It cost me an arm and a leg to purchase, from a dealer I had never dealt with before in Russia who frequently sold things within the Rushing Russians Facebook group. But 600 dollars later, and running around town trying to find a Western Union outlet in Downtown Vancouver, I have finally found the rig that I have been searching for years on end. The legendary SSO Partizan Harness.
These do not circulate that often as the rigs themselves are generally hard to find. They were produced within a limited time frame in the era of 2003-2004 (from what I’ve read, it was only in retail of 2003), and were exclusively sewn for FSB.
The reason that the rig doesn’t have a bigger presence nowadays within the Russian Infantry was on decision of SPOSN, the manufacturer of the rig. From the stories that I’ve read, and rumours through the grapevine (which I never confirmed as of today), it was said that they believed there was no point in developing two rigs at the same time. So on that illustrious note, SPOSN stopped production of the Partizan Harness and stuck to the universal SMERSH Rig, a common sight when looking through galleries of Russian Infantry on exercise, which they remain extremely popular with. This can be seen with both the MVD operators, and the Elite 45th Separate Guards Reconnaissance Regiment of the VDV below.
The rig itself bears a great resemblance to the SMERSH rigs that are seen in pictures often. There are two double AK cell pouches on both sides of the rig, with a butt pack, and an H-style harness to keep it all centred on the shoulders. The biggest difference between the SMERSH style of rigs and the Partizan Setup is the way they develop the H-Harness, as well as the belt and butt pack.
The belt system is much like the PLCE system that the British employ with their armed forces (it would be better to say they used to). The H-Harness Yolk is very similar with the mesh netting, and the handle used to drag soldiers from behind. Though the main difference namely is the colour schemes used between the two countries, as well as the pouches that the systems are normally associated with.
Comparatively, when you look at both SMERSH, and the Partizan Harness side-by-side, there isn’t a lot of features between the two systems that would make you decide over one or the other. The reason this is, is because they both serve the same purpose with most, if not all Russian soldiers setting them up almost identically to one another. However, the big thing about the Partizan Harness that makes it my favourite, over the SMERSH rig, is the belt modularity that allows the user to go between using body armour systems under their rig to going out on a day patrol, where having armour would just fatigue you out faster.
The belt is a lot like a fastener in the SMERSH rig on the H-Harness. When the user pulls on the excess bit of belt, it tightens the rig around the user’s body. And if you need to put on a bit of body armour, the user can loosen it just the same to accommodate something like the Defender 2 if they have to. That modularity, while a small thing when you think about it in the long run (you can run a similar belt in a SMERSH rig if you want to), but because the Partizan Harness is a collector’s item, and comes with it stock, it’s something that I feel give it a good advantage, just having the ability to seamlessly switch from one load out to the next.
The pouches used on the Partizan Harness are a little different from the ones normally found on a typical SMERSH rig. They look very much like the ones found on Magazine Pouches on a PLCE system—what is normally called, which is new to me, a Spanish Fly setup—with Velcro to boot in order for the flap to stay down in proper fashion. To be honest, this was just a looks thing, and wasn’t sure, in my time in playing around with the setup, how it really comes into its own over a SMERSH rig.
I suspect that it might be fact that the magazine tab is a lot longer than found normally on a SMERSH rig. That’s my suspicion, and I’m sticking to it—it’s something I need to read up on myself. Either way though, functionally, the magazine pouches, I found, were a lot easier to manipulate without having to take my eyes off the target. By pulling on the magazine tab, I’m able to throw it up, and pull a magazine out without a hassle, and because of the short height of the magazine pouch, means I can use AS Val “20 Round” mags without having to waste time digging them out of their pouch.
The buttpack, interestingly enough, while smaller than normal SMERSH packs, has the added benefit of having grenade pouches on the side of the pack. I’m unsure why that’s even a thing, but it’s available to the user if they want to employ it, which for some hardcore impressionists, this is a must have. It’s especially good if you are a GP-25 operator, and need somewhere to store grenades if you didn’t get the VOG Grenade Pouches that normally come with rigs like this.
This isn’t a rig for the regular consumer of Russian Products, and for those who just want to fight for the Russians at their local MSW event. For the price tag that you have to put up with, I wouldn’t say that this rig was worth the price of admission given everything that it does, is done by a SMERSH rig. But the charm of the rig itself isn’t the fact that it doesn’t revolutionary things with the concept of a belt rig, or anything along those lines. If I had my way about it, it would be the fact that it’s the novelty of wearing something that not a lot of players have the luxury of getting their hands on.
It’s a rare bit of kit, and not something that you see often, and when others on the airsoft field see you, people turn their heads and see what’s going on. When I saw this rig for the first time, I knew that I did as well. It’s functional, it’s cool, and its limited production run really puts it into collector’s status of memorabilia that was only in production for just over a year pretty well.