US Palm Gear – Agile Combat System (ACS) & Defender Plate Carrier/AK Attack Rack & Multi-Platform Attack Rack Chest Rigs

By Todd Burgreen

There are numerous companies involved in producing magazine pouch chest rigs and ballistic protection plate carriers. This was not always the case. This business competition has not only spurred R&D, but also lowered the cost of items making it available to a wider range of clients besides the military; such as law enforcement, private security, and individual citizens. While military or law enforcement budgets often fixate on high end equipment procurement, it is the unspoken rule that trained personnel are the real commodity in any organization that need protection and support in carrying items required for a mission. A company helping equip not only our military, law enforcement, and private security contractors (PSC) as well as not forgetting or ignoring civilians is US Palm (US Primary Armament Logistical Manufacturing).

US Palm offers too many products for a review of all. We will focus on a cross section of upper and lower end products in two different categories – plate carriers and what US Palm calls “racks,” also known as magazine pouch chest rigs. The upper and lower end labels are my own and based on MSRP and intended user – civilian or military/LE – more than anything else. US Palm is dedicated in offering items to law abiding citizens and not solely focusing on military and law enforcement customer base. The items used as our vehicles to explore US Palm are the Agile Combat System (ACS) and Defender plate carriers along with Multi-Platform Attack Rack (MPAR) and AK Attack Rack chest rigs. US Palm is constantly looking at new materials and manufacturing techniques to maintain durability and concurrently reduce weight in their gear. This philosophy centers on trimming unnecessary weight off by analyzing each piece of load carriage equipment for lighter but yet durable alternatives. Sometimes this can be achieved by changing the base design and manufacturing technique to eliminate excess and unnecessary materials. Rapidly changing technology with resultant new equipment being fielded and environmental factors often makes a nylon pouch or vest obsolete not long after introduction. US Palm will not hesitate in introducing an updated model. For example, the Multi-Platform chest rig used in this article is a Generation One with a Generation Two now in production. US Palm’s goal is to maintain the necessary agility to continually evaluate the relevance of each of their items and update and/or replace them as needed.

The Agile Combat System (ACS) evolved out of US Palm’s Desert Tracker and Ronin plate carriers and ingeniously allows for the combining of several different US Palm products to create the ACS. The ACS evaluated for this article joined the US Palm Hardened Back Pack (HBP) with Desert Tracker Plate Carrier (DTPC) via the U.S. Palm Enhanced Harness System (EHS) "horse collar” shoulder straps. The HBP pack is a small assault pack with a dedicated internal pocket designed to hold ballistic armor, while maintaining utility as a pack. The HBP also accommodates a hydration bladder. A multitude of MOLLE panels allows you to adapt the HBP to any mission need. The HBP is made from 1000d Cordura and measures approximately 18 inch x 14 inch x 6 inch adding up to a listed 1,800 cubic inches of storage. The front plate carrier panel can be configured any way a user wants thanks to its own MOLLE panels with magazine pouches or other gear selection. Side plate carriers are also possible to incorporate with the ACS.

Both the HBP pack and front carrier can be fitted with either hard or soft armor depending on user preference and mission profile. In the United States, certification levels by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, are often used as the standard. Levels I through III-a body armor are generally “soft” and thus somewhat more concealable and comfortable due to pliability of the “soft” protection inserts and are designed to defend against handgun rounds. Level III is the first tier in the rating hierarchy to utilize hard or semi-rigid steel/ceramic/composite plates as does Level IV rated armor. Level III and Level IV armor is designed to stop rifle fire from rounds such as the 5.56, 7.62x39, 7.62x51, 30-06, 7.62x54R, etc.

US Palm developed the ACS around rapid “plug-and-play” mission driven adaptation. As stated by US Palm, “Things change, and you’re trained to adapt – your gear should too.” This is what drove the R&D for the ACS. The ACS’s modularity allows mission specific US Palm components to be combined along with choosing levels of ballistic protection that always has an impact on weight. If you are riding or flying to contact or patrolling, it has an effect on how you load out. The increased protection associated with Level III and Level IV armor comes at the expense of weight and greater rigidity in armor construct. Even in the best condition this increased weight affects operator performance and efficiency; the degradation in performance is further enhanced if an individual does not properly utilize the designed armor and plate carrier system.

The other US Palm armor carrier – the Defender – is more conducive to civilian use. US Palm wanted to give the civilian homeowner an armor option in responding to a personal defense encounter. The Defender is a simple body armor concept arriving with a front III-a soft body armor panel that covers vital chest area. A user can upgrade the Defender with a rear ballistic panel as well as add hard plates that resist rifle rounds if it is decided this level of protection is required. The plate carriers are supported by a pair of padded, adjustable shoulder straps and a simple wrap around strap cinches the armor around your midsection. The intent is to be able to don the Defender in a matter of seconds when responding to a situation. US Palm offers different Defender variants, including three models designed to carry rifle magazines for the AR-15, AK 47 and .308 Win. chambered semiautomatics, handgun model and a MOLLE version on which you can add your own pouches, and a slick version without any pouches for wearing beneath clothing. The dual panel Defender model tips the scales at three pounds. It must be noted that the Defender lacks the wrap around side protection of many soft armor systems typically worn by military and law enforcement personnel. That is by design to limit weight as well as cost. The Defender series was conceived for those who do not need to wear a vest all the time, but who may need to put one on quickly. Home defenders tend to know what direction home invaders are coming from and a homeowner in a good defensive position is mostly likely to be facing the threat head-on from behind cover or concealment.

