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2/19/06 - New from SOTECH (Special Operations Technology) is their BLoCS (Battle Load Carry System) Front/Rear/Side Plate Carrier (product code: BFRPC). Designed as a high-mobility armoured system, the BRFPC will take soft-armour inserts and front/side/rear plates. The designer of this rig and I were joking about the need for a more memorable name for some of SOTECH's rigs (like the "Hellcat"), and dubbed this the 'MACE' (Modular Armoured Carrying Equipment) rig, as a interim nickname. Even though it's not an official SOTECH designation and they probably won't know what you're referring to if you call, I'll refer to it as the MACE rig as it's easier to remember than 'BRFPC'.

The MACE rig simply consists of a front and rear carrier. The front carrier shown here is plate-shaped; meaning it has to be used with a stand-alone plate or an in-conjunction plate with plate-shaped soft insert behind it. SOTECH makes different carriers to accomodate soft panels with 'wings', as well, and is working on having panels made specifically for the MACE. Contact SOTECH for more details on whether your panels will fit. As far as I know, there is no plan to accomodate BALCS cut panels. The carrier is sized according to plate size. I was able to utilize a civvie concealed-armour panel in this front carrier, that was only a bit larger than a SAPI plate. The front carrier has two 2" female buckles in the front to which the shoulder straps connect. The front carrier connects to the rear panel on the sides by a strap that goes across the front of the carrier. It can be moved up or down to three different positions between the PALS webbing. Velcro on the rear of the carrier interfaces with the rear carrier wings/cummerbund. The front carrier has a plate pocket, and behind that, a mesh soft-insert compartment. There is a quick-ditch plate feature - a strap goes over the plate and is connected to an ambidextrous pull tab which velcros on the inside flap of the carrier. To ditch a plate, one of both of the T-handles on the end of the tab are pulled, which opens the flap and pulls the plate out. A velcro PALS patch is located in the center of the upper chest for placement of pouches or a velcro patch.

Front view of front carrier

Rear of front carrier

Front carrier details

The rear carrier accomodates a plate and soft insert with wrap-around wings. The rear carrier has wings that wrap around to the front, where the two ends overlap (depending on your girth). The wings are normally secured inside the front carrier, but can also wrap around the outside for attachment one of the SOTECH chest harnesses. The 2" wide shoulder straps are sewn to the top of the rear carrier, and are velcro-adjustable for length. The removable shoulder pads are shown installed. The inside of the carrier is the mesh compartment for the soft armour insert. The rear carrier shares the same plate quick-ditch system as the front, utilizing the T-handles. A rear drag handle sewn to the top of the carrier velcroes out of the way when not in use.

Rear carrier carrier

Inside of rear carrier

Plate and soft insert pockets

The front and rear carriers connect on the sides by buckles, which are moved to different PALS columns for adjustment. Only one buckle per side is needed, but I illustrated both types here. One looks like a straight 'T', and is inserted into any column of PALS at any height. It can be loosened then cinched up with a tug. The other one which looks like a 'T' with the buckle at a 90° angle mounts on the bottom row of PALS. This is for securing the front and rear carriers at the bottom only and is adjusted by placing it back and forth along the bottom row of PALS. On each side of the cummerbund is a side-plate pocket to accomodate a 6"x9" side plate.

T-inserts for side buckles

Side plate pocket

Detail of wings

In the pics below, a size large MACE is shown with both side-securing buckles installed, large SAPI plates and civvie Level IIIA soft inserts. I later moved the upper side straps to the row above the location in the pics to get them out of the way of the side pouches. The rig is donned by slipping it over your head, bringing the rear wings around to the front, then allowing the velcro on the inside of the front carrier to inteface with the wings. It makes it easier if the wings overlap in front, but it's not absolutely necessary. It might take a couple of times to get the front carrier lined up at the right height and centered. The side straps are buckled and cinched tight, and if installed, the bottom side buckles are closed. Doffing the rig is easiest by releasing the side buckles and shoulder strap on one side.


