As promised in the last review, here is the chest rig review part II with the grandfather of all chest rigs, known as “ChiCom“. But there is more to this old sheet of canvas with pouches then it appears at first glance.
This was my first chest rig I ever had and to be honest I only bought it, because I it was up for sale for 7 USD including shipping on ebay. Yes 7 bucks. What could go wrong? Later I wanted an additional Soviet Era variant, which are kind of rare and expensive collector items. But since (at least for me) the major difference was the stamp on the backside, I didn’t care much to own an original one after all.
Now what is so special about a Chicom? First of all, the ChiCom name comes from CHInese COMmunist (or communism) and is a Chinese success story, since they “invented” it in the 50s for their AK variant the Type 56. After that a lot of countries copied the Chinese chest rig design with slight variations, like buttons made out of other materials, snap buttons, velcro, double magazine pouches, different coloration and so on. I think this is kinda funny, because since when does anybody copies a Chinese product? 😀
Well the Chinese did several other variants and kept updating their chest rigs, like the popular 4 cell (single mag) variant “Type 81 chest rig” as seen above. I read/heard that there was even a Type 56 chest rig variant with 3 cells which could take 2 magazines with dividers. But I can’t find any pictures nor proof of it to be honest. (Please post in the comments/forums if you have any reference!)
If you want to read more about the variations and countries which uses Chicom variants please check out the Red Alliance Wiki, since I think copying it and posting it here would not only be kinda lame, but also be unfair to the original author!
Since we are a Russian and not a Chinese gear blog, I will keep my focus on the Russian, precisely the Soviet variations of the Chicom. Above you can see some variations of the first copies made by the Soviets and used during the Afghan war in the 80s. These are direct copies (Both left side and top right). The first modified variant – the Lifchik 1 (right bottom) – which has snap buttons with velcro, double mag pouches, 2 flare loops and padded shoulder straps. And yes, the Lifchik 1 is insanely rare!
Like so often, after 1 comes 2 and so does the Soviets with their Lifchik 2. It has now leather tabs instead of the snap buttons, more simplified “webbing” for the back strap and 2 additional straps, which can be combined with a VOG grenade belt. Still rare, but you can find some on ebay or designated trading places like Red Alliance or Facebook groups for a pretty dollar.
Watch out for “fake” or “repro” Lifchik 2’s and especially the not authentic berezka/KLMK Lifchik 2 if you are looking for a real one!
And the evolution and updating goes on and on and today there are still “modern” Chicom chest rigs based on the original Chinese design, with MOLLE webbing, extra padded pouches, different base coloration and so on. There is even a community out there who keeps customizing and modifying the original Chinese Chicoms – just search the web or especially youtube to get some impressions and even tutorials on how to do so.
I think we can say, that the Chinese did very well with this simple design. After all it became a milestone.
But enough with the variations and history, back to the review and why I (and obviously thousand of people as well) think, that the Chicom is a must have.
The greatest thing in my opinion is, beside the ridiculous pricing, the lightweight and low profile this chest rigs gives you. You could easily wear it under your jacket without anybody noticing it. Even crawling on the floor is comfortable, since it will not bother you at all. The SSO Lazutchik is already great to use and comfortable/lightweight, but the Chicom is just ludicrous on those aspects. After using it once (and loving it!) I modified mine as well and will show you step by step my “little modifications” while showing the details of the classic Type 56 Chicom itself.
The first modification I did, was adding a buckle to the back strap, since the original design forced you to knot it on the back, which is kinda a pain in the arse if you are doing it by yourself. Not to mention that it keeps opening on while using it (probably due to the bad knot).
The next modification I made, was padding the shoulder straps, which are “out of the box” not very comfortable. They are a lot like the Soviet AK slings from the material and feel. You guys know what I am talking about in terms of comfort. I used some black cotton fabric I had leftover, stuffed it with foam for the padding and secured by sewing it directly on the strap with a sewing machine. It does not look great, but damn does this improves the comfort!
3 cells are available for your magazines and as the designation “Type 56” may indicates, they are meant for standard 30 round 7,62×39 mags. But you can as well fit without any problem a 5,45×39 (left) and a 9×39 (center) 30 round magazine in each cell.
Another cool feature, and maybe by coincidence due to cost reduction, is the loop with the wood “knob” button closing/opening mechanism of all pockets, which is not easy to use but also very silent! Also as an AK owner, who does not like a bit of wood on his gear as well? 🙂
My last modification was especially made for the Maas AHT-6-UV radio. I cut 3 holes in the top of one utility pouch, 2 identical and 1 bigger one for the antenna, so I can manipulate the radio even while the pouch is closed. It eases the access and secures my radio, so I can’t loose it any “stress” situation. With brown (color matching) sewing yarn I secured the holes, so they can not get any bigger or even rip – just like a button hole on your shirt/jacket. I know it is not beautiful, but again it suits it purpose very well. 🙂
(Picture showing Anatoly Lebed – Hero of the Russian Federation, Guards Lieutenant Colonel in Special Airborne Forces, and an officer of the 45th Guards Spetsnaz Regiment – check his Bio out if you do not know him!)
I read several times that Russian soldiers “stretched” their Chicoms during the Afghan war in the 80s, so they can fit 6 mags instead of the 3 intended mags in it. The most common method is with warm water and some wedges/hammering 2 mags in each pouch. Above you can see probably the most known pictures of a Chicom stretched to hold 6 mags. And yes, this is stretched and not the rare variant which can hold 6 mags, since on the pictures you can clearly see that you are not able to close the flaps anymore! (According to my knowledge, the markings on the Chicom indicates the unit/squad and their representative logo – in this case a swan – if you know more about it, please share you knowledge with us in the comments or forums with us!)
I will do in the future a little guide on how to stretch your Chicom and if it is really worth doing so!
19.02.2016 – by Logisticz for Gruppa L