Friday, December 12, 2014

Budget Gear- Links For Everyone Part 1

Part 1 of a 5 part series covering a few basic sources of quality gear for those on a tighter than average budget, and opening up for further reviews and comparisons that will be coming up her on the blog soon.
Keep scrolling down for parts 2-5

A long time ago in when I was involved in another sport I ran across a fellow who was having some issues with gear. He was using a battle-belt-ish setup, and was contemplating a third belt, the first two having had material/workmanship related failures, as they were of unsound quality manufactured by a company that apparently sold things more for looks than to actually use. The only thing I remember thinking listening to the problems he was having was “why would you go back and buy a third of the same proven mediocre product, when you already broke two? “
When I got into the good ol’ “Merican past time of “guns and gear”, I saw the same things happening- from guns to optics to gear, and everything in between, it was almost like people seek out the junkiest stuff they can buy, and somehow think they got a good deal, solely because it was cheap and looked cool (or whatever the reason). Thankfully, after making a few of my own mistaken purchases, I learned my lesson, started doing research, and was saved by some really helpful folk elsewhere on the internet.
But it was clear that the misplaced trust in “cheap” gear was indicative of a larger problem- people just don't know what they're looking at or for. 

So now that I’ve made a big speech about how “all the cheap gear sucks” and everyone’s standing by with pitchforks and torches in hand, not being one to complain without offering a solution, here are some solutions for those that are budget conscious, but still want quality gear.

Many people look to surplus stores for gear, and this is a great approach, but often you can do better than the old ALICE kit (unless you’re a fan) and get modern gear, by simply buying “last gen” stuff, or things in less desirable colors…..

First off, retail gear.

If you’re on a budget and haven’t shopped with Tactical Assault Gear  (TAG) yet, then you need to. Quality stuff, and for plenty reasonable prices. Their MOLLE strap attachments can be a little clunky because they use doubled webbing, but as long as you stay away from the open-top bungee pouches it should be ok.
Their Banshee plate carrier is widely regarded as one of (if not *the*) best budget PC on the market and it’s currently only $115 bucks. You can’t do any better than that for a decent PC.

For around $270 for kit in Coyote Brown,  you can get  the Banshee, a flapped triple shingle (M16) rifle magazine pouch, double pistol pouch, a pair of GP/IFAK pouches, and a spare $25 budgeted for either a small GP/Radio pouch, or extra single double-mag M16  pouch, or a little less for a grenade pouch if you’ve got those. That’s a pretty good start to any PC, and you’re still 30 bucks under what many big-name Plate Carriers START at.
If it was me personally I’d also add the Zipper Kangaroo Pouch, and *maybe* a basic admin panel (as well as a water bladder carrier, but not from TAG, +$30-ish) which would raise the price to around $344- still under what a more expensive PC would be able to be outfitted for.

However,  by picking stuff in ACU/ABU most of which is currently HEAVILY discounted at TAG right now (for example the linked GP/IFAK would drop from $32 to $13), it would allow for a few other accessories if needed, like a can of krylon.
Total for the entire thing in ABU with optional accessories (less the water bladder bought elsewhere) would be $224, or $198 without the optionals.

TAG gear as mentioned;

Rifle M16 Flapped
Double Pistol
Low Profile GP/IFAK 

If plate carriers aren’t your thing than a couple of TAG’s chest rigs are worthwhile- the Marine Gladiator w/ Bib is currently about $67 if you don’t mind ACU. I don’t feel like it’s worth the extra money in any other color, but YMMV. 
The Phalanx Type 2 MOLLE is probably their most promising design (even though I don’t like some of it),and also currently $59 if you don’t mind ACU/ABU, which is cheaper than the basic Gladiator. It would run $160 in any other color, which may still be worth it.

Budget Gear- Links For Everyone Part 2

Part 2 of the series- More pouches, PCs and Chest Rigs.
Scroll down for part 3, or back up to part 1

Also on the list, for certain select items is BDS tactical. Personally I think their stuff is a little clunky and outdated, and frankly I feel like TAG’s stuff is a little nicer. BUT…. They do make decent quality stuff, for some things- for example, their bungee mag shingles, pistol pouch, med pouch, and a couple chest rigs (albeit their chest rigs can be a bit ginormous, but if you’re a Dwayne Johnson sized dude…maybe it’s for you). Expect to wait a few weeks for their stuff as well.
Other things, like their double-mag “Stacker” M4 pouches, PC, some belts, and others are to be avoided due to the mediocrity of the design. Items of interest;

Single M4 Bungee- $13
Double Pistol-$16.25

Aside from TAG, there’s AWS, which makes the OCPC, which is a great plate carrier that runs around $150, and is similar to the LBT 6094. While it skimps on some small details, it’s still worth it for a budget carrier. They make other pouches as well, but I have no frame of reference on them and cannot comment.

For around $180 you can get into a Paraclete SOHPC PlateCarrier, which is pretty darn good stuff….Do I really need to say any more?

Budget Gear- Links For Everyone Part 3

Part 3 of the series- Chest Rigs.
Scroll down for part 4, or back up for part 2.

For chest rigs, the options are even more varied and numerous; we’ve already covered offerings from TAG- other complete or semi-complete chest rigs of excellent quality and reasonable price include;

SKD PIG UCR: 8 rifle mags, 4 pistol pockets, 2x4 MOLLE on each side, $99

ATS Slimline Chest Harness; 4-6 rifle capacity, 3x3 MOLLE on each side, $100 
Not a fan of the slick rifle pouches on the front, and at times ATS can be a little wild with their stitching, but otherwise it’s good stuff. (As a side note, ATS also makes a decent battle belt- you will need to provide your own inner belt. This is probably best used with a lighter more form-fitting load, due to design).

Ares Armor Atalanta; Ares makes solid gear, and the Atalanta is a good option for those who don’t mind an X-harness to get a semi- modular rig for a good price. You’re starting out with space for 4 or 5 rifle mags, with plenty of MOLLE space left over for other gear, or more ammo. 

There are three versions, currently all are running around $80;

For the folks that don’t like the layout of any of the above, you can get a straight up “slick” all-MOLLE rig, and set it up however you want. 

Budget Gear- Links For Everyone Part 4

Part four of the series- Surplus.Some of the links may no longer be valid- but the point still is.
Keep scrolling (or reading) for part 5 or scroll back up to part 3. 

Now, of course, with a “slick” all-MOLLE rig you need to add your own pouches.
For some people this added expense may outweigh the modularity benefit, BUT there is a small trump card you can play- as mentioned previously, using “last gen” gear can be an advantage. The GWOT has been going on for over a decade, and what was top-notch gear in the early 2000’s has now been changed and improved upon. HOWEVER, it’s still great stuff, and it’s still a lot more modern than 80’s era gear.
Great pouches can be had on Ebay, often at ridiculously low prices from Eagle Industries and Paraclete, among others. Be sure to actually search for “eagle industries” not just “eagle”.

HERE is an example of one of the Paraclete Medical/GP pouches- For a brand new pouch, $7.50 is well within any budget….  The ebay seller of this pouch also has a pile of other Paraclete gear for excellent prices.

Other examples of available surplus pouches:
Double SR25 Pouch (.308 size magazines)- $6.50
NVG/GP Velcro Pouch-$7.50

Eagle Industries general “pouch” search. You can always find bunches of USMC issue stuff from them- be aware of what you’re buying and assure it’s authentic stuff as occasionally some knockoff stuff pops up: