Plate Carriers… an old adversary that I keep trying to get to grips with. The closest I’ve ever come to a comfortable carrier was the HSGI Weesatch that I bought many years ago because Captain Price had one in COD4:MW…
Yeah, I played COD… We all did. It’s a right of passage that pretty much anyone under the age of 40 has played online a little more than they should have, And it’s generally led to some interesting purchases… From the TAD Shagmaster worn by Ghost to a set of Peltors to recreate that iconic Battlefield 4 loadout, Any way you look at it, Gaming has given us a lot of gear to look at and loadouts to replicate.
So, moving aside from my battles with Plate Carriers and Gaming, Many Of you will know I’m a follower of CBS’s SEAL Team series… In fact the kit breakdown that I’ve authored (with a fair amount of input from you guys) has been my most popular post by a significant margin.
The gear used in the show is pretty legit, The weapons and uniforms are certainly close if not exactly what has been used (Although you have to bear in mind that the costume dept. will cherry pick what to show on screen alongside any deals that have been made for product placement as is rumoured to be the case for everything from the Philadelphia Flyers merch worn by David Boreanaz to the Gucci gear from the likes of Velocity Systems, Wild Things, Kuiu, Spiritus Systems, Unity Tactical, S&S Precision, Silencerco, Pabst Blue Label, Eagle Nest Outfitters, Gatorz Eyewear and without a doubt the biggest presence… Crye Precision (God bless capitalism).
One of the central parts of the SEAL Team – Bravo Team loadout is the Crye AVS or Adaptive Vest System. It’s not the newest design but it’s regarded by many as one of the best protection and load carriage systems on the market. The plates themselves being held to a harness system that spreads the weight of the load across your shoulders and back whilst offering a versatile combat carriage for the fashion conscious operator…
A real AVS will cost upwards of £600 on the European second hand market, bearing in mind I will never need to rely on it to save my life and as a guy who will end up selling 90% of what I buy, Investing that kind of money into a carrier just doesn’t make sense.
So let’s have a look at the carrier and it’s construction… The real AVS is made from 500 Denier Cordura and webbing on both the front and rear platebags, the interesting thing I’ve noticed on Crye carriers is that the use of unconventional materials isn’t something the company is afraid to explore. Hypalon being used in the JPC and AVS amongst others, Originally designed as a synthetic material for RHIBs (Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats) it’s strength, flexibility and durability to the environmental factors such as UV degradation make it a fantastic material for certain applications, Crye using it for a multitude of uses, especially in areas of high wear or to create items that just wouldn’t be possible with conventional fabrics. I’m not suggesting that Crye started this trend but they have certainly run with it.
Another material seeing a fair amount of use in Crye products is 2/4 way stretch material (Or tweave to those in the know… thanks Rich 😉), Most commonly seen in their combat pants, Crye also decided that this material would serve well in lining the sides of their plate bags, thus allowing ballistic plates and soft armour inserts to fit snugly within their carriers.
Why is this important? Why am I rambling on about technical fabrics? Well it’s the difference between a poor clone and a good clone. Which does the Emerson fall into? Well… Pay attention and find out.
With the AVS being a popular rig due to its use with UK and US Special Forces, Many people are determined to have this highly regarded piece of gear, Now with money being a finite resource we’re all left with choices to make… Buy a £600 plate carrier or buy one at a quarter of the cost and spend the rest on other cool shit. Now I’m an advocate for buying genuine gear if it’s in your budget but sometimes it’s incredibly hard to justify spending £600 on a nylon vest based purely on desire rather that a real requirement. It’s Airsoft, we’re buying these things mostly based upon how they look, Not “will it keep me alive in a firefight” so sometimes genuine is a little overkill. Some will agree, some won’t… Whatever.
The basis of a Crye AVS is that it’s a modular system allowing multiple ways of carrying a front and/or rear ballistic plate. In the most often used configuration it’s seen as a Harness/Plate Bag combination which gives he protection and modularity of a modern plate carrier but with the harness allowing a greater degree of mobility and comfort.
The Emerson replica comes in two options, Light and Heavy… “light” being the plate bags and a conventional JPC Style cummerbund or the “heavy” coming with a harness. I can’t speak for the exact differences between a Crye and Emerson AVS as I don’t have a Crye AVS to compare it to in person, However with a few adjustments and without looking too closely it’s a passable clone with a few well copied details.
Firstly the materials used… Genuine Multicam 500d Cordura, Exactly what you’d find in the Crye version but with one notable exception… Most replica tactical gear will not be IRR treated… So be aware that under the glare of NODs you might not be as hard to spot as you’d like to think.
The webbing is also genuine Multicam, lightweight but well made… in the time I’ve been using it I’ve certainly not noticed any excessive wear or degradation.
The sides of the plate bags are made from a 2 way stretch material/tweave which allows for plates and backers of varying thicknesses to be comfortably installed. This is derived from the genuine Crye carrier and the reason for my rambling earlier… It’s a nice touch, easily overlooked in lesser clones but faithfully replicated in the Emerson.
The bottom of each plate bag is padded to ensure that it’s comfortable and the backs of the bags are also reinforced and lightly padded for the same reason.
