Good gear starts with quality components. That’s why Down Range Gear is invested in manufacturers like ITW Nexus, Texcel, Duro, Velcro and National Molding. Having access to these same, military specification materials can also be empowering for customers. That’s win-win and it’s just good business.
Making the parts and materials used in gear production available to customers has to do with a certain infantryman’s need to fix and improve field gear and a business’s imperative to form relationships with key suppliers. For the business the best pricing comes from volume orders. The only items stocked have been those required for gear production. Once in inventory, these same materials could be made available to customers.
In addition to solutions based design, Down Range Gear sees itself as an enabler and today the sale of parts and materials is integral to Down Range Gear’s value proposition. Customers count on no-nonsense pricing, highly detailed, original product photography and concise descriptions to make informed buying decisions.
Now customer interest is becoming a driver to expand inventory.
One such item is Texcel Industries solution dyed, military specification webbing. Texcel solution dyed “textured yarn” sets the bar in the category for tactical applications with accurate colors, a wide selection, consistent tolerances, good weave quality, availability across a spectrum of widths and patterns.
Down Range Gear has added to its inventory with an updated selection of two sided print patterns which now include:
Crye Precision Multicam
Down Range Gear is also testing a new custom cutting service to complement webbing orders at no additional cost. Customers will be able to order webbing and then request specific cuts. This will give customers with projects ready to use pieces, precision cut and heat sealed to the same professional standards as production gear.
Heat sealing with a hot knife is the preferred way to cut and finish webbing ends. It creates a clean, flat, even end that is durable and protects against fraying. It should be the first step in any project involving nylon materials.
The following conditions apply:
- Contact with Down Range Gear via email with instructions (email@example.com) immediately after the order has been placed. No customization will be accepted after the order has been packaged.
- Some requests will incur delays.
- Measurements must be clearly communicated in inches.
- Availability of the service is limited to what is feasible at the time of the request and Down Range Gear reserves the right to suspend the service as necessary.
- Once cut to specification, all webbing sales are final.
- No other services (marking or sewing) are offered in conjuction with cutting.
- Customers must be available to clarify instructions as necessary to complete the order. If communication is not timely Down Range Gear reserves the right to ship the order as is.
The newly stocked patterns come with the caveat that they are not extended into the existing product line. In other words, the new patterns will not be a standard option in existing designs.
It is simply not feasible to stock ten different colors and patterns for every product and variation. Many of the patterns will work well with companion solid colors. Exceptions can be made on a case by case basis dependent on need and application. Interested parties should enquire directly via email.
Since first published to Down Range Gear’s Tumblr, there has been a steady flow of requests to retrofit Crye Precision’s Skeletal cummerbund with First Spear’s Tubes hardware. Users want the best of both worlds.
These jobs are challenging and expensive, but fun, breaking the monotony of production routine. Customers who buy Crye Precision and First Spear and take them into the field are users we want to support.
Because the question is asked often, the way this works is that the customer must first acquire both the Skeletal cummerbund and the Tubes hardware, then ship them to Down Range Gear for the retrofit. If you are price sensitive, this game is not for you.
As a small, custom oriented shop, Down Range Gear constantly iterates and can implement design changes as quickly as the need is identified. The original Tubes/Skeletal cummerbund retrofit was serviceably constructed with webbing, but as new, non-woven materials became available, an improved, single piece end cap was fabricated, allowing for a clean, simplified solution.
It would seem a lot of users want the stripped down minimalism of the Crye Precision cummerbund with the ease of use the First Spear hardware affords. Providing the bridge between the two puts Down Range Gear in good company while customers‘ trust speaks for itself.
Now, let’s drill deeper with the question that isn’t being asked.
How often do we challenge the notion that we even need to pair a cummerbund with a plate carrier in the first place? Yes, a plate carrier requires a way to join the front and back, securing the sides. If you have to carry supplemental armor or need room to support additional equipment, you already have your answer: you need it. But what about the users who run plate carriers with no side armor and no pouches off the plates?
Nearly all plate carriers ship with cummerbunds, and that’s how they’re fielded by default. How many challenge the assumption that they need one and, for that matter, what would it be like to run an armor carrier without?
We tend to stick with what we know. Whether or not it’s actually better is an individual decision the user has to make. Weigh your need, decide accordingly. But there are other ways to secure the sides of a plate carrier. The first step to making an informed decision is to ask the question.
The following is directed at the user who does not use the additional real estate MOLLE surfaced cummerbunds afford and who does not require additional soft armor or side plate protection. In other words, it’s not for everybody, but could be very useful for some.
So if not a cummerbund, then what?
Down Range Gear turned from conventional, webbing based straps to the Dynamic Strap System, a high performance alternative relying on a shock cord core sheathed in tubular nylon webbing. It’s flexible, non-abrasive, enables good range of motion and, once elastic tension is set, eliminates the need for repeat adjustment.
The Lateral Strap variant of the Dynamic Strap System was originally designed as a plate carrier side closure. A recent opportunity with a Crye Precision JPC allowed us to revisit that application, pairing it with one of the most respected brands in the industry, and contrasting with the excellent Skeletal cummerbund.
The Dynamic Strap System will retrofit onto nearly any 1” attachment point, including MOLLE webbing and loops sewn to the sides of armor carriers. As such, it requires no permanent alteration. For many customers, this aspect is important. All the hardware is standard ITW Nexus split bar variants. That means they are designed to slot easily onto existing 1” webbing attachment points with no special tools or damage to the base system. If you went out of pocket on your gear, this matters to you.
The Crye Precision JPC was a particularly good candidate for this treatment. Readily available attachment points made DSS Lateral Strap installation easy; onto existing MOLLE webbing at the back and with buckles slotted onto webbing loops at the front edge of the plate carrier, like they were made for each other.
The DSS Lateral Straps keep everything tight without a hard limit or constriction on range of motion. It’s great for mobility. Kitting up is simplified because once elastic tension is set to what is effective and comfortable, it’s locked in and left alone, no cinch down required.
This solution was not for everybody. Both the cummerbund and strap system have trade offs but it never hurts to take a critical look at how your gear is configured, to reconsider and revise accordingly. No one else can make that decision for you but we can offer one more option worthy of consideration.
We're only scratching the surface with this concept and customers should expect this application to be taken further in the near future.
The Regulation Tactical Reflex Mag Pouch Mk2. The CDH-Tac Finland Lowirde Panel. The convergence of these two pieces of gear makes for interesting belt carry options with unique capabilities. We have a rare opportunity to offer this gear combination in a package deal at a meaningful discount to customers. First, the gear. Are you familiar with Regulation Tactical's Reflex Mag Pouch? It's an idea ahead of it's time on a short list of really innovative products in this category. The defining feature is a mechanism that keeps the magazine under constant tension for excellent retention in a fast, open top structure. It gets more interesting with a design that is adjustable from single to double stack configurations. With two magazines inserted, the outer magazine protrudes slightly higher than the inner for easier access and, when drawn, the second magazine is loaded to the "ready" position. Having a double stack which is also an effective speed reload pouch is really useful. If you are a practitioner of magazine management and rotation (and if you carry a weapon for a living, you should be) this pouch directly supports that TTP, allowing users to prioritize sources of ammunition. All this on a MOLLE compatible system with a removable flap. http://www.regulationtactical.com/collections/all Then we add real duty belt carry capability. By now the CDH-Tac Finland Lowride Panel is a known quantity. It allows something most shooters have probably thought about doing: putting a state of the art MOLLE compatible pouch on a belt. Like Regulation Tactical, the designer built more into the design. The solid 2 column, 5 row PALS grid starts at belt height and then drops below it, clearing armor and other equipment for better access. As the Regulation Tactical Reflex Pouch demonstrates, MOLLE compatible pouches are, rightly, where all the innovation is. If you want that versatility on a belt, you need a capable adapter to make it work. The Lowride Panel keeps it simple with a fold over, internally reinforced design that secures over compatible belts with hook and loop. Belt width is not an issue. Hook and loop surfaces on both sides lock the Lowride Panel into place. This solution is practically tailor made for law enforcement duty belt applications. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cdh-Tac-Finland/141110645925106 Reflex Magazine Pouch + Lowride Panel = win. Putting these two innovative products together to offer an integrated belt carry system was the obvious thing to do. Working in conjunction with Regulation Tactical and CDH-Tac Finland, we have a compelling, limited duration packaged deal. The numbers: CDH-Tac Finland Lowride Panel MSRP $19.95 Regulation Tactical Reflex Mag Pouch Mk2 MSRP $35.00 CORRECTION: $30 Total shipping (if purchased separately) $15(+) CORRECTION, SEE COMMENTS BELOW Total: $69.95 CORRECTION, SEE COMMENTS BELOW
We can sell the same package for $45.00, shipped.We are looking for a minimum 35 pledged orders to make this happen. Deadline for sign up is December 15. There is no up front financial commitment, only the announcement of a serious intent to purchase. If we reach or exceed the 35 piece minimum, it's on. If there is insufficient interest, the deal falls through. • Customer's choice of (1) CDH-Tac Lowride Panel in Black or Coyote Brown. • Customer's choice of (1) Regulation Tactical Reflex Mag Pouch Mk2: Black, Coyote Brown, Crye Multicam, Ranger Green. • Customers are welcome to buy as many as they would like with no upper limit. • Free shipping. How it works: The offer expires on December 15 and is only valid if the required minimum is reached. Orders will be electronically billed via email and ship upon reaching the 35 piece threshold. If the minimums are not met, we will post the expiration via this blog post. Interested parties should respond using the "reply" feature to this blog post and email DownRangeGear@gmail.com, subject line: "Reflex Pouch/ Lowride Panel Offer." Lastly, for those interested, additional product images are being posted to the Down Range Gear Tumblr all week long.
We’re clearing some inventory on Down Range Gear’s Limited Sales page with free shipping and reduced rates for designs that are not regular production items. Customers are invited to have a look and shoot us an email regarding inquiries. Supplies are limited to stock on hand. This offer expires on December 15.
The Horizontal Belt Adapter was created to provide a niche capability so if you’re looking at it, wondering why anybody would want one, you are probably not the intended user. There won’t be many, but the few that have the need will get it right away.
The Horizontal Belt Adapter is designed to support any two column, MOLLE compatible pouch on a belt in a horizontal orientation. Three 1″ webbing components act as rows in a PALS grid and are sewn into columns onto which a pouch can be attached.
Lengths of 1″ webbing are folded over and sewn to form two loops. The upper loop is sized for specific belt widths from 1-1/2″ to 2″ and backed with a small hook (Velcro) square to lock into compatible belts. The lower loop is built to 1-1/2″ PALS specification. A belt provides the side oriented mounting platform for the loops and attached pouch. Proper alignment with the pouch is achieved as the pouch is woven in and locked down.
The applications for this are limited to specific use cases but it was designed to meet a need few other pieces of gear address.
The origin dates back to a small combat outpost in western Iraq where a weapon and source of ammunition were required at all times though PPE and a full combat load were not unless outside the wire or under fire. A 30rd rifle magazine can be awkward size and shape on a trouser belt when carried all day every day in a variety of settings. Standing up, no problem; sitting down, more uncomfortable. Given the magazine’s size and shape, small of the back was a good place to keep it out of the way and relatively comfortable but accessible. The added benefit was that when kitted up and outside the wire, it tucked neatly under the bottom edge of armor and could serve as a last ditch, emergency source of ammunition.
Need and application will vary from user to user. Whether or not this is the right solution will depend as much on the pouch as the platform and adapter. If you have the need, this is one way to do it.
Readers are welcome to post comments. The link above takes you to the e-commerce site. Direct email traffic to firstname.lastname@example.org
New ways of seeing things lead to new ideas. New ideas make new designs possible. The re-release of the PALS Belt Platform is the culmination of a lot of work and one of those new ideas. It moves the concept into new territory with interesting possibilities.
The PALS Belt Platform is designed to adapt any MOLLE compatible pouch for use on a belt by means of a compact, 2 x 2 grid that fully supports the attachment system.
Running pouches with MOLLE compatible attachment systems on a belt has always been problematic. Before it was even an option, separate, dedicated pouches had to be designed specifically for belt use, complicating logistics and adding expense. That limitation continues to impact selection and availability because the best designs built for modular attachment may not have dedicated belt variants. Clearly the way forward is for users to pick the pouch they want and then use an adapter to extend it’s capability.
That’s the reason the PALS Belt Platform exists: modular pouch integration with belts.
The PALS Belt Platform forms a 2 x 2 PALS grid that will support a typical rifle magazine pouch or two pistol magazine pouches in tandem. It works by spacing two webbing rows, sewn in PALS columns that, when folded over a belt correctly align into a row-gap-row configuration onto which pouches can be woven. That shape also forms the loop through which the belt is fed.
When it comes to MOLLE compatible attachment systems, security comes from properly weaving the pouch into a PALS grid. That’s how they were meant to and should work. Weaving a pouch into a backing creates multiple points of contact pulling evenly across the surface, locking into the grid. Not doing it the right way is asking for trouble.The PALS Belt Platform is designed to be stable on belts both with and without Velcro liners. An opposing hook and loop surface is built in for contact with the underside of compatible belts. It works well with two tier, inner/outer duty belt sets. For belts without Velcro, removable, non-slip patches can be affixed to both sides to increase friction and minimize shifting.
Using PALS Belt Platform takes more time to describe than set up:
1. Position the PALS Belt Platform behind the belt. Unmask the Velcro or leave the non-slip liner on as appropriate.
2. Fold the top row of webbing over the front of the belt.
3. Pass the MOLLE straps from the pouch through the top row of webbing.
4. Weave the MOLLE straps back into the next full row on the pouch.
5. Weave the MOLLE straps through the bottom row on the PALS Belt Platform. Secure the strap ends at the bottom of the pouch. If the MOLLE webbing on the pouch extends further, it is recommended the straps be passed through them before locking the ends down.
One interesting feature afforded by the PALS Belt Platform is the ability to daisy chain multiple units on a belt to support pouches in tandem. This will be useful for customers who need to support equipment but don’t want to run a full featured battle belt. Customers who want to run multiple units on their belts can take advantage of the six piece sets sold at a discounted rate.
The PALS Belt Platform is sized for common belt widths in 1-1/2″, 1-3/4″, and 2″. Color options will be coyote brown for customers who need a military compatible earth tone and black for agency users.
The PALS Belt Platform has a lot of potential for law enforcement agencies. While department/agency policy may be an obstacle, the PALS Belt Platform removes the constraint of equipment limitations allowing the full range of MOLLE compatible pouches on 2″ duty rigs.
Some of the most innovative and original pouch designs on the market today are built for modular attachment. They can now be run as low profile, dedicated belt pouches. The PALS Belt Platforms joins the MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizer and CDH-Tac’s Lowride Panel in Down Range Gear’s line of adapters.
Readers are welcome to post comments. The link above takes you to the e-commerce site. Direct email traffic to email@example.com
Gear maker CDH-Tac, Finland has an impressive portfolio. This independent designer has consistently put out practical, innovative and well executed designs.
Doing good work while maintaining a high level of integrity is what makes this designer stand out because when it comes to making decisions about who you want to work with, those choices reflect and character matters. It was immediately apparent that the Lowride Panel would complement a niche that Down Range Gear has been developing for some time so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to build the design under license. Not only does it fit in with Down Range Gear’s line of belt adapters but also gives us the opportunity to work closely with a great designer.
The Lowride Panel supports MOLLE compatible pouches on a belt with an extended PALS grid that drops below the belt line to clear equipment and improve access to pouches. It’s the sort of solution based design that is common from an end user who has identified the need from practical experience… and then does something about it. A lot of users are going to get the concept as soon as they see it.
By now everybody knows the real advances in pouch design are built almost exclusively for modular attachment systems, not around belt carry. To make those pouches work on a belt and get the benefits of the best in equipment technology requires a way to bridge the gap. The Lowride Panel provides that capability, opening the world of high end modular pouches to belt systems that lack the native ability to support them.
The Lowride Panel uses a fold over design that bends over the top of the belt and secures below it with large, interior hook and loop fields. This makes it particularly effective with Velcro lined belts and compatible with virtually any width. The addition of a small strip of loop (Velcro) material on the back face locks it into inner support belts such as two piece, inner/outer LE nylon duty belt systems.
The outer face of the Lowride Panel is surfaced with a 2 column, 5 row PALS grid supporting all MOLLE compatible pouch attachments. The 2×5 configuration was designed to accommodate two pistol magazine pouches in tandem or a single rifle magazine pouch. If a wider surface area is required, multiple panels can be “daisy chained” onto the belt.
The PALS grid is a “solid” design with 5 contiguous rows that allow for 1″ increments of adjustment. Magazine pouches typically require 2 conventionally spaced rows to properly weave in, leaving 2 rows (or 2″) of up or down positioning to find optimal height on the Lowride Panel. For a dedicated duty belt this is enough to drop pouches below armor and clear other equipment.
The Lowride Panel is built on a sturdy 3″ webbing base folded over. Opposing hook and loop (Velcro) liners surface the interior securing the two sides. The outer, 2×5 contiguous PALS grid is sewn with the webbing ends rolled and tucked in at the seam. The PALS grid is backed with an internal HDPE (plastic) semi-rigid support which provides a solid surface for mounting pouches. A strip of loop Velcro runs across the back to lock the panel into compatibly surfaced belts.
The Lowride Panel is currently being produced in coyote brown for users who require a military earth tone and black for agency customers.
Users will find the Lowride Panel equally at home on an LE duty belt dropped clear of other equipment as well as a low profile way to carry pouches below the belt line without a heavy, dedicated MOLLE belt.
This is the first outside design produced under license by Down Range Gear and it would not have been possible without the confidence of CDH-Tac. Under our agreement, profit for every unit sold is paid back to the designer as a royalty. Association with a designer as good as CDH-Tac naturally makes you want to do better work; we’re better for it and the customer ultimately benefits.
Readers are welcome to post comments. The link above takes you to the e-commerce site. Direct email traffic to firstname.lastname@example.org
The MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizer allows the use of a pouch equipped with the Tactical Tailor MALICE Clip to interface with a belt.
Traditionally, manufacturers have had to build separate versions of each pouch for modular attachment and belt use. With the advent of adapters like the MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizer a user can run the same pouch interchangeably to fill both roles.
This capability makes the pouches more versatile, increasing the options for belt gear, simplifying the loadout, and making procurement much easier: don’t worry about compatibility, just buy the pouch you want to run and then find the appropriate adapter. Our job will be to make sure that the search begins and ends with Down Range Gear. For law enforcement and agency users, it opens a whole new world of possibilities for both duty rigs and discreet carry. Now, every pouch is a belt pouch, and not in a superficial, quick fix way.
The MALICE Clip by itself forms a viable belt loop. More than any other modular attachment system, the MALICE Clip is ideally suited because of it’s rigid structure, secure locking system and useful fold over, single piece design.
Taking a closer look: the MALICE Clip slots in behind the pouch webbing, then is bent over the top and folded over. For belt use, rather than weave it into the MOLLE backing, simply securing the end results in a closed, rudimentary belt loop. The problem is that at best it’s a 2″ – 3″ belt loop made of a piece of plastic and not inherently stable.
The Belt Stabilizer doesn’t actually attach the pouch to a belt. It does provide a channel for the MALICE Clip to feed into behind the belt, giving it a friction hold and stability. The MALICE Clip hugs the Belt Stabilizer against the belt. Then when the belt is donned and cinched down, it also pulls the Belt Stabilizer against the wearer’s torso creating a second contact surface to hold the pouch in place. Those two points of friction are important and you won’t see the full benefit of the design until it’s actually being worn.
The original Belt Stabilizer was surfaced on both sides with a high friction, nonslip liner. The LE Variant was designed with hook and loop to interface with Velcro lined belt systems.
For 2013, everything learned from constant design iteration and practical use has culminated in an updated, hybrid design with a removable nonslip liner that peels off to unmask an underlying hook and loop construction. This two layer system gives users the best of both concepts in one package: the friction hold with nonslip material and hook and loop, to take advantage of Velcro liners.
1. Run the MALICE Clip through a channel in the Belt Stabilizer.
2. Slide the pouch onto the end of the MALICE Clip.
3. Fold the Malice Clip over and insert the end into the tab at the base, locking it to secure the loop.*
*For greater convenience, it might be easier for some users to install the Belt Stabilizer over the belt and not have to thread it on after installation.
The current, default configuration for the Belt Stabilizer is a 2 column design which will support the width of a standard rifle magazine pouch or two pistol magazine pouches mounted in tandem. A 3 column variant will be released later in the year. Customers who require a configuration other than what is provided can “daisy chain” Belt Stabilizers onto a belt to achieve the desired width. Combinations of 2 and 3 column Belt Stabilizers should address most needs. For those problems that can only be solved with an off the shelf solution, custom fabrication is always an option.
