Husar EXO Combat Pants – PenCott Camo

As some may know, although I’ve bought a fair few pieces from Crye in recent years I spent even longer before that trying to collect all the quality alternatives that I could find around the world. The prime example would probably be the Mk2 Tac Dax from Plat-A-Tac (mix of AC and G3) but during that period I also gained an interest in the PenCott Camouflage family and began looking for a quality set of uniforms with modern features.

My search ended up at these EXO combat trousers from Husar, which were not a part of their 1st team line-up, as it were, even at the time and I’m not sure if they’re even producing clothing at all at this point, especially given their strong leanings towards the load bearing side of the house. That said I would not be at all displeased to see them get more in to the apparel realm as I’m overall quite pleased with the EXOs.

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They’re something of a blend of a Crye G3 and UF-Pro Striker XT with some hints of older Level 9 PCU contract gear in the form of the slanted pocket lids. The construction is all 50/50 NYCO (no stretch) and there are 500D cordura panels sewn over 3 key areas; namely the seat, kneepad pockets and the insides of the ankles. For me the kneepads are the key reinforcement point but the seat and ankles would come a close 2nd and 3rd without a doubt. Overall of course with the addition of cordura and removal of stretch nylon you are gaining some weight and losing out a touch on the flexibility front, but the durability is most certainly present from a construction perspective.

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Present and accounted for are the adjustable/padded waistband, wide and heavy duty belt loops, adjustable knee pad height, full compatibility with Crye combat pads, a total of 10 pockets, zip and velcro fly, velcro cuffs on the ankle and behind the knee and a partridge in a pear tree. More interesting and unique features include the no-metal/spring cord lock for the knee pad height adjustment as well as the integrated ties that protrude from the rear of the main cargo pocket and can be wrapped around the thigh to really clamp things in place, particularly larger gear that might be carried within said pockets. Don’t go too tight of course as you don’t want a chronically thin tourniquet around that part of your leg.

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For those who like equipment security you’d also be well advised to enquire after the EXO combat trousers as, as notable from the close up of the open pocket, there is an actual ton of velcro square footage to keep that pocket closed and that is a theme throughout the trouser. There is of course also the pair of zipped pockets on the glute region a lá G3s.

Definitely an intriguing Eastern European twist on the New York formula and certainly one I’m pleased to both have in the collection and be able to discuss here.

OPS CORE Counterweight

Something of an irony – to best compliment what is probably the most complex and expensive piece of equipment you might have on your person, you are likely going to want to add something that is comparatively very cheap and could have largely been manufactured thousands of years ago.

Being quite obsessive with lightweight gear and having been in that mindset for a number of years it was a bit of a wrench to force myself to purchase the Gentex Corporation/OPS CORE Counterweight from ODIN Tactical. However having tried out my PVS-14 both with and without any counterbalance it is very clear that having the counterweight is the superior option. It certainly felt very counterproductive to do something deliberately that is known to be the inferior way of doing said thing, but in the long run it does give you a reassurance with regard to the superior method. It can also help to somewhat ease the sting in the wallet region when you have to outlay on a piece of gear.

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The OC Counterweight is a mixture of primarily cordura and hypalon with internal elastic loops (burly elastic at that) and an awful lot of Velcro brand hook and loop. The supplied weight blocks are 70g each with a thick coating and are presumably made of lead given their size to mass ratio. Each block can of course be replaced with more useful items like batteries so that you’re actually getting some potential benefit out of having all that mass added to your head gear. Though the key aspect really is that without having any of that weight at the back of a helmet you’ll have to really crank on your headband adjustment in order to keep the whole helmet stable with NV mounted and that is just not comfortable by comparison to the alternative.

The pouch itself has a window cut on the front for a miniature cyalume to shine through if required (think of a ghetto alternative to an S&S Manta) as well as loop on the outside for a small square of glint tape. Whatever you choose to store inside the pouch is secured with a heavy dose of one-wrap style hook and loop.

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There are 2 methods for mounting the counterweight. First the hook on the rear of the pouch and then the extended replacement screws as depicted which go through the helmet shell. If your helmet/cover is of quality and features good, thick-pile loop fields the velcro interface alone will actually serve very reliably and enables much faster changing of colourways by changing helmet covers. I opt to remove the plastic hardware that facilitates the screw mounting and just tuck the hypalon straps away and for most of my purposes the velcro mounting alone is more than secure enough. For military folks deploying/jumping or indeed civilians who need a counterweight on a sky diving helmet, adding in the certainty of the screw mounting will of course be the way to go.

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It’s temping to just not admit this part, but I’ll say it anyway since it’s a rare example – I did actually try a nasty, cheap Chinese made knock-off of this pouch before purchasing the OPS CORE original, however the weighted blocks were made of raw steel and arrived absolutely covered in rust and the pouch itself was badly sewn with poor quality ‘velcro’. It might well have done service for hobby usage if attached using the screw system, but I wasn’t happy with it overall, especially since I wanted the ability to quickly tear off the counterweight yet still have it securely retained by the velcro alone. Years ago I’d sometimes succumb to the allure of cheap clones when it came to very simple gear items like this which fulfil an incredibly basic function, but personally it’s burnt me too many times to ever forget my lessons learned.

