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New Production SADF Pattern 83 Chest Rig
New Production SADF Pattern 83 Chest Rig
New Production SADF Pattern 83 Chest Rig
New Production SADF Pattern 83 Chest Rig
New Production SADF Pattern 83 Chest Rig
New Production SADF Pattern 83 Chest Rig

The Birth of Pattern 83

The Cold War was not cold for South Africa. While most of Europe was playing an elaborate game of ‘who-has-the-most-nukes’, the South African Defense Force (SADF) was hard at work fighting the counter insurgency battles of the future. In the process, they developed and refined much of the tactics, weapons, and equipment used today.

In the 1960s and 1970s South Africans were involved in three major counterinsurgency wars in Sub Saharan Africa: The Congo Crisis (‘60-65), the Rhodesian Bush War (‘64-79), and the Border War (‘66-90).


Throughout the early years of these conflicts, the SADF (and various South African mercenary groups) relied on domestically produced Pattern 61/64 and Pattern 70 load bearing systems. Descended from the British Pattern 58, this family of web gear is broadly similar to the US ALICE system—and they all worked well with the FN FAL (R1).

Despite incremental improvement, heavy use of the Pattern 61/64/70 family revealed inadequacies. They were bulky, uncomfortable, and—despite some limited modularity—only designed for one kind of fight. As the operational tempo and intensity picked up in mid to late 70s there was a clear need for something better.

After the SADF began adoption of the 5.56x45 chambered Galil (R4), the writing was on the wall. South Africa needed a comfortable, lightweight, and simple to use LBE system that could keep up with communists using Kalashnikovs and ‘Chicom’ chest rigs.

To address this need, the Pattern 83 system (Pat 83) was designed in partnership with the South African outdoors industry. The system consists of three components: a “chest webbing” (chest rig), “battle jacket” (load bearing harness with assault pack), and “grootsak” (large backpack with detachable external frame.) Together they can be used and combined to suit any mission from parachute drops, to motorized operations, to sustained weeks-long patrols.

Why is Pattern 83 highly regarded?

The entire Pattern 83 system is an exercise in simplicity and versatility, the type of innovation borne out of practical field experience and pitched firefights. Every pocket, flap and strip of webbing has a clear, simple purpose. And both the chest rig and the battle jacket popularized ergonomic innovations and concepts we all take for granted today. In that respect P83 was way ahead of its time.

But clarity of purpose was only half of P83s strength. The system’s creators also leveraged several brand new materials and technologies.

1. 1000D polyurethane coated Cordura Nylon is a staple in modern tactical equipment. However in the 1980s dyed Cordura fabric was a brand new technology - pioneered in 1977. At the time P83 was introduced most of the world was still using legacy polyester fabrics.

2. The rust proof and shock proof plastic 'fastex' style buckles used on the chest rig were also brand new tech, invented by ITW Nexus in 1977 and produced from 1979 onwards.

3. Finally, there is evidence of SADF experimenting with Velcro closures for magazine pockets as early asi 1978-79 in transitional prototypes. While Velcro technology was by no means new at the time, this type of military application was new. So while the rest of the world struggled with snaps, the SADF enjoyed fast, easy-to-access pouches on their gear years before anyone else did. (This was likely aided by the expiration of Velcro's patent in 1978 which ushered in a wave of affordable, generic hook-and-loop products.)

Materials aside, the chest rig was excellent at its job. During motorized patrols it was worn by itself, allowing soldiers to carry enough ammunition and equipment to vigorously react to close contact without excess bulk or weight. On long foot patrols, the chest rig was worn with the larger ‘grootsak’ backpack. Mounted on a quick release, the large rucksack could be dumped at a moments notice, allowing soldiers to quickly enter the fight with 6 + 1 magazines and virtually no excess baggage.

Early P83 chest rigs had the added benefit of backwards compatibility with FN FAL (R1) magazines—accomplished through magazine ejector straps located in each cell of the rig. (We’ve retained this feature in our new production rigs as it enables cross compatibility with all shorter magazines from 5.56 STANGs to 7.62 SCAR17 mags.)

Once introduced, the Pattern 83 system shone. Racking up decades of combat experience in later years of the Border War (and across Africa.) To this day, it’s still commonly used.

Our Experience with Pattern 83

For many years, Pattern 83 items have been a staple in our store. We have deep connections in South Africa and well over 6 years of successful imports behind us. But the Cold War is now 30 years ended and those limitless stockpiles of equipment are drying up.

In the late 90s production of Pattern 83 slowed and then gradually stopped post apartheid. Over the next 15 odd years it was gradually phased out of service, with large state auctions occuring in the early 2010s. Finally in 2015, the system as a whole was formally discontinued.