Back in October 2011, when the last post was made on this blog, Down Range Gear was facing a fundamental small business problem. A lot of unique concepts were shown publicly without the business infrastructure to sell them. Among other things in this business, you live and die by your original, differentiating ideas. If you show your cards and don’t make an effort to play the game, you’re stupid. And the business suffered for it. Hence the year (+) long retrenchment.
Since this blog went on hiatus, a lot of things have changed. The wider industry of course never stands still. A number of concepts that first showed up on this blog years ago have gone mainstream. Despite the quiet outward appearance, Down Range Gear has maintained a very busy tempo behind the scenes. That’s what the rest of this post is about.
Down Range Gear has a new look, the best example of which is emerging at downrangegear.net, the new, standalone e-commerce site. If you haven’t found it yet, take a few seconds to have a look around. It’s a work in progress but the look and feel is starting to settle and the hard work of developing and listing product is well underway. It will steadily fill out in the weeks and months ahead.
Downrangegear.net was built on basic and dated software which will constrain functionality until it is migrated onto a more sophisticated platform. Despite this handicap, the design is deliberately simple. Functional issues aside, the key idea was to strip the site down to it’s most essential components in order to load quickly and then get out of the customer’s way. That means a clean design with big pictures, an intuitive layout that shows everything up front without the need for elaborate navigation with never more than 2 clicks to make a purchase.
If the site looks empty it’s because of the lack of extraneous content and clutter. Does the customer need to read a copy write notice? There are good legal reasons to have one but what does it have to do with buying gear? Shipping, warranty, contact information and a few links are all tucked in at the bottom and out of the way. You can find them if you need to but you probably didn’t jump on the site to read about that. The things you’re looking for are always front and center.
Down Range Gear is going to be spread out over several different websites, each with a specific focus, playing to the strengths of the platform. We’re saving downrangegear.com for other purposes so it’s being used as a landing and redirect page in the interim. Downrangegear.net is the commercial hub. This WordPress blog will support the site with a focus on gear information and related features. We chose to establish a separate Tumblr account because that format lends itself as a dedicated gallery for custom, one-off projects. We’re still looking for the best place to load the massive photo archive. A few other, satellite sites will be specific for products that need to stand apart. Other social media is still out for the time being. Word of mouth has worked very well for Down Range Gear but it’s only effective if the products are good; the quality of the work needs to speak for itself.
Shopping At Down Range Gear.
The only items listed for sale on downrangegear.net are those built and ready to ship. While the standard is 24 hours, a majority of orders will be filled the same day. If it’s on the site, it’s in stock. If it’s in stock, it ships. The downside is that certain options (colors/patterns) are limited to what is on hand so if you’re wondering why the item you’re looking for only comes in the color(s) you don’t want, that’s why. Availability will improve as time goes on.
Orders can be customized on a case by case basis though the work may be subject to additional cost.
Down Range Gear is going to have a very specific color palette. With few exceptions we’re going to be focusing on coyote brown as a solid earth tone, black for government/agency customers and Multicam where appropriate. This will expand to include ranger green and foliage/gray but there won’t be any “ninja” options in the core product line.
Orders are diligently followed first with receipt confirmation and then verification of shipment with tracking information. The email messages are generated from the primary Down Range Gear Gmail account (email@example.com,) meaning that although they are pre-formatted for efficiency, they are sent and monitored by a real, live human being and not automated from a secondary account. That means that we receive and respond to replies from those messages, putting you in touch with someone who knows gear and has a vested interest in your experience. So if you need to talk to someone at any point in the order process, just reply directly to the email notification and we’ll be in touch promptly.
All shipping is via USPS unless otherwise specified. Shipping is a flat fee of $5 regardless of the size of the order and applies anywhere in the US to include APO/FPO orders. The only exceptions are for special shipping instructions from the customer or overseas orders.
Merchant services and payment processing at downrangegear.net go through PayPal. This can be controversial for some people and alternatives are being explored but all other considerations aside, PayPal is a very good starter platform for a small business because it’s easy to implement, straightforward to use, is reliable and well established. When the time is right and it makes sense to migrate to a different system, we will. Right now, we just want to design, build and sell gear with as little friction as possible.
Competition and the rate of change in this industry can be grueling. A sense of humor helps but it does get ugly sometimes. While not above a little professional jealousy, as fellow consumers, we’re just as excited about the next great piece of gear as anybody. That’s the fun part. The business reality is that there are many paths to success: make a quality product, release breakthrough design concept, foster a new technology, build a fancy website, have a good business model, ride the wave of hype, get an endorsement from an industry personality, market like hell… the list goes on. At the end of the day, the customer makes the deciding and most important vote.
Among other things, we do what we do at Down Range Gear for the sheer joy of it. Everybody understands the satisfaction of putting out good work and that is reflected in the smallest details.
We honestly believe that customer problems are service opportunities as there is no better way to demonstrate real character than when things go wrong. We’re not going to hype the gear; there’s a power in the simplicity of understatement. When you’re proud of what you do, it can be difficult not to make a big deal of it but we strive to under promise and over deliver.
Our commitment doesn’t end after we’ve made a transaction. We sincerely believe that customer service starts in earnest after the order has shipped. We’re professionally invested in making sure the gear works and respect that there is no more honest feedback than from a paying customer who has skin in the game. Feedback drives the constant improvement that a business needs to stay fresh and innovative. You can’t fix the chink in your armor if you don’t know where it is, so when a customer takes the time to point out a problem and gives us the opportunity to make it right, that’s actually doing us a favor. We’re grateful when you do that.
We don’t do a lot of advertising and marketing, the time, money and effort generated by positive word of mouth from doing right by the customer more than makes up for it.
Custom Work, Parts And Materials.
Some really great ideas come from customers who have identified a need or bring a fresh perspective. The challenge with taking on obligations to do custom work are balancing them with the limited production capacity necessarily for developing the existing product line. That’s what we weigh every request against. We know there’s a constant need to customize gear and we’ll try to help whenever possible. As the business matures and the product pipeline finds it’s rhythm, the ability to do custom work will only improve.
Customers will notice that in addition to finished product in an establish product line, we’re also offering parts and materials for sale. These items are drawn from the same stock used to build finished product, essentially giving customers to access to a portion of the raw materials used to build gear.
The apparent low barrier to entry has made for a crowded market. Anyone with a good idea, a sewing machine and a little time can hang out their shingle. That’s starting to change as technical materials and sophisticated fabrication methods change the industry but there’s still room for good ideas to stand out. Of course it takes more than that to run a business that will fulfill the needs of it’s customers and live up to it’s potential. The painful lesson learned is that business fundamentals still matter.
The big question is where does Down Range Gear fit in the wider industry? Is there still room for what we do and the way we do it? This is an existential matter! Are we making a difference? Does Down Range Gear stand out? These are questions we ask on a regular basis. You have to look externally at the wider industry and then internally at what you’re doing to find the answer.
At least part of the answer is that Down Range Gear doesn’t really play in market segments unless there’s a contribution to be made, something to add, or differentiate by feature or process. The excuse that there are only so many ways to build a certain design as a means to justify overlap in the industry really doesn’t hold up. It differentiates those who create from those who don’t among informed customers.
A certain amount of overlap and random confluence of design are inevitable but reworking an existing design just to stamp your brand on it is, if nothing else, a boring way to run a business. It might work if your primary goal is to chase dollars (not that there’s anything wrong with capitalism and giving customers choice is a good thing) but if that’s all there is, you’re just going through the motions, always one step behind. It’s not personally fulfilling and there’s no joy in the work. We can do better one design at a time by doing things that haven’t been done before or in ways they haven’t been done.
Though not in the same class as professional photography, the pictures are adequate to show the work in detail. And we really want customers to see everything. The pictures on the blog are high resolution and expand to full screen on white backgrounds to showcase the work. Click for the full page image and zoom in to see the fabric weave or a close up view of stitch work. Nothing says how much care or take pride in the work more clearly than the pictures.
We show everything. Buying decisions are made on those pictures and if a customer can’t get hands on a sample, the next best thing is a clean, detailed picture and useful descriptions. If a piece of work won’t stand up to that kind of scrutiny, it doesn’t ship. The attention to detail really drives the business.
In order to capture the half dozen or so images that illustrate the typical blog entry, literally hundreds of pictures may be required trying variations in light and angles. They all get processed through image filters to find the best way to present the product.
In the past, a select few have been loaded onto the blog with the remainder stowed on disc. The collection is extensive. It occurred to us that making these images available might be of interest to our customers (and, let’s face it -competitors.)
An organized Photobucket image library has been accumulating. As of this writing, it shows a relatively small selection but will grow with continual updates. The end result will be an expansive, detailed look at Down Range Gear’s portfolio.
Periodically checking in will not only show items currently offered, but from time to time, also reveal pending, unreleased projects. At lest two such items are in the album as of this writing. Whenever practical, blog entries will link to more extensive picture collections to give customers and readers an expanded view of the item.
The PALS Belt Platform is a short section of PALS (MOLLE) built on a solid backer designed for use on a belt and surfaced on both sides with nonslip material. It allows MOLLE (and compatible) pouch systems and accessory items to be properly woven onto a PALS grid allowing the user to take advantage of the full range of PALS compatible systems in a belt mounted role.
Usually built in a 2 column by 2 row grid, this piece was modified by customer request to accommodate 3 columns.
The original Drop Rig Belt Hanger was a drop-in upgrade for the 6004 hip extender assembly. It improved the function of the holster by combining and integrating some of the most sought after features. The result was a new system with enhancements incorporated into a unique design:
- Single point, push button latch for quick disconnect.
- Sized to mount the holster for high ride.
- Rock solid attachment.
- Compatible with both MOLLE and conventional belt systems.
- Swiveling buckle hardware allowing for a naturally ergonomic, arcing range of motion.
To mark the pending re-release, what follows is a top down look at the improved system that has been renamed “Tactical Holster Platform -Safariland.”
The heart of the system, giving it the features that set it apart from all others currently on the market is the National Molding/ Duraflex Swivi-Lockster buckle. The Swivi-Lockster is a unique latch system that allows for a single point, quick disconnect and is designed to pivot in a 120 arcing range of motion. There’s no other piece of hardware on the market with these features. It keeps the holster securely connected but easy to remove and moves on the leg with the wearer’s natural range of motion.
The upper half of the Tactical Holster Platform is the belt hanger. It supports the “female” end of the Swivi-Lockster buckle. Spaced widely apart for stability are two Tactical Tailor MALICE Clips who’s locked ends make for natural, secure belt loops. Passing the MALICE Clips through a series of PALS (MOLLE compatible) rows of webbing allows them to be properly woven into a PALS grid. Because this is a load bearing component, construction is especially robust in this critical area.
The bottom half of the Tactical Holster Platform directly supports the holster. It is a one-for-one, drop-in replacement for the existing OEM hip extender aligned with the Safariland three hole screw pattern. Like the part it replaces, it is supported on 2” scuba webbing but is not adjustable and only comes in one length: cut short to carry the holster as high as the hardware allows. At the top, a loop of 1.5” webbing attaches the Swivi-Lockster buckle and serves to secure the top portion of the shroud.
The best parts of the 6004 have been left alone. Parts that were merely functional have been upgraded to enhance performance of the system as a whole: quick detach, ergonomic range of motion, high ride, great belt and modular platform attachment options all in one well executed package. In this latest iteration, the Tactical Holster Platform has really hit it’s stride.
As good as it is, Tactical Holster Platform isn’t for everyone. The design excels with a very specific set of features for a narrow subset of professional users.
Down Range Gear’s Tactical Holster Platform integrates seamlessly with the Safariland tactical holster with a design that emphasizes function, adding versatility to the 6004 series tactical holsters.
The complete set of Tactical Holster Platform images is available on Down Range Gear’s Photobucket album.
The Modular Panel Insert is the base component for Down Range Gear’s EDC (every day carry) system. Designed primarily as a drop-in organizer for backpacks, they can be made to order to fit various bags and cases in either horizontal or vertical orientations. The design is very basic but executed with exacting attention to detail: a rectangular panel (height and width made to order for the customer) with a Velcro surface that is configured into a PALS (MOLLE compatible) grid. These panels are incredibly versatile and can support equipment in a number of different ways. The PALS/Velcro surface runs top to bottom, edge to edge with no wasted space. The panel supports it’s weight with a removable, heavy duty, internal plastic frame sheet, allowing it to stand and maintain it’s shape. It’s simple but effective. Assembling each one to custom specifications is time consuming and labor intensive, thus expensive, but no corners are cut anywhere in fabrication.
The Modular Panel Insert can be enhanced with add-on features like the pull-out handle and custom designed, integral, elastic flat pockets. The pull out handle allows the user to extract the entire panel from the pack in order to quickly access the contents. Drop-in simplicity means that panels can be swapped between different packs or multiple panels can be configured for different purposes allowing the user to hot swap multiple load-outs for the same bag. Sewn-in, elastic flat pockets are lightweight, low profile and versatile organizers that can securely accommodate a variety of differently shaped and sized objects. They are a great alternative to add on pouch systems and can also be tailor made to fit the customer’s needs.
Although outwardly simple, the attention to detail and customization comes at a premium. That said, the panels can be a significant upgrade to a pack system configured for the EDC role and are solidly built to last.
Order 201109010000: make a Tactical Tailor Mini-MAV work with a Mayflower Research & Consulting harness, upgrade the rig with Down Range Gear’s Enhanced Strap Replacement, Waist Strap and Side Straps.
Mating the Mini-MAV to the Mayflower harness was primarily a matter of achieving buckle compatibility. Familiar territory for Down Range Gear.
The real performance upgrade was the Enhanced Strap Replacement package which brings features like ergonomic front pull to adjust and the benefits of constant elastic tension to the conventional harness setup. Superior comfort is a natural byproduct of a harness system with straps that have an elastic core, which stretches and moves dynamically with the wearer rather than resist movement. The system just works and it’s just better than anything else currently on the market.
Modern armor systems, whether comprehensive protective ensembles or high mobility plate carriers are heavy but inherently balanced and stable. This characteristic gives them structure to support a laden chest rig. Since armor is ubiquitous in military operations, there are a lot of advantages to running a chest rig directly attached without a harness.
We call this concept “Direct-To-Armor.” And you’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of it from Down Range Gear.
Chest rigs allow for the separation of load carriage from armor. There are many situations where armor is necessary but a fighting load is not. The chest rig also frees the user from layout and configuration limitations where the useful PALS (MOLLE) space is constrained by the size and shape of the armor system. Chest rigs keep the load in the user’s workspace.
A distinct advantage of the Direct-To-Armor approach is the quick disconnect feature. Configured properly, it functions and feels like a part of the armor system. On the surface, the two characteristics might seem contradictory, but Direct-To-Armor represents a new approach for users with a need to separate armor from load carriage yet run the two in an integrated manner.
After years of experience developing the Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit, which adapted third party, off the shelf chest rigs for armor attachment, the decision was made to take the lessons learned and build them into a chest rig from the ground up. Geared towards military users, the Raider Direct-To-Armor panel is the culmination of extensive experience in this area.
This latest iteration advances the design.
The Raider panel is designed to take maximum advantage of the armor system as a load bearing platform. It sacrifices standalone function to realize the benefits of armor integration, making the harness unnecessary.
The attachment system is what makes it all work. The Raider panel supports Direct-To-Armor with four balanced points of attachment designed to clip in quickly.
Vertical attachment supports the load; the Raider panel utilizes two 1” ITW Nexus GhillieTex side release buckles for this. Latch (male end) buckles are sewn into the chest rig at two points. The panel tapers down from the buckles, angling off to the sides distributing the load evenly across the top. They clip into ITW QASM (female) buckles anchored onto PALS loops using QASM Vertical Connectors. This allows the vertical attachment points on the armor system to be positioned and fitted to the end user.
Horizontal attachments stabilize the load, not taking on weight so much as balancing the panel out and pulling it flat. On the Raider panel, this is done with PALS Shock Cord Anchors. Widely spaced grommets position the cord to pull evenly on the top and bottom edges of the panel. Shock cord is the preferred method because the constant, elastic tension requires no manual adjustment and is properly balanced every time. The cord tethers either an ITW G-hook or ITW GTSR buckle to the panel. G-hooks attach directly onto PALS webbing loops and are held in place under tension without the need for a additional hardware. This means that when the chest rig is not attached, it leaves no footprint. The ITW GTSR latch (male) buckle requires a compatible QASM buckle but provides a level of clip-in ease that can only be had with a side release buckle. The low profile QASM must necessarily remain on the armor system even when the chest rig is removed. Each attachment method has advantages and disadvantages. The Raider Direct-To-Armor panel will ship with both buckle systems along with spare cord and hardware to give the end user choice, and peace of mind.
The size and shape of the Raider panel were given a great deal of consideration. The primary concern is PALS space for pouch attachment. It’s a matter of how much and in what configuration. 3 rows (height) are a basic, minimal standard for most ammunition and accessory pouches and provide the user with the most versatility. The columns (width) were determined by the need to fit a footprint of three magazine pouches with two accessory pouches on either side.
The angled sides and undercut center also make for easier access to internal storage. The entire internal volume of the Raider panel is accessible with three pockets arranged symmetrically and accessed from the top center, left and right of the panel. The angled sides improve access to the side pockets. The undercut center also makes it easy to index the middle space. The interior pockets are subdivided internally to help with organization. Finally, the back of the panel has three, open top, flat pockets who’s size and layout correspond to the internal volume but are easier to get to.
All seams are sewn twice, with additional passes for critical, high stress areas.
This version of the Raider panel utilized a single layer of 1000D Cordura fabric, splitting the difference between lightweight and overbuilt “bomb proof.” Despite the interest in 500 weight fabric construction, there remains a lot to be said for the abrasion resistance of sturdy, proven 1000D fabric, though lightweight 500D variants will be made available.
This job was familiar territory, an area in which Down Range Gear is associated: modify an off the shelf chest rig, adding Direct-To-Armor capability, retain standalone functionality and improve upon the basic components.
The chest rig was an Eagle Universal/ SKD Version. The customer wanted it modified to interface with a Mayflower Research and Consulting armor carrier. There is a large user base looking for ways to attach chest rigs to armor carriers not designed to go together. There’s more to it than adding straps and buckles in the right places. Additionally, the customer wanted to be able to continue using the chest rig as a standalone item with the original harness. These features aren’t mutually exclusive but imposing multiple requirements on a design that hasn’t been optimized for them inevitably leads to trade-offs.
In it’s original configuration, the chest rig had two 1.5” buckles along the top of the panel. These needed to be switched out for 1” buckles and moved closer to center to align with compatible buckles on the Mayflower armor carrier. The customer was also concerned about how the narrower set of the new buckles would work when worn with the harness. A narrower attachment point means that the shoulder straps of the harness angle in differently. Multiple steps were necessary to satisfy all the requirements and make everything work together.
The original chest rig waist strap was a simple webbing and buckle combination run off the bottom corners of the panel. This is less than optimal in the Direct-To-Armor role because it leaves the top corners unsupported. The base chest rig is essentially a rectangle. Optimally, the sides need to pull evenly across the entire edge to properly balance the load. To address this concern, the edges of the panel were retrofitted with a 2” webbing tapered extension culminating in a 1” latch (male end) side release buckle. This entailed opening up the edges of the chest rig, dropping the new extension into the seam and sewing it up again. Care was taken to reinforce this critical stress point.
The Enhanced Strap Replacement, Waist Strap is a signature Down Range Gear design. It is a drop in replacement for conventional waist strap assemblies. The tubular webbing sheathed, shock cord core allows it to flex and maintains constant elastic tension. The webbing straps on either side are fed through ladderlocks, which are configured for an ergonomic, front pull to adjust. It’s a comfortable, user friendly, hard use upgrade that exceeds conventional strap systems.
Having a customer bring a problem like this is invaluable because it identifies market niches. From a designer’s point of view, it’s also really fun to work on projects that aren’t a part of the scheduled production pipeline and a great learning opportunity.
Case in point: this Surefire light pouch.
A light configured this way can’t be bought from Surefire; it’s been pieced together by the end user. Little wonder a pouch solution doesn’t exist. These were the requirements as communicated by the customer: securely holds light bezel up, sides of pouch extend to just under lamp assembly, removable/adjustable lid flap, secures with hook and loop, section of loop sewn onto the lid flap.
The pictures speak for themselves. It’s a minimalist pouch with very clean lines.
While the customer communicates what he wants, there’s usually room for the designer to exercise some creativity. Having someone who knows how to really build gear is a good starting point. Having someone with extensive end user experience is better.
Structure is everything in this pouch design and it shows in all the ways corners weren’t cut. This wasn’t a generic pouch. It was exactingly sized and cut to a very specific profile. The contour had to fit the light perfectly; too tight it’s worthless to the user and too loose, it’s an inefficient design with wasted space. The backing is doubled over 1.5″ webbing, the body is two layers of laminated 1000D Cordura with an HDPE plastic insert to ensure the pouch keeps it’s shape.
