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2/21/10 - The EMDOM USA/MM GPS Pouch is a GPS pouch designed for the Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx or similarly-sized GPS unit that allows the user to operate and use the GPS unit without having to remove it from the pouch. This reduces the possiblity of the GPS unit being dropped during extraction and replacement in conventional pouches. The design enables the user to glance down at the GPS unit 'on the go' without having to hold it in his hand.

I have a Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx unit, and while looking around for a suitable GPS case, didn't find anything I really wanted, so I decided to collaborate with EMDOM on a design. I wanted it to be molle-compatible, and relatively streamlined; and hold just the GPS unit without accessories. More importantly, I wanted to be able to use the GPS unit without removing it from the pouch every time I needed to use it. I wanted to be able to turn on, operate and refer to the GPS unit while on the move, without having to hold it in my hand. I came up with a clamshell design that holds the GPS unit inside the front portion of the pouch, which opens out and down so the GPS unit can be operated horizontally. All buttons can be accessed from either side and the GPS unit can be removed quickly if need be. When the GPS unit is mounted on a vest or shoulder strap of a pack, the pouch can be left open with the unit on, leaving the hands free.

Key Features of the EMDOM/MM GPS Pouch:

Dimensions - The EMDOM/MM GPS pouch is approximately 5.5" tall x 3" wide x 1.5" deep (internal dimensions). Although initially sized for the GPSMAP 60 series (60, 60CS, 60CSx), which are about 5.25" tall x 2.25" wide x 1.5" deep with an antenna sticking up another 1.5", the pouch will also fit any other GPS unit that fits within those dimensions. It will also hold the Oregon and Colorado series of GPS units, and any other smaller ones. The pouch takes up two columns and three rows of PALS.

Front and rear panel stiffening sheets - The front and rear panels of the pouch have HDPE sheets to protect the unit from bumps and sharp objects. The sheets spread the impact over a wider area where thin foam might still allow damage to the unit. The sheets also prevent buttons from being pressed accidentally. The inside of the front panel is lined completely with loop velcro, which also provides some padding.

Molle compatible - The GPS pouch has five rows of webbing on the back, allowing it to be used with both long and short Malice clips for vest or belt mounting.

Top antenna opening - For GPS units with a top antenna, the GPS pouch has overlapping elastic at the top that allows the antenna to protrude.


E-MM GPS pouch

Rear showing both mounting options

Long or short Malice clips

Bottom grommet

Antenna opening


Retaining sleeve - The GPS pouch comes with a sleeve that is clear plastic on the front and has elastic straps on the sides to retain the GPS unit in the pouch and provide additional protection for the screen. The clear screen is 2.5" tall x 2.25" wide. There is hook velcro on the back of the sleeve, which secures to the loop velcro lining the inside front panel of the pouch. 60-series Garmins units 'nest' in the pouch quite securely without the sleeve, as the antenna sticks out of the pouch and retains it. The sleeve is elastic so it will fit a variety of units, but it may be a bit looser or tighter depending on the dimensions of the unit. It can be positioned anywhere in the pouch - near the top or the bottom. The clear sleeve will still allow touch-screens to function - it functions like a screen protector. I tested it with a Garmin Oregon and my cell phone screen and I was able to operate them without issues.

Full zipper opening/closure - The GPS pouch has a full length zipper that allows it to open completely. The zipper pulls can be shortened if desired.

Adjustable opening angle - The front panel opens out and down, and is designed to hold the GPS unit horizontally. The 550 cord that controls how much the front panel opens can be lengthened or shortened to vary the angle that the unit sits. The cord ends go through two small eyelets at the top of the pouch and the knot can be re-tied to lengthen or shorten the cord.


Clear sleeve

Installed on 60CSx

Velcro on the back

Inside of pouch with velcro

Adjustable cords

Unit installed in pouch


Shoulder strap mounting - The pouch can be mounted vertically on a pack shoulder strap via overlapping velcro straps at the top and bottom of the pouch.

1000D Cordura construction

Drainage grommet at the bottom


Pack strap mounting

On pack strap

Mounted to OSOE micro chest rig

iPod and compact camera


Applications - As mentioned above, the EMDOM/MM GPS Pouch can accommodate any unit that fits within its dimensions, as well as other electronic items. I found that my iPod and earbuds fit it, as did my compact digital camera. It will also fit smartphones. If the retaining sleeve isn't used or doesn't fit, a small bit of adhesive velcro on the back of an item will retain it in the pouch.

Using the pouch - The sleeve is first put over the GPS unit, then the unit placed in the pouch by pressing it against the front panel to engage the velcro securely. The GPS unit can be removed from the pouch any time with the sleeve installed. To use the unit, the zippers are opened and the front of the pouch swung down. All buttons and the screen are easily accessed as the 550 cords do not get in the way. Depending on where it's mounted, either or both hands can be used.

I have the GPS pouch mounted on an OSOE Micro Chest rig, which places it at a convenient height and position to operate the unit and see the screen on the move.



