A Gear Guide: Part 2 – What Do the “Lines” Mean

Often you will hear people discussing gear in the context of its “lines” (or sometimes by “tiers”). This is meant as a means to organize gear in a manner that facilitates foremost the individual, the mission, and then support. In this, the second in a two part series, we will explore the referance to the three “lines” of gear, how body armor plays an integeral aspect to gear, and visualize how best to divest your time and effort in developing your own loadout.

2. A: Background

During the WWII era, members of the elite British SAS were widely known for the way they compartmentalized their gear so as the unit could remain light, agile, and highly efficient. For Western forces, this didn’t materialize in terms of small unit organization until the Vietnam conflict (1955-1975). In it, author John L. Plaster, USAR (Ret.) provided some of the first photographic accounts of how soldiers in the US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) organized their individual loadouts. MACV-SOG was a multi-service United States special operations unit whose soldiers conducted highly classified, covert, and/or unconventional warfare missions. For the purposes of its mission, MACV-SOG First Line items were oriented for Every Day Carry, Escape & Evasion, or otherwise daily mission needs. Beyond that, Second and Third Line items were more conventional for the unit’s combat role.

2. B: 1st Line (Extended) – Regular/Daily Wear Items

By the time the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had rolled around, their influence on US forces and the assoicated “first” line of mission essential gear for each individual had grown to reflect certain ground realities. In the modern context, first line items should consists of those always carried/worn on your person during operations (either overtly or covertly) but never removed in any operation. By intent, first line items support both the use of rifle and pistol regardless if inside a safe area (such as on a base) or outside of it. It is the bare minimum of gear needed on a daily (i.e. EDC) basis and for regular operations that consists of:

Credit: Varusteleka
  • Clothing/Uniform
  • Footwear
  • Rifle
  • Gun belt
    • Pistol (w/holster that has active retention)
    • Basic IFAK (w/tourniquet)
    • 2-3 Magazine(s)
  • ID/Wallet
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Credentials (if needed)
  • Basic signal/navigation (if needed)

2. C: 2nd Line – Load Bearing Items

These “second” line items consist of mission-essential needs or items such as; plate carriers, load-bearing vests, belts, and other misc. kit. It is generally viewed as an individual’s fighting load necessary for supporting, or in lieu of, “first” line items (this includes shoulder-fired weapons). The determining factor is specific mission requirements, and oft “second” line items are removed when not conducting operations. These include:

Credit: Varusteleka
  • Plate carrier and/or chest rig
  • Magazines to complete full combat load (e.g. 7 rifle and 3 pistol mags)
  • Complete first aid kit for extended use (tourniquets/”combat pill-pack”/bandages etc.)
  • Portable multi-frequency short range radio
  • Night optical devices
  • Hearing protection (in-ear/over-ear, passive/active)
  • Small weapon cleaning kit/oil
  • Reference cards & Notebook/pencil/markers
  • Multi-tool (pocket saw/pliers/screwdriver etc.)
  • Water (bladder/canteen/bottle)
  • Shelf-stable snacks/meals
  • Assault or hydration pack
  • Spare batteries (to support direct 2nd line items)

2. D: 3rd Line – Sustainment Items

The “third” line items are those for sustainment or operational longevity purposes. These items augment “second” line items and can transition between the two as based on mission requirements. These include:

Credit: Varusteleka
  • Backpack/rucksack
  • Dry bag
  • Extra ammunition 
  • Navigation (maps, GPS, compass, etc.)
  • Communications and/or signal (phones, chargers, multi-band radio)
  • Medical equipment (prescriptions, field medicine)
  • Personal hygiene (toiletries)
  • Shelter & weatherized clothing (tent, cold weather jacket, etc.)
  • Sustenance (i.e. water/food)
  • Tools & cookware (flashlights, fire start kit, field mess kit, etc.)
  • Support items (cleaning kit, binoculars, batteries, solar panel, morale)

2. E: Body Armor

Body armor itself is a complex and challenging topic. Complicating it is an outdated regulatory and rating system by the governing National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and unscrupulous overseas vendors who leverage domestic third-party retailors to sell sub-optimal product. Thus, it is incumbent on the individual to research a quality armor manufacturer prior to investment, because body armor can slide along the scale of gear “lines” based on mission requirements and threat environment.

Explanation on Body Armor Series

“A Gear Guide” is intended as an informative series and a continuation on other useful articles that include explanations to body armor, plate carriers, and common hardware to tactical gear. This series is not intended by High Ground Media to sway or convince the reader that one specific brand of gear is superior to all the others. In the end, this series is intended to provide the reader with a condensed and focused resource—nothing more.

All images and photos not taken by High Ground Media are taken using Google’s image search tool via specific keyword text, and under the “Fair Use” policy. Where applicable, image source citation will be provided. High Ground Media does not own the rights to any image or photo it does not take on its own.

Categories: Uncategorized

Tagged as:

1 reply »