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This article is the first in a guide to building a baseline tactical gear loadout. We’re kicking it off with a look at first line gear. At Rabble In Arms, we encourage everyone to pursue a state of readiness in the interests of their personal and community safety. The perspective of this series will be less “I’m deploying soon” and more “everyday citizen” in terms of gear prioritization.

The Belt

The belt is the foundation of first line gear. When it comes loading up, some folks like to run a streamlined, minimalist rig. Others are chasing Batman levels of utility. In choosing a gun belt, you’re looking for a rigid system that will support the weight of the items you need to carry.

The two piece belt system has taken over modern belt tech. In a two piece system, the inner belt holds no gear and goes through your belt loops. It then uses hook and loop to mount the outer belt outside the belt loops. This way, you mount all your gear to the outer belt and then never have to worry about the tedious weaving of the belt through your pants and gear. The whole system can be put on or taken off in a matter of seconds.

There are a bunch of solid belt options in this style, from the AWS SMU belt, to the Eagle Industries Operator Gun Belt, to the Ronin Tactics Senshi Belt. All of them offer a variety of colors, buckle types, inner belt widths (to fit the smaller loops on consumer jeans), and are made in the USA.

The belt I see recommended most often is the Blue Alpha belt. These are made to order and hand sewn in Georgia. The MOLLE outer is a 1.75″ double layer nylon webbing belt with a durable Cobra buckle. This belt mounts on a 1.5″ inner belt. You have the option to get a streamlined, buckle-free velcro inner belt or a modified version of their low profile EDC belt as the inner.

If you’re active on the gun side of Twitter, you’ve probably also heard of Ex Umbris Designs. These belts were designed by a former Green Beret and they’re hand sewn in Washington. This is an up and coming brand that deserves more attention.

With a first line foundation chosen, you’re ready to weigh it down.

Mounting Your Weapon

There’s no question, Safariland rules the duty holster market. If you’re looking for a professional grade, battle tested holster setup, you absolutely cannot go wrong with a Safariland holster and their mounting system. A Safariland mounting setup consists of the belt attachment (a mid-ride belt loop is a good option for most users), a receiver plate, and a locking fork which attaches to the holster. Many Safariland holsters ship with the fork, but if you need one you can find them here.

On my current first line setup, I’m testing a G-Code RTI Optimal Drop Pistol Platform (available here in OD Green and FDE). I hung my holster from this mount using their Safariland adapter. G-Code sells additional RTI wheel mounts for use cases such as mounting on a MOLLE panel, mounting in your car, etc. While these locking wheels are made of aluminum, the verdict is still out on whether they hold up as well as Safariland’s system. They also tend to be more expensive, but as a matter of personal taste, I prefer the way they look.

G Code RTI Wheel
Safariland Holster

Retaining Your Weapon

Let’s get one thing out of the way: if by some chance you’re still running a SERPA holster, you should strongly consider replacing it. The design of their locking mechanism may have contributed to a number of negligent discharges. Tension placed on the trigger finger as the weapon leaves the holster led shooters to then immediately depress the trigger. This danger could certainly be mitigated with training, but there are far better designs available. The first line is about survival. Don’t shoot yourself with your own weapon.

The gold standard for duty professional grade holsters used to be the Safariland 6354DO. But this holster was purpose built for a specific optic. Although it can be modified to fit modern setups, there are better options.

These days, the 6390RDS is a solid choice. This holster supports a weapon light and select pistol red dot optics. You can also run a threaded barrel if you order the model one slide size up or remove the barrel plug from the end of the holster. Just be aware that removing the barrel plug can impact weapon retention and holster rigidity.

Carrying Your Ammo

G Code Scorpion Magazine Holsters

First line ammo carrying usually looks something like two pistol magazines and one rifle magazine. The Esstac KYWI is the frontrunner in this market for excellent retention while maintaining low-noise use. For pistol mags, Esstac manufactures single pouches, double pouches, and double pouches with a small gap for magazines that need a bit more space. The gap set will accommodate magazines with bigger floorplates or extensions, but may not mount easily on standard Molle/PALS. Esstac provides an FAQ on their mounting options. Rifle mag pouches are available here.

G-Code Scorpion magazine pouches (pictured above) offer similarly quiet use, but have slightly greater retention when compared to the KYWIs. Pistol pouches are available here; rifle pouches here.


If you’re going to carry a deadly weapon, it’s a good idea to carry a variety of relevant first aid products and to seek out some training in their use. Again, the primary function of your first line is survival. I’m currently using a Coyote Tactical Solutions STOMP pouch. The layout is completely customizable and the build quality is outstanding. The Blue Force Gear Micro Trauma Kit is another high quality option.

While an IFAK is most easily accessed by a shooting partner, you may also want to stage a tourniquet on the front side of your belt. Esstac makes an elastic, horizontally mounted solution for this problem: the Belt Mounted Tourniquet Holder. In addition to being more accessible than a back mounted tourniquet, it’s a good idea to carry more than one for redundancy.

The Dump Pouch

It’s a bag that holds random items – don’t overthink this one too much. There are a number of good options. I have used both the Edgar Sherman Design Sap Bucket and the Coyote Tactical Solutions dump pouch. If you need a space to drop random items or toss magazines in a hurry and you have the room on your belt, these will fix you up.

Moving Beyond the First Line

With the First Line sorted, we can start thinking about how to supplement it with mission focused gear. In part two of this guide, we’ll look at how to build a loadout for whatever task you face.

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