A lot of pouch designs use pleated ends. That’s where the bottom of the pouch is folded and sewn down against the backing while the pouch billows out as it extends upwards. It’s a relatively easy way to build a pouch but doesn’t necessarily make the most efficient use of available space. Depending on the size and shape of the contents, the item may never actually bottom out on a pleated pouch. That’s because the pouch gets progressively narrower the lower it goes. At some point, the width of the item won’t fit any deeper into the pouch and there is wasted space at the bottom. Down Range Gear doesn’t build pouches like that unless there is a specific reason. Creating a pouch with boxed corners can be both time consuming and more complicated to design. If a corner is properly boxed and the internal volume is a rectangle, all of the space and the entire footprint of the pouch is used. That’s a Down Range Gear design signature.
This pouch was designed to be PALS (MOLLE) compatible with the use of Tactical Tailor MALICE Clips. This is the preferred method of attachment at Down Range Gear, even for belt pouches. Why? It allows the user to attach the pouch on multiple platforms. The MALICE Clip also makes an incredibly secure and durable plastic belt loop. That said, the MALICE Clip is not inherently stable on a belt without an adapter. Combined with an item like the MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizer or PALS Belt Platform, both of which are built with either Velcro or high friction, nonslip liners, the pouch is superior in the belt mounted role to any purpose built belt loop design on the market today.
We really love working on gear. Take a look at the pictures. Imagination precedes design made real with nylon and thread. We lavish a lot of time on the photography. The picture files are huge and detailed. Zoom in close and you’ll see the weave of the fabric and minutiae like obsessive attention to symmetry and stitch lines. Can you tell we’re having fun? Does it come through in the pictures? Building cool gear never gets old.
There’s a small batch of Drop Rig Belt Hangers (Direct Mount, Safariland compatible, high ride) in coyote brown with black Swivi-Lockster buckles available. One of the changes instituted before the recent design update was to color match hardware. Down Range Gear is offering free shipping on the limited quantity of coyote brown system built with black buckles still in inventory. That’s a $35 flat fee, out the door, strictly limited to stock on hand. These are not available anywhere else in coyote brown and the next batch won’t come on line until mid October.
To order, request a quote or verify availability, contact Down Range Gear via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
This entry is from a job a couple of months old. The requirement was to integrate a Camelbak hydration carrier directly to a P2Sys armor system yet still allow the hydration carrier to be used as a standalone pack. Familiar territory for Down Range Gear.
The P2Sys armor system secures over the wearer’s shoulders with a layered hook and loop closure. This turned out to be convenient for the necessary vertical attachment points. A compatible hook and loop strip was assembled to support a side release buckle latch (male end) Velcroed into the shoulder portion of the vest. Low profile ITW QASM buckles were also easily integrated onto the shoulder straps of the hydration carrier. These stay flat and out of the way when the Camelbak is worn without armor.
There were many easy options to accomplish horizontal attachment. Since the weight of the hydration system is largely borne on the vertical axis, the horizontal attachments serve more as stabilization than a load bearing mechanism. Shock cord was used to keep the hydration system under constant elastic tension against the vest. Tethered to ITW G-hooks (which attach directly onto PALS/MOLLE webbing,) they eliminate the need for a two piece buckle set. When not attached to the armor system, the shock cord pulls the G-hooks out of the way, tight against the sides of the hydration carrier.
This is a current issue IOTV Side SAPI Plate Pocket (KDH Defense Systems) rebuilt and extensively modified to customer specifications. Although the current design had some interesting characteristics, it is clear that it has been largely optimized for mass production and has limited functionality outside of it’s intended purpose. The customer wanted these shortcomings addressed with three modifications:
1. Push MOLLE straps closer to the edges of the pouch in order to optimize the load on the PALS grid. The current MOLLE straps on the back of the plate pocket are narrowly set at nearly 2″ from the edges. With the weight of a SAPI plate, this makes for an attachment point with a relatively narrow center of gravity. The load is better balanced if the straps are spaced widely apart, as close to the edges of the pouch as possible.
Relocating the straps was a straightforward process. First they had to be separated from the pouch by carefully cutting the seam away. Care was taken not to damage the pouch. The straps were moved as close to the edge as possible and robustly stitched down. Displacing the snaps took more effort. These literally have to be destroyed in place and removal leaves holes in the pouch. After they were extracted, a webbing backer was sewn into place to reinforce the fabric under the new snaps. The entire bottom section of the pouch was covered with a second layer of 500D Cordura fabric, identical to the base material. This had the added benefit of reinforcing the parts of the pouch that tend to take some of the most severe abuse when worn on armor in field conditions. The new snaps were punched to line up with the displaced strap system and aside from the unauthorized redesign, the whole thing looks factory new.
2. Add 3 row PALS grid to front face of pouch. The original pouch design does not anticipate the end user’s need for a modular system. The customer was very specific about spacing and PALS column alignment. The stitching is robust with multiple passes and lines that go past the webbing to preclude failure under load.
3. Reinforce construction throughout the structure at critical load bearing seams and stress points. For a piece of equipment that is typically attached on the outside of an armor system and takes substantial punishment in field conditions, the issued plate pocket is severely under built. The two seams that hold together the sides of the pouch were only single stitched (though properly secured at both ends.) Worse still, there was no reinforcement of the PALS webbing sewn into those seams. Needless to say, this was rectified and critical seams have been reinforced.
Because this is issued gear, care was taken to remain true to the original design, at least from an outwardly visible standpoint. That requires a critical eye when fully disassembling the pouch and a professional finish as it is rebuilt. We don’t just slap these together. Everything is done right. Things like straight stitch lines, properly folded seams, careful alignment and assembly are critical to the professional end result. It’s what our customers expect and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Side SAPI plate pouches are a fairly boring, largely under appreciated piece of gear, but it is very clear that the end users need issued equipment to do more, perform better.
The Drop Rig Belt Hanger, Direct Mount is finally in stock at O P Tactical.
A long time coming, this is one of Down Range Gear’s most highly anticipated product releases. The Drop Rig Belt Hanger, Direct Mount is a drop-in replacement for the OEM Safariland hip extender. There are others on the market, but they can’t do all the things this one can. It combines a number of features highly sought after among professional users:
- Minimal offset, short drop and cut for high ride.
- Single point, push button quick disconnect.
- Innovative 120 degree arcing range of motion.
- Solid belt mount with integral PALS (MOLLE) compatibility.
There will be a lot more about the perfected design, but for now, customers will want to know that it is in stock at O P Tactical. Color options will be strictly limited to stock available on hand. Producing this item with attention to detail, in quantity and with expanded options is currently the highest priority at Down Range Gear. O P Tactical is the only outlet carrying them at this time; deal with this retailer in confidence, their service and pricing are some of the best in the business.
Customers might want to know about dealer O P Tactical’s recent stocking order and delivery of several Down Range Gear items:
The QASM Vertical Connector, allowing ITW Nexus’ QASM buckle to attain a perpendicular orientation to PALS webbing was stocked in coyote brown and ranger green, both paired with tan hardware. The QASM Vertical Connector is sold in pairs, in stock and available now at O P Tactical.
The QASM Vertical Connector’s Webbing Component was also ordered. This piece allows a customer who already has a QASM buckle to purchase the looped webbing piece as a standalone item. Sold in pairs with the color options coyote brown and ranger green, these are in stock and available now from O P Tactical.
The PALS Belt Platform Lite has been out of stock and backordered for months. The PALS Belt Platform Lite is a redesign with substantial improvements, riding flatter, shorter, narrower while retaining all functions and features of the original. The PALS Belt Platform allows conventional PALS (MOLLE) compatible pouches and accessory items to be properly attached and securely worn on a belt. Quantities delivered in this batch were smaller than requested, which, when combined with high demand and compounded by an impending prince increase, means that there will be a particularly short window of opportunity to obtain this piece of gear while supplies last and in it’s current price. O P Tactical is stocking these now in coyote brown and black.
Blog stats are off the charts. Requests and inquiries are coming in from all over. Apparently a lot of you like this thing. Message received.
To that end, retailer Combat Ready USA has picked up the QASM Vertical Connector and will be receiving an initial stocking order in a few days. They are taking pre-orders now.
Color options as follows.
Tan buckles will be combined with webbing in coyote brown and ranger green.
Black buckles will be combined with webbing in black.
The ITW Nexus QASM (Quick Attach Surface Mount) is a game changing piece of hardware. These modular buckles are designed for use on PALS webbing and stay flat when attached. Slotted on both ends to accept 1″ webbing, they connect securely and are easily detached or repositioned.
Until now, vertical side release buckle attachment (perpendicular to horizontal PALS/MOLLE webbing) has been best achieved with ITW’s two piece Surface Mount buckle.
Now users can take advantage of the versatile QASM buckle to facilitate vertical attachment of any PALS (MOLLE) equipped armor system with any compatible (contingent on buckle orientation and size) chest rig or similar load carriage system without having to rely on proprietary armor with a matching rig.
The simplest solutions often work best and Down Range Gear’s QASM Vertical Connector is no exception. It combines a QASM buckle with a layered piece of 1″ webbing with loops sewn at both ends, matching the length of the buckle.
The QASM can be slotted into one end creating a hinged “gate” which can then be positioned onto a column of PALS webbing. Once in place, the open end is slotted into the bottom, securely closing the “gate.”
Due to the end to end length of the buckle and the corresponding measurement of the webbing “soft gate” there is 1 1/4″ of space underneath the buckle. PALS webbing is 1″ and specified columns are 1 1/2″ wide which means the QASM Vertical Connector will have some up and down, side to side movement. However, the close tolerances of the webbing “soft gate” and the tight loops at the ends mean that the buckle will not dislodge unless deliberately removed.
While the QASM Vertical Connector shares the same function as ITW’s Surface Mount buckle, each specialized system works differently. The QASM Vertical Connector’s soft gate webbing component is more forgiving than the Surface Mount’s plastic back plate and allows the same buckle to be repositioned for multiple uses.
The QASM Vertical Connector opens the way for Down Range Gear’s Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit to essentially use the same dependable, versatile family of buckles for both vertical and horizontal attachment of a chest rig (such as the Down Range Gear Raider) to an armor system.
Already have a QASM buckle and want to retrofit it to hang vertically? Contact Down Range Gear directly and inquire about the QASM Vertical Connector’s soft gate webbing component.
There are now many thousand NOD Retention Lanyards currently fielded by select units in the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force. At this point it’s safe to say that the NOD Retention Lanyard is a field proven, cost effective night vision accessory item that meets a serious need.
The parts, materials and workmanship that go into fabrication, combined with a smart design make the NOD Retention Lanyard highly dependable and sturdy enough to handle the rigors of a field environment. Quality webbing and robust stitching combined with telling attention to detail means the sewn parts are over built and will not come apart. The ITW Nexus GhillieTex (IR signature reduced) components are some of the most robust military grade plastic hardware available. In short, we’ve built a pretty good product the best way we know how that many thousand customers have confidence in.
That said, we live in the real world and the NRL regularly goes outside the wire in the most demanding environments. Having been there, we know better than to think in terms of absolutes. Never say something will never happen. If it can happen, it will happen. Nothing is indestructible outside the wire.
It goes without saying that Down Range Gear will repair or replace any unserviceable NOD Retention Lanyard we’re made aware of. This is an implicit contract we enter into with our customers. You trust us to deliver the best and we work hard to keep that faith. If you break it to the point where it no longer works, we’ll fix it or replace it. You don’t have to explain how it happened or why. We’ve been there.
For instance, when the ITW Nexus GhillieTex Side Release Buckle Body (female end buckle) anchored on the helmet as part of the NRL strikes an immovable object, like say a rock, and impacts with the sort of velocity that may be achieved by pitching said helmet off of a Marine 7 ton MTVR, and that buckle is literally caught between a rock and a kevlar shell (proverbial hard place,) said buckle is not going to survive the impact. We know because this event actually occurred.
And yes, of course it was replaced. Fortunately that customer was able to contact Down Range Gear and a replacement was dispatched immediately. The customer was happy and we had a good story to tell. But not all our end users are going to have an internet connection and post office close at hand.
What happens when the NRL is damaged in a time and place where you can’t send it in or contact us for a replacement? Back to 550 dummy cords? In the spirit of adapting, improvising and overcoming, it’s a time proven option that works, but is less than ideal. For this reason, Down Range Gear assembled the NOD Retention Lanyard Field Repair Kit.
Solution: NOD Retention Lanyard Field Repair Kit
The NOD Retention Lanyard Field Repair Kit is a packaged bundle of critical replacement parts to back up the NOD Retention Lanyard. They will be sold with select versions of the NOD Retention Lanyard and as a standalone kit. Contents will include:
ITW Nexus 3/4″ GTSR Latch drilled to accept the NRL shock cord component.
ITW Nexus 3/4″ GTSR Body slotted for and easy, tool free installation.
ITW Nexus GTSR Cord Lock.
1/8″ Shock Cord segment.
Replacement cable tie.
We’ve covered all the bases, all color matched to the customer’s request.
This modest investment will extend the useful life of the NOD Retention Lanyard and give users peace of mind that comes with knowing that when the unexpected occurs we’ve provided a workable field solution.
Combat is demanding on your equipment and will stress your gear to the breaking point. In the real world, gear breaks. Claims to the contrary are hype. If it can happen, it will happen. A customer should have a reasonable trust and expectation that the designer and manufacturer have done everything in their power to deliver the best they can with a good design and solid workmanship. This is what separates lesser gear from the real deal and you should expect nothing less from people who have time outside the wire.
And for the record, as of this writing, with the many thousand NRLs currently fielded, we have had exactly 1 (one) returned for a cracked buckle. That buckle and the helmet it was attached to took a dive off a Marine 7 ton truck. Go figure.
Because Tactical Night Vision Company has gained a reputation for being the source for quality night vision for professional users, Down Range Gear is particularly pleased to add this industry leader as a stocking dealer for the NOD Retention Lanyard.
TNVC is currently carrying the following two versions of the NOD Retention Lanyard:
The NRL for the Ops-Core VAS shroud is tailored to the low profile design of this helmet mount. TNVC is stocking this affordable lanyard system in a variety of colors and patterns including: coyote brown, khaki, black, ranger green, desert digital, Multicam, foliage and Army UCP.
TNVC is also the sole stocking dealer of a rare version of the NRL designed specifically to accommodate the helmet ratchet strap for standard issue military NOD plates.
To learn more, visit TNVC.com
“Capturing” the waist strap on the armor carrier keeps it from rolling off the bottom edge of the panel and makes for more consistent placement. It also keeps the waist strap in position for ease in donning the rig.
This channel was constructed of 500D Cordura fabric, matching the material of the armor carrier. It is 6″ long and sewn flat against the carrier for a low profile when a waist strap is not used.
This chest rig supersedes and addresses issues with a previous piece built for a customer a few months back. The original request was to modify a third party chest rig with the Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit and a few custom alterations. It was a good opportunity to build a new chest rig from the ground up and an exciting chance to break into combat load carriage.
This chest rig was designed and built for general purpose ground combat operations. Infantry work. It neither aspires to nor pretends to be anything else. This drove decisions about every aspect of the design. It combines personal experiences from the designer/builder, attention to the customer’s requests and input from third parties with recent, relevant combat experience.
This chest rig was expressly designed to make use of Down Range Gear’s proven Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit. The minimalist interface allows the chest rig to attach directly to the underlying armor system. Two latch (male end) side release buckles run off the top of the rig to accomplish vertical attachment. These lock into ITW Surface Mount buckles on the armor system. Horizontal stabilization is also run off the chest rig and culminates in ITW/Waterbury G-hook attachments tethered via shock cord and anchored in grommet holes punched directly into the panel. Down Range Gear’s PALS Shock Cord Anchors, with more conventional side release buckles were also included.
The customer specified that the load bearing panel be 12 PALS columns wide and three rows tall. This allows an ample volume for internal pockets. The last row of PALS webbing was intentionally set 1″ from the bottom edge of the panel in order to allow the pocket to billow out under load. Rectangular chest rig patterns are fairly ubiquitous, but the shape limits how the rig can be placed or worn. A design that tapers towards the top allows the rig to be placed higher on the torso. Many chest rigs are worn at waist level. The distinctive shape of this panel not only allows the chest rig to be worn higher, but access to three internal compartments.
The interior of the panel is segmented into three pockets. These provide access to and allow the entire width of the panel to be used for storage. The pockets subdivide the panel into a center pocket located between the two vertical support buckles and two peripheral pockets slanted off to either side. The two side pockets are secured with hook and loop and feature pull tabs to allow easier access. The center pocket has an open top as per the customer’s request. The interior of the center pocket has an internal elastic organizer built in.
A large, flat elastic pocket is built into the back of the panel. Elastic was chosen over fabric or mesh material because it allows faster access and can hold more diverse objects. It is segmented with the same two stitch lines that divide the main panel. The large center pocket is flanked by two narrower ones.
The back of the panel also supports two short sections of PALS webbing that run out from under the elastic pocket to the edges. These will not only allow pouch placement on the inside of the panel but also attachment of hardware such as QASM buckles to give the user a different means of suspending the chest rig without interrupting the front PALS grid.
Three grommet holes were punched into the left and right edges of the panel to support the shock cord tether. Ideally the shock cord should be run from the top and bottom edges of the panel for the best weight/tension distribution, but adding the center grommet took nothing away from the design and allows the end user the flexibility to configure the suspension system in different ways while in the field.
The ends of the panel utilize a unique flat binding technique that eliminates the build up of material that comes from conventional binding or folding material inward around the edges of the panel.
A lot of consideration went into the fabric weight that comprises the body of the panel. A dominant industry trend is towards lightweight 500D Cordura construction, which maintains about 70% of the abrasion resistance of standard 1000D fabric but about half the weight. The other extreme is multiple layers of 1000D Cordura for “bomb proof” construction with a substantial weight penalty. It was ultimately decided that for ground combat operations, a single layer of 1000D Cordura adequately bridged the difference between lightweight and “bomb proof.”
The Velcro (loop) strip sewn at the top of the panel was requested by the customer to secure lid flaps in the open position to allow quick access to magazine pouches.
This chest rig inaugurates Down Range Gear’s entry into combat load carriage designed specifically for infantry operations. Expect to see a lot more of the “Raider” Armor Integrated Chest Rig design in the near future.
NOTE: On 20110219, the moniker “Armor Integrated Chest Rig” was changed to “Raider Direct-To-Armor Chest Rig.” The reason for the change was to deconflict with the brilliant Arclight Systems product which bears the same name. Arclight Systems was first to coin the term, and while we were aware of it, we weren’t thinking about it when looking for a way to describe the “Raider” Chest Rig. Renaming the product and the accompanying blog post will do right by Arclight Systems and keep from confusing our respective customers.
One of the more functional upgrades that can be made on a chest rig are to the harness and system of straps that help suspend the fighting load. How the weight is distributed, how the load is balanced and suspended… In practical terms everything rides on those straps. While great strides have been made in the improvement of the loadbearing panel, less innovation has been seen in the harness system.
Down Range Gear’s Enhanced Strap Replacements are a great way to improve the function of the harness. At it’s core is a length of shock cord sheathed in tubular nylon webbing. This makes it stretchy and comfortable. The mechanics of the strap have been improved with an ergonomic front pull to adjust. The Enhanced Strap Replacement will completely replace an OEM waist strap and can upgrade an existing H or X type harness.
The Enhanced Strap Replacement does have some drawbacks. There is a finite amount it can be adjusted inward due to the fixed length of the shock cord and tubular nylon which will not feed through the slider. The other issue is that it is almost exclusively built around 1″ webbing and hardware, so there are compatibility issues with harnesses that are built to accommodate wider webbing.
Neither issue is insurmountable as proved by the following case in point.
The harness system on the DBT Rack was entirely of 1.5″ webbing and sewn directly into the panel. In order to allow the panel to accept the ATS H-harness and Enhanced Strap Replacement, buckles had to replace the webbing. 1.5″ buckles were selected for the two vertical attachment points to interface with the ATS harness and four 1″ buckles were run off of the sides for the horizontal attachments to the waist strap and adjusters off the H-harness.
The ATS H-harness required some retrofit and modification to accept the Enhanced Strap Replacement and attach to the DBT Rack. This was done in two parts.
To attach the Enhanced Strap Replacement, the webbing off the back of the H-harness was severed and two 1″ ladderlocks were sewn in. The ladderlocks allow webbing to feed through to adjust for length. Once adjusted, friction locks the webbing in and prevents it from sliding freely.
The 2″ webbing on the ATS H-harness was severed and the running end was folded under. Ample length was left to reattach and restore the harness to it’s original configuration. Wherever possible, alterations to a customer’s equipment are made with the least impact on the original design and an eye toward allowing further upgrades or restoration at a later date. In place of the 2″ webbing, 1.5″ webbing was attached to the H-harness, run all the way up the harness and sewn in at multiple points on top of the original stitch lines. Again, every effort was made to make the alterations look as much like the original piece as possible. The webbing ended in 1.5″ buckles to attach to the DBT Rack.
The customer had an additional request for a sternum strap on the H-harness. A lot of attention to detail went into integrating modifications into the existing design, down to using the same type of webbing and hardware to match the original exactly.
