There has been a theme brewing within the Everyday Marksman Discord server. The phrase has popped up enough now that it pretty much deserves it’s own hashtag: #tinkeringislife
The idea behind it is that we’re never really done messing with our equipment. There’s always a lingering idea of, “What if I tried this instead?”
A lot of my recent focus is an effort to revise my load bearing equipment. In the original article, I posted three different configurations, each with different philosophies behind them. I’ve gone through several iterations of each of them now, to the point that what I originally wrote no longer applies.
Today I want to touch on a particular one that’s become the focus of the project, something I’ve dubbed, “The Minuteman Harness.”
The Minuteman Harness
Like the Minuteman KISS Rifle before it, the idea here is actually about blending old thinking and new, like my old weapon system from the Air Force days. Connotations with Colonial Militiamen are a happy coincidence. I will admit that I was also inspired by Justin over at Swift Silent Deadly, who wrote up a great piece on recreating his old reconnaissance webbing from his military days. The harness I’m describing for you today is a scaled back version of what he wrote about.
My version is a bit of a mashup between the classic M1956 ILCE (pictured), mid-2000’s MOLLE, and modern materials.
But let’s get to the “Why” for a moment.
To date, my advice for the aspiring everyday marksman is to first put together a light to mid-weight battle belt, and then later supplement it with a minimalist chest rig. This combination provides you a with a huge amount of flexibility to tailor your gear to the task at hand.
I still think this is the way to go most of the time, especially if there are vehicles involved. Something that’s always stood out to me, though, is that the battle belt/chest rig combo represents two distinct pieces of gear. An assault pack, which you would need since it contains a lot of other important stuff like water, is a third piece of equipment to handle.
Some people just might prefer to go with an old school set of belt kit, and I wanted to explore the possibilities. Since #tinkeringislife, I started a thought experiment.
Grab-and-Go Fighting Gear
The thought exercise got me thinking about Scenario-X. If I only had time to grab one piece of gear with everything already on it- what would that look like?
Yes, I know you might be thinking, “I definitely want my plate carrier for that.” That’s great, and probably not wrong, but since I’m also thinking of everyday folks who haven’t spent $1k+ on a plate carrier and quality plates, bear with me here.
This question forced me to start asking questions about the right number of magazines to carry, water, medical, communications, or other miscellaneous items like maps, land navigation tools, pens, notebooks, and more. Since it all had to be in one piece of gear, that means there needed to be compromises.
The end result is this idea of the Minuteman Harness. The all-in-one piece of fighting gear to keep at the ready for bad times. Importantly, it’s a template I can start to share with new shooters who want more than a battle belt, but less than multiple pieces of gear.
I’ve been testing this idea out over several iterations now. Even though there are a one or two things I still think should be tweaked (#tinkeringislife), it’s time to start talking about it.
First I’ll go over the high level description, and then get down into my thinking and trade offs. Keep in mind that while I’m going to list specific items like pouches and harnesses, don’t think you need to go buy these same items. It’s the thinking and philosophy behind it that matters. There are many companies producing the rest of it.
The Big Picture
The foundation of my Minuteman Harness is a Blue Force Gear Beltminus. I have the first generation model in a Wolf Grey color. I bought it several years ago while it was on clearance for something like 60% off. Blue Force Gear is now up to the third generation, which improves on this design with better torsional stiffness and some padding around the hips.
The harness is almost entirely made of up a laser cut laminate material with adjustment webbing and mesh around the shoulders.
Working counter-clockwise from my front:
- Esstac Kywi AR-15 mid-height speed reload pouch
- BAE Systems ECLiPSE double magazine pouch
- Tactical Tailor radio pouch
- BAE Systems ECLiPSE canteen pouch
- SO Tech Viper A1 IFAK
- BAE Systems ECLiPSE canteen pouch
- BAE Systems ECLiPSE double magazine pouch
- T3 Tactical Platoon Sergeant Admin Pouch
- T3 Tactical tourniquet cover
BAE Systems ECLiPSE pouches appear for both my ammunition carriage and canteens. These pouches have been out of production for years at this point.
