Simple, functional, low profile, effective, rugged, inexpensive… These are all words that can be used to describe the original Chinese Type 56 Chest Rig. The Type 56 chest rig and its variants are sometimes just called Chicom chest rigs. The venerable Chicom chest rigs are so well liked, that you occasionally see present day pictures of members of the Special Forces community wearing them for use as a simple lightweight chest rig. While the Type 56 is very functional, it is not very modern. It uses buttons to close the magazine flaps, heavy canvas material that retains moisture, and the straps must be tied around the wearer.
Now there is a custom gear maker that is making a name for himself by creating modernized versions of the Type 56 chest rig. The maker is 762Tactical and the chest rig is the Chicom Chest Rig. Just like the original, the 762Tactical Chicom Chest Rig is simple, functional, low profile, effective, rugged, inexpensive. Let’s take a closer look.
More Modern, More Functional
When you look at the trapezoid shape and criss-cross straps of the Chicom Chest Rig it is immediately clear that it pays homage to the Type 56. However, when you take a closer look, there is little doubt that this is a thoroughly modern chest rig.
The user no longer needs to tie a thin strap behind their back. Now they can simple use the durable National Molding side release buckle (SRB) to quickly put on or take off the chest rig.
The heavy canvas material of the original has been replaced with 1000D Cordura nylon which makes the rig more durable and more water resistant. It is also available in an assortment of modern colors. The rig that I have been testing features the Multicam pattern.
Slow toggle buttons have been replaced with hook and loop on the magazine pouch flaps. The flaps are also completely adjustable for magazine height. These flaps make the magazines much easier to access quickly and provides great protection from the elements.
The original Type 56 chest rigs had 3 magazine pouches and 4 small pouches for things like grenades. The Chicom Chest Rig from 762Tactical replaces the small pouches with something far more versatile – MOLLE webbing. It can be used to add a pistol magazine pouch, an admin pouch, or a blow out kit. If it is MOLLE compatible, you can add it.
The shoulder straps are made from a double thickness of 1.5″ wide webbing. This help distribute the load far better than the straps on the original Type 56.
The magazine pouches on the original Type 56 chest rigs were very deep. This made them difficult or impossible to use with just about any magazine other than 30 round AK magazines. The magazine pouches on the Chicom Chest Rig are sized in a far more versatile way. The pouches on my example (a 3 mag version) were useful for 20 and 30 round AK mags and 30 AR-15 magazines. In fact, the Chicom Chest Rig makes a great chest rig for use with an AR as well as an AK. It is very versatile.
There are other touches that let you know that you are dealing with a well made chest rig. For instance, the fabric on the lip of the magazine pouches is folded out and sewn down. This is a must for an AK rig that is often overlooked. If the fabric is folded into the pouch it creates a snag point for the locking tabs on AK mags. You will also find appropriate reinforcement of straps and stress points everywhere you look on the Chicom Chest Rig. Many of the rows of stitching have been gone over as many as 4 times to ensure that they never come loose.
I ran drills with this chest rig with both an AK and an AR. It performed admirably for both weapon types.
I found the pull tabs on the magazine pouch flaps to be large and easy to grab even with gloved hands. The pouches are generously sized, so inserting and removing magazines is easy.
The hook and loop that secures the flaps is also generously sized which makes it easy to angle the flaps to more tightly secure 30 round AK magazines. This also allows plenty of room to adjust the flap up and down to adjust for different magazine lengths.
Many people prefer open top pouches on their chest rigs but I really don’t mind flaps. Open top designs are faster, but I use my chest rig as a support item to my belt. I train to go to the belt for my reloads and my two fastest reloads are there in HSGI Taco pouches. I use the chest rig to keep my belt topped off and reload the rifle only when necessary so any small amount of extra time that a flap might add is not a big deal. In fact, it can be a plus with an AK since the flaps allow you to consider running your AK magazines with the bullets oriented up. This makes removing the AK magazines much easier and positions it better in your hand for insertion into the magwell.
The harness is wide enough to carry this chest rig’s light load very well. You really just can’t overload this rig and the harness is more than sufficient. It works very well.
I haven’t added any pouches to my Chicom Chest Rig (at least for now). I have really come to appreciate just how trim and light it is without any additional pouches. It is really only marginally thicker than the magazines themselves. The whole rig rides very close to your chest and is quite compact.
The trapezoidal shape puts a minimum of fabric around your body and makes the rig feel more compact than typical rectangular chest rigs. The shape also positions the waist strap midway up the chest rig rather than at the bottom as with most other rigs. I think this plays a role in how close to the body the magazines seem to ride. The higher waist strap doesn’t allow them to lean forward and away from your chest. It is a small but noticeable and welcomed difference.
I typically do not comment about price on this blog. I prefer to let you, the reader, determine what something is worth to you. I am going to break that rule here because price is part of the point of this rig. It is based on the very inexpensive chest rig (the Type 56) and it is very inexpensive itself – prices start at 44.99 which is a steal for a handmade rig of this quality. It may lack a few complexities that can be nice to have, like an internal type storage pouch or more side release buckles on the straps, but in the end these are NICE to haves, not NEED to haves for me. Again, the price is a steal for a rig made from these materials, with this quality, and this well thought out design.
Remember, 762Tactical is a custom shop. They can make modifications to this rig to your specs if it missing something that you just have to have. It may add to the cost though.
The 3 magazine version of the Chicom Chest Rig is a thoroughly modernized version of an already functional design. There is also something extremely cool about a modern chest rig based on a historic design. This chest rig might be the best value on the market.
Disclosure: This chest rig was provided to me by 762Tactical, free of charge, for this review.