Guest Article: The Practical Application of Tactical Gear, Load and Weight Considerations- Part 1, by Max

The intent of this post is to tie in the related, practical application concepts of tactical gear, fitness, teamwork, logistics, and tactical loading, in order to present a realistic and logical way to approach the subject. There are a number of related factors at play here.

Mission

We often utilize the military terminology of “METT-TC” in order to analyze our mission and thus apply it to the gear that we may carry. Factors such as weather, duration, and the specific mission that you are conducting play into considerations of what to carry. We must be realistic in what we plan and train for now, and thus pack for. Base it around what we think we realistically might be doing in a collapse situation. I put it to you that most people will be engaged in local defense and security patrolling. They may also deal with presence/ground domination activity (GDA). People will be patrolling in and around their homestead and perhaps local community. They will thus not be engaging in multi-day ruck-missions out into the boondocks. This has relevance as we examine the other factors.

Logistics

However much you pack, you will ultimately need a resupply. Many people with a “prepper” mindset want to pack too much “just in case” they need it. I would advise a different approach. I recommend you plan for that resupply and set up a logistics chain. If it allows you the ability to maneuver under fire, it would be better to have to temporarily make do without something than carry a huge load. Thus, you could consider something along the lines of planning to utilize existing vehicles. Trucks, ATVs/UTVs, and even perhaps horses or mules can support any mission that you plan that you suspect will go beyond one day’s rations. This would be one first line ammunition scale (i.e. what is realistically carried on the person as part of a deployed load-out).

This also ties in very well with casualty evacuation. I tell people at class that the hardest thing they will do is evacuate a casualty under fire. It is so much the case that I propose that with today’s typical weight of person measured against poor levels of physical fitness, factoring in the exhaustion of being under fire, many casualties will not be evacuated. Or, they at least will not be evacuated far. Thus, in a break contact drill, this means they will be left. The team may be forced to strongpoint, in order to call for QRF/casualty evacuation. For this, you need communications, an actual QRF (trained and rehearsed team), and suitable transport for them to deploy to you and extract you.

Tactical Load

You should only carry what you can fight in. By this I mean what you can maneuver under fire. Much has been said about 55 pounds being the maximum that a person can carry into combat. However, we must remember that:

  1. The person must be fit and robust in the first place to manage this, and
  2. This refers to weight that can be carried in on an approach march, not actually fought in.

In order for the individual to be able to maneuver tactically under fire, this load must be reduced. For example, I would consider 35lbs. as a much more practical load weight that 55lbs. This, however, may not include the weight of the rifle. Your mileage may vary. This goes directly against carrying all that stuff that you want to carry because “two is one and one is none”. And it relates to the concept of logistics. An individual should not be loaded out with, for example, 16 magazines on the person, plus whatever else. They should be loaded with something more like 6-8 mags. Depending on the mission,  a support team can move resupply up in an ATV. “No man is an island.” And you cannot fight everyone forever on your own. You can only carry a limited amount and still remain effective, and then you need resupply.

Physical Conditioning

None of these factors mean anything without the physical conditioning to carry your load and maneuver under fire. Given that many suffer from age, obesity, lack of training, injuries, and medical conditions, it really does reap benefits to take a more “light fighter” approach and plan to be without rather than be with too much. You probably do not need all those widgets and extras. There are some things that it is really sensible to carry, and that is detail beyond this article. (See the MVT Forum.) But you cannot carry all that water, ammo, and food. So you need to balance the needs of realistic short-term missions with arranging resupply. The activity of “rucking” is tied to this.

I really do not think that anyone should be planning to do anything while carrying a ruck. Get away from the idea of “bug out rucks” and all that. It is possible that you may have to carry a ruck on an approach march to set up a patrol base, but how likely is that given the missions that you may be conducting? You will also have to drop that ruck at the first contact and may likely never see it again. I posit that you are more likely to have relatively short-term missions, if you go anywhere at all outside of an envelope of more than a mile or so from your home base. Thus, get away from heavy “rucking” as training.

A Reasonable Load Weight

I would advise that you train where possible with your actual tactical load-out gear, weighing around 35lb. The training value of carrying a ruck is more relevant to situations where for profile purposes you cannot, or do not want to, go out wearing tactical gear. So then you pack a ruck to replace that for training purposes. But carry no more than 35lb in that ruck. This is a realistic combat load weight that you can use for training purposes. Alternatively, use a weighted vest, which is ergonomically similar to your plate carrier load weight.

