You’re Doing It Wrong. How to Carry Your Gun Gear

By Solomon Shorter

I know what you’re thinking right after you read the title.  Another guy that thinks he’s going to tell me what gun I need or the type of training I need to defend my family in a SHTF situation.

Nope.  Not me.  That’s a personal decision and all I can do is wish you well.


What I do want to touch on is gear.  In particular the stuff that you’ll be wearing when you’re trying to take care of business in those bad days that we hope will never come.

First off, think like a Marine…a Marine in training and not in constant combat.

If you take a look at the picture above you’ll see a common setup that’s all the rage today.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my gear, but what you’re looking at isn’t exactly what I would recommend during the days of SHTF.

In the gun world we’re seeing a mixture of cultures.  You’re seeing the competition, combat, law enforcement, security and sports shooting cultures all swirling together.  Instead of providing solutions its causing confusion.

A quick critique of that setup goes a little like this.  The weapon is unprotected in that style of holster, the pistol mags are retained only by the tension of the fabric, the rifle mags are good to go but they’re also exposed to the elements, the first aid pouch is good and so is the utility pouch.

The knife is OK if you’re looking to use that for defensive purposes but its limited to only protect in a weapon retention scenario and not for utility tasks and as a final line of defense tool.

Chest rigs are extremely popular today, but have some of the same disadvantages as the battle belt.

They’re evolving too, at the beginning of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan they were high on the chest but as things have dragged on they’re getting closer and closer to the belt line.

That’s not by accident.  Troops have been suffering a higher rate of back injuries and many blame it on the chest rig.  But I haven’t gotten to the solution so let me get there now.  The answer is the old Alice Gear of Vietnam fame.

That simple belt that you see above holds a total of six M-16 magazines, two canteens and in the back you’ll find the old style medical pouch.

On the suspenders you can hang a full size utility blade such as a Ka-Bar which can be used as a last line of defense and if you replace the canteen with the Bianchi holster (which you can find for whatever full size pistol you own) then you’ll also have your side arm with you but protected from the elements.

long gun mags and chest rig

The best thing about using the Alice style setup for your SHTF scenario, you can mod it to fit your needs, your equipment is protected, its miles more comfortable, it’s designed to be worn while doing actual work around the house or out in the field, it doesn’t place any additional strain on your back and last but not least its cheap.

Even if you buy new items, you’ll save money when compared to the new style gear that’s so popular today.  So cheap in fact that you can have couple of sets of each piece for the price of one of those kydex holsters.

So think about it. Sometimes the new style is not the right style when it comes to preparing properly for SHTF.

how to carry gun gear Pinterest

20 survival items ebook cover
Like what you read?

Then you're gonna love my free PDF, 20 common survival items, 20 uncommon survival uses for each. That's 400 total uses for these dirt-cheap little items!

We will not spam you.

39 thoughts on “You’re Doing It Wrong. How to Carry Your Gun Gear”

  1. Right back at ya D!

    I think we traveled the same ground and came to the same conclusions. I did a little experiment where I did a bunch of work around my little homestead and doing it in the high speed gear just didn’t work. Not one bit. I dug through some of my old gear, saw the 782 stuff collecting dust and it dawned on me. Thats practical work stuff. I guess it boils down to different tools for different tasks.

  2. Thanks Panhandle Rancher. I really expected to be laughed off this website with this idea. I’m glad to see that others have come to the same conclusions.

  3. Solomon;
    Have you been sneaking around my reteat?
    I have the latest Hi-speed lo-drag plate carriers with all the bells and whistles for me and the reaction team. They are great for contact and patrolling.But……sitting over in a corner you will see a EDC ALC rig hung on a guitar stand ready for the day to day. It is the older type with metal buckles and mag closures rather than the plastic and a butt pack also displaces the FAK. These are great old rigs and dirt cheap that you can use to water the garden or rush to a fighting hole. Thanks for pointing them out, I thought I was just an old Marine stuck in the past. Semper Fi, D.

  4. Rourke-

    Yeah I’m pretty stoked about the response this got.