According to Soldier Systems Daily, BAE, a well known defense contractor, originally developed the ECLiPSE line back in the mid-2000’s as a commercial load carriage line. It was the brain child of Matt Johnson, formerly of Eagle Industries.
They won a few contracts for releasable body armor, and produced a line of gear to go with it. BAE spun the brand off as ECLiPSE Performance, and won a contract to supply Guardian Angel for the Air Force Pararescue community.
In 2012, they lost the contract renewal bid and shut the whole thing down. Tactical Advantage Inc purchased the remaining inventory, and has been selling it as new old stock ever since.
The reason I originally purchased any of it was that it was nicely made gear for cheap. I started with the canteen pouches back in the 2015/2016 time frame. At prices less than half of what they originally cost ($12 for a mag or canteen pouch, $20 for a SAW pouch, etc.), it gave me a lot of leeway to buy a bunch of stuff and experiment.
There is some really innovative thinking in the magazine pouches. The double mag pouch, for example, is a pretty common design I’ve seen across Eagle, First Spear, ATS, but I haven’t seen anyone else offer a combination of both Velcro closure and a bungee toggle system like this. It’s all well made, and my only drawback against it is the old school snap closure system for the MOLLE.
So, if you’re looking for some pouches and don’t mind limited color selection, give this stuff a look.
Now, let’s talk magazines.
What’s The Right Number of Magazines?
This is the question I struggled the most with.
In my original load bearing harness article, the configuration with the Beltminus carried six magazines in two triple mag pouches a la ALICE. I defaulted to six magazines plus one in the gun because that’s the standard US military combat load.
In a more recent iteration, I was using two First Spear quad mag pouches. Combined with the speed reload, this brought me to nine magazines on the harness and one in the gun for a fighting load of 300 rounds. I reasoned that this was acceptable because I wasn’t carrying a pistol along with it.
Honestly, this configuration worked well as a pure “gunfighting” rig. But I was struggling to work in some other pieces of equipment like a radio, TQ pouch, and other miscellaneous stuff. The small GP pouch I had on my front right was fine for a compass, bug cream, and chap stick, but not much else.
Inspired by Justin’s article and his discussion of using a SAW pouch for maps, notepads, signal gear, camo paint, and more, I wanted some expanded administrative capacity for an “all in one” rig. That meant further dropping magazines.
Replacing one of the quad mag pouches with a double brought me down to 7 + 1 magazines. That’s one speed reload and a quad pouch on my support side, and a double on the right. That was still plenty of ammunition for most things. In fact that got me started asking questions about the “right” amount of mags.
Thus far, I’d subscribed to the idea that “ammunition is time” and “you can never being too much.” But those messages were counter to the idea of being as light as possible for mobility. I started asking some members of the community with combat experience what they would think was “right.” I also went back and asked some of the guys I’ve interviewed in the past.
The answer kept coming back to somewhere between 3-5 on the belt and one in the gun. Their reasoning was that they were not planning raids or looking for trouble. 4-6 magazines was enough to break contact, maintain a disciplined rate of fire, and consolidate to a better defensive position. Should they need more, then the extras would be in a pack they could resupply from.
I took that to heart, and dropped the other quad mag pouch in favor of a double.
This provided the happy benefit of a convenient place to stick a radio. More on that later.
So that brings it down to 5 mags on the belt and 1 in the gun, or 180 rounds. If needed, I could always ditch the canteen in one of the canteen pouches and stuff another 4-5 magazines instead.
I’m also following the idea set up in my post about magazine pouches. One magazine is immediately available in an open-top Type I pouch, while the rest are in covered Type II pouches for better security.
Setting Up the Backside
Along the back side of the harness sits two canteen pouches and an IFAK at the center-back. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted to get this set up. Let me provide some context.
My first “mentor” about gear set up was Max at MVT. Even though we had never met personally until years later, his articles about load carriage and the MVT Fight Lite concept were hugely influential. His original writings involved a complete load bearing harness configured a bit like he had it in the British military. Later, he changed his suggestions to be a light battle belt paired with a chest rig.