US Palm is at the forefront of making wearing body armor more comfortable. The increased comfort eases the operator’s chore of maintaining self discipline in wearing their armor. Body armor can be characterized as a contingency, a “what if” plan if you will. US Palm offers a variety of armor solutions for a wide array of situations – situations that weren’t conceived of some 30 years ago. Body armor has become just as crucial a part of an operator’s equipment as sidearm, rifle, and ammunition. It’s worn for the same reason seat belts are used. It doesn’t matter how tactically sound a unit may be, an individual may be encountered who’s willing to engage no matter the cost to their own well being. It doesn’t matter if you are a Tier One operator or civilian homeowner because control of all variables in a gun battle is unlikely. US Palm products aid in making sure personnel wear their armor as well as making sure even a civilian has the opportunity to access protection as well; all with the confidence it will perform when needed while being as comfortable as possible considering the weight and mass involved operating with body armor on.

Little more mundane and routine ancillary support items available from US Palm are chest rig “racks” as US Palm labels them. Two evaluated for this article are the AK Attack Rack and Multi-Platform Attack Rack. The Multi-Platform Attack Rack (MPAR) can accommodate up to six 30-round M4 magazines or up to five 20-round .308 magazines or any other combination of magazines and accessories you may need in a chest rig. The Gen 1 evaluated herein accomplished this via removable divider tabs within the general magazine pouch area. The Gen 2 MPAR achieves this flexibility via magazine inserts. There are two adjustable flap magazine/utility tool/mini smoke pouches as well on the MPAR. The large zippered main pouch can accommodate extra magazines or other larger pieces of gear. The bottom of the MPAR allows access to insert a US Palm custom level IIIA soft armor panel if the user desires. The main purpose of the MPAR is as a chest rig. The MPAR has a one inch adjustable waist strap with dual side releases and two inch QD shoulder straps. The MPAR is made from 500d Cordura and uses heavy duty YKK zippers. Available colors are Black, Multicam, OD, Ranger Green, Khaki, and Coyote.

The AK Attack Rack was one of the earliest US Palm products and introduced to complement their AK 30 AK magazines. The AK Attack Rack carries four AK magazines in a quick mounting and secure platform. The magazine pockets are lined along the magazine locking lug end with a heavy polymer material designed to prolong the life of the pocket. Shock cord retention provides the perfect blend between security and speedy access. The AK Attack Rack is constructed of 500d Cordura nylon and utilizes made in the USA hardware and materials. The AK Attack Rack was built to accommodate wearing over a plate carrier or other forms of soft armor, but is equally effective as a stand-alone chest rig.

Nothing is as individualistic as deciding how to wear body armor or carry immediate action items such as weapon magazines, handgun, medical IFAK, knife, and whatever is deemed a necessity in high risk environments. Factors such as accessibility, adaptability, fit, weight to mobility ratio, retention, and most effective use of limited real estate found on an operators body all come into play in the decision making process. Military, law enforcement, private security contractors (PSC) and civilian each will have different stimuli dictating what carry method works better from them. The process gets even more complicated when multiple weapon platforms are in the operator’s inventory. Training experience, observation, and communication with personnel from the military, law enforcement, PSC, and civilian indicates that chest rigs and/or body armor carriers are a favored method of carrying vital gear.

All of the US Palm items discussed in this article have been utilized for years in firearm training courses and weapon evaluations. As mentioned previously, the training courses often contained personnel from the military, private security contractors, and law enforcement. Most were equipped with various armor systems and chest rigs that served as solid comparison to the US Palm gear. The biggest issue encountered is seeing operators fighting against their gear. What does that mean? Body armor and chest rigs that are hindering, or competing against, efficient employment of weapons in terms of stock placement, sling snag, cheek weld, magazine changes and sluggish movement. US Palm has found the cures to these ailments and more. US Palm fully realizes one size does not fit all. It is important to note that all US Palm items are 100% U.S. made and Berry Act compliant. US Palm experience and attention to detail allows them to set up a body armor system or chest rig “rack” within the confines of an individual’s or agency/department’s requirements in terms of performance and budget. US Palm has the ability to provide “kit” ready for any mission and accessorize it with minimal changes to suit any environment or specification.

8360 E. Raintree Dr., Suite 201
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
(480) 398-3395

This article first appeared in SmallArmsReview.com on March 14, 2014


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