Update - We've had a lot of inquiries about whether the EMDOM GPS Pouch fits the larger Garmin Rino 655t model with dual antenna, and up until now, I wasn't sure. I was able to test fit a 655t dummy unit in the pouch, and while it's a snug fit, it definitely works.


TAD Gear Bandoleer

6/4/08 - In a departure from standard first or second-line gear, the TAD Gear Bandoleer is an over-the-shoulder MOLLE platform designed to organize and transport equipment in a low profile, quickly deployed system. It's meant to be a rapid-deploy, grab and go platform when a full rig isn't needed or there isn't time to put one on.

Description - The Bandoleer is constructed mainly of 1000D cordura, and has mirror-image front and rear panels for right or left hand/shoulder use. Each panel is about 19" long and 6.5" across and all corners are rounded with no sharp edges or points.
There are three rows of PALS webbing, the top two having 10 columns and the bottom one 8 columns. The center row is TAD's 2TAC webbing for their 2TIBS pouches, which is essentially 1" webbing sewn over 2" webbing. Each panel is padded with foam and lined with Coolmax mesh on the back for comfort.
The two panels are permanently connected by 2" wide webbing over the shoulder. A shoulder pad wraps around the shoulder strap, that has a single row of 2TAC webbing on it for attaching a small pouch. The shoulder pad is padded like the main panels and has 'Staytek' rubberized non-slip material on the underside for added purchase on the shoulder. It can be left off if desired, but I like having the Staytek on the shoulder, even if nothing is mounted to the shoulder pad.

2" wide webbing, with a 2" ITW SR main buckle extend from the end of the panels opposite the shoulder. There's a lot of adjustability, and the loose ends of the webbing stow inside the panel. This is the main buckle used to don and doff the Bandoleer. Two 1"-wide anti-sway straps wrap around each panel, which are routed through the PALS webbing and located anywhere along the panel for added stability. These play an important part in the stability of the Bandoleer.

Front view

Coolmax mesh rear

Removable shoulder pad

Setup and usage - There are a couple of ways to wear the Bandoleer, I found. Over the 'strong' shoulder and over the 'weak' shoulder. In all these photos here, I've worn it over the weak shoulder (I'm left handed). When wearing it on the weak shoulder, extracting mags from pouches is easier if the pouches are mounted upside down, so you pull down and towards your weak side. If the pouches are mounted with the top up, extraction is much more awkward as the weak hand is crossing the chest and pulling towards the strong shoulder. If you prefer mounting the pouches right side up, then the Bandoleer is easier to use if slung over the strong shoulder, and the mags extracted by pulling up towards the weak shoulder. This is where the 1" anti-sway strap is essential to keep the whole bandoleer from lifting up if the mag is tight in the pouch. The strap can be routed under a waist belt to keep the Bandoleer anchored down, else it can move if you're pulling mags upwards out of the pouches.

Whether the Bandoleer is worn on the strong or weak shoulder, the anti-sway strap is extremely important for providing some stability and keep it from slipping off the shoulder. I asked Patrick at TAD if the strap worked better attached to the panel lower down (near the waist) or higher up (under the armpit). He said 'whatever works best for you'. I tried the strap up and down and found that it worked best when attached in the middle of the front and rear panels (a little higher than in the photos above). The Bandoleer should be adjusted so that the anti-sway strap is snug.

I set up my Bandoleer to be worn over the weak shoulder and attached four ITW FASTmag pouches (reviewed below) upside down. They are perfect for this application as they retain the magazine securely in this position, and it prevents the bandoleer from being overloaded. Sure, it's possible to mount double M4 pouches for a total of 8 mags, but that's pushing it for this rig, as it's not as stable as a chest rig. I mounted an EMDOM USA Wide Load 3" Multi-purpose pack on the rear panel, as it fit perfectly and I could carry either a small hydration bladder or more M4 mags inside. Loaded up this way, I found the Bandoleer balanced quite well and was pretty stable. Not as rock solid as a chest rig, but with less movement that I thought it'd have. By unfastening the anti-sway strap, I'm able to rotate the entire Bandoleer around and access the pouch on the rear panel without taking the Bandoleer off.

With ITW FASTmags

EMDOM WL on the back

I can see the TAD Gear Bandoleer being useful for situations where speed or confined spaces (like in a vehicle) is an issue. It's quick to throw over the shoulder and click the main buckle closed. If you're the sort of person who keeps his rifle by his nightstand for home defense, this rig might be the ticket, loaded up with a couple of spare mags, a light etc. I'm using it as a lightweight range rig. The short clip below illustrates the Bandoleer and the ITW FASTmags. Note that this was the first time ever that I had used this setup and I had no practice with it. I'm neither quick nor skilled, but you can extrapolate and see that someone who has trained with this setup and has skills can achieve some very fast reloads (if that's something that's desired).


