OK, I will be discussing the diffrent levels of gear that is out there for you to buy. Please be aware this is my opinion based on what I have learned over the years.
This level of gear is the kind of thing you see in catalogs marked as mil-spec or type. Usually made in asia or now, europe. It is not well made, it is no GI or even close. It will not take any kind of abuse. The kind of stuff airsofters/paintballers use. Usually cheap nylon or new canvas.
Do not buy this junk! You will waste your money!
In this level I include all GI gear from WW1 to Korea.
You can find good deals(price wise) on some of this stuff coming in from Europe. Most American GI stuff is now getting high in price, from this era. When you find real GI or even some of the replica stuff, it is very well made. These are the good points.
Now the bad. Real US GI stuff is going up in price & good replica gear start high. Also, this gear is usually canvas, wool,leather & metal. Its heavey. When it gets wet, it gets heavier yet. Leather cracks. It also really wasn't all that diffrent from gear from the 1800's, other than switch from leather to canvas. No real improvments here.
This level gear would be a place to start only if you find it at a baragin. But it should be skip for the next level.
This gear is the one starting at the beginning of Vietnam till the Late 1990's.
This is the gear most of us are fimilar with, in US GI.
The standard set up of a pistol belt, mag pouches, a suspender, canteens, buttpack & a fristaid pouch.
This comes in 2 kinds, The canvas and the nylon ALICE gear.
Either one is well made, but there are reasons for having both.
Frist, for .308 rifles only the canvas M14 pouches will work well for this. You can stick them in the ALICE pouch for M16 mags. But they don't fit right and will make noise if you don't put something in them.
Second, bigger guys like the canvas H-strap. It just fits better than the ALICE Y strap.
Problem with the canvas is the same as the old stuff, its heavey & gets wet it gets heavier.
Prices also are going up for this as it has been almost 40 years since they stop making it.
ALICE, well made, well priced. For its time , the best in the world. good finds at gun shows & on the internet. This stuff is where most people should start off.
You should look into getting some mods done here to this gear.
The use of Tactical Tailor MALICE clips for the pouches will lessen the "bounce" effect & make your gear quiter. There are better straps for the ALICE Pack & some quick release for the straps.
Also, there is the GI LBV, this is the militarys frist attempt at getting away from ALICE. The result is intresting, people either love or hate it. It seems to me to be kind of weak. I have seen them & handle them. The are light weight.
All the equipment here, is where the militiaman should start off with, IF this is all he can afford. Good gear, good ideas, for its time.
Now we are into the start of better ideas and some disater.
Now most countries are getting into the "assualt vest"
The US started with MOLLE. A vest with PALS webbing so that troopers could put the pouches where they want them.
But from all reports, the troops hated it. The vest were poorly stiched, you can pull it apart with your bare hands. The MOLLE pack plastic frame easily breaks from trying to put on the pack! Some do like the pouches. Stay away from this vest. Its the reason why you can get the vest for around $10 to $20.
Now the military has a array of systems.SPEAR system,AIRSAVE aviators survival vest,Marine MOLLE,Full Spectrum Battle Equipment System (FSBE), RAV body armor system,and the INTERSEPTOR vest.
Some of these things you can get for big $$$$. I have found this to be confusing. There have been so many conflicting reports about this stuff.
I can only say, be very careful.
There are Euro vest out there too. The prices for these can be quite high. You can get better for the money. I show later on.
This level is the start of gear at a higher level than basic GI.
Here we are talking about the following companies:
The first 3, BHI, LB & Eagle do make gear for the military. Eagle has a good rep with all its customers, civilian & GI. I find thier gear to be very well made. I think thier packs are thier best products.
BHI seems to have a good following with the military, but not with civies. Perhaps the military gear has a higher QC. I know that what BHI sells to civilians is made in Vietnam, they even try to hide it. There have been so many reports of gear coming apart, that I would not want to place my life in this gear. BHI will replace any product for free.
I haven't had any London Bridge equiptment to know what its like.
Tactical Tailor, starting making his own gear while in the service. When he got out, he started to make gear for the military & civilians. Some of his early stuff was on the crude side. But now his gear is as good as Eagle. He also invented the MALICE clips. I would consider his stuff a good buy. Look on the for sale boards at diffrent sites. You usually can find some for sale.
Eggroll Labs. Eggroll started as a collecter of gear and has slow started making his own gear. He only makes a few items, but are well made. Another good buy!
You are now at a higher $$$ level, but you are getting better gear for it.
This level will be the following compaines:
High Speed Gear
Custom Tactical Creations
Now we are talking true high speed gear & custom made gear. I go in reverse order here.
Kifaru makes packs. They, in most peoples opinions make the best there is. And the prices are high. But from all reports the best. I haven't seen one, yet. They also make tents & some odds and ends. All very high quailty.
SOE, they make all kinds of vests, pouches, packs. Another high quailty, well liked company. I haven't run across any yet.
CTC, this company I know. Roger makes vests. Very good vests. He is a custom gear maker. He can build you anything you want, as long as you got the money. I have found CTC gear to be of excellent quailty & workmanship is super! I own 2 of his PALS vests and many of his pouches. Excellent buy.
HSG is another top company. Gene, the owner, is a great guy to deal with. He has a standard line of gear which is top notch. All his gear I have got is of the highest quailty. He does custom work too. But like CTC, custom means money & time. Another excellent buy.
This is only a general overview of the subjest of gear. I have not included several other compaines because, I know nothing about them. This is just my impression as a survivalist. I never was in the military. So take it as it is, from a guy that likes getting gear.
High Speed Gear inc.com
Couple of good dealers for gear: