BE-X “Ephod” Load-Carrying Rig

Text by Lawrence Holsworth

Photos by Benji Hanson.

Introduction

The original A10 model infantry load-bearing rig, nicknamed the “Ephod”, was introduced into service by the Israeli Defence Forces in 1976 – during the reorganisation and re-equipping of the IDF following the Yom Kippur War.  In fact, if memory serves me, the first time it came to the attention of the rest of the world was as a result of it being used by the commandos who conducted the famous “Raid on Entebbe” hostage rescue operation in Uganda.

Prior to the introduction of the “Ephod”, the Israeli infantry had used a hodge-podge of surplus US, French and British web gear; supplemented by some locally produced items compatible with the foreign rigs.  The Ephod was designed to provide a new and improved, “home-grown” rig optimised to the operational needs of the IDF.  And at the time it was considered quite revolutionary – it was certainly much better than the ALICE gear used by the US or the Pattern 58 webbing used by the UK (although it does bear something of a superficial resemblance to P58 webbing). 

Its only real drawback – from a light infantry or special operations forces perspective – was the fact that it was incompatible with the use of a medium or large rucksack.  The Israelis got around this by designing a commando / spec ops version that incorporated a built-in back pack.  It’s also worth remembering that these rigs were designed specifically for the operational needs of the IDF – and the IDF didn’t need the ability to use the rig with big rucksacks as the vast majority of their deployments were over relatively short distances and their operations were mostly of short duration.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the A10 – at the time – was its use of Velcro to fasten the ammunition pouch flaps.  There was the predictable outcry about how noisy Velcro is, about how vulnerable it is to dirt, etc.  Well, the IDF doesn’t appear to have had any serious problems with pouches failing because of dirt and grime; and when you’re busy throwing rounds downrange its more important to be able to access your spare mags and frags quickly and easily than to worry that your pouch flap might make a noise when you open it.  At any rate, here we are now 30-odd years later and Velcro fastened pouches have pretty much become the de facto standard.

A note about the nickname: an Ephod (pronounced either \ē´fod\ or \ef´od\) is a type of loincloth and breast-plate garment worn by Jewish priests during religious ceremonies.  I guess the soldiers of the IDF thought the A10 bore a certain resemblance to such a thing.

Bringing it back

The modernised version of the Ephod from the Begadi Exclusive (BE-X) range is revised and improved in many ways over the original. Modern synthetic materials have been used throughout, in order to improve the rig’s durability and resistance to moisture, dirt and grime. The dimensions of the water bottle / canteen pouches have been changed, in order to accommodate a wide range of flasks, and have also been lined with a better type of insulation material (an adjustable cinch-strap has also been fitted).  A detachable Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) pouch has been added at the right hip area.  And accessory pouches for pistol magazines, multi-tool, GPS unit, personal radio, cell phone, extra batteries, etc. have all been fitted to the rig as well. Finally, BE-X say that they have modified the dimensions of the basic chassis and improved the padding, in order to maximize comfort and minimise chafing.

  

Right, let’s do a quick run-through of its key highlights and features –

Highlights:

  • 1000D Cordura Nylon material
  • Mil-Spec-quality construction
  • Wide padded waist belt
  • H-harness shoulder yoke
  • Waist belt easily adjustable for 85-115cm waist
  • Ergonomic and logical placement of pouches
  • Extremely stable weight distribution
  • Highly flexible system compatible with wide range of primary weapons

 

 

Features:

  • 3 magazine pouches holding 9 M4/AK or 6 G36/SIG550
  • 1 small accessory pocket on 2nd left magazine pouch
  • 1 smoke grenade pouch (also suitable for a radio or GPS unit)
  • 2 insulated water bottle pouches with cinch-strap (or will also take a small camp stove and cooking pot)
  • 1 mid-sized butt-pack with small pouch inside top flap – also D-rings for attaching/securing gear and an integrated knife sheath (only works for right-handed users)
  • 1 set of attachment straps (for tarpaulin, bivvy bag or poncho + liner, etc.)
  • 1 detachable Individual First Aid Kit pouch
  • 2 fragmentation grenade pouches
  • 1 pistol magazine or multi-tool pouch
  • 1 small general purpose pouch with D-ring (for strobe light, GPS, etc.)
  • 1 folding utility pouch on right shoulder (for medicine, batteries, etc.)
  • 1 compass pouch on left shoulder
  • 4 “tunnels” between front pouches and waist-belt (useful for stashing a knife / bayonet, detachable bipod, stick grenades, etc.)
  • 1 elasticated pouch with D-ring for 2 chem-lights
  • Grab/drag handle on rear of shoulder yoke
  • 2 attachment loops on each back strap
  • 2 attachment loops on each shoulder strap
  • 3 Velcro-fastened attachment loops on butt-pack flap
  • Double set of 2 D-rings for attaching dump pouch or holster on waist belt
  • Butt-pack flap coated with waterproof material on inside
  • 1 elasticated pouch with D-ring for utility knife

