Laser cuted cordura gear (laminate) becomes more and more popular, but the question remains – is it going to work? Equipment of this type still requires further testing, because a month or even half a year is not enough to properly test the laminates. At the moment the weather is on our side – once the sun and heat around 30 degrees, and once intense rains, but personally I’m curious about how it would work in the winter. What about glue which bonds laminate layers? What if laminate loss his flexibility? Of course you can toss it in the freezer to check…
Anyway, after testing cutouts from SPECOPS, we get the chest rig and a hip panel made by Polish Stronghold Group, provided by Afatte Airsoft shop. You can order all Stronghold gear via their exlusive dealer: www.sprzetmilitarny.pl.
Chest rig is made from ultra light (outside layer is Cordura 500d and 600d nylon is on the inside ) laminate, cut out by laser, so that instead of the conventional molle system, we’ve simply “windows”, through which we fasten pockets and pouches. This system is called “zero pals” and it is of course fully compatible with molle (25mm). The result of the use of the laminate without straps molle is 350 grams ready-to-use chest rig, so the design is truly lightweight. Laser cutting ensures that everything is done perfectly, there is no crooked cut materials, and the laminate in any place don’t… delaminate. To be sure, the outer edges of rig was trimmed, mounting brackets locations (ITW production) and elastic bands are also reinforced. The material used to production is NIR, PU and DWR treated.
Chest is available in two versions – classic, like this we test, and with split front panel. Both cost 399PLN (about 100 Euros/$) which, unfortunately, is a lot as the construction without possibilty of carrying ballistic plates. So please add an additional 25-100 euros to low-profile vest with inserts. On the other hand, chest is made in modern technology, in unusual camouflage, and this means higher production costs. Well… and try to find also so light gear… For comparison – Flyye RRV costs around 350 PLN, but can carry SAPI and is heavier.
Stronghold has its equipment in PenCott Greenzone, MultiCam and wz. 93 (polish army pattern) camouflages.
Chest has a very simple and not complicated structure – it consists of 3 parts: chest panel, harness with rear panel and stabilizing belt. Everything what possible is fastex connected- all fastex are TAN or OD and it depends on production lot. This gives you the opportunity to exchange only one of the rig party, if any of it got damaged, without having to buy a whole new chest.
Without any pouches, it fits in your cargo BDU pocket. If someone wants to play a superman, at any time after noticing the villains can jump into a phone booth, put on the chest and jump off already in full gear :P
How it assumes pockets and pouches? Normally, though to me you need to get used to, because the laminate is thin and flexible, sometimes for convenience to be reversed chest on the other side, but overall no miracles. Nothing slips and falls nothing, but loaded pouches are not as stable as in the classical structures, but more on that in a moment.
The front panel has 14 cells wide which allows add any essential gear. For example, you can hang puch for 4×1/4×2 cartriges and still have 6 palss for cargo and/or first aid kit. Above bands is an velcro nametag, which in some cases is covered (AK mags or just pouches for MG). Yeah, that’s real tactical swag. It is a classic chest rig design – light and handy.
Harness is in theory suited for use with or without low profile. Ofcourse it can works stand alone. Rig do not have any comfortpads, but have 2x3 rings of flexible tape for attaching the tube CamelBak.
Braces pass in the rear panel, which can hook a small backpack type MAP / MBSS or Camelbak/Source, f.ex. Source Kangaroo. In fact, because a bit cumbersome to stabilize podczepionego equipment at the bottom chest – there is only stabilizing belt. The panel it self is short, so long camelbaks can dangle. If it is long enough to put it under rear belt – there’s no problem. Possibly combined with malice clips, paracord, or the devil knows what else. In my opinion, the middle lane of belt could have some micro molle panel.
Of course, the most convenient is probably just stock up on mini-system, such as the Source Kangoroo. The panel also will be suitable for any kind of cargo pockets. But not for sustainment pouch…
Stronghold chest rig is ultra-light, ultra-small (by volume) and possibly the most low profiled construction because it is only 2mm thickness. It don’t limits movement and is quite comfortable, although it is not stocked in comfortpads. In the case of light sets (eg., 4-6 mags, cargo of ammunition, med kit, mini–camelbak) there is no problems with arms pain but after a few hours with heavier sets (for MG gunner) it’s getting worse. Braces have very good weight distribution, but don’t expect miracles. Any mini–comfortpads, as in some designs of SPECOPS, would be wlecome. It would increase the profile of chest rig, but I’m not talking about 10mm thick pads… However for a few hours “airsofting” – Stronghlod equipment is greate.
Also for use with low profile vests it is ideal equipment. Yes, if the jacket has elastic waist (cummerbund) chest is immobilizing him, but still the set is comfortable. With PACA vest, Stronghold actually did not increase profile and in addition a whole holds very firmly and don’t move significantly during the running or changing positions.
In my opinion TI Zero Pals is equipment primarily to interact with low profile vest or “running on a slightly“, as in the case of the vest JPC – load only the bare minimum here. Everything else put on your tactical belt.
The issue of breathability on hot days – in the end it is just a mix of Cordura and nylon, so do not expect fireworks. However, a thanks to cut-outs it’s not really in contact with the body and its surface area is small. So in general vest works, although at higher heat and after day in forest with all gear, any comfortpady would be appreciated. The skin under the laminate is not cooking, but also nothing stands in the way to relieve the user.
Stability. Unfortunately, it is thin material, basically the same thickness on all surfaces (the bands are double). Even well tightened chest rig is not as stable as classic full vest, but no worries – there’s nothing here really to dangle (in pockets on front panel I loaded about 10-12 kg). Pockets can stand out, but the problem manifests itself most in the case of rigid construction – fell on me with IMI polymer holster adapter. Laminate does not move too much on a vest or on the uniform, but still works as the thin and flexible material which meant that the holster adapter feed up during jumping, or changes position. So if you want to use this king of vest, you have to choose classic cordura holsters or add it on the belt.
Overall control is good, the tape does not come off on neck (thanks to the rear panel and harness routing in H) but I missed flexible tapes to collect loose bands excess, which happily dangling. Even faster than assumed, we can throw off chest rig – simply unhook a couple of buckles and it’s done. Besides, in the chest rig there is nothing that could make noise.
At the moment, laser cutouts still require more testing, but nevertheless we can denied that they give great opportunities. It is easy to do with these modular structures, they’re ultra-light and durable, but on the other hand not as stable as the classic Cordura/nylon rigs and vests.
Stronghold’ chest rig is a good job, reliably and accurately performed. Nevertheless, this equipment is quite specific, intended to carry only a rather basic stuff, just like in JPC vest. This can be a good base for a sniper/marksman because of its small size and not limiting movements, and can be, and for the troopers who love fast attack gear. Of course, to be completely happy we have to buy “everythingh” ultra-light, such us pouches from Stronghold, SPECOPS or Templars Gear, which, however, cost a lot.
In conclusion – Stronghold Group “TI Zero Pals” chest rig is ultra-light, low profile and perfectly performed. Now we just wait for the other gear Stronghold, maybe a plate carrier?
We received chest rig and hip panel (this will be in the next article) from AFATTE Airsoft shop. During the tests we also used SPECOPS pouches from Sprzetmilitarny.pl shop (you can buy Stronghold gear here), and some of the pictures were made in Warsaw Interactive Shooting Range.