Every year from 1988 to 1998 I was tested, at least once, on the correct drills for operating my service rifle; after that I conducted the test myself, ensuring that other soldiers were fully capable of using their personal weapon correctly. The Weapon Handling Test, as it’s known, is pretty strict and you don’t have to make many errors to fail – a single safety error is enough to have you sent out of the classroom to join the back of the line, and a handful of minor errors can have the same effect. So it was important to stick to the exact drills listed in the manual, and whenever a magazine came off the weapon those drills involved placing it back in the pouch.
Obviously, outside the classroom or marksmanship training, nobody actually bothered with that. I started off carrying the L1A1, the British version of the FN-FAL, and forcing those big, chunky mags back into a wet canvas webbing pouch wasn’t something you wanted to be doing in a rush. It was a case of popping the empty off the rifle, throwing it down the front of the baggy windproof smocks every well-dressed soldier wore back then, slapping on a fresh box of 7.62 ultraviolence and continuing the assault. Later on I “upgraded” to various models of the SA80 weapon system and just kept on doing the same thing. The magazines were smaller and the new nylon pouches didn’t shrink when they got wet, but fumbling the mag past the pouch dividers took an extra second or two. Stuffing it down the smock was still quicker, and once it was in there it couldn’t get away – the belt of my webbing would catch it when it reached hip level and I could retrieve and reload it later.
Unfortunately that technique doesn’t work so well any more. Now that almost everyone wears body armour, it’s a real struggle to get empty magazines inside your jacket. For a while people went back to doing it by the book but now the smart solution is to fit a dump pouch, or drop bag, to your gear. This is basically just a large, lightweight bag that stuff can be quickly stuffed into. Empty magazines, papers seized from a prisoner, that half-eaten Pop Tart you didn’t have a chance to finish before the order to ruck up and move out – anything you need to stow away in a hurry. Early dump pouches were improvised from old respirator cases or radio bags but now there are some excellent purpose-made ones available.
What do you need to look for in a dump pouch? First of all it has to be a good size; the whole point is that it’s easy to put things in, and it needs to be able to hold a good amount – at least half a dozen magazines is a good benchmark. Then you want something that doesn’t take up a lot of space when you’re not using it. Maybe the best solution is a fold-up one, like 5.11 Tactical’s Large Drop Pouch. This tucks away into a small, flat package that will sit neatly on your belt or vest, but yank up the flap and it opens into a capacious bag with a 6-inch neck – perfect for fast stowage. Another nice feature is an elastic draw cord, so you can easily make sure nothing you drop in there falls out again.
Buying a pouch isn’t the only solution – I’ve seen sandbags, and even old field jacket sleeves, fixed to vests. Find whatever works for you. A purpose-made one like the 5.11 pouch has a lot of advantages though, and it’s what I’d go for every time. It’s definitely worth sorting yourself out with something, because, when you’re in contact, every second counts and a dump pouch will save you enough to make a difference.
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.