A more featured, modern alternative option to consider would be something like the TNVC, Inc Mohawk OEM’d by Spiritus Systems. The Mk3 Mohawk is optimal for NVGs running a battery box and for a PVS setup like mine the Mk1 would be a great choice (if your helmet/cover has the right loop fields to match up of course).

Baby Got Modular Back – Tyr Tac Assaulters’ Panel

So you’ve got modularity on the front of your rig, that’s good, probably the priority, but now what about the back?

Check out this article if you’ve missed it for a detailed discussion on what I find to be the ‘perfect’ assembly of gear to form the optimal modular magazine carriage:

www.thefull9.net/picnmix/

With the front business out of the way it’s time to look at the party in the back, in this case in the form of the TYR Tactical, LLC Standard Assaulters’ Zip-On Platform. 70oz hydration size to be exact. If you happen to use something like a JPC 2.0 or Vel Sys Scarab then you will already have zips built in to your rear plate bag and a few choices of modular back panel available to you. The great thing with the Tyr product however is that as long as you’ve got enough PALS real estate you can mount it to absolutely anything. Since the zip mounted panels aren’t currently something FirstSpear offer integrally with their PCs and I wanted that modularity on the rear as well as the front, I thought I’d see what I might be able to puzzle together.

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There is a very substantial caveat here in that you need to really take the time to count your PALS rows and columns before purchasing any piece of kit like this. Especially from Tyr given the fact they not only are they a brand that’s up there in quality and price but also build almost everything to order and have a fair lead time. If there’s one thing buying lots of gear over many years has definitely taught me, it’s that it is crucial to take a few minutes and do a careful visual check of your current kit vs the size of what you’re buying. It may make you feel like you’re going a tad cross eyed trying to count PALS rows on a small website image but it’s so much better in the long run than waiting ages to get something just to find

This can apply to sizing on things like belts as well, but for large pouches and platforms it most definitely comes in handy. If you read the above linked article for example you’ll have seen a custom setup on the front of my MBAV cut FS Strandhogg – I had to very specifically buy the MBAV to make that whole thing happen as the SAPI cut I already had in my possession at the time simply lacked the necessary number of PALS rows to attach both the loop field and the female 1″ buckles. Just the same happened on the back as well, with the SAPI cut having the steeper angles at the top it lacked the necessary height of PALS rows, but the more rectangular MBAV provided more space and just manages to fit the Tyr panel.

As you can see the Tyr setup is simple to install, you just thread on the 2 separate zip mounts and you’re ready to attach any of the numerous panels that are on offer. There’s simple PALS panels like this one which have an internal space for a hydro, then there are other variants with sewn on pouches, one with a small pack and even one for specific breathing gear. Swapping between any of those, or indeed just going back to slick, takes around 30 seconds. The zip mounts have internal stiffening and are also available to buy on their own, so once you’ve bought a panel you can share that between multiple platforms if desired. Exactly the sort of product line-up that I like to see.

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Construction wise they definitely went all out on bar-tacks and webbing as you can see in the pictures. Personally if an option was available with none of the loops on the panel itself and with slicked down zip mounts I’d go for that. Even though I’m often a critic of hypalon I’d actually like to see the zip mounts made from said material, or even just a lighter cordura since they’re mostly going be covered and protected when in use – that would shave a nice bit of bulk and weight by comparison to the current all-webbing design. There’s no denying the long term durability you’re getting here though.

The only slight shame is that there’s no commonality or cooperation between manufacturers even though these rear zip panels have become quite popular now. For example, just off the top of my head I know Crye, Tyr Tac, Velocity and LBX are all making them but none of them are interchangeable on account of the zip types and panel sizes. There has been some standardisation on the Velocity Systems spec for front placard mounting so it is possible, but there’s been a lot more demand in the market for the placards by comparison to rear panels so you can see how the current situation has come about.

The picture accompanying this post shows the 70oz panel attached to a Medium Ranger Green FirstSpear AAC back panel, I’ve since moved the entire setup to my Medium Multicam MBAV Strandhogg but fortunately both are tall enough to accommodate. Again if this is something you’d like to add to your own kit be sure to take the time and count/measure everything up.

Tyr vs HSGI – Promiscuous Pouches

The toughest kind of gear writing is to try and compare two outwardly extremely similar products, or borderline identical in this instance. So let us examine the TYR Tactical, LLC Combat Adjustable magazine pouch versus the most obvious competition in the form of the standard High Speed Gear TACO (both pictured pouches are Tyr of course).
 
