I'm sure that many of you reading this article have seen and used this piece of equipment while serving in the military at some point or another. This is the system I learned Combat Marksmanship with in boot camp. I learned how to crank out speed reloads and I wore this along with the old school flak jackets. This is a new and unused M88 Enhanced Load Bearing Vest. I got this piece out of nostalgia and then came to realize that it was worth analyzing its use and effectiveness compared to the current standard molle systems.
First thing to know when you look at this piece of gear is that this is a vest designed for the standard rifleman. There was a separate vest employed by Grenadiers that used the M203 Grenade Launcher on their rifles, but this is a vest designed to be used by a rifleman. Additionally, this vest is not like others you see now where all the pouches are mounted on the body. This vest is designed to relieve some of the space that is taken up by the ALICE gear, replace the ALICE gear, and help distribute the load into a more logical and convenient location for easier access and carry.
In the above image, you will see that the vest has ten loops where you would clip on your ALICE belt. On the belt you will carry things like canteens, a pistol, a butt pack, etc. The vest is merely freeing up space by holding the equivalent of two rifle magazine pouches, and two grenade pouches. This gives you a good amount of space and is alot easier to carry.
In the picture above, you can see how the magazines are laid out. Up top, you have two magazines in the same pouch while underneath that there is only one magazine there. Right underneath all that is a grenade pouch. This is mirrored on the other side of the vest and all the magazine pouches are canted towards your chest, making it very easy and intuitive to access in my experience. My theory on why the vest carries only 6 magazines is because soldiers are typically only issued that many magazines. Also, it would seem that someone actually did their research on how uncomfortable it is to wear a bunch of gear in the front while prone. This would explain why the double magazine pouch is at the top instead of lower.
The only part I am not too pleased about is the grenade pouches. They basically would come to rest right at the tip top of the pelvis bones. That is the worst place to have a grenade pressing if you fall into the prone. I'd rather have those suckers higher up, personally.
The good thing about the LBV is that the overall size of it is small. It is large enough to hold the grenades and mags, but small enough to be unobtrusive with body armor on. The whole idea was to wear this type of vest with body armor on, so not making it bulky like today was a big deal and I don't quite understand why we strayed from this concept. I may never figure that out but let's move on.
On the back, you have a back panel that supports your LBV staying together. It comes with polymer D rings for strapping a butt pack on more secure. You will also see that there is paracord that attaches the back panel and has alot of extra cordage. this indicates that this vest is basically a one size fits all, which works well for logistics.
On the thick padded shoulder straps, you will notice that they are not only connected with thick weave ALICE panels, but also that the height on the front and back can be adjusted greatly. I really appreciate all the little details and options these shoulder pads offer. Things like attachments and loopholes for threading wire and securing radio antennas make it a pretty versatile and somewhat modular rig.
I have yet to really test this rig and get it all set up, but so far it SEEMS to offer the user a good amount. It holds the initial six magazines in a convenient location and keeps everything close to minimize bulk to the waste line. We shall see how it pans out but so far I think you can tell that I am optimistic. And of course I am having alot of nostalgia.
Do It Rite
Alaska-Based Youtube Vlogger, Retired Marine, gun enthusiast, and passionate firearm and gear evaluator.