    Since I have permission, I’m posting this url to the Old Grouch’s website ( I don’t have any affiliation with him, but his service to me has been good. The prices are right and the only issue some might have is if they’re still using Alice clips. That isn’t a big deal though because if you Google Alice clips you’ll find a bunch of people selling them new in the box. Hope this helps and thanks again.


    • Solomon, as long as you’re not ocd about switching your rig around, then you might wish to look into replacing the Alice clips with zip ties.
      The only thing I never liked about ALICE was when I wanted to do a combat roll, or had to go prone. Having Alice mag pouches in the usual place made going combat prone a pain in the rear, or stomach really.

  5. Let me add that my go to guys for this type of gear seems to have closed down…FMCO under the banner. I’ll dig harder to see if I can find some real school ALICE gear.

  6. I have to agree with Solomon on his choice of gear. I have had a Bianchi holster from before the Military adopted them. My only problem is mag pouches for 30 rd. AK mags to fit on yhe web belt, anyone have any ideas? John.

    • Love the old ALICE/LC-2 rigs. I use an belt extender clip to give me more room on the waist (if you have to put on a kevlar vest or wear your gear over a field jacket) to give me more belt space. Put the 30rd mag pouches on the points of the hips, stick a USMC first aid kit and pouch/compass in front. Butt pack with extra gear on my tail; 2 canteens and steel cups either side of the buttpack; cleaning kit – left side, knife/sheath -left shoulder; mike/radio on the right. I use the Bianchi holster w/flap, but use the holster extension kit to put the holster on my right thigh Still have a little room for more gear, but this works for me.

  7. Solomon, hopefully Rourke will or maybe he can suggest one of his sponsers who may have what i’m looking for, thanks, John.

  8. John;
    You might look into old canvas Israeli, German, or Swiss surplus for G3/FN/FALs (Ebay/Amazon). I still have a load of about 20 I bought years ago for about a $1 a piece. We need a barter section on this site. Regards, D.

  9. I like the post on what and how to carry.

    Living and working outside, I find flap style holsters are required to keep debris out of the pistol (The old horse cavalry understood this). I carried a P220 for decades in a fast draw belt holster but it was usually covered by a suit coat or sports jacket and I was not performing manual labor. A few days building fence in rough country will convince most to shed the belt holster in favor of a military style flap style holster. I have several leather holsters with enlarged flaps that cover the entire top and side of the grip. These keep the weapon much cleaner than the uncovered grip 1911 style holsters.

    It didn’t take me long in the desert to discover sand invariably works it way into magazines which of course causes feed problems. I found myself disassembling magazines for cleaning every time the weapon was serviced. There are some clever rubber magazine covers that can be helpful but at the expense of slowing down a reload. I dislike stacking magazines on top of magazines. This is one more thing for undergrowth to catch and can cause confusion in the heat of the moment. My leather flap holsters have a magazine pouch adjacent to the sights and not on the lateral side of the holster. The local saddlemaker was very helpful in this matter. A lot of good ideas come from the range but there is a world of difference between what works with the stopwatch and what works in the real world.

    The old style medical kit is functional but more modern IFAK offered by tactical shops and some current issue US military kits offer easier one handed access.

    Combination plate carriers/chest rigs may use the higher chest placement as well as rigs used in connection with technical rope work where a Swiss seat or rappel harness might be required.

    Great post,
    Panhandle Rancher

  10. te chest rigs have there place (Quick Reaction, Mechanized, Motorized) forces. Or mission specific load out. I still revert to my old Alice LBE with “H” harness, though updated. We used them in Central America with no problems, besides I run hot, those chest rigs make you hot at least with the H or Y LBE set you can breath. Both the (Y/H type LBE are good, and the British version as well.

  11. Harry.

    I get where you’re coming from but I think the disconnect that we’re having might be involved in our expectations when it comes to the time after SHTF. I was talking about (and I probably should have been more clear) a time when the silliness has settled down, at least a little, and you have to get to work around your homestead to live and survive and even thrive. When I’m out feeding the cows and pigs, checking on my chickens and making sure my crops are right, I want to make sure that the gear I have stays with me, is protected to the utmost and doesn’t interfere with the work I have to do.