One of the key reasons he gave for this shift was the possibility of vehicles. Load bearing kits with butt packs and utility pouches along the back are impractical when sitting in a seat.
That stuck with me.
Putting it to Work
For the Minuteman Harness, I wanted to keep the versatility to sit in a chair or vehicle, which meant large butt packs were out. Instead, riding at the middle of my back is a flat IFAK pouch from SO Tech. The one in the photo here is their mini version, which now rides on my competition/range belt since I liked it so much.
The minuteman harness now sports the larger Viper A1. Frankly, it feels significantly larger, and I prefer the mini one- but the money was already spent so I’m keeping it. . The flat IFAK is comfortable and doesn’t interfere with sitting.
The “killer feature” of this configuration is that it’s ambidextrous, and allows me to reach behind with either hand to yank the medical module out of it’s sleeve and start working with it.
Flanking the IFAK on each side is a canteen pouch. I always like to have at least one way to carry a hard-sided water container with me. For vehicles, these canteens can always be removed.
Put together, this configuration lets me use the full Minuteman Harness from a seated position just fine. I also ran the physical portion of the gear check a few times to make sure nothing pressed into my spine, and it worked great.
I also tested this with an assault pack. The pack rests a bit on top of the two canteen pouches and helps distribute the load a little. One downside is that the pack might ride a little higher on my back than it should. It’s fine with just a hat, but if I was wearing a helmet, the pack might push it forward and stop me from aiming effectively. There is plenty of adjustment in the harness straps to lower it down a bit if I needed to, though.
By the way, I don’t have to carry canteens in these pouches. They also work well as general purpose pouches and put a lot of common “tactical” objects in them.
While Justin’s use of a SAW pouch is a great idea, there were a few things that held me back. First, the position of the pouch on this harness would put it almost in front of my right hip. A SAW pouch is tall and would hinder freedom of movement with my leg.
So I set out to find an alternative that gave me plenty of storage for practical objects like land nav gear, signal tools, notepads, bug spray, and more- but didn’t hinder my mobility. I got a random tip from Mr. Sam Culpepper about T3 Gear. While the tip was about their TQ pouch, which I’ll get to in a second, I poked around their site and found something that seemed like it would be about perfect.
T3 Gear is located in Coronado, California. The founder is a Navy SEAL, and I appreciate that they’re putting out some good quality gear for a fair price. This isn’t sponsored or anything, I just want to highlight a good company.
The pouch I found is the Platoon Sergeant. They’ve taken it down from the website for the time being, but hopefully it comes back up soon. The pouch is a large inner compartment that fits a Rite in the Rain spiral notebook, Vortex Monocular, and other bulky items. There is also internal organization for smaller items like a compass, lighter, and other “stuff.” It fits perfectly for me.
The TQ Pouch
Something else I picked up from T3 was a TQ pouch. Actually, I grabbed several, but I’m only using one on the Minuteman Harness. The pouch fully encloses the TQ and protects it from the elements. This was important since the TQ sits directly on my front and is exposed to dirt, mud, or anything else I roll or crawl through. I was out of actual MOLLE space to put it, so I zip tied it in place along the top of the admin pouch.
The last thing to cover here is the radio pouch. Strictly speaking, this probably isn’t necessary. In fact, it would be pretty easy to slap a quad mag pouch back on here and fill the radio spot with two more mags. But since this is supposed to be an “all-in-one” deal, I figured that I might as well have a spot for it.
I had tinkered with putting it up on the shoulder, but it just felt too exposed. I contacted my friend NC Scout over at Brushbeater, and he had a few thoughts on the matter. His advice was to place it down on the belt line where it was out of the way but I could still access it with my support hand.
It’s not pictured, but my plan for the radio is using a remote speaker-mic routed up the harness and attached to my front. I can then run a aux line from the speaker mic to my ear pro. It’s a poor-man’s COMTAC setup, but it’s certainly more budget friendly.
So what Could be Modified?
Now that you’ve seen my thinking, what could I change?
