Linked ammunition for machine guns is often seen draped around soldiers necks in war movies and indeed was often carried like this in service, such as by US GIs in Vietnam. This is however not the best way of carrying link ammunition as it leaves it prone to damage, picking up dirt that can enter the action of the machine gun or snagging on undergrowth. British issued link ammunition has traditionally been provided in disposable nylon bandoliers that can be slung around the body until needed, however with the introduction of Virtus a dedicated pouch has been issued to carry this linked ammunition in. Two versions have been released and today we are looking at the second pattern ammunition pouch:
This pouch is designed to be carried in a number of ways. It can be worn across the body when it is opened out, as above. Alternatively, there is a securing strap that allows the bandolier to be rolled up and secured to be carried inside the daysack:
A long, central zip runs down the length of the pouch to open it up to allow the link ammunition to be fitted inside:
The pouch can hold up to 200 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, and slightly less 7.62mm ammunition. Here I am using a belt of 50 rounds of (dummy) 7.62mm to demonstrate how the pouch is used. The lead cartridge of the belt is secured into the loop at the open end of the pouch:
This holds the belt ready at an easy access position. A velcroed tab is then pulled across these first rounds and secured, and the zip fastened up to protect the belt from dirt and debris:
Finally a top flap is drawn over everything to keep it secure:
The strap of the link pouch has a secondary pouch for cyalume sticks to be carried:
This also has a small zipped compartment to the rear:
A single label is sewn to the pouch with NSN number, date etc:
The bag, although manufactured by an Israeli company, uses a British patent called the ‘link tail’ system and this was to be the subject of a legal fight between the British patent holder and the Israeli company Source Vagabond Systems Ltd. (who won the MoD contract) in 2019 over breach of contract and patent infringement. One interesting issue that comes out of the legal documentation from this court case is that the user manual shows the strip of ammunition the wrong way up in the bandolier (as is mine in the pictures above as I copied the manual). The rounds should be loaded with the link facing up, not down and this would mean that the ammunition would not feed out of the bandolier and into the GPMG correctly- apparently this was also taught to the troops incorrectly as well and only became apparent when they were used on exercise! The full (and very detailed) legal report on the link pouch with far more details can be read here.
My son, who served as a tank crewman in Iraq with the U.S. Army, was issued some British ammunition. He informed me that British machine gun ammunition had a higher proportion of tracer rounds than American ammunition.