ITW/Down East Inc FASTmag (Gen 2)

3/24/08 - Back in June of '07, I got a heads up from Justin at Down East Inc, of a Marine Corps solicitation for their ILBE pouches. One of these was for a 30-round M16/M4 Speed Reload pouch. The product developed by Down East Inc and marketed primarily by ITW Military Products was the FASTmag. However, I didn't like it that much as I felt that it was too wide and bulky. I voiced my concerns, and Justin told me that they were already working on a revised product that addressed those issues. I decided not to do a writeup on the Gen 1 FASTmag and instead wait for the improved version. Fast forward a few months, and the Gen 2 FASTmag was debuted around the time of the '08 SHOT Show in February. The Gen 2 FASTmag is indeed a great improvement over the first version, and worth the wait.

Some of the desired objectives by the ILBE Speed Reload Pouch solicitation were:

  • Single magazine capacity - MOLLE/PALS compatible.
  • Accessibility and retention - Magazine shall (a) allow easy accessibility to provide shooter his/her first choice for reloading; (b) have adequate retention with, without the use of a closure device; (c) item able to remain in pouch during normal combat operations; and (d) have a single closure device, but it must be able to be stowed out of the way. Rationale - The Speed pouch is the first magazine pouch that the shooter will utilize when he needs to re-load. The magazine must be easily removed to facilitate re-loading. The magazine must not be loose in the pouch and must remain secure during combat operations.
  • Pouch closure - The speed shall have no closure device and maintain magazine security. Rationale - The closure device is for magazine security and must be able to be removed, undone or stowed during combat operations and be re-attachable. No closure device is needed if the pouch maintains magazine security.
  • Item control - When the magazine is fully inserted in the pouch, a portion of the magazine shall be exposed to allow user to fully grasp the magazine and gain positive control to facilitate a smooth and deliberate one hand reloading of the weapon. Rationale - The magazine must be able to be grasped and controlled in the user’s hand without the need to re-adjust the grasp or change position of the magazine prior to placing the magazine in the weapon’s magazine well.
  • Magazine content - Pouch shall allow a magazine to be placed down with the rounds facing the bottom of the pouch, and also allow a fully-loaded magazine to be placed in pouch with the rounds facing either to the left or to the right side . Rationale - The technique for reloading the M16/M4 rifle requires the user to quickly reload the weapon in a smooth continuous motion. The user will remove the magazine by angling his wrist upside-down and remove the magazine by grabbing the bottom of the magazine. The user’s wrist will naturally turn upright upon removal of the magazine to facilitate quick reload of the weapon. For the purpose of modularity, the magazine shall accommodate both left and right handed shooters. Therefore the pouch will require the magazine to be placed with rounds facing left or right while the rounds face down .
  • One-hand operation - Pouch shall allow easy insertion and removal of a magazine with one hand. Rationale - The Speed Reload Pouch must allow the user to replace spent magazines easily. This act must allow the user to maintain control of his weapon with one hand while replenishing the speed pouch with the other hand. Also, during a combat engagement the user will orient the weapon in the direction of the target at all times. Therefore, the user must maintain control of the weapon while reloading with one hand.

As far as I can tell, the FASTmag meets all those requirements. There are also the Universal Physical Performance Characteristics (maintenance, durability, operating temps, environment etc), but I have no information about whether the FASTmag has met them.

As mentioned above, the FASTmag is not meant to replace all the ammo pouches on a rig - but to provide the fastest first or second reload possible. It retains mags without lids, flaps or covers. The FASTmag is a lightweight pouch consisting of two molded high-impact polymer clamshell halves. These are permanently attached together at the bottom by the rivets/snaps. When the two halves are pushed apart, the plastic flexes at the bottom, providing tension, which pushes the halves back together. This tension is what retains the magazine in the pouch. A rubber band also provides additional tension; this rubber band can be placed at any of three positions on the pouch. The higher it's placed, the more tension it provides. Rubber pads (traction strips) are overmolded on the inside of the two halves in the center, which contact the magazine inside the pouch, retaining it with friction. A shock cord 'jump strap', or lanyard, can be pulled over the end of the magazine for additional security, especially when using the pouch upside down. It can be stowed around the bottom of the pouch when not in use.

The rear half has two 'ears', or tabs, which are inserted under PALS/MOLLE webbing to retain the top. Two straps weave through the PALS and snap at the bottom of the pouch to secure the FASTmag to any MOLLE rig. It can be mounted up or down for a normal draw, or to draw the mag from the bottom. The tabs are canted 10° to tip the mag slightly outwards from the body, something the Gen1 FASTmag did not do. A tabless version is also available for belt mounting. A drain hole is molded into the bottom of the FASTmag.

The Gen 1 FASTmag was actually 3 columns of PALS wide, which prevented mounting two side by side on 4 columns. The Gen 2 FASTmag fits just fine on two columns of PALS, and as you can see, I had no problems mounting 3 in a row on a plate carrier.

