Circle 10 AK is currently putting together a five cell RPK magazine chest rig for the market. When I asked the owner why specifically for RPK magazines, he pretty much replied, “Why not! There aren’t too many similar designs on the market, and it is flooded with standard 30 round magazine chest rigs!”. Although making a product for the sake of there not being one isn’t always a good business plan, in this case a valid point can be made. True, 30 round magazines reign supreme in the AK world, with the overwhelming majority of use by AK owners is with 30 rounders. However, unlike the AR world where the magazine capacity really stops at 30, RPK74 magazines, and even steel 45 round magazines are extremely popular. There have been numerous attempts at making extended capacity magazines for the AR platform, but so many of these have ended in failure. Surefire is probably the most successful venture yet, with the 60 round quad stacked magazine (of course excluding Beta Mag, but I want to focus on conventional magazine design).
The reason for there being much more popularity of 45 rounders in the AK world than the AR, is probably because of surplus. There really has never been an overwhelming adoption or military issue of anything more than 30 rounds for the M16, thus there has never been a surplus of extended capacity magazines on the civilian market. However the AK has numerous squad automatic weapon variants, in multiple calibers and countries. Thus a a number of these magazines have made their way into circulation in the United States, for not much more than the cost of the 30 rounders (unless of course, they are bakelite tan Izzy or Tula magazines).
So back to the chest rig, would a chest rig design specifically for 45 round magazines be of any practical use? I think it would, given that a particular shooter is of course using these 45 round magazines, perhaps for competition, or maybe at Knob Creek with an RPK. Regardless of the why, we are here to ascertain the quality of such a rig. Before we go any further, be aware this this rig is simply a lengthened version of Circle 10 AKs standard 30 round 5 cell chest rig that is already available on their website.
The rig is a tan 5 cell chest rig, connected via shoulder straps that come to form an “H” harness, and a single waist strap. All these 1 inch width straps have plastic buckles that secure them to the rig, but more importantly have buckles on either ends, so a strap can be unclipped via either end instead of just one end. The material is pretty tough, and the buckles appear to be from the Nexus company, that make some pretty decent buckles. I really like the way the old school “H” harness of “Deuce Gear” or “782 Gear” lore is incorporated into this modern design, something we don’t see too much these days. The design has certainly been proven in the past and they don’t see any reason to change a good thing. Straps can be tightened or loosened at either end, just outside the buckle they are attached to. Although there is nothing wrong with the straps or buckles, I think I would have personally preferred a longer width strap, maybe a 2 inch width at the minimum. Wearing any sort of load on your body is made much easier while spreading the weight instead of cutting it down as small as possible. Plus this helps with keeping the rig in place and with durability. But alas, there really isn’t anything wrong with the straps supplied, they held up well while wearing the rig. Once adjusted correctly, they allow a very close and tight fit to ones body.
The cells themselves are closed with velcro flaps, and have a moral patch on the center cell that you could put anything on. Something neat the design has is a velcro backing on the rear of the cells, where the rig is against your body. These are especially large squares of velcro that comes with velcro protecting panels. I think this is really neat, because it could be married up to an opposing velcro surface that could be placed on a vest or body armor, thus keeping the entire rig in place much better while moving.
Because the flaps containing an RPK74 magazine have to be much longer, and the actual depth of the cell holder is the same as a 30 rounder (which means you could also convert this to be a 30 rounder chest rig if necessary), while the magazine is inserted, there isn’t really any issue. However, once the magazine has been taken out, if the flap isn’t velcro-ed down, it flaps all over the place if running around, and you almost look like a burlap monster. This isn’t a big issue, because a flap in the wind really won’t cause much issue, but just something to be aware of.
Taking out a magazine is pretty simple, but inserting one can be a little awkward because of the catch on the edge that locks into the magazine catch on the rifle. This part gets stuck on the edge of the cell when inserting it, but with a little practice, this tendency will go away at just the right angles.
I will also say that because the RPK74 magazines are so long, if leaning down or in some other position, there can be a gap that is formed between the magazines and the chest, much more so than with a typical 30 rounder chest rig. This isn’t a big deal, but is also something to watch out for. In addition, a shooter will have much less real estate in his sternum area as the magazines will stick up pretty far.
In conclusion, I don’t find too much undesirable with them, but they are a very specific use sort of product, and that being for a shooter running with 45 round magazines. Outside of this, and you are much better off just getting a 30 rounder chest rig for your needs. Both designs from Circle 10 AK make very good for being close to the body, or with fitting other gear on. There isn’t a set price on these yet, as this is a prototype, but the current 30 rounders from Circle 10 AK go for $89.99, so the 45 rounders should be around that price point, being that they are cut from the same cloth so to speak.