The one piece of kit nobody in the safe zone asks about…but really should. This is my £6 solution to carrying sniper kit in the field.
Down the years I’ve tried all forms of load bearing in airsoft. I’ve always believed it to be the bit that makes or breaks a loadout, especially for the sniper. I’ve spent days at home with all sorts of vests and webbing sets, swapping pouches over, trying on and then trying it with the rifle and ghillie to see how it fits together. You need to have enough carry space for your essentials, without carrying excess that will weigh you down. You need it to fit correctly without anything flapping about. And, crucially, you need to be able to get to the right kit at the right time.
Like a lot of Kicking Mustang fans, I was really taken with the his US M81 Enhanced Tactical Load Bearing Vest (full title, just search US army webbing though and it’ll bring it up). And was fortuitous enough to get my hands on one.
This is a great bit of kit. Well made, extremely comfortable padding on the shoulders and the pouches sit high up on the body and off the front (I generally dislike anything on the legs and only run a belt if I need to. This layout means I don’t have anything impeding running, crawling or laying prone).
There was just one problem with it. The pouches. Now, I know Kicking Mustang runs it no bother but I couldn’t get on with the pouches at all. I found they were a bit tricky to get into and… VELCRO! Nothing worse for your stealth skills than velcro. Also, although they fit one m4 mag no bother, I wanted an option to add different size and shape pouches. And a pistol holster, as most sites will insist on a sidearm.
So I hit Google images for other sorts of webbing in a similar layout. Trawling all of the worlds armed forces to see if I could find anything that would do the job. And I came across this –
(pic courtesy of Google – I didn’t hang around to pose for photos)
What you’re looking at here is a Dutch Army Load Bearing Vest. It comes in a beautiful DPM woodland pattern, was originally designed for Dutch airborne units, and is based on the US ALICE system. That means you can feasibly attach ALICE pouches, MOLLE pouches, the old British PLCE pouches or whatever you like – not even your top end real steel plate carriers can do that. So it’s very versatile for kitting it out the way you want it. The best bit? I got it for SIX POUNDS. And although it was from a surplus site, it was brand new and still in the packet. I’ve seen them on a few European surplus sites for around €10 and in the US for less than $10. They’re reasonably easy to find because they’re not state of the art, aren’t a popular item, and look pretty ugly at first glance so there’s practically few places struggling to shift them. But from the sniper perspective, these things are absolutely perfect. Nothing on the front, everything high up on the body and all the adjustment points you need to get it sitting just right. OK, so you’re still going to have to add or buy some pouches, but a lot of players will already have these.
Money saved on webbing means money to put into the rifle. I really can’t recommend this vest highly enough; it’s surplus quality with a low price and will take all the kit you need. And at that price, you wouldn’t be too worried about modifying it. In the next article I’ll show you what I did with mine to get it ready for the field.