Transport

As part of logistics, you need to consider the use of vehicles, such as ATVs. I was recently in Idaho, where I ran classes and we used ATVs as resupply logistics vehicles out on the open range. Rather than plan to carry a large ruck or patrol pack, simply wear the load that you can maneuver and fight in, and put the rest on the ATV. The ATV can actually move with the patrol, particularly in large open spaces, with low engine noise, caused by low revs, and simply stay a terrain feature away from the objective. Then, when called for, the support vehicles(s) move up to the objective and trade ammo and water resupply for any casualties.

This in itself gets into a mobility question with the use of tactically suitable vehicles, such as off-road trucks, ATV/UTV, and other transport to provide tactical mobility. So you can either move transport with dismounts, or mount the dismounts to get them closer to the objective area. Transport stays at the Objective Rally Point (ORP) until called for. (Use Mission Support Site (MSS) for those who want to be really contemporary.)

Ballistic Plates

Though plates add weight, we all realize that although we want to be light, we will never be totally free of carried weight if we are going to carry a combat load. Thus, we plan to be as light as practicable. We have to carry a certain amount of ammo, water, IFAK, basic rations, et cetera. In my opinion, ballistic plates are worth the added weight, in the balance. Reducing the chances of penetrating trauma to the torso or thoracic cavity is important in my mind, particularly given what I said above about casualty evacuation. However, you cannot carry plates if you have not achieved the conditioning to allow you to do so and cannot move tactically with them on.

The flip side is that if you have a logistics plan, you can dump some of those widgets and extra magazines you wanted to carry and allow yourself plates. It is all a balance of firepower, protection, and mobility. The key thing with plates is to buy “Level 3+” ceramic/dyneema hybrids that are light but will stop M855 Green Tip. 3+ is not an official NIJ standard but they are sold. My plates weight 4.6 lb each. That to me is a trade-off that is worth it. If you do not have the conditioning, and if you have super heavy plates, you will not wear them anyway, not beyond 24 hours after the collapse happens.

A Note on Plates

Please get away from steel. More accurately, please get away from the concept of only having plates, such as heavy steel plates, for defensive purposes. You may want to buy heavy, cheap plates, but you do not want to invest in the physical training to be able to maneuver with them on. In fact argumentatively, defensively, you are less likely to need plates if you are using prepared fighting positions. You are more likely to need them if you come under fire while on patrol or in an offensive dynamic operation. Thus, when considering plates, consider ones that you can practically wear and fight in. (Continued tomorrow.)

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).

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14 Responses to Guest Article: The Practical Application of Tactical Gear, Load and Weight Considerations- Part 1, by Max

  1. BKF says:

    Can you go more in depth about the load/gear in the picture that accompanies this article please?

  2. R. Henry says:

    Great article.

    These are things often overlooked by a major segment of the survivalist movement.

    I can attest to Max’s knowledge and skill, having attended about a dozen classes with him on various subjects. Very highly recommended instructor.

  3. JJT says:

    Excellent write up Max! Also, I like your kit. Swap out the name tape on the JPC, change that belt for a blast belt, and you have my rig. Tried, true, and simple.

  4. JJT says:

    I totally agree with your notes on fitness, especially with its relation to kit. So many “”geardo” types think a stockpile of kit will save them. No. The physical fitness to move and survive is primary, and the MENTAL toughness you must develop to get yourself there physically, are what will get you there. Kit is the force multiplier. Sadly we get all tied up in it, I guess as part of our technology consumer culture. Spend less money on gear people, and more time hiking, doing core work, push ups and pull ups. That’s it. No fancy gym required. In the event of a major collapse, the physically and mentally (and spiritually of course) fit, with a few minimal essentials and cheaper gear, will be the ones taking fancy kit off of the bodies of overweight TV show preppers, or bartering to protect those people in exchange for some of that uber fancy gear.

