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The Fighting Load Carrier is the Ultimate Budget Rig

As part of my ongoing series of budget load outs for the prepared civilian… We move on to the next subject in the series. The Fighting Load Carrier. See part 1 here: A Budget Load Out: Starting From Scratch (Opens in new tab).


The FLC is a robust, modular MOLLE system designed to fulfill various roles. It can accommodate a variety of configurations and offers civilian shooters a low budget entry into load bearing gear. How low budget? The FLC can be found alone for as low as $12 and can be had with *all* issued pouches for around $40-$100 dollars. The downside? You will mostly find this unit in ACU… Which is no longer an issued camouflage in the military. It’s also ACU. Did I mention it’s ACU? Ok! Don’t worry. We will fix that later.

The FLC is comprised of a molle vest, belt, and H harness all rolled into one system. The front of the vest has a quality ykk zipper, a chest buckle, and lots of molle real estate. The back is where the adjustable H harness and belt are adjusted to fit the individual. A properly configured FLC will distribute the weight around your shoulders, chest, and back. I like to adjust the vest to give my frame a light squeeze to ensure the load is carried by my whole torso.

Once adjusted, the FLC can be outfitted with numerous attachments. For the purpose of this article we will use a mix of issued attachments and some non issued kit as well.

Rifleman Configuration:

The primary configuration I will be using is a modified rifleman’s kit. The issued set is comprised of dual 3 magazine shingles, 3 double m4 magazine pouches, two grenade pouches, and two canteens. Since I lack any active grenades, I omitted the nade pouches and instead used the last dual mag pouch as a mini IFAK. A high quality IFAK (such as the Range Medic) is worth it’s weight in gold, but it will significantly up your FLC budget so keep that in mind. Since I want to remain in budget I would recommend going with a Cat Gen 7, some shears, and a OLAES or Israeli bandage. First aid requires a topic all on its own, but these items will be useful for severe bleeding provided you are effective with them. Each of these can be stuffed in the extra M4 magazine pouch for a IFAK in a pinch.

“Steve1989”: Nice.

On the sides we have the standard USGI plastic canteen and pouch. Hydration is essential, and canteens run for around $9 dollars each new in wrap. Hydration bladders can be tricky to attach to the FLC and add additional cost so we will skip that topic for now… basic canteens are dirt cheap and wont pop, bonus! As configured, the total cost is around: $95 at the time of this writing… not counting the medical gear.

In Use:

A properly adjusted FLC is comfortable. The weight distribution for my setup is weighted more forward, but overall it remains perfectly serviceable. I did some run and gun for around an hour and appreciated the comfort. Weight wasn’t squarely on my hips or shoulders… It was spit between them. I configured my vest to wrap tightly around the midsection, just resting above the hips, and with the shoulder straps it felt super comfortable.

“This is my backyard son.”
Steal This Look: H&M Officers Jacket, USGI ACU bandoleer, FLC, Modern Fighting Rifle.

The wide, flat shoulder area gave me good control over my carbine. The rubber but plate of my carbine grabbed the nylon perfectly. Without armor underneath, it allowed excellent pocketing of the stock.

One of the advantages of the FLC is that it can go OVER your armor. Equipping the FLC over an armor carrier allows you to flexibly adjust to the environment. There are several modes of thought on armor carriers and how to set them up, so let’s leave that for another time. The FLCs main advantages are: can be removed without removing armor. Can be placed over various types of armor. Can be run without armor. Can be worn over other layers (such as a jacket or rain coat) to allow easy access to mags, water, and gear in adverse weather.

Dry and clean underneath. All my gear still accessible outside my poncho.
Steal This Look: Mil-Tec Poncho, IIIA and Carrier (underneath) from Bulletproofme.com, Israeli Gas Mask, FLC, and Rifle.

