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Who are MOLLE and ALICE and how do they affect tactical gear choices?

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One important question asked by those who are interested in tactical gear is the differences between the varying types of tactical gear. Below is some useful information on the distinctions between the types of tactical gear the army has used throughout history.

First is the oldest system, used in World War I, World War II, and the Korean war. This is the 1910 wire hanger

blog-ww2-gear.jpgsystem that came about in the early 1900's and was used with the 1903 springfield rifle and the M1 Garand series of rifles. This method was in service from 1910 until the late 1950's. Typically made of canvas and featuring large snaps "lift the dot" the connection method was a wire loop on the back (of the attachable piece of equipment, for example a canteen holder) that is passed through the holes of a belt like a pistol belt or a ten pocket Garand belt. One of the problems with this older system is that the loops would attach the the bottom edge of the belt so that the soldier would be walking and the back of the item would slap them against the leg as they walked, leading to discomfort whether it was a canteen or trenching tool. Another issue was one side of the loop could come undone and hang and eventually fall off so soldiers were constantly losing equipment with this system. Compatible with an ALICE pistol but not MOLLE.

In the late 1950's the Army did away with the M1 Garand and a whole family of weapons, and went with the M14. Along with that, they moved to the ALICE equipment system which stands for All Purpose Lightweight Individual

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Carrying Equipment. Used extensively in Vietnam through the first Gulf War,the hallmark of this equipment is a 2" long sliding clip called the ALICE clip that attaches to packs or belts. It provided better stability than the 1910 wire hanger system for less gear loss when crossing bumpy terrain, however this was still a problem and the clips would sometimes open and gear would be lost. The early ALICE equipment was made of canvas and eventually the equipment in the late 70's and early 80's was changed to nylon style equipment. It features lighter more traditional snaps and the elongated side release buckles that were prone to breakage. Also introduced was the plastic canteen and the famous ALICE rucksack that is still widely used by the prepper community. Aside from the pistol belt and perhaps suspenders ALICE gear isn't really compatible with older 1910 gear but can be attached to MOLLE although not recommended.

In the early 1990's the military moved away from the ALICE clip and moved toward the MOLLE system (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment). The hallmark of the MOLLE system is what is called PALS webbing. PALS stands for Pouch Attachment Ladder System. Basically it is a series of alternating webs that is used in conjunction with a vertical strip. The vertical web is laced between the vest, belt or pack(platform), alternating between the platform and the pouch. This creates a secure and stable connection from pouch to platform. The bottom then is snapped into place and the pouch can then be moved wherever the soldier decided to wear it. This was not belt dependent and linear in nature like past systems, but allowed soldiers to configure equipment the way they wanted it and the way the mission called for.

With the advent of the PALS system and MOLLE, the industry has made its move into civilian tactical equipment. Lower quality Airsoft gear abounds, also many companies are producing car seats, gun safe liners and all manner of MOLLE compatible platforms beyond those for personal wear. Also there are many choices for specific pouches for gear such as; radios, first aid kits, pistol holsters even coffee mugs. MOLLE Gear isn't compatible with older systems except sometimes people will hang a MOLLE pouch on a pistol belt although they aren't designed to be used together.

When selecting MOLLE gear you might notice that some manufacturers don't include the vertical bar and snaps. The vertical web and snap is a patented system therefore gear manufacturers must purchase a license for that patent in order to put it on their equipment. What many companies do, including Strike Hard Gear, is instead build their equipment with just PALS webbing on it. The person who purchases this equipment needs to find a third party for attaching the pouch to the platform. Several alternatives exist including the popular Malice Clip , Blackhawk Speed Clips and thick ZIP strips like those available from your local hardware store.

This tutorial was provided to help readers understand the differences between, as well as a timeline of tactical gear. Hopefully the information contributes to your ability to make a tactical gear decision depending on your chosen rifle, tactical needs, budget and experience.