Training Chest Rigs, Battle Belts, etc.
There is a never-ending argument about everyday-people training with plate carriers, battle-belts, chest rigs, and similar gear. The argument being that they are somehow "playing soldier" instead of actually honing skills that could ever be of practical use for civilians.
Is this case? Is it useful for civilians to own and train with equipment commonly associated with military or specialized police personnel? Let's take a look at it in greater detail.
In my opinion, too many people buy a gun and visit an indoor gun range, take their new pistol out of the box or the cheap Uncle Mike's holster that they purchased, fire at a static target with a terrible grip and stance, and think that they are prepared to carry their firearm for personal protection. Then, they generally leave that same pistol in the glove compartment of their vehicle and convince themselves that should they ever need it, they'll somehow have time to get to their vehicle and retrieve said firearm with sufficient time to face their threat while armed. Ignorance is bliss.
If you've ever trained with us, then you have inevitably heard our saying that "you will fight with what you have." Your concealed carry weapon should not be the weapon that you train with the least, though it often is. So if you don't take anything else away from this article, please understand that you probably don't train enough with your primary concealed carry weapon. With that said, that's not the point of this rant.
This article focuses on the guys that are running all their gear at the range for training sessions. Plate carriers, chest rigs, battle belts, spare mags all over their belt, a primary weapon and secondary weapon... A bunch of "stuff" that they likely will not ever need during a violent encounter. So why train with it? Is this just an ego trip? Sure- for some guys, that could be it... For others, they might actually believe that they'll need such equipment for whatever "prepper" reason they have. For me? My reason is more tame and mild than either of these.
When I am training various tactics, weapons manipulation, or teaching a course, I will generally wear enough spare mags so that I will only have to reload one time during the course of the class. For instance, I train a lot around vehicles because as a civilian I am constantly around them. It is my opinion that the weapon in my hand is less important than the tactics I am training. I work with rifles around vehicles, as I constantly have at least one with me in my vehicle. I work with handguns as well, because I constantly have one on me. However, during training I will also generally have some sort of chest rig or battle belt to store spare magazines. This isn't because I fancy myself as a Tier-1 operator jumping out of my vehicle with a chest rig, but rather because it allows me to spend more time training techniques and problem solving with my weapon as opposed to stuffing magazines between strings of fire.
The additional equipment will inevitably lengthen my training sessions, allowing me to maximize the number of repititions I can get per trip to the range. It allows me to run my weapons for more extended time periods and focus on the task at hand: training. Then there is the other inevitable advantage: should I ever need to run that equipment (no matter how small the odds are), I know how to do it. Should I ever need to remove some or all of the gear and go "minimalist" then I know how to do that as well. The training and tactics are more important than the equipment.
Now I'd like to add in a caveat... I do not suggest that new shooters go jumping in to thousands of dollars worth of advanced equipment. Get some simple equipment that you intend to have on you, and learn to run that setup at a sub-conscious level. Keep it simple, keep the number of repitions high, and spend your money on ammo and training instead of gear. Once you can run your firearm and gear at a truly sub-conscious level, get whatever equipment you want and run it for whatever motives you have. It's your time and money, and you spend it however best suits you to best prepare you to prevail in a violent encounter.