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You Want Me To Carry, What!!!???

March 16, 2014


Any chance you an do a junk on the bunk picture to see how your fighting gear and sustainment gear are set up? –From a reader.

Your author in fighting load, during the recent Arizona patrolling class.

Your author in fighting load, during the recent Arizona patrolling class.

I hate doing articles specifically on how I wear my gear. The fact is, how a certain load-out will work for one person is, in no way, the same as how it will work for someone else. We’ve seen this in two recent articles on LBE, one each from Max Velocity and from JC at Mason-Dixon Tactical. Both guys have a great deal of legitimate, light-infantry patrolling experience, and mounted patrolling experience, including in combat. Neither guy’s set-up is the same, and neither is the same as the way I run my gear.



The fact is, there’s a pretty slim chance that my gear set-up is going to run as well for you as it does for me, because I’ve got two decades of experience running my gear in the way I do (even accounting for changes in the type of gear I’ve run over the years, as well a changes in mission-focus). At the same time though, considering the ways I’ve seen guys show up at classes with gear set up over the last couple years….perhaps ANY guidance is better than no guidance.



All that having been said, I’m writing this article, but I strongly urge you to go read Max’s article and JC’s article as well, to get two different opinions—based on experience, rather than internet hyperbole—about what works for them. Some of what I say will sound—or even be—completely contradicted by their experiences and preferences. That doesn’t mean I’m saying they’re wrong. Their method is just wrong for ME, and vice versa.


The Foundation of Load-Bearing


The foundation of load-bearing is…bearing a load. (Damn, am I working PT into an article again? It’s like it’s important or something!) If you’re belt line is larger in circumference than your chest, there’s not a single type of load-bearing rig in existence that’s going to make humping that shit comfortable, or even bearable. If you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded, it doesn’t matter what type of LBE you use, you’re not going to be able to carry shit.



A SMOLES Refresher


As a reminder, when it comes to packing a load—of any sort—for tactical purposes, I use the old-school acronym SMOLES. This stands for Self-Defense, Medical Aid, Observation/Optics, Land Navigation, Extreme Weather Conditions, and Survival. Survival is further divided into the fundamentals of human survival: water, food, and shelter/clothing.



I don’t carry the same load in my ruck when I’m in the woods for recreation (like backpacking), as when I’m training for combat patrolling operations, because the missions are different. I still use the same acronym however. I also use the same SMOLES framework for packing my LBE.

A closer look at John's plate carrier with the Tactical Tailor MAV version of the RACK over the top.

A closer look at John’s plate carrier with the Tactical Tailor MAV version of the RACK over the top.




To me, for our purposes, self-defense involves 1) not getting killed, and 2) killing anyone who is trying to kill me (which greatly facilitates #1).



1) Not getting shot encompasses the obvious: if you’ve got body armor, and it’s not going to restrict your ability to complete whatever your mission is, wear the fucking armor. I use a Banshee Plate Carrier from Shellback Tactical, with TAP Gamma III+ stand-alone plates. The total weight of this package is a whopping 13 pounds (all weights were done today, as I was preparing this article). I see and read lots of stories on the internet about guys whining about the weight of their body armor. Granted, if you’re running AR500 steel plates, and soft-armor in a IOTV vest, that shit is probably retarded heavy. If you can’t move around with 13 extra pounds, in the interest of like, you know…staying alive…you need to add more strength training and stamina (strength-endurance) training to your PT program.



Are their times you might have to fight without body armor? Sure. It’s not like I drive around town or even the two-lane blacktops of Montana and Idaho with my fucking plate carrier on. It sits in the back, where I can get to it in a hurry, if I’m given the opportunity to get to it prior to the fight, or following the initial burst of the fight. I don’t wear it around the house and property every day. If I know I’m going to look for a fight though? I’m putting that shit on. If I’m going on a patrol, even if it’s a simple reconnaissance patrol with no intention of getting into a fight, I’m still expecting the possibility of a fight. Otherwise, why would I bother rehearsing my “Hasty Attack” and “Break Contact” battle drills?



Others will complain that by wearing their body armor, they cannot move as fast as they can without body armor on. This is patently obvious to anyone who is not completely fucking retarded. Here’s the catch though…it’s not just about how fast I can move. It’s also about how fast the slowest guy on my team can move. Whether we’re talking patrolling, or buddy-team bounds…if I’m vastly out-pacing my partner, I’m going to die just as dead as if I were moving slower, because he’s not going to be able to protect me with suppressive fire. As long as I can move faster than the slowest guy on my team, my body armor is not—for practical purposes—slowing me down (besides, that gives the slow dude motivation to do more PT…”Damn, he’s wearing body armor and can STILL outrun me! I MUST be a fat piece-of-shit!). The Truth is…the only reason to NOT wear body armor is because you’re a slow, fat fuck who needs to do PT. If that’s the case, not wearing body armor is NOT the answer. More PT is the answer. If 13 pounds is the defining factor in living or dying…do more fucking PT already.

My leg-mounted load-out and body armor. Notice how the plates ONLY cover the vital zone of my torso. Those are Extra Large sized plates in a Banshee plate carrier.

My leg-mounted load-out and body armor. Notice how the plates ONLY cover the vital zone of my torso. Those are Extra Large sized plates in a Banshee plate carrier.

Beyond Body Armor


Body armor, “chicken plates,” are—of course—a pretty lousy last-ditch choice in the “don’t get shot” equation. For me, the rest of the “don’t get shot” equation involves personal protection of another nature. Camouflage and concealment, and shit like gloves, and protective eye-wear (I damned near put my left eye out at a Colorado patrolling class last year, when I declined to put my clear safety lenses in, and led a night terrain run through some trees. When you FEEL the end of a two-inch thorn punch into the lens of your eyeball, you KNOW you fucked up!). Getting seen by the enemy, before you see him, is a good way to get shot, by being caught in a hasty ambush.


I don’t really wear camouflage clothing as a general practice (although I should admit, I do wear old BDUs or ACUs—in multicam—during classes, simply because I don’t actually give two shits if they get torn up). I’d rather stick with basic earth tones that—in my experience—work much better across different environments and sub-environments than even the best engineered camouflage clothing patterns. I do however, keep a bundled-up old boonie with some netting and a little bit of burlap garnish tucked into my ruck. I also have netting and garnish attached to my MICH helmet, although that is solely used as a mount for my NODs at night. There’s not a LOT of garnish on either one. It’s just enough to break up the silhouette a little bit, and act as depth for natural camouflage materials added during movements.


More importantly perhaps, I keep camouflage face-paint in my fighting load, and I use it. Judging by photographs from Iraq, a LOT of the US military has forgotten that camouflage facepaint even fucking exists. That’s too bad, because it’s actually one of the most important things you can do to strengthen the “don’t get shot” motif.

Doctrinally speaking, the Army says, “darker color goes on the high points, lighter color goes on the shadowed spots.” What they’re trying to do is create a sort of “photo-negative” of the pattern of your face, so it doesn’t look like a face at all. Here’s the thing…think about how many times you look at a human face in the course of a single day…not just how many times you look at different people, but how many times, even during one short conversation, you look at each individual’s face…unless you’re simpering, shy Nancy, or a hermit, living alone on the mountaintop, you look at a LOT of human faces over the course of a day…it’s the single most recognizable image in any human mind.


