Money, weight, efficiency, and modularity – this is generally what people compare when looking at gear. Another is standardization when working in groups, but I won’t be diving deep into that one on this chat.
Money – Everyone has heard it by now “Buy once, cry once” and, in large, its true. If you invest in good gear, you have less to worry about in the long run, but those with disposable income may feel the urge to buy their way past a learning curve… which isn’t a thing. So be careful not to be chasing the latest fad in hopes of being better. Gear, like anything, can be a money pit.
There is good value gear out there. It’s still more than most want to pay, but if you’re betting your life on it you may want to ponder about how much of a cheapskate you want to be.
There’s a plethora of crap gear out there, and I’ve seen many stores promote junk. Your local gun shop is essentially the barber shop of the gun world. Everyone “knows what they’re talking about”, especially when the bottom line is involved. Are they going to feed your family if the crap they recommended fails you? I don’t think so.
Efficiency – This is where the old vs new starts to weigh in. Surplus gear…
Survivalist for decades have bought and swear by army surplus gear. Decades ago this was good, and one could make the case to have some on hand for extra people that need something, but that’s where it ends.
We have been at war for over a decade and have made great strides in observation of gear usage. For a time it seamed every other door kicker that got out of the military started a business to solve a problem with gear they had in the field. For those that had to work with what they were issued you would often see zip ties, duct tape, and ranger bands to make the gear work better for them, some would even sew their own personal modifications. Military buy stuff from the lowest bidder that can be distributed to the wide range of “jobs” they have, so the gear usually doesn’t do a specific task well. It tends to be overly bulky as well.
Old school gear (Vietnam to early middle east) is usually cheap, but it is lacking in the efficiency and ergonomic department. If your an older vet and that’s what you’re proficient with, go for it. If you are new, I would advise not going this route and selecting mission specific gear. If you don’t know what that means, or you need to be flexible, start with modular gear.
Modularity – SF change their load out to be mission specific, we need to have the same concept. If you have the funds, get mission specific gear. If you do not, get modular gear.
Examples of “missions” (short and long) are the following;
Urban (pending on population density and buildings)
Suburban (communities usually on the outskirts of a city with little vegetation)
The last two can vary wildly depending on terrain, demographics, and climate. Another thing to consider is types of expected threats, but I’m not going into that here.
Work routes can add more complexity to the above. If you don’t know what you don’t know, modularity is your friend that’s why I recommend AR500’s Veritas, Spiritus Systems micro chest rig, and Haily Strategic’s flatpack. The chest rig alone is capable of meeting most mission demands, the flatpack adds longevity, and the veritas for protection.
These will allow you to play around and not spend a lot of money on gear that was for the ‘wrong’ mission. You could even take the route of buying clones/knock-offs to train with and invest in the name brands later on (because usually their quality is better), just check ebay (Tip: check if they have products in stock state side as opposed to shipping from out of country. If so, it will get to you much faster. Sometime it says this directly on the picture).
Weight – gear on the civilian side usually weighs less because there has been a minimalist movement. Soldiers were tired of carrying all that weight, so they made products that were usually lighter (skeletonized products started showing up). Gear that is highly modular usually weighs more than gear that is mission specific because extra fabric is used for attachment systems, and it adds up.
Shoulders are typically where all the weight is carried. Battle belts can shift some weight to the hips.
I recommend this style of belt, a few brands make them; https://www.bluealphabelts.com/product-category/range-and-duty-belts/
There are a few that still carry stuff on a drop leg, but this is very mission dependent and I wouldn’t in most cases.
If you’re looking for newer surplus gear, I would tell you to stop and just buy civilian market gear that meets the above intentions, It’s about the same price.
The only area that I would be open to old school gear, is ruck sacks and the like. A bag is a bag after it gets over a certain load point. However; I know there is an argument for load distribution, but thats another discussion.
Thanks again readers for your support. Stay hopeful.
And if you didn’t know, I do have another blog full of references;