For years we explored the idea of new production in Africa, but it was a losing battle. Everyone is long gone, and the few remaining companies are in shambles due to infrastructure and supply chain collapse in South Africa. For many, COVID related disruptions were the final straw.

We still plan on importing small pockets of original pieces, but with dwindling supply and skyrocketing costs it’s clear the glory days are over.

Making it New

Our goal from the start was to make a genuine, high quality reproduction that was truly fit for purpose. To do this we realized we needed to bring Pattern 83 production here to the US.

Using our library of original samples, SADF source materials, and South African contacts we reverse engineered the Pattern 83 chest rig from the bottom up. We matched everything from the sewing patterns to the materials and worked diligently to ensure the quality was there.

Today we’re proud to be working with an experienced military manufacturer, and using high quality Berry compliant materials. It’s the way something like this should be done.

Colors

When setting up this run we decided to produce Ranger Green and Coyote Brown colorways. This decision is the only liberty we’ve taken with the P83 design, and we’ve done it for completely practical reasons.

First and foremost we want to make something that people will use and enjoy in the 2020s. Coyote and Ranger green are clearly the most popular solid colors in modern western kit. As much as we love Nutria Brown, it’s not nearly as practical this side of the Atlantic.

The second major consideration is complexity. We wanted to keep this project simple and use as many stock materials as possible. Pursuing a custom NIR compliant Nutria Brown Cordura would definitely increase our retail price, and more importantly introduce potential delays and complications we don’t want to risk.

Bearing all that in mind, we think this is the best possible outcome. A quality product, made in the United States, with real military materials.

Features

Ejector straps

  • As previously mentioned, ejector straps are designed to offer backwards compatibility with FN FAL (R1) magazines and improve the performance of Galil (R4) magazines. In our testing they work well with many magazines which are shorter than the standard 35 round Galil mag, including 30 round STANAG magazines popular on the Armalite Rifle 15 and its derivatives.
  • We have test versions with both permanently attached and removable ejector straps. After the pre-order is complete we will present our findings to you and proceed based on your votes.

Pouches

  • The central magazine pouches hold up to 6 magazines in 3 rows of 2. The cells are made for Galil magazines, but are compatible or partially compatible with STANAG, FAL, G3, AK 47, AK 74, and AK 5.56 magazines.
  • The large right pocket is designed to fit a smoke or frag grenade. In practice this pouch works great for small water bottles, miscellaneous loose tools, and extra medical supplies. What you put here really depends on if you are wearing a belt or a fanny pack in addition to the cest rig.
  • The two smaller pockets on the left are designed to fit a single fragmentation grenade and a compass respectively. We’ve found they work well for storing weapon lube, cleaning supplies, other smaller items.
  • On the inside of the rig, a large admin pouch comfortably accommodates and protects maps, notebooks, and writing utensils.
  • A small pen flare pocket is attached to the left side of the central magazine pouches. It’s a great spot for a grease or paint pen.

Fitting

Proper fit is achieved by adjusting the straps as shown below using the included sliders.

Pay attention to the position of the padded straps, ensuring they sit high on the back of the wearer as shown. This places the padding in the correct position to protect the wearer.

To don the rig, hold the shoulder straps in the crossed position and insert your head and arms as if you were putting on a shirt. Then tighten the straps to fit.

To quickly doff the rig first unbuckle the waist belt. Then “swim out” by grabbing your left shoulder strap with your right hand and pulling it over your head. Repeat this procedure using your left hand to grab the right shoulder strap and pull it over your head. The rig is now completely free from your body. 

A common rookie mistake is attempting to remove the rig by reversing the donning procedure. When this rig is loaded the weight of magazines and equipment makes this awkward. With a moment’s practice you’ll find the “swim out” method is much faster.

Specs

  • 1000D PU Coated Cordura fabric
  • Milspec ITW Fastex & Slider hardware
  • Milspec hook and loop fasteners
  • Milspec webbing and binding tape
  • High quality bonded nylon thread
  • All materials are Berry compliant
  • All materials are NIR compliant

We are hosting a digital copy of the original SADF field manual containing adjustment, handling and maintenance information on the entire P83 system. To view the manual click here. Chest Rig usage information can be found on pages A3, A9-A11, and A27-A33.

We’ve Got Your Back

This is a pre-order item, meaning that it will be made to order. We are offering it for sale now having received a quote for production and finalized our pre-production prototypes. Despite our confidence in the speed of US production we are publishing an extremely conservative lead time.

Delivery is estimated for November 2021. We hope to surprise you with an early delivery, and will work towards that. For now however we are proceeding with our most conservative estimate.

Note that at any point prior to delivery, your pre-order is completely refundable. And once delivered, your chest rig is still backed up by our 30 day return policy for your complete peace of mind.

