C-202 F.PC For Machine Gunners.
Evaluation by: Eliran Feildboy
Winter 2008, it´s the professions selection phase, just a few weeks after passing the final IDF SF selection & evaluation. We were all waiting to know what will be our purpose and what is going to break our backs.
While reading the list of basically 'who gets to be what' I realized, how far my dream of picking up the DMR really was. While all of the big, muscled, crazy and also sometimes dumb (which in my lexicon means fearless) people got the Negev (IWI 5.56 MG) & the FN MAG, I could spot my name hanging out in the bottom under the 'lucky ones' who gets to do the hell week with a MAG.
I will never forget that 'smiley' sticker to the left of the word MAG, and how much propaganda was involved to convince us, how this piece of metal has a huge moral impact on the field. It was only later on, when I figured very well, what are the privileges of being an MG.Today I can tell you without blinking, after spending 3 months with that iron nightmare and an insane load out, why the experience & efficiency of being a machine gunner depends a lot on the equipment and its standards.While doing that hell week with a MAG, I realized how sucked the IDF standard rigs for those MG's were. 3 months later I wasn’t only realizing, I was already convinced that with this type and level of gear, I wouldn’t be more efficient than a ww2 machine gunner.
And here is why.
Every soldier knows, a MG is heavy, and so are the accessories. For those who doesn’t really know, for us the combat load-out as SF baby’s was 4 drums of 150 bullets plus 3 belts of 80 bullets each and one belt of 50 tracers (we are talking about nasty 7.62, don’t forget). And, of course, not everything was on the vest. Add the wonderful reserve barrel into all of this 'wet' gear the utility tools, cleaning tools, and so on.
See, I didn’t even described the standard gear that each soldier should carry, and the mission related items....yes even the green Hulk would start to feel uncomfortable. Therefore the problem was, that the rig we used wasn´t durable, comfortable and efficient. We were running in the basic training an old kind of a rig, which you could clearly see, that someone used it back in 73' when the American aid was first sent, to support the Israeli “Yom Kipur” war, which explained the 'Suez 73' writing on it. And the fact that everything (!) was at some part in history ripped and stitched back together in some kind of a sick patchwork made it even more uncomfortable and untrusted. The weight is a dangerous factor for both the vest and its user. Unlike other combat roles, a vest that wasn’t carefully planned and, like we often seen today, made out of Chinese crap will not last a 48 hours operation, and will surely not allow his carrier to stay in a healthy line.
The comfort is also a known issue.
In most Military’s the mindset 'embrace the suck' is the motto, which I absolutely support. But when you carry such a heavy equipment, and still expected by your environment to be fast and efficient the comfort plays a major role and often draws the attention of the user.
Carrying such a load out, with the wrong platform will result in unbelievable pain in the knees, lower back, shoulders and will make you go nuts after 6 hours. This kind of pain comes and goes in the first month, but after a few months it will become a part of your life, and an everlasting memory. That´s why a professionally designed gear is essential to your health and operational success, or lets put it one word – survival.
After understanding the problems, we can now start with the evaluation of the OSO C-202 F.PC For Machine Gunners.
First of all, this is a plate carrier, and was designed for the Israeli 'Karmon' ceramic plates. Due to a smart design which looks like two wings, you can enter a SAPI plate and the vest would still accept it and keep it in its proper place, as can be seen below :
Please note – avoid the insertion of plates under the 222 x 298 mm. It is also important to remark, that this vest can accept and work efficiently with the British Osprey Plates which can be seen below.
The first thing that pops into every machine gunner are the shoulders. Many shoulder problems are caused by the breakdown of soft tissues in the shoulder region. Using the shoulder too much can cause the soft tissue to break down faster as people get older, or speeding up the process by caring such a heavy weight without any support or material, to act as a soft layer. That’s why the C-202 has a 3d mesh padded shoulder strap that act as a 'pillow' between the vest itself and the shoulders. The well padded shoulder straps are covered by 3d mesh material that act as an outstanding air flow element. Never the less, unlike most PC's – the C-202 shoulders are rather thick and well padded as can be seen below -
The structure of the shoulder straps
What I personally like in the design of this plate carrier, and other Israeli plate carrier designs, is the fact the buckles and any other adjustment parts do not have a direct contact with the user body. They also don´t get in the way of other equipments such as backpack straps, COM's, etc. and allow the shoulder straps to take a perfect shape around the users shoulder, and not some bulky default kind of a shape.That is often called the 'turtle' cage, which you can imagine why.
Those PC's are designed to be quickly attached or disconnected from each other. This version of the C-202 has only a front plate and the back is made of a basically flat net. Might not be so common in today’s PC's, but we have a damn good answer which is a result of the way we do things in Israel.