Front and rear views

Foliage green

Molle straps

Side view

Pmag and USGI mag

Gen2 and Gen1 FASTmags

Mounted to plate carrier - Pmag, Lancer, USGI

The FASTmag is designed to fit USGI 30-round magazines, but will also accomodate HK mags, Pmags and the Lancer mags I have. When extracting the magazine, a slight twisting motion is supposed to be used. This forces the two halves apart, and also allows the magazine to reduce contact with the rubber traction strips. Magazines can be extracted without twisting, but require a bit more force. I found inserting and extracting the mags to be quicker than any other pouch I've tried - the 10° forward cant greatly helps in getting your hand on the mag. I dislike nylon pouches with kydex inserts as they tend to be very bulky, but I understand the desire/need for open-top pouches without flaps. The FASTmag has a lower profile than most of these pouches, which I've also found to be very tight and did not work with all mags. While the FASTmag isn't modular (you cannot stack it or mount additional pouches to the front), I much prefer it to the nylon-covered kydex pouches. I think the FASTmag will do very well as primary mag pouches whenever only two or three reloads are needed on a low profile rig, or to suppliment a heavier/full loadout as the first or second reload pouches when ease of access and speed are the paramount factor.

It has come to my attention that ITW FASTmags are being counterfeited/ripped off overseas. Do NOT buy these cheaply made, low quality products made of junk material, nor support these companies copying U.S. designed products. Theft of intellectual property is a crime and buying rip-off products is a slap in the face to the designers and companies who work hard to develop these products.

ITW/Down East Inc FASTmag (Gen 3)

7/5/09 - ITW Military Products has introduced the Gen 3 version of their FASTmag. It now comes in two versions - a MOLLE version and a belt-mounted version. What's interesting is that the Belt version can be attached/stacked onto the front of the MOLLE version, creating a double FASTmag pouch for added capacity over the Gen 2 version.

Some of the improvements/changes over the Gen 2 version featured in the previous writeup (above) are:

  • Comes in two versions - the MOLLE version and the Belt version. The MOLLE version has the same ears/tabs that are slipped under MOLLE webbing to anchor the top of the pouch. The Belt version eliminates those tabs, and instead has a removable spacer to accommodate different width belts.
  • The shock cord bungee that was on the Gen 2 has been eliminated.
  • A polymer strap has replaced the sewn MOLLE webbing strap. The straps are slightly stretchy and are woven in and out of the MOLLE/PALS webbing, then secured at the bottom of the FASTmag. A small 'hook' tab is molded at the bottom of the mag pouch, and the strap has a corresponding hole which engages the hook. It seems pretty secure, yet it's not difficult to remove intentionally. The new straps are thinner and less bulky then the Gen 2 sewn webbing straps.
  • FASTmags can be stacked (the belt version attached to the front of the MOLLE version). Slot loops are molded onto the front of both versions. These slots allow the MOLLE straps of the pouches to be woven through and secured. These slots will also accept 3"/short MALICE clips, but not MOLLE straps with snaps. The rear of the FASTmags are molded so that they fit on the front of another FASTmag securely, without any shifting.
  • The internal rubber retention pad configuration has changed - the front one has been eliminated.

The Gen 3 FASTmag operates in the same way as the Gen 2 FASTmag. It is not meant to replace all the ammo pouches on a rig (although this can be done if desired) - but to provide the fastest first or second reload possible. It retains mags without lids, flaps or covers. The FASTmag is a lightweight pouch consisting of two molded high-impact polymer clamshell halves. These are permanently attached together at the bottom by a rivet which also functions as a drainage grommet. When the two halves are pushed apart, the plastic flexes at the bottom, providing tension, which pushes the halves back together. This tension is what retains the magazine in the pouch. A rubber band also provides additional tension; this rubber band can be placed at a high or low position on the pouch. The higher it's placed, the more tension it provides. A rubber pad (traction strip) is overmolded on the inside of the rear plate, which contacts the magazine inside the pouch, retaining it with friction.

Belt and MOLLE FASTmags

Rear view

New Molle straps

Belt version attached to belt

Belt stacked on MOLLE version

Bottom view of stack

Pouch attached to front

The Gen 3 FASTmag is easier to attach to MOLLE webbing than the Gen 2. I always had a hard time making sure that the sewn-on webbing strap lay flat - the excess tab where it was sewn always seemed to sit wrong and add some bulk. The new polymer straps are lower profile and just as secure. Stacking the FASTmags wasn't as bulky as I thought they would be. They don't stick out much more than another double mag pouch. It's nice to have the added capacity without having to take up another column of PALS webbing on a rig. I've shown the double-stacked FASTmags attached to the front of a Crye CAGE chassis, giving me two quick-access mags which I'll replenish from the other pouches.

Attached to CAGE chassis

Six FASTmags

Like the Gen 2 FASTmag, the Gen 3 is designed to fit USGI 30-round magazines, but will also accomodate HK mags, Pmags and the Lancer mags I have. The TangoDown ARC mags will also fit, but not sit all the way down. Note that the civilian ARC mag without the rubber seal and ridge will fit, but the military version won't.


