Today, we are concluding this article, which is a follow-up to the recent “The Practical Application of Tactical Gear, Load, and Weight Considerations”. Part 1 disclosed the basics of the gear system and began detailing them. We are continuing with the details, and then covering the practical use of our gear and the importance of physical conditioning.
THE DETAIL (continued)
Chest Rig / Plate Carrier:
You must avoid the temptation to “go large” with this item. With the available huge admin pouches and the like, this is particularly something you want to avoid below your armpits or right on the front. However, you will need sufficient ammunition, which is why light and fast is never really light and fast unless you can balance it with light enough, and sufficient PT ability to be fast.
In the photo at top, there are three mags on the PC. (It has room to go up to five or seven, if you feel so inclined.) There can be two in the Lite Belt, one on the rifle, and two on the back of the Lite Hydration carrier. I use the figure of six to eight mags as a good basic rifle load-out, with a possible resupply for a potential contact situation on your back or in your vehicle. See the recent article “The Practical Application of Tactical Gear, Load, and Weight Considerations” for more on that.
Other than the magazines, keep the amount of admin gear and huge pouches that you put on your CR/PC to the minimum. The rest go in a Lite Hydration Pack / Daypack. You want the CR/PC to be relatively close to the body and comfortable. You also want to be able to wear it in any number of profile / posture relevant situations.
Test Your Ability to Move in Your Rig / Plates
You need to be able to move and fight in your Lite BB / CR/PC combination. It will have weight, due to the plates and the ammo load, but you can limit it as required. You should train in the gear and do PT to ensure that the load is something you can handle and that it is comfortable, with no hidden chaffing or surprises. If you can’t wear the plates and move, then you either need to do more PT or ditch the plates. Ditch ammo if you have to, because it is not good to be unable to move.
This is really very much overlooked. It is, again, a balance. Stop throwing stuff in there because “two is one and one is none.” How about instead considering “My gear weighs so much I am too exhausted to patrol professionally and effectively.”?
You need a light Daypack or Hydration Pack that will be worn in conjunction with your Lite BB and CR/PC combination. A Daypack is comfortable and versatile; thus, this is where excess gear should go. It will also work as your vehicle grab-bag. You must still work very hard not to put excess gear in this. This is what is worn for any type of patrol away from your base or vehicles. It still has to be, overall, a combination that you can move and fight in.
The Patrol Pack is what is worn if you are ever planning on going out overnight, or for any extended (short) period of time where you may have to sleep out in the bush. Avoid this unless mission essential. Stay light. Avoid the massive ruck scenario like the plague! You may plan to do it, but you probably don’t have the fitness in reality to remain alert and agile enough and not give in to the temptations of complacency, and even if you do have the fitness level, if you come under contact you will have to dump the whole load, never to be seen again.
What goes in the Daypack (or light Patrol Pack, if you will)? Some suggestions follow (but keep it light):
- Spare mags – maybe x 4.
- Hydration bladder 3L This is why we don’t attach a bladder to the back of our CR/PC.
- Energy- Something in terms of a “packed lunch” plus emergency energy rations.
- Night vision gear/batteries.
- Means to purify water – puri-tabs, a straw, or a ***pump.
- Small IFAK.
- Wet/cold weather clothing – limited.
- Miscellaneous items, such as basic rifle kit/rod.
- Kitchen sink x 2 because one is none and two is….STOP! Be ruthless.
As you can see you have to carefully balance an effective load with what can be carried by you “light and fast”. You have to be ruthless and stop putting things in “just in case”, because everything is a calculated risk and the most important thing is your effectiveness on the ground. If you can only carry four mags and remain effective, then that is your solution.
PRACTICAL GEAR USE & PHYSICAL CONDITIONING:
Your gear is designed to support your tactical operations, and thus it should support you defeating the enemy and staying alive. If your gear is a hindrance, then it will not support your effective conduct of operations.
You will not be able to move around effectively, alert, and without falling into complacency and exhaustion, unless you have the basic PT level to do so. You will not be able to fight if your gear is too heavy for your PT level. Factors:
- Your gear is too heavy.
- Your gear is badly rigged / put together / organized.
- You lack fitness.