We don’t always think further than the military’s experience in the middle east. Not everyone lives in a desert. We don’t often equip our gear for rain, mud, snow, etc. Your gear has to be good to go year around. Having a separate load bearing vest or chest rig which can be placed *over* cold / wet protecting layers ensures you can adapt to the seasons and still keep your rifle easily fed.

The downsides?

Magazines. Magpul mags fit tightly. I cannot get the flaps to button over Pmags on the 3 mag shingles. This is a bummer if you are heavily invested in plastic magazines.

Then there is the ACU pattern. Cot Dammmit Big Army! Your surplus gear that I helped pay for needs to be cooler than this! If you haven’t noticed, the ACU doesn’t do too hot in green woods. Its okay if you live in a white and grey rock quarry, but most everywhere else it sucks. We need to fix this. Turn that ACU frown upside down!

RitDye to the Rescue:

The whites are slightly toned down with a RIT bath, and with a more concentrated dip you can further tone down the colors to your desired level.

After a rit dye bath, it takes a more brown tone. The whites are toned down and the ACU looks much more serviceable. It’s a neater look, and should be suitable in more environments. I first heard about soldiers RIT dying their ACUs overseas, but of course that was frowned upon by big brass. Using a hot water and RIT Sandstone bath resulted in a much more palatable… pallet. With the overbearing whites gone, it still isn’t perfect but should work better near everywhere. Apple green has been used to darken the camo for PNW woods as well. So get the right RIT dye for your area.

Wrapping Up:

Budget gear is often frowned upon… but having American made budget gear at least gets you something serviceable and durable. No one should frown on having a budget… not everyone prioritizes the downfall of the American experiment and the ensuing horny goat igloo. That’s ok. Your strength isn’t in you and your gear alone, but the collective spirit and will of the American people (also guns, 393 million guns). Also, if you survive long enough, there is bound to be some nicer gear around. A hand-me-down with a few bullet holes isn’t frowned upon is it? Nah. Didn’t think so.

This is Lothaen writing for LooseRounds. Come visit my blog at www.thenewrifleman.com

7 thoughts on “The Fighting Load Carrier is the Ultimate Budget Rig”

  1. How do you carry a handgun with this vest? Won’t a belt holster interfere with the vest gear? I have one of these vests and mounted a Serpa holster to the right chest are to hold a Glock 19, but I’m not convinced that is the way to go.

    • Generally you keep the right side of the vest where a pistol would be clear of pouches and it won’t be a problem. You can also adjust how high or low the vest rides.
      If you wanted too, you could just attach the pistol holster to the vest. There are drop holster mounts if you wanted the pistol lower.

  2. Nothing wrong with the FLC at all really. It’s more constrictive being a vest but it distributes the load effectively. Sure the ACU units are cheap but I’d shell out an extra buck for a coyote vest and used OCP pouches, my $.02 humbly. RIT also makes nylon specific dye and if nothing else spray paint will tone and blend.
    You can also cinch it up higher, and cutting the inner belt and spinning it around to the back, gives yourself a pseudo chest rig.

    I humped ALICE gear the first half of my time in and I’d say it shouldn’t be overlooked either. War belt, suspenders, mag pouches, canteens and a butt pack won’t run you much either because it’s no longer the cool kid gear. Even if you splurge on an old LBV (do yourself a favor and find the “enhanced” version- it has a better, mesh body) you have decent gear options when using it.

    Lastly, each piece of kit you carry should be considered. Why do you need it? Nice to have or absolutely necessary? In the military we had logistics and support and could plan our load based around that. If you have to use your gear what do you have available? Train with it. Locate your equipment in the dark. Tape it down. Hike a few miles in it then hike a dozen more.

  3. UCP is the pattern, ACU is the uniform style.
    On the sizing, I would say size it so that with the zipper its your desired if without armor then adjust the chest/waist buckles to fit over armor. at least if you expect to be making transitions. And yeah there are a good about of the other colors out there. Bear in mind most action does happen in urban jungles now so UCP may not be as bad. Also looks decent around granite. Think alpine areas. Granted I would still stake something else but just saying.

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