The best chest rigs are small chest rigs and the Original SOE (OSOE) AK/M4 Micro Rig is certainly small. Lets take a look.
My Chest Rig Theory
For me, chest rigs are a necessary evil. What I mean is that I would rather not wear one but they are times when I really can’t do without them. For instance, many instructors are going to expect you to be able to step to the firing line with a minimum of 5 loaded rifle magazines on your person in an organized fashion. This ensures that you can concentrate on the instruction instead of stopping to reload your magazines. I can’t carry 5 magazines on a belt rig (I guess I could but it would be far from ideal), so I use a chest rig. However, this doesn’t let me off the hook in terms of “train like you fight.”
In my world, as a civilian shooter, I am far more likely to be reloading from a belt pouch or even a cargo pocket than I am from a chest rig. That is why when I train, I use the chest rig to reinforce my belt. What does that look like? Well, when it time to reload, I reload from the belt. When I have a moment when the drill is complete, I refill my belt pouch(es) from the hardest to reach part of my chest rig. This leaves the easiest to reach magazines handy just in case I use up what is on my belt and I have to reload from the chest rig. Learning how to rotate and manage ammo and magazines is a vital part of training.
All of what I just wrote above just means this: my chest rig is secondary to my belt which is my primary magazine carriage method. Because the chest rig is secondary, there is no reason to use a large one with a ton magazine capacity. The best chest rig for my purposes will be compact enough to stay out of my way so that I can train the way that I am most likely to fight – without a chest rig.
OSOE AK/M4 Micro Rig Details
I’ll jump right into the dimensions, since as you can guess by the name, the main feature of this chest rig is its compact size. The body of the AK/M4 Micro Rig is about 7″ tall which is fairly standard for many chest rigs. It is the width that sets this rig apart. It is only 14″ wide. That is 3″ narrower than my next most compact chest rig. Those 3″ really make a difference in how the chest rig feels and performs in certain situations.
I suppose that it doesn’t really matter how small your chest rig is if it doesn’t carry what you need. The AK/M4 Micro Rig carries an impressive amount of gear thanks to its pouch layout. It features two magazine pouches that are sized to carry 2 AK magazines or 2 M4 (AR-15) magazines and a 6″x6″ general purpose pouch. There is also a large admin pouch inside the body of the rig (behind the magazine pouches). The interior of the 6×6 pouch and the admin pouch are lined with hook and loop material so you can add accessory organizers. The exterior of the general purpose pouch also has a generous hook and loop field for adding name tapes and patches. The flaps on the magazine pouches are generously sized and adjustable for length.
The AK/M4 Micro Rig comes standard with a typical x-harness made from 1.5″ webbing. It also has a waist belt made from 1″ webbing. The x-harness actually does a very good job of carrying the relatively light loads of such a compact chest rig but many users find the Slim Padded H-Harness to be a worthwhile upgrade. This harness is very comfortable and provides a means for mounting the OSOE Hydration Carrier.
The sides of the magazine pouches and the general purpose pouch have MOLLE webbing that allows you to attach a single pistol magazine pouch or flashlight pouch. The bottoms of the pouches feature heavy duty elastic loops that are designed to hold pocket smoke grenades, tourniquets, or whatever else you need. I tested the loops with C-A-T and SOF-T tourniquets and they worked perfectly. The tourniquet is held in a very out of the way location that is still very easy to access.
If you haven’t handled an OSOE product, you won’t really be able to appreciate how over built they are. I can’t tell for sure but it seems like every surface is made from 2 layers of 1000D Cordura nylon (certainly most of them are). There are no raw edges. All of the edges have either been taped or meticulously folded and sewn down. The tops of the magazine pouches of have been reinforced with heavy webbing. The pouches are quadruple stitched to the body of the chest rig and even quintuple stitched in some places. There are actually very few seams that are only single stitched. Suffice it to say, this rig is built to last.
One of the things that drew me to this rig is its versatility. It can be used with multiple weapon types. The magazine pouches are sized to allow 2 AK or 2 M4 magazines. This is very unusual and it just works. In fact, if OSOE made stand alone pouches just like the ones on this rig, I would have 2 of them on order for a plate carrier right now. The AK mags are tight but they do fit and they can be removed easily.
It can also be used as a bandolier. Lets say you want to keep this in your trunk with your “truck gun” and you may have to access it quickly. Rather than taking the time to put on the chest rig, you can configure the straps so that the AK/M4 Micro Rig can be worn like an over the shoulder bandolier. It is very clever and very handy.
The 6×6 general purpose pouch also adds versatility. The flap on this pouch has quite a bit of leeway with how loosely it can be closed. This allows this pouch to carry any number of items. It can carry common range items like earplugs, a pen, a notebook, gloves, or other common items. It can carry a very complete blow out kit. Some users will even insert a hook and loop holster and use it as a rig mounted flap holster for their handgun.
Reloading from this rig is easy. An open top pouch will always be faster than pouches with flaps like the ones on the AK/M4 Micro Rig, but I am willing to give up some speed for the extra options and retention that flaps provide. I also do my speed reloads from the belt when possible so flaps on the chest rig don’t bother me. The flaps allow me to run my AK mags with the bullets up. This makes the AK mags much easier and faster to access and manipulate.
The pouches are tight on 2 AK magazines but they appear to be breaking in a bit with use. This doesn’t make the magazines hard to remove, but they can be somewhat tough to insert. This is a small gripe. The pouches really do work as designed. There is plenty of space for two M4 magazines.
There are no seams or folds on the interior of the pouches. This is especially important for AK users. There is nothing for the locking tabs on AK magazines to catch on when they are being retrieved from the pouch.
The original x-harness is more than sufficient for this rig, but the Slim Padded H-Harness takes the comfort to the next level. I am very impressed with it. User who intend to use the rig as a bandolier will need to stick with the original x-harness.
The 1.5″ side release buckles (SRB) on the top of the rig can be a little annoying when you are shouldering the rifle. I had the rig adjusted to ride very high on my chest and found that I was frequently hitting the buckles with the buttstock of my rifle. Because of the slim nature of this rig, these buckles can end up right over the part of your shoulder that you would hold the buttstock of your rifle in a more squared up shooting stance. This was solved by simply adjusting it to ride lower (it is still quite high).
I really like how this rig carries a tourniquet. Tourniquets are central to my gunshot wound care preparation and training. It is vitally important they are are able to carried in such a way that they are accessible with one hand from a variety of positions and the elastic loops on the bottom of this rig accomplish this nicely.
This rig wears very well with a backpack. It is narrow enough to fit in between the straps of the pack. It also wears nicely over a plate carrier.
The only real annoyance that I have with this rig is that my sling tends to catch on the bottom of the Slim Padded H-Harness. This could probably be solved by moving the “cross-member” portion of the rig all the way to the bottom of the shoulder pads. As it is now, there are some corners that the sling tends to slip under. Then, when I bring the rifle up, it pulls against the rig and I have to fight against it a bit. It is annoying but it never prevented me from shouldering the rifle.
I really, really like this rig. It is very small and very versatile. The mag pouches are so well proportioned that it makse me wish they were offered separately. It is completely over built and should last a good long time. Most importantly, it fits perfectly with my idea of what I need a chest rig to do – carry what I can’t carry on my belt and stay out of the way.
Check out the AK/M4 Micro Rig on the OSOE website.