In the early 1980s the South African Defence Force was updating a lot of its equipment based on experience gained during the ongoing Border War. Earlier this month we looked at the M87 helmet that came in to replace the earlier steel helmets. Loadbearing equipment was another area that was reviewed and updated with the old 1970 pattern web gear slowly being replaced with newer patterns made of more modern nylon fabrics. One new innovation was the adoption of a chest rig as a supplement to the more complicated combat vest. This was likely inspired by the Communist backed rebels they were fighting who had been supplied with vests to carry their AK magazines from their Soviet Bloc backers. The design grew in popularity amongst both sides of the ongoing conflict and the M83 chest rig was introduced in the early 1980s into SADF service, it remains in use to this day with the SANDF.
The chest rig is made of a nutria brown nylon with a set of pockets across the front and a pair of padded shoulder straps:
Th pockets across the front consist of three grenade pouches and three for magazines:
The magazine pockets have internal dividers to allow two magazines to be carried in each, with a large piece of Velcro to secure the top flap:
A map pocket is sewn to the inner face of the chest rig:
A pair of adjustable shoulder straps are fitted which cross over the wearer’s back. These have deep foam filled padding where they cross over the shoulder to make them more comfortable to wear when the chest rig is full of ammunition:
The chest rig also has a waist strap that passes round the body and stops ‘pouch bounce’ when running with the equipment on, this is secured with a simple black plastic Fastex buckle:
The M83 chest rig has always been popular, with users praising the robustness of its construction and its practicality. Variations exist for use with R1 or R4 magazines and depending on manufacturer, for a fuller range of different SADF chest rigs check out this forum thread. The design has also been adopted by some members of the British Army who want to look particularly ‘Ally’. One soldier explains:
I had one of the little chest rigs too which also worked pretty well, good for wearing under a jacket, in a vehicle or a range day. couple of bottle pouches on the waist belt and not bad for patrolling which was what they were made for after all.
I remember when chest rigs (first?) hit the UK in the early ’90s. Arktis ones were what everyone wanted, but all the best seemed to follow the pattern of this SADF rig.
Personally I went against all trends and got myself the M83 ‘battlevest’ style SADF webbing.
We had the ‘battle bra’ for 30rd FN C2 magazines, odd you never see them in the surplus stores.
They were pretty solidly built so there should be lots surviving.