Rear quarter


Shown below is the MACE with some BLoCS pouches attached. Many of the Gen II BloCS pouches are made from 500d Cordura, instead of 1000d. According to SOTECH, this results in about a 40% weight savings and only 10% reduction in durability. Upper center of chest: double pistol mag pouch with elastic retention (code BDPSPME). Each pouch will take single-stack or double stack pistol mags. Front lower right: Double pouch double mag flapped (code BDPDM14). This holds 4 M4 or 2 M14 mags. Non-removable flap and elastic retention. Front lower left: two Single pouch triple mag (code BSPTMFM4). Each pouch holds 3 M4 mags. Under the right arm (on wing): tool/mag/light/grenade pouch (code BTMLGP). Holds two .45 single stack mags or one double stack pistol mag, chem lights, multi-tool or 40mm grenade. Under the left arm is the small zippered medical pouch (code BSZMP).
Installed on the left shoulder is the rifle butt catch module, ambidextrous (code BRBCM). It's made of a slip-resistant material and has rod-like insert to keep the butt from slipping off the shoulder. It wraps around the shoulder pad/strap and velcroes in place. The shoulder release buckle can still be released through the butt catch.
On the back is the hydration sleeve module (code BHSMP) which is slightly oversized to accomodate a 100 oz bladder/padded sleeve.

With BLoCs pouches




11/12/05 - The Weesatch is the wee-er brother of the Wasatch plate carrier, both from High Speed Gear Inc (HSGI). Both have been out for some time as of this writing. First, thanks to SKD Tactical for donating the Multicam material to HSGI for this particular rig. I requested the Weesatch instead of the Wasatch as I wouldn't make much use of the extra compartments on the sides as anything I mount on my sides is difficult for me to reach and gets in the way of my belt rig. Your mileage may vary, of course. The Weesatch is essentially a plate carrier with integral/internal magazine pockets, holding a total of 8 M4 30-round mags, or 4 AK/FAL mags, all before you even add a pouch (more on this later).
1000D Cordura is used throughout, and National Molding buckles with the typical HSGI bomb-proof construction.

The Weesatch is made up of a front and rear panel. The front panel, shown immediately below, has 6 internal compartments, sandwiched between the outer torso (or cummerbund) panel and the inner panel. They're divided by 2" webbing, and the center 4 compartments will hold 2 M4 mags each, or one AK or FAL mag. The compartments at each end are triangular instead of rectangular in cross-section, as the sides are where the front and rear torso panels are sewn together. They'll hold one mag each, of the 3 types mentioned above, but because the panels wrap around the torso, anything put in the end compartments will be tightly held. So, it's possible to add an additional magazine at each end, but they won't be the easiest to draw (especially a curved AK mag), which is why I limited the practical capacity to 4 AK and FAL mags. Since FAL mags are shorter, a foam spacer block can be put at the bottom of the compartments so the bottom of the mag sticks out, or else it might prove difficult to remove. Each compartment is lined with loop velcro on the front and back for attachment of the magazine retaining straps, which are adjustable.
The cummerbund has 12 channels and 3 rows of PALS webbing. The bib, which can be folded down if not in use has 6 channels and 3 rows of PALS. The bib has a full size map compartment in the front. The bib is actually the top portion half of the main plate carrier pocket which holds a 10"x12" plate.
At each end of the cummerbund is a 2" female buckle, which connects the front to the back. The two triglides on the cummerbund above the female 1" SR buckles are for using the Weesatch without the rear panel, and with longer shoulder straps that would cross in the back.

Front view

Front map pocket and 2 types of mag retention

Inside front panel

The rear panel of the Weesatch can carry a rear plate, and a large hydration bladder. The plate pocket is raised - the plate sits high in the panel, providing the proper coverage in the back. At each of the top corners is a 2" triglide, for attaching the shoulder straps to, which connect the rear to the front. Between them is a drag handle. A 2" wide waist belt is passed through either an upper or lower slot at the bottom back, depending on torso length. It has 2" male buckles which connect to the females on each end of the cummerbund in front. 6 rows and 7 channels of PALS webbing on the back provide space for mounting of additional pouches.

Back panel

Rear plate and hydration pocket

Enhanced and standard shoulder straps

Also available are some accessories specifically for the Wasatch and Weesatch, which are shown installed on the Weesatch in these photos.