CP Gear FASTmag Flap

11/16/09 - CPGear by Wheeler in Canada has introduced a FASTmag Flap for the ITW Gen 3 FASTmag. It's a fabric flap that attaches to the FASTmag to provide added security and camouflage.

Description - The FASTmag flap is designed for the tabbed (molle-compatible) version of the ITW Gen 3 FASTmag. It will not work with Gen 1 or Gen 2 FASTmags. The flap comes in two pieces; the flap portion and the front portion. The flap portion has velcro on it, a pull tab and two metal triglides attached to elastic loops. The front portion has malice clips, loop velcro which interfaces with the flap, and two PALS rows for attaching pouches. It can be used with the FASTmag right side up or inverted.

FASTmag flap

Rear of flap

Attached to FASTmag


Tucked behind mag

Setup and usage - The flap attaches to the tabbed FASTmag by inserting the triglides through the top tab holes. The flap is then secured when the FASTmag is attached to PALS webbing. The front portion attaches to the front of the FASTmag by the malice clips. The FASTmag flap was designed to be used with USGI 30-round magazines, so any mags that are longer might not work well with it. Pmags are too long. The elastic has some 'give', and I had to use that stretch to ensure that the velcro in front overlapped enough to be secure with my USGI mag and ranger plate on the bottom.

It's possible to attach the flap to the belt version of the FASTmag, which doesn't have the tabs on top, by sliding the straps on the back of the FASTmag through the triglides as shown below. However, it doesn't work well with 30-round mags as the attach point of the flap is now lower than before, and shortens it. It can be used with 20-round mags though.


Attached to belt version

Too tight for 30-rnd mag

On rig

The FASTmag flap also folds in half, on itself, and can be tucked away behind the mag for immediate access. Inserting a mag is now a two-handed job, just like most flapped mag pouches, instead of just being able to insert it into the FASTmag. I found the FASTmag flap to work the same as other mag pouch flaps, and secure as long as USGI mags were used. I'd like to see CP Gear work on a version optimized for the front FASTmag or just a simple camo cover without flap.



1/28/06 - This is the Eagle Industries Universal Chest Rig, SKD MOLLE version, from SKD Tactical. The UCR is an SKD-exclusive version of Eagle's CR-PHUTV (Chest Rig, Paul Howe Universal Tactical Vest). The CR-PHUTV has been in high demand since it was introduced in early 2005, due to it's simplicity, great value, and versatility. It was designed by Paul Howe (a very well-respected veteran of the Army Special Forces). The original CR-PHUTV had two MBITR radio pouches on each end, but SKD Tactical had Eagle remove these, and replace them with two columns of PALS instead, to allow attachment of any MOLLE-compatible pouch that fits in that space. This further increases the versatility of this rig, as the MBITR pouches were sized rather specifically.

The main body of the UCR is basically a panel 21.5" wide x 7" tall. On the front are 4 open-top rifle mag pouches, with four pistol mag pouches piggy-backed on the front of the middle two. On each end of the panel are the SKD-mod; 2 columns X 4 rows of PALS. On the back of the panel is a trapezoidal-shaped mesh pocket for storing flat items. It has no closure. The panel is actually made of two layers cordura, and is 'hollow' inside, to form an internal storage compartment. This compartment is accessed through the velcro opening between the shoulder strap take-off points, and has a couple of tabs to assist in opening. The compartment has grommets on the back for drainage.

The shoulder straps are padded, and attach to the body with 1-1/4" buckles in front, and 1" buckles at the sides. A dual-adjustable 1" waist belt completes the strap system. All plastic hardware is from National Molding but is cross-compatible with ITW Fastex hardware.

Front view

Mesh pocket on the rear

Inside compartment and pouch layout

All pouches are grommeted

On the front of the rig are four pistol mag pouches, with two flaps that cover two at a time. These will fit most pistol mags out there, but the flaps are a bit short. The flaps are perfect for Glock 19 mags (for which the rig was designed for), but the velcro will have only about 1/2" of engagement on longer mags. The G17 mag seems to be the limit for engagement of the velcro with about 3/8" of engagement. Two single stack .45 mags will fit in each pouch, for a total of 8. If Eagle extended the flaps by 1" and made them separate, that'd be my personal preference.

The four rifle mag pouches are sized for two M4 30-round mags each, but will also fit one AK or FAL mag. Each pouch has 1" elastic for retention, while the two outer pouches also have an adjustable 1" strap for added retention. Other than that, the pouches are open-top and have no lids. They're quick to access and seem to be secure enough. The AK mag is shown bullets down in the pouch, but it is more prone to the mag catch tang snagging than with the bullets up. The two end pouches will also fit a handgun, if you choose to carry one there. I was able to fit my Kimber Warrior with light in there.

