There are currently a large number of chest rigs available. Not too long ago, this wasn’t the case, and selections of such gear were slim and none. We’re lucky that this is no longer the case. I’m writing this as a simple description of one setup that I like – this is not the “only” way or the “right” way, it’s just not a “wrong” way. There are far too many gear options for me to cover in a reasonable amount of reading time.
Now, a chest rig is a pretty high-profile item. What I mean by that is, if you’re not military or law enforcement, it would be an exceptionally rare case for you to wear a chest rig off the range. If you are in the military or in law enforcement, hopefully you have a good idea of what you need to attach to a chest rig. Many people who are new to this area err on the side of “too much gear”, which isn’t really horrible unless you get stuck in a hatch or your friends make fun of you because stuff falls out and/or flops around.
Chest rigs give you the option to quickly remove or put on a lot of gear, keeping that gear separate from your armor, if you’re so equipped. They can be affordable or semi-expensive. They are normally a little more than the average civilian probably needs – I mean nothing negative by that statement – a single 30rd mag on a belt pouch is probably sufficient for carbine courses and tactical rifle matches, less bulky, and cheaper to boot. I’ll cover belt setups in the next day or so.
I’ve definitely gone with a minimalist approach after carrying too much stuff. Especially now, as a civilian, with zero mission requirements beyond carbine courses. I have two double M4 mag pouches, two single pistol mag pouches, and a small trauma kit.
Okay, I’ve been rambling too long – you still want one, so what chest rig should you buy? Well, I’m partial to Eagle chest rigs. SKD Tactical sells several variants. I use this one, though not in Multicam:
I like this chest rig because it gives me the option to put MOLLE pouches exactly where I want them. The downside is that chest rigs with integral M4 mag pouches are only $10 more, so if you’re on a tight budget, this is not the way to go.
This is probably the best “chest rig option” for civilians looking to go to a carbine course – you’ll head to the firing line with at least 4 magazines, which is what most instructors ask for. Plus, the MOLLE on the front of the rifle pouches would allow you to place pistol mags in an accessible position. Kydex inserts in the mag pouches will keep those mags from falling out.
I like to attach pistol mags to the front of my rifle mags, as I’ve said. If I don’t do this, then I leave rifle mags as close to the center of my body as possible, and move the pistol mags to the left. On the right, I have a trauma kit. I’ll cover trauma kit contents separately. It’s not required that you bring first aid gear to a carbine course or tactical rifle match, but it’s a damn good idea – you don’t want to show up on the day that everyone else forgot to bring one, too.
As for pistol mag pouches, I’ve used several kinds, and I do like the ones offered by TAG with the integral magnets – they held M9 magazines for me, inverted, with the retention strap off, for months. However, there are other kinds, and anything that’ll keep your pistol mags from falling out is good enough. I like gear made in the US – as I said, Eagle is a good way to go – but HSGI, Esstac, etc also make great pouches.
If you want more information on this topic straight from the horse’s mouth, some great info can be found on the Lightfighter forum. It’s worth signing up for – just make sure you introduce yourself.