DeValera's Anti-Treaty IRA men patrol the streets of Dublin with nothing more than rifles and bandoleers (and perhaps a pistol or two beneath the trenchcoats), just before the outbreak of the Irish Civil War.
It is no secret to the long-time readers of Sipsey Street that I'm a big believer in a couple of things:
1. Being prepared to "fight light" -- that is with simply a rifle, bandoleer and canteen.
2. Having all your ammo (or as much as you can afford) combat packed in bandoleers. I have written of this before. Here is a post which links several previous articles for the benefit of newbies.
Also, after the last Indy 1500 gun show I attended, I wrote about the bandoleer famine and ways to overcome it. Now, a year later, here is a miscellany of bandoleer stuff (both for stripper clips and loaded magazines) that I've recently encountered.
British .303 Enfield bandoleer.
First, a machinegun collector recently gave me a half-dozen British late-WWII Enfield bandoleers. Unlike the American throwaway bandoleers, they are maqde to last of heavy canvas with reinforcements on the bottom edges. The drawback of these useful piece of canvas is the brass wire hook. Cheap and simple to make, they are a bitch to refasten.
Detail of Brit Enfield bandoleer, showing wire closure.
So, how do you modify this stout, reusable bandoleer so that you can open AND close the pockets easily? Years ago, I bought a Dritz snap multi-tool.
Over the years, I have found it extremely useful in installing 5/8" snaps on a variety of military equipment, principally using it to replace the wooden toggle fasteners on Chinese SKS gunner's aprons (known to the unsophisticated as "bras").
Chinese chest rig for SKS, also known as a "Chink bra," converted from wood toggles to snaps.
The snaps are easy to install. Just punch a hole through the canvas (I use my Swiss Army knife's awl) and install per instructions.
You can find the 5/8" snaps at WalMart. A pack of eight comes with a small tool set to do the job by hand with a hammer rather than using the multi-tool. This is okay for a single bandoleer, I suppose, but I find it a pain compared to the multi-tool. You can find the snaps in a variety of colors as well as the multi-tools at sewing and craft stores. If you can't find the right color, just paint them a flat earth tone of your choice the day before you install them.
I handed four of the six I converted to a new militiaman whose only long arm is a Mossberg 500 combat shotgun. Each Enfield pocket will hold three rounds of 2.75" or 3" OO Buck brass base up. He had expressed frustration at the nylon open-loop bandoleer he had been using, with rounds falling out every time he moved from cover to cover, like Hansel and Gretel trailing breadcrumbs.
Since most combat shotgunners top off their mag tube as they go, having a secure means of carrying your rounds, risking only the three per open pocket, is a "goodness thing." Unfortunately, I do not have a digital camera, so I cannot photograph the completed bandoleer, but you get the idea.
These USGI M16 magazine bandoleers can also hold M14 magazines.
The US Army procured these magazine bandoleers for GIs who are in a FOB and need to move around without completely gearing up. Going to the head? Grab your rifle and the bandoleer. At least you'll be able to shoot and move, with six extra mags.
While I was looking at some of these on a table at the Indy 1500 gunshow this past weekend, another gunnie was examining the mag bondoleers, and turning to me, asked, "Do you know if these will hold M14 mags?"
"Sure," I told him. "But you'll only get one mag per pouch instead of two, and you'll need to put 550 cord mag pulls on the M14s, because they sit lower in the pocket than the M16."
As we talked, he had the idea of sewing two of them back to back so he could carry six. I pointed out that if they were fully sewn together except at the top, they would form an additional pocket that could be secured by the addition of snaps. Haven't tried it yet, but I intend to when I get a chance.
The examples on the table at Indy were $10 each. I last bought some used ones in bulk for $4.00 each at Knob Creek.
BAR Assistant Gunner's magazine bandoleer, made for World War One.
When I was inspecting the gear of another new militiaman this week, I found him carrying his six M14 mags for his brand-new M1A in an R.H. Long WWI-era BAR A-Gunners pouch. He had found the shoulder strapped pouch at a yard sale last weekend while I was in Indianapolis. He paid exactly 1 dollar for it. It is dated 1918.
The amazing thing is that here is a more-than-ninety-year-old piece of gear made for World War One Doughboys to help roll back the Kaiser, put into service once more in the 21st Century.