4 pistol mag pouches

G17's the limit for the velcro

A variety of mags and a G19

I have a short torso, so I tend to wear a chest rig high, or else it'll interfere with any belt rig I'm wearing. I also have trouble wearing a pack with most rigs as they interfere with the use of a hip/waist belt, but the UCR is probably the most pack-compatible rig I currently have. It's a very stable platform, with no slippage or shifting of the load whatsoever, when adjusted properly. The shoulder strap adjustments are like all others I've seen - they tighten by pulling up and back. Hence they have to be pre-adjusted before you put the UCR on, which isn't difficult or awkward at all. The waist strap can be adjusted on the go if needed. Removing the rig is accomplished simply by unbuckling one end of the waist belt, and lifting it over your head. I haven't found a need to unbuckle the shoulder straps too at the front yet, although that would be the fastest way of ditching it.

This rig was designed to be worn alone, over body armour, in a vehicle, with a pack etc. Shown below is the rig worn with a Kifaru Express. I'm able to utilize the hip belt of the Express with the UCR - something I have trouble doing with most other rigs. The UCR shoulder straps are low profile enough for the pack straps to sit on top of, but definitely more comfortable than 'seatbelt' webbing alone. I think they're a very good combination, and would recommend this rig for use with a pack if you're looking for one with minimal interference. Also shown is the rig worn with a Crye armoured belt rig.

Front view


Worn with Kifaru Express

Worn with Crye belt/HSGI suspenders

SKD Tactical has added more versatility to the already versatile CR-PHUTV with the MOLLE modification. I'd have to put this rig at the top of my list of recommendations for sheer value. Even though it'll work well for experienced and 'beginning' shooters alike, it also makes a great 'starter rig' for someone new to the gear/tactical carbine world. In general, I've noticed, most people start out by needing carbine mag pouches and some pistol pouches, which the UCR offers already built in. Try building a modular rig with equivalent capacity for under $90. You'll be hard-pressed to do it, and also match the quality of Eagle Industries.

At the range with a Crye belt rig


8/06/06 - This is more of a suppliment than a full writeup to the Eagle Industries Universal Chest Rig, SKD MOLLE version, shown above. SKD Tactical is offering an all-molle version of the UCR platform. It's not a standard Eagle offering, but exclusive to SKD. The molle version shares the same 12.5" x 7" panel and shoulders straps as the UCR and has the same internal compartment in the center and mesh pocket in the rear (refer to the writeup above for details). The only difference is that it has no sewn-on pockets, but a PALS grid of 14 channels x 4 rows so the user can configure the chest rig with his own pouches. It's a simple, low-profile platform that isn't too bulky to be worn over body armour. I've shown it below with the Esstac Toaster pouch and EMDOM 6o4 pistol mag pouch.

Front view

Mesh pocket on the rear and center compartment

Front view, worn

With pouches

Esstac Double M4 "Toaster" mag pouch - Just when I thought that there wasn't anything really new that could be done in M4 rifle mag pouch design, the double M4 "Toaster" pouch made by Essential Tactical and carried by SKD comes out. The Toaster is a pouch that holds two M4 30 round mags. What makes this pouch unique is that the front magazine will 'pop up' like a piece of toast when the lid is lifted up. Inside the pouch is an ingeniously designed elastic suspension system, which serves two purposes - to provide elastic retention for the inner magazine, and to pop the front mag up. The first 1.5" elastic strap loop is sewn to the rear of the pouch, and retains the inner magazine securely. The second elastic strap is sewn vertically to the first elastic strap and to the inside front of the pouch, leaving some space at the bottom. When the outer magazine is inserted, it stretches the front strap as it's pushed to the bottom of the pouch. The lid is closed while pushing the magazine down. When the lid is opened, the front mag pops up about 1.5" higher than the inner mag, making it easier to grab and extract as it puts more of the mag body in your hand.
The opening of the pouch body is held open by a stiff, thick piece of webbing. This give the opening its shape, provides support for the elastic strap and also ensures that the mag pops out properly. The lid is extremely solidly built and stiff at the bottom - no pull tab is needed. Ample velcro overlap in front ensures the tensioned lid won't open accidentally. The lid is long enough to accomodate mags with ranger plates. The back of the pouch has a PALS grid for malice clip attachment and there's a grommet at the bottom of the pouch. Construction and quality are excellent.
The pouch eliminates the need for any Magpuls or 550 cord pulls on the front magazine, although they'd be helpful on the second mag. The stiff lid is easy to open, and the mag literally pops up into your hand (no, it doesn't fly out, it's just raised in the pouch). Shown below mounted to the Eagle/SKD molle chest rig, I'd say that this is arguably the quickest and easiest first-mag access closed-top M4 mag pouch out there.

Toaster pouch

Front mag popped up

Internal elastic

Lid lifted up, mag popped up

Easy access to mag


Original SOE Gear Micro Rigs

2/21/09 - The idea of a small, lightweight 'micro' rig isn't a new one. There may be times when there is no need or time to don a full rig (or space to store it), and all that's needed is a few magazines or essential items. The old Biafran Mile Run pouch comes to mind, as does the SORD MFF reviewed below.

