The Blue Force Gear RACKminus is a minimalist piece of load bearing equipment (LBE), a chest rig half the thickness of a dime and half the weight of a loaded M4 magazine. Some in the tactical community greeted its arrival enthusiastically. Others were dubious at best.
Blue Force Gear's Brittany DeVane sent Sage Dynamics a RACK Minus carrier to test and evaluate. She also included one of their Ten Speed Triple Magazine pouches and the Ten Speed Ultra-Light Dump pouch. Here is Sage Dynamics' Aaron Cowan's report on the kit.
For those of you who have not seen it, the RACKminus is the thinnest, lightest modular lightweight load-carrying equipment (MOLLE) chest rack currently on the market. How light? The BFG website quotes 255 grams, or less than a loaded M4 magazine.
My concern before I attached the triple magazine pouch and dump pouch, and fed in three fully loaded 30 round magazines was the weight. This was far too light to be durable or reliable, right? I fully expected it to be a durable product, but the lack of weight gave me pause. There just wasn't that much to it. Something this light could not stand up to abuse, could it? Yes, it could.
Even with attached magazine pouches and mags, the RACKminus maintained a superb slim profile. I'm familiar with the aggravation of not being able to secure spare mags to the body without printing or bulging against soft clothing. The RACKminus solves this problem handily. We will get to that.
I decided to keep it realistic while testing the RACKminus -- range use against multiple targets requiring constant reloads while moving. With that in mind I proceeded to the range and put on the RACK for the first time.
The first thing someone donning a RACKminus will notice about the rig is that it legitimately wears like it isn’t even there. I’m used to forward weight and increasing tension in the shoulders through a day wearing other chest rig platforms. The RACKminus did not present this problem, even after a few hours of wear. Despite 70 degree temperatures and high Georgia humidity, perspiration was no greater than usual. The RACKminus does not trap heat against the body; it breathes exceedingly well and isn't prone to shifting or riding forward under weight.
I started "breaking it in", getting used to the feel and conducting a few dry runs accessing magazines. The RACKminus mag pouches sit higher than I am used to, as my primary body armor is a PIG plate carrier that carriers mag pouches lower. Once I was comfortable with indexing the magazines from their placement I put on a cover shirt, buttoned up and got a feel for wearing it concealed. Present on the range with me was Matt Powell of Pramek. Powell works state side in the corporate/entertainment industry providing close protection to a wide array of clientele. Matt has a trained eye for body details and it was both our judgments that the RACKminus did not print significantly enough to attract notice, despite the three mags. With a comfortably loose cover garment in the summer or jacket in the winter, we're confident the RACK would remain sufficiently innocuous for operational use.
Satisfied with that aspect, I decided to go hot.
I ran ten round magazines from the covered position for the first few drills, meaning I was indexing magazines for reloads from under my cover shirt. No issues. Neither the sling of the rifle, nor the fabric of the shirt affected my ability to index and draw magazines from any pouch. The tension level on the magazines is comfortable but not stiff, and even under heavy movement they do not bounce, come loose or slip out.
As the Ten Speed Pouch is constructed of an elastic type material, there is sufficient play to draw magazines in a grosser manner, unlike some nylon or kydex pouches that require a straight vertical pull. With the Ten Speed you can index and pull at an angle to speed the reload. I ran through all three carried magazines a few times, attempting to cause malfunctions. The RACKminus held close to the body and provided sufficient tension to pull magazines without interference. Then I loosened the straps to let it hang off of me. The result was the same; the RACKminus did not get in the way of indexing a magazine.
Next, I ran the RACK without a cover garment and began using the Ten Speed Ultra Light Dump pouch. As a side note on the pouch, it’s an amazing piece of kit. Not only is it smaller than your average iPod when bundled, it expands with one tug and can hold a generous amount of spent magazines or other kit. Due to the design of the Ten Speed magazine pouches, it’s difficult to retain (reinsert into the pouch) magazines with your support hand. Two hands works just fine but that means temporarily releasing the weapon controls, which isn’t advisable under threat. In this situation, the dump pouch is the best solution for retaining magazines during reloads.
Considering the RACKSminus' obvious advantages over other chest rigs, the need to use a dump pouch seemed a minimal inconvenience. Actually, it wasn’t an inconvenience at all. The construction of the pouch allows it to hang at a slight angle, making it simple to feed magazines into it and the opening is large enough that it isn't difficult to get the magazine in on the first try, even without visually guiding it.