  • The bungee mag retainer from SKD is a direct replacement for the standard mag retainer straps that come with the Weesatch. It secures the mags in the compartments via shock cord/elastic retention and are easily drawn to the side with a pull tab.
  • Next up are the enhanced replacement shoulder straps. These are more easily adjustable in length with velcro and are stiffer. The standard straps that come with the Weesatch are quite long, and the end needs to be tucked away or taped up. The enhanced straps don't have to.
  • Add-on shoulder pads are highly recommended for use with a full load and plates, and they are most definitely more comfortable than the standard shoulder straps alone, when worn without soft armour underneath. They attach to the enhanced or standard shoulder straps with a couple of velcro tabs that fold over on each end.
  • The "Waholster" kydex holster is an SKD exclusive that enables an M9 (for now) to be carried in one of the internal magazine compartments (2nd compartment from end is recommended, as the end one gets too narrow). The holster has a reversible thumb break and is ambidextrous, with velcro on both sides to hold it securely in the compartment. I sold both my Berettas, so shown in the pics is a dummy pistol. I didn't use the Waholster at the range since I didn't have an M9 to fit in it, but in trying out the dummy pistol in it, I found it quick to access and draw from.The holster is very secure in the Weesatch - more so than an externally mounted one. It's also more streamlined and snag-free. Torso-mounted handguns are becoming more common in areas where accessibility is an issue, especially when access to a hip or thigh holster might be hampered when seated in a vehicle. When wearing bulky equipment, I've sometimes found that a hip or thigh mounted holster can be a bit 'out of the way', and a torso mounted one puts it right there, in front of you.

Mag bungie, shoulder strap and pad


Waholster installed

In the pics below, the Weesatch is shown worn over the BCS soft armour carrier, since the front plate I had in there wasn't stand-alone . The only additional pouches are 3 pistol mag pouches. I'm also wearing HSGI's excellent MultiCam tactical cap, which has velcro for the attachment of patches, and an elastic back strap which keep the cap secure on my noggin (I wore it hiking up in the mountains in high wind, that blew off other caps).

Front left

Front right

Side view

Rear quarter


I wore the Weesatch at the range in an informal class for about 6 hours, with 8 M4 mags 3 pistol mags, and a full hydration bladder, with and without plates (I took them out to see how it felt for just carrying equipment). I wasn't wearing any soft armour underneath, and I appreciated the accessory shoulder pads. Because the front is connected to the back at the sides, and there are no cross straps in the back that connect to the front, having the weight properly distributed is important to prevent the front slipping down or vice versa. Keep the side straps tight, counter weight the ammo in front with a hydration bladder, or put both plates in, and it stayed pretty stable. That being said, I'd recommend using the Weesatch with plates, the way it was designed, instead of as a 'stand-alone' chest rig if you're not going to have any weight in the rear.
One thing I'd add to the design would be two 1" straps going from where the 2" triglide is on the ends of the cummerbund to a ladder lock on the rear panel, kind of like my modified setup on my STRIKE recon rig. The straps would connect the rear panel halfway down to the cummerbund, helping to prevent shifting or saggin of the front. They would also allow you to pull down and forward to tighten up the rig. I have no idea why all the chest rigs I've seen tighten by pulling up and back. I don't always have a buddy to help me and my arms don't go that way.
With 8 mags in the center 4 compartments, the outer panel of the cummerbund becomes rigid, as it has to curve to conform to the body. It will lose tension slightly as the compartments are emptied, which is taken care of with a quick tug to the waist strap.
I installed two bungie mag retainers, and two standard ones to compare the two types, and I didn't really notice any difference in speed of access to the mags. With both, you have to pull a tab. With the bungie, once you pull it out of the way, the second mag is a bit loose in the compartment (even though the compartment flattens some), and not retained (unless you pull the bungee over again). I didn't lose any of the single mags though, while running and shooting from prone. With the standard lid closed, there's less likelyhood for a single mag to fall out.
As you draw mags from the internal pouches and the cummerbund loses some tension , it's helpful to check the side straps once in a while and re-snug them.

All in all, it's a slick, relatively light (because of the internal compartments) and well built rig - just what I'd expect from High Speed Gear.



