[German]: Lest die Review auch auf deutsch als PDF download hier.
Blue Force Gear is a name that we will all be familiar with and certainly more so over the course of 2013 with their Armour carrying system the ‘PLATEminus’. Now without being too presumptive I would imagine that many of us fall into two camps when it comes to BFG (Blue Force Gear). Camp A: own and have BFG kit in their locker and like & use it and Camp B: Don’t own it but know people who do who talk about it with great gusto. Now I was very much in camp B until late in 2013 when I was given the opportunity to get my hands on the PLATEminus & M4 Triple magazine pouch from their ‘Ten Speed’ line of products.
When it arrived the first thing I did was to just ‘touch’ it and Yes I know how that sounds but the materials used needed to be touched as it was quite unlike anything else I had held before. The second thing I did was to look at how the straps on the M4 pouch worked as again being a bit of a Neanderthal I was only used to 1000D Codura with snap fasteners. Both gave me an insight into what I was holding and got the grey matter kicking into action, after that it was a rush to get this into my natural, rural settings of sunny Scotland.
Before we kick off into the specifics of this kit, my thoughts, details and other such areas I would like to make this clear. This is a PLATE CARRIER, it has a very low profile, it is lightweight and it has been designed with low visibility (pouches used will change this) and concealment in mind. It is not here to replicate or replace most other Armour / Plate carriers on the market. These key elements will be addressed again at various stages during this article.
This is an ultra-light weight plate carrier designed to accommodate SAPI style armour. I was using a ‘medium’ sized rig although you can get a larger version. I was not using ‘ballistic’ plates but that of training / dummy plates (each plate weighed in at around 3.5lbs). With those inserted the total carrier weight came in at under 8lbs, yep, the math means that the carrier itself weighed less than 1lb (circa 334 grams).
The carrier is split into two elements the ‘plate pocket’ and the ‘MOLLE’ rows. The Plate pockets are joined, very securely to the MOLLE rows around the edge but there is a noticeable gap between those two layers. This gives the impression that it’s all loose and that was one of my initial concerns, thankfully I was proven wrong. The plate pockets are made up of a codura / tweave fabric while the MOLLE itself is made up of laser cut, Ultracomp laminate material. The MOLLE is based on a 6×6 row and does have limitations when it comes to real estate, although we will touch on that later on.
The front and back panels are secured by 1” webbing straps with side locks and a small amount of elastic to absorb movement. The side locks are the only piece of hardware on the whole rig and they have spared no expense by using ITW products. The shoulder straps also follow the core elements of this rig (low profile, light weight) and are very easy to adjust, very secure and also include ‘cable routing solutions. I think you could run a bladder hose along those as well, although I have not tried myself.
Ten Speed Triple M4 Magazine Pouch
This was the pouch that came with the PLATEminus and was the only pouch I ran on it over the review period. Like the carrier it uses both a very high grade elastic and the Ultracomp laminate. Again it follows the rules by being incredibly lightweight circa 80 grams and maintains a very low profile either magazines in or out. The “Helium Whisper” attachment system allows for a great deal of the overall weight reduction and is comparable to 1000D codura without any loss of durability or security.
Self-Posed Questions & Answers
When being presented with these opportunities to try out new gear I always take a few minutes to ask myself a number of questions based on my past experience and although I do appreciate technology has changed, those key areas of concern that are ingrained in the back of our head are normally still challenging designers & manufactures to this day.
1) I normally find myself in a heavy woodland, rural environment, which by nature is very wet and has plenty of natural debris. How will this affect the rig based on the independent MOLLE & Plate Inserts? Based on my style and activity going prone or crawling is pretty standard for me however after running this set up for close to 30hrs over a period of several weeks I found no debris build up and what did get trapped was very easy and quick to removed.
2) Plate Carriers by nature are quite cumbersome, restrictive and hot with lots of attention spent on the shoulder straps for load bearing and breathability for the users comfort, will this be any different? Yes, you can get shoulder pads from Blue Force Gear, however I found no discomfort in this potential sore spot area. I have put this down to the principle of the rig itself being lightweight and not a normal, max load carrying rig. This also goes on to address the breathability of the rig. Again its very light weight and due to only being secured at the sides with the 1” straps and not a cummerbund system it allows a huge amount of circulation, this is also increased by the type of garments you are rocking.
3) Repairs are pretty straight forward with Codura, how will those in field repairs fair with the Ultracomp laminate? This has not been tested as the MOLLE has not snapped, even when using the Tactical Universal Clip, carrying my M4 style platform high centre. But then do take into mind when using the Ten Speed line you are going for ‘light’ so when would there be a requirement to load your gear locker on to your rig!
4) How does the rig fair when using the traditional MOLLE & Codura systems that we all have? Will that abrasive material rub or wear the Ultracomp laminate down? Again, in the time frame I had and with only using the Ten Speed Line I have not been able to address this, maybe BFG already have the data and maybe over a prolonged period of use I may be able to provide an answer, but in the short term, I cannot see it being an issue.
In field shots:
One of the areas that I have left till last is the ‘Real Estate’ issue that comes with this rig and set up. As you can probably tell from the pictures, once you have the Mag pouches attached you don’t have a great deal left, minus the cummerbunds, even less. Now this was not a challenge for me as I adopted a ‘light fighter’ style 18 months ago so working with just core essentials is not an issue. However for those that like to go ‘loaded for bear’ carrying their entire kit locker on them; this is probably not for you. It can easily be rectified with the addition of a good battle belt, but that is only if you are so inclined.
For those that find themselves in harm’s way either in domestic or foreign fields and require the need for low visibility and concealment then I could envisage this being at the top of the list for consideration. I would also say that it is applicable to those of a ‘lighter’ frame that would need or require a quick to ‘kit up’ system that will give you ballistic protection (plate specific) and allow some ammunition & basic survival kit. The same applies for those that are permanently on the move and find themselves in high active states. The flexibility, breathability, light weight system that is the PLATEminus may just give you that compromise between both worlds.
I for one like it, it is that simple. I find it comfortable, user friendly, light weight and something different to what is currently on the market. Yes it has some drawbacks but as long as you understand what those are and adapt accordingly you will be fine. Hell, I like it so much I went and bought some extra pouches for it so it can support my non M4 style platform. The pouches you can see are for the SR25 ‘Short’ (they also do long) as well as a GP pouch. I will be lending this to a couple of friends who are interested in purchasing this rig and are already rocking BFG chest rigs so I can envisage an update with some other ‘user’ input in the next couple of months.
The PLATEminus & pouches are available in number of solid colours: Coyote Brown, Black and Wolf Grey as well as in the original ‘MultiCam’ pattern.
We want to say thank you to BFG Inc. for sending over the products for testing and a special thanks to our reviewer Richard aka FireBase Alpha for the “field test” and Spectre Airsoft Media for the “in field” photos.