Chest Rig vs. Battle Belt
I’ve had this conversation come up on more than one occasion and I’ve debated that question myself as well. This is really a non/LE-MIL debate as for MIL/LE work, one wears body armor. I will say though that this can also work for a LE officer taking training on his own. I’ll cover what I consider to be some advantages and disadvantages to both.
First off I will cover so called “Load Bearing Vests.” For what its worth I don’t consider load bearing vests to be useful period. Plate carriers are a different subject, but only useful when worn with plates and if your mission demands the wearing of rifle armor.
Examples: Mayflower R&C UW Gen 1-4, Blue Force Gear Ten Speed Gen 1-2 and Eagle “Paul Howe” chest rig.
Carries a basic load of rifle ammunition 4-6 rifle magazines. Can carry 2-4 pistol magazines, multitool, flashlight etc. Some allow carry of extra equipment in a utility pouch or molle webbing for attachement of a trauma kit. Carries gear on chest allowing breathability of back and part of chest. Some rigs can adjust ride height allowing load carriage near the belly or up higher on the chest. Easy to wear in a a vehicle and reload weapons from it.
Reloads are slower than when carried around the waist. Not as balanced as when worn around the waist. Doesn’t work with CCW holsters. Can be somewhat restrictive when worn in hot weather or during strenuous activities like running or hiking. Can seem bulky when being worn.
Examples: Blue Force SOC-C, VTAC Brokos, HSGI Sure Grip, ATS Sleeve.
Usually a padded belt – enhanced comfort. Allows one to use the same gear with minimal if any adjustment of webbing in most types of weather. Allows wear of gear in similair location as to CCW equipment as well as additional rifle magazines, trauma kits, etc. Much more comfortable for long term wear – weight can be distributed over hips and shoulders in a 360 degree pattern. For an LE Officer an advantage is that it allows one to duplicate the uncomfortable duty belts with a padded version for training or if allowed for work.
Hard to carry 4-6 rifle magazines without belt being overly heavy and imbalanced. Difficult to wear in a vehicle depending on pouches loaded on it. Mag reloads from in a vehicle are more difficult than magazines located on chest.
I have tried the Paul Howe Eagle chest rig and the Blue Force Gear 10 Speed chest rig. I’ve got to try on the Mayflower rig and was impressed with the layout but can’t justify buying one yet. For my “mission” I’ve found that a battle belt is far more useful than a chest rig. One scenario where I do use a chest rig is when I need to upload my ammunition loadout for a class. I have seen a LE officer who used a chest rig when deploying his rifle and wearing his duty belt. I use a plate carrier for those situations so it isn’t something I would do, but it is an option.
I personally use a Blue Force Gear SOC-C belt with a Safariland ALS holster that is the same model as used on my Duty Belt as well as a Peters Custom Holsters double pistol mag pouch that is similair to the Safariland Slimline double mag pouch on my duty belt. I prefer similarity in my equipment for training vs. work. The max load of rifle magazines I carry on the belt is two though.
Due to my job, I wear a duty belt at work for 12+ hour shifts 3-4 times a week (unless pulling OT shifts as well). If I could have my way, I’d wear a war belt, but not likely to happen soon from what I can tell. When I do training on my own at the range or go hiking, I wear the war belt. Its more comfortable and carries just what I want at the range – pistol, magazines and trauma kit.
Based on my experience with both chest rigs and war belts and coupled with a “mission drives the gear train” mentality, I recommend war belts over chest rigs for LE and CCW use. Of course if needed, one can ad a chest rig to their war belt and have an added ammo carrying load for classes or situations.