Morrison Industries (another small veteran-owned business, by the way) recently posted this op-ed about the evolution of gear (or lack thereof). It’s the very first post from their new website and is a hell of a debut…promises great things to come. I thought it brought up some damn interesting points, and although I would maybe argue just couple of things (possibly just semantics) I think it’s worth spreading the word. That’s why it’s posted here. No one can argue the point that  gear is frequently misused and/or over-carried. Nor (in my opinion) can it be argued that some kit isn’t actually built to solve problems that don’t exist (lots of it obviously is). That said, I personally think we have seem some great evolution in gear, we’ve just seen some horrible regression in implementation and use - again, that may be just a semantics issue, not a contradiction to what the author (presumably Nathanial Morrison) posits below.

Somebody should make the brass read this Morrison Industries blog post thoroughly…and the six points he brings up should be taught to every new troop by his NCOs.

I would certainly rather have to go to war today with the equipment available than what we had in the desert storm days…I just wish our military was practical, even ruthlessly pragmatic, in its use and requirement. More of a Rhodesian philosophy maybe.  DR

Morrison Industries is also on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MorrisonIndustriesLTD)

 

Has Gear Evolved? Or Did It Just Change?

 

Back in my day… My goodness, I’m officially old enough to say that! How time flies! But seriously, back in my day we used the ALICE gear. ALICE web kit, ALICE pack, etc… It was good kit. We were training for those long-range missions and flirting hard with CQB. It all fit together and with a few mods it worked very well everywhere we went.

Modifications did happen. I used to have a sewing machine and I modified my gear and ended up doing a good bit for the other guys on the team. The first thing that came out was velcro. A bunch of use did a number of uniforms in velcro. But it was so damn loud that we abandoned it. We also found that it attracted dirt and leaves like a magnet and that clogged it so bad that it didn’t work at all. We also found that it sucked when wet, especially in salt water. Freefall speeds tended to rip things open as well. I will never forget a day at Camp MacKall when we took contact. We dropped and slithered backwards down the slope we were on. Every one of us with velcro on our LBE had lost the contents of our pouches and the velcro was so clogged with leaves and sand that we had to tape the pouches shut for the next 2 days. After that I had the velcro removed and sailing snaps installed. I have viewed velcro as largely worthless since that day. Granted, in some applications it is genius. But the trick is understanding where those applications are.

When Operation Enduring Freedom kicked off the old garrison Army rules were shredded and overnight we started running chest rigs. Chest rigs are fine of you are carrying a mountaineering pack. If you load the front of the torso with no counterweight you instantly induce massive amounts of strain to the entire back, especially the low back. So if you wear a proper pack this is OK. But most do not. So it is impossible to call this progress from a human performance perspective.

Then came Operation Iraqi Freedom and the demand by the brass to wear bodyarmor. This is where the real trouble began. Body armor reduced lung capacity by no less than 40%. Cumberbund style armor is exponentially worse. On top of that we are ordered to carry insane amounts of weight on it. So, with scapula pressed into the back plate and stomach pressed into the front plate, MASSIVE low back problems present themselves. This is perhaps the single most destructive thing the military has ever done to the soldier. From a human performance perspective this is nothing short of an epic disaster for our armed forces. One might go so far as to say it is criminally negligent. The ability to maneuver is obliterated with body armor and all the ridiculous gear stratted to it. Then add in temperature, environment, altitude, fitness levels, etc… and you have the perfect storm.

Then came the tactical wanna-be… The Airsoft and Paintball crowd almost overnight took over the market for all things tactical. Worthless kit flooded the market and Privates started buying it up as fast as they could while old NCOs like me looked on in a state of shock. These days the market is so choked with “stuff” it makes things difficult for even the informed to make the right choices.

 

Here at Morrison Industries we use a 6-part checklist to evaluate equipment.

1.     What are your actual requirements? For example, a PJ or CCT has to be able to jump and dive all of his equipment. He also needs to be able to climb with it. That makes things very challenging. There is no greater moment of clarity for a guy as that when he discovers he cannot get his parachute on over his cool looking kit.

2.     What do you NEED? As in the real world NEEDS. Not what you want or looks cool. What do you really need? Do you actually need that “Admin Pouch” or is the old method of carrying that stuff in your pocket the better way to go? Have you thought about what it will do to your ability to climb or lay in the prone? Does it affect weapons handling? You get the idea.

3.     What products address this need in the most simple and KISS way possible? Bells and whistles do not make the gear better. Always use the minimalist approach. Most things are unnecessary, some are essential. I carry an MSR Reactor stove because it works everywhere, it’s fast and the benefits outweight the size for me in most environments. Especially the higher and colder it gets.

4.     What do you ACTUALLY KNOW about the needs, the items and the details? This is huge. Did you know that Gore-Tex is the leading cause of blisters and athletes foot because it traps moisture in most situations? So is Gore-Tex the devil? No. In Seattle or New England in the Spring is is essential! If you don’t know, get educated and remember the advertisers are trying to get you to buy their stuff.

5.     Have you tested it in EVERY way conceivable and solicited at least 5 other opinions? To that end, the negative opinions are the most important. Are they right and you’re wrong? You have to be open to that possibility. You should ask around first, especially to the most experienced guys you can find before wasting your money. Combat vets of multiple deployments are a great place to start.

6.     Does it have to cost that much? If it is a Berry Ammendment Compliant item you can be assured the profit margins are barely there. If it’s made overseas, most large companies are making a killing on it. But beware because depending on what factory made it, the quality may be equal to US products or significantly less. If the price is too good to be true, you are about to be let down.

