Words and pics: Joe Jensen
One of the main reasons I chose to do a Norwegian SOF impression was because of the distinct lack of Crye-carriers in use.
I say lack, but JPCs are seen, and rumour has it that even a CPC has been spotted on an exercise but not photographed.
The FirstSpear Assault Armour Carrier (AAC) includes something totally new: Tubes technology. With the Tubes mechanism, you don’t lift your plate carrier’s front flap to doff or don. It’s just a simple pull on a tab, and you’re free. Or a bracket which slots over a hinge on the way into the carrier.
This is ingenious, but you sacrifice a few PALS columns to get there. Being used to the JPC and CPC where I could push pouches as far to the front as I liked without touching the flap, there was a transition period for me to get things where I wanted them with the AAC.
I still think the luxury of Tubes counteracts the downside of not having pouches near the front flap. It also offers the neat trick that you can have several different AAC front plate bags, so you can switch between setups quickly. A bit like the way you can easily switch Crye zip-on back panels. The only thing I need to transfer from the old plate bag is the radio and/or PTT. I keep the cummerbund and the rear plate bag in the same configuration as before.
Now, let’s talk about the AAC’s cummerbund. I fricking hate it – but then I love it, also.
Adjusting the cummerbund to make the AAC fit can be a real pain in the arse. If there’s one place where the PC has annoying velcro, it’s the lining of the channel which passes through the rear plate bag. The cummerbund that is supposed to fit inside is in two halves – also joined by Velcro. That’s so you can adjust it properly for size. The first time I tried to fit it, I nearly shredded my fingers.
My (very patient) girlfriend helped me, making the process a little quicker. I opened the channel and sneaked in one side of the cummerbund. But once I put the Velcro tip in the channel, it was snagging all the way to Christmas! I had to fight to get it in there. You have to want it! And when you’re finally done it, there’s another side to fit. Fudge.
But then, I discovered an easier way to do it…so it’s not too bad. Check out FirstSpear’s website for an explanatory video.
The shoulder straps are surprisingly comfortable, given that they’re so thin in every way. The AAC is similar to the Crye JPC when it comes to adjusting and fitting the shoulder straps. Not so fun, but easier than the cummerbund. The sleeves on the shoulder straps are stretch fabric, and you can put whatever you like through them. Very convenient for cables, antennas, hydration hoses, zip-ties, slings – anything.
FirstSpear’s 6/12 technology is very good. It’s their Velcro-powered laser-cut slot MOLLE equivalent. As with everything else on the carrier, it is hard to fit but works flawlessly when it’s in place. It saves some bulk, some weight, some profile, but not enough to make me go out and buy everything in 6/12.
6/9 works as well without problem – and it’s backwards compatible with standard PALS webbing. And no Velcro. The most innovative thing about 6/12 might be the laser cut PALS slots, instead of columns of nylon webbing.
Now let’s get to the good part. While I feel the AAC isn’t as easy or as fun to adjust as a Crye JPC, when you’ve moved past the adjustment stage and the carrier fits you, it’s possibly one of the best rigs ever.
I think it fits better than the JPC, but offers more ability to customize. The cummerbund has multiple ways of ripping open to fit armor plates, extra magazines, or anything you’d like to bring that could have room inside. The Tubes are so convenient, as mentioned. The stretch at the channel end of the cummerbund makes it easy to move in, even if you’ve put on an extra layer of clothes and it “shouldn’t fit” any more.
The shoulder straps come with hooks at the rear, with which to attach other FirstSpear systems like the ECP, VEP or similar. In fact, there’s a lot of different things the AAC can work with, but which aren’t legit for my setup. If it ain’t legit, I can’t use it.
My AAC is built with the FSK basic setup in mind, and with my own twists to make it work for me. The basic setup is a FirstSpear Triple Ranger Shingle, FirstSpear Mini Admin and FirstSpear 3L Hydro.
Some reference pics:
This is what me and my team mates have spotted on basically everyone in the reference pictures. There are exceptions, as with everything. I’ve added a Blue Force Gear Triple Ten Speed pouch in front of my triple shingle – it takes no space, and contributes no weight or bulk; so it’s better to have it there and not use it, than not have it and need extra pouches. While the Ten Speed system can be used for magazines, it can also hold TQs, radios, flash-bangs, GPS – you name it.
I’ve actually put most of my pouches on my right/strong side. This is because the MBITR takes up so much space on my left side. My right side includes a TQ and a small FirstSpear General Purpose pouch – I don’t consider the latter as “urgent”. The GP is often handled by a teammate, when we’re not under fire or in a stressful situation.
It contains a headlamp, multi-tool, snacks, extra batteries and what not. My pistol is mounted on a low ride Safariland UBL, so the pouch is not in the way of my pistol draw.
The left side is totally slick – this is because I run a double FirstSpear Speed Reload Pistol Pouch and a single FirstSpear Speed Reload M4 Pouch on my Tyr Tactical belt. I don’t want to have any pouches holding my hand back, when I’m doing critical reloads.
On my rear plate bag I have a FirstSpear Hydro Pouch with a 3L Camelbak bladder; plus, one of the rarest pouches I have today: the NFM Spare Air Pouch in coyote brown.
In the wild, these contain spare air bottles for the operators while conducting missions over sea, or on the sea. I’m keeping my back as clean as possible otherwise, as I tend to have a back pack of some sort with me at certain events.
Other apparel or stuff I carry is the Peltor PTT with a stupid long cable, a Ka-bar knife as seen in one of the reference photos, and a patch – if I feel like it.
The FirstSpear Mini Admin is useless as an admin pouch (sorry not sorry FirstSpear), but works well for patches and a place to mount the PTT. I had to tie the PTT to the admin, since the clamp on the back of the PTT is way too big to fit inside the laser cut slots. The patch is just covering up the knot…
The vest is always evolving. The configuration depicted here is what I use most. If a specific event or game requires me to carry more, I’ll first try to make it work with this nucleus and if not I’ll change it. I’m a fan of trying different stuff and playing around. If it doesn’t work, I’m ditching it. What works, I’ll carry with me further.
The idea behind this setup is to not carry more than I absolutely need. With the AAC set up like this, I feel I’m equally efficient in the woods, in or around buildings, or while seated in a vehicle.
The next thing I’d like for my AAC is an Invisio V60 PTT. I’ve used the Nacre Quiet Pro a few months now, as a placeholder. It’s cool and all that, but the earplugs are too big to fit under my Comtacs comfortably, so it’ll stay only until I can afford the Invisio stuff.