The first set of load bearing equipment I was ever issued was a set of 1958-pattern webbing. I’ve talked about this before, especially it’s almost-supernatural ability to absorb water and any other liquid that comes near it (which would have been interesting if the Soviets had ever unleashed all of those chemical weapons), but in general it was an effective and flexible system. It had storage for all of the essentials for a 24-hour field load, but from a tactical point of view the heart of the rig was the two ammunition pouches.
The ’58 ammo pouches were designed to hold 20-round magazines for the L1A1 rifle, but made long enough that 30-round mags for the L4 Bren LMG would also fit. The pouches weren’t complicated; they were just rectangular containers that practically anything could be stuffed in. When the standard issue was four 20-round SLR mags per man, three would usually be crammed into the left pouch, with the fourth on the weapon. That left the right pouch free for the cleaning kit, grenades and either an LMG mag or 50 rounds of 7.62mm link for the Section gunner. This was a very practical design for standard infantry use, and still is. An infantryman has to carry ammunition for support weapons as well as his personal weapon, and ammo pouches need to be flexible enough to cope with this.
If you’re doing law enforcement or security work, however, things are a bit different. Your only priority is to carry enough ammo for your personal weapons and have it as easily available as possible. The same applies for many special duty troops and even infantrymen on peace support ops. If you’re only going to be carrying your own ammunition in standard-size magazines, general-purpose bomb bags like the ’58 pattern ones probably aren’t your best option.
Equipment is moving away from the old-style belt model and, thanks to MOLLE loops, it’s now easy to fit pouches wherever they suit you. That means you can spread mags out instead of stacking them and, when you’re operating from a vehicle in bulky armor, that can give you a lot more freedom of movement. Something like a Condor triple mag pouch has the capacity of a traditional pouch but a much lower profile, so it’s less likely to snag when you’re moving in and out of vehicles or rooms. It has a larger base area but, because it’s not restricted to being worn on the belt, you can find space for it pretty easily.
For even more flexibility, you can go for single-mag carriers. ITW’s FastMag carrier is a slim, low profile polymer holder that securely retains a single STANAG rifle magazine and can be mounted for top or bottom access anywhere that has MOLLE or PALS webbing. It’s small enough that you can fit half a dozen of them among your other gear, giving a very useful boost to your ready ammo load.
Specialized mag pouches have another advantage. General purpose ones usually need a full top flap to retain the assorted munitions that can be shoved inside. If a pouch is only ever going to hold 5.56mm rifle mags, it can be designed to retain them in a way that gives faster access. The Condor pouch has rapid-release elastic cords; the FastMag has an internal retention system. Both are extremely fast to operate and, because they’re single pouches, you don’t need to refasten it right away; the pouch is now empty, and you can drop the old magazine in a dump pouch or down the front of your jacket.
Modern military and law enforcement work has lots of new challenges. Gear is evolving to keep up though, so take advantage of it. Distributing your ammo load with specialist pouches makes life easier, and can save seconds when it really counts.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.