Having modularity in your fighting and survival load is important. You don’t know what you’ll be up against, and having options is the difference between preparedness and having to make your “square peg” gear, fit a “round hole” situation. This system can be applied whether you have one rifle and handgun combination or ten.
"Parata Vivere"-Live Prepared