Down Range Gear’s Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit, Case Study.

The Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit came about from the need to improve chest rig attachment, bypassing the need for the traditional harness. The chest rig, worn over armor is more effective in combat load carriage if attached directly to the armor system.

Down Range Gear’s Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit is offered as a service rather than a product. It aims to meet the customer’s needs on an individual level attaching just about any chest rig to most PALS equipped armor systems. Because of the large number of chest rig and armor combinations, and taking into account individual customer preference, there is no set way to approach this problem, but extensive experience has yielded some proven methods which have become Down Range Gear trademarks.

To the extent possible, the Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit strives to achieve several goals:

-Every effort will be made to provide the customer with a solution that will not permanently alter the chest rig or the armor system.

-The solution provided must have the capability of being installed by the end user in field conditions (must not require the customer to use equipment he would not ordinarily carry to the field.)

-Must be easy to repair utilizing common materials in a field expedient method.

-Should not require the customer to send in either piece of gear to install.

Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Customer Case Study:

Currently on the work bench is a Mayflower Research & Consulting UW Chest Rig that a customer wants attached to his military issued armor system (IOTV.) Because of the buckle orientation and the integration of the waist strap into the chest rig, it was decided that the best course of action would be to send the piece in (a rare occurrence.) The customer was adamant that the armor integration be accomplished with the minimum amount of alteration to the chest rig. Given the substantial monetary investment this piece of gear represents, their current demand and resale value, this is understandable.

Nothing is done or decided upon without direct customer input and approval every step of the way. It may often take multiple email exchanges (with lots of pictures) to engage the customer in a collaborative process in order to find the solution that fits best.

The two vertical straps on a chest rig are the principal load bearing supports for the weight which comprises the rig and it’s contents. Several factors must be considered when deciding how to approach mounting the vertical supports to the underlying armor system.

Buckle orientation: Where are the male buckle ends, where are the female buckle ends?

Buckle width: 1″, 1.5″, 2″?

Buckle manufacturer: ITW Nexus or National Molding Duraflex? They are not always compatible.

For this UW Chest Rig, running 1″ ITW Side Release buckles, the answer is almost a no brainer. ITW Nexus manufactures the excellent Surface Mount buckle. The Surface Mount Buckle is a user installable female buckle section with a back plate that allows it to be attached to a 1″ strip of PALS webbing giving the buckle a perpendicular orientation. These buckles are intuitive to install (without tools or special equipment) feature a low IR signature, are durable and well made. Best of all, when the armor is worn without the chest rig attached, they leave a very minimal footprint with nothing hanging off the vest.  Unfortunately, at this time, ITW only makes female ends that clip onto webbing in this fashion, so it’s not a good solution if the chest rig requires male buckles be affixed to the vest.

What if the buckles on the chest rig are not compatible with ITW Surface Mount buckles due to size or orientation? Down Range Gear has been utilizing several methods to work around this.

1.5″ buckles are best supported with 1.5″ webbing. PALS loops built to specification have 1.5″ wide channels. The buckle is sewn into a length of webbing and then woven into the vest. The center portion has a 1″ velcro wrap to lock it into the PALS grid. The end is secured with a single snap reinforced with hook and loop. The downside of this option is the amount of vertical space it takes on the vest and the required offset to the chest rig.

2″ buckles are a little more complicated. A 2″ buckle is logically supported by 2″ wide webbing but is too wide to thread through a single PALS column, therefore it has to thread through two. The 2″ wide webbing is split at the top before being tucked under and woven into the PALS grid. Snaps secure the ends like a regular MOLLE pouch attachment. Again, there is some offset built into the system due to the overall length.

There are other systems for attaching vertical supports currently being prototyped and as released, this blog entry will be updated to reflect improvements.

The horizontally oriented straps on a chest rig stabilize the load on the vest and keep it from shifting. This is where another signature Down Range Gear feature (based on personal experiences as an end user with this system) come into play: the use of shock cord to hold the chest rig close against the vest. Why shock cord? Unlike webbing straps that must be attached and then cinched down or adjusted, shock cord does the same job with elastic tension. It self adjusts.

Just as on the vertical supports, the same three characteristics must be taken into account before deciding on how to solve the horizontal attachment issue:

Buckle orientation: Where are the male buckle ends, where are the female buckle ends?

Buckle width: 1″, 1.5″, 2″?

Buckle manufacturer: ITW Nexus or National Molding Duraflex? They are not always compatible.

This time, however, the answers to these questions are much less critical and there are more options for tackling this problem.

Down Range Gear’s proprietary shock cord anchor slides in behind a PALS loop. It is simple, reliable, easy to install and allows the PALS loop to be concurrently used for pouch attachment. Tethered to the shock cord anchor is either a male or female buckle end drilled through the frame to accept 1/4″ diameter shock cord.

The shock cord anchors can be secured to either the chest rig or the underlying armor system depending on user preference.

With the shock cord anchored off of the chest rig, all that is required on the underlying vest itself are the “socket’ buckles. This is a particularly attractive option because ITW Nexus has a factory made solution that is ideally suited to this application. Female end side release buckles can be looped onto PALS webbing using either ITW’s Field Expedient Repair buckle or the new Quick Attach Surface Mount buckle.

There are a number of ways to attach a shock cord anchor to the chest rig. One non-invasive method would be to use existing webbing attachment points to loop the shock cord through. This could be done without displacing existing hardware and could be user installed and removed. Another way to accomplish the same would be to fit the edges of the chest rig with reinforced grommets. While this is an irreversible alteration it is very low profile and does not change the function of the chest rig.

The inverse of anchoring the shock cord to the chest rig would be to run it off of the vest. This simple option requires no changes to the chest rig and can be accomplished without altering the vest simply by attaching the shock cord anchor through existing PALS loops.

As was stated earlier, the Chest Rig/ Armor Interface Kit is more a service than a particular product. It’s about outside the box thinking and problem solving. The solutions are as varied as the potential number of chest rig and armor system combinations and the approach for each customer is highly tailored and individual. The examples displayed above only begin to scratch the surface of available solutions and don’t preclude coming up with entirely new ones where the situation merits it.

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