Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Light order - Carrying Rigs

One thing we airsofters should be very glad about is that we don’t have to carry body armour. But while the hard core ‘Milsimmer’ might like to load himself down with that Osprey vest or Warrior rig, the rest of us will probably opt for practicality over authenticity as the summer finally arrives.

I know some airsofters that are happy with the poor-man’s webbing – pockets! – but for those like myself who enjoy ‘Milsim lite’ and use mid-caps, there just aren’t enough pockets capacious enough to deal with all our bits and pieces. So, is there a compromise that will give you plenty of load carrying capability but won’t be adding what amounts to an extra layer of clothing to your loadout?

‘Light order’ – belt based rigs

The belt based webbing system has been with soldiers since the beginning of time, and while it has evolved from makeshift belts and hung satchels it eventually standardized itself into a system that became pretty universal by the 19th century – the yoke and belt harness.

2633067223_eb11e8d904_o.jpgThe problem was, the more heavy stuff you wanted to add to a soldier’s belt, the more gravity wanted to see that belt drop down to the soldier’s ankles! So a yoke and straps arrangement was added to the belt – in a similar way to braces – to hold up the belt, allowing more and more pouches to be attached.

Left: Typical belt webbing light order. This is British Army issue, the design of which served through the First World War and the early part of WWII. This style of 'belt and braces' order was replicated around the world in canvas webbing and leather.

While today the MOLLE chest and vest load-carrying systems are all the rage, these items are also primarily designed as a means to carry ballistic plates. They provide protection to the torso by covering the upper body, as much as they can, with plate pockets on the chest, stomach, back and sometimes the sides and neck as well. So, in effect, you are wearing a ‘coat of armour’ which also has a load-carrying capability.

No grunt in the frontline would want to be out and about without this protective bulk, and where it’s a matter of life and death these guys look at the discomfort and extra sweating that these rigs can bring as being a price worthwhile paying.

Lighten up, man!

But for the airsofter – unless an obsessive ‘Geardo’ – plate carrying is a hindrance to the fast manoeuvring play, and in the summer heat it can be a downright ball ache!


LO provides plenty of ventilation to the players upper body, and with its straps ensures you can load that belt up with all the pouches you can without having to be constantly hitching up your belt as it tries to go visit your boots!

Left: Three variations of the 'battle belt', these are the most basic load carrying systems and can either have integrated pouches or a MOLLE system allowing the user to add their own combination of pouches as desired. From top to bottom; the Viper MOLLE VMS (Viper modular system), the Bulle MOLLE KABP (kit and ammo belt pack) and Arktis M110 Allen belt kit. To compensate for increasing loads, you can add a set of harness straps - braces - to these belts to assist thier load carrying capabilities.

But even within light order there are varying levels of sophistication, from just a simple belt and a couple of pouches – which aren’t heavy enough to need a harness – to a full-blown ‘belt and braces’ with extra padding at the shoulders and deep cummerbund to maximize the load carrying real estate.

Whichever you decide to go with all depends on your style of play and just how much you normally carry – for example, whether you hi-cap or mid-cap. But however little or however much you find yourself carrying onto the field, the Light Order system is the ideal way to accommodate your knick-knacks in the least stressful, and most ventilated, manner on a hot summer’s day.

2633966824_edba2b4887_o.jpg Incidentally, while the general trend in the armed forces is to ‘bulk up’, the Light Order systems – like the British Army’s famous Northern Ireland rig – are still very popular with troops, particularly those that don’t need or want to restrict their movements by adding extra body armour. Lighter ballistic vests can be worn under the LO harness if required, but the less restricting LO harness is particularly popular with special forces.

Right: Half way between the basic belt system and full-blown yoke rigs is the harness accessory, which can be attached to any duty belt or MOLLE battle belt. These braces come in a variety of thicknesses and complexity, from a very simple 'H' or 'Y' shaped set of straps to a heavy duty padded set, like the example shown here; the Blackhawk Special Operations H-Gear shoulder harness.

Above: Harness based light order systems. These rigs have wider padded harness yokes to make load carrying a lot more comfortable, but still offer increased ventilation over vest and chest rigs. From left to right; The Bulle MOLLE MLE (multi-level load equipment) Harness, the Tactical Taylor MAV (modular assault vest) 2-piece vest with X Harness and finally the Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. MOLLEE LBE Harness.


No comments: