The first tactical vest

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Lee says a modern chest rig is cheaper, lighter and more comfortable than tactical vests/plate carriers. Staff photo/Lee Williams

Lee says a modern chest rig is cheaper, lighter and more comfortable than tactical vests/plate carriers. Staff photo/Lee Williams

For me, a perfect day at the range involves three things: shooting while moving, magazine changes at combat speed, and transitions between carbine and handgun.

The most difficult thing about this type of shooting is finding a range that allows realistic training, which is why many tactical shooters gravitate toward private land.

Once you’ve found the right plot of ground for your drills, it’s time to consider how you’ll carry your ammunition. Note: tactical shooting involves a lot of ammunition. I carry at least six mags for my beloved Avtomat Kalashnikova and four handgun mags.

A lot of guys have gone to tactical vests/plate carriers — military body armor

The first chest rigs were made for AK mags, and were of Chinese design. Staff photo/Lee Williams

The first chest rigs were made for AK mags, and were of Chinese design. Staff photo/Lee Williams

with mag pouches.

If you can stand the weight, the heat and the price, it’s a great option. However, I prefer something that’s far cheaper, much lighter and infinitely more comfortable under a hot Florida sun — the chest rig.

The first chest rigs were made specifically for the AK-47, and were of Chinese design. They have several drawbacks. The canvas was prone to rot and wear, they were too small for larger Western physiques and the wooden “football” buttons that held the pouches closed were difficult to manipulate.

As a testament to their utility, the Soviet Desantniki — their Airborne forces — fielded Chinese-designed chest rigs during their Afghanistan war. The Rhodesian Light Infantry and their special forces also swore by them. Modern hybrids are being used by our own special operations forces.

Today’s chest rigs are made of ballistic nylon and other modern materials. They’re cut larger and they use Fastex buckles and similar closures.

It should be noted, however, they provide no ballistic protection.

A chest rig positions the magazines higher on the body than tactical vests/plate carriers or most military LBE. Some shooters, myself included, find this more comfortable.

Most chest rigs have at least three mag pouches, for six mags, and two large

A properly stocked chest rig can function as a mini bug-out bag. Staff photo/Lee Williams

A properly stocked chest rig can function as a mini bug-out bag. Staff photo/Lee Williams

accessory pockets. These are perfect for survival gear. If properly stocked, the chest rig becomes a mini bug-out bag.

They’re also a great way to transport ammo to the range, even if they won’t allow you to shoot, move and communicate.

Like anything tactical, there’s a large variation on price.

You can expect to pay around $15 for a ChiCom model, $50 for a decent American-made model and more for a rig from a high-end tactical gear manufacturer.

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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