PLCE webbing review

PLCE
’95 DPM Pattern Webbing

by
Permian

When
I first started airsofting, out in Hong Kong, I initially used
the base minimum of kit – an AEG, a few magazines, some surplus
DPM clothing from over here. The bit of kit I wanted most was
some webbing, but the problem with finding webbing in HK was
two-fold; firstly the small number of troops out there meant
that there was little surplus kit about, and secondly there
were few shops selling it. I eventually bought some Grade 1
Olive Green ’58 pattern webbing, which included the yoke, belt,
two ammo pouches, two water bottle pouches and the kidney packs.
When I returned to the UK and rekindled my interest in Airsoft
I bought an OG PLCE webbing set, however soon after I saw an
advert in Combat & Survival for a set of DPM PLCE webbing
for £50 (in 1998), so I took the plunge and sold off the
OG Kit.

But
first some background, PLCE (Personal Load Carry Equipment)
webbing, is the standard issue webbing for all arms personnel
in the UK. Designed to replace the aging and outdates ’58 pattern
webbing with a more modern, modular system. ’58 pattern webbing
was made from canvas, a very durable and rot resistant material.
The problem with it is that is soaks up water and becomes very
heavy when wet, and takes ages to dry. Also the ’58 pattern
webbing is not very modular; it can’t be tailored to specific
missions. Developed in the 1980’s PLCE webbing made its first
widespread media appearance in the Gulf War in 1991.

Initial
Overview
I ordered my PLCE webbing with an extra utility
pouch in place of the respirator pouch – simply because I knew
(or hoped) that biological or chemical agents are never used
in airsoft so a respirator is redundant. The pouches, belt and
vest are all made from the same tough tactical grade nylon,
with a DPM pattern printed or dyed onto them. The kit came with
a yoke, waist belt, 2 magazine pouches, 2 utility pouches and
a water bottle pouch.

The
belt is straight forward, simply a very rigid nylon belt with
slots in it with a very chunky Quick Release (QR) buckle. The
vest is similarly simple, in that it’s a rough Y-shape with
padded shoulders, a mesh back panel and 6 attachment straps,
no D-Rings on it anywhere.

The
magazine pouches hold 6 magazines each in 2 separate compartments.
Each compartment has its own lid and 2 nylon separators – to
silence the noise the magazines make when the knock into each
other. So the webbing is capable of holding 12 magazines in
its basic form – far more than most people need in a skirmish
(unless you are using standards), I used one compartment on
the right hand pouch for battery storage. One word here the
mag pouches are designed to hold SA80 magazines which are nearly
identical to M16 magazines. So the mag pouches are can only
carry magazines designed for 5.56 (M16, FAMAS, G36, AUG, SIG,
plus 250 rd AK). You might get away with MP5 magazines but they
would not be secure, G3 magazines might also fit but you would
be limited on the number you could carry. Each pouch has 2 metal
loops on the top to secure the yoke to.

The
utility pouches are designed to hold all other things, a mess
tin (plus boil in a bag meal with spoon) and a hexamine stove.
The pouch is has a small internal divider, behind which there
is enough space for the stove. This is the big pouch, and where
I will put most of kit (scrim net, maintenance kit etc…). Each
utility pouch has 2 metal D-rings, for the attachment of the
yoke.

The
waterbottle pouches actually hold more than the utility pouches,
and have a waterproof lining/finish internally. These are meant
to hold a ’58 pattern plastic waterbottle. There is a small
pocket in the lid of the pouch for water purification tablets
– but since clean water is usually abundant at skirmish sites
I won’t need them.

All
the pouches are held closed by a combination of buckle fastener
and Velcro. The Velcro is the quick an easy options, e.g. when
you need to close a pouch quickly in a firefight – each lid
has a Velcro panel, and each pouch as an opposite Velcro strip.
When silent opening/closing is required there is a silencing
strip of Velcro sown into the pouch that can be folded over
the front to disable Velcro. Other than this the standard method
of closure is a rather fiddly buckle system.

Fitting
When setting up the webbing kit I first started with the
belt. The PLCE belt has loops of the inner side, these are to
allow you to firstly adjust the belt to your girth, and secondly
for the insertion of the tabs on some of the pouches. I adjusted
the belt for my waist (32” at the time). I then decided on the
layout of the belt order, from left to right it goes; Ammo,
Water bottle, Utility, Water Bottle, Ammo. I fitting my belt
order back to front, basically I stated with the Utility pouch
at the back to ensure symmetry. The pouches in the PLCE kit
have 2 methods of fitting to the belt.

Ammo
pouched and the utility pouches are fastened to the belt by
a combination of tabs, Velcro and pop fasteners. Each pouch
has tabs, which are designed to fit in the slots on the belt.
On the pouches I received there were a mixture of polymer and
metal tabs. Each pouch has 2 tabs to attach to the belt, once
these are inserted into the belt the slots are covered over
by a flap on the pouch which is fastened at the opposite side
of the belt with Velcro and pop fasteners.

Water
bottle pouches are fastened to the belt, by the same flap found
on the ammo pouches. This is again secured by Velcro and pop
fasteners.

Once
the pouches are secured to the belt you attach the yoke to the
belt. The yoke has 6 straps on it, 2 for the front, 2 for the
back and 2 for the sides. I started with the Utility pouch at
the back. First I passed webbing tapes through two metal loops
on to top of the pouch. The webbing is held in place by ladder-lock
fasteners. I then fastened the each of the front webbing tapes
to a metal loop on each ammo pouch. The 2 side tapes are also
fastened to the ammo pouches, but to metal loops on the opposite
side of the pouch.

