here is a review of some different chest rigs out there
Chest rigs are good for people carrying a pack since it usually has no belt to interfere with the pack belt and for those entering and exiting a vehicle a lot. I prefer these to vests since they are also cooler to wear having minimal material covering your front with most rigs having only webbing over your shoulders and across your back. This will also cover less when wearing overwhites. My modular vests may also have more webbing to attach pouches but when you put one pouch on it will interfere with another. The simple design of the chest rig keeps everything in a line and makes good use of the little space it has.
First off is the Ranger RACK.The one I have was made by BHI. It is a single piece unit with an attached bib that can fold into one of the 3 lower mesh pockets (one behind bib as well) that cover the entire rear of the rig. The construction is very good on this unit.
There are 3 columns of loops and 21 across on the body and the bib is 3 down and 6 across. All loops on the rig are useable. There are 2 fastex buckles on the front of the body but they will not release the unit when the bib is up.
The RACK has a lot of real estate for your pouches but it is not as comfortable as some. For me it seemed to sag in front from the weight and the bib also hung down putting a lot of strain on your shoulders. This was mostly from it being a single piece which does not wrap around as far so all the weight is in front. The attachment for the shoulder straps in the rear come off horizontally instead of at an angle which would be more natural. This also causes the body to twist downwards. The pockets close with only a 2" strip of velcro over the entire length of the pocket. If Murphy is with you this can cause items to fall out.
Overall this is a nice unit and is solid. Angled and thicker shoulder straps would help this unit a lot in my opinion. Average price is $100 for just the body. I think it is overpriced for how it wears compared to some of the others.
Next is the CSP vest made by Patriot Materials formerly known as Tactical Supply Systems. The material is strong and will last but not as tough as some. It is a split front with two 1 inch fastex buckles but the panels close so tightly it is like having a single piece unit. You could buckle it and attach a pouch between the panels. If you were going to do this you might as well use a single piece unit. The buckles are hard to open and close especially when you add pouches to the front. Like the RACK, the shoulder straps come off the rear horizontally. At first I thought the 1.5 inch shoulder straps would be comfortable being almost like a set of H-suspenders and heavier than the RACK ones but they did dig in when I added some weight. This was the least comfortable vest of the ones I tried.
Each panel was 4 columns high and 10 across. This is something that caught my eye since you could stack two grenade pouches on top of each other instead of most units with three columns where you add one grenade pouch and let one hang below or lose two loops in a high loop demand environment. Unfortunately they added an inch below the bottom row and 1.5 inches above the top row which is covered in velcro. I think if this was eliminated it would greatly improve this system since it would bring the buckles closer together causing less twisting in front. If I wanted to add "suck meters" to my chest rig I would sew it to the pouches I mounted so you could drop the velcro and space. Also the loops on the end were sewn almost to small to accept my pouches and even MALICE clips had to be shoved in to fit.
In my opinion a split front with fastex buckles should be adjustable. This would enhance this vest greatly. An adjustable front allows you to tighten the rear belt to open the front for a clean area to go prone on and allows you to adjust and tighten much faster and easier than a single belt in back. Also being able to open and adjust the front allows you to hang a buttpack off the rear strap if your so inclined.
The rear of the panels is codura instead of mesh like some. There are two pockets on each panel and they are big. Having the map pockets divided makes keeping small items very easy to reach. The entire length of the pocket closes with velcro and a holster sold by them will mount in the pockets.
The pockets are nice but are also the weakest part of this system. The shoulder straps are sewn to the inside of the vest so it is easy to get anything out of the pockets while wearng the vest but this causes the whole unit to sag really bad since the stress is on the pockets closure and the velcro rips open and close the whole time from the weight of the pouches on the front. If you have magazine pouches on the front you have to mount them on the lower three columns or you will run around with 4 open pockets.
I paid $35 for this vest in near new condition and they sell for around $50. If you can sew this would be a great bargain priced vest with a little work.