    Of course you could be right and I might be way off but trying to simulate a day of work after SHTF with a chest rig just didn’t work for me.

  12. Viking.

    I think we might have traveled alot of the same ground so all I ask is to consider this when you dismiss the flap on the holster. Remember running the Endurance Course in Okinawa? I live in Louisiana and while it ain’t the jungle we have some pretty nasty woods…especially when you get deep looking for that big buck or that king size hog.

    Having said that I’m loving the differing opinions (this part is for EVERYONE!).


  13. 2/7 when I was a baby Marine and then I went over to Hitlers Youth when I got old, surly and mean (relax everyone..that’s what we call MPs).

  14. Whoa!!!!! You go from the Men’s department over to the ladies side!! (relax again folks…that what we call the Marines and Navy…Marines are the Men’s dept. and the Navy is ladies dept)…and after having been in Security Forces??? Those guys are anal retentive beyond belief.. That couldn’t have be fun..especially when Fidel was acting a damn fool every other month like clockwork.

    In all seriousness though. Well done on your continued service!

  15. Solomon,
    Good analysis (and I like folks who think old school still has a place), but I think you are trying to compare apples and oranges.

    I have both types of rigs. The one I carried (or at least recent replacements for the stuff that wore out many times over the years) when I soldiered in the mid-70’s and my more recent acquisitions consisting of MOLLE gear. Both have their advantages and drawbacks.

    From my perspective, the more modern rig as shown in Solomon’s first picture is the better choice for day to day carry when access to the gear is paramount. All of the liabilities he lists – open pistol, open mags, self defense blade style, etc – are certainly valid; however, they exist for a reason – quick and ready access. This isn’t the type of rig I would have carried in the jungles or more recently hiking through south Texas mesquite and scrub oaks. It is the type of rig I carried (and still carry) for daily patrol, work, security, and local traveling.

    The open pistol holster is not suitable for trudging through the boonies – it works perfectly in urban and suburban environments. The covered flap over the pistol certainly protects one’s backup weapon, but it also slows access considerably. That’s probably not an issue if you have an M-4 slung across your chest with a 30-round mag in it. It becomes a major issue if the pistol is your only available firearm. I have fired thousands of rounds in combat training and at various foreign nationals. I can probably count on one hand the number of pistol rounds that I fired in combat. Luck or training or a good team or something unknown made certain my opposing number didn’t get close enough for me to consider using a pistol. Look at what every cop carries his pistol in – an open top holster with some sort of internal retention to prevent its inadvertent loss or removal by a close opponent. If that’s the type of accessibility you need a flap over holster is the wrong choice. The only real difference in my rig is that my Kimber is in a drop leg holster to free up real estate on the belt.

    Is the knife the wrong type for what you need? It depends on what your needs are. Again, if this rig is for daily personal protection it’s a darn good choice. The Ka-Bar TDI is excellent for close in weapon retention and hand to hand combat. It makes a lousy work or camp knife (a more typical Ka-Bar is a better choice), but that’s not what it was designed for. If this is your walk around rig and you have a tool box nearby then you don’t really need to carry a heavy blade on your belt. Otherwise, add the full size fixed blade at the back of the rig where it’s accessible for work while leaving the TDI accessible for an emergency. If you are going on a 3-day patrol of the neighborhood and plan to crawl through some culverts, under fences, and over rocks and deadfall then the TDI falls into the same category as the open holster – not appropriate for the intended use. Different tools for different purposes.

    Are the mag pouches wrong? Everyone in my group who carries an M-4 style weapon uses P-Mags with dust covers. It doesn’t really matter what type of carrier they are in – the internals are protected. Further, we tend to maintain a close proximity to home which makes it easy to clean any gear as soon as it comes off duty. So, slogging through the jungles of Central America choose the covered mag pouches versus working 20 acres of corn choose the open pouches as more appropriate.

