I have had the pleasure of trying out the UW Gear Bandoleer for both the AR and AK for the last several months. In that time, I have grown pretty fond of them. They have really impressed me with their low profile and versatility beyond just their intended purpose. These are more than just grab ‘n’ go rigs.
The UW Gear Bandoleer is a pretty straight forward design. It is basically just 3 magazine pouches with a shoulder strap and a waist strap. The magazine pouches are secured in the pouches with UW Gear’s ground breaking flap closures (see the UW Gear Minuteman MKIII review for more details on the flaps). The pouches also feature UW Gear’s clever sewn in drainage holes.
The body of the Bandoleer is constructed on 1000D nylon. The shoulder strap and waist strap are constructed from comfortable 1.5″ webbing. All of the usual details that I have come to expect from UW Gear are present like box stitching wherever the webbing meets the bandoleer, rounded corners, straight and even stitching, and quality hardware throughout.
The UW Gear Bandoleer is designed to function as a grab ‘n’ go or quick reaction rig. It is quicker to don than a chest rig and offers more concealability. This rig is designed for when the fight comes to you and you just don’t have a lot of time to react. It is the type of rig that you might want to store right next to the rifle that you use to protect your home and property. It is perfect for use with a truck or tractor gun.
I know there are people out there who are bound to say something like extra magazines are overkill in these types of scenarios. However, it should be remembered that carrying extra magazines is not just about carrying extra ammo. Extra magazines are an essential part of clearing malfunctions. If at all possible, you should always avoid reinserting the same magazine that you just malfunctioned – hence the need for spares.
Much of the versatility of the UW Gear Bandoleer comes from the different ways that it can be worn. I can quickly throw the shoulder strap on and then go, only fastening the waist strap if there is time. It can be worn low on the support side so that it doesn’t interfere with a side arm worn on your weapon side. It can also be pulled around toward the wearer’s front where it serves as a sort of chest rig.
When pushed to the side or even slightly behind the hip, the Bandoleer conceals easily with a light jacket or even a button up shirt. This concealability really makes the UW Gear more than just a grab ‘n’ go rig for me. I can see a lot of value in having a way to very discreetly and securely carry rifle magazines in certain situations that an armed citizen may encounter.
Retrieving a magazine from the UW Gear Bandoleer will likely feel like second nature to those of you who are used to belt rigs. The Bandoleer rides low and is positioned much like pouches on a belt rig (though slightly higher). This is an extremely fast place to draw from even with the full coverage pouches.
The waist strap can be wrapped around the body of the pouch for more streamlined storage so you have less straps to deal with when donning the Bandoleer. It unravels easily with just a tug when you are ready to fasten it around your waist.
UW Gear places a side release buckle on both straps. This makes it very easy to doff the rig, even in an emergency.
It can be difficult to remove a magazine from the rig if the waist strap is not buckled. The entire rig seems to lift as you try to lift a single mag. This is more pronounced with curved AK mags and less of an issue with the straighter AR mags. It can be overcome with a small shake or by sharply jerking the magazines out of the pouch. The moral of the story is that you should be fastening the waist belt if you have the time because this will cure the issue.
You can cinch the UW Gear Bandoleer down pretty tight and it will resist shaking while moving. However, it will never be quite as locked down as a chest rig. This isn’t a dig on the UW Gear Bandoleer but rather an observation of all bandoleers. They are not meant to take the place of a dedicated fighting rig.
While the UW Gear Bandoleer is great as a grab ‘n’ go rig, its concealability and variety of discreet ways that it can be worn make it more than just an emergency rig. I continue to be impressed with the quality and thoughtful designs that UW Gear offers.
Note: The Bandoleers shown are early models. Current production models have 2 SRBs instead of 4 and use 1.5″ webbing for both straps.