  

   

  

 

 

Colours / Camouflage Patterns:

  • Olive Green
  • Black
  • Tan
  • US Woodland
  • Woodland DPM
  • Flecktarn
  • “Rooivalk” (Pakistani semi-arid camouflage) 
  • UCP

Evaluation

The load-carrying capacity of this rig is impressive, especially as it’s fundamentally a traditional belt-and-yoke configuration rather than a vest.  It also provides optimal weight distribution and comfort through the thick hip-pad and the broad (unpadded) straps of the H-shaped shoulder yoke. The flexibility of this rig makes it ideal for many types of applications and operations – without the hassle of having to add / remove / or shift pouches around.

There are a couple of things that some people might see as negatives about this rig though.  First, whilst the unpadded shoulder straps of the harness interface better with a backpack than padded straps would, the integral pouches on each shoulder might get in the way and/or be uncomfortable under the straps of a backpack. Also, because of the butt-pack and water bottle pouches on the rear of the rig (and because the rig naturally rides high on the waist), you’ll be limited to using a relatively small sized backpack only.  Similarly, a “short-and-wide” type hydration pack would probably work better than a long and narrow type – if you prefer to use a hydro pack rather than water bottles.

Another feature of using this rig that some might find takes some getting used to, is the fact that it works best and most comfortably if it rides a bit high on the waist.  By that I mean if it’s positioned so that the bottom edge of the padded waist-belt rides just above your hip bones, or level with the waist-band of your trousers.  I found that wearing the rig in that position meant that I could crouch or kneel comfortably and easily, that I could still access the pockets of my trousers, and that all the pouches of the rig were within easy reach when needed.  It also meant that the front pouches of the rig were positioned so as to provide a convenient “shelf” to lay my arms and/or rifle across when resting as well.  So, all in all the height at which the rig rides is actually a good thing.

 

The BE-X Ephod has become my personal rig of choice for milsim airsoft, and I’ve also recommended it to the rest of my team too.  I also have no hesitation in recommending it to all of you as well. 

The original Ephod was a rig that a lot of us used to look at with envy back when I was in the 82nd Airborne Division.  But even if we would have been allowed to use them, they were hard to come by and quite expensive. 

With the modernised version from BE-X you get all the great stuff from the original, along with modern materials and improved features.  Plus you can have it in a wide range of colours and camouflage patterns – and at a pretty decent price too. 

Price:  129.00 EURO (approx. $182.50 USD, or £113 GBP)

What else to bear in mind?

Don’t overload it:  The great thing about the Ephod is that it CAN carry a lot of kit – but that doesn’t mean that it MUST.  Because of its comprehensive arrangement of pouches, D-rings and attachment loops, you might be tempted to load up with all those extra things that you think you “might” need.  But just remember the old axiom of “You pack it – you hump it” and don’t overload yourself with unnecessary gear.  I know though that its easier said than done…

Modular vs. fixed pouches:  “To MOLLE or not to MOLLE, that is the question.”  MOLLE type systems are a great improvement on older types of web gear (in terms of comfort, flexibility and adaptability/customisation), but that doesn’t mean that anything else is automatically obsolete or less effective.  Unless you’re changing your role frequently, or you have to adapt your webbing to frequently changing mission and/or operational requirements, than you probably don’t need the extra weight, complexity, expense and admin time that a MOLLE system entails.  With the Ephod; you only have to take it out of the bag and adjust the size – that’s it.  So, from a standing start, you’re ready to load up and head out in a fraction of the time it takes with a comparable MOLLE system.

But, you might ask, “Does the pouch arrangement actually work well enough?”  In my opinion, YES.  And not only is the arrangement of the pouches good, the capacity is great too.  The only thing that I would change is the small accessory pouch on the flap of the left rear ammo pouch – I’d move it to the cover of the butt-pack.  Being located on the ammo pouch flap makes it a bit fiddly to work with that pouch.

Quality:  As I’ve written before, the BE-X line-up is not produced under military contract – but that doesn’t mean that its wimpy gear.  The quality of the BE-X kit that I’ve had the pleasure of using is better than that of at least two other more well-known companies I know of that actively promote their gear to serving soldiers. 

So, whilst you won’t see “as used by Special Forces” or any other such advertising hype from BE-X, what you will get is German precision and mil-spec levels of design and construction quality.

On the other hand, BE-X have received “fan mail” from PSDs using their gear in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Dutch Airmobile Brigade have used their 3-colour desert camo smocks on operations in Afghanistan and their snow camo suits on exercise in Sweden, and most recently the Dutch Marines have been using the BE-X woodland camo smocks in Afghanistan (see photos below).

 

 

Where to buy:  To find your nearest dealer/retailer, check out the list here.

The full range of BE-X gear can be seen at www.begadi.com.

 



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