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.