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The Rifleman Harness: Old School is New Again

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I was surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response I got when I wrote about the Minuteman Harness. The intent of the post was simply exploring what a “grab and go” set of belt kit might look like for a modern prepared citizen. From the conversation that it kicked off on here and social media, I truly get the sense that there’s pendulum swing coming back towards belt kit.

The “Minuteman Harness”

It shouldn’t be a surprise to you that I’m always trying to change and experiment with things. After all, tinkering is life, and the original kit configurations I wrote about in my article about load bearing equipment (LBE) have long been replaced with new thinking.

The Minuteman Harness was the first, and today I’m diving down it’s bigger brother: the Rifleman Harness. I’m also going to tell you why it probably isn’t the right path.

Philosophy of Use for the Rifleman Harness

To be clear, the Minuteman Harness is the more appropriate solution for the average neighborhood defender or prepared citizen. It’s lightweight, contains the essentials, and provides just about all of the capability you might need in a grab-and-go kit for patrolling the neighborhood.

Aside from that, a combination of battle belt, chest rig (or plate carrier), and an assault pack is another great option with a ton of flexibility- so don’t think I’m discounting those at all.

Let’s say that now you have a need to go a bit further down the LBE rabbit hole. Rather than a primary task to maintain a security presence, you’re actively patrolling further away from your community and have a stronger need for sustainment.

The Rifleman Harness is an evolution on ALICE mixed with classic British military PLCE belt kit. My intention for it is fighting and surviving for alongside other similarly-equipped team members for 24 hours without any additional equipment or resupply. In practice, that means more ammunition and more utility space to store essentials. The harness should still work in conjunction with a ruck to go beyond that 24-hour time frame as well.

I also wanted the harness to be flexible regarding the weapon platform. While I would plan to use a 5.56 rifle, I didn’t want to rule out the possibility of carrying a 7.62 DMR-type rifle, either.

Breaking it Down

If you remember my old harness configurations, the Rifleman Harness is best seen as combination of “hot and muggy” with “rolling heavy.” Since I first wrote about those old systems, I further invested in the rest of the Velocity Systems Jungle Kit, which meant the outer utility belt and h-harness to complement the jungle pouches I already had.

I took some of the lessons learned from the Minuteman Harness and carried them forward. The most obvious was including a “leader pouch” on the strong side to hold important items like land navigation tools, notebooks, camo paint, survival tools, and other miscellaneous items. However, as much as I wanted to use a similarly-sized pouch, I just couldn’t make it work, so I stuck with a smaller general purpose pouch to hold just the essentials.

Another theme you’ll see in my kits is a single open-top speed reload pouch combined with several covered pouches. This offers a balance of speedy access to one reload while protecting my remaining ammunition.

Here’s the breakdown going left to right on the harness:

The underlying belt is a Velocity Systems Gen 2 Operator Utility Belt (and minimalist inner belt) along with their six-point Jungle H-Harness. Yes, in total this rig costs a lot of money. In fact, it’s probably absurd amount for someone who doesn’t “operate” professionally and have agencies pay for equipment. I’ll come back to this with more affordable alternatives in a bit.

Using all of the pouches as intended (i.e. not using canteen pouches to carry ammo), this doubles ammunition carrying capacity of the Minuteman Harness up to 10+1 standard 5.56 magazines, or 330 rounds.

While the Jungle 5.56 pouches aren’t designed for it, they do hold two 7.62 PMAGs or two M1A magazines each. That means I could always “flex” up to a heavier platform and retain a respectable 7+1 capacity there as well (160 rounds of 7.62×51).

Keep in mind that just because the capacity is there, you don’t need to carry all of the ammunition. One benefit to the enclosed Type-III pouches is that you can use them for lots of things including optics, smokes, or IFAK inserts. Be creative.

Laying on the ground and loaded up, you might think this looks very crowded. Keep in mind that when actually wearing it, the harness wraps around the body and creates space between each element.

Lastly, I usually get questions about the bungee cord running around the rear. That’s a 1/4″ thick bungee that I tighten or loosen as needed. It provides tension and pressure against the rear pouches to help collapse them as things come out of the pouch. It reduces rattling and bulk.