In my ever-present interest in intellectual honesty, I will admit, I still use the Ranger SOP when I paint my face. But, here’s a rub pointed out to me by a SF Warrant Officer once, as he bemusedly watched me “apply my make-up,” after just kind of smearing a bunch of green on his face. “Sergeant Mosby….if you think about it, the human face is such a small object, in the expanse of the woods, that it really doesn’t matter if you use a pattern…or what pattern you use. Just make it not look like a face.” I’ve seen vertical stripes, half-and-half on the face, like a character out of Braveheart, without the pretty blue, and lots of guys who just smeared their faces with paints. It all worked, just find. If you don’t have the camouflage facepaint though, you’re going to be scrambling for shit to use…maybe literally.


I’ve gone through a bevy of gloves over the years, running from the old standby of Nomex aviator’s gloves, to cool-guy Oakleys and Mechanix gloves, back to aviator’s gloves. Now? I just wear whatever brown leather work gloves I can pick up at the Stop-and-Rob when I realize I need new gloves.


For my boots, I’m pretty well stuck on my Keens now. I’ve worn jungle boots, desert boots, Vasques, Asolos, and pretty much every other type of combat or backpacking boot you can imagine. I’m stuck on Keens because, well, on the one hand, GI boots suck, and I’ve not found another pair of civilian backpacking boots that fit my wide-as-fuck feet quite as well (when I’m backpacking in spring, summer, or fall, I’m as likely to wear sandals—Chacos to be specific—as I am to wear boots, but I don’t think I have the balls to wear them on actual patrols. I’m not that bad ass, apparently.)


Of course, the original query that started this article probably wasn’t interested in what boots and clothes I wear. He wanted to know about LBE. Which goes back to #2 in the self-defense question: “try to kill anyone trying to kill me.”


My weapon of choice is a Stoner platform carbine. For general purposes, a 14.5” to 16” barrel is more than adequate—both for accuracy and for handiness—as most of us are ever going to need for a general purpose carbine. That having been said, I also need to feed the bitch, which means I need a way to carry ammunition.


In a nutshell, here’s Mosby’s philosophy on ammunition carriage: I may die in a gunfight. I might be outnumbered. I might be outclassed. I might just have a (really) shitty day that day. What I refuse to allow to have happen though, is dying in a gunfight because I ran out of fucking ammunition.


How much ammunition? As much as I can carry and still do my job (which means walking as far as I need to walk, and still being able to fight—including sprints and IMT movements for up to a couple hundred meters at a time—when I get where I’m going, while still being able to carry my shit when the fight is over as well). For me currently, that means I’m running 8 loaded mags on my LBE, 3 mags on my hip, and one in my rifle.


Undoubtedly, someone will point out—probably someone whose idea of PT is 12-ounce curls and getting off the couch to change the television channel—that guys like Kyle Lamb and Paul Howe have both publicly stated in classes and in writing that 3-4 mags is all you need on your LBE. I’m not about to argue with Lamb or Howe. Both of them have far better man-killing creds than I do. Here’s the thing though…neither of them, when at SFOD-D, were running the types of missions we’re discussing here, and neither of them had to worry about re-supply if they ran out during the fight. SF guys on most missions in a UW context—just like LRSU guys–don’t have the luxury of speed balls of ammo and water resupply getting dropped from rotary-wing assets on the objective. Hell, we don’t even have the conventional infantryman’s advantage of getting a wheeled-vehicle or rotary-wing re-supply every 48-72 hours, which is the doctrinal standard, even in Afghanistan today.


Further, as far as I know, neither Lamb nor Howe are in the stated business of teaching guys to fight like infantrymen. They’re focused on personal and home defense, and urban rifle fights for LEO (I could be wrong. I’ve actually not had a class from either of them in the civilian sector).


During a properly executed break-contact drill, you’re going to burn through magazines of ammunition like a bad ’80s action movie hero, in an effort to provide suppressive fire for your buddy. One single break-contact—in heavy brush where it might only involve 50-100 meters of fire-and-movement before you begin the actual “run like a raped ape” portion of the drill, can burn through 4, 5, or more magazines. What happens if your pursuers catch up to you before you get all the way back to a resupply point? Are you going to fucking throw rocks at them? Or maybe hurl insults? Oh, I know! You’re going to fight off a M240B crew with your ultra-cool tactical combat knife!

John stripping a spent magazine on the run, during a break-contact drill. Funny, that 36.9 pounds doesn't seem to be slowing me down much, does it?

John stripping a spent magazine on the run, during a break-contact drill. Funny, that 36.9 pounds doesn’t seem to be slowing me down much, does it?


How much ammunition should YOU carry? AS MUCH AS YOU CAN AND STILL DO YOUR FUCKING JOB. Of all the places to look at for reducing weight…ammunition load is NOT one of them.


So, how do I carry my ammunition? The eight magazines on my chest are carried in a Tactical Tailor MAV. JC Dodge mentioned the open-front, or “two-piece” MAV in his article I referenced above. I run a one-piece, like a traditional RACK (Ranger Assault Carrying Kit). It’s a big, bulky fucker, but I’ve never seemed to have the problem with it that a lot of guys (including Max and JC) seem to have.


The generally stated argument against the chest-rig for dismounted operations is that it keeps you from getting your dick in the dirt deep enough when you’re under fire. Perhaps it’s all differences in experience (probably), but I’ve never personally had that problem. For one thing, even at 6′ tall and 210lbs (weighed myself tonight, actually..209.8 pounds.), I’m lean enough that I can get down behind my rifle, in a magazine monopod, and engage targets.

Engaging targets during a break contact drill. Yeah, I'd love to be lower to the ground, but with brush, grass, and intervening terrain and vegetation, if I get lower, suddenly, I can't see the bad guys or their positions. That means,  I can't protect my Ranger buddy during his bound back.

Engaging targets during a break contact drill. Yeah, I’d love to be lower to the ground, but with brush, grass, and intervening terrain and vegetation, if I get lower, suddenly, I can’t see the bad guys or their positions. That means, I can’t protect my Ranger buddy during his bound back.


Granted, it's on our bedroom floor, but this photo demonstrates that, even with the chest rig on, I can still get low enough to fire my rifle, using the magazine monopod prone position. Do I WANT to get lower? Sure. CAN I get lower, and still do my fucking job? Not by much.

Granted, it’s on our bedroom floor, but this photo demonstrates that, even with the chest rig on, I can still get low enough to fire my rifle, using the magazine monopod prone position. Do I WANT to get lower? Sure. CAN I get lower, and still do my fucking job? Not by much.

Same position, trying to fuck the ground. Notice, my dick is firmly planted against the floor, and my back is still not any higher than my ass cheeks are (with the exception of the back plate on my armor). My ass sticks out a little bit. Squats during PT will do that to you.

Same position, trying to fuck the ground. Notice, my dick is firmly planted against the floor, and my back is still not any higher than my ass cheeks are (with the exception of the back plate on my armor). My ass sticks out a little bit. Squats during PT will do that to you.




Now, the chances I’m actually going to need to get that low in most fights is pretty slim. In the vast majority of fights we were in, we had plenty of available cover to get behind, from micro-terrain like small gullies just big enough to mask your body, to piled up stones and boulders. I don’t generally make it a habit of dropping and staying in positions in the wide open, flat areas, whether the middle of the street, or an open meadow. When I’ve been forced to, I’ve been more concerned with shooting at the bastards (from the magazine monopod prone, admittedly), than I was in laying there, waiting to get shot. That’s just my experiences though. I know a lot of guys with almost identical backgrounds to me who hate chest rigs.