First thing to note is there are 2 main variants from Tyr, the standard ones that I have here and cost $33 each, then the ‘Happy Mag’ types which include a plastic clip internal to the base of the pouch (presumably kydex) and cost around $50 each. I’d probably find a lot more comparative differences in the Happy Mag version, but for my purposes the extra cost just isn’t justified when the TACOs already work well and I’m not 100% certain the overall function of the pouch would actually be better in terms of what I personally want out of it when the kydex is added.
 
I originally picked up a couple of the CAPs since I’d seen a few folks rave about them on forums as somehow being miraculously better than the TACOs and in reality the 1st gen attachment on the TACO had, without a doubt, annoyed me significantly. I was also cognisant of the fact that, at that time, I’d not found anything all-around better than the HSG design after many years of trying alternatives so I was keen to see if anything on the market could usurp the current king of the hill.
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Since the differences between the two aren’t necessarily immediately obvious even when holding both in front of you I’ll try to break them down as best I can. The first one that stands out to me is the size change, because they both share a height and depth but the CAP is slightly wider. Only by 6mm/~1/4″ but that is going to make the CAP slightly better suited to 762×51 magazines. On the other hand of course the TACO is perhaps very slightly better at dealing with 556 mags and will fare more positively when multiples of the pouch are stacked up or mounted adjacent to each other. The good thing about 545×39 and 556 mags of course is they fit very nicely and neatly in to the constraints of 2 columns of PALS, whereas other larger magazines can be mildly awkward when positioned next to each other purely on account of the design of the attachment system – certainly if we’re talking about more than 2 magazines being neighbours or a vest that is particularly crowded with equipment. Not a common situation perhaps but some folks will run their gear that way.
 
Attachment on the CAPs is achieved via integrated webbing strap using the tuck tail method that Crye also uses on the SPS, although the Tyr does not use Hypalon and the ends of each web strap are sewn double thickness to provide friction once doubled back and tucked. Frankly by comparison to current production TACOs I’ve got no real preference either way as once mounted it makes no odds and both pouches will sit securely at the same height.
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Routing of the bungee cord may look different from the TACO but adjustment is accomplished via the same manner and in the same location via a cord lock and the tail can be stowed up amongst the PALS if so desired. A difference is that the sides of the CAP are cordura laminated on to free floating strips of plastic, whereas the TACO of course incorporates a U-shaped injection moulded piece that is riveted in to the base of the pouch.
 
On the inside the CAP has small sections of non-slip material to aid somewhat in adding friction for retention whereas the TACOs have small areas of loop velcro in the same areas so the end user may add adhesive hook to their magazines. The CAPs also come standard with bungee over-mag retention and while the HSG design incorporates a webbing tap on the front to add the bungee there is none included by default.  The stitch work from Tyr is easily recognisable as the superior of the two products in question. The per inch count is far higher, doubly so in fact at 10 stitches per inch vs 5 on most areas of the HSG pouch. The bar tacks are also far neater and more compact. That said I’ve never had issue with a TACO falling apart on me by any stretch, but the numbers are the numbers.
 
Drawing of a magazine is smooth and easy on both competing pouches though I think reinsertion is perhaps slightly easier on the TACO. There is often a certain amount of wrangling to be done with both designs, but the CAP tends to close in towards the body whereas the TACO will tend to close up in the perpendicular fashion with the tips of either side of the U-shape insert coming closer together at the top/opening of the pouch. I tend to find that the natural motion of inserting a mag will make life slightly easier with the HSG design in terms of re-opening the top.
 
Overall, if there are any nuances about the CAP you prefer then by all means go for it, especially since it retails for a dollar less than the TACO (OEM’s websites) and is better sewn. There’s certainly not enough difference to go to the bother of selling all your TACOs and upping sticks, but if you’re in the market for an adjustable or multi-mag compatible pouch I certainly would keep the Tyr offering in mind. Also stay tuned because thoughts on the FirstSpear Multi-Mag will be forthcoming at some point in future and that thing is an entirely different kettle of fish#.

Half – 1 – Half

Using this TYR Tactical, LLC Gunfighter-E as a jump off point, let us talk belts a little bit. Just as a priming note, from this point on I’ll be describing the depicted style as a simulated 3 row belt, or just simulated 3, since it basically does the job of 3 inches (vertically) of PALS space, despite only being a 2″ tall piece of gear.

First off, why choose the Tyr out of the dozens of options on the market for a belt that features 2 rows of half inch webbing with a 1 inch gap? Well first off bear in mind this was originally ordered nearly 2 years ago now so when I buy another belt of this type it may come from a different brand, however at that point there weren’t quite as many prime cut choices from the big names available. The two options that consistently came up in discussion were the Tyr Gunfighter and Ronin Tactics variant. Every drone and his dog was buying the Ronin which I personally believe is an overpriced piece of gear made by a company which has quite literally zero originality in its’ product design. Granted it is a long running debate as to the fact that there’s nothing new under the sun and especially so in the world of gear, which is somewhat true and almost every company copies some ideas in some form or another, but if your *entire* product line is seemingly comprised of intellectual theft you will not get any of my cash – end of story. That notion will probably rub some folks up the wrong way, but if you came here for niceties and appeasement of the popular brands/products instead of what I find to be the complete and raw truth, you made a bad decision. I think Ronin is great at marketing and social media… and that’s about it.

