The Story Of The Heat Rig
A Cult Hit, Reimagined
Michael Mann's HEAT (1995) immediately gained a cult following on release. Its unique gritty and grounded approach bucked a decades-long trend of formulaic action films, exposing audiences to realistic military and police tactics. A combination of great direction, talented actors, and qualified technical advisors (ex-SAS) made the film's climactic bank heist one of the most memorable scenes of the 90s.
This nearly 15-minute-long sequence made HEAT a cinematic legend. Shot in downtown LA, an easy score quickly escalates into a claustrophobic mess of a shootout. Expert gun-handling, booming on-location audio, and a huge cast of supporting firearms all help to make an unforgettable impression. This short sequence would inspire popular culture and media for generations to come.
One of the things that helped HEAT feel authentic were the props. The ex-SAS advisors employed by the production had quite literally been there and done that, and this prowess was reflected in the improvised equipment and tactics featured on screen.
This includes the single most iconic prop of the film, the 'Heat' rig; an improvised vest capable of hiding 8 STANAG magazines underneath a suit jacket. Being inconspicuous was important to the characters in HEAT — to pull of their plan, they needed to waltz into a busy, guarded bank with hundreds of rounds of ammunition and rifles without anyone batting an eye.
The vests were cool and certainly believable, but there's a big problem. You never quite see them get used as much as they're shown off. The Heat rigs magically pop on and off of the characters as convenient, the magazines are perfectly retained since they're stitched on, and many of the shots betray other glaring issues.
We can't blame them; every production has to make some concessions. But in a market ravenous for a working clone of the Heat rig, many copies of this prop fell flat. We wanted to fix that.
Make no mistake - our rig is an homage to the movie HEAT. It's not meant to compete with other "bank robber" chest rigs on the market. What we set out to do was to make the vest from the movie real and useable.