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MOLLE and PALS Webbing Backpack- Shooter's Guide

MOLLE and PALS Webbing Backpack- Shooter's Guide

Posted by on Jan 23rd 2020

Bags, pouches, straps, and range gear: MOLLE and PALS comprise a modular load-bearing system developed by the US military and later provided to the civilian market. For us shooters, that means an opportunity to customize range bags, backpacks, and gun cases with even more capacity. This guide breaks down what MOLLE is (and PALS too). We will explain how it works, what its features are, and how to properly attach and configure your MOLLE gear.

What Is MOLLE Gear?

MOLLE (pronounced “Molly”) stands for Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment. Employed by the US military and NATO forces, this equipment system allows for any MOLLE backpack, container, bag, pouch, or extra gear to be securely strapped to any other MOLLE bag or gear without stitching or special tools through the stitched PALS webbing and integrated straps.

What about MOLLE II?

MOLLE II is the US Army’s latest rendition of their lightweight modular equipment issued to military personnel. This has nothing to do with the physical PALS webbing, its dimensions, or straps and attachment methods, which remain unchanged. This equipment should not be confused with a “new” type of webbing. 

What is PALS?

PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System)refers to the physical grid of webbing and the attachment straps found on MOLLE equipment. The standardized PALS grid was developed by the US Army for attaching additional pouches and containers to rucksacks (shown above). It was later expanded to be used on military body armor and tactical vests and, eventually, most issued gear carried by personnel. Because of the PALS system’s universal standard, any PALS-equipped gear from any manufacturer can be fixed to any other commercial PALS or military MOLLE gear.

So What’s the Difference between MOLLE and PALS?

The MOLLE system designates that a piece of gear is part of the US military’s standardized attachment system and is fixed with PALS webbing and straps. The two phrases are often used interchangeably, though commercially sold tactical and range gear with this attachment system should technically be called PALS gear since it is not issued by the US military.

PALS Specifications and Data

The mil-spec PALS webbing consists of horizontal rows of ballistic nylon, bar-tacked stitched at precisely 1.5-inch (3.8-centimeter) intervals. Official PALS grids are separated by exactly 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of vertical spacing. The US military specifies that the material to be used should be Type III A-A-55301A ballistic nylon (Military Standard MIL-W-43668 Rev. C). Commercially produced PALS/MOLLE gear does not usually adhere to these extensive standards. Most range gear fixed with PALS webbing utilizes 400D, 500D, 600D, or 1000D Cordura. We wrote a full guide detailing these various types of ballistic nylon too.

Commercial Variants in PALS Gear

More often than not, the webbed gear you buy on the commercial market (including the ones at Range Often) will not adhere to the exact standards and measurements set by the US military for PALS grids. This is not a cause for concern.

The spacing between stitching and rows may be slightly larger or smaller, and manufacturers may provide wide or thinner straps to accommodate small or large bags or pouches. As long as the PALS button strap on your gear is sized up to eliminate slack once threaded and snapped, there will be no issues with loose or “sloppy” packs that shift around under weight. (Check out the common variants that are shown below:

Wide PALS columns (center) allow for bigger straps for larger packs or containers. Narrow rows of PALS webbing (right) may be used to provide even greater stability with the interlocking weave (though threading the straps may be more difficult). This is particularly useful for packs containing heavy items, like bulk ammo. Laser-cut MOLLE is lightweight and less expensive to produce, which in turn offers a low-profile design for smaller, lighter PALS gear like pistol mag pouches.

How to Attach MOLLE/PALS Gear

Taken directly from the US Army’s MOLLE Technical Manual, the instructions below show the proper way to secure MOLLE gear via PALS webbing.

The PALS strap must be threaded through both the supporting bag or platform and the rows of PALS webbing on the bag, pouch, or container to be attached. This interlocking weave removes any slack and unwanted movement in both items and will bind them closely as a single unit. Some shooters incorrectly secure their MOLLE pack by threading the PALS strap only through the webbing of the supporting gear, like so:

Our Friends at 5.11 Tactical Show Us How to Thread PALS Gear Correctly

Upgrading Your Range Gear with PALS

Your needs may change with your shooting environment or the load-out. PALS is a convenient and affordable alternative to investing in numerous range bags, tactical backpacks, or gun cases. Many of the available soft cases are offered specifically for this reason. Most range bags and tactical backpacks also include PALS webbing for additional storage.

The most common auxiliary attachments shooters add to their range bags include the following:

  • Rifle magazine pouches
  • Pistol magazine pouches
  • Handgun holsters
  • Individual first aid kits
  • Storage compartments for gear

PALS Attachment Methods

The commercial market took the mil-spec design of MOLLE attachments and produced some new and upgraded methods for equipping your PALS gear. This list compiles some of the most popular options, but it is not necessarily all-inclusive.

Original "Natick" Button Nylon Straps

These are the standard-issue straps you will find on most MOLLE/PALS gear. Snap buttons provide the lock for the weave. The ballistic nylon is relatively stiff, ensuring your gear stays put. The buttons can snag during threading, so it’s important to ensure you’re not fraying your webbing during installation or removal.

Semi-Flexible MALICE Straps

MALICE clips are made of a softer polymer material that’s flexible but incredibly tough and weather-resistant, so durability is not an issue. These modular straps come in tall (5 inches) or short (3 inches) with a zip-tie-style lock. A small flathead or flat pry tool is required to remove these, and they’ll stay put even when tugged on or pulled.

BlackHawk Speed Clips

These speed clips are tough and easy to install or detach. They remove all flex from the PALS gear once attached, making them useful for deep pouches or heavier containers that may otherwise pull away with loose straps. Getting a tight fit with the Speed Clips means seating them against an extra row of webbing, which may take up room for other equipment on smaller PALS grids.

MOLLE LOK Rigid Straps w/ Fasteners

Blade Tech’s MOLLE LOK straps are probably the most rugged and stable PALS attachments you will find. These rigid straps are not flexible, so threading requires lining up the webbing on both pieces of gear, followed by sliding each end of the strap through each item. Once pressed down, the ends lock with spring-loaded buttons. Additional security can be achieved by threading the provided countersunk screws and washers into the straps once they are closed together.

MaxPedition TacTie Soft Straps

MaxPedition uses a softer, more flexible ballistic nylon for their TacTie straps. A plastic triglide provides the tension needed for a tight fit, and the leading end is folded and stitched to make threading easier. The back half of the strap is reinforced with an extra layer of stiff nylon, ensuring that the attached gear doesn’t flex or bow out from the parent PALS grid.

Quick Summary

Too long, did not read? Here's the short and the sweet of it:

  • The MOLLE system is the US Army’s load-carrying system, and it is designed for troops.
  • PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) refers to the physical webbing and specification standards for MOLLE.
  • PALS gear is available as US surplus or commercial production.
  • Nearly all PALS webbing is constructed from ballistic nylon.

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