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Obviously the materials the Tyr uses are more than up to the job, particularly reassuring is the main body of webbing being the same as some parachute harness straps I’ve worn, as well as the AUSTRIALPIN Cobra front and centre. If you want an example with regards the stitch work throughout I’d recommend taking a look at the sheer volume of thread in the zig-zag pattern to the right of the label and any of the bar-tacks that are visible. I’ve had traditional 3″ PALS belts in the past (and indeed plate carriers) where the bar-tacks in the PALS webbing could not take the strain applied over time by the tight MALICE clips on first generation HSGI TACOs. Even though those exact pouches are long out of production, I still judge any traditional webbing PALS (i.e. not laser cut) via an assessment of whether the tacks would hold up to mounting a legacy TACO over an extended period. If the strength is there to withstand that, the strength will be present for aggressive usage. The sewing on the grosgrain ribbon that is covering the cut ends of the webbing adjacent to the cobra buckle is at a low count per inch granted, however it is more of an aesthetic nicety than anything else and despite the appearance in the picture, is very much straight and level.

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So yes it’s all built very nicely, the PALS is neatly in spec, the hook & loop interface you’d expect for a modern belt of this type is present and the spacer mesh ‘base belt’ that comes included is frankly a superb piece of design work. But absolutely nothing is perfect so what are the negatives? Primarily the design of the adjustment, whereby you are losing a good few columns of PALS in an area that will be quite crucial for a lot of people. That said, the disparity is not as drastic as first appearance would suggest and unless you need equipment mounted in front of your pistol on your weapon/strong side it is a simple matter of slightly offsetting the entire belt. It doesn’t take much of a shift to get your pistol mag pouches settled in the spot you’re likely to want to have them settled. Newer designs do facilitate adjustment in a better way and maybe an update would be a good move, however the Gunfighter design has been around a lot longer than many others and from what I’ve researched it did a fair amount in terms of growing the entire concept and popularity of simulated 3 row belts within the gear market.

Is there still any value in older style belt sleeves with 3 full rows of PALS vs a new 2″ belt with two half inch rows of webbing? In terms of full on PLCE or ALICE style setups yes, but I think you need to be mounting a great many pouches around your waist with a substantial combined internal volume before you make that step change to the old ‘warbelt’. Fact is the British Infantryman is the master of belt webbing and as the gear they use shows, PALS isn’t actually necessarily the best choice for setting up a belt as primary load carriage for a large amount of equipment. Some older and less modular, but more robust, systems tend to be the preference and I can understand that entirely. For myself in a hobby context when I only have a holster, dump pouch and a couple of mags on a belt, the much lower overall bulk of an unpadded 2″ belt is definitely the way to go. Even if just from a transportation perspective let alone anything else. Given how many years a great many folks have spent searching for a solution to their belt gear not bouncing around when running or riding up when crouching, there’s just no arguing the merit of the velcro interface compared to the classic old thickly padded 3″ belts that lacked said interface. Especially given that they tended to have extraneous mesh and cordura above and below the actual PALS rows, resulting in a belt that could be pushing 4 or 5 inches tall in places. Not conducive to unhindered quick movement.

In future I’ll be looking to the Raptor Tactical Odin Mark IV and Eagle Industries simulated 3 row belts as potential purchases.

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All Weather Bargains (At The Time Of Posting)

Quick heads up – Level Peaks ‘Warehouse’ on eBay currently have various G3 lowers going for a steal. The regular NYCO combats are a good £100 less than UK stockists who actually have any stock, however the real uber bargains are the All Weathers which for some crazy reason are priced the exact same as the NYCO.

Since the Crye web store had their price hike on G3 stuff earlier this year even the Field All Weather have been over $360 and over $410 for the Combats. So if they have your size in (or even somewhere close), get yourself some sweet soft shell trousers with all the multitude of features that you like having on the standard variants.

They didn’t have any size that would work for me in Multicam in the combats, but I went one waist size up and got myself a set of the MC fields to replace and upgrade from my ECWCS L5 pants. I’ve already got 2 pairs of the AW Combats in the collection here so these fields will round out my options very nicely. And remember even the normal G3s are going for £300 in the UK and even more around other stores in Europe, so under 200 for the All Weathers is pretty much unprecedented.

Alternatively if you’re basic and/or never going to do stuff in the rain, they’ve got some MC Arid, Black and RG stock in normal NYCO G3 combats as well as some reasonable deals on the NYCO fields. Not nearly as much of a steal as the All Weathers though.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Crye-Precision-Pants-G3-Multicam-Arid-Military/292675871581?hash=item4424d7635d%3Am%3AmoJrCK7SoSXSn_6i7YyI6jg&var=591474327571&LH_PrefLoc=1&_sop=10&_nkw=crye&_sacat=0&_from=R40&rt=nc&_trksid=p2045573.m1684

Low Calorie Cuisine

If you’ve no idea what the High Speed Gear TACO line is by now then you need to just go and look that up because you are lagging behind the times my friend.

