Gear Review: Haley Strategic D3CRM (Micro) Chest Rig

It’s crazy to think that it’s pretty much been a year since the debut of the Haley Strategic D3CR Micro at Shot Show 2018 back in February! To put that into perspective, that’s a solid month before I even signed up for a WordPress account! In that time, the Micro has already been a great seller in the US and a direct contender against the Spiritus Systems Micro Fight Chassis in the Micro Chest Rig market, it’s also garnered a fair amount of attention over here in the UK with gear whores within the airsoft community and certain units within the Law Enforcement community that require what the Haley Micro promises to offer.

So over the last 10 months I’ve pestered, nagged and tried the patience of the guys who run Tactical Kit to get these in, However it’s not quite as simple as just placing an order and waiting for shipment. Haley Strategic have a number of US Domestic Customers who they give priority to (Which is understandable). I also can’t fault the TK team as they’ve pushed and pushed to get these in and indeed have managed to get a sizeable order in most of the colourways available (although the rigs are flying out as fast as they come in).

Its always been a bit of an oddity that Travis Haley who is one of a handful of respected professionals in the shooting and gear field, is also an advocate of Airsoft. Many of his peers shun the idea of Airsoft as a training tool and as a whole (In part down to their ignorance but also because if we’re honest, the Airsoft community doesn’t portray itself in a positive light and needs to start thinking about how it’s own future is dependant on the acceptance of outsiders).

When it comes to Haley Strategic, they do a couple of things very well. Chest Rigs being one of them, marketing being the other main factor that contributes to their success alongside the products themselves. Being very much on-side with recognised and respected individuals such as Garand Thumb (Who has an excellent video review on the D3CRM here), Spartan117GW and True Exodus along with their respective legions of followers, Along with Mr Travis Haley‘s distinct credibility in the field of High Speed – Low Drag Gear.

In fact one of the key reasons I personally admire their products is the adherence to a Kaizen thought process. Cutting out the unnecessary and working towards an always evolving yet never attainable idea of perfection, Haley Strategic seem to hit the mark repeatedly when producing gear.

So without further waffling, What is the D3CRM Chest Rig and why would you buy it? As a summary, it’s an evolution from their original D3CR of which I’ve been a massive fan since acquiring one a few years ago. Quite simply, It’s a small scale and low profile Chest Rig with a hot-swappable magazine insert system that allows carriage of Pistol, Subgun, Assault and Battle Rifle magazines. It also features a swift clip system for scalability with armour carriage systems and a Velcro panel on the rear which can interface with “Dangler” type pouches and further secure the rig should it be attached to a velcro fronted plate carrier.

Where the original D3CR had its biggest plus (And indeed where this one also draws strength) is in its scalability without relying on MOLLE, A return to the days of building the nylon gear around a specific end goal and working out what was needed to achieve it.

With the D3CR-M comes an evolution of the less is more principal, cutting back even more on the physical size of the rig whilst retaining a level of carriage that fits the users mission profile and is just adaptable enough to allow flexibility for the end-user. Gone is the “Stuff-It” pouch that is iconic to the original (But not present on any subsequent model) and also the small (Bandage sized) admin pockets on each end have been removed… I’ll get onto these in more detail further down and what’s replaced them, but first I want to talk about the key things that appear to have influenced the new Micro’s design.

Firstly, By understanding that there’s a methodical reason behind every part of the Haley Strategic design process will reveal that some very good ideas were implemented in the design of this rig. The rig is primarily designed for the carriage of ammunition, its size would suggest that its made for end users who require a low profile Chest Rig (You can read that as covert) and the ability to carry a variety of different magazine types (mission adaptable). For those in the Military/Law Enforcement community it makes sense to have this modularity, Moving from day an individual weapon such as an M4 or Sub-Gun for vehicle work or room clearance to maybe as the team Marksman with a 7.62 weapon it’s nice to have the ability to chop and change the inserts. Now as an airsofter, the appeal of this is obvious… But for the Law Enforcement and Military personnel that this has been designed for it fits a very particular need, one which is fulfilled currently by very few others on the market. In fact only one other major contender sticks out… Spiritus Systems.

Now whilst Spiritus have developed a very good solution to the problem, It’s not perfect. Whilst a wide variety and substantial amount of magazines can be catered for, it’s velcro design means that it is inherently noisy (if using a flap to create an admin space) and doesn’t really cater for small/unusual shaped items such as Notepads/Pens, Tourniquets and Tools. Now it could be argued that Spiritus didn’t intend for their core rig to support such items, That their S.A.C.K. (Catch my review here) or Lunchbox fulfil an admin role, and they’d be correct. But often it’s nice to have just a little space for those odds and ends that you might need.