3/20/04 - Initial Impressions - Practical Tactical of Glendale, Arizona, has come out with their MOLLE vest, based on the popular and well-regarded South African P-83 vest. MESA stands for Molle Enhanced South African vest. They've contracted High Speed Gear Inc (HSGI) to build the vest. You may be familiar with HSGI, which make my HSLD suspenders. Quality and workmanship are typical HSGI - bombproof. Instead of repeating what PT has on their website, please visit their MESA page for full specifications and features. Here's a quick rundown of the features and some of my inital observations (I will update them after I have spent more time with the vest). I also contacted Tim Weaver at PT and he addressed some of my questions, so I'm incorporating his answers here:

  • Stiff mesh construction - this stuff is the stiffest mesh I've seen. Tough, yes. But does that sacrifice comfort? Somewhat, IMHO. If worn over a T-shirt, it might prove to be a bit abrasive until the material breaks in and softens. I myself would prefer a softer mesh to be used in some of the areas that do not need provide structural support. Tim said that the mesh does break in with use, and they could not locate a softer mesh in the correct colour that was durable enough.
  • Padded shoulders - These are fully adjustable for height. The pads extend from the upper rear of the vest, and slide into corresponding loops on the inside front panels. Adjustment is via two ladderlocks on the shoulder. When I first donned the vest, the heat-sealed ends of the loops were very sharp, and very scratchy. I lessened the problem by cutting the hard melted plastic edge off the end of the webbing, which helped a bit. The shoulder straps should be contoured a bit more, I feel, to follow the contour of the neck. The straight configuration of the straps (without a takeoff angle) forces you to have a gap in the front of the vest. Closing the gap narrows the neck opening to the point it is uncomfortable. Note that this is only my personal experience. Some other people have not found this to be a problem - due to different body builds and adjustment of the straps. This vest is meant to be worn with a 3-4" gap in the front like the original P-83 vest. Personal preference, but I like to be able to mount some low profile stuff closer to the middle. The neck-pinching should be less noticeable the taller you are, as the shoulder straps can flex a bit as they'd be longer. Elastic webbing on the shoulders secure hydration tubes.
  • Internal padding on back and sides - Not sure whether padding is needed yet. It retains heat, which negates the benefits of the mesh, but it does add some comfort as you cannot feel the various pouches poking you from the outside. Useful when you're prone. It does add to the stiffness of the vest, which is good for support of pouches.
  • Strap adjustments for girth - The front panels are connected to the back panel by 3 straps on each side, and ladder locks. They have a LOT of adjustment and will fit all but the largest fellas.
  • Integrated hydration pouch - this is probably the best integrated hyd pouch I've seen on a vest. It's covered in PALS and fully supported by two SR buckles at the top to prevent sagging. It expands AWAY from the vest, instead of INTO the vest. Inside, there's a flap to protect the bladder, and a tube hole at the top. A full length drag handle is also located at the top.
  • Internal pockets - These full-length pockets are accessible from the front (requires disengaging the middle buckle), and will fit a handgun, but would not be very comfortable due to the curvature of the vest (and the inability of a handgun to flex). These pockest are best used for flat, flexible stuff. On the inside of the vest are a couple more vertical pockets. These are actually better choices if you really want to stow a handgun in the vest. It requires unbuckling of the top strap to access - not quick, but pretty secure.

My inital impression is based on a brand new item, not yet broken in. I will update this in the near future when I carry a load and wear it for a while.

Update (4/09/04) - The mesh does break in after use and becomes more conforming. The issues with the shoulder geometry doesn't change, and I'm sure that it won't bother some people. I've made a few suggestions to Gene and Tim on what I'd like seen changed on the vest, but it's based on my personal preference, and whether they'll implement the suggestions will be based on cost, practicality, and feedback from the majority of users (not just mine).


Front view

Rear view

Front quarter view

Inside view of vest

Internal front access pockets

Hydration pouch

Shown below is the MESA loaded up with 2 BH STRIKE M4 mag pouches, pistol pouches and SAW pouch, 70 oz camelbak bladder (it'll hold a 100 oz), strobe pouch, custom Reccegear pouch. On the extreme right are pics of the Kifaru E&E pouch docked and locked to the MESA.

