Today I want to go over some tactical gear, nothing in particular, just some thoughts on harness’s, armor and what I have called for years “deuce gear”. (the Marine Corps slang term) Pictured is some old deuce gear from way back before my time. My Grandfathers era. While it has changed the uses are still the same. Trying to carry all of that junk and employ it as efficiently as we can.
So if you read my series called “Food for Thought” we went over several topics that follow the crime and disaster preparedness theme. This is going along that route. I talked about weapons, stashes of them and mind/body conditioning. One thing I did not discuss much was how are you going to carry all that stuff? It starts with a well thought out and tested set of deuce gear.
I thought we would start with clothing and move out from there. I want to start by saying that we do not need to get hung up on labels here. Nothing against the high priced super commando operator stuff but USGI surplus and stuff from cheaper companies often times works just as well without the ridiculously high prices. Examples would be $100 slings or $40 mag pouches for instance because they have a particular name on them. Waste of money as far as I’m concerned. If you want that great, have at it but the point here is to set up a QUALITY, efficient gear setup without breaking the budget. There’s plenty of good gear out there most people can afford. So lets talk about some of it.
I’m going to approach this from an “end of the world” or military combat point of view so we will start with clothing. Now if I went to the closet and counted there is probably 20 plus sets of USGI issue cammies from over the years hanging there. Woodland camo in 2 fabrics, Mar-pat woodland and 3 kinds of desert patterns and a set of Vietnam style tiger-stripes just because I love that pattern. I really don’t think USGI uniforms can be beat for the cost. There’s literally millions of them available. They are tough and except for the Army ACU pattern they all blend pretty well. That Army ACU pattern I would avoid in clothing unless all you want to do is hide in a gravel parking lot then it probably works pretty well. It almost seems to “glow”. It was a 5 billion dollar mistake and they know it as I understand they have a new style coming already I think they are calling “multi-cam”. From the pictures I’ve seen it looks to be very effective. I’d stick with woodland or desert digital if you can but don’t forget in a bad situation spray paint can also go a long way to blend your gear. I have been and 10’s of thousands of other guys have been doing it forever. If you don’t want to buy genuine US uniforms which do cost a bit more then look at “Propper” and “Tru-Spec” cammies. They are tough enough and can be had for $60-$80 a set. Tru-Specs are “Gunny Approved” if you know who he is as I suspect most of us do. I got some in 3xl from both companies to fit over top several layers of cold weather gear. I have been happy with the quality from both companies. Additionally they come in sizes for the big boys that are often times nearly impossible to find in USGI uniforms. Due to weight lifting I waited over a year for new desert digital because they simply weren’t any in my size and I was on active duty! So the Tru-Spec and Propper may be the answer for you.
Body Armor: That’s the next layer after your cammies. I have a 2 different options I own and have/do use. I have a Point Blank Army vest I bought in 3xxl. I needed that size and its VERY hard to come by armor that big which is why I bought an Army ACU pattern vest. It fits. I out grew my last Marine Corps armor. So there is a few ways you can roll here. For law enf. tactical team work I think armor and gear pouches can be set up all in one piece. You get it out of your trunk, do your job, take it off and put it back, go home. With military or a “rainy day” situation you will find yourself living in it for who knows how long. For this reason I like to keep things “modular” so to speak. If I’m going to be living in my gear I want the option to drop the armor without removing every single pouch on it. You would probably find that in a combat situation you have plenty of times when your dying to drop that weight. So when you can, take it off but when you walk off to eat, pee or whatever it is unwise to go unarmed. That’s when having a separate vest that goes over top your body armor is a nice thing to have. Just slide on your ammo vest and go do your thing. Leave that 40lbs of body armor off for awhile or you’ll end up with all the pinched nerves I have. I cannot tell you what’s best for you. I can say I like the military body armor from either the Army or Marines for protection. For comfort…well… it beats being dead but it has done permanent nerve damage in my neck/shoulders and lower vertebrae. It took 3 years of pretty much nonstop living in the stuff to do that but it definitely can happen to you. I’ll just leave it at that.
I also like a concealed III-A soft vest with a plate carrier added to it over-top your clothing for Level 3 and 4 protection. Essentially you just made what the military uses anyway, a soft Kevlar backed up by Level 3 hard plates. It’s just that it’s in 2 pieces with this second option. THEN add a harness or tactical vest over-top your plate carrier so you can ditch that carrier and still have your gear and Level 3-A protection. It might sound like a lot of layers/hassle but it really is not. You will LOVE being able to drop some gear/weight whenever it’s appropriate to do so. Again I won’t try to tell you what is the best kind. Just remember to buy armor that is made in the USA from a reputable maker. I draw the line at 3-A protection from soft armor which is usually good for up to 44 mags and buckshot. You want Level 3 plates at least for stopping 5.56 and 30 cal rifle rounds like AK’s and 308’s.