    Quick aside – the TDI should be carried in a reverse position (blade forward) and further back on the belt (just at or in front of the hip bone). If you are nose to nose with some ape and you draw the TDI as it is shown the back edge (unsharpened edge) will be towards the bad guy. The only way to get a decent cut is to reach around him and pull the cut back towards you. All that does is draw him closer to you. In a reverse position all you have to do after drawing the blade is lift your arm straight up slicing him belly to throat. Once you hit the chin push forward creating distance between the two of you. I guarantee there aren’t too many thugs who are going to stand fast while you push a piece of sharp steel into their windpipe. They will retreat. Once he is at arm’s reach draw your side arm (which may take a lot longer than you wish if it has a flap over it) and determine the next phase of escalation, i.e. is the situation under control or do you need to put all that range time into real world use.

  16. I agree with alot of what Solomon said in this article, but with small exceptions. Ive worn almost every rig during my time in the military, the Alice (prior to the Marines getting the Molle gear) was great, although the clips had an annoying habit during alot of activity of popping loose and gouging into your back (10 mile hump…. having an alice clip digging into your lower back right below the Alice pack frame is not a pleasant experience). The harness/chest rigs work great for some things, IE- patrols, standing guard duty, rapid response drills/combat manuevers, but they get into your way during other events. Alot of us usually kept two rigs set up, a basic duty belt with a couple mag pouches, a thigh holster attachment point (which although is “tacti-cool” is actually very effective when youre on the move, especially a slightly wider model with molle attachments) In Iraq alot of us ditched the harness totally and just stuch everything on our interceptor bullet resistant vests. Each situation you run into will require a little different loadout, so sometimes you just have to make a loadout that is generic enough that its not perfect for every situation, but works well enough to give you an edge. My personal favorite was the improved ALICE harness rig, it came out slightly before the MOLLE system took over. The mag pouches, while on your chest, were attached at an angle, and made easy acces to your gear, and was a very comfortable setup for a variety of tasks.
    On holsters- the Bianchi flap holsters are great, but I slightly disagree with you (no offense) on that a flap is required to keep dirt/debris out of a weapon. I run a fabric open top retention holter with a thumb strap (no not a SERPA design… dont get me started on the SERPA variants…) that is molle compatible. Ive carried it on my side in Iraq, Liberia, Cuba and a couple other countries, and have yet to have any issues with debris/dirt in my firearm. The trick is weapons maintanance. We cleaned our weapons three times a day in the sandbox, before we broke out MRE’s, we broke down our weapons. If you keep it clean, it will keep you alive. Again good article, just because something looks cool, doesnt mean it works.

  17. Soloman,
    yeah… JWTC endurance course… the peanut butter mud.. I have nightmares about that place and the fire hose washdown at the end of it to this day hahaha. I will say I can see where you are coming from though. The flap does serve a purpose, I will give it that. But remember to, the Gyrenes in Vietnam were running with open top WWII leather shoulder holsters (actually we still use them for armed watches indoors to this day)… Of course they were carrying 1911’s which are like the AK47’s of the pistol world in terms of reliability when dirty lol. What unit were you with?

  18. Hahah 2/7… I was with 3/2 when I was a kid, then MCSFCO GTMO before I got out (now Im Navy…. dont ask, ex wife made me do it hahah)

  19. Yeah, its funny how that works aint it. Relax though Solomon, Im working with the Seabees now, so Im semi-mens dept still hahaha. Thanks for your service too brother.

  20. Harry.

    You’re messing me up because that one line has me chewing hard….”a faster rig is a more secure rig”…DAMN IT! But since I’ll NEVER give a Ranger the satisfaction of seeing me hesitate or even second guess a stance I’ve taken…We’ll just leave it at that. BTW…RLTW? Only to the chow hall! 🙂


  21. Badger.

    Yeah I think you hit on what’s becoming the consensus opinion. Options are best to solve different problems. Forgive me for being a stubborn sob but I’m still going to stick with the Alice gear being the best all around setup for SHTF. But I TOTALLY get where you’re coming from. The debate is good and I’m eating it up!


  22. Come on guys, keep the volley going – it was just getting to be a good read.

    Solomon – I think we are on the same track. Feeding the critters and tending the crops is not the same as long walks through the boonies. Also, all alone or maybe with a couple of family members means you don’t have LP/OP’s strung up and down the goat tracks (or water buff trails if you go back to my days of slogging through the green fields); so, you’re more likely to be up and close before you know it. That means a fast rig is better than a more secure rig – under those circumstances. Back into the bush and I agree, cover the gear.

