Mmmmmm… I LOVE THE SMELL OF BACON AND BURNING VILLAGES IN THE MORNING!
One of the first things I had to figure out when a young James P. started contracting in Iraq was setting up my “kit” of armor carrier, rig, mag pouches, IFAC and a bunch of other crap I had never carried before. At that point in my career I was not in the tactical gear world and had pretty much never even owned anything ‘tactical’ except a black CamelBak. So when I had to buy a full load of kit I basically ordered a bunch of cool looking shit I saw online.
Two weeks later I got a big ass box that puked out the entire Blackhawk! catalog onto my hooch floor in the IZ. After putting every pouch I bought on my super cool SWAT vest I pretty much ended up looking like a Coyote Tan Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. My kit was also so poorly placed I could not even scratch my junk. I ended up fighting my kit on every mission for the next two weeks until I adjusted everything.
Like most people who have never been deployed to a war zone where they would have to wear full kit, I thought it would be all yelling “follow me lads” and burning villages when wearing all my ninja slick gear. I suppose I had fantasies of going from battle to battle pulling mag after mag while rescuing white women from the clutches of Ray Ban wearing dictators.
Nope, not even close – Even if you were on a mobile team running the most dangerous roads in the world like I was, in reality 99% of the time you are wearing full kit you are doing glamorous stuff like; frying eggs in oil for breakfast next to a Land Cruiser, buying 83 gorditas at Taco Bell on base because half your guys don’t have an MNFI badge or sitting in a truck trying not to fall asleep.
So if you are setting up your first all-out full kit I have the following suggestions:
Packing for another romp in the 3rd world
When you pull over at a Hajji Shop in Iraq and you walk through the isles past the cans of fly-covered baklava, dusty cans of corned beef and Gauloise Smokes what is the one thing you can not buy?
And not just in Iraq, I once drove around for 3 hours in Phnom Penh, Cambodia looking for CR123’s before I finally found some in a camera shop for the astounding price of 16 bucks a pop!
After going through all the Bullshit of having to order CR123’s in bulk and paying 150 bucks to ship them, trading bottles of Jack D with force protection guards and wasting time trying to track down a shop in Stabyouinthefaceistan just to get raped at the cash register I had enough. So I decided to replace all the disposable battery powered kit I used with AA and AAA powered kit.
But that created another problem, off-brand batteries in the 3rd world are mostly shit Chinese batteries that have 1/5th the charge that US batteries have, so to make up for using commie batteries I had to pack a shit-load of batteries before every mission.
And enter the next problem, I would end up with a huge pile of loose batteries spread all over the bottom of my mission bag (I would take them out of the package so I would not have to fuck around with cutting a battery package open while trying to watch the road).
Solution: Enter the guys over at Flight and Fight Tactical
Pimp My Helmet Bitches
I see a lot of guys both off and online discussing the latest and greatest rigs, mag pouches, FAK’s, admin pouches and armor carriers that they just bought or have on their ‘tactical wish-list’. And all the stuff they have put together for their BOB’s, go-bags and Vehicle Emergency Kits.
But one thing I rarely see mentioned is helmets
Answer this – what do construction workers, military folks, skateboarders, rock climbers, motorcyclists, firefighters, Security Contractors and that ‘slow’ cousin of yours all have in common?
They all wear helmets
Why? – if you hit your head and get knocked the fuck out then guess what?
You can’t fight if you are taking a nap on the pavement.
The TYR Tactical PICO-1 Plate Carrier (ESAPI pockets) and GPC/PICO
- T4416 External Cummerbund w/ Side Plate Pockets used by James G in Iraq
So after wearing my Paraclete Armor Carrier to the point it was basically a de-threading mound that smelled so bad even my Iraqi teammates were spraying cologne on it while I was sleeping I went on the hunt for a new Armor Carrier.
