A few years ago, I decided to pick up a new chest rig for training and bug out situations. My go-to rig is an Eagle Industries SPC, but with plates, pouches, and all the rest, it's pretty heavy. As in around 30lbs.
If I'm going into some place I know I'm going to be shot at, the EI is amazing. Level III plates, and IIIA sewn in throughout the carrier give me an excellent defensive capability, at the cost of quite a bit of weight and bulk. Getting in and out of a car is a nightmare in this setup, and I'm really not keen on testing the defensive capabilities of the vest while hung up on my car door.
I've also had some back issues in the past, so while I can wear a heavy rig, there's always a thought in the back of my mind that I may be paying for it in the long run.
I picked out the Fox Commando Chest Rig for a few reasons, but the biggest was availability. It was in stock at my local gun store. There are more tactical rigs out there, optimized rigs which are streamlined and decked out and make the Fox look pretty old school. But the Fox offered me something I wanted. Without adding anything, it offered a standalone platform to carry a lot of rifle magazines.
I train with my pistol. Truth be told, I'm actually pretty good with it. But I'm a rifle guy at heart. Without adding pouches, I could support my AR for a long period of time from this rig. With the simple addition of a few pouches on the MOLLE-covered front surface, and I can support my pistol, shotgun, carry medical supplies and so on.
The Commando Rig is lightweight at 3lbs. It features six internal pockets, each capable of holding 1-2 AR-15 type magazines. Other mags, such as AK, Mini-14, AUG and so on have similar compatibility. Each magazine pocket has a removable bungee cord for secure magazine retention. I removed these cords, as the pockets are very deep, and getting to the mags with the cords can be difficult, especially in a high-stress situation. If you're going to keep magazines in the rig for a bugout bag, trunk gun or whatever, the cords are a godsend, as the mags can slip out if you pick the rig up wrong. Yes, this can happen with any rig, its just something to bear in mind when you take a look at your gear choices.
Why do the mag pockets hold 1-2? Don't they have a sizing guide for their pockets? The simple answer is that you don't want to carry 2 mags in all the pockets. On the rig I tested, the left-most pocket only holds one AR mag. I'm not sure if they did that on purpose or by accident, but there it is. The real issue, though, is the rig was not meant to be worn with 12 magazines. If you do decide to load it up, you'll notice that the rig doesn't have much "bend" in it anymore. It pretty much stays flat, even when wearing it. Not only is this uncomfortable, it sucks to get the magazines out when they're double stacked and the rig is drawn tight.
Fox decided to go with the larger pockets to accommodate larger magazines, such as M1A, FAL, AR-10, and so on, so they made them bigger. Still, 6 30-round magazines is 180 rounds, and that's a lot of problem solving. If I need to carry more, I typically swap out to 40-rounders, or double stack every other pouch.
The Commando Rig is worn with two padded straps over the shoulder, and secured by two more straps which encircle the chest. All four of these straps feature quick-release buckles, and are adjustable, with hook and loop retaining strips for the unused length. The rig can be worn high on the chest over the ribcage to allow easier access to a war belt or hip-mounted subloads. Alternately, it can be worn further down the chest, across the stomach. The Commando Rig can be work easily over slick body armor, both plates and soft panels.
The front panel of the rig is covered in MOLLE webbing. This allows the end user to configure their rig as needed. For a complete go-to system, I simply added a pair of pistol magazine pouches, a small admin pouch, and a MOLLE-mounted Kydex pistol holster. For supporting my shotgun, I simply slip spare shells into the MOLLE loops. This allows me to support my primary and secondary weapons without having to switch a bunch of pouches and support gear around.
The padded shoulder straps have D-rings for extra accessory attachment or routing comms wires or hydration tubes. The back of the rig is a MOLLE pouch which holds a hydration bladder (not included). The top of the pouch has soft-side hook and loop for attaching patches, and has MOLLE webbing across the rear surface.
The rig has three interior pockets behind the magazine pockets. These have small tabs on the top to help you open them, and they are secured shut by hook and loop closures. The internal pocket is actually open, so even though it looks like you have three separate pockets, it is one large pocket with three separate openings. I typically keep a small medkit with the essentials, such as gauze, pandages and Quick-Clot in one of these pockets. Larger items tend to poke into you when wearing the rig, so I keep the loads I carry as slim as possible. It makes a handy storage place for maps, instructions, directions and other documentation.
One thing I wish this rig had was a handle. Yes, I know, the whole rig is basically a handle. But having a specific lift point would be nice, as I'm often grabbing this out of my trunk and basically just picking it up by the strap and it always seems to come out with the straps tangled up. A minor gripe, but something I wish fox had added.
I have been using the Commando Chest Rig for two years. During that time, it has proven to be a lightweight and capable rig, but like anything, it has its limits.
My usage of this rig is pretty simple. I take it out, load it up with mags, and roll around in the dirt while shooting things, lather, rinse repeat a couple times a week for about eight months out of the year. So far, I've had no major issues with it.
When I say that I think a $40 Chinese tac rig is good to go for certain purposes, I get the typical cries of "bullshit!" And I understand that. Again, my go-to rig is an Eagle Industries setup. The Commando is nice because it is lightweight and breathable, which is two things my EI isn't. Ditto for getting in and out of tight spaces and moving quickly.
Over the years, a few threads are hanging out and its picked up some dirt and scuffs, but that's about it. It hasn't magically fallen apart or exploded the first time I threw a mag into it or took a dive into the dirt. And it is pretty comfy to boot. Is this a piece of kit I would take into the sandbox? Nope. Not unless I had to. I'd rather trust my life to the quality of issue gear. Is this a good value if you're NOT going to be stepping onto a two-way range with soaring temps, poof dirt, and people trying to kill you as often as they can? I would say yes to this one.
If you're a HSLD face-shooter, you should have better choices than an $40 off-the-rack Chinese made rig. If you're a civilian on a budget and don't planning on fastroping out of a Blackhawk anytime soon, I think you could do a lot worse than the Commando. Out of the box, it does what it needs to do without having to add and BUY a lot of pouches to get into the game. And that is pretty much what this rig is. A basic platform that you can upgrade like crazy, or leave stock but it still works.