At this point I’d say HSGI are probably doing most of their business in TACO form, they have dozens of variants before you even get in to colour options and today I’d like to talk about the version I think might well be the best in breed. The one big caveat to that is that I’m yet to try the polymer TACO and there isn’t an abundance of information out there discussing it either, so things could change if I ever pick one up. Especially since the LT is the most expensive of the 3, with the original in the middle and the polymer model being cheapest.

Right now though we’re looking at the TACO LT standard size variant, PALS mounting (vs belt). I mention the PALS mounting specifically as it will do the job of the belt mount using some simple velcro one-wrap; check through my videos on YouTube to see the explanation of how to do that effectively. I’ll tend to opt for the classic original sizing versus any of the double stacks because I think the lower profile is a bonus in most situations and as far as magazine compatibility, the standard rifle mag size pouch is probably going to provide the widest range of service. That said if you have different needs then the HSGI range will cater to just about any desire.

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The great prospect about the LT is that it claims to be 30% lighter than the original model and that was what I really wanted to test out because functionally it seems to perform exactly the same as the original. So if about a third of the weight can be shaved then that seems like an optimal trade deal. Granted you pay a few dollars more, but the cost to benefit in your own specific application is a very personal thing, so I won’t try and elaborate on every single usage possibility.

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Now the standard pouch I’ve depicted here in the weight comparison is not the latest production model. There have been 3 styles of PALS backing on the regular TACO that I’m aware of; the original where the webbing was as tight to the back of the pouch as it could be which created essentially a global meme in terms of how stupidly hard it was to route the MALICE clips. Next came the pictured version which still used webbing, however the manufacturing process involved actually putting some slack/extra material in the mix to open up the loops, which certainly helps. Now the latest versions use a laser cut section of cordura which I’d imagine will make attachment a breeze compared to the originals, especially when combined with the HSG Clips.

Taking that in to consideration the standard pouch shown here may weigh a gram or so more than the current production but I think the differences are small enough to not warrant concern. As you’ll see from the scale numbers though, the 30% claim is not a lie at all, the percentage is pretty much dead on (even an underestimation to a small degree) both with and without the clips attached. We can also see that the 3-row MALICE clips weighed 19g per pair whereas the HSG Clips knock that down to 13g. MALICE are truly bomb proof of course and almost no amount of force that might realistically be applied would ever break them, but unless you’re so unlucky as to be dangled under a helicopter just by your pouch clips I very much doubt the HSGI alternative will ever fail you either. Whether the gen 2 MALICE with the skeletonised geometry and lower weight, but theoretically stronger securing method, might be an even better option I am unsure at this time but it’s a potential to perhaps bear in mind. We’re really getting in excessively deep in to the weeds at that point though for 99.99% of people.

I took a minute or so to give the LT pouch a close-in inspection and really nothing jumped out at me in terms of how or where the weight has been saved, the only obvious difference is the laminate backer piece but the disparity in mass between the laminate and webbing will only be a couple of grams I’d wager and doesn’t account for all of the weight saving. Either way, as I mentioned earlier functionality seems to be the exact same, so the LT is winning in that respect.

If a non-lidded pouch is suitable for your personal magazine carriage needs, i think that overall the TACO LT is very much worth considering. You can even use the webbing on the front to add a shingle style elastic retention if you’re planning to go parachuting with kit on. All the versatility and fast access of the original design, but shaving just a bit more weight off of your gear. Never a bad thing.

Pic’n’Mix

I’m taking a buddies’ advice and massively jumping my own queue to talk about a sort of gear system that I’ve been building up over the past few months. One which is pretty much pivotal to the end goal I’ve really been looking for for at least 4 or more years now. In the past I’ve always posted kit in chronological order of purchase, but that tends to mean any given notion I’ve adopted will have become much more popular in general after the 18-24 month delay I’m currently working through. Now, it’s nigh-on impossible to talk about this sort of thing without sounding astoundingly arrogant, but honestly at this point there’s almost nobody else that I look to when it comes to trying to formulate the all around best, most efficient load-carrying configurations available using quality nylon goods; aside from the manufacturers themselves (the ones that are innovating anyway). I look at the equipment I want to carry, decide on the ‘best’ pouches to carry it in then on the ‘best’ platform to mount those pouches to. Many years ago while starting out in airsoft before I joined the raf I would spend hours upon hours scrolling gear threads on forums to try and find the most optimal configurations that had already been dreamt up by people more experienced, knowledgeable and imaginative than myself, but truth be told I’ve mostly reached a point where looking at what other people do is no longer bearing of fruit; at least within the very specific niches for which I use this stuff. I still look around and certainly do not think I know everything because I don’t, but what I do know quite well is the best solution(s) for myself.