It had actually been a while since I went looking for an Armor Carrier, the first ‘serious’ Armor Carrier I bought was a Blackhawk Carrier for my first contract in Iraq. From then on I was issued one for pretty much every contract I have ever been on. Even my old Paraclete was also issued, and it was a great carrier but I wanted something that gave me a bit more maneuverability.
After putting the word out on Facebook I was swamped with different suggestions. But when a few experienced security contractors mentioned a new (new at that time) armor company called TYR Tactical I set my sights on checking them out. And right when I was going to take a look at them they actually contacted me and offered to let me try out one of their Armor Carrier Systems.
So after talking to the folks I went with the PICO-1 Plate Carrier (ESAPI pockets) and GPC/PICO – T4416 External Cummerbund w/ Side Plate Pockets. At the same time one of my former teammates was also in the market for an Armor Carrier so he bought the same one.
Due to some nonsense with a former DVM employee my vest never made it to me here in Iraq. But my teammates Carrier made it here safe and sound where he wore it for around 9 months, then when he left I started wearing it – so in the end it worked out (sort of, I still don’t know what that dude did with my Carrier so I ended up just buying another on myself).
Original S.O.E. Single Point Sling, HSGI Pistol Magazine Pouch – Modular & the BLACKHAWK S.T.R.I.K.E. Utility Pouch – Shooting and looting kit for less than 50 bones a pop
Despite all the reviews I do on 400 dollar tactical jackets, 300 dollar flashlights and 200 dollar knives the gear I use the most usually costs less than 50 bones. Unlike in action movies or on so-called “tactical” blogs written by guys who don’t even pull triggers for a living the most used gear are the simple things.
A pouch for holding your flashlight, QuikClot, Nokia Phone, or a sling to keep your arms from turning into jelly when standing on the side of some shitty Iraqi highway for 4 hours because another one of the old ass Scania tractor trailers in your convoy has broken down for the 7th time that mission.
Below are three of my most used 50 buck or less pieces of tactical gear, feel free to suggest you favorite sub-50 buck pieces of kit in the comments.
Zulu Nylon Gear M4 Double Magazine Pouch – Flap open/flap closed
These days you don’t see much Innovation in the tactical nylon market outside of a few companies like HSGI, SO-Tech and OSOE. Most Tactical Nylon products are basically rehashes of the same old designs with the only difference being a manufacturers tag.
But one Tactical Nylon gear company over the past year has been pushing the envelope of new and innovative tactical nylon products. And that company is Zulu Nylon gear headed up by Joel Z. They first burst onto the market with what is [in our opinion] the best admin pouches out there.
Zulu then jumped into the Tactical man-Bag arena with the solidly built Emissary Messenger Bag. Both are unique tactical nylon products that have raised the bar in both categories.
Recently we here at DVM were fortunate enough to participate in the field testing of Zulu’s latest offering, the Zulu Nylon Gear M4 Double Magazine Pouch.
When Joel first mentioned them to me honestly my first thought was “Really, an M-4 Mag Pouch? The Tactical Gear market needs another M-4 Mag Pouch like it Needs More Chinese Sweat-Shops”. But considering how fresh Zulu’s other gear is I kept an open mind that Zulu’s M-4 mag Pouches would be as good at their other shit is.
When the pouches arrived the first thing I noticed was the unique top flap that held the mags in-place. I am a big fan of a flapped double-mag pouches [but I like a bungee for singles] but one of the biggest problems is the flap. After you open it either re-secures itself down in an awkward angle [in the case of Velcro secured flaps] or it flops around when you run [for side-squeeze secured flaps], I call this “Crazy Flap Syndrome” [CFS].
US Palm AKMP AK Mag shingles at work in Iraq
One of the biggest voids in the Tactical Gear market is AK Specific magazine pouches that fit the unique shape of the AK magazine properly. It seems like every gear manufacturer just doubles the size of whatever M-4 mag pouch they sell and market it as an AK mag pouch.
I have tried a bunch of different brands of AK mag pouches and I have never been 100% satisfied. They are either too big, not big enough, the mag is positioned awkwardly, the flap or bungee doesn’t fit right or they are not properly shaped for the unique curvature of AK mags.