Web Vest and Pouches: This is the harness/vest that’s going to go over-top your body armor. Like I said before I like it separate so I can wear only that. I don’t see a need to buy a $200 on up web vest. I just don’t, not when the USGI MOLLE II Load Bearing Vest w/Zipper is such a tough, user friendly and CHEAP piece of gear that one size fits all. Your going to drop $20 on a new one on eBay and never wear it out. I have half a dozen of these things, all set up to individual weapon packages depending on what I want to carry weapon wise. I have some set up for each AR, a couple for 9mm Uzi/mp5, 1 for shotguns, 2 for 308’s. You can tailor make this vest for your own weapon and gear choices by simply adding whatever pouches you want to it for your own stuff. Again no need for super expensive pouches. Lets go into that a bit further.
Pouches: There’s about a billion choices but it’s pretty safe to say that even the most beat up, used, dirty USGI crap on eBay for 99 cents still has plenty of life left in it. I like for mag pouches the Army ACU 3 mag pouches (which I spray paint) with the snaps. These work well vertically or with a horizontal plate put in which I use on my right side mags to make them easier to reach with my left hand. My other fave is of course the Marine Corps 2 and 3 mag pouches. They are Velcro and I really don’t have a favorite between the two. Either modern issue pouch works great and both attach with the MOLLE straps. I have heard some concerns that Velcro will “give away their position to the enemy”….REALLY?? This is your worry?? If you’re going for a fresh mag didn’t your firing off 30 rounds kind of clue your enemy you were in the vicinity?? I think it did. Last there’s still nothing wrong with the older 3 mag pouches we started out with back in the day. They stick out further but I still use some of them. They use the old metal clips to attach but still slide right onto a vest with MOLLE straps. Wrapping up mag pouches I like 12 mags. A basic combat load is usually 7 but I have had days where I fired more than that. Better safe than sorry I think. The number that’s right for you is up to you though. Carry as many or as few as you think you need.
Other Pouches: Access your needs, what are they? I like an “ass pack” in the back for odds n ends. Also known as a “butt sack”. You can keep a rain poncho, food, whatever you want. I think the ass pack is a must have. There’s always something you wish you had with you. I like to keep a bottle of Dr. Pepper in mine. There’s nothing worse than waking up on 1 hour of sleep with that God awful no sleep taste in your mouth and having to drink nasty, stale water first thing. That swig of “home” can brighten your whole day. Another item I always carried was a small Coleman camp stove, small bottle of fuel and a baggie of instant coffee. You’ll be amazed by 2 things. How much better your crappy day is with hot coffee and how many friends you have when your the only guy standing around in the middle of nowhere with a steamy canteen cup of hot joe.
I also use 3-5 pistol mag pouches. Usually only 1 spare pistol mag and the others for a leather-man tool, folding knife, flashlight and a spare pouch for something small like a protein bar. Again the USGI single pistol mag pouches are like a buck a piece brand new. I also like the Condor brand double and triple pistol mag pouches. A well made piece of gear for under 10$.
Hydration: I am a thirsty dude. I usually try to keep 1 gallon of water on my vest. A 2 quart Camel-Back and 2 USGI quart canteens. This all stays on my back or sides toward the rear of the vest. Reason being that 10lbs of gear and water helps even out some of the weight of ammo and gear on your front. Heavy gear is hard work. Heavy gear that’s totally out of balance is murderous on your body. Trust me on this one. Surplus camel-backs and qt. canteens are dime a dozen on eBay. I recently purchased 6 more brand new canteens and covers for 24$.
Handguns: I like to have a handgun on me, a pistol helps me be lazy. I say from my personal experience though it’s unlikely you will use it for fighting. It’s about as likely in a combat scenario as using a knife to kill somebody for your average troop. Why would you want too anyway when you are packin’ an M-4 carbine or similar rifle/shotgun?? Makes no sense to me to choose a pistol over a long gun when you know an engagement is coming.
