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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Gearing Up! BlasterSmiths UK 1812 and 612 mag pouches

Not terribly long ago, in a country that seems increasingly near thanks to the jet and information ages... It is a period of unrest. Human survivors, striking out from secure shelters are winning minor victories against the shambling undead that wish to feast on thier delicious brains. During this conflict, blastersmiths and armorers have managed to engineer gear to make human fighters more effective in dealing with the living impaired, a force multiplier for humanity. Pursued by brain-munching zombies, humanity's fighters race from their fortifications to gather much needed supplies to sustain humanity in the face of those that death forgot....

It wasn’t that long ago that carrying extra mags for your Nerf blasters at a Humans vs Zombies game meant stuffing cargo pants with 6 round mags and hoping to not get caught reloading. With the advent of the Raider’s slamfire and 35 round drum, along with 18 round mags coming with the Stampede, things changed. Fire rates increased and competitive magazines no longer fit into the leg pockets of a pair of trousers. With this several different approaches came. Some stuck with thier 6 round mags, others started carrying their 18 round mags and drums in large ill fitting pouches, while still others re-purposed airsoft or military surplus gear to carry thier gear. A few others started engineering their own solutions, and some of those decided to sell their solutions to other players.

Blastersmiths UK is one such group of Nerf specific gear makers. Making a wide array of gear from shoulder holsters to belt panels to full chest rigs, BSUK has plenty to offer to players that do not wish to become a human happymeal. Their products undergo rigorous testing in Humans vs Zombies games run by BUZAN, with broken products scrutinized to determine the source of the failure. This testing regime combined with a budget minded attitude got my attention.

For this purpose, I ordered a set of their 1812 and 612 quad stack mag pouches for review, and to allow me to make use of my surplus MOLLE II Fighting Load Carrier. The 1812 is sized for 18 and 12 round mags and by now some of you have already surmised that the 612 hols 6 and 12 round magazines. They both hold their payloads quite securely with their elastic shock cord retention. Each mounts to five columns of PALS webbing, sliding straps behind the rungs and connecting to velcro on the back. If pulled tight the connection is sufficient that the pouch should not be lost.

However, the pouches do not hold to existing standards regarding PALS attachment. The backs of the pouches feature no PALS webbing to properly weave the strap, leading to a significant amount of bounce and bob as they shift on the PALS webbing. Additionally, on the pouches that have webbing on the front for mounting, the spacing of the PALS columns is is 2 inch, not the standard PALS 1.5 inch spacing, meaning the user may not be able to stack other types of pouches on top of the mag pouches. Anything three columns wide will definitely not attach properly. A pouch 5 columns wide can straddle the offending ill spaced portion, but will likely end up quite floppy due to the underlying pouch not being properly woven to the backing garment.

The pouches themselves have little in the way of structure to stiffen their shape, which causes some flop, but also due to their non-gusseted design makes them fold flat once the magazine contained inside is removed, making them remarkably light and unencumbering.

With all this in mind they are incredibly affordable, even with trans-Atlantic shipping. The fold flat construction allows them to be shipped more cheaply than gusseted pouches is a simple packet, and their budget minded construction allows a buyer to assemble a kit on a budget.

Pouches hold exactly what they are advertised to. One mag per pocket. Pouches can be ordered as shingles of between one and three mags wide, and can be ordered as quad stacks (2x2) or hex stacks (3x2). The retention cord on the 612 is a little tight when putting a 12 round mag into it.
The pouches are extremely light weight and fold flat when the mags are removed. Always remove mags outermost first. Non standard mountings and lack of rigidity in the pouches causes significant bounce and bob, particularly noticeable on the 612 style since they only attach to a single rung on the PALS ladder. In some configurations the 612 is floppy enough that operating the bungee one handed is simply not possible, particularly for the outer pouch of a stack. After some experimentation I settled on mounting them upside down, on the back of my rig, paintball style.
Nonstandard mounting and webbing spacing means that these pouches will LIKELY mount to your PALS or MOLLE platform of choice, however no guarantees can be made of the stability of the mounting, or that pouches from other manufacturers will mount to the webbing on the fronts of the stacks.

Author's note:  Despite what it sounds like I really WANT to like these pouches.  Before I published this article I sent a list of improvements and suggestions to BSUK, in the hopes of improving the designs while staying within BSUK's design philosophy of making gear available to players for as little as possible.

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