The 10 Best Tactical Chest Rigs
This wiki has been updated 29 times since it was first published in March of 2016. Whether you are a soldier, law enforcement SWAT team member, or a weekend warrior, a good tactical chest rig can greatly increase your efficiency in the field. With pockets, slots, and pouches able to carry weapons, AR and AK ammunition, and even first aid equipment, they provide convenient access to everything without having to contend with a cumbersome backpack or overloaded belt. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 07, 2020:
Whether for airsoft, paintball, or actual military missions, tactical chest rigs make it easy to carry ammo and other gear into the field, and keep it all accessible at a moment's notice. If your objectives, and therefore your needs, vary from mission to mission, you might be best served by a fully customizable model, such as the 5.11 VTAC LBE Utility, Condor Ronin, and High Speed Gear AO. Rather then featuring a preset arrangement of compartments and mag pouches, these three rigs simply have multiple rows and columns of MOLLE webbing, allowing you to set them up with any arrangement of accessories. Of course, this means you'll have to already own or go out and buy the various pouches and compartments you want to attach to them.
If you generally load up with the same gear and like to keep it all in the same place every time you deploy, so reaching for it becomes second nature, you can opt for a rig that comes with a preset arrangement of compartments. The options on our list that come pre-equipped with mag pouches and other compartments are the Condor Recon, Helikon-Tex Range Line Mini, Condor Rapid Assault, Haley Strategic Partners D3CRX, OneTigris Vulture, Lancer CA-307T, and NcStar VISM. It is worth noting that just even though these models may come with a variety of pouches and compartments, some do still offer the ability to be customized. For example, the Recon and Rapid Assault still have a lot of free webbing to attach additional accessories, and the Lancer CA-307T can be fully stripped of all of its included pouches and compartments and rearranged with your own setup.
The Haley Strategic Partners D3CRX deserves special mention because it offers the versatility to be worn as an attachment to your current plate carrier, so it can still be a smart buy even if you already have a basic chest rig you find comfortable, but which simply doesn't have enough storage space.
If you need to travel heavy, and a chest rig isn't enough to accommodate all of your gear, you can pair one with an operator backpack, which feature the same MOLLE webbing as most of these chest rigs, but offer additional carrying capacity.
5.11 Tactec The adaptable 5.11 Tactec can worn either in a X-back or H-frame style, offering you the versatility to use it however you find it most comfortable. It is made of lightweight, weatherproofed nylon; has well-padded shoulder straps; and is equipped with bungee magazine straps. 511tactical.com
BDS Tactical Modular Chest Rig The BDS Tactical Modular Chest Rig is fully customizable and offers six points of adjustment to help you get a snug and secure fit. A total of 16 rows of MOLLE webbing spread across the front and pack ensure you can carry all your necessary gear, and it is Mil-Spec Berry Compliant, so you know it can stand up to anything you throw at it. bdstacticalgear.com
Chest Rigs Versus Tactical Vests
On the opposite end of the spectrum, chest rigs are highly customizable and, because of their minimalist design, extremely breathable and well-suited to warm environments.
One of the most common questions those new to purchasing tactical gear have is regarding the difference between tactical vests and chest rigs. While there are some similarities between these items, they each offer a different combination of benefits.
Tactical vests are usually tight fitting, highly size adjustable, and lightweight. They offer plenty of real estate to attach gear, but are often limited in customization. They will generally have fixed pockets, though some models may combine a MOLLE system with fixed pockets, which makes them considerably more versatile. Despite having a lot of room to attach gear, they do lose out on some of the most easily accessible real estate because they have buckles or a zipper down the center. Also, because they cover a large portion of the torso, they are not ideal for warm climates as they tend to make the wearer very hot.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, chest rigs are highly customizable and, because of their minimalist design, extremely breathable and well-suited to warm environments. As with tactical vests, chest rigs are very lightweight, but rather than being comprised of a large amount of skin-covering fabric, they are generally just comprised of thin shoulder straps and one thicker front strap that runs across the abdomen. This is not a hard and fast rule though, as you can find chest rigs that cover the entire back or have removable attachments that cover the chest area. Most chest rigs will have a MOLLE area for holsters, ammo pockets, and more, while some may only have fixed pockets, and others may boast a combination of the two. Unlike tactical vests, chest rigs are not intended to carry inordinate amounts of gear, rather just the bare bones essentials, making them ideal for fast assault situations where you require high mobility and speed. Depending on the model, you may be able to attach front or rear plate pouches for ballistic defense.
What To Consider When Choosing A Chest Rig
Choosing the right chest rig is very important, especially if it will be used in combat situations where it could mean the difference between life and death. The first thing to consider is how modular you need it to be. As previously mentioned, a chest rig may be completely MOLLE based, it may contain fixed pockets, or it may be a combination of the two. If you are planning to utilize your chest rig for every application, a customizable MOLLE-based system is your best bet. This will make it highly versatile and allow you to perfectly customize it to the expected situation. On the other hand, if you will only use your chest rig for specific applications, a model with fixed pockets that are ideally laid out for your needs allows you to avoid the extra cost of buying MOLLE-compatible accessories. If you are unsure of the types of situations where you will use your chest rig and want some versatility, but don't want to deal with the hassle and expense of buying numerous additional attachments, a combination model with fixed pockets and some MOLLE areas may be best.
Finding a model that fits your body correctly is essential to comfort in the field.
Next, you'll want to look at the chest rig's carrying capacity. Since chest rigs are only designed to carry the bare essentials, you can't load them up with tons of extra gear. Instead, they will allow you to carry exactly what you think you'll need in the field, with very little room for additional items. Some may only have space for mag storage; others may be able to carry hydration bladders, a radio, and more. You don't want to buy a large and bulky model that eliminates the benefits of a chest rig, but you also don't want to buy one that cannot carry all of your mission essentials.
The final two areas to consider are comfort and durability. The comfort of a chest rig is dictated by how well it fits your body, and the harness system. Chest rigs won't fit as tightly as tactical vests, but they should be adjustable enough for you to get them relatively snug. Newer models will generally come with either an H-harness or an X-harness. H-harnesses provide better weight distribution, but are often too wide for smaller framed individuals, resulting in them sloshing around when the wearer runs. X-harnesses tend to fit both large and small-framed individuals well, but are more prone to riding up as you run. Finding a model that fits your body correctly is essential to comfort in the field. A chest rig's durability is dictated by the construction materials and the quality of the stitching. Nylon is usually the best option, though some canvas models are also extremely tough. Choosing one from a reputable brand with a good warranty service will often go a long way towards ensuring you buy a durable, long-lasting chest rig.
Chest Rig Loading Tips
Loading a chest rig for maximum efficiency may seem complicated at first, but by following a few simple guidelines, it can actually be very easy. You want to be able to reach for all vital items quickly and without sacrificing visibility of your adversaries. This means memorizing what you keep in each pouch. The best way to do this is to organize your gear in a similar manner every time.
When you are reloading, every second counts. For this reason, it is always a smart idea to keep extra mags in the front pouches, where they can be readily accessed in an emergency. At the same time, you need to keep in mind even weight distribution for comfort. This often means storing the heaviest items in the center of your body, but it can also be accomplished by evenly splitting them to either side. Less vital gear, like a tactical flashlight or map, can be kept in harder-to-reach pockets, as you rarely need to retrieve them quickly in an emergency.
Never stow large or bulky items in a place where they could interfere with drawing your pistol from your holster. It is also important to keep shoulder areas clear, especially on your dominate side where you rest your rifle butt. Finally, first aid items, such as bandages or pressure dressings must be kept in a pocket that can be accessed with either hand.