Well, the first thing I know I’ll get asked is, “Where’s your pistol?” My answer is: there isn’t one. I’m not sure where we got the idea that everyone always needed to have both a primary and secondary weapon, but here we are. As Doc Larsen pointed out in a recent stream, handguns are a “nice to have” but not terribly useful in a fight. Aside from the fact that the Beltminus V1 doesn’t have enough torsional rigidity to really support a handgun, I decided that I was just going to go without it.
If I felt like I really needed one, then I can wear a drop leg holster attached to my pants riggers belt. Doing that would mean removing the strong side mag pouch to make room for the draw. So, naturally, that requires losing the radio pouch on the support side in order to put two more mags in that spot. In the end, I just didn’t think it was worth trying to make it work.
On that note…the other thing I could modify is dropping the radio pouch in favor of two more magazines. That would bring me back up to 8 magazines. I could figure something else out with the radio, like putting it on a pack, but that’s not ideal since it’s less accessible.
Wrapping Up – Where Will I Use This?
So what is the end result of this little thought experiment?
I really like this harness. I have two more aside from this one, including a complete Velocity Systems Jungle Harness that costs significantly more money- and yet the Minuteman Harness might be my favorite due to it’s combination of light weight, lower physical profile, and “everything you need, nothing you don’t” approach.
Going forward, I expect the Minuteman Harness to be my go-to piece of gear for any carbine-only training or competition events. If I need a handgun, then I’ll use a different system.
Moreover, I think this configuration serves as a really practical template for other Everyday Marksmen to work from.
Civil Defense SOP?
The military puts a lot of weight on the idea of standardization. There’s a lot of good reasons for this, including learning attention to details. The biggest one, though, is the idea that any individual knows exactly where to find important items on their teammates as well.
Consider first aid kits as an example. It’s common to establish standard operating procedures (SOP) that define where to place the IFAK on an individual, what contents are in it, and where those contents are located within the kit. That way, when any individual becomes a casualty, all of their teammates know exactly where to find the IFAK and begin treatment.
Remember that your IFAK is supposed to be for other people to take care of you should you become a casualty. It’s not supposed to be for you to treat others.
In the civilian world, we really don’t have such stringent standardization. Go to any training course or competition event, and you’ll see that nearly everyone has their equipment configured a different way.
Perhaps the Minuteman Harness can serve as a bit of an inspiration for a civilian SOP. What do you think?
Here are some quick general specs:
- Flat IFAK placed middle of the back
- 2x Canteen Pouches flanking the IFAK
- One rifle speed reload placed front support side
- 4 – 6 magazines carried in 2-3 mag pouches
- Admin pouch for misc items on front strong side
- Optional radio, dump pouch, or other utility pouch placed on the support side. If carried, it replaces a magazine pouch
This template requires 20-22 columns of MOLLE, keeps things away from the front of the hips, and covers most things a prepared civilian would need to do for a short to mid-length event.
#TinkeringIsLife: [Nearly] A Year Later
It’s been a bit under a year since I originally published this, and the harness has seen further revisions. I wanted to show you what they look like and talk about some of the lessons learned.
The bottom line, though, is that the Minuteman Harness has solidified its position as my favorite rig for “Everyday Marksman” things. It’s lightweight, comfortable, carries just enough stuff without being too bulky, and integrates well with a pack.
For the most part the harness is the same, with one notable exception. I acquired a Spiritus Systems Small GP Pouch that takes only three columns of MOLLE rather than the four columns that the T3 Platoon Sergent used. That allows me to mount the TQ pouch vertically on the harness itself rather than my improvised solution before.
I also shifted the order of pouches to put the leader pouch further on the strong side. This puts it in the “utility space” on the right side. I had two intentions here. First is that the two BAE double magazine pouches are roughly in the same place on both sides.
Secondly, if I wanted to bring a pistol, I could drop the leader pouch from the harness and run the holster off of my pants belt in that same area.
I went back to the Viper Mini IFAK on the back only because the larger one was a better fit on a different harness.
In all, I’m leaning towards using this as the model to suggest to everyone as an Everyday Marksman standard.