The Enhanced Strap Replacement Waist Strap attaches to the DBT Rack with 1″ buckles. The center of the waist strap is the stretchy part. That’s a fixed length of shock cord and tubnular nylon webbing. It attaches to 1″ webbing fed through ladderlocks on either end. These allow a front pull for length adjustment of the webbing that clips into the sides of the chest rig.
The DBT Rack is a sharp chest rig design. The ATS H-harness is the aftermarket solution to problems a lot of end users look towards to upgrade more rudimentary suspension systems. Making the two work together with a highly customized solution and an added layer of functionality is where Down Range Gear fits in.
There has been tremendous innovation in tactical holster design in recent years. Manufacturers are doing a lot of things right in terms of both quantity and quality. As good as they are however, sometimes there is a disconnect from the people designing and building the gear to the ones actually using it. Furthermore, large manufacturers can’t think of everything, and can’t tailor every holster to every specific needs. This creates a niche space for Down Range Gear to operate in. Two such items went out recently.
There are a number of innovative retention systems on holsters today. The Thumb Break isn’t one of them. This is a classic snap based system that is designed to be retrofitted onto a holster body. Despite the draw backs and dated technology, there’s still a lot to be said for the classic thumb break if it’s done right. A metal snap connects together a webbing strap with a reinforced thumb break. Unfortunately, due to the variety of holster designs and styles, it’s impossible to tailor the break for a perfect fit to suit every holster so this solution is not ready to go out of the box and the customer is going to have to do the final fit and installation. A certain amount of DIY acumen and specialized tools to cut webbing and burn holes are absolutely required.
The Drop Rig Belt Hanger, Direct Mount is an improved platform to suspend a tactical drop holster. It will work on belt systems or a MOLLE platform, has a quick disconnect latch and uses a buckle that pivots in a 120 degree arc. The hip extender is a direct replacement for the original. This customer requested a single platform but two belt hangers. The hip extender has been cut to position the holster high on the thigh and holes have been burned in for compatibility with Safariland holster screw patterns.
The Speed Cut Fitted Pistol Magazine Pouch was designed to fill a highly specific role. A derivative of the Fitted Pistol Magazine Pouch, it covers only 2″ of the magazine to allow the shooter to access more of the exposed surface and giving the magazine less distance to travel before clearing the edge.
The less distance the magazine has to travel to leave the pouch, the more important the passive retention features are. Retention on the Fitted Pistol Magazine Pouch is largely a function of fit. On a Speed Cut pouch, the fit is tight. The design itself is comparable with polymer magazine holders, except it’s light weight, low profile with a small footprint, offers MOLLE compatibility and is not subject to breakage in the way certain plastics are. Paired with the MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizer or PALS Belt Platform, the Fitted Pistol Magazine Pouch is equally at home on a belt as on a PALS grid.
The Fitted Pistol Magazine Pouch, Speed Cut is a good example of work done in concert with a customer to modify an existing design to meet a specific need. The customer wins because he gets the custom solution he asks for and adding a new product design to the portfolio is a benefit to Down Range Gear.
The Enhanced Strap Replacement is an upgrade to a conventional chest rig harness and waist strap. Utilizing shock cord sheathed in tubular nylon and configured for a more ergonomic adjustment, it improves the fit, comfort and utility of the chest rig.
The customer requested an ATS H-harness be fitted to a Tactical Tailor MAV and that both the H-harness and waist strap be upgraded with the Enhanced Strap Replacement. The MAV was retrofitted with a new buckle layout in order to accept the new strap system.
With the proliferation of bags and assorted Velcro lined carry systems, users have an increasing need for quality accessory items. The Modular Insert Holster Lite was designed with the Glock pistol frame in mind. Elastic webbing pulls the pistol against a plastic reinforced, Velcro backed platform. A completely removable, full featured thumb break system is included. The Pistol Magazine Inserts operate on the same concept: a wide piece of elastic webbing pulls the magazine against a high friction, foam padded, Velcro backed plastic platform for a solid hold on the magazine.
One of the things that makes the Fitted Pistol Magazine Pouch so versatile is that it is secure enough to be used on a vest but can provide fast enough access to be run off a belt.
This customer was interested in belt carry.
Down Range Gear offers several options for attaching MOLLE compatible pouches to a belt. The system chosen for this order was the PALS Belt Platform Lite. The ‘Belt Platform Lite adds a small section of PALS webbing which slides over a belt in order to support MOLLE compatible pouches. They are usually surfaced with a nonslip liner and backing to keep them from sliding but the customer had a loop (Velcro) lined belt and requested the interior of the Belt Platform use hook material to interface with it. As a result, the interior of the Platform is lined with hook velcro and backed with nonslip. Small, customized touches like that are a service Down Range Gear is pleased to be able to provide it’s customers.
Nowhere are form and function more intertwined and integral to the design than in Down Range Gear’s Fitted Magazine Pouch line. The pouches are minimalist and clean because passive retention is built into the design.
A key characteristic of these pouches is that they work equally well on a vest platform as on a belt. It might be more desireable to cut a pouch higher for a vest, and lower for belt carry. Giving the customer confidence about purchasing a single pouch to fill both rolls is part of the versatility of the Fitted Magazine Pouches.
Until very recently, the Fitted Rifle Magazine Pouch only came in one size. As experience was gained manipulating the design, it became obvious that the pouch was cut higher than necessary. Trials were conducted in removing excess material and three distinctive profiles have emerged: Mid Cut, Low Cut and Speed Cut.
The Mid Cut magazine pouch covers approximately 4 1/2″ of the magazine. The highest cut pouch in the line giving the magazine a little farther to travel before it can be removed, this would be best put to use on a vest, balancing good retention with easy access. The Mid Cut magazine pouch measures only 2 3/4″ across the base and supports a 4 row PALS grid for MOLLE compatibility.
The Low Cut magazine pouch covers approximately 4″ of the magazine. Exposing more of the magazine allows the user to index and remove it faster while still providing plenty of coverage for good retention. This pouch would be a good choice for either vest or belt carry. The backer is only 2 3/4″ wide and supports a 3 row PALS grid for MOLLE compatibility.
The Speed Cut magazine pouch was designed with belt carry specifically in mind and covers just 3″ of the magazine. The backer is 3″ wide and supports 3 rows of MOLLE compatible PALS webbing. The fit around the magazine is intentionally tight so that there is a minimal tradeoff sacrificing coverage for retention. Combined with either the MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizer or the PALS Belt Platform Lite, speed and retention compare favorably with molded polymer magazine holders.
All Down Range Gear Fitted Rifle Magazine Pouches utilize Tactical Tailor MALICE Clips as the primary means of attachment to a PALS grid. All also feature a thin piece of plastic imbedded into the front wall of the pouch to keep it from collapsing inward when reinserting the magazine. This is crucial to the function of the magazine because building a pouch this tight (for retention) wouldn’t work without that internal, semi rigid support to allow magazine reinsertion under very close tolerances.
The Fitted Rifle Magazine pouches are designed to stretch slightly when a magazine is inserted. This is why the ridges of the PMag are visible through the sides of the pouch. While the pouch will conform to the shape of the magazine, it does not set. The Cordura fabric (double layered and laminated) combined with the structure of the pouch tend to retain it’s original fit, so it won’t “break in” and lose retention properties over time. All Fitted Magazine pouches are carefully tested and hand fit to balance retention and fast access before they are shipped to the customer. Retention can be adjusted after the fact to make all the pouches tighter simply by adding an extra line of stitching along the edge to close the pouch inward around the magazine.
What comes after? The next phase in the Fitted Rifle Magazine Pouch is already in early prototype phase…
Anyone with trigger time running a drop holster can attest to the advantages of minimizing the offset from the user’s belt to the holster. The higher the holster is worn on the thigh, the less it will drift and swing, the faster it is to index and draw. The original Drop Rig Belt Hanger requires an extra piece of hardware because 2″ webbing hip extenders can’t be fed directly into the Swivi-Lockster buckle (maximum width it will accept is 1.5″) The eventual solution was to sew the hip extender directly into the Swivi-Lockster, completely replacing the original equipment manufacturer’s hip extender webbing.
1. Quick disconnect: The center mounted, single point buckle releases at the push of the latch and clips easily back into place.
2. Range of motion: The Swivi-Lockster features a 120 degree arcing range of motion allowing it to pivot naturally over the hip as the wearer moves.
3. Inherent belt and MOLLE compatibility: The MALICE Clips can accommodate regular belt systems and attach to PALS/MOLLE platforms.
The Drop Rig Belt Hanger, Direct Mount was originally intended as an open, unfinished system which the end user would cut to desired length and custom fit to individual preference. Cutting the webbing and burning the holes requires a certain amount of DIY acumen in addition to special tools and a “measure twice, cut once” mentality to get right.
With Safariland being one of the dominant holster platforms and high ride being the preferred method of wear, the Drop Rig Belt Hanger, Direct Mount can now be had with the webbing cut short and holes properly placed for Safariland platform compatibility.
The Limited Sales Program is how Down Range Gear keeps accumulated product from building up by making completed pieces directly available for purchase to the public at large. As a small, lean business oriented towards custom work, we do not like to accumulate a gear stockpile. Building items one at a time, as ordered by the customer means more efficient use of resources, materials, hardware and time.
That said, gear does pile up from time to time. The result gets posted on this blog under the Limited Sales Program page. Items end up there for a number of reasons. Customers will find one off prototypes and proof of concept design pieces, there are items that were requested, never paid for and remain unclaimed, others are production overruns.
Sometimes before ramping up a large order, we’ll run off a couple of samples to verify the design and establish a workflow. Those prototype/proofs aren’t folded into the larger order but retained and are eventually put up for sale.
Other times we’ll tinker with an established pattern to tweak the dimensions or some small detail to see what impact it has on the finished product. We take what we learn from these small changes and incorporate them into the overall design but the fully functional proofs having served their purpose are put up for sale.
Often a piece of gear is a dead end in terms of design but still completely useable. In order to recoup some of the cost of materials that went into the finished piece, it is put up for sale.
If an item is especially popular and in high demand, we might tack on one or two extra per run in anticipation of follow on requests for the same.
There is a growing list of gear available under the Limited Sales Program. While not all are “on sale,” there are some bargains to be had. All listings for single magazine pouches (where there is only one of it’s kind available) are being offered at below regularly quoted prices. Other items are packaged with accessories to make an affordable package. In a few cases, we’ll waive shipping in lieu of a discount. The remainder offer no advantage over the fact that they are built and ready to ship without the weeks long waiting period the current backlog of work demands.
Quantities are limited to stock on hand, which is only one or two for many of the items listed. Some of the gear will stay posted until sold, other items will be pulled after the Holidays and repurposed as commercial samples or other outlets. New items will be added as they become available.
Here are a few examples of what is currently available:
A restocking order of PALS Belt Platforms went out to O P Tactical today. They’ve been keeping us pretty busy. O P Tactical is a great retailer to work with. We’re only too happy to keep them stocked with select Down Range Gear items. Self serving bias aside, their dedicated approach to customer service means we don’t hesitate to recommend them. There’s a lot to be said for doing business with a company you can wholeheartedly endorse.
The PALS Belt Platform gives the end user the means to properly support a PALS (MOLLE) pouch or other accessory item on a belt. It’s purposely sized to support a single rifle magazine pouch or two pistol magazine pouches. The internal plastic stiffener provides a solid platform while the nonslip liner and backing minimize shifting on a belt.
The perfect fit is everything.
If the pouch is built correctly around the magazine you can achieve easy access and an unparalleled level of retention without shock cord, magnets, Velcro, plastic buckles, snaps, elastic, flaps of any kind, Kydex inserts or nonslip material.
Sound too good to be true?
Finding the perfect fit is a balancing act.
The pouch has to be tight enough to retain the magazine but not so tight that it impedes accessing the magazine or reinserting. If the pouch is built too loose around the magazine, there is no retention and it’s useless.
So we walk a very fine line when we build these. That level of detail comes at a price. These magazines are slowly and meticulously fabricated. Painstakingly even. At the end of the process, they are tested for fit. If it doesn’t meet the standard and stated criteria, it’s either broken down and reassembled, or (and this is more often the case) a few reusable parts are salvaged and the magazine is rebuilt from scratch. The width of a line of stitching can mean the difference between a serviceable fit that does everything it’s supposed to and a completely useless pouch. Each and every pouch is individually hand fitted.
You know those magazine pouches that have the plastic inserts? Well that’s what this pouch feels like structurally. And it achieves the same (or better) level of retention without the plastic. The process is time consuming but so incredibly worth it.
The resulting pouch has clean lines. It’s a minimalist structure. A sparse design. It’s as small as we can make it. There are no extras, no frills, no gimmicks here.
Maybe this is something that can be built in a factory off an assembly line, but it’s cheaper and easier to build a rough fit pouch and fill in the space with a plastic insert. This isn’t one of those pouches.
Four of these went out today.
Another shipment of NOD Retention Lanyards shipped to O P Tactical recently. O P (for Operationally Proven) Tactical has kept the NRL in stock continuously for some time. O P Tactical is a no-nonsense retailer that seems to have mastered the key business skills that lead customers to do repeat business by delivering a consistently good experience. As one of the few dealers carrying the NOD Retention Lanyard, we can’t say enough good things about our transactions and would not hesitate to steer a customer their way.
The NOD (Night Observation Device) Retention Lanyard might colloquially be referred to as an NVG dummy cord. It’s a field proven, well thought out device built to prevent the loss of a night vision optic when attached to a helmet mount system. It’s operation is already familiar to anyone who depends on field expedient methods of dummy cording sensitive equipment. The use of side release buckles makes attachment and removal of the device simple and dependable. The female buckle is pinned securely against the helmet behind the NOD plate. The male buckle is tethered to the optic via shock cord which can be length and tension adjusted via the provided cord lock. Attachment to the optic is accomplished with a dependable plastic cable tie which is simple to install, remove and replace in field conditions. The shock cord provides an added benefit in stabilizing the optic, taking excessive play out of the mount system. Additional value is added with the inclusion of a dummy cord clip which allows the optic to be securely tethered to prevent loss even when stored in a pouch.
The NOD Retention Lanyard can be found at O P Tactical: http://www.optactical.com/doragenodrel.html
It’s been a while since Safariland released a tactical holster with a thumb break. The SLS feature was a huge evolutionary step forward in retention. For those customers who feel a more conventional thumb break still has value, an add on kit is being made available. Utilizing the same mounting points, this heavy duty nylon webbing and snap based thumb break system is designed to fit over and replace the SLS rotating hood. A metal insert in the thumb break allows the end user to reshape it for an optimum angle. Because of differing holster configurations and pistol frames, the customer will be required to do some final fitting and adjusting and this should not be considered ready to go on receipt. Special tools and additional materials will be required to fit individual holsters. Similar thumb break systems can be custom built to retrofit a number of different holsters.
The Modular Panel Insert adds equipment support and organizational capabilities to your pack. It’s covered on both sides with 1″ loop (Velcro) tape sewn into a PALS (MOLLE) grid. The loop tape is reinforced and the stitching is robust. This unique configuration will support both MOLLE equipped and Velcro backed pouches. The Panel is internally supported with a stout plastic frame sheet that undergirds the load. The optional pull out handle simplifies extraction.
The Modular Insert Holster is a full featured, universal design with an adjustable thumb break. It’s built from the ground up to be a rigid Velcro holster. A companion piece to the holster are the Pistol Magazine Inserts. The elastic loop, in conjunction with the foam backed, nonslip surface hold the magazine solidly in place.
An additional, custom request on this order was for a Velcro backed, open top pouch to hold a suppressor on the panel. The design was straightforward. The body of the pouch is essentially an elongated rectangle with a reinforced front so that it does not collapse inwards. It rides on a backer constructed of 1.5″ webbing, reinforced, and attaches to the panel via hook (Velcro) material.
The PALS Belt Platform allowed the user to put a small PALS square onto a belt in order to support MOLLE type pouches and accessory items. It worked with a range of belts from trouser belts to heavier duty belt systems providing them with a means to properly attach and carry MOLLE pouches.
The PALS Belt Platform Lite fills the same function but with approximately half the cross section and weight of the original. This is accomplished by reducing the amount of material involved in fabrication. Like the original, the back half is reinforced with a plastic square lined on both sides with a nonslip, high friction material to keeps the platform stable and stationary on the belt. The PALS grid is supported on a double layered, laminated Cordura surface.
The end result? It supports the same sized PALS grid but on a smaller, lighter, thinner, flatter platform. And the design will continue to improve and evolve.
This customer had a problem with the side closures on his armor system. Apparently the manufacturer thought that a single overlap of hook and loop between two kevlar panels in an outer carrier laden with gear would hold up in the field. As might be expected, the sides come apart at the most inopportune times. Velcro is not the preferred method of closure for such a critical juncture. But you work with what you’re given. It turns out, the PALS Shock Cord Anchor, or a derivative of the design might solve the problem. This hasn’t shipped yet so the outcome is unknown until the customer installs the parts and puts the vest through it’s paces, but simple solutions tend to be the most likely to work.
Two sets of buckle systems were fabricated. The first is a standard PALS Shock Cord Anchor which uses a PALS loop to tether a buckle via shock cord. An ITW QASM secures the buckle on the other side of the opening. Thinking that elastic shock cord might not be enough, a second buckle system strapped into a length of webbing was included. It’s sewn into a triglide which has been slotted to slide onto a PALS loop. After the customer has received both systems and put them through their paces to determine which one is most appropriate, we’ll exchange the one that is least useful for another of the variant that works best.
Personalized, one on one interaction and individual attention in the service of your problem is what custom gear building is all about.
The basic Modular Assault Vest from Tactical Tailor is a load carriage platform as simple as they come. It’s a folded over cordura rectangle with a PALS front. The harness and waist strap are just webbing straps. This minimalism gives the end user a functional chest rig that is highly customizable. There’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple.
This job didn’t call for anything that hasn’t been done at Down Range Gear before.
First, provide a low profile, functional H-harness utilizing the Enhanced Strap Replacement. Then using another Strap Replacement variant, fabricate a waist strap. Alter the MAV accordingly to work with both, which consisted mainly of reducing the panel by a few PALS columns and retrofitting it with buckles compatible to the new harness and strap system.
Fabrication of the Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit was equally routine: provide four PALS Shock Cord Anchors to tether buckles to the vest via shock cord, provide two ITW Nexus Surface Mount buckles (plus a spare) with optional hook and loop strips to afford some shock protection for those critical pieces of plastic. The only minor issue arose when having to factor available PALS width on the underlying vest, in this case only 6 columns, so the two vertical buckles had to be adjusted accordingly.
ITS Tactical has made a name for itself with a steady stream of informative articles and is an authoritative “resource for skill-set information, tactical gear reviews and DIY projects.” ITS Tactical has also been a steadfast supporter of small scale custom gear builders like Down Range Gear for some time now. A lot of people read what ITS Tactical has to say, so when asked for a review sample of the Enhanced Strap Replacement, we were only too happy to oblige.
From ITS Tactical, July 15, 2010: Fantastic Solution for your Chest Rig Waist Strap
Obviously, we benefit greatly from this sort of exposure, but it didn’t end there. When ITS Tactical commissioned a custom built Discreet Messenger Bag from Zulu Nylon Gear, it was cleverly retrofitted with the Down Range Gear waist strap, a completely unforeseen application, generously mentioned in the article.
From ITS Tactical, August 13, 2010: Custom Discreet Messenger Bag from Zulu Nylon Gear
The concept is catching on.
In collaboration with Zulu Nylon Gear, ITS Tactical recently made the feature rich Discreet Messenger Bag available to the public. Orders for the waist strap specifically to fit the bag have followed.
From ITS Tactical, November 1, 2010: Announcing the ITS Tactical Discreet Messenger Bag!
There are a lot of tactical shoulder bags out there, and yes, we do have a bias, but the features, workmanship and and design that went into this one really sets it apart.
The ITS Tactical team is a good crew who are diligently augmenting some great site content with a small but growing, carefully selected tactical gear product line.
Zulu Nylon Gear has evolved into a highly specialized, high quality manufacturer of tactical gear with amazing design work and attention to detail.
Association with both puts Down Range Gear in very good company. Use of the waist strap on this amazing bag was a happy coincidence, but we’re very pleased to support this product.
The Enhanced Strap Replacements can completely replace and upgrade the harness and strap system on a chest rig. Conventional webbing and buckle combinations can be improved with a more comfortable, functional and ergonomic system that relies on the intelligent combination of tubular nylon webbing with a shock cord core combined with flat webbing and fed through a ladderlock for a front pull to adjust. Although meant as a drop in solution, some modification to the host chest rig may be necessary.
Case in point: this SOE Frog chest rig the owner wanted retrofitted with the Enhanced Strap Replacement Waist Strap and Side Straps. The first step in the ordering process was an email exchange with the customer to verify his needs and ensure the straps would be compatible with the buckles on the chest rig. We verified buckle compatibility with the waist strap but identified issues with upgrading the harness system. First, the ladderlock adjuster would have to be sewn into the harness. Second, because the Enhanced Strap Replacements rely on 1″ tubular nylon webbing, buckles of a compatible width have to be used. In addition to modifying the harness to accept the ladderlock, the chest rig’s 1.5″ buckles would have to be replaced with 1″ buckles.
It takes trust to send an expensive piece of equipment to a complete stranger to alter. At this point in the game, Down Range Gear has some credibility. We have had expensive chest rigs come through, be carefully modified and returned to satisfied customers.
Your chest rig is going to support your fighting gear but you’re going to carry that weight. You may spend many long hours in your chest rig, others will live in theirs for days. While the combat load is an absolute, comfort is relative. Down Range Gear’s Enhanced Strap Replacement might make the difference between fighting your gear and fighting the enemy.
O P Tactical has been stocking select Down Range Gear items for some time now. A request to restock a small quantity of Modular Insert Holsters was recently filled. O P Tactical is highly selective about the equipment it stocks and has a straight forward, no nonsense approach to how they do business. This is reflected in the look of the stripped down website which focuses on substance over form.
Because day to day operations at Down Range Gear are focused primarily on filling custom orders, one of the advantages for a customer in doing business through a dealer like O P Tactical is the ability to procure a product that is built, in stock and ready to ship without delay.
The Fitted Pistol Magazine Pouch features an open top for quick access combined with a tight, tailored fit around the magazine for retention. A pouch with these tolerances may or may not be something that can be mass produced on an assembly line, but each and every one is fitted by hand and individually tested at Down Range Gear. The result is a pouch that relies on precise execution of the design to work properly.
The Fitted Pistol Magazine Pouch only comes in single magazine variants. The 1.5″ backing material and tight fit means that the pouch has the smallest footprint, accommodating one magazine per row on a PALS grid. If a customer requests two pouches or more in tandem for an application such as belt carry, the MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizer fills this role, not only holding the two pouches together but keeping them in place on the belt. The LE variant of the Belt Stabilizer opens a whole new world of pouches and accessories to the law enforcement market.
Customers are really getting the Enhanced Strap Replacement concept. The waist strap in particular has been in steady demand. It’s a drop in, aftermarket upgrade that replaces what is in many cases just a piece of webbing with buckles on the end. It’s comfortable because the tubular nylon does not have hard edges and the shock cord will yield when pressure is exerted against it. Adjustment is made easier because the straps are engineered for a front pull to adjust and the elastic means the strap will always provide just the amount of tension needed to keep the chest rig tight.
In stock and available now at Down Range Gear is the ITW Nexus GhillieTex Quick Attach Surface Mount buckle in tan. The QASM is a buckle body (female end) that slots onto a length of 1″ webbing with a parallel orientation. Slotted for expedient mounting to webbing that is already sewn down (such as on a PALS grid,) the QASM is secure, easily attached and simple to remove with no tools and without having to alter the buckle or host equipment. Because the slotted loops run fore and aft of the buckle, it rides completely flat on the surface of your gear allowing for low profile attachment options never before possible.
In order to secure the best pricing on parts and raw materials, distributors and manufacturers require high volume minimum purchases on hardware like the QASM. Having already made the large buy in, Down Range Gear is now in a position to make select pieces of hardware and materials available direct to customers.
The QASM and a growing list of hardware is available now, on request at the Down Range Gear Parts And Materials Exchange.
The Modular Panel Insert is a drop in solution for organizing pack interiors. With both sides covered with a top to bottom, side to side PALS grid, surfaced with loop (Velcro) tape, and held up with a rigid, internal, plastic sheet, it will support both MOLLE and Velcro backed pouches. The addition of an integral pull out handle makes accessing the contents that much more convenient.
This customer also requested a set of four Drop Rig Belt Hanger lower halves (the buckle end attached to the triglide,) in order to change out multiple subloads or holster platforms without having to take the Belt Hanger off the belt.
Because in a vast majority of cases, gear isn’t built until the customer orders it, it is relatively easy to accommodate custom requests, particularly when they are variations on an existing design. The single cell MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizers in this order are one such example. Custom work isn’t always feasible or possible, but when it is, particularly when it’s just a small tweak on an existing design, we’re all too happy to support the request.
This item is one of those, “once you’ve used it, you can never go back” types of things. It bundles several user friendly, common sense features into a single component to upgrade your drop holster:
Ergonomic arcing range of motion.
Versatile, cross platform, and stable belt attachment.
Retrofitting off the shelf chest rigs to ride on armor systems is a Down Range Gear core competency. This experience was drawn on to build a chest rig designed from the ground up to work primarily as an armor integrated, detachable load carriage platform.
An order for a chest rig along with a recent conversation on the topic prompted the design. This customer had specific requirements which dictated the footprint of this particular rig. Other variants and design improvements will follow.
This chest rig is meant for the infantry.
There exists a current need to carry a combat load, integrated directly to armor ranging from plate carriers to more comprehensive systems attached without straps or a harness. This means a chest rig that clips into an armor system so that it rides like it’s a part of it rather than just worn over on top.
The design, size, shape and overall footprint can only be decided after determining the combat load. Ammunition (how much of it,) drives the combat load in the infantry. It has everything to do with how (and where) to carry ammunition into a fight. This chest rig was built around a hypothetical loadout of 8 5.56 rifle magazines with enough room left over to mount two accessory pouches.
Without an end user perspective in how the gear is used, decisions made on a drawing board can ultimately limit what a rifleman can carry in the field. Size and shape, therefore are driven by the questions, what do you need to have, how do you carry it?
Distributed evenly and balanced, 8 magazines can be carried efficiently in one of two ways: single stacked, 8 across or double stacked with a 4 magazine footprint. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Single stacked magazines make for a potentially lower cross section but the girth can only be carried at or about waist level. Four magazines double stacked stick out more, but have a reduced footprint. Four magazines can be reasonably worn higher on the torso which has a number of advantages.
Combat experience has shown that a combat load worn higher up on the torso (most chest rigs are actually not worn at chest level) has solid advantages over loads worn lower on the torso (waist level or mid body height.) Ultimately, individual user preference will prevail.
This chest rig had to have attachment points correctly aligned to fit both a plate carriers or larger, more conventional combat armor systems. The vertical attachments are the most critical in this regard. At just 6 columns (9″) across, this chest rig will fit both. 1″ male (latch) buckle ends were chosen to suspend the chest rig in order to take advantage of ITW Nexus’ low profile Surface Mount buckles, which attach directly to 1″ PALS webbing.
The horizontal (side) attachments are via Down Range Gear PALS Shock Cord Anchors, currently the best system of it’s kind for this purpose due to the self adjusting nature of the elastic cord. The side/ horizontal attachments will not be sewn into the chest rig. This will give the end user the flexibility to decide how and where to attach the Shock Cord Anchor, which can be anchored on the chest rig or run off of the underlying armor system. This chest rig came with a set of slotted female buckles, in the future these will be augmented with ITW’s QASM. The system and component pieces will be completely modular and interchangeable.
A great deal of thought went into deciding the kind of fabric to use as the base material. Eventually, it was decided that a single layer of 1000D Corudra splits the difference between light 500D rigs and “bomb proof” systems with multiple layers of heavier fabric. In the future, a hybrid approach utilizing 1000D on the exterior (front) combined with a 500D interior (back) is likely.
Externally, the back side of the rig mirrors the front in layout and PALS configuration with the exception that the grid is made out of 5038 binding tape vice conventional webbing. This makes it a little easier to wear without armor and marginally cuts down on weight. Durability is not expected to be an issue given it’s sheltered position against the wearer’s body.
Internal storage is subdivided into three compartments, left right and center of the two vertical buckles. The center pouch as provisions for internal organization and can securely hold an additional two magazines.
Although this customer expressly requested an H-harness, it will only be included as an add on in the final version. This H-harness utilizes 2″ webbing over the back and shoulders, tapering down to 1″ to interface with the smaller buckles on the chest rig. The H-harness and waist strap are components of Down Range Gear’s Enhanced Strap Replacement.
Modular Panel Insert, a Down Range Gear staple. It will add a new level of organization to just about any pack with both a loop (Velcro) surface in addition to a PALS (MOLLE) grid all in one. With the optional pull out handle, there’s no need to go digging through the pack for the gear, it’s all right there, at hand. This one is in Coyote Brown, 14″ tall, 9″ wide and has the pull out handle. The customer wanted the handle to have a distinctive visual signature to make it stand out so a strip of reflective material was added.
The second part of the order was magazine pouches for the M9 service pistol and 5.56 rifle mags. The distinctive Fitted Rifle and Pistol Magazine Pouches are simple and minimalist. These easy to access, open top retains the respective magazines through an exacting, tailored fit. The spare design leaves the smallest possible footprint. Two layers of laminated 1000D Cordura fabric gives the pouch structure that is very atypical of a nylon pouch. MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizers mean that these pouches are equally at home on a belt as on a vest.
Today’s project was an EssTac Boar chest rig. The requested service was Armor Interface. The 2″ buckles that come standard for all attachment points on the Boar were the major obstacle. 2″ hardware does not work well with the 1″ PALS webbing the Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit relies upon for mounting points. Two 1.5″ buckles were added to the vertical (front) attachment points. All four of the horizontal (side) buckles were replaced with 1″ buckles. Standard PALS Shock Cord Anchors and attachment points were fabricated to use with the revised buckle layout.
Complimentary replacement buckle bodies are included in the event the critical, weight bearing vertical buckles are damaged in the field. And while their use is not mandatory, experience has shown that the protective Velcro wraps (also standard) used to cover the vertical buckles will provide a measure of shock absorption. Quality plastic hardware holds up well under rigorous use in the field, but because parts failure is not unknown, and your loadbearing system is a critical item, we like to account for the eventuality, no matter how remote.
The customer stipulated the ability to continue to use the chest rig with a harness, so a new one had to be fabricated to work with the revised buckle layout. Because the standard two strap X harness had to use 1.5″ buckles in the front and 1″ buckles on the sides, the new harness is a hybrid of both webbing widths. The waist strap uses wide, 2″ webbing to provide some comfort while a pair of ladderlocks allow the two 1″ straps to be pulled forward for adjustment.
This Tactical Tailor MAV had likely already been through a deployment before the customer sent it in for an upgrade. Gear has a relatively short lifecycle these days with users constantly trading up. Gear doesn’t appreciate in value the longer it’s kept around and people don’t buy it with the goal of handing it down through the generations. New gear is constantly coming to market, fueling the demand and sustaining the industry.
This particular job was a case study in how useful it can be to make a functional upgrade to modify an existing piece of equipment to keep it current. The MAV is a very basic load carriage platform. That’s the appeal, but the customer wanted to increase it’s versatility in a number of functional areas.
First thing was to retrofit the chest rig to use the Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit. Adapting a current, conventional load carriage platform to clip directly onto an armor system is one of the most useful capabilities to add. On this MAV as on many other platforms, this comes down to refitting and reorienting buckle layout. 1″ (female) buckle bodies on the sides were added to interface with the PALS Shock Cord Anchors (the horizontal supports.) Compatible buckles were provided to support the MAV vertically on the armor system. In addition to two velcro wraps to protect the all important vertical support buckles (everything rides on these,) a third buckle body is always provided in the event of the need to replace a broken buckle in field conditions. These are known, real world issues issues, they have to be dealt with and it’s one of the few things that can’t be improvised or modified easily.
Again, like others, the customer didn’t want to forgo the option of continuing to use the chest rig with a harness. Fashioning a functional H-harness by cannibalizing webbing from the MAV was straight forward. The customer chose to upgrade the basic harness with Enhanced Strap Replacements for both the harness and the waist strap. These replace static webbing with shock cord sheathed in tubular nylon for a more comfortable fit. The shock cord keeps everything tight but allows for movement by expanding in ways that static webbing won’t. Making it better is the ergonomic, front pull to adjust length. One issue that arose was the overall width of the MAV combined with an inability of the Enhanced Strap Replacement to cinch down beyond a certain size lead to fitting problems. After considering many options, a few inches were taken off the width of the MAV. The customer’s express permission was obtained before proceeding. Because the MAV was built with some excess material along it’s peripheral edges and because space on a vest comes at a premium, all the original PALS columns were retained. The result was no change in functionality but a step in the right direction for a better fitting chest rig.
The customer also requested provisions for comm routing along the top of the MAV. Initially, the request was for elastic webbing. After some consideration because elastic deteriorates over time, the top edges of the MAV were fitted with 1″ webbing loops onto which removable triglides were slotted. These support velcro wraps to capture and route comm wire or antennas. Being able to close the Velcro over an antenna or wire can be more convenient than having to route it through an elastic loop, it can also be cinched down for a more secure hold. The plastic hardware and velcro wrap were designed to be removable and can be replaced with a different system of the wearer’s choosing, such as shock cord (which was included to give the customer more options.)
Last thing on the list was a means to mount a trouniquet to the MAV in a horizontal orientation at the bottom of the panel. Realizing this as a realestate issue, a pair of triglides were mounted to pass through a set of PALS loops to offset the tourniquet while allowing co-use of the space for mounting pouches. As with the comm loops, Velcro wraps can be added to the triglides to secure the tourniquet.
Solid and stable belt mounting platform: The Belt Hanger utilizes a pair of Tactical Tailor MALICE Clips to attach to a belt. MALICE Clips have proven highly reliable. With the ends properly secured into the integral locking tabs, the closed loop virtually eliminates the possibility that the platform will separate from the belt unless deliberately unlocked. Stability is achieved by spacing the MALICE Clips apart in a wide footprint with an increased surface area over the belt.
Inherent PALS/MOLLE compatibility: While the MALICE Clips can accommodate a variety of regular belt systems, because they pass through a series of 1″ webbing loops, they can also be properly woven in and attached to PALS/MOLLE platforms.
Quick disconnect feature: The robust and proven National Molding Swivi-Lockster provides the quick disconnect capability that is at the heart of the Drop Rig Belt Hanger. The center mounted, single point buckle releases at the push of the latch and clips easily back into place.
Range of motion: The only one of it’s kind, the Swivi-Lockster features a 120 degree arcing range of motion allowing it to pivot naturally over the hip as the wearer moves. This ergonomic feature is unique to the Swivi-Lockster. With many thousands fielded, the durability of these buckles has been tested beyond a doubt.
The original Drop Rig Belt Hanger allowed the user to loop the entire holster assembly through a 2″ triglide attached to the Swivi-Lockster, essentially displacing the belt. Adding the triglide was necessary to overcome the Swivi-Lockster’s 1.5″ (maximum) width. Most popular holster platforms, such as those by Safariland, hang on 2″ scuba webbing, therefore are not directly compatible with the Swivi-Lockster necessitating the 2″ triglide.
The addition of an extra piece of hardware into the Belt Hanger increased the amount of drop and offset between the holster and the belt, compromising the design. This was a particular obstacle for users who place a premium on and value the ability to mount a holster as high as possible for stability and a more efficient draw.
Integrating the hip extender directly into the buckle system mitigates this issue.
On request, Down Range Gear can now provide the Drop Rig Belt Hanger with a 2″ wide hip extender sewn directly onto the buckle and cut it to a requested length. Essentially a blank slate over which the holster can be precisely positioned, it leaves the customer free to decide exactly where to place the holes to align the holster platform.
This freedom and level of customization comes with a price. The Direct Mount Option is not for everyone. A certain amount of do-it-yourself acumen is required to align the holster over the webbing, mark it’s position and burn the holes. Where to position the holster is a decision best determined by the wearer.
Worth the hassle? The pictures speak for themselves. The Drop Rig Belt Hanger combines several improvements into a single accessory. The Direct Mount Option is a full featured upgrade with a new level of customization.
A full featured, fully adjustable modular holster, elastic magazine loops with great retention, a panel built to support your loadout, made to order. These three pieces of gear go together and are every day carry items for many Down Range Gear customers.
All the basic components work well together because they were designed that way. The panel remains perfectly flat thanks to a rigid plastic insert. A full PALS grid supports an uninterrupted surface for the attachment of Velcro backed accessory items. Consistent contact is maintained between the add on holster and magazine loops, each built on solid backers which won’t curl.
Carried this way in a pack, the pistol is secure, can be positioned in limitless configurations and can safely be drawn. The elastic loop magazine carriers will retain and prevent the magazines from slipping through. The sturdy pull out handle means ready access to the contents of the pack and the ability to move everything on one solid platform from one bag to another. Put them all toegether into the pack or bag of your choosing and you have a great every day carry solution.
Nearly a decade of combat has given the military a keen appreciation for the importance of eye protection. Minor corneal abrasions can have an immediate, detrimental impact on combat effectiveness. Goggles, therefore are a critical PPE component.
Along with goggles, accessories such as night vision mounts, infrared glint tabs, luminescent “cat eyes” and other items turn the helmet into an equipment platform as much as a critical armor component.
When the US Army went from the PASGT to the ACH style helmets, goggle strap keepers, screwed into the helmet and routed through the helmet cover were part of the upgrade. The US Marine Corps continues to field the PASGT profile Light Weight Combat Helmet and while the suspension systems have been improved, many other aspects have not.
It’s not uncommon to see Marines secure goggles to their helmets, for example, through a variety of inspired and improvised means: safety pins, 550 cord, cable ties and outright cutting holes in the helmet covers to route goggle straps.
The Marine Corps’ move to a next generation helmet is inevitable, but that doesn’t help those stuck in the present. Down Range Gear has a solution that is ready here and now.
The Enhanced Strap Keepers were designed from the ground up to work with issued equipment. They are of specific, immediate benefit to US Marines utilizing the Light Weight Combat Helmet in conjunction with the standard issue, MARPAT reversible helmet cover. Taking advantage of gear currently in the system, the Strap Keepers can be positioned anywhere there is a foliage slot on the helmet cover and require no tools to install. The ends are simply pulled through the foliage slots in the helmet cover until a piece of perpendicular webbing prevents further movement, locking it into place. It is very secure.
The robust Strap Keepers are sewn to ride flat against the helmet to minimize snagging hazards and come in Coyote Brown, appropriate for both woodland and desert MARPAT digital camouflage patterns. The durable brass snaps, color coated to match the webbing secure the goggles and allow them to be easily attached or removed.
The loop (Velcro) material on the Strap Keepers’ exterior is what makes them “Enhanced” and gives them the ability support identifiers and markers such as infrared IFF “glint” squares or luminescent, glow in the dark “cat eyes.” The strap keepers not only retain goggles, but with the ability to support markers, make current helmet band “cat eyes” redundant.
The Enhanced Strap Keepers have one other, user friendly feature. An additional loop (Velcro) strip has been sewn into the interior of the Strap Keepers in order to allow markers and identifiers to be stored when not in use or when they are inappropriate. With this innovation, a wearer can use and store multiple markers and identifiers, such as both “cat eyes” and IR squares depending on circumstance. Keeping them safely tucked away, but always on the helmet ensures they will be there when the situation calls for it.
This customer wanted to extend the versatility of his Multicam Tactical Tailor MAV to make it fit over several different platforms: with an ATS Tactical H-Harness, on a plate carrier and issued IOTV via Down Range Gear’s Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit. While there are a number of different ways to do this, the most important aspect of the job was constant communication with the customer to make sure we reached a solution he can live with.
The disparity between the ATS harness 2″ webbing and the MAV’s 1.5″ buckles was the most obvious hurdle to overcome, but there were the additional factors of available space on the IOTV and plate carrier to contend with. Simply put, given the spacing between the two vertical attachments on the MAV, there was some uncertainty whether it would actually fit on the plate carrier.
The initial request was to attach a set of 2″ buckles to the MAV in order to ensure compatibility with the ATS harness and bring them closer together in order to fit the plate carrier. This caused several unforeseen issues including: limiting access to the MAV’s internal pocket, narrowing the MAV’s vertical support (not a good thing on such a wide panel) and routing the harness straps uncomfortably around the wearer’s neck. Clearly, this wouldn’t work.
In addition to repositioning the requested buckles, the customer was presented with options that included going back to the original 1.5″ buckles with different placement on the MAV or the possibility of going down to 1″ buckles. The size of the buckles used is not as important as their placement on the vest. Larger buckles do not necessarily equal a higher tensile strength or sturdier construction.
The customer opted to go with 1″ buckles which offered several advantages over the others including being able to position them in smaller increments and compatibility with ITW Nexus’ low profile Surface Mount buckle for attaching to the PALS webbing on the IOTV and plate carrier. Two lengths of 1″ webbing were sewn into the MAV to support the new buckles. Sufficient excess was provided to allow for adjusting the height of the MAV. The strap ends can be tucked behind a PALS loop to keep it out of the way once a desired height is found. In addition to an extra buckle set (just in case) a set of Velcro wrap buckle protectors were provided to help protect the buckles from impact.
With the buckle issue decided on the MAV, the ATS H-harness had to be altered to match. That meant replacing the 2″ webbing running off the harness with 1″ webbing. The original 2″ webbing was severed and rolled under at the end with enough excess so that it could be reconstituted at a later date should the customer change his mind. We like to do what we can to preserve the original configuration and function of your gear with an eye on future changes. 1″ webbing was sewn into the harness running all the way to the back and sewn directly over the top of and using the exact same stitch lines as the original 2″ webbing. The ends looped into a 1″ female side release buckle and locked in with a triglide, which will provide the customer with the ability to adjust length.
The four 1.5″ side attachment points on the MAV were replaced with 1″ female buckles that would not only match the ends of the ATS harness but work perfectly with the Shock Cord Anchors provided as part of the Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit. Four Shock Cord Anchors were provided to attach the MAV directly to the armor system. 1″ buckles have proven to be the most efficient method of attaching the sides of chest rigs and leave the smallest footprint.
The final detail was to fashion a replacement waist strap to work with the newly reconfigured buckle layout. 1″ webbing with male buckle ends would be the easy way to do it, but why settle for the lowest common denominator? Some of the 2″ webbing clipped off of the H-Harness was scavenged because the increased width might ride a little easier against the wearer’s back. 1″ webbing was then routed off the ends through a set of ladderlocks which would allow for a natural, front, forward pulling motion to adjust length.
Sending gear you payed good money for to some random, former grunt takes a lot of trust…When making major alterations and changes to personal gear, constant communication with the customer is critical to getting it right. The gear arrived on September 17 and was completed 12 days days later, requiring 28 emails to go over options and details. Luckily, the customer was very attentive and showed a lot of patience while we went through this process.
Down Range Gear is setting aside a new space on this blog for the express purpose of making certain items available to interested customers without having to wait: Limited Sales
This is specifically to draw attention to gear that is built and ready to ship. Select items will be made in small, limited quantities and should be considered one time only offers.
These will include:
Prototypes and one off concept pieces.
Gear from orders with items withheld from delivery due to lack of contact or payment from the original customer.
Small production overruns.
How it works:
- All items posted for sale will show the quantity immediately available and be accompanied by an accurate description and actual photograph of the item being offered. What you see is what you get.
- Items will only be posted as they become available.
- Pricing is available on request via email (email@example.com)
- Availability is limited to quantity on hand. Quantities will be updated as the gear is sold. Once complete, the listing will be removed.
- To order an item, a prospective customer should first contact Down Range Gear via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) in order to ascertain pricing and availability.
- The preferred method of payment is PayPal, but alternate forms of payment may be arranged on request.
- All orders will ship via US Postal Service with Delivery Confirmation. A follow up email will confirm shipment of the order.
This is essentially custom built gear without the wait. The Limited Sales program does not replace the normal ordering process. Quantities will be strictly limited to gear that is already built, on hand and ready to ship.
The website MilitaryMorons.com is an invaluable resource. The reviews are concise but thorough, with even handed critiques backed up with vivid photography that captures broad product concepts and minute details. The effect is a well rounded view of the product that typically goes beyond what a manufacturer reveals. These details provide an end user perspective unmatched anywhere else.
Military Morons recently reviewed the Down Range Gear NOD Retention Lanyard.
It probably comes across as self serving and corrupt to commend a source about a product that we have a biased interest in… but a review in Military Morons is something to covet. During the review period and prior to publishing, the reviewer made some very astute observations about the NOD Retention Lanyard which demonstrated a clear understanding of it’s workings and use. The internet is replete with self proclaimed subject matter experts on websites with an obvious bias to anyone who throws a free piece of gear their way. Military Morons aptly rises to a higher standard.
To learn more about the NOD Retention Lanyard or to find out how to place an order, contact Down Range Gear at email@example.com or visit nodretentionlanyard.com
One of the problems with offering a product like the Enhanced Strap Replacement is the wide variety of equipment different customers need it to work with. Consider the different widths of webbing, different sizes of buckles, different buckle orientations and different makes of buckles with attendant compatibility issues. The default standard on the ESR Waist Strap is ITW GhillieTex buckles. Usually the male (latch) end is sewn into the strap but that can be altered on request. Constant contact with the customer is key to making sure the gear gets built correctly.
This customer requested the ESR Waist Strap with National Molding Duraflex Stealth buckles. That’s not a part in use or in wide enough circulation to justify stocking. By chance, there were enough parts on hand to fit out two of the three waist straps requested. The buckles could have sourced from a distributor, but that would have required the purchase of a quantity there isn’t a demand to justify. This is where small business decisions start to come into play. In cases like this we do what we can. The customer opted to have the order filled with the plastic hardware on hand and had the third piece built with an ITW buckle set so that he could install the compatible buckle onto his gear. Alternately, the customer could have purchased the requested buckles and had them forwarded to Down Range Gear to install. There was no good solution.
Down Range Gear has had the good fortune in that there has never been a customer that was not flexible or reasonable in filling an order. In return, you’ll get nothing less from us.
The diversity of gear on the market today is unprecedented with an equally impressive overall standard of quality. Chances are if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you’re probably not trying hard enough. Despite this, the need to improve on an off the shelf design, personalize it to meet a need or modify it to fit a specific role continues to exist. Customers want more from their gear.
This latest project is a case in point. The move to ballistic plate carriers from more comprehensive armor systems created a need for an aftermarket cumberbund. One company that ably met that need was Mayflower Research & Consulting. To customize it the customer turned to Down Range Gear.
The Mayflower Cumberbund was ordered to retrofit a plate carrier and improve the carriage of side SAPI plates. The cumberbund comes from the manufacturer with a PALS grid on the outside and a small mesh plate pocketon the interior. Because the customer’s plates would not fit in the interior mesh pocket, he opted to use his IOTV MOLLE plate pockets to attach them. Hanging plates to the outside of a cumberbund is less than ideal: it takes up valuable space and is a poorly balanced snag hazard. To allow mounting of the IOTV plate pockets, the interior mesh pocket had to be removed and replaced with PALS webbing. Additional upgrades were made to improve the function of the cumberbund.
The quick solution would have been to place webbing along the inside of the cumberbund, align it with the other side and sew it in place. That might have got the job done but the stitching would have shown through the other side and just… not looked right. Mayflower sets a high standard for quality in both form and function. The customer payed good money on his initial purchase and then again to have it modified… So the cumberbund was disassembled, and then reassembled with the requested changes. In essence, a part of it was rebuilt, if not quite from scratch. While it was on the “operating table” the customer approved the insertion of a firm but flexible plastic stiffener in order to give the cumberbund more structure and better support and distribute the weight of the plates and attached pouches. The elastic was reinfoced with a material that would resist rot and fatigue a little better. A reader would be incorrect to read this and come away with the impression that Mayflower gear is incomplete or leaves a lot to be desired, like everything they do, this add-on cumberbund it’s a well made, well thought out piece of gear.
The MOLLE IOTV side SAPI pockets required a little attention as well. The MOLLE straps are sewn really close to center, which is less than ideal given the weight of the ballistic plates. In order to make the laden SAPI pocket more stable, the straps were removed and sewn closer to the edges of the pocket, giving them a wider footprint, which should improve stability. When the straps were moved closer to the edges, new snaps were installed and the old snaps were removed with the holes were covered up with small metal grommets, making it difficult to tell the pocket was even modified (important when dealing with issued gear.)
This gear, along with it’s owner will shortly be overseas.
Regular readers will notice a trend here in the marked increase in customer interest on equipment that will enhance or improve the experience of using a chest rig. This is a market niche Down Range Gear has carved out for itself and we’re pretty happy to ride the wave. As with anything in this industry, it’s only a matter of time before something better comes along, but for right now, we’re it.
This customer seems to have wanted the best of both worlds. Sometimes you wear your chest rig over armor, sometimes you don’t. Down Range Gear has both bases covered and can markedly improve both experiences. The Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit uses your armor system to support the chest rig with no harness to mess with. It’s simple, streamlined and combat proven. The Enhanced Strap Replacement (Waist Strap) wraps a stretchy shock cord core inside a soft tubular nylon strap to make wearing a chest rig with a harness easier and more comfortable.
We don’t build chest rigs (yet) but with a few outside the box solutions, we can help make the one you’re humping a lot better.
While the Tactical Tailor MALICE Clip is a very solid PALS mounting accessory, it makes an outstanding belt loop. No other PALS or conventional MOLLE system can match that characteristic. When the solid plastic tab is slotted into the end and locked in, the closed loop doesn’t come undone. The problem is that there is nothing to prevent a pouch attached in this manner on a belt from excessive play and movement. The MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizer addressed this issue and created a rock solid platform with which to attach MALICE Clip equipped pouches onto a belt (from thin, narrow belts up to LE duty belts). It works by slotting the end of the MALICE Clip through a channel lined on both sides with a non-slip material. Once the MALICE Clip is closed over it, it functions as a belt loop. Friction keeps the pouch in place on this proven system. It’s smart and at least as good as any other belt attachment on the market. It is designed specifically to take advantage of the Tactical Tailor MALICE Clip.
After the introduction of the original MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizer, and built specifically to take advantage of Velcro lined belts, the hook and loop “LE” (law enforcement) variant was developed.
The MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizer because it does it’s job well and it’s a simple design. There’s only so far the design can be evolved, there literally isn’t much room for improvement. However, after having built these for a year and having subsequently spun off the LE variant, we did notice that it could be made thinner without sacrificing performance.
The MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizer Lite improves on the original design by reducing some of the material that goes into fabrication giving the Belt Stabilizer a thinner cross section. When it comes to gear design, less is more. The lower the profile of your gear, the better off you’ll be. The Belt Stabilizer Lite is about 1/2 as thick as the original, meaning less material between you and your equipment.
The customer ordered both versions of the PALS Belt Platform: both the regular, nonslip backed and the LE hook and loop lined. They’re just a great way to put pouches onto belt platforms from 1.5″ all the way up to 2″ duty belts with minimal (if any) shifting on your belt.
The Modular Insert Holster Lite is a solid, Velcro backed platform that has a sturdy elastic loop to retain Glock profile pistols and comes with a full featured, fully adjustable thumb break for retention.
The HSLD Watch Band can be had in a variety of designs and configurations, built to order. This one was sized for a Suunto X-Lander.
Somewhere along the way Down Range Gear has come to attract a fairly regular stream of Mayflower Research & Consulting customers. It’s not a product niche we went looking for or might have predicted. The whole phenomenon has been driven entirely by the customer. That said, this mild association with an innovative industry trend setter is something we take pride in.
This customer wanted a Down Range Gear Enhanced Strap Replacement (Waist Strap) to improve the functionality of his chest rig but also wanted a way to better integrate the waist strap with his Mayflower Armor Carrier. Mayflower has made a name for itself integrating it’s chest rigs onto their armor carriers, but there’s an issue with the waist strap digging into the wearer’s back when it rolls off of the vest. The solution was to fit the back of the vest with a narrow channel with which to retain the waist strap. Pictures tell the rest of the story.
A little over a year ago Down Range Gear had a customer request a HSLD Watch Band in Crye Multicam. You can read about it here: HSLD Watch Band in Crye Multicam.
The customer used it to carry his Suunto X-Lander on deployment. In the interim, the design was refined and updated. 12 months later Down Range Gear has the privilege to build a replacement for that original band.
The original HSLD Watch Band required the customer to send the watch face in for fitting. The band was fitted onto the retaining pins. The updated design connects the two ends of the band together with a strap onto which the face can be dropped. That connecting strap means that the band will not actually pull against any part of the watch itself. This improves the structure. The end result is a very simple but durable design.
The customer wanted a Modular Panel Insert with accompanying holster and magazine loops to fit into the “hidden” flat pocket in an SDS Engage. The only minor annoyance was that the pocket is both taller and deeper overall than the length of the zipper. Not much to do about that except build the panel to take advantage of as much space as possible. Bit of a tight fit getting it in, but otherwise good to go. If it doesn’t work out, he can always relocate it to a different pocket.
Down Range Gear is a small operation and has a limited, finite ability to produce. Very little that is made is a stock item, meaning nearly every single piece of gear is made to order. Until it’s ordered, your gear is just rolls of fabric, and webbing and distributed parts. This ensures a high degree of customization and strict attention to detail but it also means the process is slow and relatively expensive. It can be very inefficient. It’s really busy here but we put a lot of effort into taking care of customers on and individual level.
What kind of hoops do you have to jump through to get Down Range Gear to work for you? If there’s something you need, you shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with a request. We’re pretty attentive to our email inbox. If it’s something we do or is within our ability, and if current commitments allow, you’ve hired yourself a gear builder. Because of current order volumes we’ve had to be a lot more selective about what we take on. If we can’t give an ETA on your order or don’t think we can complete it in a reasonable time, we don’t accept funds up front even if we pencil you in to the production schedule. Sometimes we lose time and money that way, but we’ve never accepted funds and failed to deliver and our customers have been unfailingly patient and understanding with production setbacks and delays.
Small orders are no exceptions.
This customer wanted to install an Enhanced Strap Replacement (the waist strap) onto his Mayflower chest rig but wanted to do the work himself. Could Down Range Gear provide the finished strap with a buckle part to fit on the chest rig and the appropriate, heavy duty nylon thread to do the job? Absolutely. How about a set of velcro wrap buckle protectors? No problem. We’re happy to not only sell the finished product but provide the small items that might assist you in making your gear what it needs to be. We’re very pleased to be able to support small do it yourself projects. Just ask!
Next customer just wanted a set of PALS Shock Cord Anchors but wasn’t sure of the buckle orientation on his vest. Could Down Range Gear fabricate a Shock Cord Anchor and set it up to use both ends of the buckle? Can do. Only hiccup was that the customer wanted all his gear in green and the only thing we could provide was the webbing. Didn’t have green shock cord and ITW doesn’t make the GhillieTex line of hardware in green to our knowledge. Other than that, we were very pleased to be able to do the work.
It’s busy around here. Right now, we’re in that place where a small, custom operation gets noticed and demand accordingly picks up. In addition, several items have attracted interest from government agency and larger, military contracts. That’s not a bad place for us to be in but it has a telling effect on smaller, custom orders. We work really hard to give individual customers equal time and attention. If we just can’t do the work, or there’s a manufacturer that does the job better, Down Range Gear regularly refers customers to some of the third parties linked in the Blogroll. We haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a customer in need.
This is a variant of the Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit with all the component pieces. It’s going on another Mayflower Research and Consulting chest rig, a piece of kit we have a lot of experience with at this point.
There is no single “standard” version of the ‘Armor Interface Kit. The objective is to mate a chest rig directly to an armor system without a harness. The ‘Kits are tailored to customer specific gear combinations, and are limited only by how the gear is configured and designed and how far the customer wants to go to make them work together.
Although Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kits are as varied as the customers who request them, the basic components remain the same:
Everybody will get a set of buckles to replace the shoulder harness and support the chest rig along it’s critical, vertical axis. Because this is the primary weight bearing support, an extra attachment is always provided along with a set of Velcro protective wraps to protect the buckles from impact. That’s probably overkill but we really don’t want your gear to fail in mid deployment without a way to fix the problem.
All chest rigs need to be stabilized horizontally to prevent shifting. Most chest rigs have four attachment points, some have two. It doesn’t matter how your gear is set up, we’ll tailor the ‘Kit to you. Replacing the straps with shock cord is one of those unique touches Down Range Gear is known for. It’s not the default for the Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit but the advantages over webbing are a no brainer and we can make it work to great effect. That shock cord will pull your chest rig into your armor system, keeping it under constant tension and rock solid when you move. At this point, a great many of them have been fielded. They’re the best solution we’ve found to making chest rig attachment as simple as possible.
Down Range Gear is in the process of winding down operations for a stand down that will span August 5 through September. The last day we will be accepting orders will be the August 5. From that point forward, existing commitments will be closed out. If you are military, an LEO or have an urgent need, please shoot me an email and we’ll see what we can do or you, but expect no promises. Operations will resume again in September, probably the latter half.
To contact Down Range Gear, address your email to:
Frequently Asked Questions.
Where can I see a list of everything you do?
Space is being made to post the complete Down Range Gear portfolio on this blog on a separate page. Look for it in the next few weeks.
When will your website be back up?
The Down Range Gear main site was pulled in order to concentrate efforts in a few key areas. It will be restored when time permits.
How do I order from Down Range Gear?
Ordering is done on a one on one, per case basis via personal email only. Down Range Gear doesn’t do a lot of stock work. Each request for gear and order is different and sometimes highly customized. The ability to meet your needs is evaluated on an individual basis and weighed against the current work load. To make an inquiry or place an order, use the provided email address posted all over this blog. All emails are answered promptly.
It doesn’t take long for a good idea to connect and stick. Most customers looked at the Down Range Gear Enhanced Strap Replacement and saw the void it filled right away. Regular, static, flat webbing does the job but leaves room for improvement.
Designed as a drop in solution (with exceptions,) The Enhanced Strap Replacement can retrofit items such as chest rigs, vests and plate carriers (with additional applications limited only by imagination.) Replacing conventional webbing with straps with elastic properties increases comfort and function.
To date, two product niches have been identified resulting in a set of side straps (sold in pairs) and a waist strap.
The basis for the system is a length of tubular nylon webbing with a shock cord core. This mates with a ladderlock allowing a front pull to adjust a length of webbing. This simultaneously improves comfort and ease of adjustment.
The level of comfort afforded by the Enhanced Strap Replacement is attained by the elastic quality of the shock cord which will give when you push against it. Tubular nylon webbing is soft and less abrasive. It’s not going to chafe or rub you the same way flat webbing does.
Ease of adjustment is built into the design. The straps are set for an ergonomic, front pull through a ladderlock. Elbows bend forward, not backwards. To adjust length, pull to the front, cynching it down. That said, the idea isn’t to cynch it down every time the rig is donned. All that is required is an initial fit for sizing, then the straps can be locked down allowing elastic tension to take up the slack.
The elastic in conjuction with manually adjustable webbing provides a wide variation in sizing. The real limitation in the system is not in how far out it will expand but in the minimum it can be reduced. The strap can only be shortened so far because the tubular nylon and shock cord will not feed through the ladderlock.
The hardware standard for buckles is ITW Nexus GhillieTex, though these also can be substituted on request.
When ordering, a customer should be mindful of the correct buckle orientation and of compatibility issues with plastic hardware from different manufacturers.
Although designed as a drop in solution, depending on the make and model of chest rig (there are so many out there) minor alterations may be required to mount the straps. These include lack of places from which to attach the straps, buckle orientation and buckle compatibility issues.
The stitching is particularly robust in the two critical areas where it matters most: tacking down the shock cord and joining the tubular nylon with the flat webbing. Sewing through elastic can be a little tricky at times so the shock cord is sewn into the tubular nylon at two points on either end and with up to 5 lines, which is probably overkill, but we don’t expect to have any of these come back due to a seam failure. Where the tubular nylon meets the flat webbing, both ends have been curled under and sewn with multiple passes in two different points to preclude failure.
Sold in pairs, these are designed to retrofit straps on items such as plate carriers or the harnesses on chest rigs. They have an overall maximum stretch adjustment range of 24″ and can be cynched down to a minimum of 9″. The ladderlock at the rear portion of the straps are slotted to attach easily into PALS (MOLLE) webbing or into existing attachment loops in a chest rig harness. If these solutions do not exist, the item they are to be installed on may have to be modified to accept them. The front of the straps have latch (male end) side release buckle components, though this can be changed on request. The shock cord sheathed in tubular nylon is built into the front end of the straps so that the flat webbing can be fed through the ladderlock for a front pull adjust at the rear.
Sold individually, the waist strap is a direct, drop in replacement for chest rigs designed with removable waist straps. Prospective customers should note that the chest rig must have a side release buckle on both sides in order to be compatible. The waist strap has an overall maximum stretch of 36″ and pares to 12″ cinched all the way down. The waist strap locates the shock cord/ tubular nylon portion in the center and supports strap adjustement off of either side with ladderlocks that allow webbing to be pulled in a forward motion to shorten. The webbing ends in latch (male) side release buckle halves unless a customer specifies otherwise.
It is very likely that similar systems using this concept will be coming on line as customer demand drives manufacturer awareness and some of the amazing talent in the industry take the concept and improve upon it. That’s innovation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see manufacturers building these into their rigs.
Most readers will probably note the change in nomenclature from Dynamic Strap System to Enhanced Strap Replacement. That’s what we’re calling these now.
The durability of a given piece of equipment is a combination of several factors. Design is the first, critical step. Well executed construction on top of a poorly conceived design still yields sub par kit. The builder either has experience and common sense and knows what he’s doing or he doesn’t. Fabrication and assembly are areas we all know to look at with good reason. Everybody knows how gear falls apart when the sewing lacks quality and attention to detail. Finally, the selection of materials and hardware is very important. Substandard parts lead to rapid wear and deterioration.
Do all this right and still something breaks. That’s what happens when your gear interacts with the real world.