Still No Pistol

Like the Minuteman Harness, I did not equip the Rifleman Harness with a handgun. Even though this belt is rigid enough to handle the weight, the philosophy of use is a team-orientation- and that means extra rifle ammo is more useful to me.

The belt has enough rigidity to support a pistol, though. If I really wanted to do it, I would drop the ATS IFAK pouch and mount the holster there.

Why drop the IFAK and not the mag pouch? On this rig, the h-harness attaches to d-rings on top of the jungle pouches. Losing the mag pouch from the right side means not having a suitable alternative mounting point. So in practice, I would drop the ATS IFAK and turn the mag pouch into an IFAK by stuffing a medical insert into it. Coincidentally, an ATS Slimline Mag Pouch (which I use on two other rigs) has an insert that fits neatly into the Jungle 5.56 pouch.

What’s in the Butt Pack?

This is a question that comes up a lot. The butt pack has space, but not that much space. You must be selective about what goes in it. A lot of it is personal preference, but I think there are some standardized items that always belong. I also ran the question by Brent0331 during an interview one time.

Some quick items to standardize on:

  • Poncho / Rain top
  • One complete MRE (broken down)
  • Extra pair of socks
  • Wet wipes
  • Sunblock
  • Bug cream
  • Basic weapon maintenance tools
  • Shelter kit (i.e. cordage and stakes to use with the poncho)
That’s really about it, and you probably won’t have room for much more. If you need more than this, then the bet is adding a ruck. Speaking of that…

Ruck Integration

One of the key points about the Rifleman Harness is ruck integration. Velocity Systems designed the whole kit with this in mind. The pouches along the rear form a shelf for a ruck to ride on. This helps transfer some of the load from your shoulders to your hips.

However, this works best if you use two of the Jungle General Purpose Pouches rather than the butt pack. I have those pouches as well, but settled on putting them on another system. The problem with the butt pack is that it doesn’t have as much structure to it, so it slopes away from the back rather than having a level surface. The reason I stuck with it anyway is that the butt pack takes up one less column of MOLLE compared to two GP pouches, and I needed that real estate. With enough contents in the butt pack, it works “good enough.”

Building Your Version

I mentioned earlier that this harness all together is way more expensive than most people are willing to spend. Doing the math now, this rig totals up to $693 today before shipping and taxes. That’s probably absurd.

Note that I didn’t buy it all at once and actually spread the purchases out over a few years. I didn’t have pressure to do it all at once because I already had suitable equipment.

That said, you might be looking to get set up more quickly and need to assemble it next week. If you don’t have the cash to burn on the Velocity Systems gear, constructing a suitable alternative is an ongoing discussion in the Everyday Marksman community.

Option 1: ALICE GearAlice kit

The first option, and probably the least expensive, is locating ALICE equipment. The Rifleman Harness is, after all, an evolution of this very piece of equipment, so there’s not really much wrong with defaulting to the classic.

My friend Justin at Swift Silent Deadly did a great write up on configuring ALICE for a modern era. There are some tradeoffs here, particularly in ALICE mag pouches that weren’t designed for PMAGs, but it’s a workable solution that comes in around $150.

Option 2: Direct Action Gear Mosquito System

Site contributor Diceman brought this one to my attention a while ago, and I think it’s a good step up from ALICE. Direct Action is a spin-off of Polish brand Helikon-Tex. As near as I can tell, their equipment is made in a variety of places, including  Poland, the US, Vietnam, and Korea. The platform itself consists of a low profile h-harness along with an outer belt system. You can buy them separately as well.

Combined, those two items come in at about $180. From there, you need to add an inner belt and pouches. The benefit is that you can use whatever belt and pouches you want, so you can go cheap or go expensive as you see fit. There would be nothing wrong with using old surplus BAE Eclipse pouches like I did on the Minuteman Harness and a basic riggers belt. That would keep your cost pretty minimum beyond the initial harness and belt.

Option 3: Tasmanian Tiger

Another brand that came to my attention from contributor MLC is Vietnam-made Tasmanian Tiger. The complete Warrior Belt Mk III system of belt and harness comes in at an affordable price for those working on the budget end of things.

