For your typical trip to the range you’ll require nothing more than a firearm, some ammo, and maybe a magazine or two. You’re really not going anywhere and everything you need fits nicely on the shooter’s bench. But for those folks looking to survive a flesh-eating invasion of the dead, you’ll need to carry ammo around for several reloads and a tactical rig of some sort is needed. There are all sorts of options out there, but I’ll share a few of my favorites for your consideration. Like I said, there are lots of things to choose from out there, but cost and utility are at the top of my list.
At a minimum you need ammo pouches and some means to carry water. How much ammo and water is up to the shooter, but weight and bulk must be taken into consideration. If you use your rig for other things like hunting or camping (like I do), you’ll probably want to consider adding a few extras like a compass, pace count beads, a first aid kit, knife and a small flashlight.
MOLLE “Rhodesian-style” rigs are all the rage these days and I would agree that they have their place, but they aren’t my favorite. They are good for wear over top of body armor, but they don’t distribute weight very well and they make firing from the prone extremely difficult. In fact, the weight distribution issue is such a problem I wouldn’t recommend wearing one at all if body armor is not a consideration. The shooter’s center of gravity is seriouly affected and they have contributed to countless cases of lower back injuries.
This example has rifle magazine pouches for either twenty-round 7.62 NATO magazines (M14, G3, FAL, etc.), or they double for thirty-round 5.56 mags. It also has a couple of pouches for one-quart canteens, and it has two small ALICE pouches for a compass and some first aid items.
On rig number two here, we have another example of a MOLLE “Rhodesian” set-up. It can hold six thirty-round magazines, two quarts of water, a compass and some first aid items. It’s also got a small flashlight, and has a small velcro pouch to carry a three-inch lock blade knife. Again, this one is good to wear over top of body armor. Without armor it distributes weight poorly and the shooter will have difficulty firing from the prone position.
In this example, you’ll see that the suspenders are modified from the LBV (Load Bearing Vest) that were largely fielded with the ALICE equipment in the 1990’s. As you can see, the original magazine pouches have been removed, but the larger and more padded shoulder pads have been retained. This rig also has the doubled-up magazine pouches, which gives the shooter the option of carrying twelve magazines, a buttpack, two canteens, a compass and first aid kit. The buttpack is good for carrying stuff for short duration trips such as rain gear, some food, and other emergency supplies such as shelter-building materials or spare socks. The drawback with buttpacks is that they are usually in the way if you want to carry a full sized backpack or rucksack–particularly for long distances. But again, for short duration trips, the buttpack has some utility.
This next one is kind of unique in that the magazine pouches are some after-market mil-spec knock-offs that are made to carry AK magazines. Other than that it’s your typical LBE/LCE design (Load Bearing Equipment/Load Carrying Equipment). It’s got the capacity to carry six magazines, two canteens, compass, first aid kit and it has the buttpack attached.
This example is another slight variation on the ALICE LBE, with a holster attached for a pistol. The holster is based on the standard military issue design which is not the best available on the market, but it is sturdy and well built for the money. The real beauty of this holster however, is that it can accomodate just about any mid-sized pistol without modification. So whether you own a 1911 or a Ruger P89, you can use this sort of holster without any issues. Also, as you can see, the suspenders have been adjusted so that they are pulled almost all the way up and the pouches are mounted in such a way that when the belt is clipped shut, the ammo and water is all located forward in the vicinity of the shooter’s abdomen. This rig is set up this way to accomodate a large packback or rucksack for extended hikes. First off there is nothing on the backside to hinder the wear of a pack, and secondly the pistol belt is worn high (the pistol belt should clip together near the sternum). The reason for the belt riding high is so that it does not come in contact with the hips–on long hikes the pistol belt can (and will) rub on the hips and literally wear the skin off. Wearing the belt high prevents this and provides more comfort for the wearer. Also, this brings the magazine pouches up higher–which many shooters prefer for quick reloads.
The last example is an LBE with the standard ammo pouches and canteens like the others, with compass and first aid pouches. This one though, has a holster with a drop-leg extender that accomodates two spare pistol mags, a hunting knife, SAW pouch, pace-count beads and a small Mag-Light. The SAW pouch can carry six thirty-round magazines–giving this rig the capability of carrying twelve mags–or it can be used for pogey bait (snacks) or other small items.
Some folks don’t like drop-leg holsters and that’s fine, at the end of the day it’s personal preference. I can tell you that I’ve been using them for years–one of those years in Afghanistan–and I think they are okay. Just like anything there is a time and place for them, but there is nothing wrong with the old “Han Solo” rig in my not-so humble opinion.
The bottom line here is that you have options on how you want to build your own personal shooter’s rig. I prefer the old ALICE LBE/LCE style equipment myself, but that’s largely because it’s cheap, available, and I’m comfortable with it. You may prefer something different, and that’s okay, but get out there and experiment with the stuff. Wear it out in the woods and see if it fits right and to see if there is anything else that you’d add or leave behind. Don’t just put something together in your man cave, hang it on a nail and never wear it. You won’t ever know if the thing is fitted properly or has all the stuff that you like or need.
And lastly, have fun building your rig.