The main section (which houses your insert of choice) is sure to gain a lot of comments as to its influences, however like I’ve said before… You can only find so many solutions to a problem and as such it’s not surprising to find that a similar approach to Spiritus has been used. As with the Micro Fight Chassis, a loop field on both the front and rear of the main section allow the installation of a number of inserts…

Currently, Haley Strategic provide 3 different inserts in both Black and Coyote, I’ll go through them below:

Firstly, the one I didn’t buy… A double 7.62 sized magazine insert which uses an MP2 type insert as used before in the original D3CR (albeit a bigger version). compatibility wise, SR25, SCAR-H and M14 magazines should fit without issue however it’s unlikely that H&K 417 mags will fit due to their monstrous size.

Secondly, the generic triple “M4” sized magazine pouch. This again uses MP2 inserts, identical to the original D3CR rig option and they work as flawlessly as I’ve come to expect. Within airsoft, Most AEG, Recoil, PTW and GBBR mags should fit securely. On my old D3CR I’d long ago forsaken the bungees due to their fantastic ability to hold magazines with ease, With the Micro inserts it’s not possible to add bungees without modification… Trust me, you won’t need them. These pouches will also accommodate AK74 mags and others of a similar profile, some magazines such as used in the H&K G36 and Sig 552 might struggle though due to their bulky design.

The final one, And the main selling point to me was the inclusion of a Subgun insert. As a regular MP7 and MP5 advocate it’s pretty essential for me to have a way of carrying SMG mags. Up until now I’d been using a combination of the BlueForceGear MP7 Chest Rig and the AVS with a BFG quad pouch on the MOLLE flap. Both are stellar choices but I’ve been after something with a similar profile to my original D3CR (Reviewed here) for sub-gun use, even to the point of making MP7 kydex inserts to fit in the rig.

So with three inserts available and a world of talented tailors (Ahem, Tacbelts UK) the possibilities are limitless!

Onto the secondary pouches, the so called “Multi-Mission” pouches. There’s one each side and perfectly sized for double stack pistol magazines such as Glock 17/19 mags or comparable sized magazines such as Sig, Beretta and S&W. Single stack mags will fit with room to spare, However using the shock cord pull tabs will keep pretty much all 1911 mags in place. The tabs by the way are very well made, chunky enough to use with gloves and with a grippy when wet texture that enables this to be used in any weather.

The final pouch is mounted on the face of the carrier, it’s a dual zipped admin pouch with both a loop field on the flap side and a dual elastic strap on the body side. The loop field will accommodate accessories such as BFG Dapper panels (seen in a couple of my shots) and I’m sure we’ll see some specific inserts made by Haley Strategic themselves for the Micro soon.

I’m a big fan of this pouch and the zipper opening means it’ll be handy when I need to open or close the pouch without making noise. The zippers also have para-cord pull tabs which given the range of available options is probably the beat choice for ease of use and not getting in the way.

The elastic loops are perfectly sized for most items you’d imaging carrying around, from a compact camera or iPhone to a strobe, rangefinder or blowout kit there’s a deceptively large amount of space in this pouch and even without obvious expansion gussets built in, it’s pretty roomy. The design of this pouch is almost identical to that found on the front of the D3CR-H which shows that whilst Haley Strategic will innovate, It won’t mess around with stuff that works well.

The very front of the chest rig has an unusual format loop field, thinner and longer than the standard 5″ x 3″ flag panel. It’s also sewed on slightly off “on the piss”, not enough to detract from its use but as it’s the first thing you see on the chest rig I’m surprised by this apparent lack of attention to detail. It doesn’t actually matter and it’s actually one of the only things I can point out that I’m not happy with in terms of quality. I noticed a few compromises with the Flat Pack Plus I reviewed last year (Especially with the straps), but with Haley Strategic it’s very much function before form so I can’t grumble too much.

The bottom of the rig shows a brace of drainage eyelets for the main and admin compartments, the multi mission pouches are relatively open at the bottom as well which negates the need for eyelets. Drainage was never an issue for the original D3CR and I can’t see it being one with this either.

I’d also like to point out that Haley Strategic Tactical Gear in general seems to have an ability to flatten itself automatically when not loaded… This is certainly the case with the Micro, The Admin and Multi-Mission pouches don’t get in the way when full, when empty they’re virtually flat.