So far the only AK mag pouches that I have been impressed with were the ones that US Palm integrated onto their AK Attack Rack. Unfortunately at the time US Palm did not offer them separately. I actually liked them so much I considered cutting the AK mag pouches off my Attack Rack and DIY’ing them into separate pouches.
Luckily I never had to resort to such radical means to have some solid AK mag pouches for my rig. Back a couple of months ago US Palm started making the same style of AK Mag Shingles they were using on their AK Attack Rack, but as separate MOLLE pouches/shingles.
I was standing by with enthusiasm when I found that out because in my new gig in Iraq I am humping the AK about 80% of the time and I still didn’t have decent AK mag pouches for my rig.
The US PALM AKMP Shingles come in Single, Double or triple Racks in a verity of colors from the evilest of all camos Multicam to solid colors like Ranger Green, Coyote and Black [good on US Palm for making them in Black, not enough nylon gear comes in black these days]. And just like the AK Attack Rack these shingles are made of durable yet lightweight 500D Cordura, and are a US made fully Berry Complaint product.
CSM New Drop Pouch
I recently found myself in the need for a high quality dump pouch for an upcoming work related assignment. Before I had one of those dump pouches that fold up into a dip can sized ball but after digging through my “war trunk” here in Iraq I realized I must have forgotten to pack it.
No great loss, I didn’t like that dump pouch anyway. The material was way too thin so when I ran, the weight of the empty mags would cause the pouch to annoyingly flop around. Also you had to have the skills of an origami master to fold it back up and latch it with one hand.
Anyway, I ran across CSM Tactical Gear on Facebook [I think one of my friends posted their link or something] – I had never heard of them before but they had a cool logo [a sure sign of good gear – lol] so I decided to check them out. After hitting their website I noticed that CSM has a pretty pimp looking Dump Pouch called the “New Drop Pouch” that looked like just what I needed.
The CSM New Drop Pouch is made of 1000D Cordura with 3 rows of PALS webbing on the front. It is additionally lined with 410D Pack Cloth that has a rim you can tighten with a bungee cinch drawstring closure. It also has a few drainage holes on the bottom, both on the exterior and liner. The pouch easily rolls up one-handed and is held closed by a Velcro arm.
But there are 3 features that make the CSM New Drop Pouch stand out from the Dump Pouch crowd:
The Zulu RDK Carrier on James G uses on his Contractor BOB in Iraq
If you are like me you probably suffer from “CTMSS” or “Carry Too Much Shit Syndrome” when it comes to loading up your kit. One of the more extreme examples of CTMSS in my case is the amount of medical supplies I carry in my IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit).
Over the years it has become ridiculously packed with medical shit I have swapped, acquired or been issued. Its been getting to the point where I probably couldn’t even fit a thermometer into it, and even worse it looked like I had a backpack hooked to the side of my chest rig.
So when the boys over at Zulu Nylon Gear sent over one of their RDK Carriers I figured this was a good a time as any to lighten my load and move some of the stuff in my IFAK into a separate pouch.
The RDK Carrier was made to fit the contents of RSKTKR Medical’s [a tactical school run by an ex-security contractor] “RSKTKR Down Kit” [a kit similar to the Army’s IFAK but with better supplies].
The RDK Carrier is a straight-forward IFAK pouch that does exactly what it is supposed to do – give you quick one handed [via a red pull handle] access to your IFAK Contents.
Holy war – holy shit!
Terrorist Hunting Permit – No bag limit – Tagging not required
CLIMB TO GLORY – FALL OFF THE MOUNTAIN
These are some patches that have been floating around the Hajji shops on base here in Iraq for a while. They are clever designs with one problem – the quality isn’t that great because they are made one at a time on sewing machines by bored Indian dudes.
So in the interest of spreading around these funny designs – but with the high quality sewing folks stateside are used to, we wanted to see if you all are interested in picking up a few.