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.