While it doesn't do so perfectly, the chest rig actually reduces the stress on the lumbar spine, from carrying a rucksack. In this case, since the frontal load is NOT equal to the weight of the ruck, there's still some stress on the lower back and core from the ruck, but there's considerably less than there would be if I were wearing all of my fighting load on my side and back.

While it doesn’t do so perfectly, the chest rig actually reduces the stress on the lumbar spine, from carrying a rucksack. In this case, since the frontal load is NOT equal to the weight of the ruck, there’s still some stress on the lower back and core from the ruck, but there’s considerably less than there would be if I were wearing all of my fighting load on my side and back.


Frontal view, with ruck on. Ignore the Nordic/Viking sleeve tattoos. Everyone knows, I hate white people and culture....

Frontal view, with ruck on. Ignore the Nordic/Viking sleeve tattoos. Everyone knows, I hate white people and culture….


The other common complaint about chest rigs is the stress they place on your lower back from carrying all that weight on your chest. Again, unless you’re patrolling around without a ruck on, it’s actually not the case. There’s a DoD study floating around (I used to have a copy, but don’t know who I loaned it to) that talks about the medical and physiological impacts of military load-bearing equipment. Among the wealth of other interesting topics it discusses, it actually investigates the benefits of a load on the front of your body to counter the musculoskeletal impacts of humping a ruck around.



In a traditional, dismounted infantry patrolling environment, while carrying a ruck, a chest-rig is actually MORE beneficial to spine health and fatigue prevention than any other LBE system. The preference or impression otherwise is predicated solely on individual preference and comfort—generally based on personal experience. If you’re more used to wearing a battle belt or LC-2/ALICE system, it will FEEL better to you than a chest-rig system.



Of course, for the duration of a fight, when you’ve dropped your ruck (hopefully), there’s certainly going to be an impact on your lumbar spine supporting muscles trying to support that load. Considering however, that you’ll spend more of your time patrolling just walking than you will dumping your ruck and fighting (unless you really suck at patrolling), it’s really a non-issue, in my experience.



In addition to the eight magazines on my chest-rig, I carry three more on my belt. These are carried in HSGI Kangaroo-type “Taco Pouches,” with Glock 17 magazines piggybacked. For quite some time, I was running these on a war belt, but what I consistently found was that they interfered with my ability to use the hip-belt on my rucks. I could just lengthen the suspenders and let the war-belt drop lower, but I’ve never liked that method, for various reasons (mostly personal preference, based on my experiences), despite it being a classic favorite in both LRSU and SF.



As a young hooah, coming up in the Ranger Regiment, I watched (and emulated) my team leaders and squad leaders wearing their ALICE gear like chest-rigs. We wore them up really high, around our chests, over the top of our old RBA (Ranger Body Armor—the precursor to the IOTV…and a markedly better design, I’ve always felt). Whether patrolling under rucks, or kicking in doors; from fast-roping out of CH47s, to performing night mass-tac airborne operations, the system just worked really well for us. (Regular reader and commentator Attack Company 1/75 might have some feedback on this. Ranger K, do your memories mesh with this, or do you remember something different?) Then of course, in the later part of the mid-1990s, the Regiment started switching over the RACK, which was a Godsend, for the simplicity and comfort it provided versus the Erkel look with the ALICE system.



When I got to SF, I tried the low-slung thing on my LBE a few times and—frankly–hated it. It felt awkward to me, and I always felt like I had to fish for magazines during reloads. I went to carrying a RACK system, until we started mounting mag pouches directly on our body armor.



A second reason I don’t use the low-slung LBE method is because of my sidearm. As Max correctly points out, in numerous articles, the chances of needing to use your pistol in a light-infantry patrolling environment are pretty slim. The reality is, a sidearm, in this context, is largely a comfort item. Nevertheless, I don’t know very many guys, regardless of their experience level, who—when given the opportunity—don’t carry a sidearm. The Team Sergeant, who helped teach the WV class last summer, actually carried TWO sidearms (both CZ75s). One was on his LBE, and one was on the aviator’s vest he wore under his LBE (and before you start decrying THAT as ridiculous, keep in mind, this was a guy who was running real-world, no-shit operations in EAST Germany, through the 70s and 80s…unless you can cite better credentials than that, well….you’re full of shit.).



I carry a pistol, and will continue to. I’ve carried my pistols in drop-leg holsters as long as I’ve been allowed to carry a pistol with LBE (which is a relatively long time—over 15 years now), and have never experienced any of the problems with them that I read about guys having. I don’t notice it when I’m humping a ruck (and the pistol actually DOES get carried even when backpacking!). It doesn’t flop around on my leg, because I’m not trying to impersonate Angelina-fucking-Jolie in Tomb Raider. Here’s the deal with pistols as sidearms, in my book. Yes, the chances are, I’m never going to need it in the context of light-infantry patrolling operations. If I do need it though? I’m probably going to need it, RIGHT FUCKING NOW!!!! I don’t want to be trying to figure out where it’s at on my low-slung, flopping around war-belt, and I sure as fuck don’t want to dick around with a bunch of flaps and other retention devices to get the cocksucker out, when I need to shoot some fat fucker who’s huffing and puffing towards me with the bayonet on the end of his SKS.



I run a drop-leg Safariland, with all of the retention devices removed except the thumb break. I’ve never seen one fail, and I’ve had guys literally pick me up by the pistol, trying to get it out when I demonstrate how well the retention device actually works (Hell, during EPW search blocks during classes, I’ve had guys who couldn’t figure out how to work the fucking thumb lever until I showed them!).



All of this together adds up to meaning I needed a different way to carry the magazines on my belt….so I did the unthinkable. Having seen Costa’s drop-leg magazine panel posted on his FB page, I fabricated one for myself out of an old Blackhawk leg panel I had laying around in one of my boxes of discarded gear. Like my pistol, I don’t wear it hanging down around my knees. It’s up high, so the magazines just clear my rucksack hip belt, allowing me to perform speed reloads out of it, even if I haven’t been able to dump my ruck (such as the first reload of a fight, or during a break-contact drill).



Oh, I know….fucking heresy, right? Here’s the rub though…I’ve done a couple of lengthy ruck movements with this set-up now (because you know…we actually TEST our equipment…), and had exactly ZERO problems with it. It doesn’t cause any undue wear on my leg stamina, no raw spots, and it’s hell for convenient. Honestly, despite my own strongly-held reservations surrounding the idea, it’s actually turned out to be handier than a glove.



In addition to firearms, I keep a fixed-blade knife on my belt. While I have a really awesome, custom fixed-blade knife coming, I’m currently just running an old Camillus version of the Kabar that I don’t remember how long I’ve had. (The new knife should be here relatively soon, right? The maker is a reader…hopefully it’ll be here soon.) That Kabar has been used to cut aiming stakes, brush for fires, and parachute cord. While my Kabar never has, the Kabar design has also been used by an awful lot of awfully hard motherfuckers to defend their lives in some awful tight situations. I have every confidence it will do the same for me, should the need arise.