Do I think the harness design is the best? No, not really. I also can’t speak to its durability or anything- but at the price they are asking, it might just be worth a shot.

Again, you’d have to supply your own pouches, but that gives you the flexibility to use whatever you want. You could go premium with the high end brands, or go for old surplus and “new old stock” from sites like Entry Gear. Both will get the job done and you’d save a ton of money in the long run.

Option 4: Convert a Battle Belt

The last option is simple enough- purchase an h-harness and add it to a battle belt. My standing advice about battle belts is to keep them focused on the basics, i.e. “make holes and plug holes.” The reason for that is weight. The whole point was to avoid the need of an added harness to stabilize the weight and balance of an overloaded battle belt.

In this case, feel free to load up the belt and then add the harness anyway. You’re effectively converting away from the battle belt format to become LBE.

This is basically the same approach as the Direct Action Gear option above. You can find harnesses from Tactical Tailor, ATS, and others. I personally think the ATS Harness and War Belt would make a great cost-effective (and made in the USA) combo.

Wrapping Up – Where Will I Use It?

And there you have it, a thorough breakdown of my Rifleman Harness and some other cost-saving options to replicate it. So short of a full on Scenario-X situation, where will I personally use this rig?

Frankly, of my various load bearing equipment setups, this one is the least useful to me in it’s current configuration. It carries more ammunition than I would need for an average training or competition event, the lack of a handgun removes it from contention in a two-gun or gun and gun event, and it has a lot of bulk. About the only place I really see using this kind of harness is in a multi-day small unit tactics event like those taught at One Shepherd or Max Velocity Tactical.

After going through all of the effort and expense to build this, I’m more likely to break it back down and rethink some of the decisions. Maybe that means dropping an ammo pouch to mount the radio directly to the belt. Another possible issue is the buttpack. Perhaps it’s the romantic in me, but when doing my equipment checklist, I can’t help but feel like the thing is just a big mass of “stuff” hanging off my backside that I would rather go someplace else.

Is this the right kind of configuration for you? Well, only you can answer that. Load bearing equipment like this is great for long patrols on foot and over uneven terrain, but it will absolutely cause issues with riding in vehicles or confined spaces. With this much bulk, things are bound to snag on it at inconvenient times.

If you need this kind of load carrying capacity, then it’s an otion. However, I think most prepared civilians simply aren’t going to ever need to step up to this level and would be better served by a more minimalist approach or a more flexible one with multiple components that scale over time.

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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Oldest First
Newest First

Well thought out rig Matt! Yeah – pricey for ‘non-professional’ community militia members! I started the gear journey with ALICE and find no great enough advantage to ‘upgrade’. I hunt and hike with various configurations and am quite comfortable with it. I fell a bit down the ‘door kicker’ rabbit hole with body armor and a modern but reasonably priced PC kit but not something I’d frequently go to. I haven’t been able to reason out a ‘one kit for all’ so I’ve settled on a ‘situational’ system where I have weighed ‘likely to use’ in an array of rigs… Read more »

Replying to  Paul

Really like that Max-V Jungle Buttpack! I can’t find any ‘affordable’ ALICE butt packs in decent condition. I’ve been using the GI issued MOLLE ‘fanny pack’ with some added D-rings for the harness. Works well and like you mentioned, if I need ‘more stuff’ I’ll put it in the backpack which should contain re-supply and sustainment items – ammo, water, food, etc. The Helikon-Tex brand gear is extremely popular – maybe the Russian/Ukraine war?. Tasmanian Tiger seems to be popular with the Airsoft crowd but likely good enough for ‘minuteman’ use. I’ve looked at it but when I see the… Read more »

Austin Johnson
Austin Johnson

I did a similar harness by attaching an h harness to a belt kit. I was also inspired by alice/plce kit in order to build out my kit. I have the ability to carry, 8 rifle Maga, 2 1lt canteens, buttpack with a similar loadout, ifak, 2 pistol mags, knofe and drop leg pistol holster. When combined with a chest rig or plate carrier it greatly increases capability. Check it out on my insta @not_the_atf_aj


Long time lurker on M4C, I really love your setup and was able to build something similar off an old eagle industries mav type harness. Thanks for the post and inspiration.

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