1 - The shoulder straps absolutely need to be mounted to the front of the pockets and not the rear. I'm not really sure of the reason they did it this way.
2 - The front buckles need to be adjustable. A couple inches of webbing would fix this.
3 - If your really good at sewing change the angle of the shoulder straps in back to 45 degrees for a more natural flow and cut off the top and bottom material and move the front buckles closer together. Of course if you can do this you could make your own vest.
The MAV (modualr assault vest) by tactical Tailor was my first chest rig. It comes in either a one piece or a split front. Like the CSP the front does not adjust but you can buckle and unbuckle without a problem unlike the CSP. I added webbing and in 5 minutes the front was adjustable. The real plus to this is you can adjust for wearing different clothing easily and tighten the rig in close for a more comfortable wear. Having your chest harness bounce up and down while you run really tires you out. My adjustment still has it close to the same position it would be in without webbing but greatly aids in donning and doffing. Each panel has 3 columns and 9 rows.
A split front body goes for $55 or can be found cheaper on Ebay. This is a really good rig for the money. The only thing I would change would be the front buckles.
Next is the SO TECH Hellcat. It comes as a single piece (MK1) split front with velcro/snap closure (MK2) and an adjustable fastex buckle splt front (MK3). The big seller on this is the ability of the vest to hold 6 M4, AR15 mags behind the PALS webbing with or without magpuls without using any of the front loops. If all I planned on using was an M4 only I would choose this harness hands down.
This is the most comfortable chest rig I've found. The weight is spread properly and even tight nothing pokes you. The only negative thing which may be a personal preference is that the internal magazine pockets snap towards you instead of away. When wearing bulky winter clothing I found them harder to open. Still they are much faster than going into a pouch. The PALS webbing is 3 high and 9 across on each panel and on the male buckles you can add a MALICE clip into the webbing that holds the fastex buckle for 10 on the left side.
Cost is $140 for the MK3 and less for the other two and well worth every penny.
I like to shoot .223 and .308 rifles so to be able to use one chest harness I used Tactical Tailor triple M4 mag pouches which hold either 3 M4 mags or 2 .308 magazines. Since I was doing this I didn't use my internal Hellcat pockets when shooting .308 or I had 2 empty pockets on the outside when using M4 mags (.308 mags will not fit into Hellcat internal pockets). Then along came the SO TECH Tomcat. It is a single piece chest rig almost identical to the Hellcat except the 6 internal mag pockets are adjustable to fit 12 M4 mags with or without magpuls, 6 .308 mags and 6 Ak47 mags.
For people who use different weapons but want one vest this would be the one to get. Remember you pick your rifle for the mission not the other way around.
The only thing I would do is have this as a split front for the reasons above. SO Tech will make one for $20 more than the $180 price.
No matter which vest you get a Tactical Tailor MAV shoulder harness is a great addition. It snaps right into the MAV and can easily be fitted to the other chest harnesses. The shoulders are padded and give a few PALS loops on the shoulders for a little pouch. Cost is around $30. I added one to my CSP vest and it was 100% better. The problem is if you do not have a split rig you have to either step into it or try and maneuver the whole thing over your head. With a split rig you put it on like a coat.
On my SO Tech, I added a few loops to attach pouches on the shoulder straps. Everything fits fine on my panels but if the need arises I have the option.
A low cost way is to increase the use and space on your chest rigs or vests for that matter is to use shingles or wedges. These will hold 1-3 .223 mags and even come in .308 versions. Using one of these willallow you to carry lets say 3 M4 magazines and you can still attach pouches on top of this.
Another option is the Esstac Boar which with special inserts can carry .223, .308 or AK mags. This system is around $300 though and whole insides have to be changed. Compare this to a $50 MAV or even a $180 Tomcat. Esstac makes extremly good gear so if this is not a problem I wouldn't hesitate getting any of their gear.