Because of my “point-centric” philosophy of knife combatives, a dagger would seem to make a lot of sense. After all, it’s DESIGNED for stabbing. Here’s the catch though. I don’t make a fetish out of my weapons. They’re tools. I’m far more likely to use my knife for cutting things than I am to use it for stabbing people, so the Kabar is a better choice (that’s actually why I moved away from using a push-dagger for me EDC knife. While I have a couple pocket knives and a–finally!–multiplier, on my EDC, I’m still more likely to need to use the larger fixed blade knife for cutting things than I am to stab someone with it).



Medical Aid


Medical aid, in the context of infantry patrolling, needs to focus on the Care-Under-Fire, and the Tactical Field Care phases of TC3. Doctrinally of course, TC3 calls for you to provide self-aid whenever possible and necessary. In our context of extremely small units, defending against probably larger elements, you’d better count on providing self-aid for 99% of your injuries (yet, another reason to WEAR YOUR FUCKING ARMOR!!!). For me, that means I’ve got a CAT-T tourniquet on my plate carrier, and another 100mph taped to the stock of my rifle. In addition, I carry two BOKs. One is on my RACK, in a double-stack magazine pouch. The other is wrapped in plastic, and tucked into a cargo pocket on my trousers. While there is a chance I could catch a round in the hips that a tourniquet isn’t going to help, or to the torso somewhere my plates don’t cover, the reality is, some days you get the bull, and some days, the bull gets you. I can only hope that, if I don’t take a hit to an extremity that a CAT-T will deal with for the immediate short-term, that the shot elsewhere either kills me quickly, or doesn’t kill me before I can pack the wound and get pressure on it, or before a buddy can help me out.



Of course, one of the biggest whining complaints we get (I’ve seen it on Max’s site as well) when we try and discuss TC3 is the lack of follow-on care. Here’s the catch, if you actually do your homework, like reading Keeley’s War Before Civilization, you’d realize that, even in primitive cultures—outside of 19th century battlefield medicine that wanted to bleed and amputate at any opportunity—if you didn’t die from a wound on the battlefield, there is a pretty good chance you’ll survive. (Actually, don’t worry about reading the book if you don’t want to. I’ve got a lengthy series coming up that will be a book report/study of the relevant parts to our concerns. Nevertheless, I DO recommend reading it. In it’s own right, it’s a pretty fascinating fucking book!)



In my ruck, I carry a complete third BOK, as well as a couple bags of IV fluids (currently normal saline. In actual patrolling, I’d switch to Lactated Ringer’s, since I can’t get Hextend).





Observation, in the context of light-infantry patrolling, covers two basic concepts, both of which involve seeing the enemy before he sees you. One is during daylight, the other in low-light.



Daylight Optics


To most people, the use of binoculars is self-evident, from childhood. They help you see shit that’s far away, right? Well, yes, but they do so much more. At closer distances (I’ve used binos inside of 50 meters actually), they help you see DETAILS much better. In brush, or even in the sagebrush we’ve got out here, they can actually help you see enough detail to tell the difference between the bush/tree foliage, and the camouflaged dude hiding in the middle of that foliage.



This doesn’t require some super-ultra-powered 45x Nautical Binoculars. Even an inexpensive pair of 7-8x birdwatching glasses will help (although, as in all things, you generally get what you pay for). I’ve used a pair of compact 10x Bushnells for years, and they’ve always done the work I needed them to do.



Spotting scopes work for the same thing, as well as being far more useful for studying people and targets at longer ranges. My spotting scope stays in my ruck, unless I need it. It’s a 42x Nikon that I bought used a couple years ago. Literally, nothing fancy about it. The tripod for it I bought used at a yard sale for $5.00.



Night Optics


A lot of people in the world are scared shitless of night-vision technology. Here’s the catch though…It’s easier to hide from passive night-vision like PVS7s and PVS14s than it is to hide from the naked eye during daylight. The trick is simply to remember that you ARE trying to hide, and the darkness does not hide you all by its lonesome. Nevertheless, simply because most people are so ignorant of NODs, I think they’re a pretty fucking useful tool, once you’ve learned to function at night without them. On the night terrain run that Tex wrote about the recent Arizona class, I actually loaned my PVS14s out to students, rather than wearing them myself. I still managed to outrun and elude the group during the run.



That having been said, NOT having and using NODs when appropriate, out of some ignorant idea that “I’m so fucking bad ass in the woods, I don’t need NODs!” is about as stupid as you can get. I use my NODs, when patrolling, when I’m not moving, because they do allow me to see BETTER. When I’m moving, I rely on my other senses, so I have some degree of peripheral vision that keeps me from running into shit like trees and catching branches in the throat (on the other hand, I will point out that, during the aforementioned terrain run, I did walk chest first into a four-strand barbed wire fence. I actually saw it, even in the dark, with no NODs, but misjudged how far away it was. Ain’t nobody perfect).



My -14s ride in a Blade-Tech hard case, nestled inside one of the large, general-purpose utility pouches that ride on my chest harness. Along with a head lamp (visible white light and red lens), and a handful of chemlights.



I don’t run handheld thermals, because—frankly–I can’t afford them. While they offer the same advantages (and a couple others, obviously) that NODs do (most people are either unaware of the threat, or don’t know how to hide from them), hand-held thermals are not particularly hard to hide from—in most contexts—either. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m not discussing that on an internet blog, but it is something we discuss in classes, and when a student conveniently brings one to a class, we even demonstrate it. While I’d not be heartbroken to have a set of the FLIR handheld thermals, the biggest advantage they would offer me is the training value in teaching people to hide from during infiltrations.



Land Navigation


I’ve belabored my hatred of GPS previously on this blog, numerous times. So, I carry a compass and topo maps. I use a standard, tritium illuminated USGI compass, carried in a grenade pouch-turned-utility pouch, on my chest rig. While it seldom comes out (I’m not sure I’ve even worn it during the last several patrolling classes I’ve taught), I normally keep a slim, Silva-brand orienteering compass on a lanyard around my neck, under my shirt and plate carrier, in case I ever have to dump my chest rig in an E&E situation.



While a lot of guys really prefer civilian orienteering compasses, I still love the GI model, despite the additional weight.



Maps get acetated, folded, and either shoved in a cargo pocket, or tucked into the kangaroo pouch on my plate carrier, behind my chest-rig. I also have a set of Ranger beads for pace counts, attached to my plate carrier.



Extreme Weather Conditions


I don’t carry a lot of gear for this on my fighting load. Most of it is in my ruck. I do keep a couple of Zippo lighters in my pockets, and have hurricane lifeboat matches, in a match safe, in my fighting load.



In my environment, cold-weather and wet-cold weather is far more of a concern, even in summer, than extreme heat (although we did see a lot of triple digits last summer…). Nevertheless, the 100oz Camelback bladder on the back of my plate carrier gives me enough to survive hot weather in the short term.





For food, I keep a half dozen protein bars in one of the general purpose pouches, plus tea bags and a cone of pure cane sugar (in the case I have to live out of my RACK, I’m far more concerned about quick, pure energy than I am about staying true to a Paleo diet). I also keep a half-dozen wire snares, although to be honest, the chances of actually using them—let alone my ass actually catching anything—are pretty slim.



For water, as I mentioned above, I keep a 100oz Camelback on my plate carrier. I couldn’t do this when I ran an ALICE pack, because the pack wouldn’t sit well on the bulge formed by the bladder and its pouch. With the Eberlestock and other internal frame rucks though, since the hip belt carries the weight, and the pack frame actually sits a considerable distance from my body, there’s ample room. I also keep the Potable Aqua drops I’ve mentioned in previous articles on my RACK (and truthfully? Pre-sweetened Kool-Aid packets as well. I fucking hate drinking tepid water).



