Gear Table: UW Gear Swamp Fox Split Front Chest Rig

IMG_0443The Chest Rig, in my opinion, is one of those indispensable pieces of field kit that every Rifleman should have. Deuce Gear, or Second Line Kit, is a must for any man of action- to haul ammo and other critical items, it’s evolved over time from the humble web belt and pouches to a chest rig in some armies to the vest-type that’s contemporary today. frontiersmanOver time as a young Survivalist, an Infantry Joe and NCO and now just some guy in the woods, I can say that my tastes have definitely changed and refined over time to what I think is optimum today. My friend Hawkeye over at UW Gear makes a great one, and I think his designs present several advantages to Bush-Dwelling Shooters versus the Breach/Bang/Clear fantasy some live in that over time will leave other rigs failing.

From the dawn of warfare itself man has been figuring out how to efficiently carry more ammo, be it a arrow quiver for bows or the possibles bag and powder horn for muskets, giving way to the ammo bandolier with the advent of the cartridge. Over time the magazine pouch became more practical thompsonwith the very familiar web belt and harness becoming the standard until around twenty years ago, when ALICE gave way to MOLLE. But if necessity is the mother of invention, Joes issued Thompson SMGs in WWII definitely confirmed it. Taking the issued magazine bandoliers and making a chest pouch of them, reloads were now faster with the loads themselves easier to carry.

Others took notice- particularly the Chinese with an extremely simple cotton duck design for the various Combloc weapons used at the small unit level until the widely known chicom2Type 56, or Three Magazine Chest Rig. These are still widely available, bombproof (and in some cases become bombs, as it was/is a favorite way to carry a charge for an S-Vest), and like anything made out of Carhartt-style Cotton Duck, will last forever. The fact that they remain ubiquitous in the hands of many indigenous troops should be a testament to their incredibly inexpensive cost. rhodieRhodesian Troops were well known for their Faraday & Son FAL rigs constructed much the same way and were very popular according to all accounts of the users.

Despite their ruggedness, these designs are definitely old compared to a lot of the newer and more flashy stuff on the market; for most magazine pouches, covers which used to protect magazine springs from moisture and mud have given way to the need for speed by having bungee cords in their place. Today much of the issued Field Load Carrier (FLC) Vest to the Infantry still has covered pouches, albeit fastened only with velcro. Troops buy a lot of their own stuff where allowed and a lot of the private label kit markets to door-kicker type mentality. Much of it is meant to be run exclusively with armor or tailored towards urban, supported warfare- a task that should come nearly last on the Survivalist’s small unit tactics list (that is, of course, unless you don’t like living). This leaves only a couple of options out there; old school gear or pouches secured by a bungee cord, allowing dirt and water to cause magazine malfunctions and possibly ripping apart if one has to low crawl.

Keeping magazines clean especially in wet, wooded environments is critical.

Three well-worn rigs: A tattered old MOLLE split front (Yadkin Road Special) that’s since been retired, UW Gear’s AK Swamp Fox Rig, and the Chinese Type 81.

Nearly all AR-15 malfunctions come from dirty or bad magazines, no matter what cool-guy brand you think is above breaking, and I’ve even experienced a couple of AK malfunctions from an overly-fouled surplus magazine, so keeping them all clean, and more importantly accounted for, on a patrol is critical. Malfunctions and lost ammo cost lives. Field repairs of ripped bungee cords might seem simple, but having a solid flap is far superior in the first place.

Enter Hawkeye’s design. Realizing all of the points noted, he set out to make the most rugged, dependable and practical chest rig out there, bar none. Being a Survivalist with an Infantry background makes for a field-conscious mentality, with kit designed around addressing the needs of someone possibly working unsupported.  His mentality is that his gear MUST work no matter what, and from the examples I own, I must say he’s definitely on point.

