I’ve been an avid user of the D3 system for several years now, it was actually the first piece of high end kit I bought and has been a favourite ever since. I used and abused the original D3CR, both for airsoft and more recently at work to improve the usability of the issued VIRTUS plate carrier. In the world of the “micro chest rig” I would recommend a D3CR to anyone and vowed never to get rid of my old workhorse. Then Uncle Travis brought out an M81 version so naturally I threw all my convictions out of the window and changed to a D3X. While I am very happy with the rig overall I definitely would’ve preferred a standard D3CR pattern rig in M81, for reasons I’ll get into later.
So what are you getting for your money? For the not so modest price of £250 you receive the D3X rig and HSP’s multi mission hanger. While there is some “MARSOC factor” to be accounted for, this is definitely not a budget rig, and when you factor in the extra cost of MP2 inserts, which are an absolute essential, you are looking at nearly £300 invested in the overall system. For an absolute fanboy like myself this is okay as I’m sure I’ll get my use out of it, but if you’re looking into the micro rig market on a budget, I think I would steer more towards the shallower Spiritus end of the pool, or get a second hand D3CR.
In terms of the features on this rig it does come well packed for such a small system. The familiar design of the 4 mag rack along the back, and utility/40mm pouches mounted on the front of the mag pouches keeps up HSP’s aim to have a compact platform with plenty of storage for ancillaries. Returning from the old design are the two utilities located on the outer magazine pouches, which are surprisingly spacious and are incredibly useful. For airsoft these were enough for me to carry a small med kit, blank firing grenade and extra blanks/re-arming tools. In terms of more serious use I was very surprised to be able to cram my PRR body, small maps, cam creme, helmet counterweight and compass all into two quite small pouches without them looking ready to burst. Another returning feature is the stretchy pistol/light/40mm/tool/cyalume/flashbang pouches. These seem somewhat more stretchy on the D3X, allowing for much easier insertion of larger items like 40mm shells and flashbangs, than on the original D3CR. While I do like these pouches, I definitely wouldn’t have chosen to replace the good old “stuffit” pouch from the old rigs, as this was a truly brilliant bit of design that I did get an awful lot of use out of. Having 4 pistol pouches seems a little overkill to me, but we shall have to see how I feel as time goes on as I may find them more useful for carrying TAG/UGL shells in the future.
The magazine pouches themselves are relatively versatile, being a little larger than standard 5.56/AR pouches, they can quite easily accommodate AK74/small calibre AK magazines with or without MP2 inserts. A nice factory addition to the mag pouches are the Hypalon pull tabs featured throughout the rig. While I can’t say I’ve ever had a standard webbing pull tab fail on me, slip out of my hand or otherwise let me down, their inclusion does give me the warm fuzzy feeling that they definitely won’t slip even when wet or covered in debris. This being said, I would still always recommend removing the bungees, and upgrading to the purpose built MP2 inserts from HSP, as the pouches are quite deep and so the retention tab only has a short sideways travel meaning it quite often gets in the way when re-inserting magazines.
On the back of the rig the velcro panel has been extended to cover the entire rear side, as opposed to the smaller panel present on the Gen 1 D3CR’s. This is especially useful not only for using the HSP expansion options, but also for cross brand compatibility e.g. Spiritus Systems wingman pouches, or having a more secure hold when attaching to the front of placard ready plate carriers. This is a really useful feature for me as it means I now have the capability to run a 152 radio integral to the rig, as opposed to relying on an outside platform like a daysack which just means added bulk. There isn’t a great deal to say about the multi mission hanger as it is very simple in it’s design, but it is a welcome addition to the D3 system as it gives a much needed but still modular medium storage compartment. While it is still relatively compact, it can carry mission essential equipment such as med kits and night vision, or even be used as an impromptu SSE/dump pouch if you’re caught in a pinch. With the update to have full sized back velcro on the D3X I definitely would have like the option of an XL MMH, with the pouch spanning the full width of the rig above it, and movable internal compartments to store more kit more securely for longer range missions.
A part of the D3X that I am definitely not a fan of is the “X” component itself. I appreciate there are those out there who like X harnesses, for me they just do not feel anywhere near as supportive or comfortable over time when compared to other systems. With more weight added I feel they allow more of a sag to the overall system, and tend to creep closer and closer to your neck eventually causing discomfort and making this a poor replacement for the classic H harness. I also feel from an aesthetic point of view that the H harness looks like a more high end, well thought out system than the slap-happy, just bang it on there X harness. Luckily though this is not the end of the world as it is attached using ITW SRB’s meaning aftermarket alternatives like the Spiritus fat strap (also available in M81 which is a godsend), and Mayflower H harness will simply clip into place. Whilst this is a good solution, it is another expenditure on an already quite pricey rig, and is a problem that could have been easily avoided by having the option of an H harness to begin with. This may of course just be a ruse by Travis to get you to also spend a further £170 on a Flatpack which would also fix the problem.
My plans for this rig in the future are to expand it as far as I can within reason, and use it to replace my overlarge TAG RRV. I am doing this with the help of some custom additions being made for me over at Mael Eoin, and I’m very excited to get them on and see how much of a difference they make to this already high standard chest rig. In the meantime I may try out a TMC clone of a flat pack, just to rid myself of the infernal X harness, and run my 152 radio until the more permanent solution shows up.
So in conclusion this is a very good quality vest, anyone who has used or owned anything made by Haley Strategic Partners can attest to the fantastic build quality, attention to details and overall solid feel of a piece of equipment that isn’t going to melt the moment it goes outside. I will say however that the D3X is definitely an example of poor value for money. While the original D3CR was expensive I got more than my money’s worth out of it without spending a penny to upgrade it. With the D3X I feel somewhat disillusioned by HSP’s pricing, and had it not been for the fact that it was the only 5.56 M81 option I don’t think that I would have bought it, and I would still be very happy with my old but gold D3CR.
So if you’re looking for a small chest rig to go with your M81 Drifires and dream of being a Maritime special operator at the weekends, then look no further, but if this is for serious use as a “bottom of the bergen” recce chest rig, I would definitely recommend sticking to the D3CR in the variety of colours available, as this will offer you far greater value for money in terms of it’s features, and the second hand market has them in plentiful supply so you can get one cheap and not feel too guilty when it gets destroyed over time.
-All hail Travis-
Thanks for reading this review, if you have any questions feel free to comment on the blog or reach me on my Instagram account @thegeardocrow.