What if you need to carry a good amount of gear, but don’t want the additional weight and don’t think you need the protection SAPI Plates offer? Chest rigs, also known as Load Bearing Vests ( LBV ) or tactical vests are the answer and a viable alternative to a heavy weight plate carrier. We’ve created a buyers guide for chest rigs for surviving some of the pitfalls and items to look for when choosing a chest rig or tactical gear manufacturer.
History of Chest Rigs
Ergonomics and ease of access have been paramount to soldiers on the battle field since the beginning of time. Strapped sheaths for swords and daggers have given way to satchels to carry gun powder and other essentials, which gave way to bandoliers and other equipment with the advent of cartridge based munitions. Eventually, magazine and clip fed firearms created the need for a better solution. Chest Rigs.
The M-1956 LCE (Load Carrying Equipment) replaced the M-1910 cotton setup used in both World Wars, and was used into the 1980’s with the US Military. This system allowed attachment of a standard load out for individual soldier’s gear along with additional add-ons depending on job role. This is still in use by some countries in Latin America and Asia.
The M-1967 ALICE ( All Purpose Light-Weight Individual Carrying Equipment ) system was put into military use in 1973 and is still in limited use with the US Military. This is a modular setup consisting of a combat belt, and suspenders capable of utilizing a modular variety of pouches that would clip on with metal or plastic keepers. You would pull up on a tab on the keeper opening it for insertion, then slide down to lock it in place on the belt or suspenders. This allowed soldiers to carry equipment all over their chest and distribute the load and ergonomics as required.
This has given way to chest rigs using the MOLLE system. These chest rigs use a nylon PALS webbing to allow attachments of MOLLE system pouches to a variety of clothing and gear. This system is currently in use with many modern military’s (although some forms gear are under different names).
Many of these can be purchased at your local military surplus store.
Modern Tactical Vests, or Chest Rigs
Modern chest rigs come in a variety of styles. Some chest rigs are simply a zip up (although no one in a combat situation would want zippers on their equipment) or clip together vest covered in PALS webbing. Other chest rigs are simply panels covered in PALS that mount over your shoulders and clip on the sides to offer just the amount of MOLLE space needed for high speed operations. Many plate carriers can simply have the SAPI plates removed to act as tactical vests or chest rigs.