Front view

Rear view

Quarter views

E&E pouch

E&E pouch



This vest (model L.E.O Modular) was made for a Federal agency by Tactical Solutions International (T.S.I.), no longer in business. The entire vest shell is made of 1000 denier Dupont Cordura Nylon Plus, treated with urethane. It is covered with a grid of snaps and velcro, and will take modular pouches from Point Blank, PACA, Safariland etc. The pouches shown were made by T.S.I. and are also of the same material as the shell, and quite sturdy. This style is popularized by LAPD SWAT and other police SWAT teams.
The modular nature of the vest allows the user to tailor the pouch/pocket arrangement to suit the mission. The pouch arrangement will hold 5 MP5 magazines and 8 pistol magazines. It is of the side-entry type, and after putting it over your body, you then wrap the back 'cumberbund' around your waist which secures the back panel flush against your back. The front panel is then pressed down onto the front of the 'cumberbund' and smoothed out, pressing back. The side flaps attached to the back panel then fold over the front flaps, making the vest very secure.
It will accomodate most ballistic inserts from most concealment vests (full coverage). I put level IIIA spectra ballistic inserts from Armor Technologies Corp in it. There is a front trauma plate pocket and a larger map pocket that will also accomodate a small ceramic plate. It's a very comfortable vest, and has a lot of adjustment in height and girth. It is not as bulky as I thought it would be and its low profile doesn't hamper mobility and movement. See the Uniforms page for more pics.

Vest and modular pouchs

Back view of vest

Triple staggered MP5 and pistol pouch (L) and snap/velcro attachment detail (R)

Inside back panel, showing 'cumberbund' that wraps around the waist, and flaps that overlap the front flaps.

Front tauma plate pocket and larger plate pocket


3/20/03 - Blackhawk's STRIKE gear is their new line of MOLLE/PALS compatible gear. Since I don't have a modular chest rig, I decided to try their chest harness as it was quite inexpensive. The quality of the construction was better than I had expected - based on my experience with other BH products. The pouch construction was some of the best in BH's recent offerings IMHO. From what I hear, the STRIKE gear was designed by Eagle Industries, so any problems I have with the design should be directed towards Eagle :-) My inital impression of the rig is that I like it a lot. I do not have a long torso so I can wear the rig above my pistol belt rig, whereas most vests overlap my pistol belt. However, the back straps were a bitch to tighten. Someone decided that to tighten the back straps, you'd have to pull BACKWARDS and UPWARDS. My arms don't go that way. So I modified them to tighten by pulling DOWN and FORWARD. Much better. I also added another buckle on the waist strap, which makes donning and doffing much easier, since I attached an SOE hydration pouch on the back. I use Duraflex Quik-attach ladder locks for the top straps and Slik-clips to attach the bottom of the pouch. I also tie-wrapped the two shoulder straps together as they flopped around a lot when donning the rig. Plus, they cross at a consistent place now and don't slip. The shoulder straps are padded nicely, but they'd be more comfortable if lined with Drilex or similar material instead if plain Cordura. I really like the bib, which can be folded down if preferred. The M4 mag pouches hold two mags each (for a total of 8 in my setup) and the lids are adjustable, which I need for Magpul'd mags. I'll need to test its compatibility with a pack, and hike around with a full load before I review its comfort. (Update: I did some experimenting with a pack and chest rigs in general are more compatible with packs than vests. I found it to be quite comfortable, but needed to make use of the pack sternum strap, which went over the pistol mag pouches, to keep the straps on my shoulders properly.)

Front view - 2 double M4 mag pouches, Paraclete NVG pouch, small radio pouch, 2 double pistol mag pouches on bib

Rear view showing the SOE hydration pouch

Plate carrier on inside of chest rig, and foldable bib tucks into its own pocket

Closeup of strap modifications

CPC TC4B ceramic plate

Must be used in conjunction with Level IIIA vest for Level IV protection

Plate inserted into plate carrier in STRIKE chest rig


My SAW pouch modification - I installed snaps on the lid so that it could be folded down and the elastic cover re-attached



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