New Production SADF Pattern 83 Chest Rig

Rated 5.0 out of 5
Based on 1 review
Regular price
$124.99
Sale price
$124.99
Regular price
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 100% Refundable Deposit, 30 Day Returns
Est. Delivery November 2021

The Birth of Pattern 83

The Cold War was not cold for South Africa. While most of Europe was playing an elaborate game of ‘who-has-the-most-nukes’, the South African Defense Force (SADF) was hard at work fighting the counter insurgency battles of the future. In the process, they developed and refined much of the tactics, weapons, and equipment used today.

In the 1960s and 1970s South Africans were involved in three major counterinsurgency wars in Sub Saharan Africa: The Congo Crisis (‘60-65), the Rhodesian Bush War (‘64-79), and the Border War (‘66-90).


Throughout the early years of these conflicts, the SADF (and various South African mercenary groups) relied on domestically produced Pattern 61/64 and Pattern 70 load bearing systems. Descended from the British Pattern 58, this family of web gear is broadly similar to the US ALICE system—and they all worked well with the FN FAL (R1).

Despite incremental improvement, heavy use of the Pattern 61/64/70 family revealed inadequacies. They were bulky, uncomfortable, and—despite some limited modularity—only designed for one kind of fight. As the operational tempo and intensity picked up in mid to late 70s there was a clear need for something better.

After the SADF began adoption of the 5.56x45 chambered Galil (R4), the writing was on the wall. South Africa needed a comfortable, lightweight, and simple to use LBE system that could keep up with communists using Kalashnikovs and ‘Chicom’ chest rigs.

To address this need, the Pattern 83 system (Pat 83) was designed in partnership with the South African outdoors industry. The system consists of three components: a “chest webbing” (chest rig), “battle jacket” (load bearing harness with assault pack), and “grootsak” (large backpack with detachable external frame.) Together they can be used and combined to suit any mission from parachute drops, to motorized operations, to sustained weeks-long patrols.

Why is Pattern 83 highly regarded?

The entire Pattern 83 system is an exercise in simplicity and versatility, the type of innovation borne out of practical field experience and pitched firefights. Every pocket, flap and strip of webbing has a clear, simple purpose. And both the chest rig and the battle jacket popularized ergonomic innovations and concepts we all take for granted today. In that respect P83 was way ahead of its time.

But clarity of purpose was only half of P83s strength. The system’s creators also leveraged several brand new materials and technologies.

1. 1000D polyurethane coated Cordura Nylon is a staple in modern tactical equipment. However in the 1980s dyed Cordura fabric was a brand new technology - pioneered in 1977. At the time P83 was introduced most of the world was still using legacy polyester fabrics.

2. The rust proof and shock proof plastic 'fastex' style buckles used on the chest rig were also brand new tech, invented by ITW Nexus in 1977 and produced from 1979 onwards.

3. Finally, there is evidence of SADF experimenting with Velcro closures for magazine pockets as early asi 1978-79 in transitional prototypes. While Velcro technology was by no means new at the time, this type of military application was new. So while the rest of the world struggled with snaps, the SADF enjoyed fast, easy-to-access pouches on their gear years before anyone else did. (This was likely aided by the expiration of Velcro's patent in 1978 which ushered in a wave of affordable, generic hook-and-loop products.)

Materials aside, the chest rig was excellent at its job. During motorized patrols it was worn by itself, allowing soldiers to carry enough ammunition and equipment to vigorously react to close contact without excess bulk or weight. On long foot patrols, the chest rig was worn with the larger ‘grootsak’ backpack. Mounted on a quick release, the large rucksack could be dumped at a moments notice, allowing soldiers to quickly enter the fight with 6 + 1 magazines and virtually no excess baggage.

Early P83 chest rigs had the added benefit of backwards compatibility with FN FAL (R1) magazines—accomplished through magazine ejector straps located in each cell of the rig. (We’ve retained this feature in our new production rigs as it enables cross compatibility with all shorter magazines from 5.56 STANGs to 7.62 SCAR17 mags.)

Once introduced, the Pattern 83 system shone. Racking up decades of combat experience in later years of the Border War (and across Africa.) To this day, it’s still commonly used.

Our Experience with Pattern 83

For many years, Pattern 83 items have been a staple in our store. We have deep connections in South Africa and well over 6 years of successful imports behind us. But the Cold War is now 30 years ended and those limitless stockpiles of equipment are drying up.

In the late 90s production of Pattern 83 slowed and then gradually stopped post apartheid. Over the next 15 odd years it was gradually phased out of service, with large state auctions occuring in the early 2010s. Finally in 2015, the system as a whole was formally discontinued.

For years we explored the idea of new production in Africa, but it was a losing battle. Everyone is long gone, and the few remaining companies are in shambles due to infrastructure and supply chain collapse in South Africa. For many, COVID related disruptions were the final straw.