I have tried out and played around with more types of pouches and rigs than I can really remember now and granted sometimes I do occasionally experiment with some new configuration that turns out to be unwieldy, but after so many years of trying and failing I have to say I’ve gotten fairly good at knowing what will comfortably work and what won’t before ever actually using it. The ratio of successful attempts to failures is in a good place all things considered.

An idea I had begun to adopt a fair few years ago was the integration of modular placards in to 500D kit, because I was ending up with so many different PCs and chest rigs threaded with different size pouches just to facilitate various magazine styles that it had become prohibitive just in terms of storage space, let alone expenditure. I’m also pretty OCD about wanting to be able to use any given type of magazine with any given gear colourway and that’s just not a realistically achievable end state without using placards, not unless you have gargantuan amounts of money and storage capacity.

Then, only a matter of months ago, I had what I’d class as a pretty sharp-turn sort of moment. I’m hesitant to say lightbulb since that implies I was blazing a hitherto unexplored trail and I’m never the first person on the planet to come up with a good new idea, far from it, but it was a lightbulb just in terms of my own personal outlook and future planning. I looked at my ever growing collection of placards, looked at the Spiritus Systems Mk3 Chassis, looked back at the placards then thought “You know? I can do this in a much more efficient way”. Now when I say *I*, what I’m really meaning is I’d make use of the core concept that the folks at Spritus have crafted with their Chassis in order to form the centre point of a larger structure, one that facilitates any popular magazine type being quickly mounted to whichever style of rig one might lend their fancy to on a given occasion. So far, having played around with the depicted gear a little bit, I think I’m fairly firmly on the right track as far as achieving the stated goal.

When you look at the attached image, you can build the desired loadout by working from the top down if you like, but l will generally do things the other way around. First, decide on the weapon type you’ll be using and by extension the extra magazines you’ll be carrying. When we’re discussing the Spiritus chassis and D3CR-M then secondaries and other equipment may come in to play given the presence of the front pouch, but if you’re using a single cell placard (which Ferro offer in their ecosystem) then most likely it’ll just be a case of 2 to 4 box magazines. Next, you securely mount the appropriate insert for said magazines within the ‘core’ component, the keystone of the whole system. The more inserts you own, the more flexibility you have and not only are inserts cheaper and smaller than complete placards dedicated to one mag type, but they can of course also be moved around in to differently coloured/patterned nylon equipment. Finally, pick your mounting platform, clip in your two 1″ buckles and slap down the velcro at the back.

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In the depicted example I’ve used what I initially purchased to begin building this system. Multicam being generally the most proliferant material choice for anything tactical, I started there. The inserts shown are the Spiritus elastic types for 556 NATO mags, modern double feed plastic 9mm mags (eg Scorpion and MPX) as well as classic metal 9mm mags (eg MP5 and Glock). If you use the slightly larger D3CR-M in place of the Spiritus Mk3, you’ll be able to use the Haley Strategic Partners inserts as well of course to include their MP2s and if you sew some hook back to back you should be good to use Ferro inserts as well; though I’ve not tested that out for myself just yet.

The pictured centre piece is the Spiritus chassis which happens to be fitted with a Bergspitze Customs zip for the front pouch and 1″ compression straps of my own design and manufacture. The Mk3 Chassis gives the greatest amount of modularity currently available on the market since it features 2 fully loop lined pouches versus the single one on the D3CR-M. Ferro offers a single cell modular placard (no front pouch) but their top mounted webbing is longer than the industry standard and won’t sit properly on most relevant plate carriers, as mentioned they also line the inside of one surface with hook instead of loop. Ferro also use G-Hooks, but the webbing is still 1″ so that can easily be changed if you’re able to modify around the other discrepancies. Edgar Sherman Design is planning on making something which can be pretty much thought of as a single cell Mk3, but that is an undetermined amount of time off in the future. Personally I’m exploring the single cell modular placard by having something custom made right now and I think it’s going to be a pretty damn good solution if I say so myself.

The flexibility to move between PC and chest rig with the same load of magazines is, for me, a great luxury. The PC option here is represented by the front panel from an MBAV cut FirstSpear Strandhogg, with a loop field from Dead Coyote Tac and 1″ female QASMs with webbing backers from J-Tac Custom Limited. I mildly frankenstein’d the chest rig platform next to it by using the Ferro chesty wide (following a Reptile House review & recommendation) with Spiritus fat straps taking the place of the included Ferro H-Harness, enabling any PALS pouches to be added to the sides and any hanging GP bag of your choice to be dropped in to the mix. There are of course lots of other cross compatibility options available like the HSP X-Harness or Flatpack, you can also use the Spiritus wings in place of the chesty wide and the same chest rig base will also easily mount Vel Sys and ESSTAC placards… the list goes on.

