There are times where spending more money isn’t always the answer. When it comes to the world of tactical nylon this is especially true. Nowadays, people are quick to ditch proven gear in order to go with the latest thing they’ve seen posted on Instagram or their favorite gun forum. While some of these items do offer an improvement over old pieces of kit (typically in the realm of weight), not all of them are what they initially seem to be. Today we are going to take a look at how to repurpose one of the red headed stepchildren of the tactical nylon world; the MOLLE 2 bandolier.
A lot of guys are probably asking why would someone look at the bandolier and what does it do that a modern chest rig, plate carrier, etc not offer. Allow me to explain what brought me to re-examine the bandolier and find out that it meets a number of my needs perfectly.
I’m currently issued a patrol rifle at work. Along with the carbine comes two 30 round magazines (PMAGs for those that are interested) that are kept with the carbine in a locked hard case. The carbine has an Aimpoint PRO (Patrol Rifle Optic) and some no-name single point sling (not my first or 17th choice) all of which rides in a locked hard case in the rear of the vehicle. When we think we might need the carbine, we grab it from the case and go do our thing. We are not issued a means of carrying the second magazine and there have been numerous cases where officers, to include me, have grabbed the carbine, a magazine, and skipped grabbing the second magazine. Problem #1.
We currently are not allowed to have any form of light mounted to the carbine. While it would seem like common sense to have a light mounted to a carbine for tasks such as threat identification, the powers that be currently tell us that there will always be ample illumination in the areas where the carbines are deployed (and that they are “stand-off” weapons) so a weapon light isn’t need. Over the time that the patrol rifle program has been in place, officers from around the agency have encountered times where more light than mother nature, and Thomas Edison-influenced street lamps, provide was needed. As a result of this; I have had to default to using old school hand-held flashlight techniques with the carbine. While I keep a Surefire Z2 style light on my duty belt, and can make use of it with a carbine; I’ve found that lights with a body mounted switch are more conducive to the task and so I’ve equipped myself with a Streamlight Stinger. The Stinger is roughly 9” long and weighs around 13 ounces. As a result, I stick the Stinger in my duty bag and grab it as I exit my vehicle (if I remember to do so). Problem #2.
With these two problems in mind, carrying spare ammunition and a flashlight, I began to look at different options. While I do carry a plate carrier (PC) in my vehicle, it takes time to put it on and that isn’t always an option for me though the PC is set up to carry additional ammunition and I do have a spare Surefire flashlight stowed in one of the magazine pouches. I looked at subloads that are marketed toward rapid attachment for active shooter style situations, but I’m not a big fan of strapping things to my leg for reasons such as: increased fatigue, snag hazard, compromised balance, and a tendency to shift. Finally, one day I was sorting through some old gear I had stashed away and stumbled upon an old Eagle Patrol Bandolier I had bought years ago. That’s when it hit me; a bandolier was what I needed. The bandolier would permit me to carry spare ammunition, the Stinger flashlight, and a few other items that I might need (medical supplies, simple food items).
You might be asking why not just go with the Eagle Patrol bandolier since I already had it in hand. While I tried the Eagle bandolier, and currently use it for something else, it simply did not meet the needs I had. Continuing to look through my old gear stash, I then stumbled upon several old MOLLE 2 Bandoliers. After looking at the MOLLE Bandolier and placing a few items in it I decided it would work for me.
After placing my required items in the bandolier, I did some simple drills and realized I had one more problem to solve; a waist strap. Without a waist strap, the bandolier had a tendency bounce and constantly shift. After doing a few hours of research and brainstorming, I came up with a conclusion. And here we go:
What you’ll need:
For this project you will need:
1 MOLLE 2 Bandolier
2 1” ITW Nexus fastex buckles with a split bar
2 1” tri glides
1 yard of heavy duty 1” nylon fabric
Duct Tape (oh yes; can’t do this without duct tape)
Let’s get started.
The bandolier comes with two small loops of fabric on the bottom edges. Each of those loops are roughly ¼” in width and are the reason we need the tape. The first thing you do is slip the split bar end of the buckle over this ¼” loop. Once this is accomplished, push the fabric to one side and seal the split in the bar with the tape. Now do the same thing for the other loop of fabric. Once that is done, you’ve got the hardest part knocked out.
Next we are going to make the strap itself. For this you simply route the desired length of fabric through the buckles and secure the free-running ends with the tri glides. When doing this make sure you leave enough material free that you can adjust the waist strap to accommodate for bulky clothing, gear, or increases in table muscle size.
Once the ends of the strap have been secured by the tri glides, plug the male portion of the buckles into the female ends and VIOLA!!!!!!! You are done. The first time I did this I took me roughly 5 minutes to complete; the most time consuming component is taping the split in the buckle.
How much does all of this cost?
Not including the price of the tape; you should be able to buy all of the needed components, to include the bandolier, for under $20. The bandolier is the most expensive item, but if you look around you can find them for as low as $4 (this is typically UCP patterned ones). The Multicam, woodland, and DCU pattern bandoliers average around $10 new. Remember that if you want to modify the color of bandolier you can always spray paint it or dye it using something like RIT Dye.
So this is perfect, right?
So far this has been a tale of puppy dog tails and unicorn farts. Now it is time for a reality check. The bandolier is not perfect. It was designed to carry 6 USGI aluminum magazines with a fabric strap securing them via pull-dot closure. In this lies the problem……. The bandolier is designed to work, to full capacity with aluminum magazines; not PMAGs. If you want to use PMAGs, recognize that you will only be able to fit one magazine per pouch (and have the flap button close). The single PMAG will fit with or without an installed Ranger plate.
If you decide to go with aluminum magazines you should be able to fit 2 magazines in each pouch unless you have an old school Magpul on it and its mounted in the original position (Loop up). If you run the old Magpuls like an ad hoc Ranger plate, then you can still fit a single aluminum magazine (without Magpul) and one with the ad hoc Ranger plate.
What can I do with this?
The great thing about the bandolier is that you can do countless things with it. You can use them for carrying shotgun ammo (see below), you can fill all the pockets with medical supplies, you can carry a mixture of ammo/medical/communications, etc. You are basically limited by what your mind can come up with. You can also rotate the bandolier in the front of your chest (top strap going around your neck) and turn the bandolier into a pseudo chest rig. You can even have different camo patterned rigs designated for different tasks (DCU= medical, Woodland = shotgun, Multicam = active shooter response).
How do I carry these?
I typically have one sitting in the floor board of the vehicle I am driving though I am experimenting with hanging it from the passenger seat headrest. The headrest location should allow for faster retrieval though I am concerned about it getting hung up on the headrest. Time will see on that. For other people, you may find keeping it next to whatever gun(s) you have in your vehicle to be best for you. The idea behind it is to be a quick grab and go item that supports what you are about to do. Hell; you could even through one in the storage area of your door panels if it will fit. Again; your imagination is the limiting factor.
So go give this a whirl, I think you will like it.
Until next time