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.