The solution has come in various forms; small bags, bandoleers, small chest rigs etc. Original SOE Gear now offers their take on the small, lightweight rig in the form of their Micro Rigs. Originally designed as bandoleers for a quick grab and go, the Micro Rigs can also be worn as mini-chest rigs for a more stable platform.

Description - There are two models: the AK/M4 Micro Rig, and the PALS Micro Rig. 1.5" wide webbing is used for the shoulder straps which are connected to the platform with side-release buckles at the top and side corners of the platform. A 1" wide waist strap is attached, also with side-release buckles. The platform/panel also forms a full sized internal pocket with velcro closure. Two tabs at the top aid in pulling the opening apart. Inside the pocket is a 12" wide strip of 3" loop velcro for attaching optional organizers or velcro-backed pouches.

AK/M4 Micro Rig - The AK/M4 Micro rig has two mag pouches sewn on the left side with adjustable lids. Each pouch will hold 2 M4 mags, PMags, or AK mags. The lids are secured with velcro, and the openings of the pouches are stiffened so they don't collapse completely. To the right of the mag pouches is a utility pocket measuring 6 x 6 x 2 inches. A blowout kit of IFAK will fit in the utility pouch. The utility pocket flap also has 3 ” wide loop velcro inside to attach (optional) organizers. The lid is secured with velcro. The AK/M4 Micro rig also has a tubular webbing grab handle which the PALS rig doesn't.

PALS Micro Rig - The PALS Micro Rig is 7” tall by 13” wide and has 8 columns by 3 rows of colour-matched PALS. Other than the lack of pouches, everything else is the same as the M4/AK Micro rig.

Both rigs are constructed of 1000D Cordura nylon with OSOE's typical overbuilt construction.

PALS Micro Rig

PALS rig rear

M4/AK Micro Rig

Lids open

Rear of M4/AK rig

Setup and usage - Both Micro Rigs can be worn as either a mini-chest rig, or over the shoulder as a bandoleer by removing one shoulder strap. I found the 1.5" shoulder straps to be very easy to adjust by sliding the triglides up and down. Releasing the rig is as simple as undoing the waist strap and lifting it over your head, or unclicking one of the shoulder straps.

With M4 and AK mags

Internal pocket

PALS Micro Rig

The M4/AK Micro Rig is optimized for right handers, as the rifle mag pouches are located on the left side. Worn as a bandoleer (shown in the two right photos below), however, worked well for me as a left hander. For bandoleer configuration, I just removed one of the shoulder straps. It goes on and off quickly. When worn as as chest rig or bandoleer, I found it important to ensure that the waist strap was snug, to prevent the whole rig being pulled up when extracting mags, and also to prevent shifting of the load when on the move. Worn properly, the Micro Rig is very stable.

The Micro Rigs have a lot of uses - as an active shooter response kit, minimal range gear setup, or worn with a pack etc. The PALS Rig will actually accomodate four double mag pouches, so it's possible to load it up with 8 mags. That's a bit much for the unpadded shoulder straps, in my opinion, but OSOE offers padded shoulder straps if you need them.

Note: Some customers contacted me in the past concerning issues with backordered items from OSOE. OSOE is not taking individual orders anymore and is directing customers to purchase from their network of dealers. To avoid any delays in orders, it's a good idea to verify with the dealer that items are in stock.


M4/AK Micro Rig

M4/AK rig worn as a bandoleer

Another item from OSOE is a camera strap made from tubular webbing for comfort. It attaches with two 550 cord loops on the ends. One side of the webbing is flat (non-tubular) and the end is pulled to shorten the strap. The ladder lock is pulled up to lengthen the strap. The flat webbing must be separated from the tubular side in order to thread it through the 550 cord loop. It is then routed back through the ladder loc, where it will not slip out by accident. I installed the strap on my Nikon D80 SLR, and found the tubular webbing very comfortable around my neck and didn't find it too heavy for the 1" wide webbing.

Camera strap

Taken apart for installation


SORD Australia Military Free Fall Chest Rig

1/29/06 - This is the Military Free Fall rig (MFF) from SORD Australia (Special Operations Research and Development). SORD carries a variety of miltiary and tactical equipment, and also manufactures products of their own design. The MFF is one of SORD's own products, and it's designed as specialized rig for anyone who may not have the room for a full-sized vest or chest rig, or requires little or no interference with webbing, harness or packs. Designed for free fall parachutists, drivers, climbers etc, the MFF only covers the front of the chest, out of the way of most other equipment with the minimum of bulk.

The single trapezoidal panel has 3 rows of PALS webbing on it. The upper corners are angled off, which restricts the column of PALS on either side to two rows of PALS. The center portion has 6 columns x 3 rows of PALS webbing. The panel is lightly padded and retains its shape. The shoulder straps are 2" wide, and are constructed of 2" wide webbing with 1" webbing sewn on top. This makes for a very low profile, flat strap, which is more than adequate for a rig this size. The shoulder straps connect to the front via 1" SR fastex buckles and ladder locks at the sides of the panel. A 1" waist strap is attached and adjusted to the panel with ladder locks. It was spec'd this way for parachuting, to prodive more security than an SR buckle. Both the shoulder and waist straps are long enough to wear the MFF over body armour. Construction, quality and materials are very good.

Front view

Back view

Close up of low profile shoulder straps

As you can see from the photos below, it's an extremely compact rig. It just covers the chest area, and it's nice and stable. I loaded it up with a BH STRIKE double M4 pouch, a SOTECH small utility pouch and a Maxpedition flashlight pouch. I could have added another pistol mag pouch on the PALS next to the M4 pouch but didn't need to. Just like the Eagle UCR reviewed above, the MFF interfaces nicely with a pack. Even better actually, due to its compact size. The photos below illustrate how there is absolutely no interference whatsoever with a pack, and the low profile shoulder straps are almost unnoticeable under the pack's straps.

Front and back, worn

With Kifaru Express pack

No interference with pack straps

The pics below show it worn over a Crye belt rig, and the same pouches attached as in the previous photos. I'm carrying two FAL mags instead of M4 mags, since that's what I'm shooting. Wearing it, I'm reminded of Eagle's Biafran Mile Run rig, which was a minimalist chest pouch designed to carry only a couple of essential items, only it was smaller and wasn't modular. The MFF might suit the same purpose as well, with greater versatility. The only change I made to the MFF was to replace one of the waist strap ladder locks with a SR buckle, to make donning and doffing easier. (SORD tells me that they had already planned to implement this in their updated model)

MFF with Crye belt

The MFF is about as small/low profile a chest rig as you can get, and still be practical. Depending on what pouches you install, its carrying capacity might surprise you. Besides its intended military users, I also think it's perfect for the backcountry hiker or hunter to carry ammunition or essentials within reach and quick access when wearing a pack. It'd also make a good platform for field photographers with the right pouches.

Here's another example - shown below with the EMDOM USA Wide 3" pouch (found on this page) - this might give you medics and SAR guys some ideas. Just by chance, I also found that I could flip this rig around and wear it backwards like a little small-of-the-back pack with NO adjustment of the shoulder straps.

MFF with EMDOM WL 3"

Worn backwards


PARACLETE R.A.C.K. (Ranger Assault Carrying Kit)

As far as the story goes, the R.A.C.K. in its first incarnation was originally made by Tactical Tailor for 2/75 with sewn down pockets. When the entire Regiment wanted it, Natick stepped in, added PALS and had SDS (Specialty Defense Systems) produce it for the U.S Army Rangers. Blackhawk also makes their version, as does Paraclete, as shown here. Thanks to J.S. for the loan of this item for pics. Since I have neither the BH or SDS versions on hand, I can't compare them to this product. The main panel has 3 rows of PALS webbing and 20 channels/columns. The bib (which can be folded out of the way) has 3 rows and 6 channels. The bib is held up by two tabs of webbing which go through D-rings on the shoulder straps. On the inside, the main body has 3 mesh pockets for maps or small/flat items and the bib has 1, with velcro tab closures.

The quality is the usual high standard of Paraclete with all high-stress points bartacked. At first, I had reservations about the comfort of the shoulder straps as they are only 1.5" wide and unpadded. However, donning the vest and loading it up proved to be more comfortable than I thought. Quite a pleasant surprise, actually. It's quite form fitting, just like the BH STRIKE chest harness. The shoulder straps are a bit difficult to adjust as you have to pull up and back. You can pre-set the length of the straps, but have to get used to taking it on and off. The advantage to the thin straps are that they do not affect the wearing of a ruck at all. The shoulder straps are connected to the front of the main body via side-release fastex buckles, in case the rig needs to be ditched or taken off quickly. The bib attachments will have to be released first, of course. The setup shown here consists of the following Paraclete pouches: 1 quad pistol mag, 4 double M4, 1 radio, 1 small GP and 2 flashbang pouches.

Front view

Front view showing pouches

Inside view

Front view



As the name implies, this vest released via a 'rip cord' handle for emergency doffing. It's covered in PALS webbing and will hold soft and hard armour plates. The assaulter kit comes with a zillion pouches and pockets. The smoke green colour is REALLY nice. Don't write me about it - this one isn't mine.

This is the 3-colour desert version of the RAV. This thing has almost too MUCH PALS webbing, making it tempting to fill every available space with a pouch. This vest is designed for mounted patrols or door kicking, not long range jungle walks or mountain climbs. Too friggin' heavy, bulky and hot (with plates and ballistic panels). Some of the key features of the RAV include:

Front view - 4 M4 STRIKE mag pouches, quad pistol, STRIKE 100rnd SAW, small GP pouch.

Rear view showing the zip-off rear panel, radio pouch, and other various ones

Outer cummerbund folds over and velcros/zippers in front

RAV all laid out, showing inner cummerbund

View of the rear release mechanism and internal ballistic panel pockets



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