In most, if not all of the operations I took part of, we used 'big' backpacks. Unlike our friends over seas we don’t use 10-25 Liters, backpack and call it a 24 hours assault pack. We often had to choose a suitable backpack from the range of 45 Liters all the way to the 100 Liters. With that being said, carrying a backpack adds two difficulty´s that each user has to deal with.
Balance & weight
Carrying a 'normal' backpack of lets say, 40% body weight, often sucks with a plate carrier. Why? Well, for me personally it often reminded me of the story of 'the princess and the pea'. In most PC's the plate will get in your way, and will make the experience of doing a tour in another country less enjoyable. This experience may vary due to the unending solutions we got today...but the problem is there. Machine gunners always carry a lot. Utility kits, cleaning kits, spare barrel & ammunition and the rest of the standard equipment...so they pretty much can not avoid the backpack.
The propose of the net is, to counter and provide the user the ability to overcome the factors mentioned above. Needless to describe the obvious, a flat back can give you the best (yet exposed) solution for carrying an efficient, heavy and yet comfortable payload on your back. Keep the back piece, folded in your backpack if possible, would be a good idea. We actually, for some time, kept rocking our PC's without back plates due to some sick concept.
In my own opinion, the net should be used for the following environments:
- Green side
As for the green side,I don´t want to be Cpt.Obvious, which any way i´ll end up like him but – almost everyone that I met outside of the IDF always bothered himself which Chest rig is the ultimate for the green side. Well my answer is, of course, what suits your mission and finally what suits you. However, with this PC we have a special opportunity. While having this net feature on the back, we maintaining some of the freedom of movement & carrying capability we would have with most chest rigs. In fact the idea might resemble a bit the concept of the P.L.C.E Webbing.
The benefits of the net -
Oh yes, this is actually a crucial factor. From experience in some shit holes, walking in the desert 40 km a night with a 52% body weight and a plate carrier can really suck after just 2 days. The skin of your back & waist starts to rub off because of the pressure & your sweat. Sweat contains mainly water. It also contains minerals, lactate, and urea...or lets be less nerdy and call it salts. Its makes your textile fabric become hard once it´s dry. Without having any ventilation, or a minimum air flow...wearing your plate carrier might feel like how Arthur Knights felt back in the day.
Comfort & efficiency
As I mentioned above, for the machine gunner, carrying a full plate carrier with a backpack is definitely possible, but rather uncomfortable and less efficient for some specific environments and types of tasks. Thanks to the net, and the outstanding design of the PC – it is now easy for the end user to combine a maximum of protection on the front, with extremely comfortable carrying of an additional heavy backpack. This design allows great freedom of move, and improves the reaction of the user.
Adjusting properly your equipment according to your body figure is highly important, and has a direct impact on your performance and the ability to last longer. The net has 4 adjustment points, two on each side. Those points are easily reachable, even when the vest is full.
Something that I personally like regarding those adjustment points is, that each adjustment webbing has a 'Webbing locker'. This is great, since in the IDF for example we always had to secure those webbing’s with duct tape, from flying around like piggy tales. With those 'Lockers' you wont need a duct tape. Just shorten the webbing as you want, and secure it with the elastic part. This is also great, because during a mission the load out or the amount of equipment changes, and so is the capacity. Instead of removing and adding a new duct tape...it got a better and efficient solution. Easy, simple, and time saving.
The Disadvantages of the net -
That’s clear to everyone – with this configuration, the PC has a lack of a back plate, and therefore the exposure on the back.
The problem with the current net design we have might not be a big issue to 90% of our end users, but is an issue that definitely exists. The mesh color on the current PC's is Black.That can create three small issues, that should only interest the professionals among us :
- Unnatural shape – the Cordura is acting as a 'frame' and the mesh net as the 'picture', so the human eyes receive a shape of a box, which clearly does not belongs to the typical green side or forest in your area.
- Target acquisition – As mentioned above, the shape of the 'black box' will be detected easier by the human eye, and might even help your opponent to aim down faster his sights on your back. Therefore I would suggest simply to take a non reflective Spray, such as Krylon, and give it a small nice paint job.
- NVG - The Box shape will be easily noticed by NVG's during the night from a distance of 10 to 20 meters maximum. That is simple due to the fact that if the vest has a bright color, and the shape of the net has a much darker color...it will be seen easily, by the way this is a reason why some of the IDF-SF units stopped since 2006 to work with black equipment in some environments.
The 'tactical' value behind the net -
Well without too much tactical bullshit lets get to the point.
The C202 FPC has a very simple and quick replacement capability of both the front and back pieces. That means, when we are for example moving in Green side as a part of a DA, which one of its goals is, to penetrate an urban environment, which requires the obvious use of two plates – the user of the C202 PFC will have the ability to quickly re-attach the back plate, while the Net piece was restored back in the backpack. In the next part, we will take a closer look into the capacity capability of the C-202 PFC, and certain highlights of the front plate.
We also would like to remind you that the C-202 PFC will be available on Gecko Gear from the 1st of June.
See you than !