We still plan on importing small pockets of original pieces, but with dwindling supply and skyrocketing costs it’s clear the glory days are over.

Making it New

Our goal from the start was to make a genuine, high quality reproduction that was truly fit for purpose. To do this we realized we needed to bring Pattern 83 production here to the US.

Using our library of original samples, SADF source materials, and South African contacts we reverse engineered the Pattern 83 chest rig from the bottom up. We matched everything from the sewing patterns to the materials and worked diligently to ensure the quality was there.

Today we’re proud to be working with an experienced military manufacturer, and using high quality Berry compliant materials. It’s the way something like this should be done.

Colors

When setting up this run we decided to produce Ranger Green and Coyote Brown colorways. This decision is the only liberty we’ve taken with the P83 design, and we’ve done it for completely practical reasons.

First and foremost we want to make something that people will use and enjoy in the 2020s. Coyote and Ranger green are clearly the most popular solid colors in modern western kit. As much as we love Nutria Brown, it’s not nearly as practical this side of the Atlantic.

The second major consideration is complexity. We wanted to keep this project simple and use as many stock materials as possible. Pursuing a custom NIR compliant Nutria Brown Cordura would definitely increase our retail price, and more importantly introduce potential delays and complications we don’t want to risk.

Bearing all that in mind, we think this is the best possible outcome. A quality product, made in the United States, with real military materials.

Features

Ejector straps

  • As previously mentioned, ejector straps are designed to offer backwards compatibility with FN FAL (R1) magazines and improve the performance of Galil (R4) magazines. In our testing they work well with many magazines which are shorter than the standard 35 round Galil mag, including 30 round STANAG magazines popular on the Armalite Rifle 15 and its derivatives.
  • We have test versions with both permanently attached and removable ejector straps. After the pre-order is complete we will present our findings to you and proceed based on your votes.

Pouches

  • The central magazine pouches hold up to 6 magazines in 3 rows of 2. The cells are made for Galil magazines, but are compatible or partially compatible with STANAG, FAL, G3, AK 47, AK 74, and AK 5.56 magazines.
  • The large right pocket is designed to fit a smoke or frag grenade. In practice this pouch works great for small water bottles, miscellaneous loose tools, and extra medical supplies. What you put here really depends on if you are wearing a belt or a fanny pack in addition to the cest rig.
  • The two smaller pockets on the left are designed to fit a single fragmentation grenade and a compass respectively. We’ve found they work well for storing weapon lube, cleaning supplies, other smaller items.
  • On the inside of the rig, a large admin pouch comfortably accommodates and protects maps, notebooks, and writing utensils.
  • A small pen flare pocket is attached to the left side of the central magazine pouches. It’s a great spot for a grease or paint pen.

Fitting

Proper fit is achieved by adjusting the straps as shown below using the included sliders.

Pay attention to the position of the padded straps, ensuring they sit high on the back of the wearer as shown. This places the padding in the correct position to protect the wearer.

To don the rig, hold the shoulder straps in the crossed position and insert your head and arms as if you were putting on a shirt. Then tighten the straps to fit.

To quickly doff the rig first unbuckle the waist belt. Then “swim out” by grabbing your left shoulder strap with your right hand and pulling it over your head. Repeat this procedure using your left hand to grab the right shoulder strap and pull it over your head. The rig is now completely free from your body. 

A common rookie mistake is attempting to remove the rig by reversing the donning procedure. When this rig is loaded the weight of magazines and equipment makes this awkward. With a moment’s practice you’ll find the “swim out” method is much faster.

Specs

  • 1000D PU Coated Cordura fabric
  • Milspec ITW Fastex & Slider hardware
  • Milspec hook and loop fasteners
  • Milspec webbing and binding tape
  • High quality bonded nylon thread
  • All materials are Berry compliant
  • All materials are NIR compliant

We are hosting a digital copy of the original SADF field manual containing adjustment, handling and maintenance information on the entire P83 system. To view the manual click here. Chest Rig usage information can be found on pages A3, A9-A11, and A27-A33.

We’ve Got Your Back

This is a pre-order item, meaning that it will be made to order. We are offering it for sale now having received a quote for production and finalized our pre-production prototypes. Despite our confidence in the speed of US production we are publishing an extremely conservative lead time.

Delivery is estimated for November 2021. We hope to surprise you with an early delivery, and will work towards that. For now however we are proceeding with our most conservative estimate.

Note that at any point prior to delivery, your pre-order is completely refundable. And once delivered, your chest rig is still backed up by our 30 day return policy for your complete peace of mind.

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Reviewed by Liam, from South Africa
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As someone who was issued and used the P83 kit I think it is uber cool that this stuff is going to be produced in a way and with colours that allow it to be used. Well done.

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