The chest rig or chest rack, really gained its fame during the Vietnam War. The canvas rigs dominated the NVA inventory for carrying AK-47 magazines throughout the war. Many US Special Operations Forces stole or copied the design to better blend in & use enemy weapons.But, the truth is that military carrying equipment on the chest has a been around for a very long time.
Chest rigs are a great option for carrying gear as long as you keep the load out focused on quick need items. I prefer to think of chest rigs as a place to store rifle magazines, communication devices, and navigation gear. The chest rig is another tool to assist with economy of motion in accessing gear needed in a hurry and is a compliment to other equipment like a battle belt. A chest rig is a supplement and not a replacement for other kit.
Chest Rig Pros
Energy Conservation: weight carried higher on your torso is more efficient when traveling over level ground. However, this isn't true when traveling on slopes and steep grades.
Quick Access: All your equipment is right in front of you. If organized well, there is no need to dig around or hint for gear. Due to the high profile, you will have access to your gear while crouching and kneeling.
Vehicle Entry/Dismount: Due to the lack of gear on your back, getting in and out of vehicles is more convenient. You are able to sit in chairs and against trees more readily. The excessive use of vehicles during the Global War on Terrorism, caused a reimagining of chest rigs with MOLLE systems.
Chest Rig Cons
Hold Heat In: Chest rigs hold heat in during movement and can potentially cause you to overheat in warmer climates.
Going Prone: Wearing a chest rig, even if it is a low profile or minimalist style prevents you from getting into a full prone position. Chest rigs also increase the profile of your silhouette, which makes it difficult to get maximum use of cover and concealment.
Weapons Manipulation: Slings are known to get hung up in the excess bulk as you transition to your pistol. Depending on the set up of your chest rig, you may want to try different styles of slings. Chest rigs and single point slings are not very good friends. Also consider your pouch set up and type of padding that might impede your ability to properly mount the butt stock of your rifle in your shoulder.
Shrapnel: Chest rigs are bullet magnets that are pack full of metal, plastic, and small arms munitions. Every shooter around the world is taught to aim at center mass and with that being said... you've been warned about what to store in your pouches.
How to Wear It
Positioning: The biggest made by newbs is having the rig ride too low on the torso. It is a chest rig and not a belly rig folks. Treat the chest rig in a similar fashion as a plate carrier (top of chest portion near the sternal notch). Since every rig is made different, make sure that you have easy access to pouches and they don't impede head or arm movement. The more you wear the chest rig, the more the fabric will stretch and make sure you adjust the sizing periodically.
Modifications: Don't be afraid to cut extra straps off the rig or cut the length of the adjustment straps. Always, Always, Always tape down extra length on straps.
Chest We Recommend:
**We only recommend brands and gear that we have used in combat. We are not affiliated or paid by in of the brands we represent in this blog.
London Bridge - Load Bearing Chest H-Harness: They have a wide selection of style and are of the highest quality. I have personally owned kit made by London Bridge for more than 20 years and highly recommend them for a high-end.
TACTICAL TAILOR - ROGUE ADAPTABLE CHEST RIG: Tactical Tailor offers amazing products and services. This is their low profile chest rig that has MOLLE which will allow you to customize the pouches and design. Tactical Tailor is a trusted company within the SOF community. They also offer the mini-MACV Chest Rig which is another recommend from Tactical Tailor.
Voodoo Tactical - Tactical Chest Rig: This is our recommendation for those on a budget. These guys deliver quality and practical gear that will last and not break the bank. I have personally used their gear and find it to be sufficient in quality.
Chest rigs are not a replacement for other tactical load bearing options, but are a supplement. Don't just try one style and make sure it is comfortable for the application in which you plan to use it. A quality chest rig will last you for a ling time. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the staff here at Range University.