To boil it down, if you have the right gear (which may take a little while to assemble admittedly) you can pick almost any weapon type and be comfortably accommodated within either of the 2 most popular types of modern load carriage options. A belt line won’t really fit in to this placard system of course and you can maybe go with RTi mounted pouches to have speedy modularity in that arena, but right now I don’t have the perfect answer – the Raptor Tac version 4 belt may get there in future but we’ll see. A Vel Sys type PALS placard with TACOs was my previous entry in this context and it did do pretty well in terms of the fact it did support 556, x39 and 762 NATO mags, but then you’d need a different setup for many SMGs; particularly if you want to keep everything as neat and concisely mounted as possible. Not to mention of course the flaps and zips that can be added to the Mk3 and D3CR-M which allow for carrying of absolutely anything your magical little mind can conjure up.

I’m investing a fair bit right now in to extending the notion seen in the image across all the major colourways I want to have in my collection and that is costing a pretty penny, but if this flexibility is something you’d like in your gear locker it doesn’t necessarily have to make the wallet wince if you just focus on one pattern or colour.

Does it apply to most military personnel? Not really, it would be frankly useless on my personal work gear because all I ever need is old school 556 pouches woven on to my armour and that’ll never change. SOF perhaps, when a person might find themselves switching between a 556 carbine, 308 rifle and maybe an SMG under very specific circumstances; often wearing overt armour but perhaps sometimes going for a smaller rig when reconnaissance or concealment are the order of the day. Certainly the principle is applicable for the civilian shooter and airsoft or paintball player where the options for weaponry are almost limitless and no authority from above is dictating load carriage choice. As always, have a think for yourself, decide your priorities and check out every option you can before hitting Checkout.

Late To The Pack Party

Yesterday I hit 29 years and 365 days of living post-birth and obviously once you’re over 21 presents basically stop, but I did get one gift and it is certainly not a bad one. I’ve never actually owned any Haley Strategic Partners nylon before, I’ve had a couple of the SF Scout light mounts for some years now (way back before even KeyMod was on the scene) and I’ve had a lot of MP2s in the collection for a while, but none of the chest rigs, rifle bags or packs until today. Very quick and efficient service from Tactical-Kit as per.

Personally, I’m rather anti the idea of the Flatpacks with the PALS attachment. You can’t easily get at the contents if you weave it on to the back of a PC or PALS vest and if you use the standard shoulder straps you’ve got a sub optimal setup in terms of comfort against your back. The grey Flatpack is the one oddity in the line up in that it cannot mount via PALS but has spacer mesh on the back instead. Seeing as the only applications I would want to use this pack in are A) with a chest rig or B) as a small standalone backpack, the grey version made by far and away the most sense.

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Personally if I’m going, for example, in to London for a day trip, I cannot stand being relegated to carrying only what pockets will accommodate. I want a water bottle and light jacket at the minimum, perhaps sun glasses, a hat and some factor 1000 for my skin tone, along with the option to stash anything I happen to pick up along the way and carry it comfortably. Similar story with walking around expos, minor outdoor excursions etc. I’ve also experimented a lot with chest rigs and trying to integrate hydro over the years, something I know many many other people have tried, especially within the airsoft arena, but generally not had good results. Annoying as it is the best solution I’ve been aware of up until now is to just wear both the sets of straps for the chest rig and a small hydro pack like a standalone Camelbak or the Flatpack.

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My past experiments all involved 3L water sources when attached to another rig however, so I’m going to try a 1L Source and maybe the balance will be alright. As soon as you try and integrate the harness setup in to one unit you always created a set of scales and the balance can be tricky, even more so perhaps with real magazines that can get lighter far quicker than you’d perhaps drink water. Or indeed vice versa. If the gear you want or need to carry in front of you doesn’t balance out with the the amount you’re going to carry on your back… well unlucky sunshine. I think I’ve seen Bryan over at ITS Tactical run an LBT 1961 Chest rig + small hydro pack combo and done so very successfully, but he’s absolutely filling that chest rig with lots of dense kit like radios and batteries as well as loaded rifle mags, so there’s no chance of a couple of litres of water out-weighing that. There are many other factors to consider but I’ll leave those for another day.

I’ll talk more about these down the line at which point I’ll hopefully also have some conclusions to report on whether the Spiritus Systems Mk3 + Flatpack combo can really be made to work in the way I’d like (I’ve owned the grey Spiritus for a while already I should add). It’s certainly comfortable to wear and good at carrying magazines, but we’ll see how it all does with more running around, loaded with water etc. Right now I think this combined rig has potential to be quite ideal for indoor/urban airsoft games and perhaps for the civilian shooter taking rifle classes. Carrying water on the person tends to be less of a concern on the flat range of course because you probably have a table or stashed bag nearby, but I can never pretend to imagine every application that a rig like the Mk3 chassis might have. If we look at the mod Kit Badger has done to make the front pouch of his Mk3 a binocular caddy for hunting for example, I think we see more potential emerging with more options to consider and the more options emerge the more ideas can then branch off of those.