Insofar as the plate bags themselves… The rear is a rather conventional design with a full 6 x 6 MOLLE layout, Drag handle (Which looks pretty well put together!) and a velcro panel to the same size as that on the front.
The smart part is the zip either side of the plate bag which allows for the attachment of a number of Crye style back panels, Some very simple in nature and designed for additional wet weather clothing and hydration… Others for role specific equipment such as additional ammunition, special munitions and charges or medical gear. I can’t with certainty confirm that these are compatible with genuine Crye panels but I’ve been informed by others that they will indeed work together.
The front plate bag is a departure from a conventional design such as an LBT 6094 or JPC 1.0, a small velcro covered admin pouch sits around the chest area whilst a new (in comparison) design of detachable flap is on the centre section of the rig.
This can be removed and replaced as desired and gives the AVS a modularity that’s uncommon amongst its peers, pictured above you can see the 4 securing tethers that can be fully sealed inside a kangaroo flap, However I’ve got mine running on the outside to show how the flap is secured. I’m not going to suggest it’s simple to remove and replace with plates installed but it does meant that you can run one carrier with multiple weapon systems… M4, Mk46 and MP7… all achievable with dedicated flaps to suit your needs.
It’s worth pointing out that the base set up only includes a single MOLLE type flap, A triple M4 type being a logical first purchase alongside this rig. The MOLLE flap being joined by a Blue Force Gear MP7 pouch for those times where I fancy getting up close with the sub guns.
The admin pouch atop the carrier is pretty redundant tactically… Unless of course you opt to mod it with a zip as I’ve chosen to do.
The hardware that the AVS is supplied with isn’t too far out from what you’d find in a real Crye carrier… The D rings for the rear plate bag are Emerson branded but once installed you shouldn’t see them enough to notice… I’ve chosen to twist the rings around 180 as I’ve seen it done on genuine AVS set ups and it feels a better way of having things oriented.
The buckle is another item I’ve swapped out, generally the AVS is see with a ITW Nexus Vee Stealth buckle which in the case of the Emerson is not replicated, a cheaper and incorrect looking standard profile buckle being used.
The good news is that it’s easily replaced… The correct buckle or an Austrialpin Cobra being simple enough to change it to… Especially if you get someone whose skilled with a sewing machine to do it for you! Thanks Andy!
Onto the harness… The real USP of this set up. The harness is a split design which wraps around the midriff and shoulders of the user, taking the weight of the carrier off the shoulders and allowing the wearer to move and breathe freely.
As you can see on the above picture, the use of hypalon material for the guts of the harness allows for some rigidity in the fixings for the various cummerbund options available. The one supplied with the harness configuration being of the single strap type… It’s an unusual set up but pretty smart once you get the hang of how it works.
A length of shock cord connects the two halves of the harness allowing a close yet breathable fit… The rear plate bag being secured via two rigid links each side that allow the harness to move independently of it, making it highly adjustable and comfortable to wear.
Pictured above you can see a pocket, placed at the lower end of the plate bag which allows for the excess cord to be tucked away, free from potential snags. One little niggle is that the pads that are synonymous with the rig do not come with it as standard.. pads by Crye, Semapo and generic ACM companies will fit the harness and definitely make a difference in the look and wear of the rig… just be aware that the ultra cheap pads can look worse than no pads!
You have the ability to route in an emergency “doffing” cable to release the single cummerbund with a firm tug on the cable… However I’ve opted to simply add a clip onto the cummerbund in a fashion similar (And some might say better 😜) than Crye’s own additional upgraded AVS pack. There’s a lot of options out there from First Spear tubes and Cobra clips but I opted on a low tech option from TacBelts UK.
This was done mostly for convenience… I like to be able to set up my plate carrier and simply be able to clip myself into it and take it off with a simple click. The loss in attachment space is negligible… Plus I’ve got the clip set up on my strong side where I like to keep it pretty slick.
The wrap-around section of the harness has incorporated a double row of MOLLE along most of its length… Plenty of space for a few additional pouches if you should need to carry additional gear such as radios or additional mags.
As far as quality is concerned, I have no complaints. Sure there’s corners cut and this isn’t built to last a tour of duty in a war zone, but it’s built to a far higher standard than the clone gear of yesteryear… I’ve put it through a bit of abuse already and it’s showing no signs of coming apart.
Bar tack stitching in every conceivable place and a distinct lack of loose threads certainly give this the look of a high quality piece of gear. If you put Crye tags on it I reckon a great many would be fooled, Certainly not those who live and breathe tactical gear but for your average Airsofter? Sure.
Another thing to take into account is that this is a “one size fits most” affair… The harness and plate bags are based upon a medium sized rig as are most clones. This will be more than fine for most of you but for the bigger guys, It’ll be a case of Man size big – Plate Carrier size small…
Overall though I can’t fault Emerson’s rig for the money, It’s changed my mind on how I view repro gear… I’m still very much an advocate for real stuff but there’s definitely a place for repro gear, certainly if the money you didn’t spend in Crye goes towards more replicas or just as importantly, Game time.