Great article. I found your series on load bearing gear while doing some research for my own kit. I participate in a monthly shooting league that is a series of scenarios, where you are moving and shooting with primary and secondary weapons so I also get a chance to try out some of my setups. My thinking is in line with some of yours. One thing I would add is that I really try to approach mine as layers rather than completely different setups. So for example, my gun belt is very similar to what you have described above, including… Read more »
Layering is standard SOP in the military SOF groups where the brass gives them a little room to make decisions based on operations – not so much for the grunts. I think it works well here too as Matt has extensively researched and posted about. Rucking is key to give you more options. Many people have loaded up PCs and 35 – 40 lb. backpacks they think they’re flying out the door and up the mountain with. Unless they’re regular ruckers like yourself – they’re going to be in for an awakening! I’ve gotten away from it myself (gradually returning)… Read more »
Thanks for reading, Gates!
The layering system with a belt, then chest rig/pc, then pack makes a lot of sense. Like I said early in the article, it’s the most flexible way to go and what I typically suggest. My goal here was thinking through what I could suggest to someone who doesn’t want to invest in more than piece of gear aside from their primary weapon and something to carry their gear.
Nice ‘tackle’ Matt! I think you’re trending in the right direction for us civilian minutemen. The heavy military combat influence on kits and loadouts compared to the reality of low round count in police shootings and self defense encounters should help us regular Joe’s find a balance. I think sidearms play a more significant role for individuals and small teams as a backup weapon than with a large fully outfitted group of riflemen who can cover each other or toss a grenade.Good write up ‘tinkerer’!
Years ago I put together an ALICE based belt/harness rig for hunting with a handgun. Like your ‘patrol’ harness it has a mix of Molle pouches on it as I slipped a padded Molle cover over a traditional ALICE pistol belt. At the time I was lucky to obtain the preferred GI issue ‘H’ style harness – they’re quite rare now. Loaded for hunting w/scoped magnum revolver/canteens/optics/radio and survival kit it weighs around 25 lbs. I have spent many days wearing this rig hiking over desert and mountain terrain in Southwestern AZ. There are real advantages to keeping things off… Read more »
Hey Paul! The round count question is a constant struggle, honestly. So much of it depends on the situation, threats, and training of the person carrying it. For example, someone who is untrained is likely to run a rate of fire way faster than they need to. For the most part, the templates civilians follow are military units with very different mission sets. But without understanding those missions and why the gear supports it, people fall into a trap. LRRP units, for example, carried an incredible amount of ammunition because they were behind the lines and could not be easily… Read more »
I’ve read stories of the ‘legendary’ LRRP (Long Range Recon Patrol) and SOG guys – especially from the Vietnam War era – amazing warriors! You ended your article with an idea of SOP for a Civilian Defense situation and I fully support the ‘militia’ concept and realize much of your site posts/podcasts are directed at that. This ‘all in one fighting kit’ you proposed hits ‘that mark’ perfectly! I might have a little different Scenario X lens I look at things through but much of what you present applies. BTW – interesting what you’re doing with the pictures – adds… Read more »
Fantastic write up as usual. Love the graphics and visuals. Interesting concept and for what its worth, I think Swift Silent Deadly and Everyday Marksman are fantastic sites and you guys share a wealth of knowledge. Which is quicker to donn/doff? Chest rig or the harness? I like the overt chest rig (like Mayflower UW style) just for the ability to have everything in front and a slick back, but an additional benefit of your harness is the ability to have 2x canteens and kind of spread it all out instead of being front heavy. No real life been there/done… Read more »
As far as speed goes, I generally think a harness like this is easier to get on and off than a chest rig. But that also depends on the chest rig. A split front one is easier than a “standard” one, if that makes sense.
The bandolier idea is really good. I have a quad mag pouch on the outside of my pack, and a GP pouch that can hold another 4-5 mags as well.
