After a two-month wait, I finally got my Grad 1 vest from http://www.russiancombatgear.com/
If you order from this company, you will get your merchandise, but believe their website when they quote months for delivery. They are S-L-O-W.
I e-mailed the company several times, and each time they took the time to answer me; I finally got my vest Saturday. It arrived by international airmail (Russian postmarks and everything). Airmail charges were $38.11 in addition to the vest. I had to go to our main Post Office to sign for it. As I approached the counter with my notice, a huge postmaster twice my size (I'm 6-foot-2) took my notice to the back and returned with what looked like a hastily wrapped parcel. It was wrapped in a cross-pattern with twine and had been taped in several places. That's it. It looked like the cartoon representation of the proverbial "plain brown wrapper." The postmaster probably thought it was porn.
The postmaster looked at me, then looked at the address label, then looked up at me again. "I need to see some I.D. sir," he said. Glancing at the mailing label, which was entirely in Russian, and glancing back at him, I had visions of talking to a Postal Investigator for the next 6 hours.
"Why are you ordering Russian combat vests?" I could imagine them asking.
But, the postmaster looked at my I.D., then handed me my package. Safe in the knowledge that I had done nothing illegal, I left the post office with my new Grad 1 vest.
I posted two pictures below. The vest I got looks most like the Grad 1 vest, except instead of the grenade pouches pictured, I got a butt pack. I prefer the butt pack. In fact, the entire vest came stuffed into the butt pack. The web belt that came with my vest actually looks like the web belt that is shown in the picture of the Grad 2. It did NOT come with the web belt as pictured in the photo of the Grad 1.
The first thing I did was replace that cheesy web belt with a U.S. military web belt. It fits the Grad 1's loops perfectly. I wanted to be able to use my canteens and other gear that attaches with ALICE clips, so this was a welcome coincidence. The Grad 1 is covered with loops appropriate for ALICE clips, so I surmise that the Russians designed the vest to be usable with U.S. gear in battle.
The second thing I replaced was the mid-section laces. The vest is adjustable for both height and width, and this big guy needed more width than a 19-year old Russian soldier. I replaced the laces with nylon cord from a camping supply store, cut them to length, melted the ends with a cigarette lighter to prevent ravelling, and attached a couple of spring-loaded keepers a la the Blackhawk vests.
The vest now fits me perfectly. The material for the pouches is somewhat flimsier than the nylon material found in the west. The various straps, etc., are as rugged as any western nylon straps. The rest of the material in the vest is soft material like the mag pouches, although it is padded in body-contact spots. I compare it to the material in Vietnam era M16 mag pouches, but softer, as opposed to the rigid material in a Blackhawk vest. It seems more than adequately rugged. The vest holds 8 30-round AK mags, and each mag pouch has a divider. The pouches have two snaps: an upper one for when the pouch has two mags, and a lower one for when the pouch only has one mag. I had trouble snapping a couple of the pouches shut with mags in them; I had to do plenty of stretching and pulling before two of the pouches would snap shut on two mags.
The vest has plenty of small pouches for accessories, and long pouches in between the mag pouches, probably for grenades.
With the proper adjustment (I like my vest loose so it fits over winter clothing and I like the pouches at gut level rather than chest level), the vest is one of the more comfortable ones I have tried on. It's a keeper!
I anticipate the softness of the material in the pouches will hinder fast mag changes somewhat, but since we big guys have enough trouble finding a vest that even fits I'll just live with it. I'm so happy that it accepts a U.S. web belt (unlike my Pioneer M23 which did not), that I'm willing to live with some shortcomings.
In short, I like the vest. Russian Combat Gear is slow but I did get my stuff.
I like this vest so much I may order another one.
'Nuff Said. Here are the photos: