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Blue Force Gear RACKminus
11/3/12 - The RACKminus from Blue Force Gear is an ultra lightweight chest rig made of BFG's proprietary ULTRAcomp material, and the first in their line of MOLLEminus products. MOLLEminus is the thinnest and lightest modular load carraige standard currently on the market.
MOLLEminus - Earlier this year, Blue Force Gear introduced their Helium Whisper line. Rather than using a back panel to which fabric straps and webbing are sewn, Helium Whisper utilizes a one-piece back panel/strap combination, laser cut out of a hypalon-like material called ULTRAcomp™. The material is a durable, high-performance laminate with a rubberized texture, and is very thin, light, and strong. It also doesn't soak up water when wet (unlike webbing).
The MOLLE system has been around for over a decade, with it's familiar rows of 1" webbing and spacing, and 1.5" vertical bartacks. It's the standard for the U.S. military and provides a standardized method of attaching pouches and accessories to platforms such as plate carriers. Blue Force Gear then turned their attention to the MOLLE platform. They came up with a system they call MOLLEminus - "MOLLE minus the weight, MOLLE minus the bulk, MOLLE minus the complexity."
The typical MOLLE-compatible platform is usually comprised of a base panel or sheet of fabric, to which 1" horizontal webbing is sewn down in rows, spaced 1" apart. The webbing is bartacked at 1.5" intervals, which creates columns. MOLLE-compatible pouches utilize straps that weave in and out of the rows of webbing, alternating with webbing on the back of the pouch. With MOLLEminus, instead of sewing down rows of webbing to create rows and columns, BFG uses slits and cutouts in the single layer of ULTRAcomp material to achieve the same configuration. The result is "... the thinnest, strongest, lightest modular load carriage standard on the market: half the thickness of a dime, over 4 times as abrasion resistant as air textured nylon and formed from a single piece of Blue Force Gear’s proprietary ULTRAcomp™."
With the MOLLEminus system, the first 'row' starts out as a laser cut slit, 1" wide. If you look closely at the photos, you can see that each slit has a small hole cut out at each end. This is done to relieve stress at the end of the slit; to prevent tearing of the material. 0.95" below that, a rectangle is cut in the fabric, also with rounded corners. The rectangle is 1.1" tall and 1" wide. It's not a square; the extra height is there to provide room for weaving a strap through the pouch webbing. The 2nd 'row' is 0.9" tall, followed by another rectangle, and slit. This is the standard three-row MOLLE compatible configuration for use with MOLLE-compatible pouches.
Note that Crye Precision has experimented with lightening up the MOLLE platform with their AirLite skeletal molle system, and First Spear with their 6/12 technology, which uses slits on hypalon-like material as well (just no rectangles).
The RACKminus is BFG's first platform to use their MOLLEminus technology. It's a rack-styled chest rig that weighs about half the weight of a loaded M4 magazine and half the thickness of a dime. It's pretty much the lightest and thinnest modular chest rig on the market at the time of this writing. The entire front panel is made of a single laser-cut piece of ULTRAcomp material.
The shoulder straps are set up in a H configuration. They're adjustable in length at the front as well as the back, which allows the user to determine the ride height of the rig. All adjsutments are accomplished with metal sliders, which I like more than plastic as they're lower profile. Initial setup requires taking the rig on and off, and making adjustments. Once adjusted, you'll have to re-adjust if you plan to wear it over bulky clothing. I'd like to see some sort of 'on the fly' adjustment capability that allows the user to loosen up the rig, then snug it down when it's on. That way, it automatically adjusts in size. I worked with BCS to incorporate such an adjustment system into their AK chest rig with pull-forward strap configuration here, and it's worked very well for me so far.
As you can see from the photos below, the RACKminus has practically no bulk, especially with the Ten-speed triple mag pouch on the front. When the mag pouch is empty, it's flat, and the whole rig can be concealed under a jacket.
The photo below illustrates how compact the RACKminus can roll up, with the Helium Whisper Ten-speed triple mag pouch attached to it. I have not yet seen a chest rig that is so low profile it can fit in a pant cargo pocket. If you're a real low-profile obsessive, you can cut off the front SR buckles and use ITW G-hooks instead. Split bar male buckles can always be re-installed on the front loops to return the RACKminus to its original configuration.
Observations/Notes - Like the BFG Helium Whisper line, the MOLLEminus line is another industry game-changer in my humble opinion, as the technology can be difficult for smaller manufacturers to keep up with unless they can afford the laser cutter. There are companies that offer textile laser cutting services but I have no idea what scale they operate on. I think that it's clear where the industry is headed towards, just by looking at what companies like Crye Precision, First Spear (with their 6/12 system) and BFG are offering. The consumer can only benefit from lighter, stronger and less bulky items.
I don't have the spec of BFG's proprietary ULTRAcomp material, but on examination, it looks like a laminate of Multicam 330D Cordura with Hypalon-like material. I use 'Hypalon-like' because Hypalon is a trademark used by the DuPont company, and Hypalon is no longer produced. Hypalon alternatives/substitutes are now manufactured by other companies under different names. The MultiCam ULTRAcomp is about .030" thick and Hypalon is about .022" thick.
To don the RACKminus, I left all buckles connected and slipped it over my head. It was a bit of a squeeze, but no biggie. I'd also don it with one side strap buckle disconnected, but it was a bit awkward to connect it afterwards (which is the main reason I'd like some sort of adjustment that allows it to be loosened up a bit, then snugged down after it's on). Note that this is common to most chest rigs. To doff it, I'd disconnect the waist strap and one side strap.
With only three M4 mags mounted to the RACKminus, it was predictably low profile, stable and comfortable. I like the shoulder straps with their mesh padding - it's thin and just right for the intended load for the RACKminus. I wore it during a couple of hot, summer range days and felt that the thinness of the synthetic rubber fabric combined with the holes, made it feel cooler than a standard Cordura molle chest rig. The RACKminus raises the bar for light weight and low profile chest platforms. As with BFG's other nylon products, workmanship and quality are excellent. I'm sure we'll be seeing more MOLLEminus platforms in the near future from BFG.
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