Chicom Chest Rig
The Chicom Chest Rig or chicom for short, is a lightweight canvas chest rig which the Peoples Liberation Army of China introduced sometime in the mid 1950's when the Chinese adopted their own AK-47 variant, the Type 56. The name derives from Chinese Communist, however Chicom is also used for other gear from the communist China.
The common configuration of the chest rig has three magazine pockets in front which hold single 7.62x39 AK Magazines, and two pockets on either side which hold grenades, oil bottles etc. Typically, the oil bottle pouch has a rubber lining stitch inside should oil leak from an improperly closed oil bottle. The other pouches are not fully rubber lined, but do have a rubber trim along the insides. The rig, while being made out of canvas, is extremely rugged and well built. It is also silent in operation, wooden toggles are put inside fabric loops to fully close the pouch flaps, however even with the flaps open, magazines are still kept tightly inside because of the rubber trim inside the pouches.
Note: These are Chinese military designations.
- Type 56 AK - Normal configuration, 3 magazine pockets which hold single magazines, with two smaller pouches on either end. Introduced in 1956 by the PLA alongside the Type 56 rifle.
- Also comes in a 3 pocket chest rig with dividers which hols a total of 6 magazines, and 4 accessory pouches. - Also a 5 cell side hanging pouch for 5 magazines. A small side pocket for an oil bottle is also present.
- Type 56 SKS - A version of the Type 56 AK chest rig except with 10 pockets, 9 designed to hold 2 10 round stripper clips, (and 1 oil bottle in the 1 rubberized pouch) meant to load into the Type 56 SKS copy.
- Comes in many colors ranging from brown to tan to green, as well as having many different types of closures. Early ones had knot ties, later had Bakelite buttons or wood toggles.
- Type 56 RPD - A small side hanging pouch meant to hold an Type 56 RPD drum magazine. Again, a small outside pouch for oil bottles is often (however not always) present.
- Type 63 - A chest rig issued alongside the Type 63 rifle. Similar to the Type 56 SKS chest rig except with three bigger main pouches to accommodate the bigger magazine instead of stripper clips.
- Also a 7 celled chest rig variant, as well as "Y" type rig for this same weapon.
- Type 81 - 4 magazine pocket variation of the Type 56 AK chest rig with two smaller pouches or either end. Introduced in 1981 by the PLA alongside the new Type 81 rifle.
- Type 79 - A 4 cell side hanging pouch, and 4 cell chest rig, both for the type 79 Chinese sub machine gun. The chest rig also has 2 pockets for grenades.
- Type 54 - A 3 cell side hanging pouch for the Type 54 Chinese PPS-43 variant. It has 2 extra pouches for oil bottles and other accessories.
- Type 53 - A 10 cell pouch made for the Chinese Mosin Nagant carbine copy. Holds 20 5 round stripper clips. It has tie or toggle closures.
The Chicom Is made all over the world. Use this as a basic guideline to ID the gear in photos and your own gear. I could not list all rigs, but these are the main ones.
Iraq- Flimsy canvas or nylon. Very often has 4 magazine, 4 grenade pouches, with star decorated snap buttons, or Velcro. Also full black, as seen in use with republican guard and Fedayeen Saddam, holding 3 magazines, 2 grenades. Black plastic toggles.
Vietnam- Mostly light tan or reed green. Brass or aluminum hardware, rough wood, Bakelite, or aluminium toggles or uniform buttons as closures on pouches. Thin, light canvas and square or round pocket flaps. Also, the modern and current issue variant, tan nylon fabric with black polymer toggles, and black nylon shoulder straps.
Albania- Dull green canvas, AK and SKS versions with wood, black polymer or green polymer toggles. Blued steel adjusters. No piping on pocket flaps.
Pakistan and Afghanistan- Cheap, leather, thin canvas, or nylon fabric. Orange or tan plastic toggles, wood toggles, single or double snap buttons on pocket flaps. Commonly black vinyl keepers on straps. Closes on the back, often with ties, or a belt- like 6b3 style closure. Come in a wide range of colors and patterns. Made for RPK, AK, M16, and SKS rifles. Very decorative, representing ethnic backgrounds.
Iran- Very well made. Metal snap buttons , leather piping and often times factory patches from "Tractor Saz" factory on middle pocket flap. Solid colored or striped ties on back. Also a nylon variant with 3 magazine, 2 grenade pockets. sturdy as well, with odd flat tipped and angular shaped wood toggles.