I don’t do any clothing or shelter on my fighting load. Yes, I could add a buttpack or something and carry a woobie and/or poncho, but honestly? That’s what my fucking rucksack is for. If I need to move so fast that I can’t carry a ruck, then I need to move too fast to be stopping and building hooches and sleeping. The other advantage of my system is that even in cold weather, I can get away with less snivel gear, because the load-bearing equipment and body armor do a pretty good job of trapping body heat. On the other hand, obviously, in hot environments, that can be a detriment. Fortunately, even when I wore this shit last summer in triple digits, by staying in the shade, and staying hydrated (and trying to restrict serious movement to hours of darkness), I managed to work it without getting too dangerously miserable. Even in WV during the patrolling class there, not only did I manage to function with this basic gear set-up (actually, I think I was wearing more and heavier gear), I still managed to function, and something that people don’t realize, as cadre, we weren’t just humping a ruck with the students, we were moving back-and-forth through the formation, offering advice and tips, and checking on students (although, I’m pretty sure I whined like a bitch more than a few times about how fucking hot it was there!).



How heavy is all that shit?


In the aforementioned DoD study on the medical and physiological implications of load-bearing, the conclusion is reached that a fighting load should be no more than 1/3 of your total body weight, and the sustainment load total (with fighting load and ruck), should be no more than 45% of your body weight. That’s the cut-off point at which the weight genuinely begins to impact on the individual’s ability to function in a tactical field environment. While every infantryman in history can attest to having carried loads—in training and/or combat—heavier than that (sometimes MUCH heavier than that—the heaviest ruck I ever carried was 125 lbs, at a bodyweight of 215 lbs, and that was just my ruck, not my fighting load), that 1/3 and 45% cut-offs are the ideal we should strive to beat.



So, let’s see where my “way too heavy,” and “way too big” load falls…



Today, while weighing all this gear, I weighed myself first. In my skivvies, I weigh just under 210 lbs. With my jeans, shirt, and Keens on, my total body weight was 212.9 lbs.


Glock 17, loaded: 31.93 oz


Glock 17 magazine, loaded: 9.89 oz (x3= 30 oz)


Streamlight TLR-3: 2.32 oz


Safariland Drop-Leg: < 1 pound (shipping weight is one pound, including packaging)


Drop Leg Panel with HSGI pouches: < 1 pound (my scale wouldn’t register the weight, but it weighs about the same as my holster)


PMAG loaded with 30 rounds: 18 oz (x3= 54 oz….so just under 3.5 lbs)


Sub-Total thus far: < 9.2 lbs (147.92 oz divided by 16 oz per pound)


Drop leg panel and Safarliland holster. Total weight: < 10 pounds

Drop leg panel and Safarliland holster. Total weight: < 10 pounds


My plate carrier, with TAP Gamma III+ plates, a CAT-T holder, and assorted markers and paint pens (used for target marking during classes), according to our bathroom scale, weighs exactly 13 pounds.



My RACK, loaded with 8 loaded PMAGs (total weight nine pounds), a PVS-14 (12.4 oz) in a Blade-Tech hard case (can’t find a weight for it, and I’m done looking), my BOK, and assorted other goodies in pockets, including Ranger Handbook, notepad and pens, spare batteries, and more, weighs in at 13.9 pounds.



My rifle, with a Burris MTAC 1.5-6x optic, OTAL IR laser, and Streamlight TLR-1, weighs 11 pounds loaded.


RACK, over the plate carrier.

RACK, over the plate carrier.


So, my total fighting load weight is 36.9 lbs…which is CONSIDERABLY less than 1/3 of my body weight (at 210lbs, 1/3 of my body weight would be 70 pounds, for the mathematicall challenged).



My rucksack, loaded with a bevy of SMOLES-compliant gear, a 100 oz Camelback (that can be attached to my plate carrier when needed), and two 1-liter Nalgene bottles (all water containers were full when I weighed the load), but missing the 12 loaded PMAGs I would normally carry (total weight 13.5 pounds) and food, which would vary according to duration of the planned operation, weighs in at 54lbs total, according to the scale. That, combined with the 36.9 pounds of my fighting load brings my load to a sustainment load total of 90.9 pounds, although if we add the weight of the missing 12 magazines, the TOTAL load just breaks the 100 pound mark at 104.4 pounds. That total is 49% of my total bodyweight, which just breaks the doctrinal ideal by a couple of percentage points. If I dropped the loaded magazines, the total weight would drop well below the 45% ideal sustainment load total, but the cost is worth the extra ammunition, to me.





The best method to set up a fighting load and sustainment load is an extremely personal matter, within the realm of what will work depending on your personal physiognomy and the particulars of how you handle your weapons and mission. For me, in a gunfight, a couple things are paramount:



1) The ability to effectively engage hostiles at distances from collision range to 500+ meters, with rifle fire.



2) The ability to conduct speed reloads, when necessary, to protect my Ranger Buddy (if I protect my Ranger Buddy, and he protects me, we both survive. That’s a win!)



3) The ability to use camouflage, concealment, and cover, to protect myself from getting killed. As a last resort, I want body armor on, to help increase my odds of surviving, if the other protection methods fail me.



For light-infantry type patrolling operations, surviving gunfights is my number one priority. After that, my priorities are being able to carry all my other survival gear, while still accomplishing the above three tasks.



The load-bearing equipment load-out I use allows me to do all of those things.



With that in mind, whatever you learn from reading one more take on the same thing, learn this…the only way to determine what method of load-bearing is going to work for you is by trying shit out and figuring it out.





John Mosby















From → Uncategorized

  1. Sam Brady permalink

    Excellent post! Although everyone wears their gear differently, it is useful to read how others approach the load bearing problem. FWIW as a Member of a Ranger company in Vietnam, we carried two claymores, 22 x 20 round magazine, at least two frags and two smokes grenades each. Each of us carried a ERT-10 emergency radio, Vis 17 panel. Two quarts on the belt. At least 4 more in the ruck. The amount of food carried was up to each Ranger. Most stripped down one meal for a day. Either a C ration or LRP freeze dried ration. At least one extra radio batt per man. We used the low slung LBE. Some experimented with home made chest rigs as well. Ammo and communications were our priorities. We wanted to be able to run, shoot and call for air support.
    Thanks for the post Sam

  2. Brian Williams permalink

    Great article! If you like the keen boots, you will really love their sandals. My only shoes for 10 days in the Haitian bush.

  3. Brian Williams permalink

    I wore my lce low slung in Ranger Batt and Lrs. Buckled with ruck, unbuckled without.

    • I wasn’t implying that noone in the Regiment wore their LBE low. Just that, in my time there, in my experience and observation, kost guys wore theirs high. I also know, if a dude had been caught with his LBE unbuckled, he’d be beating his face…I’m guessing (and guessing is they key word there) that you were at Battalion in the 70s or 80s?

      • Attack Company 1/75 permalink

        I just came back from vacation and saw your message. I had my LBE up really high. I would say that this was used by most in 1/75… about 95%. Like you having it low felt awkward. Also, never had any problems being in the prone, even when we were issued the body armor.