    BTW – RLTW!

  23. Some major traffic here, good to see it. i currently have chest plate/rigs and vests along with LBE’s it’s just my combat experience was during the years when you new stuff which to me more of a speed rig/mission specific load out. The only guy wearing a vest in my day was an aircraft operator or the guy packing an M-79 or M203 (grenadier. Some guys had access to Rhodesian chest rigs, but that was it. I do believe in having multiple systems so that all you have to do is pull it on when it’s time. Even a fisherman has different tackle for different fish you might encounter or come visiting you

  24. It’s been my I go to gear too because am old school and because it never failed me, it shows for work every time. As a side point we changed out our keepers in many cases and tied the pouches on and zip ties later to reduce the slight weight from those dang keepers and from them biting into you. we were good to go after that. Still got my Alice Ruck also, not the most comfortable, but it works and has never let me down and I have yet to see a pack as simplistic and strong, but we will see.

  25. Hey Solomon, first guy in the chow line gets the best scoobie snacks.

    You raise some good points, but I think all you did was prove preppers are individualistic in their tastes and needs assessment.

    You get to south Texas let me know. I’ll put some Q and home brew on the table and we’ll tell stories til morning.

  26. Solomon, D, and others, thanks for the info and sites for Alice type gear. Yes, open top carriers are great in certain applications, when I was doing armored car services and for personnal carry, but in a SHTF situation I’ll stick with my Alice gear. Solomon,Glad to see you like SeaBees, I was in MCB 53 in 1966-68, and a hearty Can-Do to Viking, John. PS we had a platoon on our base in danang and I was glad we did.

  27. I agree with some of the earlier comments that this all really boils down to preference. I kept my ALICE ruck long after MOLLE and the LOWE ruck came along(never had much use for a pack that weighed 20 pounds empty), but I ditched the uncomfortable pistol belt and suspenders as soon as something better came out. Badger359 mentioned removing all the “meat hooks”(ALICE Clips), but in the 90’s that was an “unauthorized modification”, so we were stuck with them. Of course the purpose of the article and this discussion is prepping so anybody that prefers ALICE can modify her anyway they want. My preference is a combo of old and new. The battle belt in the first picture is missing it’s H-Harness, the first aid kit is in the back where the wearer can’t reach without stretching for it and the magazines are face up instead of upside down to keep debris out. This setup is put together a little better – I run mine with 20 round .308 mags in open top double mag pouches instead of the M4/AR mags, camel-back mounted on the H-harness, woodland camo ALICE Butt pack, a folding dump pouch, a quick release single point sling on the right side D ring, compass and Ranger beads on the left side D ring, 5.11 quick detach first aid kit and depending on what I’m planning to do that day I may add a drop leg holster. That’s pretty light gear compared to carrying all that mounted on the front and sides of body armor like the guys on active duty now.

  28. i have 3 sets of vietnam style web gear. 2 have 2 quart canteens and 4 ammo pouches that hold 3- 30 rd mags each and 1- 20 round ammo pouch for 4- 20 round mags. and have one with a bayonet sheath. have 2 medium alice packs and i put 3 ammo pouches for 9 more mags in the 3 outside pouches. 0ne web belt has 3 ammo pouches on the belt and four more in a butt pack. and also 2 canteens. it sounds like a lot of military stuff but i think it necessary. my alice packs are reserved for food and clothing and medical kit and survival supplies. all of this gear i bought at gun shows or online. i can buy an ammo pouch that holds 3 mags for about 20% of the price of all of that new stuff on the market.

  29. All I can say is that my old 782 gear was good enough for me then, just as it is still good enough for me now. Sorry but the picture you showed did look uncomfortable to me. As for my pistol I use a drop down thigh strapped rig, I know but it works for me.
    Nice to have read there were other ” dirt sailors” around still. Just remember there are no ex Seabees ” our titles are earned not given, and what is earned is ours forever”.
    On that note loved what was said by everyone here and I loved Okinawa with the Marines.

    Dirt Sailor


Leave a Comment