The straps supplied are an X-Harness configuration with an additional waist belt, Whilst I can see this being a benefit to certain people who don’t get on with the H-Harness that the original D3CR came with, it’s not my preferred choice. I find that the cross harness sits a little closer to my collar than I’d like and forces me to “pop” my collar to make sure the straps sit away from my skin, I also find that there’s a little more movement with a cross harness than I’m used to. However it’s not the end of the world and I’m able to live with the straps as they are, certainly the X-Harness is very low profile and should assist in keeping the rig covert should that be a requirement.

The straps also have the same three loops on the front that allows for comms cables etc to be routed and perhaps more useful, for a PTT to be effectively retained. There’s a massive amount of adjustment available and with an X-Harness you’ll find it easy to cinch the rig close no matter your size.

The hardware supplied is American Cord & Webbing (ACW) Acculoc buckles, These are American made and fully compatible with ITW Nexus hardware. The fantastic difference with the current hardware is that it’s now removable… Wearing the old D3CR as a placard on my Ferro Slickster was frustrating as the buckles on the side kept flapping around and making noise against anything they touched…. With the option to remove them, This frustration is simply gone.

I have tested the Micro with the original D3CR H-Harness and found it to be superior for my particular build (Fat Mess) and I might very well use it in this way going forward. It also connects with the Haley Strategic Flatpack and Flatpack Plus should you need a low profile yet highly capable load bearing system for more rural games or where S.S.E. (Secure Site Exploitation Or Intel Gathering to those not up to date with the cool kid lingo) might be a part of your tasking.

On the rear of the rig there’s a removable velcro blanking panel, this will be a familiar sight to anyone whose owned a similar rig. This allows the rig to be securely held against a velcro lined plate carrier in conjunction with a swift clip set up. In addition to this it allows the Haley Strategic Micro to be combined with one of many hanger type pouches such as that offered by Haley Strategic themselves or my personal favourite… The Spiritus Systems SACK! This will increase your ability to hold the essentials such as further medical or mission specific gear or for those of us who play airsoft it gives you room for Pyro, Ammo, Haribo… whatever your little heart desires.

In theory it would also be possible to add wing pouches for radios etc… But it’s easy to turn a low profile rig into something it was never designed to be by adding too much. That being said, I’ll be looking at radio carriage options and a wing pouch is looking the most likely option at the moment as I don’t line a radio on my belt line due to the potential for damage.

So… two big questions I’ve been asked numerous times, “What does it offer over the original?” And “Should I go for this over the Spiritus Systems Micro Fight Rig?”…

First question is easy enough, It is more compact than the original… Which wasn’t a big rig to be fair. The load carriage is down by 33% if your using 5.56 mags (of which many of you will be) but you retain 2 multi-mission pouches (One each side of the rig) and gain a very user friendly and customisable admin pouch on the front.

I never really used the “stuff it” pouch on the original and it’s fair to say that Haley Strategic themselves realised that it wasn’t essential when it was phased out of the D3CRH and D3CRX. As far as I’m concerned, The Micro is a natural progression from the original for those needing a small and customisable rig.

For those who say that 3 mags isn’t enough, This isn’t built for a sustained engagement. For house entry or recce use where you’d either have plenty of support or simply break contact you’ll find 3 mags would be more than sufficient, a full combat load out of 6+1 requires a different rig and that’s not a surprise to most people.

The second question? Well it’s down to personal preference and your requirements. I’ve been waiting nearly a year for this rig to be released, Many many times I’ve had a Spiritus rig in the cart, ready to click that button… But I held off, mostly because I knew the Haley Strategic rig would offer a solution that fitted my requirements a lot closer.

Plus, if I’m honest I didn’t think I’d have to wait a year for it. Where I’d say the Micro really does well is in either a light strike role either on its own or sat on a slick carrier as a placard, Alternatively I can see myself using this paired with the Flatpack Plus in a Recce loadout for longer duration games such as 24 hour “combat missions” or all day rural events.

Overall, a great rig. Not perfect for everyone but for me I’ve found it to be very much what I want in a chest rig. Your always going to get people who want more ammo carriage but if you compare this to my “SEAL Team” inspired AVS it’s actually got a very similar load carrying capacity without the bulk and weight of the plates and harness. Tactical Kit UK are the only importer to the UK at time of writing, although I’m sure you’ll see the rig listed elsewhere before long. One final note, Don’t forget to add the inserts to your shopping cart or you’ll be left with just a very cool looking man bag.

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