  4. Mike Rogers permalink

    What kind of 9 do you carry while patrolling? Any difference from what you might carry for every day cc?

    • I finally broke down and bought a Glock 17 for my field sidearm. My EDC gun is a Glock 19. So, the only difference is size, and that size difference is pretty negligible.

  5. Wes permalink

    I can’t have pouches on the side like that, drives me fucking nuts. I tried putting my BOK on either side hated it. It was bulky and got in my way of drawing my handgun on one side and my mags on the other. I moved it to my battle belt which turned out to be a great spot.

    JM, two questions.

    1) Do you think 6 accessible mags is sufficient or no? I have one in my rifle, of course. I keep 4 on my plate carrier 1 of which is set up for speed reload and one on my battle belt in a kydex holster for speed reload. I do keep 6 more in the top of my pack for restock.

    2) Do you stow your spent mags anywhere? I know it takes a second more to do but I’ve gotten used to using a dump pouch on my belt. The way I see it is I can’t afford to lose any mags.

    • 1) Not for me. In less than 50 meters, during a break contact drill, I’ll easily burn through 5+ magazines. Stretch that out to 100+ meters, and six mags leaves me feeling a little naked. Never mind the issues if we run into someone else during the break contact, before I get a chance to reload out of my ruck. But that’s just me.

      2) If I get to execute a reload with retention, they either get stuffed behind my plate carrier (I can cram two behind it, albeit uncomfortably, since it’s already a snug fit), or in my cargo pockets. I’ve tried using a dump pouch a couple of times, and they are a lot slower for me, than just cramming the mag into a cargo pocket.

      While I appreciate the idea of the importance of retaining spent magazines, there’s a line I use in every single rifle and patrolling class that I think is absolutely essential to understanding the speed reload vs. reload with retention/tactical reload argument:

      “If your Ranger buddy dies, because you were more concerned with salvaging a spent magazine than you were in getting your gun back into the fight…I hope the devil ass-rapes you with his pitchfork when you get to hell, because that’s where you’re going if that happens.”

      I’m far more interested in keeping my gun in the fight, and putting adequate suppressive fire downrange to protect my partner, than I am in holding on to empty magazines. I probably manage a reload with retention–in a training environment (and I was even less concerned with it in combat)–maybe 30-40% of the time. The rest of the time, I’m too busy shooting and moving, so most of my reloads end up being speed reloads.

      • Wes permalink

        Got it. I may look into trying out a leg panel to get a couple more mags out of the pack and ready to go. I understand the importance of keeping the gun up, and not losing anyone because of my actions or inaction. I guess what I’m going to take from your answer is, just get the gun back into the fight as quick as possible and salvage the mags when you can if you can.
        I’d much rather lose 5 mags and worry about scavenging more later, than be the reason someone fucking died.


  6. Brian Black permalink

    Thanks for the gear review and rundown, John.

    I’ve been experimenting with a war belt in lieu of the Alice belt. The jury is still out on this.

    But, I’ll keep working on it.

  7. BRADYBUNCH permalink

    Thanks for writing this. I am looking forward to your book review of Keeley’s War Before Civilization. You should read some Bernard Cornwell, Warlord or Saxon Tales for 5th century battles and life. Wrote Sharpes Rifles also.

    • I’m a big fan of Cornwell’s. I’ve read the entire Uhtred Uhtredsson series, and the first two books of the Archer series. Good reading recommendation.

  8. Chandler Bates III permalink

    Great effort and personal advice. Thanx. Each of us needs to choose our arrows from a full quiver filled by others. This article and the other references do this.


  9. Thanks for the great info! Having not served in a direct combat capacity it sucks trying to glean all this info for myself. I have been studying all your previous material and the specifics on this post and photos really help. Submarine weapons training consisted of M14, 12ga and 1911 .45 and we only carried a sidearm while on watch in port overseas. Not to many firefights 1300′ deep in the pacific…

    IMHO you are doing a great service to this country.



    • Ditto the training here (C.G. Cutter 255) and running to catch up before shtf.
      Double ditto “great service” comment.

  10. Happy St. Patty’s Day.

  11. koldsteel762 permalink

    Good stuff John. I appreciate your input on this subject. One question though, how do you package your spare batteries and do you keep them on your person or in the fighting load ?


    • Bergmann permalink

      I keep mine in my pocket in a baggy. Mostly because its cold up here all the time and they need to stay warm. I recommend lithium batteries too. They cost more but you get much longer life from them. With mine i notice a x10 longer life pan compared to normal cell batteries. And lithium resists the cold better.


  12. Thanks for breaking down your personal load out. I know you hate doing that but it’s good info. You make some good points. You have to run what works for you, and the only way to do that is to get out and train.

  13. sabasarge permalink

    Excellent post John, despite your reluctance.
    Hope to see you soon brother

  14. Mountain Shepherd permalink

    This is super-helpful… thanks!
    What do you stow in the two larger pouches to the left and right of your mag pouches on your chest rig? Where is your BOK?
    Thanks much!

  15. koldsteel762 permalink

    I know how you really hate this subject. It can get the gear queers going at each other like a couple of inebriated primates.
    It really does help those if us with limited resources at least try to start off on the right foot.

  16. Black6 permalink

    Holy shit, I’ve been running around with 30 lb ceramic plates. It’s pretty unmanageable with a ruck and full load. I know I need more PT, but dropping 15 pounds sounds awesome! Looks like I need some TAP Gamma plates.

  17. Frank permalink

    Koldsteel, On batteries: I got some cool little carriers from GG&G and they work well. I carry a single AA and RCR123A in a sleeve or pants pocket for quick easy access in the dark. The rest go in the pack. But thats just me.

    JM, I did not notice a holster for your fleshlight? 😉

    • Koldsteel permalink

      Frank, Thanks. Just pulled the carriers up on line.

  18. JRT permalink

    Thanks for the great article. I have been coming here for a while and I love reading your website; always to the point; always straight up; never afraid to call a FU you need to.

    I usually agree with you 90% of the time which I think is pretty good. Show that I am still on the right track. About 8% is opinion or so, which is cool too as we always have variants of tactics and that’s what makes fighting us a pain in the butt because you never know what the hell we’re going to do in the field. Then there’s that 2%.

    In images showing the prone position in your MAV… Dude you’re hovering in midair! In the first image it looks like your shoulders are still above your head which would probably make it difficult if you have to elevate the muzzle of your rifle to engage the enemy as it rushes your position (which it should do, but it probably won’t). I’m afraid instead of just rotating the rifle nose up to engage closer targets you have to lift from your shoulders exposing more of your frontal region. When you go totally prone, your head may be hitting the ground, but everything from the base of your neck up to the top your shoulders is exposing your crunchy chocolatey goodness. If the picture was taken parallel to the groundI think you would notice it easier. And then there’s reloading! Your laying on the snaps. The only way to pull your magazines out of the pouches from that position, would be to roll onto your side exposing the more your body. I grew up in the 82nd so I’m sure you know I’m rolling with the low rider LBE, flapping in the wind as I run. When I hit the ground my LBE usually slaps me in the head so I usually know where my mag pouches are.

    In the end though you’re 100% correct. It’s all semantics. What it really comes down to is what you’re comfortable carrying and using. If it works for you it’s not wrong!

