Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Training Courses: thoughts on gear for the new student

In my previous post, I discussed some of my thoughts and some answers to questions that I had as a first time three day carbine class student. Since I didn't touch on what gear I ran and how it worked out much, I figured I'd about double the amount of posts I'm putting up in a typical month and see if I can knock this missive out before I fall asleep and bash my head into my desk. Funny, of course, but I don't like having to explain those black eyes at work. It also damages my Intardweb Celebrity. Can't have that.

To me, gear is something that deserves some thought before a class. Because I believe in train as you fight, getting too much gear can be a hindrance rather than a help to being able to apply what you learn. If you're a SWAT cop or door kickin' Soldier, then it makes a lot of sense to run the course in your duty gear, including armor. That's how you're going to be doing it for real, so the most value will be in training in your gear. If that's not what you do, though, running a lot of gear just to look cool may soon get in the way and stop you from learning. When you figure that going to a class far enough away that you'll have to stay away from home to go is going to cost you a thousand dollars or more, having a breach in learning is a catastrophic failure.

I'm gonna tell you what I ran in the class, and then I'm going to point out a couple issues that had to be worked around or changed. I did find some things that didn't work out as I had planned. That happens when new gear goes to class.

I had to carry four to five magazines per relay, which I did by a chest rig and a first line belt. I gotta shoot some photos, but that may have to wait till after the match this weekend. I also needed two to three pistol magazines. That number is variable because I wasn't using them a lot and I'm not certain I truly needed more than one spare. It was handy to have a pair, and I compete with a double pistol magazine pouch, so I think I'd have preferred that in any case.

My chest rig is the ATS Low Profile Chest Harness, which I carried four magazines and a tourniquet in. The harness holds three magazines in pouches, and has two upright utility pouches hard sewn to it. I used the right hand pouch to hold a Tac Med Tourniquet. The left hand pouch did multiple duty. I typically used it to carry an M4 magazine, but I also used it for my fourth MnP 9 magazine, and also for loose rounds. The thing that's different about my harness is that it was made of 500D (denier) instead of 1000D Cordura. It's about half the weight and about 70% of the strength of the heavier "thousand d" harness. For a training rig, it's just about perfect. I'm fairly sure they'll be available in the near future, but I'm not certain when.

I used an ATS War Belt for my belt kit, and for training, I found a lot to like about this rig. I ran an ATS War Belt Insert Belt, which turned out to be much better than I expected it to be. Its a flexible belt, which usually doesn't bode well for hanging a holster from it. Flexible belts will sag under the weight of the holster. However, since the inside of the War Belt is lined with hard side Velcro and the Insert Belt is soft side Velcro, they pretty much lock together. I also used ATS suspenders on that belt.

On the War Belt, I used a Safariland ALS holster for a S&W M&P9 with an X300 light from Surefire. The holster is attached to a UBL (Universal Belt Loop), which drops it down below the belt 2". The bottom of the War Belt is left open for just this purpose. That way, the hanger runs off the inner belt, rather than taking up valuable PALS webbing on the War Belt's outside. I also used a 500D Roll Up Dump Pouch from ATS behind my left hip, and used a Safariland M77 single M4 magazine pouch. This was used as a "speed pouch", and was typically where I was keeping the mag I used when I needed it fast or where I kept the magazine I loaded out of when doing the five round loads of the Modified Navy Qual. That was attached to the belt with a Safariland MLS hook. I also have the belt loop and ELS mounting systems, but those are for different purposes. Its a very flexible system.

I initially tried running an ATS double magazine pouch on my War Belt, by my Viking Tactics VTAC sling was getting caught on it. Early on, I moved it to the front of the Low Profile Chest Harness (LPCH from now on). That was somewhat less natural for me, since I pistol reload off the left hip, but I didn't find any other issues other than that the sling occasionally had to be moved over to access the mags. I could have hung them on the utility pouch, but since it's much less rigid, I decided that there'd be more trouble trying to get the mags out of a pouch that wasn't against a "solid" surface. The pouch didn't shift or flop on the left most magazine pouch of the LPCH, so that's where I ran it.

I ran a prototype hydration carrier from ATS specifically for ATS chest harnesses. It's not a final version, but that's gonna be a heck of a good seller. It's money and it probably doesn't even know it...but I do.

My carbine has been listed here several times, but I'll get some new pics of it and throw them in the gear photos that I'm gonna take. The only thing that's changed is that I've added XTM panels from Magpul to the rail, but she's so sexy I can't help but post photos of that gun.

I preloaded my 25 Magpul PMags. After talking to some friends that have done lots of training, and to Pat Rogers about this, I've come to believe there are advantages to preloading even more magazines, to the tune of 40-60. Loading 40 will get you about a thousand rounds in magazines. Why that's important is that other students will have done that. They're relaxing, hydrating, and talking to each other. There is much to be learned from other students, and it may or may not have something to do with guns, gear, or training related stuff. If you're jamming mags, you're going to be less able to be a part of that. The advantage of preloading even more is that you can just dump the partial magazines and grab full ones. Less time messing with loading is more time to spend talking to and listening to the instructor and other students. ABL: Always Be Learning.

It was amazingly hot and humid during the three days I took the class initially, so I wore long sleeve shirts. Wicking shirts are something I consider a must-have. Long sleeve wicking shirts would be even better. They do so much to keep you as cool as you can be under those conditions that they're almost life saving equipment. When Joe and I went back on Sunday for the second class, it was a good ten degrees cooler and breezy. The weather was much better, and I ran a short sleeve t-shirt and a lot of Bullfrog waterproof sunscreen. A long sleeve wicking shirt would have been money, and Joe confirmed that...because that's what he had on.

Because of the amount of time spent on the ground, long pants are a must. I used 5.11 tactical pants, because that's what I have. They gave 'em to me; I kinda have to use it when it's free and it works pretty good. I also used knee pads. In my case, they were Alta Superflex buckle knee pads. Joe borrowed my Black Diamond Telekneesis pads, and said they were a life (or knee) saver. Another good one to take a look at are the Hatch X-Factor pads. Elbow pads are not a bad idea. My elbows got some minor dings, and I would have used pads if I'd had them. For that job, I'd go with neoprene pads for their flexibility and comfort. Finally, I ran good ThorLo and Lorpin socks and a pair of The North Face hiking shoes. Ankle support is a good thing on uneven terrain, when shooting and moving and some running is involved.

My go-to-the-range, concealed and open carry belt is the same old black Aker gunbelt I've had since mid-'05. It refuses to die. I carried my Glock 19 to the range in a Peters Custom Holsters "Hold Fast" IWB rig. It's good stuff.

I think that's all of it. I may edit this later if I think of anything else or I get a good question about something I missed. Pics will be coming soon, probably over the weekend. I'm falling over and have to go to bed.


Josh said...

Haji, this post is invaluable to those taking their first steps (even if they are baby steps) towards getting squared away for a class or making the best of range time.

I'm taking taking notes and modifying my equipment as necessary. Much Thanks.

Haji said...

Thank you. In intended to add a disclaimer that my gear for that class came from work, but I guess it was too late at night. The ideas and reasons behind them are valid, though. As Pat said on T1 of the COC, "this is a way, not the way".