  5. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    I agree that physical conditioning is a must and a great shortfall of many. On Patrol I think the area of ops is going to be fairly small in SHTF and stealth and speed with a non armor kit is more viable, something like the old LBE.
    In SHTF plates will not always be worn during day to day ops. Most of the time you will spend procuring, growing and building sustenance rather than combat ops.
    Ceramic plates break and are required to be x-rayed for cracks which most don’t have the ability to do.
    The hybrids are sending out mixed signals on readiness requirements so I’m wary of that.
    No One I repeat NO ONE is resupplying me if my plate gets hit so steel it is because once a ceramic or hybrid is hit it’s done. I don’t have unlimited resources to buy a stack of plates.
    “you are less likely to need plates if you are using prepared fighting positions” I disagree. If SHTF and you are being attacked ESPECIALLY in a position where your movement is very limited that is the time to wear your plates. You will come in very close contact and I assure you when you were there in theatre and the FOB was attacked you didn’t run to your position without your armor kit.
    Load weight will vary greatly especially with “preppers” as it has the widest possible ranges of ages, physical conditions and limitations.
    How come you didn’t list your American Civil Affairs National Guard service? Those are used to control the civilian population in conjunction with law enforcement and local military units after SHTF in their section of the world. What was your CONUS mission in the event it happened here?
    We know that our fuel supply will be limited very quickly so we have decided on cache methods for resupply in the operational zone we have laid out post SHTF in case vehicles can’t be used to get to us. One of our folks is working on horses too and trying to learn the old ways of sustaining them.
    Good primer article to make everyone think about how it might happen for their particular area and needs.

  6. Wheatley Fisher says:

    Suggested reading for you all:

    A Soldiers Load: The Mobility of a Nation.

  7. W. Kennedy says:

    Excellent article and as stated physical fitness is key in what you can reasonably carry and if necessary fight with so pare that kit down because “two is one and one is none” is great back at the homestead but not on your back.

    As for plates well after spending three days at MVT taking a CQBC (Close Quarters Battle Course) using UTM rounds I can attest that you will soon realize that to survive in that situation in real life plates are not an option but a necessity.

  8. OneGuy says:

    There is a reason why the military draft applies to males between the age of 18-27. The modern soldier needs to carry a heavy high tech gear load. They require a massive support and resupply effort. Also in the modern military if a soldier is injured they get much better care than in historical military situations and this kind of support will not exist post SHTF.

    But for preppers we should probably look to glean the best that the modern military has but look to more sustainable ideas from history. Indians on the warpath or the hunt didn’t carry 55+ lbs of gear. Robert’s rangers didn’t carry 55+ lbs of gear.

    There may be a better way. Something that uses modern and high tech equipment and ideas but also uses smart low tech equipment and ideas. Something more sustainable, not requiring massive support and resupply and lighter and more practical. Not something “perfect”. There is no “perfect”. But the best compromises possible considering the realities.

  9. Pat O'Connor says:

    I’ve not attended a Max-Tac event, but thoroughly enjoy his insight, and much of his content.
    He’s a great add to S.B.
    I’d hope to see more content in the future, directed to readership that may not be as experienced with the Ranger Handbook.
    Cheers all.

  10. Weber says:

    I’ve been to two of Max’s courses and I can say that the training is top notch and essential to everyone in the preparedness community. Max is the best at what he does. No matter what you believe your level of combat training is, you will learn a lot at his courses. Read all you want about shooting, moving, and communicating but until you actually practice and apply it in a dynamic 3D environment, you aren’t really learning how to shoot, move, and communicate. I’ll also beat the physical conditioning drum. You need to work on your PT. Even a 35lb load is going to be heavy if you aren’t accustomed to moving with that weight. So get in shape. I wanted to mention that you don’t have to be a triathlete to attend one of Max’s classes but you do need to do some PT. So stop making excuses and train.

  11. Mr C says:

    If you run already…it is fairly easy to work into running with a 30 lb pack and a great way to test gear. I have run with the camelbak half backpack/hydration pack with 30lbs weight for several years and as long as I tie the zippers closed it has held up fine with no split seams or overt signs of wear. I usually to 2-3 miles 2-3 times a week at a 11 min mile jog. It does take a bit of time to get your ankles and tendons accustomed to it but once you do it is no big sweat. Took longer for me at age 43 to work up to 5 mile jogs no weight than to change a 2-3 mile jog into a 2-3 mile jog with 30lbs. The body can do amazing things..just ease into it if you are older and gtg.

  12. JW says:

    Interesting article and those of us w/out military training and experience sure appreciate the tips. I was wondering if there is any validity to the notion that steel plates create a hazard by deflecting the bullet fragments up or down the plate in line with the wearers body. Looking forward to the rest of the article. Thanks

    • Matt in Oklahoma says:

      JW Most quality steel plates have anti spalling coating, along with the carrier, that will protect you from a lot of the fragmentation however you still need to consider wearing either ballistic eye protection or if you wear glasses make sure they are made of a quality material that won’t shatter on impact. We don’t wear those sunglasses just to look cool.
      Getting peppered by some of the spalling over taking a round in the chest is a mere nuisance over death.

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