Before “made in China” equaled lead poisoning, shoddy craftsmanship and cheap knockoffs, you could find quality gear, such as this over-built Vietnam Era SKS chest rig, made specifically for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). It is in surprisingly good shape for being more than 20 years old.
For my initial inspection, I brought along someone more knowledgeable about Chinese military history, who said it appears the chest rig was for a specialized division, rather than the regular PLA.
Constructed of OD green canvas and stiff brown leather, the SKS chest rig has eight pockets to hold stripper clips. The adjustable leather straps are showing the slightest bit of wear only in parts, while the soft, white suede-like back shows signs of some molding. The leather straps are stiff and need a good conditioning.
The stitching along the pouches is flawless, with no loose ends or unraveling.
A shiny metal belt buckle stamped with the PLA’s star insignia attaches to the vest by leather straps to secure the rig around your chest.
Each canvas pouch interior measures about 4 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide, with a leather top and bottom. To secure the top of the pouches, each flap has a brown snap with the PLA’s star insignia. On two of the pouches, I found black manufacturer’s stamps that are nearly illegible.
The ruggedly built rivets attaching the leather shoulder straps have no rust or wear. However, the metal on the belt buckle shows some oxidation. None of the leather is cracked or brittle. The rig I received appears to be unused and unissued. That, or the soldier carrying it took great care of his gear.
Smelling like grandma’s basement, this SKS chest rig needs some freshener or airing out and a bit of leather conditioner to get it back in shape.
A wide variety of all-canvas chest rigs are available, but this leather one with Chinese-embossed stars is a standout. For a country that does not allow antiques made prior to 1975 to leave the country, this leather and canvas SKS chest rig is a rare find.
For more Chinese military surplus gear, click here.
Do you have any Chinese military surplus gear? Which is your favorite? Share it with us in the comments section.
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