This article is a follow-up to the recent “The Practical Application of Tactical Gear, Load, and Weight Considerations”.
I get many questions about gear setup. It is also a perennial topic on the MVT Forum, and of course across the Internet. It’s an important subject. Many people ask me specific questions about my gear setup and make/brand of equipment items. And so here I will attempt to give some guidance, but not in terms of specific brands of gear. This is what I am trying to do when I set up my equipment. It is also important to note that gear is no use without training, and the focus by so many on gear is often either 1) part of the process of getting ready for training, or 2) a dead end pursuit that has limited purpose.
Be in the first group. You must actually use your gear, and see what works for you, and not fall for that common mindset that gear can be bought, tried on, and then left on the shelf for a rainy day. I will therefore talk a little about physical readiness and actual use of gear, as part of this article.
For questions on gear brands and specific examples, there are plenty of experts on the MVT Forum. I urge you to start discussions there. Why this post? Because I want to help those who are genuinely attempting to set up a gear system as part of a training and readiness program. And on the flip side, I will attempt to wake up those who are simply bluffing themselves in terms of their physical and training readiness and their ability to even function in their chosen gear when necessary.
I must also add that my gear setup changes, as I evolve, find new products, and adjust. I was asked recently about suspenders on my Lite Battle Belt. (We’ll have more about that in detail later.) But yes, I had added pouches and suspenders to my Lite BB, and now I have removed them. Just like in tactical training, I don’t look for absolutes but principles and ideas. Take what you see others do and what works for you, and evolve it into a system that is best for you. This article is merely guidance and the passing on of experience that I have learned through many years deployed on operations, and subsequently, my thoughts as to how I should adapt that to a role as an armed citizen.
There are no absolutes in this article, and the gear system itself is designed to be modular and adaptable to varying situations.
So let’s look at a basic summary of the system. Below, for reference, are gear examples showing:
Plate carrier, Lite Battle Belt, Lite Hydration Pack
MY recommended system is made up of the following components:
- Lite Battle Belt
- Chest Rig or Chest Rig / Plate Carrier Combo
- Lite Hydration Pack / Daypack
- For emergencies now, IEmergency now: concealed carry handgun on belt, throw on Chest Rig to run the rifle.
What is the framework for employing the gear items listed above?
- Day-to-day you are probably / should be carrying a handgun. Thus, you have options to run a handgun set up, either concealed or overt, on your pants belt. If you have an immediate emergency situation, your go-to in this situation is your handgun.
- If you have time / access (due to location / planning) you then have the option of grabbing your rifle. When you grab your rifle, you need the ability to feed it rifle ammo, which is not contained on your everyday carry belt.
- Your option to carry rifle magazines should be some combination of chest rig (CR) / plate carrier (PC).
- Note that the Lite Battle Belt (BB) concept does not work well in a short notice emergency scenario, simply due to the logistical factor of getting a Lite BB on over an already existing pants-belt EDC handgun load. Thus you skip the Lite BB in this situation, and go straight to the CR/PC rifle option.
- Don’t try and carry too much on your CR/PC / Lite BB combination. This is where the Lite daypack concept comes in. (There is more on this later.)
- You want to avoid a situation where your gear concept involves a full Battle Belt, a full Chest Rig, and a Plate Carrier, all with big chunky straps, and with too much gear all up. The Lite Battle Belt is deliberately a fairly light piece of equipment, with the CR/PC being the main support item for your rifle. Sustainment and admin items then go in some kind of patrol pack, sized for the situation.
So what does this mean?
- If you are currently carrying concealed day-to-day, you cannot fit a Lite Battle Belt on over top of this. At least, you can’t without unrigging your carry belt. So If something comes up that needs gearing up for a rifle at short notice, you are going to throw on your Chest Rig or Plate Carrier.
- If you are in a situation where you want to have rifle magazines on you at all times, at least a basic load (i.e. post-collapse, or even around and about in the back country), then go to a Lite Battle Belt. This carries your handgun, some basic items, and probably a couple of rifle magazines. Keep it light, so that it does not interfere with sitting and day-to-day activities. It’s best to keep no pouches forward of the hips, and keep the back of the belt low profile for the same reasons. Personal preference applies.
- When wearing the Lite Battle Belt, you have the option of adding your Chest Rig or Plate Carrier (or combination) to fully feed your rifle. This is a versatile system that does not interfere with sitting. You can be in a vehicle or waiting on standby as a quick reaction force, or sentry, et cetera. It also allows you to easily carry any kind of ruck or backpack. If you don’t want the Lite Battle Belt, and just want to carry a basic pants-belt handgun load along with the CR/PC, it is up to you.
- Gear that would have perhaps gone into the large rear pouches on a classic War Belt (think old-school ALICE web gear) will now go into a Lite Hydration Pack / Day Pack. This is not a ruck and should be kept as light as practical. If you go out of sight of your home base, you throw this on. It contains water, basics, lunch, night vision etc.