    I’m still PO that the Army has fought so long in the urban areas that is completely forgotten its institutional knowledge on how to wage combat in non-MOUT areas. Hell, last I heard the 82nd couldn’t navigate in the woods without NODS on a division XEVAL.

    I already can’t wait to see what your next article is about! Keep up the great work.

    Strike Hold

  19. David permalink

    Outstanding post. Totally agree re: ammo load. John’s points on resupply (or lack thereof) are spot-on. I think that folks who are talking about 3 or 4 mags are not talking about the same mission profiles. I think of the old MACVSOG days, when teams were operating in bad weather (no air support, and too far behind lines for artillery) and running into company and even battalion-size enemy elements. Not unusual for those folks to be in close contact with the enemy for 72 hours straight. I have met 3 former SOG operators (all One-Zeros) and to a man they said that their standard load was 1000 rounds in magazines per man. Now obviously every situation is different, but I just wanted to point out that John is correct in the context in which this training is being given. If you are out looking for a fight in the situations we are talking about here, it may be with an enemy element much larger than yours. History is full of small SF teams hitting much larger enemy groups with such ferocity of accurate fire that the enemy thinks they are in contact with a much larger force and hesitates. Pack accordingly.

  20. Texas Frederic Bastiat permalink

    Good post, and nice hat

  21. Guido permalink

    Here’s one report, “Load Carriage in Military Operations: A Review of Historical, Physiological, Biomechanical, and Medical Aspects” with a lot of load-carriage science:

    This report, gives some of the numbers you’re mentioning: “The Modern Warrior’s Combat Load
    – Dismounted Operations in Afghanistan”

    • The first one is the one I was discussing in the article. I’ve got the second one on my shelf too. It’s a pretty good look at how you can minimize what you carry to the bare essentials, but it’s still going to be heavy.

  22. D Close permalink

    I had to laugh with that pile of gear on your floor next to your ruck. My wife sees that shit at least once a week as I experiment with different rigs and ruck loads. “You better do something about that pile!” I’m on it.

    Some good ideas and very helpful to see how it works for you. Thank you.

  23. Mervo permalink

    Thanks for your time putting together this insightful post. Definitely helps put things into perspective.


  24. Mark permalink

    Thank you for the information. You mention the Eberlestock pack; could you elaborate on which model you use and it’s benefits.

    • I run the Battleship. It’s the biggest one they make. While a lot of guys talk about the temptation to carry too much shit if you’ve got a big ass ruck….that’s not the fault of the ruck. That’s a self-discipline issue. I can always download stuff. If I NEED the extra space, I’ve got it.

  25. Mr. FAG permalink

    My first post. I am the old guy that Mosby calls the Team Sergeant (I most humbly try to deflect any and all praise from him because I do not consider myself in any manner to be special or exalted, but I did stay in Holiday Inns for 20+ years and have remained fairly active in related fields over the the intervening 15 years since I unassed formal ruckhumping (getting paid for it). Mosby has mentioned my vest a couple of times and I promised to write something for him. Gear selection, design of carry and related operational mindset are a good place to start. BY the way, John, fromhere on out I wish to be referred to as Mr. FAG. Operative word here is ‘was’…once upon a time I WAS a Team Sergeant…now I am just a former action guy.

    The first time Mosby saw me in my UW gear he just eyeballed it for a few moments, leaning this way and that to get a better view and said something to the effect that he finally met someone who carried more shit than he did. It was not so much a compliment or even better yet, a snide comment as it was a statement concerning perceived individual readiness (OK-maybe a snide compliment.) Most ruck-team oriented SF guys do carry a lot of shit and for a good reason-no ready support when things go south and the first thing we learned was to never count on a resupply drop…ever.

    Bear in mind that I was ‘raised’ for the unilateral/unassisted dismounted role. That means if we did not have it physically with us, we might not ever have it when we needed it and there might not be a cache or auxillary to assist.

    I wore (and still occasionally wear) the old mohawk aviators vest under the LBE in case the ruck has been dumped/lost-particularly in the winter (shorter vest with bigger pockets that fit nicely between ALICE LBE or similar side openings). The vest is packed with redundant nav gear (compass/maps), meds, key clothing (wool hat, socks, gloves), all my survival tools/gear (multiple fire, a poncho, 550, multi-tool, some wire, etc), spare eyeglasses, a couple of different signaling means (mirror, light, cut-down VS-17), seven days of chow (broken down MRE mains, bullion cubes, hard candies), water storage with purification and yes…a second sidearm with four extra mags. In the old days I carried a survival radio on it, too. I can wear that vest under my fatigue shirt or parka and I never had problems with it getting in the way or snagging on shit. It NEVER came off except to change a t-shirt once every week or so. I can sleep comfortably on my side with it (I don’t snore in that position) un-unike with any LBE with 15 mags and other assorted gear.

    This keeps my LBE (now a TacTailor MAV with a couple of ALICE holdover touches) free for just mostly just fighting gear-worn at the top of the hips for those so interested. Fighting gear is defined as rifle ammo and a couple of pistol mags with the sidearm mounted center belly (and covered by a now spring-loaded flap w/velcro closure cannibalized from that shitty M-9 holster -had fun screwing with that) and I can get it with either hand PDQ. The LBE is not loaded with extraneous shit (other than some camo paint, radio pouch, trauma/BOK and a couple of old school plastic canteens on each hip with yup—two cups (boil twice as much water at one fire). Water IS fighting gear when you can’t stop to find or get any-that water on my body was never meant to be used unless I had no other option-I drank off my ruck canteens (or now if I were new school and wasn’t worried about punctures, I might use that new fangled IV bag looking thing with the camo pillow cover). When I sleep I unhinge it and keep one arm though it…snatch and go f I have to unass a patrol base/RON. I have seen guys lose their shit this way, though (lots of my SFQC students had to buy their shit back from the guerrillas in the early mornings after stand-to).

    One exception to the fighting gear rule—unlike Mosby, on my LBE I also carry a big ass knife that I nicknamed Mr. Hammer-Shovel and yes, it also cuts and best of all, chops. Beats using my rifle barrel for a prybar when I need one. It is primarly a tool that yes, in a really bad situation is better than nothing but I never had any knife fight fantasies…though I will admit now that sneaking up and whacking someone from the rear between C1 and C4 in the neck with the flat side of that quarter inch thick chunk of steel did cross my mind a couple of times…but I was younger then). I have it on my LBE simply because I have never found a better place to carry it that was handy when I needed it. I tried toting on the outside of my ruck, but then it was never handy when I needed it…oh well, some things on your personal gear never do get fully resolved . There is only so much space.

    I have too often seen guys in training become separated from their main gear (ruck), and sometimes even LBE and weapon. No…that is NOT supposed to happen, but I have seen it too many times to not be prepared to restock a team-mate to at least keep him in the game (partially clothed, fed, watered and armed with albeit basic gear). River crossings, mountain climbing (roping gear up at night and something fails), an avalance once, a ruck lost on a night infil jump at the beginning of a 30 day mission in the snow with resupply not possible for at least two weeks, a ruck that fell out of a helicopter on the wrong side of a LZ (two days crawling in brambles to find that sucker with the only radio in it), a jumper in the water who had to let all his shit (including rifle) sink to save his life…tactical compromise early in a mission before a cache can be established (yes, you can run with a 100lb ruck, but not very far or fast-something has to give sooner or later-you, or your 100lb ruck). Murphy is out there and in the SF world of no ready resupply support, his name is His Excellency of Disaster Lord Sir Murphy.

