Roll Pin Belts, for Web Equipment (CEFO)

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ORIGIN:
In the British military, Roll Pin Belts first made an appearance in Airborne Forces. Paratroopers would requisition the 2" wide green cargo straps on parachute supply platforms and get a rigger to fold and machine sew the long strap into a waistbelt length. Whenever cut, a rigger would integrate the brass tab end of the strap to the opposite end of the buckle. This not only protected the end against fraying but enabled the end to be fed through the buckle quickly and easily.

Some riggers sewed parallel bar tacks widthways: this was the ideal method of stitching 'cause it enabled the C-Hooks on '44 and '58 pouches to be fitted so that they didn't slide along the belt. Without the bar tacking, pouches with loop fitments (eg: '44 SAS pouches) would have to be taped to prevent slippage, have the C-Hooks of standard pouches hammered tight onto the belt or be sewn to the belt.

The bar tacking also gave the belt vertical stiffening. Many commercially available Roll Pin Belts consisted of a single thickness strap - these would crumple under the weight of pouches. Naff.

Probably the best Roll Pin Belts were customised '58 waistbelts: the right side of the belt was cut off and replaced with the tab end of the cargo strap; the aluminium clasp on the left side was replaced by the cargo strap buckle.

'44/'58 PATT USE:
Both '44 and '58 Patt waistbelts were designed to be adjustable whilst worn. Adjustment is necessary when extra layers are put on or removed. For tabbing *, a Paratrooper's CEFO (Combat Equipment Fighting Order) would need to be tight around the waist to prevent friction burns. Adjustment on these belts can be fiddly and time consuming. If the aluminium keepers were crushed or tight, this task could be impossible. The Roll Pin belt enabled instant adjustment.

( * Para speak for travelling tactically and rapidly on foot with kit over long distances)

The aluminium clasps on the standard ('44 and '58) waistbelts could sometimes unlock if the belt was slack. In the days before Dump Pouches, we'd throw our empty magazines into the front of our smocks; on one occasion, this author lost a couple of magazines when his '58 belt unlocked during a live firing exercise. Unsafe to stop and pick up dropped kit - in a battle situation, it could make the difference between life and death... If adequately tightened, the Roll Pin Belt doesn't come apart so easily.

CURRENT USE:
Roll Pin Belts are still favoured by some British soldiers. It's a tried and tested piece of reliable kit.
The '90 Patt PLCE waistbelt (used as part of the '95 PLCE set) has a large Nexus quick release, quick adjustment buckle which serves most soldiers well enough. Sometimes, after a while, the buckle can break or the adjustment strap becomes stiff.

BENEFITS:
There are advantages and disadvantages to fitting a Roll Pin Buckle to your webbing.
ADVANTAGES:
1) Reliability;
2) Speed/ease of adjustability;
3) Pose factor!

DISADVANTAGES:
1) Weight - being steel, the buckle is much heavier than a normal buckle;
2) Sound - the buckle will clank when it comes into contact with hard objects;
3) Some (older) buckles might rust if not maintained properly. Sweat is the worst corrosive because its water and salt content accelerates rusting;
4) The steel tab fitment ideally needs hammering to angle it closer to the body. This can be easier said than done!

FITTING/CUSTOMISATION:
A proper Roll Pin Belt uses a cotton adjustment strap. This provides for comfort as well as the best grip with minimum wear - but can be less desirable when wet. Even so, the buckles available from specialist shops (and on eBay) can be used with the '90 Patt PLCE belt quite adequately.

I've mentioned that the steel tab fitment should be hammered down slightly. When worn around a waist, this part of the buckle sticks out at an angle. When shifting to the right whilst in the prone position, when climbing over a high wall, etc, this tab can catch on a surface and slacken the belt. It doesn't need to be completely hammered down, just up to 30 degrees.

Before fitting the Roll Pin Buckle to the belt, it's a good idea to clean then spray paint the buckle. Additionally, "sniper tape" rolled around the buckle aids camouflage whilst also removing the clank factor. (IMPORTANT: do NOT tape up the knurled bar of the buckle and do not restrict its movement along the gate of the buckle.)

Quick Fix Fitment:
LEFT SIDE - Slide the nylon keeper to the back of the belt, undo the belt adjustment pins and remove the Nexus buckle from the issued '90 Patt belt. Fit the Roll Pin Buckle in it's place. Engage both pins of the belt strap into the appropriate "slot" for ypur waist size (trial and error, if you don't already know) and slide the nylon keeper back to the buckle.

Tips:
1) Wear your combat trousers with a UBACS, tee-shirt, Norwegian or DPM/MTP shirt - the minimum you'd ever wear with webbing when you adjust your belt;
2) Ensure that the two square "D-Rings" at the back of the belt are spaced evenly along your back;
3) Adjust the buckle to be in line with your belly button (important).

The reason why you need to correctly position the buckle wearing the minimum amount of clothing worn is that, when you add clothing layers, the buckle position moves to the left of the centre of body. If you've made the belt adjustments when wearing typical layers or more, when wearing minimal layers, the buckle will end up right of the centre of body - this can affect adjustability.

RIGHT SIDE - The end of the adjustable strap is folded and sewn. This makes this end of the belt difficult to feed through the buckle. You will need to cut it off and melt the cut to prevent fraying. A straight cut won't feed so easily: the best shape is a sideways "U" or rounded tip "V" - you choose. A straight "V" shape cut leaves a point that's susceptible to fraying. Finally, dip the newly cut adjustment strap into paint or paint on carefully: 1-2" (25-50mm) should suffice. Allow to dry and repeat as often as you wish. This prevents fraying and also provides a stiff tab that aids quick feeding through the buckle.

Tips:
1) Obviously, use paint of a tactical colour;
2) Don't use emulsion, watercolour or oil paint! <LOL>
(You want a paint that's water and chemical resistant as well as ideally heat resistant, to a degree. Enamel is best - but is difficult to procure, these days)
I hope your kit customisation goes well,

The Airborne Womble
MMXII
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