All about the MOLLE tactical gear attachment system

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molle-tactical-attachment-system

The MOLLE(pronounced like the name “Molly”) system is designed for rough terrain and harsh conditions. MOLLE is an acronym for Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment. The system uses modularity with easy access points for attaching gear. The equipment is a favorite of military units, police departments and fire departments. The design for load-bearing equipment was preceded by the ALICE system(see our article on ALICE vs MOLLE), which is an acronym for All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment.  The MOLLE system has not only been adopted by the US government for use in their military backpacks but has also become the De facto gear attachment standard for military grade backpacks by big name manufacturers including Blackhawk, Maxpedition and 5.11 tactical.

Most of the MOLLE gear has webbing on each side of the equipment, such as on the vests or belts. The Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) provides multiple points for attaching gear on the rows and columns of the webbing. The fabric is usually a high tensile strength denier nylon, which is lightweight, water resistant and durable. The traditional fabric colors are blacks, grays, olive drabs, sandy browns and camouflage.

blackhawk-molle-beltMOLLE belts are padded so that heavy gear will not cause injury. Most of the MOLLE connection points are buckles or clips. The belts are designed to stay cinched. The webbing encircles the outer side of the belt and is stitched with reinforced stitching at several intervals. The sections may be less than three inches wide and will accommodate a military T-ring, which slides into the webbing sections and exposes the ring below the webbing. The MOLLE knife sheath will easily attach to the front or side of the belt.  Spec-Ops makes a seriously nice MOLLE knife sheath and it comes in multiple colors.

The webbing resembles stripes on the gear. The system permits gear to be attached and spec-ops-molle-knife-sheathsecured. Some of the equipment may have compression straps that can be used to cinch the load into a tight bundle. When gear rolls around, there are greater risks of abrasion and injury from the shifting load. The MOLLE attachments are designed to prevent accidental loss of gear, which is not easily ripped off of the equipment. Denier nylon exceeds industry standards for tensile strength and was once considered for bullet proof gear. However, the ballistic features are not as strong as standard bullet proof gear, such as Kevlar.

The MOLLE webbing permits heavy pouches to be clipped to the equipment. Most of the gear can be clipped to more than one connection point. The MOLLE pouch may be attached with C-clips, which secure the pouch at each end and prevent rocking. The webbing is as sturdy as the MOLLE straps. The reinforced stitching will support a holster and a weapon, while also providing points for attaching a jacket.

MOLLE gear pouches have reinforced seams and heavy zippers. The MOLLE Panel is a flat zippered pouch that is 14 inches wide and 10 inches long, with six rows and seven columns of condor-molle-zipper-pouchexterior webbing. The fabric is 1000 denier nylon.  The Panel is available in black, coyote and drab, which is a dull olive color. The MOLLE Velcro Panel is a flat panel that has webbing on one side and Velcro on the reverse side, which can be used to attach patches. There are grommets on the four corners. Two metal carabiners can be used to attach small gear. The Velcro Panel is a separator with a modest size of 10.7 inches wide and 15.8 inches long. The fabric is quilted micro-suede and is available in black or coyote.

The MOLLE plate carrier is designed like a chest harness and provides additional options for a ballistic vest. There are rows of MOLLE webbing on the exterior side of the plate carrier. The tactical gear is durable and provides several choices for attaching gear. The multiple points for attaching gear permit the load to be more evenly distributed. In contrast, the ALICE system molle-plate-carrierhas fewer rows of webbing. Improvements in the distribution of the load can help to relieve stress at pressure points and to reduce fatigue factors, which can be treacherous on a mission. The webbing permits weapons and pouches to be rearranged on the different rows.

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Meet the Author

I'm a former US Marine, full-time father and husband, and part-time survivalist. I like old things, like music, furniture and time-tested survival technique, but there's always a place in my heart for new technology such as weapons and sleeping bag fill. I'm here to share my knowledge and experience, and I hope you'll share yours as well.

13 comments… add one
  • TacticalZoneone Feb 1, 2015, 7:36 pm

    Pretty cool work. You have gained a brand-new fan. Please keep up the good work and I look forward to more of your incredible blog posts. Best regards.

    • Mike Feb 1, 2015, 8:51 pm

      Well thank you!