    Now if I were raised to just run ops out of a FOB riding to/from an objective with great ground/air overwatch I would most probably not wear that vest. If i had a great support network in my UW AO, I might not wear it conducting short ops close in. I would not wear it on an urban UW op…but it would be cached outside of town on the way out to the rally point/E&E corridor.

    If I am going to be out in the woods with mostly just 1-3 other guys with no viable or known available support I am going to wear it. I would rather err on the side of caution by toting a few extra pounds to be able to 1) complete the mission with spares/backups if primary gear is lost or negated (busted), 2) resupply a teammate when the unthinkable happens and he loses his shit, 3) the unthinkable happens to me and all I have is what I am wearing (and that mohawk vest of goodies under my shirt) so I can at least get me and mine off the X, hopefully to that emergency cache to restock and continue the mission or worst case, into E&E and home.

    The weight differential is not that much more…9 lbs to save my mission or my/others lives. It is on the vest, usually under my shirt, and not on my LBE (or worse/more potentially useless, my ruck). Weight that I would mostly be carryying elsewhere,

    Trust is good, but control is better. Essentailly this vest gear decison falls under the principle of control. I trust that I, my team and our mission prep is so squared away that I won’t need that vest, I control that attitude by being prepared for when things don’t go right and His Excellency is laughing at my suddenly sorry ass that I have key back ups handy when everything else fails.

    Folks, John is a bit over enthusiastic about my background…nope…read carefully…no ruck ops in East Germany (though the cold war did offer some fun moments). But on the ht ide of things we were as ready for unattributable, unassisted (read unreasonable and and unrealistic by the more cynical) ops and we did not expect to have much if any friendly support of ANY kind during the conduct of our mssions.

    I was not alone in this mentality of being a bit extra prepared. I damn sure did not learn these habits all by myself and the teachers I had were dead serious about getting the mission done and getting my at that time young ass back to do it again.

    There are all kinds of ways to wear your shit. Think mission(s), your operational and contingency situations (yes, plural on that last one) and tailor to those. My gear setup is flexible so that I can wear more, or less…but that is just me. It is a personal thing, but I can guarantee that when you are sporting your gear, people WILL check you out. You might be wearing the oldest, rattiest. mismatched shit…but if you are wearing it in a tactically sound manner that suits your mission, weapons, environment and body, those with experience will not care that you look like you stole all of your gear off of Joe Shit the ragman…they will want to know more about what you can do with it rather than talking to the pretty boy with the latest unblemished (an unpersonalized) $1000 webgear.

    Mr. FAG

  26. Excellent article. Way back in OIF1 we occasionally pulled missions sans armor. Usually doctrinal LRS missions, but also over nighters around Ramadi searching of the mad mortar man and guys planting IEDs. Eventually we stopped that, because it was fucking stupid. There’s nothing like having your back to the wall and getting shot at from 3 directions to wonder why the fuck you left your RBA on the truck. I had different gear set up for different reasons. I had an LBV I cut up and rigged into an LBE so I could carry SAW drums when I needed to bring the 249. Because are supply was janky, my SAW pouches were my two quart canteen covers. They lasted longer than you would think. No, they didn’t last the whole deployment. No, I didn’t know where to find SAW pouches. Yes, I tried. I found out later my TL had a couple in his footlocker. He wasn’t giving them up. They held his toothbrush or some shit. That set up hung low, because I never carried it without the RBA and wearing it low I could fit it over the RBA and get to the drums and other gear. I liked the chest rig on some missions, especially if I wasn’t wearing armor. If I were to put something together now, I think I’d have to go with a plate carrier/ molle system plus war belt. Have a few mags up front with more and misc. gear on the belt. I can’t imagine going to war now not wearing armor.

    • I forgot to add, we typically carried 12 or more mags a piece. Combat load was supposed to be 8, if I remember correctly. I can’t imagine going out to do work with less than 8. But then, I was never more than semi-cool, and that’s probably being kind. So…

  27. Daniel permalink


    Do you typically use side armor plates or just front and rear?

    • Front and Back only. It’s hard enough to catch my breath when exerting physical effort with just those in…and side plates are generally only rated for IIIA threats anyway.

  28. Excellent Article Mosby! For those of use who are starting at zero with no prior experience it is a huge thing to see “about” what we can do, and refine afterwards. Thank You!

  29. Defensive Training Group permalink

    Reblogged this on The Defensive Training Group.

  30. Matt in K.C. permalink


    I have a couple of questions concerning the face camouflaging you talked about above. The first question is about making the face not look like a face, which makes sense. On the same track, what are your thoughts on using things like sniper veils, the “ Spando-Flage” head nets like some hunters use, or possibly earth toned balaclavas? They would also break up the pattern of the face and would the expedite the doffing of the face camo, if for example one needed to quickly make the transition to looking like a non-threatening local worker.

    Secondly, beside the features of the face, the shape of the head/neck/shoulders area is also very recognizable (especially against a contrasting background). Either a ball cap or a boonie does little to hide it. It doesn’t seem from your photo above that the netting on your boonie extends much past the brim, so I’m guessing that you don’t have anything hanging down to break up the neck outline. What would you suggest as a method to break up the shape (or is this even important)? You see the need for garnish anywhere else on the gear or clothing?

    Thanks so much.


  31. ikefeen permalink

    Have you looked into the AARN brand of bodybacks? I use one for long distance hiking and it distributes the weight of the back entirely to the complete circle of your hips. With it fully loaded, i can lift the shoulder strap easily with my pinky and the shoulder straps kind of float above the shoulder. Literally NO WEIGHt is no the shoulder which causes discomfort and pain to people carrying loads. They make their packs out of strong cordura as well. Google aarn packs. You would need to camo-ize it though. I will never carry a traditional backpack again now that i’ve found these. i use the featherlite freedom model.

    • J.W. permalink

      Would you possibly be able to run a battle belt while using that pack?

  32. Stephen Arthur Jr permalink

    John, metal plates run about 10lbs each, and it appears you run softs to limit the weight. Considering the extra weight, would you run plates if the shit got real, or do you stick with the softs? Would you share your thoughts on armor.
    Thanks brother.

  33. 1) bought some SAPI large plates, but they are about 3/4″ too long for my banshee PC. THE VELCRO grips about 2″ but you can see the corners of the plates out the bottom. Will this be a long run problem?

    2) to get the Safariland 6004 to sit up high, there is about 3″ of web/Velcro that hangs below bottom of thigh frame. Should I just whack it off and sew it up? Don’t want to ruin it… Hoping to have kit fine tuned by August class but figuring it all out on my own is a challenge. Any help from experienced folks is appreciated!

  34. Great article! Thanks!!

  35. Why are all the pics not working now?

    I wanna see the loadout!

  36. PMCwannabe permalink

    Thanks so much for your valuable insight! You are the first person I have found on the web that devotes such incredible detail and heart into what you preach. Im sure it will help a lot of people stay alive. I know it will mine!
    I just wish the pictures were still working. for some reason they have gone blank.

  37. Bob permalink

    Are pictures ever going to be restored? They seem to have been down for a while, I wasn’t sure if it was intentional.

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  1. Mosby: You Want Me To Carry What? | Western Rifle Shooters Association
  2. Mosby: You Want Me To Carry What? – Part II | Western Rifle Shooters Association
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