A customer recently requested a replacement ITW Surface Mount Buckle for a Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit which shattered when hit with a paintball. Yes, that’s right, a paintball. Doesn’t make for a very good story, but that Down Range Gear would replace the piece was not even a question. What was in question was how to address the underlying problem. That ITW Surface Mount Buckle formed one of two vertical attachment points suspending the chest rig to the plate carrier. The vertical attachment points are critical load bearing parts. They have to work or the Kit will dump your gear. There’s a world of difference between a paintball park CONUS and a combat mission overseas. Regardless, buckle failure is an unacceptable liability.
Why did the buckle fail? Problems with the batch from the factory? Buckle not to specification? Mold formed incorrectly? Extreme environmental/ temperature effects on the plastic? The reasons are highly irrelevant when this happens and you’re outside the wire. All that matters is that the issue gets resolved as quickly as possible so that you can drive on. Sending your gear ‘Stateside for repairs or warranty service is not a viable option. We know because we’ve been there. We’re going to address it because we know it happens.
ITW Nexus is the plastic hardware provider of choice for Down Range Gear in no small part due to the smart designs and the field proven, robust construction. Down Range Gear will continue to use ITW Nexus hardware, including the Surface Mount Buckle for the Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit, but with the expectation that if it can happen, it will happen.
That is why effective immediately, all vertical supports on the Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit will be reinforced with a velcro wrap and a spare buckle body. The velcro wrap is a less than ideal solution to the real world problem of parts breakage. We can’t speak for the buckle manufacturer, but we also understand that an equipment failure in mid-mission is an unacceptable outcome for customers who depend on our kit. Wrapping the buckle with a loop of velcro is not an elegant solution, but it will increase the margin against a part failure. It will not mitigate it entirely, but it will serve to improve the part in two ways. First, hook and loop actually has some minor cushioning properties. By covering the buckle, the velcro wrap will absorb some of the shock and impact that might otherwise be transmitted directly to the structure of the buckle, splitting or shattering it as in the case of the paint ball. Secondly, if the velcro wrap fails to prevent a catastrophic buckle failure, it will hopefully help keep the assembly together until a replacement part can substitute the damaged piece or some other field expedient workaround can be reached. We cannot anticipate every situation but we do want to provide you with the tools to take care of the problem and drive on with your mission until you can effect repairs on your gear. Again, we realize this is an imperfect solution. It is not intended to be a permanent fix, but might be enough to get you back to base.
The velcro wrap will, by it’s very nature impede quick donning and disconnect of the chest rig and will not be necessary in all, or even most situations. You don’t have to use it, but it’s there if you need to. There are a great many Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kits in service right now, world wide. ITW Nexus buckle failure is not a common occurrence. The buckles are well designed and robustly constructed. But a statistical improbability doesn’t help in the field when it happens to you.
Down Range Gear would welcome customer input and experience on this matter. If you have a better way to address the issue, we’d be pleased to hear it. Anyone currently running a Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit who needs one of these parts should contact Down Range Gear directly at email@example.com. The velcro wrap will also be made available to any prospective customers with a need running third party gear for a nominal fee.
There are no absolutes. Down Range Gear will continue to provide the customer with the best designs, construction and materials it is capable of assembling into the product. When these fail, Down Range Gear will step up to resolve issues to the satisfaction of the customer.
There are three potential points of failure in the mounts and adapters between your helmet and night vision optic. The NOD Retention Lanyard is designed to retain and prevent the loss of a night observation device in the event of a mount failure. Providing a critical measure of redundancy in the field, “dummy cords” are time tested and proven in an environment where, “if it can happen…” It typically does. The NOD Retention Lanyard is a dummy cord, operating on a familiar concept but doing the job much better.
No more 550 cord. No more safety pins and carabiners.
As with everything in a field environment, simplicity is key because complicated gear stays in seabags. The straight forward design of the NOD Retention Lanyard eschews complexity. It’s operation is already familiar to anyone who depends on field expedient methods of dummy cording their sensitive equipment. There’s no retraining, no learning curve; all the habits and actions are already ingrained from years of experience. It’s a no brainer to use when and where it matters.
The NOD Retention Lanyard has two basic components using familiar parts infantrymen handle every day, such as side release buckles, webbing, shock cord and cable ties. The side release “body” is pinned between the NOD plate and the helmet to form a sturdy socket. The side release “latch” is tethered to the optic body via tension and length adjustable shock cord. It’s low profile and lack of dangling parts minimizes the potential for snag hazards.
The NOD Retention Lanyard works with issued gear, requires no special tools or expertise to install, does not interfere with the operation of the optic or require any alteration of issued equipment. Reliability in a field environment is there by design. It takes a grunt to come up with something like this.
The NOD Retention Lanyard is made in the USA with telling attention to detail and heavy duty stitching. The hardware is ITW Nexus GhillieTex (IR signature reduced) parts and buckles. If broken, the components are easy to swap out or repair expediently in the field. Although designed with the AN/PVS-14 monocular in mind, adaptation is factored in, allowing the end user to port the device to different optics.
As an added benefit of using shock cord to tether the optic, the elastic tension stabilizes the mount system reducing excessive movement and play between parts, allowing consistent positioning of the optic over the wearer’s eye.
Further value is added with the inclusion of the Dummy Cord Clip which latches onto PALS (MOLLE) webbing and secures the optic to preclude loss when it is not in use and stored in a pouch.
The Down Range Gear NOD Retention Lanyard is a well thought out, low profile, practical alternative to field expedient methods, priced to put it easily within reach of those who will benefit most.
The NOD Retention Lanyard was developed by Down Range Gear and is distributed exclusively by Combat Ready USA.
To find out more about the NOD Retention Lanyard, visit NODRetentionLanyard.com
The NOD Retention Lanyard is in stock and ready to ship at CombatReadyUSA.com
The easiest way to become “that guy” in a rifle platoon is to lose a sensitive piece of serialized gear. Ask any seasoned lance corporal… or harried platoon sergeant. Losing an optic in the field or on the range, in say, a live fire exercise makes you directly responsible for having everybody get on line and conduct a police call for said optic. It’s not the best way to stick out in the minds of your peers or superiors. While it may seem like the end of the world, nothing compares to the pit of your stomach feeling when you’re down range and outside the wire and realize something is missing. Suddenly you’re not only deprived of a critical night fighting advantage but you have potentially left a piece of key technology for the enemy to find and use against you. Don’t say it can’t happen.
Between the mount and the adapter, there are 3 potential points of failure connecting your PVS-14 to your helmet. If it can happen, it will happen.
Night vision equipment in infantry operations is a critical technological advantage. I wouldn’t go outside the wire without it. I think it’s safe to say that today’s infantry rely pretty heavily on this piece of equipment. I’m not a night vision device expert and can’t tell you how it works beyond grunt terms, but I have a fair amount of time using one in-country.
Like a lot of things, I didn’t fully appreciate the need for night vision equipment until shipping to Iraq. I was lucky enough to have been issued an AN/PVS-14 in a time when a lot of Marines had to make do with the 7-B goggle or worse. The PVS-14 of the day was reliable and durable… relatively speaking. It was moderately crush proof and shock resistant but didn’t fare well submerged. The J-Arm adapter on which the whole thing relied was particularly prone to breakage with rough use.
On my first combat deployment, I had a wise platoon sergeant who reintroduced me to the concept of dummy cording my kit, night vision in particular.
Night vision devices are employed through a series of mounts and adapters. First comes the helmet bracket on which the whole assembly is supported. Then the mount which pivots the optic up or down (as well as in and out.) Finally (if running a PVS-14) the adapter which clips into the mount and positions the monocular. These mounts, adapters and brackets all have small mechanical parts that are fairly reliable, though steadily less so as they get worn and dirty (in other words, under field conditions.) Then they malfunction. Then you have problems.
Anybody know what an AN/PVS-14 costs?
Dummy cords aren’t for dummies. They’re a precaution experienced infantrymen take with the knowledge that everything they do is subject to Murphy’s Law. You take steps to ensure your kit will not fail when you need it most. It’s part of PCC and PCI (pre-combat checks and pre-combat inspections.) “Dummy cord” is the colloquial infantry term for a field expedient system to secure your vital equipment against loss. What do we dummy cord? Everything. By the time I came into the service we were dummy cording our ALICE clips, canteens, compasses… anything you didn’t want to lose when kit gets knocked about operating in the field. Grunts were doing this long before I entered the service.
Platoon sergeants pull their hair out over equipment accountability. Losing your PVS-14 somewhere in the area of operations gets you in hot water with your command and is a good way to hand a night fighting advantage to the enemy. Neither is a very good thing. So we dummy corded our optics (and other things, but this especially.) It was a very crude, field expedient method that turned out to be well worth the hassle. Every Marine in my platoon used a length of 550 cord tied around the optic and mount. It worked. Next time you see a Soldier or Marine in Iraq/ Afghan war footage and he has a safety pin/ small carabiner/ 550 cord or other paraphernalia attached to his helmet, that’s probably his dummy cord.
A big part of infantry work takes place at night where our optics and sighting systems make a crucial difference. I was both lucky and grateful to have a PVS-14 with one minor gripe: there was a big black spot where the image tube had burned through. Issued gear is rarely well treated and sometimes abused. If you break it they issue you a new one. It’s not like it’s yours.
That’s what motivated me to buy my own PVS-14. It would be outside of the system and I would be the sole owner and user. You tend to take significantly better care of expensive equipment you buy out of pocket. Particularly when it’s to the tune of $3500 plus or minus a few hundred.
I acquired a U.S. Night Vision USNV-14 night vision monocular. The USNV14 is the basic equivalent of the issued AN/PVS-14, but with better optical resolution and an improved housing. All in all, a step up.
Given the substantial out of pocket expense, I was particularly motivated to ensure my optic against loss or damage. While 550 cord can get you by, there had to be a better way. By the time my next combat deployment rolled around, I had developed an early predecessor to the NOD Retention Lanyard…
Earlier this week, Down Range Gear shipped an Improved Modular Panel Insert with a Modular Insert Holster Lite and four Pistol Magazine Inserts. Those pieces were all built to go together. If you have to carry a pistol in a pack, particularly a pack that does not have PALS or loop (velcro) built in, this might be your solution. The nice thing is that it frees the end user to utilize a pack already owned or purchase a pack based on other characteristics. Down Range Gear will provide the drop-in internal organization.
As requested, this panel was sized for the secondary pocket in an Eagle Industries A-III pack. To add to the PALS support and compatibility with velcro backed accessories, this panel also sports a built in elastic flat pocket which gives it an internal storage and organization capability right out of the box without the need to add pouches. They fill a number of small, useful niches.
The Modular Holster Insert Lite is designed specifically to take advantage of the unique contour of a Glock pistol frame. It offers good retention and draw characteristics without the bulk of the Holster Insert. With the holster body made largely of elastic webbing, other pistol frame designs and aggressively angled front sights may damage the material, but this velcro holster is good to go with a stock configuration Glock. The holster is built on an HDPE backer to ensure full contact with a solid loop (velcro) surface.
What makes the Pistol Magazine Inserts work is the nonslip material used in the backing. This goes over a thin layer of foam padding working in conjuction with the compression of the elastic to keep magazines from slipping through. Additionally, the loops are perfectly sized to support folding knives, flashlights and mulit-tools, among other items. Like the Holster Insert, the Magazine Inserts are supported by an HDPE base to keep them from peeling away from the loop backing.
Among the list of requested modifications and improvements:
-Retrofit the ATS H-harness with the Strap Replacement Kit.
-Upgrade the waist belt with a dynamic strap system.
-Retrofit the chest rig and H-harness with 2″ SR buckles.
-Partition the main chest rig compartment into 3 distinct pockets.
-Line the center pocket with hook and loop in order to accommodate a velcro-in, modular holster system.
-Design and build a velcro lined holster to support a 1911 pistol with a Surefire X-series weapon light.
The end result was a more functional chest rig.
Using shock cord sheathed in tubular nylon webbing (resulting in a dynamic strap system that will expand and contract due to it’s elastic properties) as opposed to more conventional (static,) flat webbing is one of those concepts which changes a things once you realize the possibilities. The basic concept is simple: replace regular 1″ milspec webbing with tubular nylon and shock cord for improved function and comfort. A strap that stretches means that the rig will move with you. Tubular nylon is a softer, more forgiving material and has rounded edges, moreover, it will not bite the way inflexible, flat webbing will because it will give when pressure is exerted against it. Another benefit is in mitigating the need to constantly adjust the webbing in order to cinch up or loosen the harness when worn. If done right, it should be adjusted for sizing once, fixed in place and seldom, if ever, messed with again. Elastic tension does your resizing for you. Should adjustment on the fly be needed, the Strap Replacement Kit is engineered for an ergonomic, front pull to tighten down, as opposed to a more awkward rearward pulling motion.
These can be dropped in to retrofit most harnesses, chest rigs and straps used on armor systems. Why isn’t anyone else doing this? It’s a concept sure to catch on as it is asked for by customers and embraced by manufacturers.
The Eagle Industries chest rig required major “surgery” in order to make it meet the customer’s needs. First, the chest rig was completely disassembled. The center pocket was lined with hook material on one side and loop on the other in order to accommodate a velcro-in modular holster. The top edges of the two side pockets had small pull tabs sewn in under strips of hook and loop. While the chest rig was opened up, two 2″ side release (SR) buckles were added to make the vertical supports compatible with the straps on the ATS H-harness. The waist strap was severed and all four 1″ corner attachment points were retrofitted with female SR buckles.
After the chest rig was reassembled, the main compartment was divided into three pockets. Unfortunately, this meant having to sew over the trapezoid mesh pocket on the back side of the chest rig, narrowing it.
Several different holster concepts were attempted before choosing a suitable design. A holster supporting a pistol on a chest rig with pouches should be as narrow as possible so as not to throw off pouch placement. A custom holster was fabricated around an HDPE core, lined on both sides with hook and loop to mate with the pocket. The holster was cut as low as possible to make it easy to index the grip yet support a fully adjustable, conventional thumb break.
To properly support the holster, the center pocket had to be narrowed, making it less likely to sag or the velcro separate under weight.
The chest rig came with an integral 1″ waist strap sewn into the bottom edge. This was severed and replaced with a female side release buckle. The waist strap was then completely redesigned and built from scratch using the same principles as the Strap Replacement Kit. The new waist strap has male SR buckles on both ends so that the user can secure it from either the left or right side. At the core of the design is shock cord sheathed in tubular nylon with a pair of ladderlocks on each end. These support adjustment for webbing which runs out to the buckles and is shortened via a front pulling motion consistent with the Strap Replacement Kit. There are few places where the elastic properties of a dynamic strap system will yield greater user comfort than against the wearer’s back and waist.
How did it all turn out? Here are some comments and pictures from the customer himself:
“Got the gear yesterday. Everything fits well with room to adjust. It’s a thing of beauty to have slack control on the waist strap while wearing the rig, a feature missing on the half dozen chest rigs I’ve used before. The drop in straps are very comfortable and the holster funcitons exactly like I hoped it would. I started to breath heavily and rapidly and, as advertised, the straps gave a little instead of staying taut, which was, shall we say, awesome. I should quickly note also that I’m a big fan of the adjustable depth on the holster. As it was the grip rested a little low, and the modularity of the thumb break and internal velcro strip made moving things around really easy.
In sum, the modifications were all that I had hoped for and even more–and for the price, a smokin deal. Anyway, I’m a supremely satisfied customer, and if in the future some piece of gear is found lacking, you’re definitely my first stop.
Thanks again for working on my gear, it turned out excellent.”
The Swivi Belt Hanger started out as a personal project to address specific issues with Safariland drop holster platforms. Standard Safariland drop rigs have hip extenders built from 2″ scuba webbing. They loop over the wearer’s belt and back down. Model 6004 series holsters can be had with a quick disconnect buckle, but I was running an older holster without that option. The lack of a quick disconnect feature was one issue to address, the other had to do with ergonomics. The hip extender doesn’t move when your leg moves, so it might work perfectly well when you’re standing, less so when running or seated because you leg moves back and forth and the standard hanger resists natural movement.
Both the quick disconnect and range of motion issues can be addressed with National Molding Swivi-Lockster buckles. The Swivi-Lockster is a center point, push button, quick disconnect buckle that allows a 120 degree arcing range of motion. The Swivi-Lockster has seen service with a popular holster system on a large scale and has ably withstood rigorous use in field conditions.
Providing a quick disconnect capability along with improved ergonomics, the Swivi-Lockster becomes the cornerstone in addressing drop holster deficiencies. How it hangs from the belt is of critical importance. Belt attachment is accomplished via a platform that has a relatively wide base and utilizes Tactical Tailor MALICE Clips. MALICE Clips make secure, natural belt loops. Set widely apart, they are stable on support belts but can also be used in conjunction with MOLLE/PALS compatible belt systems. The Swivi-Lockster buckles are only designed to accommodate a maximum webbing width of 1.5″ so a trigide serving as a wider loop had to be attached to accomodate the 2″ scuba webbing found on Safariland rigs.
The result is a unique and much improved way to run a single strap belt hanger and hip extender. It is stable on the belt, moves with the wearer and has a convenient quick disconnect feature.
RKSTKR Consulting is the kind of quality provider of specialized training that Down Range Gear takes pride in associating with. RSKTKR is owned and operated by Mike “Doc” Hewitt who’s resume starts with 11 years in the U.S. Navy with a big chunk of that time attached to a Marine Force Reconnaissance Company.
The firm profile quoted from the RSKTKR website:
“RSKTKR Consulting (Originally “RiskTaker Services”) was formed in 2004 due to a recognition that the current training in Military and Law Enforcement circles was lacking real world guidelines and some fundamental skill-sets were flawed. Recognizing this “Doc” Hewett set out to provide better training in a more realistic manner to supersede and improve on some of the inherent flaws in the system.
The RSKTKR Training philosophy revolves around not what we can do but what we can teach you to do. You will not see a bunch of show-offs in our classes. “Doc” and his team teach you in a friendly manner what you need to become a better shooter.
“Doc” spent 11 years in the U.S. Navy, 5 years as a Security Specialist, he transitioned to being a Corpsman (Combat Medic) and he was attached to a Marine Corps Force Reconnaisance Company, where he was responsible for the health and safety of the team while it was doing all forms of Special Operations Missions.
He became a Civilian in 2001 and began working in the Middle East and Europe as a Private Military Contractor, working Static and Dynamic positions as a PSD Operator and Force Protection Specialist.
After returning to the States he took his experience and went to work at the Federal Air Marshal Training center in Atlantic city NJ teaching Advanced Pistol and Concealed Carry to the Federal Law enforcement Officers that protect our skies.
RSKTKR Consulting has teamed up with several companies in an effort to bring better more affordable training directly to you. We are proud to have the following sponsors contribute products to our students for T&E and promotional purposes, thus putting cutting-edge gear directly in the hands of the shooters who need it. RSKTKR Consulting gives product feedback to the companies direct from the front line, helping to keep them in tune with the needs of their customer base.”
Down Range Gear is very pleased to further it’s relationship with RSKTKR by sponsoring upcoming courses with selected pieces that form a sort of every day carry kit. These consist of a Modular Panel Insert (complete with a pull out handle and integral elastic flat pocket,) Modular Insert Holster and a set of Pistol Magazine Inserts. Valued at over $100 per set, these will go to the high shooters or other worthy participant in upcoming courses. Sponsoring RSKTKR with Down Range Gear products is a winning concept for all concerned, the course participants get to walk away with some great kit, the instructor gets to provide additional value for the students and Down Range Gear gets to put it’s kit directly in the hands of the end user.
Prospective class attendees and clients might find several things to like about training with RSKTKR. First of all, the prices are very reasonable, particularly given the instructor’s level of experience and the quality of instruction. Second, Doc’s methodology is firmly grounded in real life with particular emphasis on proven basics that work. This is really critical because there are a number of instructors who instruct sophisticated techniques which might work very well on a flat range with an instructor pushing you through the drill but not be repeatable in real life. Brilliance in the basics saves lives. Third, RSKTKR is a mobile training operation. Doc can bring classes to your location provided there is an adequate venue to shoot and a sufficient number of students to justify setting up the class. Interested parties should contact Doc directly.
To learn more about RSKTKR, read the ITS Tactical review of a RSKTKR course hosted in February.
Upcoming courses posted on the RSKTKR site can be found here:
2 Day Combative Pistol in West Jefferson Ohio May 29-30 2010
3.5 Day Combative Carbine Class, Hoover, AL
A Chest Rig/Armor Interface Kit went out today. It was rigged up for another Mayflower Research & Consulting Chest Rig. The same customer also wanted the Eagle Industries Plate Carrier modified with the Drop In Strap Replacement. It’s unusual to actually have the chest rig in hand to work with, much less the armor system it’s to be mounted on.
The ‘Armor Interface was accomplished with no alteration to the host rig. Four PALS Shock Cord Anchors were fabricated to mate with the buckles on the chest rig and vertical attachment was accomplished via ITW Surface Mount Buckles. It was all low profile and simple. One of the nice things about this system is that it’s relatively easy to repair in the case of a part failure or break down in field conditions. If all else fails, the chest rig remains usable with the original harness it shipped with.