    • Joe Jul 15, 2016, 2:57 pm

      Mike, just bumped into your site looking for some answers on military equipment. As a Vietnam combat (68-69) Marine I am amazed at the advances in gear, protection, etc. & the function of all this stuff. How primitive we must seem 2 U, however, as a Marine you know all 2 well that over the past wars we have always been pretty clever in adapting to our various situations to get our missions completed. I am so impressed with this new equipment, down to these MOLLE straps that it blows my mind. I wonder what it will look like 2 U a couple wars down the road. Thanx for the info, & I will be checking back periodically to try & keep up with how the Corps is doing, however, it has lasted this long with the other Branches ‘Hand-me-downs’. Semper Fi Mike

      • Mike Jul 18, 2016, 11:37 pm

        Hey Joe!

        Completely agree. The technology has really come a long way, not only with gear but weapons. Compare your Vietnam M16A1 to the M4 – night and day. Thanks for checking out the site!

  • WILLIAM FAHEY Aug 5, 2015, 7:30 pm

    TERRIFIC WEB-SITE. JUST GOES TO SHOW…..ONE SHOULD ALWAYS KEEP LEARNING. I JUST RECENTLY BECAME INACTIVE FROM THE CORPS AND HAVE BEEN ASKED THIS BY MANY OTHERS; HOWEVER, I NEVER KNEW THE ANSWER. WHAT IS THE CORDING CALLED AS WELL AS ITS COMPOSITION THAT ALL THE FILBE/ILBE PACKS UTILIZED? ON THE MAIN PACK ITS USED TO CINCH THE PACK UP FOLLOWED BY A CORDLOC. IN ADDITION, IT’S ON ALL THE ZIP PULLS(THE ROPE, LINE CORD, ETC.) THAT’S ENCASED IN THE BLACK TUBING. I THINK IT’S A NYLON CORE THAT’S WHITE WITH A BRAIDED OUTER MATERIAL. VERY STIFF STUFF, DARK-COYOTE COLOR, TIES GREAT KNOTS AS WELL AS SERVES MANY OTHER PURPOSES. I’VE ASKED OTHERS…..ONLY RECEIVED GUESSES! IT MUST HAVE A NAME, AND ARE YOU AWARE OF WHERE ONE MAY PURCHASE SAID CORD?
    WOULD MOST DEFINITELY APPRECIATE ANY HELP YOU COULD OFFER. THANKS FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK. YOUR INFORMATION IS INVALUABLE. STAY SAFE. BILL

    I NEED YOUR EXPERTISE ON WHAT MAY SEEM TO BE A TRIVAL ISSUE; NONETHELESS, HERE IT IS.

    • Mike Aug 5, 2015, 7:38 pm

      Semper Fi Bill! You sir, would be talking about Para-cord. Not the high speed, low drag 500lb stuff we used for general rigging, I think it might be 300lb. Look around online for Para-Cord. You can buy it many places, and yes, it’s multi-strand nylon, in a woven sheath.

  • Chris Forzetting Aug 10, 2015, 7:15 pm

    I have been preliminary shopping for good bug-out bags. What are the MOLLE grades that I have seen for some items?

    • Mike Aug 17, 2015, 9:59 pm

      Which grades are you talking about Chirs?

  • Garry Bowman Nov 23, 2015, 4:11 pm

    Great article! Lots of great info on the MOLLE system. There’s a link to the differences between the ALICE and MOLLE system for those of you who have wondered.

    • Mike Nov 24, 2015, 1:36 am

      Thanks!

      • Tommy Jun 1, 2016, 8:45 pm

        am a bit confused. was looking on line and ran across two molle II two packs. one had what looked like a seperate sleep bag and the other had a integrated sleep compartment. am i correct in assuming the one with the seperate sleep bag predates the other and do you know if the assault pack and other pouches are interchangeable?

        • Mike Jun 2, 2016, 5:39 pm

          Tommy – all MOLLE compliant gear is interchangeable. With regards to the internal compartmentalization, I wouldn’t say that one predates the other per se, but rather different design versions basd on manufacturer. The USGOV orders a lot of gear, and that gear is made by many different manufacturers. Rothco is one of the largest manufacturers of this gear, and I’d suggest running that question past them.

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