Not surprisingly, running the RACKminus without a cover shirt proved easier than with one on. I still did not feel the weight and found that movement to be completely unrestricted. The magazine pouch did not fold or catch on the body when going into or coming out of shooting positions, nor did the dump pouch hang up on clothing or gear. Just as with the cover shirt, the sling did not interfere with indexing magazines; I mention this again because it’s uncommon to wear magazines high on the chest and not have the sling hang up on them. I attribute this to the ultra slim design and the load bearing straps that hold the rig close to the body.
It was while running this latter set of strings that I discovered possibly the best feature of the RACKminus. Because it’s close to the body, the RACKminus forms to the chest. The material it's constructed of is pliable enough to form well and move with the body rather than against it, even with the added stiffness of carried magazines. A heavier carrier can drag against its own weight under gross movements like weapon transitions, reloading or retaining magazines or moving in and out of austere shooting positions.
RACKminus doesn’t have that problem. Under stress I found it contours to the body well enough that strict gross motor skill interaction with the magazine pouch and dump pouch was easy and intuitive. As with any piece of equipment, you want your gear to move with you, not against you.
So are there any negatives? That will be a matter of preference. I do not like that fact that I cannot retain magazines with my support hand only. I also don’t like that the RACKminus lacks a shoulder drag strap. I tried to find other issues with the rig, magazine pouch and the dump pouch and couldn’t. I'm not saying they are perfect kit, but I will go so far as to say that if you want a lightweight chest rig that can be worn alone or over armor, and you don’t have the need to carry a couple thousand magazines, this is an excellent choice.
I have had a long relationship with Blue Force Gear products; I've been using their Vickers slings for carbines, shotguns and bolt guns for years. Their other gear is high quality and the RACKminus is no exception.
Now for the hardware:
The RACK is constructed of ULTRAcomp, which is super lightweight, half the thickness of a dime and is mildew resistant. When wet, the rig dries quickly and does not retain moisture easily. To test this I didn't just wear it. I also sprayed it down with water, wrapped it in a soaked towel and left it in a plastic bag for two days.On the third day I removed it. The towel smelled heavily of mildew, the RACK smelled like it just came out from under the BFG sewing machines in Georgia. Cleaning the RACKminus is simple, and due to the material it doesn’t hold soap or detergent in the fabric. Cleaning is simple; scrub and rinse.
All releasable buckles are polymer plastic, but will bear any weight you would reasonably add to them, up to and including your bodyweight if the situation called for it. I wrapped the RACK off a pull up bar and tested it against my body weight with no straining, breakage or rips in the material. I don’t know if BFG had this in mind when designing it, but it can support my 200 pounds without failure.
As should be obvious by now, this is a MOLLE rack so any MOLLE compatible gear will attach to the available real estate. Capacity includes 12 columns x 3 rows and an additional 1 x 4 on each shoulder strap. For the best advantage I would recommend BFG’s Ten-Speed pouches to maintain minimal weight though it will of course support other kit built by other manufacturers. While the RACKminus does not provide the same amount of real estate as some other chest rigs, BFG offers modular belts to distribute other gear to the waist if needed.
Final Verdict: If you want lightweight, concealable and functional this rig absolutely meets all requirements. For PSD, vehicle use or an emergency piece of kit that can be thrown on in seconds, the RACK is a good choice. Price wise it comes in much lower than comparable kit that will most certainly weigh more. Blue Force Gear also backs their products with an excellent warranty and the customer service cant be beat. All around, a prudent choice in gear.
-- Aaron Cowan
About the Author: Aaron Cowan is the lead instructor for Sage Dynamics, a reality-focused firearms and tactics training company that provides practical instruction for the civilian, police, and military professional. Aaron served in the U.S. Army as an infantryman, as a private security contractor overseas, and as a police officer. In addition to patrol, he worked as a SWAT team member, SWAT deputy team commander, SWAT sniper, sniper section leader, and in-service police training officer. Aaron holds multiple professional certifications including the National Rifle Association Law Enforcement Division’s instructor training program, California POST certified academy instructor, Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Active Shooter Response Instructor, and Simunitions Scenario Instructor among others. He welcomes shooters of all backgrounds to his classes as long as they come with an open mind and a will to learn.