The Drop In Strap Replacement was requested to displace the original side straps on the Eagle Plate Carrier. The original straps were 1.5″ with side release buckles that required a rearward pulling motion to cinch tight. Tightening down the sides of any kind of a vest by pulling backwards from your sides is not fun. The Strap Replacement places the length adjusting ladderlock at the rear of the vest so that you pull forward to tighten down. It’s a better way. But the Strap Replacement offers a little more in the form of elastic tension. The more conventional version sheathes shock cord in tubular nylon but this example accomplishes the same with a section of PU-Products Rok Strap. The Rok Strap is basically a heavy duty, durable rubber band that lends itself well to this application. Although the 1.5″ buckle was replaced with a 1′ buckle on the front edges of the plate carrier, the original loops were left intact so that the customer could easily revert the plate carrier to it’s original configuration if desired. Sometimes when you try something new you don’t know whether or not it will work for you until you’ve used it and if the alterations to your gear are permanent, it makes the experience that much more painful.
Sometimes after many hours of designing, patterning, cutting and sewing it’s difficult to be objective about your own work. Then reality materializes in the form of a customer critique. With the benefit of time and distance, hindsight kicks in and you see the work in a different, more critical light. Criticism can be hard to take but provides a crucial dose of clarity that you don’t get sitting behind an industrial sewing machine all day.
The original 1.5″ Light Cobra Belt was designed and built as a one off, custom piece. It was a way to inject some outside the box thinking into existing Cobra belt designs. The customer specified a 1.5″ wide belt with an Austri Aplin Cobra buckle. Although the overall frame of the Cobra buckle is 1.5″, it only slots 1″ webbing. Others have dealt with this problem before. I saw it as an opportunity to have a different take on the design.
At the core of the belt was a strip of HDPE (plastic) material that provided a load bearing structure without excess weight or bulk. The HDPE is wrapped in 1.5″ webbing. Instead of mounting the Cobra buckle on top of the belt, supported on a length of 1″ webbing, the 1.5″ webbing was folded and slotted through the buckle at the belt’s end. This meant less material layered directly under the buckle for a lower overall cross section. The 1″ webbing that was still necessary for adjusting the belt was anchored at a split in the webbing towards the end of the belt.
He didn’t say he hated it, but he had some very pointed design critiques, not the least of which was (embarrasingly for me) a poor fit. On getting the belt back, there were other signs that showed his dissatisfaction. On seeing the belt again for a second time, numerous glaring errors jumped out at me. Like I said, it’s difficult to be objective about your work after having invested many hours into it, but it was clear that there was a lot of room for improvement.
For his part, the customer was generous with his time and patience. It took a while for his schedule and my work load to match in order to permit the work to proceed.
So what had to change with the new belt?
Sizing was done based on an entirely different protocol than before. I’ve learned the hard way that waist measurements and trouser size do not equal belt size, particularly with loadbearing belts.
There was a split in the original belt where the two ends of the 1.5″ webbing came together and the 1″ was rolled under allowing the underlying white HDPE plastic to show through. A major oversight.
The customer did not complain about being able to see the HDPE “guts” of the belt sandwiched between the supporting webbing, but there was permenant marker residue where he obviously tried to black it out. Message received.
The customer also indicated the need to add hook and loop to the areas where the belt ends met and overlapped to stabilize the belt under the buckle and keep it from separating.
With these apt critiques in mind, the replacement belt was rebuilt to address the issues and compared side by side with the previous version, the difference is very clear.
While the overall structure and design of the belt remain the same, fixes were incorporated to address the oversights of the original. The HDPE core of he belt was sheathed in a nylon tube that had to be laboriously sewn and fitted over the plastic to effectively encase the HDPE core so that the look of the belt was uniformly black. The split where the ends of the webbing met were carefully overlapped to eliminate the previous, unsightly gap and the overlapping of the belt ends were fitted with hook and loop to keep the belt together.
This blog exists to promote Down Range Gear and provide supplemental material for the main site. As such, it consistently presents the best of Down Range Gear’s efforts. To constatnly present only the good side and downplay the bad or not mention all the things that go wrong can be unbalanced and misleading. As this post proves, there are ample screw ups, mistakes and gaffs behind the scenes and there is a lot of work that goes into correcting them.
The PALS Belt Platform allows MOLLE/PALS compatible pouch systems to be worn securely on a belt. The original version was lined with high friction, non-slip material to help fix it in place. A customer recently ordered a set for use with a law enforcement duty belt system. Conventional LE duty belt rigs consist of a main, load bearing belt, typically 2″ wide, lined with loop (Velcro) material which supports duty gear. This can be mated to a hook (Velcro) lined trouser belt which is meant to hold up trousers and mate with the outer (load bearing) belt, to keep the load from shifting.
With all the gear law enforcement officers have to carry, it must be frustrating to be limited to pouches designed to work specifically with duty belts. Converting the PALS Belt Platform for use with LE kit opens up a whole new set of options for LEOs or anyone running some form of a Velcro lined belt. A hook and loop lined PALS Belt Platform makes the entire inventory of MOLLE/PALS pouches available to these users.
The LE Variant of the PALS Belt Platform is built to the same specifications as the original: it is a 3″ wide, HDPE reinforced platform that supports two rows and two columns of “contoured” PALS webbing sewn into a loop that will slide over a 2″ duty belt. What differentiates it from the original version is the substitution of hook and loop material in place of the the non-slip backing/liner. The interior of the belt loop is lined with a 2″ strip of hook material while the exterior is lined with loop to allow the platform to properly mate with the lining on LE duty belts.
A Modular Insert Holster with a set of Pistol Magazine Inserts went out to a customer earlier this week. These two pieces go together and are a good complement to loop (Velcro) backed mounting platforms.
The Modular Insert Holster was conceived and built for individuals in need of a full featured, dedicated holster. I’ve been carrying with one for well over a year and there are many more in circulation. The design is proven and the holster functions as advertised, but design and fabrication methods are constantly evolving. The holster template will be undergoing several small, evolutionary refinements as the result of a recent improvements on the original design.
The Pistol Magazine Inserts are good examples of functional simplicity. A piece of 3″ wide elastic webbing pulls the magazine against an HDPE reinforced platform. A small, thin piece of closed cell foam padding behind the grippy non-skid material pushes back against the magazine from the opposite side, keep the magazine from sliding through the loop.
I was recently commissioned by a customer to construct a set of flat, velcro attachable panels to hold a LifeHammer Emergency Hammer. While vaguely familiar with the glass breaking rescue product, I had no personal experience with one. It took a little homework, some consultation and getting a prototype to the customer to narrow down the design. The requirement was simple enough: retain the hammer securely yet allow it to be easily accessible and simple to deploy. Pretty straight forward stuff.
The whole thing is built on an HDPE reinforced hook (velcro) backer, similar to many other pieces in my design portfolio. The hammer is retained against the panel with a length of 6″ wide elastic. This offers what I feel is a good compromise between close, formfitting retention of the hammer, yet the elastic will also give a little when extracting the hammer and should be more forgiving if not pulled straight out. The customer specified a velcro closure over the end to secure the hammer into place.
Not personally owning a LifeHammer and with no hands-on time with one, I had to rely heavily on the customer’s input while inserting a little bit of practical design experience. In cases like this, you do your homework, work closely with the customer and collaborate to make sure the thing works. I never had the hammer in hand to test the fit and function of the panel, this was all done via email exchanges of pictures, sketches and direct feedback from the initial prototype. Ultimately, building custom gear is about providing the customer with a solution he can’t obtain elsewhere and backing the work down to the the last stitch. Customer service starts in earnest after the product has shipped.
The O P in O P Tactical stands for operationally proven. The gear is operationally proven, and so is it’s staff. From the website:
O P Tactical Inc. is a small business owned by an able-bodied, active-duty, non-minority, male member of the United States Army who is a combat veteran. We do not seek preferential treatment when being selected for sales to anyone.
Provide customers with the best gear and customer service possible.
OPT does not sell gear that has not been tested and sworn to by the end user, inferior gear is not sold here.
If you have any questions about what kind of gear you should use for your loadout, just email us ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) and ask. We hope you check back in every now and then and see what we have to offer, we will feature different deals and new items on a regular basis. Happy shopping, browsing, surfing, or studying.
We believe our role is to support the customer and the industry. The customer is of the utmost importance, they are in the fight, or training for the fight, we know what this is like, and we know what we expect out of our support channels while in these roles. The industry is also of great value to us, we do not bad mouth other members of the industry for the sake of sales, in fact, if you can’t find it here, we will be happy to refer you to a dealer that carries an item rather than see you deploy or train at an equipment defecit due to the behavior of a retailer.
Our Website is like a fighting position, it undergoes constant improvement on a daily basis; it is not flashy, it is not glamorous, it is very low maintenance and for one very good reason… The internet is very slow in most of the far reaches of the world. We do not have stock on our pages (though it is kept updated for many products) nor do we have tons of special effects to “wow” our customers. We have items, pictures, and descriptions along with contact info, this is all you need for mission accomplishment when using our site. If you have time to post your disapproval of this on a forum, you have time to write us and ask if something is in stock, it is that simple.
Our Product Line:
One thing that you may notice about our website is that we do not have the same cookie cutter compostion found with most tactical gear stores. The reason for this is simple, we use what we sell, we know what people are looking for when they do their shopping in preparation for anything; whether it’s a deployment, being assigned as an instructor, or preparing to head out and do a hike with some friends and family. We seek out products for you that fill niches not found in other places within the industry. We have no problem with taking risks with never before heard of products if we know they successfully fill a need from within the community. Gear is developed on the grassroots level, it is developed by the end users most of the time, and we do not have any problem with representing the end user who is also a product developer.
July 2003: Operationally Proven Tactical Gear (OPTG) was founded in Alexandria, Virginia.
March 2004: O P Tactical Inc. (DBA: OPTG) incorporated in the State of Virginia
April 2004: OPTG moved permanently to Raleigh, North Carolina.
March 2005: OPTG moved into retail space in Raleigh, North Carolina
January 2006: O P Tactical Inc. (now called OPT) incorporated in the State of North Carolina.
September 2007: OPT Moved into new retail space doubling their previous capacity.
OPT’s criteria for selecting gear is based not only on our staff’s experiences, but also those of our constituents, friends, and team-mates. We sell gear that lives up to it’s reputation for survivability and longetivity.
What we are NOT:
We are not runway models, or guys who have tons of super expensive matching kit that is completely unaffordable by the average Joe out there. You won’t see super cool pics of guys dressed in $4,000 worth of clothing and nylon yet who have no clue how to operate or employ the weapons they carry in the arena of combat. We do not have extravagantly expensive gear on our site that looks super cool but provides little or no necessary function to the end user. This is not a fashion website. We believe the gear we sell should be utilitarian and functional. We are very confident in our approach to this, and ironically, chicks dig confidence more than the fact that you own a super expensive piece of gear.”
O P Tactical is currently carrying several Down Range Gear pieces and test marketing selected items.
Although direct contact and one on one sales to customers will always remain a critical part of how Down Range Gear operates, doing business through retail partners such as O P Tactical will allow us to reach and meet the needs of a wider customer base. While there are a number of retailers in the business, Down Range Gear takes particular pride in it’s association with those of the caliber and professional experience of O P Tactical.
This admin pocket was designed and built to customer specifications. The request was to fabricate a flat pocket to accommodate items such as documents with an elastic pen slot on the velcro platform found in a Blue Force Gear DAP Pack. Fabrication and design were pretty straight forward on this one, but it took two tries to get it right. The first one was built on an HDPE reinforced backing, which is generally a good thing for velcro platforms except when the surface you’re planning on sticking the pouch on will bend when your pouch won’t. That would cause the hook and loop to separate. The second version was not reinforced, so the pocket will fold with the platform it’s mounted to. The front of the pocket is a very solid, double layered, laminated 1000D cordura which gives the whole thing some heft and structure. The lid flap was built from a piece of 2″ webbing with the corners rounded out with a hot knife.
An additional set of credential carriers in tan and black follow one previously ordered. One thing that stood out last time I built one of these was how quickly the layers of material built up. These credential carriers should ideally fold uniformly flat, but that’s just not possible when the edges and corners have more material built up than the rest the structure. This time around, every effort was made to minimize the amount of material that went into fabrication. Less material leads to a thinner cross section. The end result is a lower profile, more streamlined carrier. The external material is 1000D Cordura wrapped around a thin HDPE stiffener which allows the carrier to hold it’s shape. The customer requested a velcro square on the front which allows him to orient the carrier properly by feel. The interior is unusual in that the windowed portion is actually two layers of 20 mil clear vinyl. Folding the vinyl over meant I could get away with not have to bind all the edges. The sides were bound and folded under but the edges of the vinyl were hot knifed, then stitched, meaning they didn’t have to be folded which would have added to the thickness of the edges I was trying to prevent. Overall, they turned out well.
Lastly, the revamped Light Utility Belt. The Light Utility Belt fills a niche for a low profile, lightweight belt capable of supporting a load. Simplicity has always been a key design consideration. Over time, trends have emerged in customer requests and critiques. This is the answer to the most commonly cited issues. The Light Utility Belt will continue to be made in 1.5″ width only and will continue to utilize an HDPE insert to reinforce the structure and keep the bulk down. The buckle on this version features a triglide, but these belts will also be available with ladderlocks. The largest upgrade to the belt design is in adopting a duty belt profile in which the end of the belt belt will actually underlap the buckle and lock in with hook and loop fastener. To go along with the belt redesign is a new size measuring protocol which will allow for a better fit than was previously possible. The Light Utility Belt and it’s two variants will be covered in more detail in a future blog post.
Gear designs are constantly under review and improved. Recently, I received feedback on Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit 1.5″ vertical attachment points. 1.5″ buckles are secured with 1.5″ webbing which is woven into the PALS backing. Properly weaving an attachment point onto a PALS grid requires at least two rows (three inches,) on the vest ideally. The issue with anchoring a chest rig is that given an offset of 3″, you could only mount the chest rig so high on a given armor system. An anchor point that took up less space was in order.
A PALS grid can be a very useful thing, but if you want to run gear on it, it pays to weave it in the right way. Shortening the 1.5″ vertical attachment points would mean having to come up with a way to securely attach them to a single loop of webbing, which is generally not advisable because it also stresses the grid at a single point, whereas weaving an attachment into the backing distributes the stress points along the entire surface. The only way to make it happen is to compromise.
The result is a shortened 1.5″ anchor point that turned out pretty simple. It wraps around a single webbing loop and secures with a snap backed up with hook and loop fastener. This in itself would concern me because it would be fairly easy for the snap to come undone and dump the chest rig. That’s a lot of stress on a single point and a lot of weight and critical gear essentially hanging on a single snap. What made the difference was lengthening the webbing and tucking the excess end through the side release latch (male end of the buckle.) This creates an essential extra margin to guard against failure. It means the snap can’t just come undone and dump your kit.
“The interface kit turned out great. I think you really broke the code on the vertical attachment points! They attach/detach very easily and with your redesign they are nice and short. The whole kit put to together feels like the the chest rig and the carrier were meant to be together. I’m attaching a photo I took quickly last night using my iphone. I threw in a bunch of aluminum GI mags for a quick pick for you.”
These are part of a set completed for a recent order. The pieces requested are telling in that the customer is hitting on key pieces that represent a sort of Down Range Gear core competency: simple, lightweight, low profile gear solutions. Every one of them:
The Fitted Pistol Magazine Pouch continues to attract customers looking for a different kind of magazine carrier. A good mag pouch balances access and retention. The Fitted Pistol Magazine Pouch doesn’t do this with any sort of active retention system. This magazine pouch excels simply by virtue of an exacting fit due to careful craftsmanship. You need to hold one to really understand the difference. The pouches are literally made to fit the magazines to close tolerances.
Finally, a derivative of the Light Utility Belt. It doesn’t have a name yet. There will be more on this in subsequent blog posts, but the Light Utility Belt design is evolving. Newer versions are going to mirror a duty belt belt profile with the belt end tucked under the buckle and secured in place with hook and loop. This should allow for variations in sizing. The Light Utility Belt will be offered with either a Ladderlock or Triglide buckle. Each has a trade off in terms of features but the key capabilities and characteristics remain: it will continue to be lightweight, simple, low profile and capable of supporting a sidearm with magazines and other equipment thanks to the internal HDPE support.
It’s difficult to tell what customers will embrace and what they won’t, particularly when striking out in directions the rest of the market is not going in. A good case in point would be the recently released PALS Belt Platform, announced on this blog a few weeks ago and not officially on the market. It’s found a niche and appears to be catching on. Apparently there are a lot of people out there that want to run their PALS equipped pouches on belts. I’ve got three of these built and ready to ship to a customer with more ordered. It’s always nice to see when a concept becomes accepted by the user base.
It bears mentioning again that this piece of gear was not designed in-house at Down Range Gear. Rather, it came about as a result of an unsolicited email suggestion from someone who wasn’t even a customer. He had looked at the MALICE Clip Belt Stabilizer, realized that it’s application was limited in scope to Tactical Tailor MALICE Clips and made specific recommendations on how something similar could be done for more conventional PALS equipped, MOLLE type pouches. After that it was trial and error on prototypes, feedback and refining.
I wish I could say I grasped the potential of the concept when it was first pitched. As well as I think I know the industry, I was pretty sure someone had already met this need. I was getting a lot of feedback from customers pressing the Belt Stabilizer into service to support MOLLE type pouches on belts. This might work but is not a particularly good idea. Those pouches have to be properly woven in order to be securely locked in. MALICE Clips lock solidly, but pouches with PALS systems that secure with velcro, snaps or by other means need to be woven into the backing or you’ll risk losing them.
As a rule, I don’t much like dealing with unsolicited designs. The risk is that there will be intellectual property disputes (idea theft.) I go out of my way to steer Down Range Gear clear of those issues. If I’m uncomfortable about the originality of a design, it gets shelved. As I understand it, here’s how the rules of intellectual property work in custom gear building: If a customer brings a specific design to the table, (be it a detailed description or a diagram) and all I have to do is build it and not add any original ideas, he owns it cleanly. I keep all emails as records of who contributed what to a project. If a customer shows up with a list of requirements and it’s left up to me to decide how the gear will be built in order to meet a certain need, I have to create the piece, I own it. The line seems clear enough, but sometimes it gets hard to tell who came up with what. That’s why I don’t like messing in this area. It’s very uncomfortable, dangerous and chasing the dollar is not worth the price your conscience and reputation pay for intellectual dishonesty.
So back to the PALS Belt Platform. The idea wasn’t mine, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Down Range Gear is a very small operation. My first inclination was to buy the concept outright or pay the designer a royalty for it’s use. Because the volumes I deal with are small, it’s unlikely that any up front payment would pay for itself in sales. With regard to royalties, again, because of low volume, there was no way a percentage of the $15 I’m charging for this will ever be worth the time. To invest the time and effort to refine the product and bring it to market meant I really needed to be sure I had unrestricted permission to use and keep the idea. I didn’t want to go to the trouble of prototyping it, refining it, working it into the product line, costing it, putting it up on the website only to have permission revoked. Luckily for me, the designer was gracious enough to allow me to use the concept. The prototypes I sent in return will never be enough to repay him.
All this puts being a small gear builder on tricky footing. I’ve got original ideas to last me for years but at the same time I’d hate to lose out on the next great idea just because I’m closed off to outside influences. Then again, I don’t want to put myself in a position where IP theft is even a remote possibility. If you have an idea that is close to something I’m doing or have in the works, I don’t even want to know. It’s not worth the danger of being accused of stealing. If you’re in this to make a ton of cash, you might be better off taking your concept to one of the bigger companies and hope they will (1) even listen to you or (2) won’t rip you off.
It’s tough, I know.
The Fitted Rifle Magazine Pouch is the much requested companion piece to Down Range Gear’s Fitted Pistol Magazine Pouch. Construction and methods of assembly are almost identical to achieve the same high quality and minimalist look. The Fitted Rifle Magazine Pouches are individually built and fitted by hand, conforming to the shape of the magazine.
The goal was to design the smallest, lowest profile magazine pouch, achieving good, realistic retention and allow unencumbered access for a clean draw. In order to both retain the magazine yet allow easy access, the pouch is built to exactingly close tolerances. Each one is closely inspected and rebuilt if the finished product does not provide the right balance.
At just 2 3/4″ wide and 5″ tall, the pouch leaves the smallest possible footprint on your gear. Using 1000D Cordura fabric, the walls of the pouch itself are double layered and laminated for a very tough, wear resistant exterior. An HDPE insert reinforces the front, keeping it’s shape to prevent it from collapsing inward when trying to insert a magazine. Heavy duty webbing is used to fabricate the backing on which the pouch is built and supports a contoured PALS grid which will easily accept MALICE Clips or the third party attachment method of your choice.
There is no shortage of magazine pouches in all descriptions on the market. It’s hard to go wrong because the quality level is high. Down Range Gear’s Fitted Rifle Magazine Pouch is designed for a specific user base, filling a very narrow market niche.