- There is a persistent piece of tomfoolery that a Chest Rig will keep you too high off the ground in the prone position, and it also prevents you from reloading. Nope. In fact, it is easier to reload from the prone with a chest rig (not belly rig), especially from kydex mag inserts, than it is from hip mounted pouches. With a chest rig, the mags are right there. With hip mounted, you have to roll onto your side a bit and reach right back. BTDT. Of course, your Chest Rig should not be too deep, and should be of a fairly low profile, probably a single row of mags across your chest, to facilitate this.
- If you like to run a PC, or have the option of doing so, then you should consider the versatility of a Chest Rig. The Chest Rig allows you flexibility. You can wear it over the PC with the harness, or wear it without the PC in “recce mode”. You can use PC attachment kit straps to directly attach the Chest Rig to the PC. This would allow you to unclip and remove it while retaining the ballistic protection of your plates. Thus, on more low key missions, you may decide to forego the plates and just run the rig. Or you may do an Infil with the plates in your ruck, wearing your Rig. Put the plates on in the ORP. The possibilities are endless with such flexibility.
- You need to avoid having everything and the kitchen sink on your gear. This is with the exception of the basics, which is ammunition, water, basic medical, and energy. I would rather do without, and be lighter and faster, than be loaded down for every possible contingency.
- Understand that “lighter and faster” isn’t when you have the right amount of ammo on your person. The solution there is PT. The bottom line is that if you can’t be bothered to do the required PT, you are kidding yourself. You shouldn’t even be bothering to look into tactical gear. Related to this is the fact that you need to get out and move and train in this gear, and then you will soon find out what works and what does not.
Lite Battle Belt (BB):
This is really any set up you want. Unlike a basic pants belt / concealed carry load, the Lite BB also contains rifle ammo. You can therefore decide to skip the Lite BB concept all together and simply carry a handgun and mag load concealed / overt on your pants belt, and rifle mags / gear only on your CR/PC. This is default the situation you are probably running now for day-to-day emergencies, and works well for gray collapse and emergency attack scenarios.
Although the original MVT Battle Belt concept that I put out four or five years ago has a lot of validity to dismounted operations, I try and steer people away from the full Battle Belt concept (i.e. a full belt with large admin pouches all the way round and yoke/suspenders). It is not very flexible and hard to operate in conjunction with vehicles and everyday life. It is also not ideal with ballistic plates, and as per above, does not translate well from an everyday to an emergency situation, whereas a CR/PC can go straight on and not interfere with what you already carry around your waist.
The Lite BB functions as an overt item that allows for easy everyday carry of a handgun, plus handgun and rifle mags, plus miscellaneous items. In a “tactical scenario” where you have no worry about overt carry, then this provides a great solution for everyday (i.e. all the time) carry of handgun and also a couple of reloads for rifle and handgun. It is not designed for patrolling out of sight of home base, where you will add the CR/PC plus the Daypack / Hydration Pack. Tending the tomatoes? Yes. Lounging on the porch? Yes. Walking round the backyard? Yes. I also wear mine all the time at training, and I have the option of adding the CR/PC as necessary.
Suggested Lite BB configuration: (see photo above)
Run the pouches on the belt mainly at 3 and 9 o’clock on your hips. Place nothing on the front forward of your hip bones, unless they are just small pouches, because this will interfere with prone and crawling.
Left or Right side:
- Multitool pouch
- TQ Pouch.
- Handgun: in a decent kydex holster (Safariland in the photo).
Left or Right side:
- 2 x kydex handgun mag pouches (open top)
- 2 x kydex rifle / carbine mag pouches (open top)
- Small IFAK pouch
- Rolled dump pouch
- Hydration Pouch or
- Admin pouch
- Ensure that what you put on the back is low profile and does not interfere with sitting in a chair or vehicle.
Suspenders? If the belt is truly light, you won’t need them. If you have rear pouches on the belt and wear a ruck, then you need the suspenders so that you can hang the belt on them without having to do it up too tight. Also, consider a patrol base: suspenders on the BB usually run under your CR/PC. Thus, you have to take off your CR/PC to take off your belt, which you may have to do to be able to sleep i.e. get into your sleeping bag.
You may want to keep your PC on while in the patrol base if you consider you need that level of readiness, and thus being able to easily take off the BB to sleep is a bonus (note: sleeping on your back due to a Lite BB on your hips makes it more likely you will snore, and thus be woken up). You may also not want to take off your PC if it is held together by velcro, because if it is, it may be too noisy! Not having suspenders also reduces the strap junk running over your shoulders.
About The Author
Max Alexander is a tactical trainer and author. He is a lifelong professional soldier with extensive military experience. He served with British Special Operations Forces, both enlisted and as a commissioned officer; a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Max served on numerous operational deployments, and also served as a recruit instructor. Max spent five years serving as a paramilitary contractor in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This included working on contract for the U.S. Government in Iraq, a year of which was based out of Fallujah, and also two years working for the British Government in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He operates Max Velocity Tactical (MVT).