Starting From Scratch: A Budget Load Out

Starting From Scratch: A Budget Load Out

Instagram is lies. If you follow any gun feeds, you are met by endless gun porn. Gear porn. Anything and everything that you can’t afford is shown off in all of its high-end, miss-the-mortgage payment glory. If you are just starting your black rifle journey, these individuals and their gear seem out of reach. They are, trust me. Very few of these people are independently wealthy… most of the gun photos, videos, and articles you see are built by manufacturers and professional gun reviewers. They are sent gear to T&E with a wink and a nod. Keep the friendly articles coming and the gear will flow like a river! Hell, this gun blog has received thousands and thousands of dollars in gear over the years, but I like to imagine that I keep it grounded in reality. Most shooters can’t afford a SCAR, NODS, and Crye Precision rigs.

So that brings me to this short series: I have put together a few rigs on a budget and the very first one I am going to show you is about as cheap as you can possibly go on the scale. For the extreme budget minded, or for the newbies who want the basics… this series is here to get you going and to help you build up your kit from the (budgetary) ground up. This assumes you already have a basic rifle. I WOULD HOPE SO. So let’s get started!

Have Rifle, What Next?

So after you buy your gun, you need to be thinking mags, ammo, training, first aid. Get decent magazines. Get ammo. Get training. Get some first aid. Having a rifle and knowing how to use it is what separates you from the average recreational gun owner. Even getting some self directed training is better than none at all. There are some great books and resources online with self directed exercises and drills. To do many of these drills or to participate in training, we need a way to carry the magazines, ammo, and first aid. Can we do this without buying China-Com web gear? Yes we can. THE SANCTIONS JUST GOT TEN FEET HIGHER!

It turns out we can get pretty damn cheap and still be made in ‘Murica.

The MOLLE II Bandoleer Ammo Pouch, 6 magazine, NSN8465-01-524-7309 is a wonder of American made budget awesomeness. This thing costs around $6 bucks on Amazon with *free* shipping. This is a basic, bare bones, mag pouch with a built in carry strap. It is better made than anything from China. It feels robust, and looks like it will outlast cockroaches. This pouch will form the basis of my first article:


Amazon, you temptress you.

There isn’t much to this piece of gear. It is simply a 6 magazine pouch which holds two magazines per pouch. It has a carry strap for over the shoulder or purse carry. The fact that it holds two magazines per pouch is key. The depth of each pouch allows you to carry other supplies in lieu of 2 magazines. The nylon covers are seat-belt quality and snap over a high quality button.

I chose to outfit this bandoleer with four magazines and a basic first aid kit. With this setup, you will have 150 rounds on tap (assuming loaded rifle) with a TQ for any limb injuries that could occur. The kit is basic, but by simply bringing this to the range with you, you are likely more prepared than 99% of gun owners. That’s kinda sad, but it’s reality.

ACU Bandoleer AR15 Budget Magazine Pouch (5)

Thick nylon, great buttons, the straps D ring is made of metal. $6 bucks. Free shipping. SOLD.

So what could I stuff in the first aid portion? The first aid portion of the kit includes 1 TQ ($14), Quick Clot Combat Guaze ($19), Trauma Shears ($8), and a small roll of guaze (??).

ACU Bandoleer AR15 Budget Magazine Pouch (7)

The Essentials and Nothing But.

Total cost of this setup: $95 dollars. The magazines are obviously the most expensive component. If you already have the mags, your set back is around $48 bucks for pouch and a basic blowout kit.

The Downsides:

The biggest drawback with this setup is that it doesn’t hold PMAGS. They just don’t fit. USGI mags it is and it must be. The next drawback is that bandoleers like to flop around. I worked with the bandoleer concept many moons ago at practical rifle competitions. The downsides of the bandoleer were made apparent. When you go prone, it swings down in front of you and then you are potentially laying on it. When you run, it can bounce around. It can be a pain in the neck… but it’s far better than nothing, especially only costing $6 bucks.

But wait… QUE ES ESO? The bottom corners of the pouch are loops which can accept clips or even paracord. Yes, it can become a chest rig, albeit a bit uncomfortable around the neck.

Anything can be a chest rig, if your brave enough.

Anything can be a chest rig, if your brave enough.

The components of the bandoleer can move to an upgrade in the future. Just dump the mags and first aid out and put them in something better. Sure, save for good equipment as your budget allows, but something this simple can be in every beginners basic kit and it affords you the ability to run in competitions, to take classes, and to have the basics of self defense at home ready in a minute’s notice. Load some wolf in the magazine, save your pennies for that pie in the sky instagram kit, but until then you have basically what you need.

Wrapping Up:

Can’t get much cheaper than the USGI bandoleer. Make us of it however. Cheap essentials. Christmas gifts. Bandoleer and first aid for every rifle in the house. Gift for your shooting buddy. I will tell you what. If you are just starting out, get the rifle, the ammo, the mags, and this kit. Show up to a local (reputable) class and learn to run that gun. So long as you show up with a zero’d rifle and an attitude of learning, your going to get respect in spite of your PSA kit, wolf ammo, and $5 dollar magazine purse. First time I showed up at a match, I felt like a dweeb next to some of those kits, but I learned much from Freddie’s stages in spite of my budget.

Next episode of this series will be a step up in budget: The ACU Fighting Load Carrier.

Written by lothaen


  1. SharpsShtr · August 27, 2019

    Actually, you can fit two PMAGs in each pocket. When you do put two in, the snaps don’t line up. Simply go to Hobby Lobby and you can find the snaps & tools for setting them fairly cheaply.

    Determine the new location and set the new snap. Leave the old snap so that you can still hold G.I. magazines securely if you want to. It’s about a five minute fix.

    Additionally, you can use snaps or stitching to attach two MOLLE bandoleers side by side. That’d give you three pouches for magazines, one (or two) for an IFAK/Blowout kit, and another one for a small radio or other items.


  2. SharpsShtr · August 27, 2019

    As an added note, Olongapo Outfitters makes and sells very well built simple rigs for very good prices. The company is owned by and the gear made by a former Marine. I have several of his rigs and they are first class.

  3. David Bailey · August 29, 2019

    Something must be in the air that makes so many of us with the Sheepdog mentality to have this overbearing since of urgency to get my kit(s) ready and in place!?!?!? I call it my “Battle Belt” and by grabbing this one item I have 3- pistol mags, two AR-15 mags, a small trauma kit, knife and a canteen. When I was doing close protection work in Iraq, Africa, Haiti, and every other $h1t hole God sent me to. Although we had body armor with pistol, extra mags, and four AR-15 mags fixed in place on it. Once we were back at our place everything but the Battle Belt came off. So, if I would do that to protect people I don’t even know, shouldn’t I put as much, if not more, effort in protecting my home and family?Absolutely!!! So I have one for the car, two for the house located at either end. I also NEVER TAKE MY .45 off of me until I’m in bed, PERIOD! Seem too extreme? YouTube “Home Invasion security tapes…. then tell us you don’t care if your family is subjected to such lowlifes and their demented ideas they have in store for your wife, daughters, and even you!
    Strongly recommend taking the family to a “Target Focused Training” seminar, where you’ll learn how to easily and calmly disassemble a human body! Then as mentioned here in this article TRAIN, COMPETE, DRYFIRE DAILY!

  4. JD · September 18, 2019

    Did I mention it’s also available in woodland?!?!

  5. Akm295 · February 9, 2020

    I liked this post and think the content has real merit. Will this series be continuing?

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