 

Those checkpoints should help you to narrow the field on what is good for you and appropriate for your needs. If all else fails, send us an e-mail and we’ll try to help you out as best we can. One of the best ways to get other opinions is to post on our Facebook page. There are a number of very knowledgable folks there who can help out.

In conclusion, it is my professional opinion that military gear has actually regressed rather than evolved. I see it as my job to bring the best of it to one central portal for you the customer. Anything that I sell either enhances human performance in combat or has a neutral effect. I look forward to your participation in the search and manufacturing of the best equipment and performance.

 

 

Note: Morrsion Industries is also running a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale (10%) using discount code Black_Friday_2012

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Pete Sheppard November 26, 2012 at 4:26 am

Good article! It wasn't that long ago that civ gear was considered light and flimsy; if you wanted 'near indestructible', you used mil gear, even though it was heavy and bulky.
How times have changed.

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Jonnyblock November 26, 2012 at 6:01 am

ALICE gear was horrible and everyone knew it even at the time. I still have scars on my lower back from that crappy web gear. ALICE was 1950's technology, it came out in the early 60s. There have been huge improvements in load-bearing gear since then -though I agree most sold out to big profits -Eagle, ATK, Camelbak or just couldn't figure out the military loads Arcteryx, TNF, etc.

Put on an ALICE pack with 60-80 lbs in it and walk 5 miles over uneven terrain, then put on a high-quality pack like Mystery Ranch, Granite Gear, etc and repeat the test. The difference is HUGE!! Now try it with body armor on first -even bigger difference! Gear has evolved, you just have to do some work to sort through the BS. Do your homework, ask around -it's out there. Maybe just haven't sold out to the dime-a-dozen distributors.

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Pete Sheppard November 26, 2012 at 6:12 am

Heh. I trained with WWII-issue gear at Marine Corps OCS in 1975, then with ALICE in 1977 (two separate training increments). When properly loaded, the WWII pack put the weight up on the shoulders; great for marches. With the ALICE rucksack, though far roomier, we were told to pack the heavy stuff at the bottom of the ruck, so it was a painful lever on my shoulders.

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majrod November 26, 2012 at 10:17 am

Johnny – Really? What are the differences? How is weight distributed differently or how is the fit of the pack different?

Pete – I'm surprised. I was comventional and always taught the opposite. Get the weight as high as possible.

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Pete Sheppard November 26, 2012 at 10:45 am

We just did what we were told. ;-)
When those nice (Marine) camp counsellors with the stripes spoke, we obeyed!

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Moe Sizlack November 26, 2012 at 7:02 am

Wow…ALICE gear! Those were the days….but hey. What irks me the most is most guys who use gear now days do not know how to wear the gear they are issued(example..not using all the molle webbing when applying gear to gear, and resulting in flapping gear). Using gear takes proper training. I remember those ruck marches back inthe day..how people would pack their ruck, and NOT secure things down as tight as they should have…the sore shoulders, the painful lower back, and the painful shins, and so on.

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Lance November 26, 2012 at 11:49 am

Most of what Ive seen is a jumble of LBE ALICE and MOLLE gear used mixed and matched all over. SO I guess you have to be user friendly and its nice there all compatible.

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SleepyDave November 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Yeah, after all these years, and all this gear, I still like my old Blackhawk SF LBV. It was pretty gucci in its day, it carried a LOT of stuff, and it didn't kill my back. I sold it many years ago, and I've regretted it every day since.

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Snuffy November 27, 2012 at 8:45 am

But how could it have worked? It didn't have molle loops so you couldn't customize it and put an ipad pouch on it…..

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Zig Zag November 26, 2012 at 6:43 pm

I agree with the author, David Reeder. There is too much tactical gear and the market is saturated. Soldiers are over burdened with new gear and technologies and cops and civilians are following suit. It's ridiculous when you consider the amount of gear and gadgets and weaponry that US (or most other NATO) soldiers carry in comparison to the Afghan insurgents. It's also typical of a high-tech industrialized state to believe that the solution to any problem is (more often than not) more high tech gear.

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JM November 27, 2012 at 10:16 am

Simple method: Go with what worked well for the guys before you, working a similar job to you. While I did see guys outside the wire with laughable, sometimes burdensome, "cool-guy" gear (yes, even a SFC), the majority of the PX Rangers had jobs never requiring them to leave the wire/use the equipment, or find equipment faults. Since I didn't have countless dollars to waste, most of the high-speed gear that I did buy was already well tested in theater with others and was a dramatic weight/durability improvement over the issued item.

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E.H. December 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm
J Hill August 19, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I remember my first deployment. Had an IBA, some molle gear, some ALICE gear. I put too much stuff on my vest, put it in places I couldn't reach, and had stuff I didn't need, just because I thought it looked cool. Basically, everything that I could have done wrong, I did. Next deployment, I fell prey to the cool guy bug, and got a ton of different stuff, looking for what I thought would work best. Wasted a ton of money doing that, when I could have just talked with a few of my NCOs and asked what they would recommend.

Third deployment, I learned my lesson, and only put necessary stuff on my vest, and stuff that worked. Made a heck of a difference. It was still heavy as crap, due to the amount of required gear we had.

My personal gear has changed a lot over time as well. My AK rig is a simple chest rig, 4 mags in bungee topped pouches, 2 G19 mags, small med pouch, and that's it. Camelbak gets thrown on over that, maybe subload belt. Extra mags in my backpack. I can run fast, shoulder my weapon fine, and can get very low in the prone (minus the backpack sticking up if its on).

TLDR: ask smart and experienced people what gear you should get before you waste time and money.

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