*South African Pattern 70 LBE for FAL*
Prior to the Pattern 83 vest that the South African Defense Forces used, they had a basic Load Bearing Equipment setup. In some ways it was similiar to our U.S. "H" style LBE, but in others it was vastly different. At the time the P70 LBE was used, the primary small arm for the SADF was the R1 - which we know as the FAL. All of the ammo pouches on it were designed to handle the 20 round FAL magazines. As with the Pattern 83 vest, the SADF designers didn't consider it wise to go out into the field with a minimal ammunition load. Between all the belt pouches, hippo bag pouches, backpack pouches, and musette bag pouches, this LBE rig will handle a total of 18 mags. No, I don't want to carry that many (I'm not 18 any more), but it's got room for it. M14/M1A mags should fit well in there also - the magazine dimensions are close enough.
The total kit is composed of basically three items: the waist belt/suspender system that has two integrated pouches that fit over the kidneys of the wearer (hippo pouches), the ruck, and the musette bag. Material is a heavy duck canvas, all metal buckles are enameled with an OD finish. Other fasteners on this are snaps - not a single bit of velcro on the entire rig.
The waist belt/suspender system ties directly into the two hippo pouches. Both of the pouches have twin mag pouches on one side, and on the top flap, givng a total of four available mags per pouch. Pouch closures are set up so that it's possible to draw the mags while wearing the base LBE. In addition, there would be one or two canteen pouches ( I have U.S. ALICE canteens on this, and the work fine. Ditch the alice clips though, and use ties to keep them on.) Add one or two more mag pouches, and a dressing pouch, and you have the basic LBE setup. D-rings to hold a strapped on ground cloth or shelter half, various other straps and D-rings to attach other gear or dummy straps make it a relatively flexible setup in it's day, and presently. There's an integrated frog for a bayonet on the left pouch, and both of the hippo pouches have elastic bands on the side, capable of carrying pen flares, etc. In addition, one or two ammo pouches would be clipped onto the front of the waist belt, for another two to four mags. The one thing that I would swap out, or figure out how to replace, is the waist belt buckle. Horrible design, and there's no way to ditch it fast. One other tip if you get one of these setups - they're a bear to figure out how to assemble, especially without notes. One of the most important features for the base LBE is that it has twin straps that enable you to tighten up and suspend the hippo pouches - which will help stabilize them, making it much more comfortable to wear. Look at the pics to see how to arrange all the straps, and if you have any further questions, feel free to post on the board or drop me an email and I'll try to help you out.
The small rucksack that's included with the gear has an additional two mag pouches on either side (by the way, all these mag pouches will hold two 20 rd FAL mags). One nice little feature of the rucksack is that it's been designed with some quick release fasteners - one for the left shoulder strap, and one for the sternum strap. Look at the pics for details on how those work, but the basic idea is very adaptable to all sorts of things.
The last item that's a component of this is the musette bag (OK, I'm calling it a musette bag...it's basically a general purpose bag, with shoulder strap that can be attached). One of the design features of this is that it's capable of being attached to the front of the LBE, via clips on the back, and D-rings on the shoulder harness. From my research, I've found that it was rarely used like that. More often, it had the shoulder strap attached, and a belt of ammo for the LMG in the squad. In use, the bag would be slung at the LMG team to keep them supplied with belts, as needed. As with all the other pouches on this design, it has twin 20 round FAL mag pouches on either side of it's main bag.
All in all, this is a pretty flexible setup - not ideal, but at times better than a vest. In hot weather, it's much more comfortable, especially with padding in strategic places. If you can find one, and do a few modifications to it (padding, front belt fastener), you'l have yourself a pretty capable LBE, and one that's specifically designed for the FAL. I give this a thumbs up for utility, and I'm quite satisfied with mine.
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