He offers two basic designs- a single piece rig and the split front, with preference being the latter from experience. There’s several drawbacks I’ve seen with a single-piece chest rig; it can get hot on the chest after a long movement, it doesn’t breathe as well, and it can put all of the weight on your shoulders for larger loads. hawkinsA wraparound or split-front design is a remedy to these complaints, while placing the weight of the load a little more even around the torso and shoulders. It’s a little easier to get on over body armor and carries a little better. Above all else, having a split front allows me to completely prone out for the best possible shooting position; the Hawkins if I’m running a bolt gun. It gives the most comfortable position and doesn’t have me laying on top of steel magazines in a hide site for extended periods. Easy on, easy off, and functional while not over complicating my equipment.

Being a fairly minimalist type of guy, my rigs are for ammo first, other support gear second, such as a tied down PVS-14 (because we tie everything down), some extra batteries and having a couple of points for rigging ropes. Most of the other stuff you’ll normally see strapped to people’s kit (if it’s not just junk) is actually Line 1 items, like a fixed blade knife, compass, SOI card, map, or your last ditch signal kit (the “E” of your PACE plan) etc. which belong on one’s belt if running a chest rig setup. But again, this is my experience from a LOT of time patrolling and wearing kit when it matters. That’s the beauty of the UW rigs- they are a no frills, bomb-proof design with that same logic put into the kit.

IMG_0444Take the pouch flaps for example; like I pointed out, the traditional design covers the magazine to offer protection from dirt fouling the springs. The old ALICE pouches had a plastic buckle that made noise- the LBV that replaced it for a bit had brass snaps and velcro. Neither were optimum, but they were used in the days before all the high speed stuff. Today you see a lot of the velcro pouches or just a bungee cord, which work ok but both wear out with use as pointed out. Hawkeye and his associates came up with a solution- make a hardened tab that tucks under a piece of webbing on the front of the pouch, being both quiet, quick, and efficient, with a small strip of velcro on this model for faster closure under duress. This design in my opinion beats any other I’ve used as far as durability is concerned. As you can see from the stitching, it’s built to last indefinitely not taking more than a needle and thread to fix in the event it did fail.

img_0442.jpgAfter my great experience with the AK rig I approached Hawkeye with an idea- take the Swamp Fox AR rig and make it hold 8 mags instead of 4; doubling the ammo capacity to be carried and as I told him, I thought it would be the ideal Long Range Patrol rig. And in my opinion after use, it unquestionably is. He doesn’t offer these for sale (yet) but this is, hands down, my favorite design for long range unsupported or partisan patrols. UW Gear rigs are built to stand the test of time in my estimation- this rig got thrashed around in the field, from normal wear to reloads to being drug through a field to better naturalize the camo pattern (real Infantry Scouts will know what ‘naturalizing’ means…crawling through cold mud ) and it held up beautifully. My other ‘volunteers’ which ranged from simply handling the rig to wearing it a bit during some field work were each equally impressed, especially with the build quality. We took our time with it; and the AR-15 version is every bit as durable as it’s AK brother I’ve owned for two years.

If you’re in the market for gear or are looking to buy something not full of snakeoil, that will handle everything you throw at it, UW Gear is the one to get. For Light Infantry style patrolling using skills we used to value like cover, concealment, and effective camoflage; shooting from being covered and concealed positions, etc, this one will serve you better than any other I’ve used. Support your fellow Patriot and get the best out there. You’re gonna need it.




27 thoughts on “Gear Table: UW Gear Swamp Fox Split Front Chest Rig

  1. Pingback: Brushbeater: UW Gear Swamp Fox Split Front Chest Rig | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  2. Mike

    Thumbs up on uw rigs. Very well built AND COMFORTABLE. Can’t believe the tuck tab is not more popular. Love the silence and they work awesome.

    Tip to reduce wear, file or sand sharp edges and corners of the mags, then add some duct tape. Ak mags have a bad wear point where they contact the bottom pouch.

    Aks should be tossed in a tumbler to debur before sold by default, both rifle and mags.

