One the driving goals here is (as you should know) to inform, educate and entertain readers about gear. Bill recently wrote a piece on old becoming new. I'm going to follow up on that and talk
about the first time I was shown something that was truly far and away better than what I had been issued. Back then (I hate the term, but it’s true) we didn’t have Kit Up! There wasn’t a Soldier Systems Daily and there certainly wasn’t the awesome array of truly exceptional gear newer shooters have access to now, at least conventionally. I’m happy to report the company (well, the man) that made that singular piece of gear is still sewing today.
In 1999 I had the privilege of attending an Advanced SWAT School conducted by LAPD’s D Platoon, Metro Division (SWAT) at what was then SOTG range at Camp Pendleton. Over the course of 8 days I learned a lot (like the importance of networking and maintaining comms with the SWAT guys from LAPD, NYPD, DoE, etc. even years later), and was introduced to a couple of pieces of new and innovative equipment.
Much of what I learned was on the range, in the classroom or in the shoot-houses. (There were two at the time, by the way, though the walls of one were so thick the LA guys didn’t like to use it because it made the doorways unrealistic). Our chief instructor was Louis Villalobos (God keep him), who introduced me to an Irish guy (believe he was a sniper on there team at the time) he said had a “great handle on good kit”. Now, by Irish I mean really Irish, as in from Ireland, Faugh a ballagh and all that. Not just some guy with the surname, some shamrock tattoos and a bombastic love for St. Patrick’s Day. To my shame, I don’t remember the man’s name, nor why he was on their team (though for all I know he’s still there).
He told me, without hesitation, “Go find this little shop run by a guy named John Willis, over in Oceanside. His stuff is outstanding.” Some other guys nearby, including more than one of the instructors and a couple military guys (one from Force and one from one of the Teams), echoed the sentiment. I did as instructed and it was as good as they said. I bought a vest that day I’m still using today, as well as a rigger’s belt that has not only kept my pants up and kept me secure on the skids, it once towed my dad’s ¾ ton Ford pickup (bed filled with a huge load of pecans) for ten miles of dirt road in Vernon County MO. If it hadn’t burnt up in a truck fire I’d still be wearing it today.
John’s still working. The company is Original Special Operations Equipment. Back when I met him, it was just Special Operations Equipment (no, Original). Yes, there’s a story behind that, and yes I know guys either love him or hate him. He can be abrasive, no question. I’ve heard followed the drama, heard the rumors, seen the snarky sniping on forums and I don’t care, because none of that matters. What’s important is how well a piece of equipment works, whether the designer is a newly-canonized saint or an asshat. Same as what it looks like. I don’t care if it’s ugly as hell. Does it work, and will it hold up? Anyway, I personally had some of the later SOE gear (after John left) fail me operationally, so I was quite happy when OSOE stood back up. I won’t apologize for liking the guy even if he is blunt and terse (that’s one of the reasons I do like him), but I will suggest you judge the gear for yourself regardless of whatever you read on the interwebs.
OSOE has some very rugged mundane kit, but they have many ingenious pieces as well. One of them is designed specifically for guys that roll out fast with a shotgun; the 12-gauge micro rig. If you run a shotgun on patrol or for home defense, you should at least take a look. A couple months back the Mad Duo wrote up another of John’s 12-gauge shell solutions. This is a different animal.
Let’s be clear; this isn’t a full-blown, dedicated 12-gauge fighting platform and it’s not billed as such. It’s for the patrol officer with a shotgun sitting on a perimeter somewhere, or who has someone bail on him into the woods after a chase. It’s perfect for a response to an active shooter, or for the MP/SP/DoD cop carrying a 12-gauge at the gate shack.
Some exigent events will call for more than you have on your sidesaddle rig or in your belt shell caddy, and in many cases you have a minimum “garrison” load you’re required to carry (with no decent way to carry it). With this micro you can do that, and throw in an IFAK, some chem lights or an extra light for good measure. I don’t care for carrying shells in the sling, myself, having had problems with losing them and the movement it creates when it starts swaying back and forth, which doesn’t leave many really effective options past the few rounds in and on the gun or on my duty belt. I’ve been on the range with guys who ran a dump pouch filled with filled with 12-gauge shells but that has never really been an option for me (and probably not a realistic solution for day to day use anyway), though to be fair I’ve never been in a position where a shotgun was my primary. The 12-gauge micro fills the niche nicely.
Note: I’ve heard from a couple guys that this rig will hold 20-gauge shells just as securely. I haven’t tried it yet, but when I do I will advise. Also, a couple of my friends have the OSOE pull-out med tray and keep one of those and a smoke (grenade, not cigarette) in the utility pouch side by side. They tell me it fits perfectly, though again I haven't tried that configuration myself.
The OSOE 12-gauge micro (there other types) attaches two pull-out trays to the face of the rig, with two inside pouches. This gives you immediate access to 12 rounds, and then 12 more with just a tug on the top loop (the trays separate and drop, though there is a tether you can choose to use). Essentially when you pull the interior tray out, the weight of the shells will drop it onto the hook and loop panel below, leaving you another 6 rounds ready. Adjacent to the two pouches and trays is a utility pouch (which will hold another 24+ 12-gauge shells, if you don’t use it for other accessories). The rig comes with adjustable shoulder straps or you can have them put a padded H-Harness on it (which would let you add a hydration bladder/carrier). Keep in mind also that the interior pouches will hold M4 mags, so you could actually run M4 mags inside and then a dozen shells for the 'gauge outside.
One thing to be aware of. OSOE “triages” their orders, so to speak. Military personnel who are deployed or are preparing to deploy receive first priority, so factor that in if you decide to buy something.
Here’s one other thing I learned that summer. I’ll pass it along as a free ‘lessons learned’. Don’t try to keep up with the LAPD SWAT guys beer for beer at the end of a training day, even if they did run all the way back to VOQ from the SOTG range. It won’t end well.
About the author: David Reeder is a 20 year veteran of law enforcement and an AF SNCO with with assignments in Training, S4, Mobility and Operations. He was an EST member, TL and CC and an instructor at the Bold Lighting Urban Warfare School. A former Evaluator/Controller for the National Homeland Security Training Center, for the last several years he’s taught Combat Tracking to all four branches of service and a number of LE agencies. (Try being the only AF instructor in a room of grunts and 8541s at Horno sometime.) During his LE career he’s worked patrol, training, drug task force, SWAT and PIO. He currently writes for Kit Up!, Under the Radar, Defense Tech and is a contributing editor to the BOLO Report.