Thanks for a well-written article that really explains your thought process. I can see some value in training with a rig like this. However, in answer to your question, “Perhaps the Minuteman Harness can serve as a bit of an inspiration for a civilian SOP. What do you think?” I have to say that I think it’s pretty far-fetched (and I expect I’ll get pushback on this). The scenario in which you are going to have need to walk around overtly kitted up like this is pretty much going to be a full-on meltdown scenario, and while sure, that may… Read more »
I think my active duty time in the (German) military and after that being in the reserves was a good starting point for many things, but it also seriously skewed my perspectives on equipment. Now, I do have a plate carrier and I do have a helmet (which, incidentally, is reserve issued) and I think there is a place for them even when considering purely civilian use. But I agree with the opinion given on the Reflex Handgun blog that “minuteman gear” should ideally just be added to the EDC gear and not require switching belts, holsters etc. around. This… Read more »
Hey Bold! Good to see you again!
You’re right, this kind of setup is very high profile and has limited use outside of a very specific set of conditions. For most people, in most circumstances, discretion is the better option during an emergency.
This was more of a thought experiment about an all-in-one light carbine setup. I expect to use it primarily in training courses and competitions.
Hey Matt! I may not comment much, but I have become a regular reader and listener 😉 Regarding load carrying, I am pretty much in the same spot as you: in my own training, I often force myself to use the gear that is realistic for the intended application. In competition, I use a Helikon-Tex Mini Rig that can hold all kinds of rifle and pistol mags as well as speedloaders and loose shotgun shells. In a way, that is exactly the kind of reacting to the circumstances we are talking about: in competition, looks or de-escalation don’t matter at… Read more »
Good thoughts, Bold and thanks for chiming in. Developing a low-profile kit with as few compromises as possible, that still allows for discretion and fluid movement is my priority. To that end, have you checked out the “Dank Robber” minimalist chest rig? Just like it sounds, it holds the absolute basics, but can conceivable be worn under a jacket with few being the wiser. This, combined with a good IWB setup and a sling bag can actually carry a fair bit and be very versatile. Love to see more discussion on this topic…
I don’t think you’d get pushback here. This was mostly a thought experiment, and the chances of someone actually needing something like this is slim. You’re spot on that this is a very “high profile” configuration and wouldn’t make an appearance unless things have gone drastically sideways. LBE gear like this doesn’t appear in the gear hierarchy (https://www.everydaymarksman.co/podcast/gear-hierarchy/) until waaaayyy later. I even admitted that the best path for most people to pursue beyond their regular CCW setup is a light battle belt and a backpack. That said, the setup in this post is probably going to be my primary… Read more »
Thanks for your response, Matt. I really do appreciate the thought-process and discussion around this topic. And of course, I also have a ‘high profile’ belt setup that is largely just for training, although I’ve also started to question how much actual value there is in just having something for “training” if it isn’t what I would be likely to have on me in the real world. I’m continuing to explore ways to develop low-profile/incognito solutions with as few compromises as possible and would love to see this as a future topic for discussion.
I think the tricky part is that everyone’s situation is different. For example, someone in an urban or suburban area probably wants to stay a whole lot lower profile and a harness like this one is simply too much for all but the most dire circumstances. On the flip side, someone in an rural area with many acres of property would likely have no issue with a rig like this, or any other “overt” setup for walking the fence line. There’s certainly value in develping your version of a realistic low profile system and training with it. For me, realistically,… Read more »
Great article, after reading i got a question it was about the webbing, I always wonder how to effectively reload from the right hand size mag pouch when you use right hand shooting? i know it can be done using the left hand to reach the right side mag pouch but it is a bit tricky especially when wearing a plate carrier.
Thanks for commenting! So this is actually an entirely different article I started working on and haven’t posted yet. The short answer is that the mag pouch on the right is not really meant for reloading your weapon directly. The priority is reloading from the left (my support side). Then, when there’s a lull or break, I move magazines from the pouch on the right to “restock” the one on the left.
Thanks for the reply Matt. Looking forward to your new article. Your idea about the function of the right side is what i never though about, it give me new inspiration on how to set up my all-in-one webbing. plus with 6 mag on the left side or 4 in 308 is quite enough for one fire fight, then when there is a break as you said i can resupply from the right, also i think it is unlikely to encounter a firefight that will go through all 6 or 4 mag at once.
Just got a sale notice on the BFG base kit for $100. This post had been kicking around in my head for awhile. I jumped. Thanks for the updated Duce gear idea.