This is the 2nd article about tactical vests. In Tactical Vests for all Occasions – Part #1 I explained the mission, outlined the need and went into a lot of detail about different styles of vest. I pointed out the good, the bad, and the dangerous such as color.
Let’s review the reason for talking about tactical vests first. I am talking in regards to a scenario where there complete grid has gone down, anarchy reigns, law enforcement personnel are non-existent, and we are just short of the Zombies attacking. In other words, I am talking about something way out there like what I wrote about in my book series “My Journal.”
So the mission is defined as:
A carrying system capable of containing and transporting sufficient and appropriate gear and equipment to support a tactical engagement by a single individual.
Reviewing the Requirements & Restrictions –
- The very first thing…comfort! The vest has to be comfortable when you wear it. That means the weight is distributed across the torso, especially the shoulders, in such a way that it is comfortable to wear for hours at a time, walking long distances, and during shoot and scoots.
- All buckles, latches, etc. must be able to operate with gloved hands with minimal manipulation.
- The vest must be able to work in conjunction with soft body armor as well as ballistic plates.
- The material must be heavy-duty and able to withstand constant use in harsh environments.
- The design/pattern of the material must not make the individual unduly noticeable. And, as much as possible, allow the individual as much concealment capability as possible.
- Each pouch must be minimalist and gear specific.
2 – Pouches. Don’t get carried away with this category. I have seen some interesting rigs that are so full of pouches that I can’t figure out how the guy still can walk with all of that stuff. But let’s use basic principles to rig our vest for exactly what is needed. And what is needed is based on our threats and priorities. So let’s list the threats/priorities again:
- Protect yourself, your family and your group from violence.
- Supplies sufficient to treat your wounds and injuries.
- Capability to securely hold a radio.
- Capability to hold a day’s worth of water plus the capacity to purify a minimum of 3-days of water.
- Capability to avoid exposure problems.
- Capacity to carry minimal food.
The above outline covers all the primary threats you will face and meet the priorities of the situation, more commonly referred to as L.I.P.S.
So let’s now talk specifics as far as pouches go. I will discuss each pouch in priority order so you will know which ones to acquire first. That will prioritize your budgeting and spending.
Magazine pouches. Yup, that is the first priority. Why? Duh! You have to be able to defend against the threat of violence. That takes a weapon, such as an AR. And an AR needs bullets. Bullets are stored in magazines and those magazines need a place to live. Hence, magazine pouches.
I am sure everyone has their personal preference when it comes to magazine pouches but let me explain my choice and rationale. I use Magpul PMAG magazines because I think they are the strongest and most reliable magazines available today. When you load the 30-round magazine with 28 rounds of NATO M855 or M193, those mags start to get a little heavy. Most people want to have a lot of ammo on them but quickly realize that the weight is a bit much. So I use a pouch that can meet in the middle.
I like the Condor brand magazine pouches. (MA5-008: Single M4 Mag Pouch – MultiCam) It has a spot for two mags in each pouch. But each mag is stored
independent of the other with its own retention system. Why is that important?
Two reasons; 1) you always want your gear “tight” and
stable, 2) you may not always want to carry a full battle load of ammo on you.
Let me go back to the #1 reason first. Let me tell you from experience that having a piece of gear fall off during a mission is embarrassing. And yes, it can be dangerous as well. But having your gear make noise is totally unacceptable. So keep your gear and equipment wired tight is important. Bart of that is having pouches that can securely hold your magazine and have redundancy in retaining your mags on your person. Let me explain it better visually…
Now for reason #2. Each full mag weighs slightly over 1lb. If you are carrying 8 magazines that is 224 rounds of
ammo on your vest. That is great for a drawn-out firefight, really great. But that also weighs in at 8 total pounds. That is a lot to be hauling around all of the time in addition to the rest of your gear.
So let’s say you are around camp, not going anywhere, but still want your vest on; maybe guard duty. It is a whole lot more comfortable only carrying half of the ammo load. These pouches are set-up to do just that and still hold the pouches securely in place.
You may be about to ask me where are the pistol mag pouches. Sorry, not on the vest. I believe the right place for a pistol magazine is on the pistol belt with the pistol. I think that the pistol belt and tactical vest are different creatures, designed for different missions/purposes. I don’t mix the two.
How many magazine pouches? Well, in my opinion that depends on the physical capability of the person wearing the vest. I can carry 6 mags normally, 10 mags if I have to, but that would destroy my wife physically. Her vest is set-up for only 4 mags which is what she can realistically carry. Yes; 1) my wife has her own tactical vest, 2) and I might have to share my mags with her. I am OK with that.
So, think about the weight. I would suggest that you go with the lower end of the weight range first. You can always add another mag pouch later when you get used to your gear and the weight.
Next is covering the medical injury and wound priorities. I go at it in two different ways, immediate and slightly less immediate. The immediate is covered by a CAT (Combat Application Tourniquet) that I keep in a flash-bang grenade pouch on my weak-side area near my IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit). Weak side so I can reach it with my normal hand (strong side) and manipulate it. I make sure that the CAT won’t interfere with my off-shoulder shooting needs. And let me tell you, if I am having to shoot off-shoulder I have bigger problems to worry about other than my CAT placement.
Next is my IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) pouch with contents. Remember, my blowout kit (BOK) is in the cargo pocket of my pants. I placed the IFAK in a position that I can get to with either hand but it is out of the way of my shooting and normal positions when walking, kneeling, etc.
