Two Letters Re: Seeking Advice on Assembling Web Gear

In a recent post you mentioned unbuckling your ALICE belt when going prone. I learned a little trick in ROTC using a carabiner and two pieces of 550 [parachute] cord. First, adjust belt the way you want it. Second, tie the two pieces of 550 cord onto the end of the ALICE belt and hook them together with the carabiner. Adjust the length of the 550 cord to get the slack needed when going prone. This allows you to keep your belt buckled but when you need additional slack, just release the buckle and the 550 cord keeps the belt from flopping around too much. Don’t tie the 550 cord together, as the carabiner allows you to unhook the belt quickly if you fall into a creek or river and need to dump your LBE – Bill N.

Dear Jim:
Thank you for referring readers to us for advice on web gear. At BulletProofME Body Armor we are authorized dealers for Blackhawk and SpecOps tactical nylon gear, but really our focus is body armor. Normally we only do quantity orders for tactical nylon, outside of specific armor-related items we stock. But we can give some good advice on the questions to ask to help avoid major mistakes.
There is such a huge selection to choose from these days, and so many different situations, it is hard to give universal advice. Some basic questions are in order – and probably mandatory to remind “gear freaks” to keep it practical! 😉 . There is no one right solution, and all solutions have tradeoffs:

1. What are the possible situations / circumstances ? Under contract for a year of security duty in “the Sandbox”, or trying to keep the neighborhood secure during a power outage… As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind”.

2. What do you really need to carry? More weight and bulk = less mobility. versus “two is one, and one is none”.

3. How discreet do you need to be? A basic kit on a belt might be preferred to avoid the martial image that a full chest and drop leg rig gives off. On the other hand, if you were doing a ‘Neighborhood Watch on Steroids” in a post-Hurricane Katrina type situation, you might want to be more overtly armed and armored to deter looters.

4. In a similar vein, does the setup identify you as one of the good guys? In a chaotic active shooter incident you don’t want to be the recipient of “friendly fire”.

5. Used with, or without a backpack, or day pack?

6. Can you access your most time-critical items standing, kneeling, sitting, prone – or in a vehicle? (By the way, the practice of putting lots of equipment on the belly area is a really bad idea when you really need to get low and prone…)

7. Can you get in a vehicle and drive reasonably comfortably with the rig on?

8. Can you keep your pistol and spare mag in the same place whether it is concealed carry, open carry, or on a tactical rig? This is so that your pistol draw (and spare magazine draw) are always the same in your muscle memory. You probably don’t have the time to do the amount of draw practice you really should right now – why add another draw to practice? Keep it simple for your muscle memory with less chance of a slow or fumbled reaction under life-threatening stress.
A similar line of reasoning applies to rifle magazine pouch placement – keep it simple and consistent.
For example, assuming you are not a full-time SWAT officer, holsters on drop legs are probably not such good idea, unless you can really make the time to practice a different draw stroke until it becomes instinctive under high stress. (We do recommend drop legs for additional ballistic protection and secondary pouches.)
A belt attached to armor is a great idea to keep it consistent, and all one piece.

9. How fast can you put the gear on? Waking up to the sound of breaking glass at 3 a.m., or a patrol officer pulling up to a bad scene – then it had better be fast to throw on. Keeping it to just a belt is faster, or all web gear on one piece of armor with MOLLE [attachment points].

Some options for speed:

Spare ammo already on the rifle
A “Grab and Go-bag”
Bandoleers (Note that these can flop around, but they are very fast to throw on.

Yours truly, – Nick at