Handguns do have their uses, though it mostly comes back to laziness or needing a break from the weight for your average Joe. The same reasons you wanted to drop the armor, you want to drop that rifle and gear vest. So if you do and you walk away to do whatever at least you have something on you. It’s great for taking a break and possibly as a faster response weapon if you are sleeping. Maybe. You should have had security set up though before going lights out so that use is dubious at best. The point here is I generally keep the handguns seperate from everything else on most of my gear and use a “drop leg” rig that way you can take off everything and still be armed. It’s nice to have when going to eat or find the little troopers room. A multitude of drop leg holsters out there, just google it and find one for your weapon. I use an Eagle I have had for probably 10 years. To even out the weight I often have used a drop leg magazine pouch on my left leg. It helps keep your load balanced and provides you with 2-3 more rifle mags if you happen to walk away from your gear but carry your rifle, also when in the prone position I find it often times easiest to reload out of it because your laying on your other mags. A drop leg mag pouch can be quite useful and cheap.
Knives: I believe in a heavy duty utility fixed knife. Bayonet charges are from days gone by. Find something heavy duty and put it wear you can reach it. Pretty much enough said on that. I like the Cold Steel Recon Tanto. Check out the review of that knife here on TGR.
Medical Kit: Last piece of gear to discuss, hopefully you don’t need this one. Find a used, current USGI kit that still has all the contents. Add anything you think you might need. (anti-acids are a big one for me) After that put it somewhere on the rear of your harness out of your way. If you need it you’ll probably have somebody taking your gear off you anyways. If somebody else needs it then — USE THEIRS! Yours is for you. You don’t want to use up your med supplies on your buddy, have him evac’d out then you get hit but his kit went with him and your S.O.L. Mine was used on me in an ambush in Iraq. Then the Govt. in its infinite wisdom had the nerve to bill me for it 2 years later but had yet to find the lost paperwork for my Purple Heart. Nice!!! 🙁 Eventually both got straightened out but not surprisingly they put much more effort into trying to get me to pay for that kit than they did finding my Purple Heart orders.
Training: Now you should pretty much have an assembled vest. Spray paint it with flat camo spray paint if its ugly, ACU, mixed an matched, doesn’t match your terrain or you just want too. Then seal it with a flat clear coat. I think that camo jobs I have done on some stuff turned out pretty sweet and blended perfectly. Now the time has come to train, train, train with it. My recommendation is filling up all your pouches with the gear that it’s for and doing some dry UNLOADED (obviously) runs in your house. Wear ALL of your gear, ALL of it. That’s cold weather too if needed, body armor, cammies, vest, the whole 9 yards. You can’t find out for sure if it’s set up right without everything on.
Example: You may think all of your mags are in reach because you wore your gear vest and tried it without your body armor. Then come to find out you cannot reach your weak side mags due to body armor lessening your reach and flexibility.
Make any adjustments you can find in your house dry run and head out to a place to shoot. Once out there load 2-3 rounds in ALL your mags and run a mock combat course with live fire. Fire from all the positions you can, fire all your mags and do this many times. Keep doing it on a regular basis and any short comings you may have should present themselves. Example I recently changed to a horizontal mag pouch on my right side as I was having to much trouble reaching across my body and fishing out a mag. With the simple horizontal adapter plate I can turn those pouches facing inward. Making them all easier/faster to grab. It’s these kinds of drills that are going to find the weaknesses in you and your gear as well as great training for mag changes. Be sure to use cover and concealment during these drills. Train as if there were incoming fire.
Wrapping Up: That was a lot of talking wasn’t it? Still we only scratched the surface. 1000’s of choices of gear for millions of different scenarios in millions of places and millions of “what if’s”. Nobody can answer or be prepared for them all. This might be a useful guide for someone getting into 3 gun matches too. What you can do is follow this very basic outline on how to set up a gear rig and follow through to training with it. You will be miles ahead of someone who has not done so. Don’t get hung up on labels, there is plenty of reasonably priced gear (especially USGI) available to you all over the net. Look at Voodoo Tactical http://www.voodootactical.net/ and Condor gear http://www.opsgear.com as well as some Eagle brand stuff. http://www.eagleindustries.com They are inexpensive compared to some of the bigger named brands and you still get a quality product. I only have about $80 in this camo vest shown last. (not counting mags and bayonet) It’s a great, tough, user friendly rig. There is no right or wrong here, find the stuff that is right for you. For example this rig is different than my usual set up in that the holster is attached and I use my USMC bayonet from Iraq on this vest. The thing to walk away with from this is to set up a gear package that’s right for you and train, train and train. It doesn’t matter what the tags say, how sexy you look or how much you spent. It matters that you have a serviceable setup you have practiced with and when/if the time ever comes you can lay lead down quickly and where it belongs.
As always thanks for reading and train often.
By: Cary Kieffer