Some might think that the IFAK is a little large. And you might be right. I designed the IFAK to meet the mission that I saw for a wide range of emergencies, disasters, and grid-down situations. In those situations normal medical care, or even emergency medical care, may be hours away…or not available at all. So the IFAK had to handle a multi-sized mission.
So the three biggest priorities (ammo, communication, first aid) are out of the way…I can relax just a bit. Remember, I am a big advocate of communications. It is the #1 common denominator in fatal and near-fatal wildland fire accidents. Many folks that I talk to that are, or have been, in the military says it’s the same thing there as well. Matches up to my experience in the military decades ago. That adds up to a radio carried on the vest as a necessity.
I have three standard radios that I believe are spot on for these situations; 1) Baofeng UV-5RA, 2) Yaesu FT-60R, and the Motorola 6500 series. These all fit well in a standard flash-bang pouch. But I also like a pouch designed for a radio. It is your choice, here are what I use…
One note that I think is important…notice the top flap on the flash-bang grenade pouch? Notice how it folds over the top of the Baofeng radio? That is a good thing!
The Baofeng UV-5RA radio is not weather-proof, rain-proof, etc. It is however, a piece of electronic gear. So the more protection you can give it the better. The Yaesu and the Motorola are a little more resistant to rain and weather so a more open radio pouch is acceptable with those radios. But I believe that the more protection the better. Just something to think about.
Now there are two pouches left. Remember that with L.I.P.S. the #3 rule “Property Conservation – Don’t destroy anything you don’t have to.” Well, in this case “lose” is the same as “destroy.”
I like Magpul magazines for reasons I have already told you. And I have worked hard over the years to acquire a sufficient supply of them for my own use. But, if while I am doing a mag swap in the middle of a firefight and just leaved them on the ground and run off…How long will I have any magazines left to use?
Solution…a magazine drop pouch. This pouch is designed to accept empty, pr partially empty, magazines during a mag swap. The pouch stays nicely rolled up and out of the way when not in use. But expands nicely to accept six magazines.I like the Condor roll-up mag drop pouch (MA36-008 : Roll – Up Utility Pouch – MultiCam). Genuine Crye precision multiCam, holds six M4 30-round magazines vertically. Folded up: 5″H x 4.5″W Open: 8.5″H x 8″W.
Word of caution – Only use the magazine drop pouch if it isn’t going to get you killed. May sound funny, but I am serious. Using a drop pouch will take you more time during a mag swap, especially on the first swap where you have to unfold – unroll the pouch.
I would strongly suggest getting familiar with using a mag drop pouch by doing dry runs with it and integrating it into your live fire training. Remember, it is important to keep lead going down range. If using the drop pouch keeps you from doing that to the point of jeopardizing your life, or that of your battle buddy, then don’t use it. But you may want to work on an idea or plan on how to not leave your magazines laying all over the ground for the other guy to scavenge.
Tactical light pouch. The tactical light pouch that I use is the single pistol magazine pouch for my LED Lenser tactical light. The single pistol mag pouch is the perfect size to hold it securely. I place it on my strong-side so I can grab it with my weak-side hand. I like the Condor single Pistol Magazine Pouch (MA32-008: Single Pistol Mag Pouch – MultiCam), 4″H x 2.5″W x 1″D.
Multi-tool pouch. I almost didn’t include this on my tactical vest. But I have such high regard for a multi-tool that I just had to make a place for it. Nice thing is…it takes the same single pistol magazine pouch that my tactical light uses. So you can use a double, side-by-side, pistol magazine pouch if you want to. I like them separate to give me a little more flexibility on placement.
Finally, a small gear pouch. I started out with this pouch as an “optional” pouch. But then I quickly realized that there is some gear that you just need to take with you, it doesn’t have to be much of the little gear, but there are some things you might find as a necessity. I use an ATS Tactical large GP pouch in Multicam (9″H x 8″W x 3″D).
The pouch closes with double slider, 550 zipper pulls on YKK #10 coil zippers; the best zipper available. It opens more than half way for easy access to the contents without spillage. It has an interior pocket with Velcro closure as well as an open top mesh pocket on the opposite, outside wall of the pouch. The interior of the pouch is finished out with a pair of 550 cord loop tie-down points to secure sensitive or high-value items. This pouch is constructed from 500 denier abrasion and water-resistant Cordura nylon to reduce weight while maintaining strength and abrasion resistance.
And this last pouch is truly an “optional” decision in my opinion, I can make a good case for it either way. It is a spare magazine pouch, a single 30-round mag pouch. But it is placed on the back of your vest somewhere accessible to the person behind you. “What???” you ask.
So you are in this hellish firefight and your battle buddy runs out of ammo. Now what? He is hollering at you to throw him a mag but you are busy keeping the bad-guy’s heads down like you are supposed to when your team mate is trying to reload. But he can’t reload because he is out of ammo. Oooppppssss!
But don’t fear, you have a single mag on the back of your gear that he can grab without you having to break your rate of fire and fumble around getting him a mag while stopping all lead from going down range. He can just come up behind you and grab that mag. And at that point you have the conversation that it is time to implement that tactical withdrawal plan.
It is really a kind of cool idea and I have trained with it before. It can make a difference. But it is entirely up to you and whether it fits into your operational tempo or not.
Completed tactical vest with all pouches in place…
5.11 VTAC LBE Tactical Vest
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