Beyond Let Down

I don’t like having to write largely-negative leaning pieces on kit, doubly so from a quality brand that I would generally recommend. It simply isn’t fun for me to do, saying negative things always brings about a negative sort of mood and feel and general atmosphere. That said the blog would be entirely pointless if I praised anything and everything; most pieces of equipment have both positives and negatives of course, but I’ve been very picky with my purchases for many years now which usually means I’ll only have to mention a couple of small niggles and mostly have the pleasure of just talking about positives. If there’s one talent I would lay claim to it’s having a good eye and the patience needed to not buy anything that’s going to disappoint me. The majority of the time at least.
 
As some of you may be aware, I bloody LOVE a jacket. I’m sure I’m not the only bloke out there who enjoys tac gear and also invests in non-tactical styled jackets from his favourite military brands, then spends all summer being annoyed and eagerly awaiting the return of the cold. My collection includes winter layering options from Kuhl, Massif, Arc’teryx, Era3, Magpul and, as in this case, Beyond Clothing.
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This is the Helios Alpha Jacket, which utilises a 40D nylon shell fabric with 80g Polartec Alpha inside; more than decent selections there no doubt. Within the PCU layering system, other Beyond offerings at Level 3 use the exact same materials with the same weight of insulation, which I’d say makes this jacket also an L3 item. Beyond themselves market Level 3 as active insulation i.e. fairly light on actual heat retention, but enough when the individual is outputting some exertion in cooler climates.
 
Now this is where a bit of opinion and interpretation comes in. This particular jacket variant was offered in Black, Grey and Navy. No camo patterns, CB, PCU Alpha Green or any other options you’d expect in a true military garment. Police or urban use then perhaps? But the myriad of pockets, rattling zips and general styling are frankly excessive for any tactical usage. Certainly when we’re looking at a primarily mid layer and if you cross examine the A3 (Level 3) Sweater also from Beyond with its’ slick exterior, you will find these notions reinforced.
 
That, to my mind, leaves this as either a jacket for civilian sporting applications or as a purely everyday/fashion item, perhaps with a dash of added practicality for those of us who prefer to not get frozen when going in to town socially during December. But again, given the excess of styling and features built in, I don’t see or find this jacket to be practical for almost any sporting activity that would be classed as truly active and involving of a lot of rapid movement.
 
So if we conclude this is an everyday jacket, which I myself do, how then does it perform? Herein lies the problem. If you very lightly insulate a garment as per appropriate spec for active usage, but then style it for casual wear, you’ve got a real misalignment of intended use versus actual use. After quite a few dozen hours worth of combined wear time in the Helios Alpha outdoors in winter, I’ve found it fairly average in blocking wind and to not provide very much in the way of insulation and that’s an issue when you’re walking about the shops not generating much excess body heat. I’ll not bother talking about precipitation because if you expect a jacket with a translucent, wafer-thin shell fabric like this to save you in anything more than the lightest of intermittent drizzle you’re living a fantasy.
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Unfortunately this crisis of personality is far from the only problem encountered in this one example I have here. The chest sizing is correct for me, yet the cut is very short and the waist has fixed elastic, meaning it’s never quite the right tightness that you want it to be; same story with the cuffs. If you pull the waistline down over your belt it’ll hook itself on there and stay in place for a short time, but then as soon as you twist or bend even slightly it jumps back up over the belt and settles above the waist line, letting all that unpleasant winter wind in to your torso area because that fixed elastic now has slack and leaves gaps. If I happened to have G3 combat pants on this wouldn’t be an issue as they’re very high waisted by design, but I don’t wear my everyday jeans like someone from the 50s, so there’s a problem.
 
I’ve also found some really lacklustre stitch work in a few areas. A few stitching points have started working themselves apart under absolutely no real stress or strain and worst of all is the main zip, there’s also lots of threads just hanging out and I don’t mean the types you get in all new clothing that are free floating and just pull right out. After a short time (again under non-stressful use) the main zip has developed a habit of splitting apart at the base, right where the two halves first join when zipping up the jacket. Not only is this annoying, ridiculous looking and bad for insulation it’s an absolute nightmare to fix as the coil fights remediation of the non-standard separation. It just isn’t designed to come open from the wrong direction and getting things back in order is an irritatingly lengthy process.
 
I did buy this jacket deeply marked down in a sale, but it was categorically not marked as a 2nd or blem item, the original (expectedly high) price was lined through right beside the lower price I paid, so the implication is that it was worth that $200 or more. Even at the lower price I wouldn’t expect problems like the zip coming open for no reason. I genuinely really like the aesthetic of this jacket, the cut and colour are smart and fit my tastes very well indeed from a looks perspective. But from a company who charges even more than Crye for equivalent gear and sets themselves up as an Arc’teryx competitor or equivalent, only the best possible quality in design, materials and assembly should be expected and as far as I am concerned it is simply not delivered here in many respects in this Helios Alpha.