    Do those swamp fox rigs have the stuffer pouch on the backside like the minute man rigs?

    A small compass pouch might be handy to.

  3. Flyer

    This is more than a timely article. It addresses something that I have long believed to be a problem with the “tacti-cool” chest rigs that everybody and their sister is using. That is going prone in a shooting situation. Now you are laying on the very supply that you need quick access to and it’s most likely bruised a rib or two if you hit the ground hard to avoid becoming a statistic.
    I trust this has been tested with the current issue of minimal coverage plate carriers for functionality. The split vest would be my choice over the full front type.
    Thanks for the report.

  4. Being an OLD guy, and being in the Army back in the bad old days, I grew very intimate with that ol’ ALICE gear. I even have that stuff as back up.

    As I have gotten older and “wiser” (?), I have migrated to chest rigs and the battle belt. I like and use the equipment made by BDS tactical, They are made here in the US and it is very high quality, not the chinese made junk that you see out on the market. They always have some sort of a sale running. Good stuff, I highly recommend it.


  5. Blackthorn

    Thanks for this. As always, when it comes to sound and useful information, you always bring back the scalps. Very much appreciated.

  6. June J

    Thanks! I have been in the market for a chest rig for months, but didn’t want one that would have you laying on magazines in the prone position. The Swamp Fox seems to be what I have been looking for.

    1. Go check out Hawkeye’s video. He’s exactly right for placement of the rig itself.

      Here’s what you need to understand- dropping into the prone during a movement or whatever is TEMPORARY, as in, do it right now, fight, then get it over with. Comfort is a far backseat on that bus, but proper fitment of gear is most important.

      What I’m talking about, especially with the Hawkins position (and I believe I pointed this out) is laying in the prone for long periods of time. Sitting in a Hide site is usually at least a many hour affair, sometimes several days watching a target. Being uncomfortable becomes a distraction, which is why all of the (actual) Snipers I know prefer a slick armor carrier and chest rig.

      Do you understand the difference?

  7. Rod

    Looking to purchase a new ar-15 soon, but am at odds on the caliber. So much conflicting opions on the internet. Could you do an article in the future about the feasibility of each caliber? .223, .308, 6.5 grendall, 300 ACC blackout. Considering long term ammo availability as well, that being the primary issue. Thanks.

      1. lineman

        I’ve never really understood the caliber debate because it’s all an individual choice and there is a 100 or more different factors that will be affecting that choice…From environment, stature, threats(human/animals) , terrain, age, common use in area etc… People need to provide all that info and then ask what would I need and then maybe the caliber could be narrowed down and debated… JMHO…

    1. Grandpa

      5.56 for the AR platform. Then, practice, practice, practice. You didn’t mention if you have much experience; so, practice. In the future, time and money permitting, find a good .308 bolt gun for things farther away, put a good optic on it; and practice. Round out your small armory with a dependable 12 ga. pump, and a good quality semi-auto handgun. Or, if you prefer, a good quality wheel gun, either one in a caliber that barks out ‘fuck you’ if you ever have to employ it live. 9mm/.357 magnum minimum.
      And a good quality rigging axe, while you’re at it…

      1. PRCD

        Is there any way to practice without actually going to the range? I’ve seen laser target practice systems for pistols but not for rifles.

        Also, I know marksmanship is important, but is it the first thing to learn? For example, night operations, sabotage, psyops, PT, and many other things could be more important. I would think being hard to find and hard to catch would take precedence over everything else. Remember that guy 20 years ago who bombed the abortion clinic (I’M NOT ADVOCATING THIS)? They had a very hard time catching him – millions in resources were spent finding one guy. Imagine if they were trying to catch 1000 guys. .

      2. Eric Rudolph had deep roots in the area he retreated to- his hometown was on his side.

        As for training, dry fire practice is about the best you’re gonna get.

  8. PRCD

    Can you do a post on cold weather, what you use to sleep outside, and what you do if you get wet?

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