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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.
Oneiros Valley Practical Admin Pouch
8/23/14 - The Practical Admin Pouch from Oneiros Valley is designed to be an intuitive, low-profile pouch to hold mission-essential administrative items. The PAP is manufactured by First Spear for Oneiros Valley.
Overall Description and features - The Practical Admin Pouch (PAP) is a modular admin pouch with a trifold configuration , designed by firearms instructor Matthew Cole of Cole Partnerships and Training. It is designed to be worn front-mounted and centered on a plate carrier, with the intent that it does not interfere with magazine access. It can also be mounted on a belt rig or carried in a pant cargo pocket.
The main features are as follows:
The PAP can mount to three or four columns of PALS webbing (I prefer four for the stability) and is a medium sized admin pouch. There's a slot pocket in the rear, which is the only outer pocket on the PAP. It's measures about 5.5" x 3.75" and has no closure. The front of the PAP is covered in loop velcro, and is velcro-secured when folded down. There's an internal pocket inside thetop/ front flap, which measures about 5.75" wide and 2.25" deep (accounting for the velcro closure). There's a small grab tab to assist in opening it. There's the main pocket below the top flap, which will accommodate a 5" x 3" Rite-in-the-rain note pad (pictured below).
The PAP folds out like a tri fold wallet. Unfolding the bottom flap reveals the removable map insert, made out of clear plastic. I've illustrated it below with a catalog that measures 7" x 5" with the top sticking out. The velcro closure takes up some room, so anything that goes in there will have to folded to a size 5" wide x 6.75" long. The clear insert itself folds in half, and attaches to the loop velcro inside the bottom flap. Removing the insert reveals a 2" wide elastic loop for a tourniquet underneath, sewn to the bottom flap. Obviously, the map insert cannot be used when a tourniquet is carried in the loop.
The center panel has eight loops of elastic; which are designed to hold two pens and two chem lights. The pens and chem lights can be inserted from either side without having to open the flaps.
Observations/Notes - There are a lot of choices out there, when it comes to admin pouches - some are small; some are larger, and some are huge. Which one works best for the end user depends on what he wants to carry. Common placement is front and center; either on the upper chest for the smaller admin pouches, and elsewhere, depending on the size.
The PAP isn't the slimmest due to the amount of velcro used. Velcro always adds thickness, and the PAP is 1" thick when completely empty. At the range, I loaded the PAP up with two pens, a chem light, a small Rite-in-the-rain notebook, and a multitool in the top flap pocket. I left the clear insert out. On the Oneirosvalley website product overview, it states "the PAP incorporates a fold-out design that does not interfere with magazine access when mounted on a plate carrier, even when heavily laden with contents." so I was quite excited to put that to the test.
I placed it right above the single mag pouches on the front of a Crye AVS, size medium. The Crye mag pouches are a snug fit, and the thickness of the PAP did prevent me from extracting the magazines as I normally would. The two on either side would not clear the PAP without wiggling, and the center mag was plain difficult. This wasn't an unexpected discovery to me as I've found that just about anything mounted above the front mag pouches can interfere with normal magazine extraction to some extent, unless there's enough clearance between the top of the mag pouch and whatever is mounted above it. If I have a single row of mag pouches, anything mounted above them is a no-go if I'd like to get to my mags easily.
When the PAP is mounted above double mag pouches, that makes the mags easier to extract because the outer magazine is already pushed out an inch by the inner magazine. When the outer magazine has been extracted, the magazine pouch is loose enough such that the second mag is also easy to extract. So, if unrestricted magazine access is required, I'd recommend using double mag pouches with the PAP unless you have adequate clearance between the top of the mag pouches and the PAP. It also depends on how loaded up the PAP is. With the contents I listed above, it was 1.5" thick. Adding more stuff to that just made it thicker (obviously). For some reason, I was hoping the PAP to be some magical pouch or bottomless hole that doesn't get any bulkier no matter what you put in it, but it isn't. It's still a good pouch, even if it isn't magical. Not being in the military, I 'don't know what I don't know', and maybe quick access to chest mounted mags isn't as important as I imagine it would be.
I did like the easy side access I had to the pens. They don't require the PAP to be opened up to get to them Re-inserting the pens into the loops is a bit more tricky. If I just shoved a pen into the side of the PAP, getting it into an elastic loop was a hit-or-miss affair. It'd be retained simply by the snugness of the pouch, but not as securely as when inserted through an elastic loop. I found that if I first used a finger to feel for a loop, then guide the pen in, it'd be retained securely, even if it didn't make it through the second elastic loop.
I also tried mounting it on the cummerbund of the AVS, on the weak side, right under my right arm (I'm left handed). It was high enough such that it didn't interfere with magazine extraction from my belt-mounted pouches. The caveat to that position is that it was high up under the arm, and accessing all the pockets was somewhat awkward.
I do like the size of the pouch as afar as admin pouches go; and the storage space it offers for small items and tools; but it's not as low profile as it could be (mostly due to the velcro on both sides of the bottom flap). If I had to reduce some bulk on the design, I'd probably delete the 500D cordura that forms the top flap, bottom flap and middle portion, and just use a single sheet of loop velcro material. The bottom flap would just consist of the velcro folded up and sewn to itself with no 550D cordura in between. All this being said, it's a well-made item and lower profile than many of the other admin pouches I've seen; whether it works for you just depends on what you're going to load it up with and what your priorities are.
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