Testing Your Gear And Fitness
This is what you need to do with your gear:
Once you have put it together, you need to train in it. This is everything from shooting on the range in various positions to moving in it.
This is what I do with my gear, which is separate from any specific rucking or other PT training. I have some backwoods behind my house that I have a number of hilly trails on. I put on my:
- Lite BB.
- Plate Carrier with full magazine load.
- (No rifle required at this point)
I suggest you go out there at a fast walk for 30-45 minutes. Drive hard up the hills and walk down, at a fast walk but there is no need to run. As you do this more and improve, you can add shuffle running if you wish on the downhill.
If this is too much for you, then you know your gear plan was not right for you at that point. So you can work up to it. Consider re-rigging or purchasing better gear if the issue is one of comfort and how the gear works with you on the move. Mags bumping into the plate carrier/rig are all things you will discover. Consider temporarily or permanently reducing the weight of the gear. If temporary, you can drop items like the number of magazines you carry and add them back in as your fitness increases. If you realize this is all a step too far, you may take decisions such as deciding not to wear plates.
I realize that some may have difficulty finding a suitable area for this. A hilly area is best, because you can use the hills to get the heart rate up without having to run. If you have to do this in public, you may have an issue with what you look like. This is partially why rucking with just a pack is a useful activity. However, if you replace the PC with a weight vest, that may be viable, but it does not give you the opportunity to actually test the PC itself.
I suggest the above because it is an easy activity that can be progressed as hard and far as you want. It is not a PT program. Rather, it is designed to both test your gear and your ability to move in that specific gear. It will also inoculate you to the sweatiness of working out in gear, such as a PC. At the most simple, I am saying that you have to get out and move about in whatever gear you plan on wearing. You have to use it, test it, see what works and does not work. You also need to improve your fitness.
A Note On Ballistic Plates
I am referring to investing in ceramic / dyneema hybrid standalone plates that are usually designated “Level 3+” and will stop M855 Green Tip. These plates can weigh as little as 4.6 lbs and are an investment in mobility and protection. I do not advocate the use of steel plates for a number of reasons.
Gauging Physical Preparedness
I post the following on my website as a gauge for people to use to see if they are physically prepared for tactical training. You can use it also to give you some idea if you are ready for maneuver while in contact with the enemy:
In order to be ready for class, you need to be able to do a minimum level of fitness. Part of this is a basic cardio level, and then there is the ability to get up and down from both kneeling and prone positions. That is, while holding your rifle safely muzzle down to the front, and without using excessive force or leverage to push yourself up from kneeling, perhaps by pushing on a knee while unsafely waving your muzzle around. You also need to be mentally alert. This is not an age thing, because we have had spry 67 year olds run the classes, better than not-so-spry 30-somethings. It’s about the individual, not the age. The better your physical and mental fitness and alertness, the better able you will be to maintain the rigorous safety standards we set on the ranges and to learn more from the training experience.
So here is a simple standard. It’s not a training plan to get you to it but a simple standard to gauge if you are ready for a class:
- Find a 100 yard stretch of ground. “Enemy” is beyond the 100 yard line.
- Carry a rifle, or something to simulate one.
- Carry the rifle in the “patrol ready” position to your front, butt stock between mid-chest and the pocket of your shoulder, muzzle straight down to your front.
- Dash 5-7 yards, kneel, bring the “weapon” up to the firing position, wait 5 seconds.
- Dash 5-7 yards, go prone, wait 5 seconds.
- Repeat, alternating kneeling and prone, to 100 yards.
- Come back from 100 yards to the start, same deal as going forwards, but running to the rear (not running backwards) and each time you kneel or go prone, face back to the original enemy direction.
- Wait 30 seconds.
- Note: The “dash” needs to be a rush, perhaps adding a zig-zag.
Can you do that without excessive fatigue? Then you are ready for class. You can’t? Do some PT.
You want to consider the need to get up from prone to kneeling, and from kneeling to standing. This incorporates upper body strength (push-ups) with thigh strength (squats/lunges). This is not an exhaustive list, but it is simply a guide to help you determine your practical fitness level. It is a bare minimum.
For specific gear questions, I recommend the MVT Forum. Also, a number of potential questions may have been addressed in the previous article: “The Practical Application of Tactical Gear, Load, and Weight Considerations”.
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).