Rhodesia, Mozambique, South African- African guerrilla and Selous scout made. Thin but strong green canvas, tan piping. Often with dark wood or plastic toggles, and blue- green loops on flaps. AK, R1, SKS variants. South African variants often green canvas with metal turn- closures. In Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, different chicom copies come in green, tan, and leather material.
Nepal- Green, blue, black, etc. Canvas or nylon construction. Made for AK, Bren, and INSAS rifles. Very rare. Uniform Button closures. Not much known.
Cambodia- Commercially made. Green and black commonly. Often Velcro closures. Synthetic, Nylon type fabric.
Soviet Union- Field expedient ,black or green plastic toggles, buttons, anything in the field they could find. Sun bleached canvas, unit or soldier custom made. Later, Lifchik 1 &2 were invented, having sturdy tan canvas construction, metal snaps for model 1, Leather and brass slot & knob closure. Came with a grenade belt for VOG- 25 grenades. Added 2 flare holders.
Bosnia- Most common configuration is 3-4 magazines, 2-4 grenades. Green or tan. Metal snap buttons. Mostly thin construction, and commonly have no piping on pocket flaps. Rare.
Malaya- 1950's through 80's. often black or green vinyl, or canvas. Brass snap closures. Very rare.
Palestine- Often canvas construction. Come in many colors, with vinyl, leather, or canvas pocket flaps. Metal snap buttons, or toggles are common. Made mostly for AK and G3 type rifles.
Syria- 4 magazine, 2 or 4 grenades. Light green or black canvas. Dark green piping on pocket flaps. Metal snaps. Also, dark green, 4 magazine, 4 grenade. Grenade pouches are in a lifchik configuration, in sets of 2, stacked on top of each other. Instead of flaps, a thin vinyl or leather strip holds equipment in the pouches.
Central america- Sandinista/ other insurgent made rigs. Often canvas. Leather or East German Strichtarn camouflage construction on Nicaraguan items. Often using metal snaps. Usually reinforced at the bottom. Nicaraguan has 3 magazine cells, 2 stripper clip pockets, 1 cleaning kit pocket, and 1 oil bottle pocket. Sling- like shoulder straps. Belt type attachment at back.
North Korea- Custom made in field. One I have seen Holds a TT33 handgun, 4 grenades, 2 extra Tokarev magazines. It was OD green, with Black plastic buttons. Another held 3 AK rifle magazines. Usually the buttons ( or more angular wood toggles) indicate DPRK origin.
North Africa- In Somalia, poorly made construction is not uncommon. Light canvas construction. Thin pocket flaps. Colored piping on sides or edges of pouches. Pockets closed with Velcro or white buttons. In Mali, mostly tan cotton construction is seen. Strips of fabric instead of pocket flaps are commonly found. Use of buttons instead of toggles is a regional norm, found all around Northern Africa, where wood is often seen as a luxury.
If you want pictures of ANY of these, PM Comrade_Degtraryov on RedAlliance. I have a photo of all of these, as I only post what I can show. Also feel free to contribute to our chest rig thread: 
History of Usage
During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, a growing amount of Soviet soldiers had grown accustomed to the Chinese chest rigs. This prompted the Soviet Union to design and manufacture their own, which would later become known as the Type 1 Lifchik. The Chinese Chicom Chest Rig would be standard issue of VDV Desantnik's in the mid-late phase of the war, with use along the much older RD-54 system. The Soviet Union stopped using Chinese made rigs when the war in Afghanistan was over, as they had adopted the simplistic design of the rig into different chest rigs produced by factories in Russia.
Outside of Soviet usage, it was first documented in the Vietnam war, where Vietcong and North Vietnamese troops were both supplied by China. Whether or not Soviet Advisors first documented the success of the chest rig in Vietnam remains a mystery.
The Chinese Chicom Chest Rig changed the way a soldier would carry ammunition and accessories everywhere. Changing the way soldier's carried ammunition in pouches along belt's to having ammunition stored higher up and closer to their chests allowed for faster reloads and more manoeuvrability (A soldier can now roll on the ground without having to worry about pouches getting in the way). Like the advent and popularity of the AK-47, the rig is currently produced by numerous countries, such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many others, and has almost been seen in every single combat theatre since it's inception.
Chicom style chest rig's have been reproduced in many countries in the middle east and east Asia, and it still remains as the primary ammunition carrier in third world countries.
Illustration showing a Soviet soldier wearing the Type 56 chest rig on top of a 6B2.