This
creates the vest like appearance of the webbing kit, and is
designed to increase weight distribution and stability on the
webbing. To aid the stability each of the pouches have a small
webbing loop in the back. These loops are there to allow for
a webbing strap to be run along the length the pouches and bind
them together to reduce the ‘bounce commonly associated with
webbing. Additionally each pouch has another loop on each side
of it, this is designed to accommodate a bungee to be run on
outside of the webbing to further increase stability and to
aid camouflage.

Modularity
This is the greatest feature of the PLCE kit, it is highly
modular – individual pouches can be swapped out and replaced
with a more suitable one, depending on the mission. For example
if I were in a support gunner’s role and I wanted pouches for
the linked ammo. I could swap the 2 front ammo pouches for utility
pouches and the whole set will still work, because the utility
pouches have the loops for the front webbing straps. The PLCE
kit includes several other pouches including; RPG, Respirator,
Single Ammo, Entrenching tool and Radio pouches and a pistol
holster.

That
said the PLCE’s modularity is very much limited to PLCE pouches.
You can use other tactical products such as drop leg holsters
or drop leg ammo pouches with the webbing since these accessories
require the inner side of the let to have Velcro to fasten to.

Wearability
The PLCE kit is designed to be more like a vest – spreading
the weight of the load on the belt more evenly across your body.
After wearing my PLCE webbing kit for over 2 years I found it
to be very uncomfortable. Often after a day of skirmishing I
would return with sore shoulders, a sore neck and muscle spasms
in the small of my back. The problem areas with the webbing
are two fold.

Firstly
my main problem is that the fasteners on the base of the back
of the vest come undone during combat, allowing the belt to
sag downwards and forcing your muscles to compensate more. Secondly
the belt has no padding, and as such cuts into your waist during
prolonged use – this is the problem with using rigid nylon as
a base material.

The
wedding is designed to be more like a vest in the way it distributes
load – but it fails in that regard.

Before
buying the webbing I read one of Mr McNabs books, where he stated
that troopers (come to think about it any soldier) like to keep
his front clear of pouches, so that going prone is more comfortable
and getting to magazines is easy. I found this tough to achieve,
without loosing one of the utility pouches and the storage capacity
it provided. I would always have part of each magazine pouch
near my front and for lean and fit soldiers I imagine this is
a similar problem.

Overall
access to magazine pouches is easy, but the separator panels
in the pouch makes putting empty ones back in difficult in a
tight spot. Getting kit out and back in the larger utility and
water bottle pouch was easier due to the large openings, although
the catches to close all the pouches are far to fiddly to use
in my opinion – perhaps a QR buckle and a draw string closure
to prevent kit spilling out?

The
dreaded ‘pouch bounce’ was often evident, even though I tightened
up the belt, bungee and utility strap behind the webbing – but
it was minimally compared to other webbing kit I have seen.

Conclusion
I have used the PLCE 95 webbing for just about every weekend
over a 2 year period. The PLCE webbing has been through a lot
of rough abuse and has come out the other side looking almost
as new as the day I bought it. It is very robust; the heavy
gauge nylon has stood up to the abuse I have put the webbing
through. When wet the Webbing’s weight does not increase significantly
due to the nature of the nylon material. As for load distribution,
this is the PLCE systems major weakness. Despite attempting
to make the webbing more vest like in its load distribution
qualities, it does not succeed. During my use of the PLCE webbing
I reckon the maximum amount of kit I put in the webbing was
abound about 20 pounds, and considering CEFO standard is usually
about 30 pounds, my webbing was lighter than the usual UK squadies
would be. Yet the problems were still very apparent. Too much
pressure is exerted upon too narrow an area over the shoulders
making it uncomfortable during prolonged use. The other major
comfort problem is that the waist belt can cut into your waist.
This latter can be solved by using what’s known as ‘Hippo Pads’
that are available from companies such as Arktis, Wyvern and
SASS, these essentially pad out the waist belt and reduce the
cutting/rubbing the waist belts cause.

The
DPM pattern of the webbing itself blends in very nicely with
‘90 and ’95 pattern DPM clothing, so much so when I had a picture
taken with it on in the field it was very difficult to pick
it out from my smock. If you run a bungee along the outside
of the pouches you can add additional foliage to the webbing
set to enhance camouflage.

The
problem with ALL armed forces kit at the end of the day is that
someone, the tax payer has to pay for it, and in the days of
shrinking defence budgets the average pound does not go as far
as it used too. So sacrifices are made. What I am happy to say
is that quality has not been sacrificed, the PLCE ’95 webbing
kit will last, the nylon construction is top quality and should
last in harsh battlefield conditions.

For
the £50 I paid for the webbing set it was, at the time,
money well spent. The durability of the kit and its flexibility
in carrying loads meant that everything was to hand during a
skirmish. That said I did have to add a US FFD pouch for my
radio. A good buy, and recommended for first time skirmishers
or those looking to upgrade from the 58’ pattern kit.

UPDATE
Since writing the review I sold off my webbing set, after
I found a better alternative. The
Eagle Tac vest series
. Despite the good points of the PLCE
webbing I found that I would comeback from a skirmish with major
back pain because of the belt sag. After much deliberation I
bought an Eagle Tac vest – and have to say that it’s the business.
No back problems what-so ever. So perhaps older, or more experienced
players might look for a tactical vest instead of classic webbing
– the Royal Marines have switched from the 95 pattern webbing
to the Arktis RM vest. If the pro’s have done it then there
could be a point to be taken! But if money is a factor, the
PLCE is the way forward, since the Eagle vest costs twice as
much and is far less modular and carries less kit.

by
Permian

External
Links:
Eagle
Industries

Site
links:
TBA

Comment
on this review in the forums


Last
modified:
Monday, March 10, 2003 2:33 PM
Copyright 2003 ArniesAirsoft




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