The 10 Best Tactical Vests
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in February of 2015. This selection of tac vests has been prepared specifically for those in the army, other branches of the military, law enforcement personnel, and airsoft competitors. Designed to provide a lightweight and breathable carrier for all the gear you will need in the field, these tactical chest rigs include multiple storage pouches for magazines, ballistic plates, maps, flashlights and more. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 28, 2021:
Most of our choices from last year managed to make it through this round of updates without any trouble, but we did notice some availability issues surrounding the Voodoo MSP-06 and two options from UTG that we’d previously listed. As such, we removed these choices to make room for a few new selections.
The first was the Yakeda Ultra Light, which – on top of impressing us with how many styles of camouflage it was offered in – caught our eye with its maximum height recommendation of 6’6”. Options in this category are very typically one-size-fits-all units with adjustable designs, but many cap the maximum height they suggest at around 6’3”, so we thought this vest was worth including in the interest of tall users.
The GNNFIC Mountaineering stands out on our list for the same reason that it will hopefully stand out in a crowd or bush: its bright-orange aesthetic. Recognizing that high-vis gear is the last thing many users shopping in this category are looking for, we ranked this option relatively low on our list, but we still thought it was worth including for hunters or security guards who could stand to benefit from it.
Our last new addition this time around was the Uwantme Strike Elite Series, which was added, if nothing else, for a bit of fun. The Strike Elite Series is a kid-sized option that comes with safety glasses, a skull mask, and even a bracelet to hold extra ammo. The catch is, this one wasn’t designed for paintballers or rioters storming the Capitol, but rather for young ones looking to have some fun with Nerf guns. Its priced very reasonably, making it a viable gift for a nephew or niece, it comes with 30 foam darts, and it could be a good way to start grooming your kids for their future on your airsoft team — which are all factors that helped this option clinch a spot at the bottom of our list.
If you need any more help expanding your collection of tactical gear, we’ve got your back. Check out some of our related rankings; we’ve got lists of sunglasses, belts, pens and more. You might even find a coordinating outfit for your four-legged friend among our selections of tactical dog vests.
February 20, 2020:
It’s worth noting that, for those unfamiliar with the term, “MOLLE” refers to Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. Many of the items on this list are made with MOLLE webbing for attaching additional gear to the vest.
Quality concerns led us to remove the Rothco Cross Draw and Barska Loaded Gear VX-200. The Rothco model is much smaller than advertised, with shoddy zippers and poor craftsmanship. The sizing of the Barksa vest is way off as well, and users complain of a lack of MOLLE attachments.
The GFire Modular and GZ Xinxing Adult (the two new additions to the list) are best suited for combat training, general field work, and paintball/airsoft shooting games. The latter is a nice choice for large individuals, as it will fit those with up to a 61-inch waist.
Drago Airsoft Vests These two options from Drago Gear — the Fast Draw and First Strike — are built specifically for competitive airsoft players. They’re both ambidextrous, with detachable belts and plenty of D-rings for attachments. Padding in the shoulder area adds comfort and limits slipping. dragogear.com
Rogue Fitness 5.11 TacTec Designed for athletes who use weighted vests as part of their workout regimens or competitions, this plate carrier rig is made with high-quality nylon and advanced airflow channels to help keep body temperature under control. It’s great for CrossFit, but shouldn’t be used as body armor. roguefitness.com
SK7 Advance If mobility and agility are more important for your purposes than heavy-duty protection, this super-lightweight vest may fit the bill. Its soft, cushioned collar won’t irritate your neck, and its resilient finish helps repel water and prevent stains. It has 18 pockets spread across the front and back. sk7usa.com
The Many Uses Of The Tactical Vest
At its core, a tactical vest is nothing more than a series of pockets logically laid out for easy access and even weight distribution.
While the modern tactical vest was designed for use by military and law enforcement professionals, they can actually be used by anyone for a wide range of applications. At its core, a tactical vest is nothing more than a series of pockets logically laid out for easy access and even weight distribution. And while many vests are indeed limited in their use beyond martial applications, being specifically designed to hold ammunition and weapons, many are modular and adaptable.
For the soldier or policeman, the tactical vest is the ultimate way to distribute the weight of the gear necessary for safe and effective performance in a tactical situation. A good tactical vest reduces the time needed to retrieve a magazine used to reload a weapon or the communication device needed to stay in touch with the team. Every second counts in a fight or an emergency situation, so it's imperative that you choose the right vest to suit the gear you'll use and the situations in which you will find yourself.
Many tactical vests have slots and pouches specifically designed for ammunition, or ordnance like shotgun shells or flash-bang grenades, which are frequently used in strike types of operation, while others are more oriented toward longer-term missions and have compartments for hydration systems, rations, maps, and more.
A tactical vest is also a great choice for first responders who need ready access to various types of bandages, diagnostic tools, and other medical supplies, as well as for the journalist or photographer covering combat or other fast-moving scenarios where quick access to recording devices, cameras, and notebooks means the difference between capturing or missing the moment.
Beyond those tense, fast-paced scenarios, tactical vests are simply convenient tools for the fisherman, the hunter, the hiker, or even the construction professional. A fisherman can bring all the bait, lures, hooks, and other supplies he wants along without the need for a tackle box thanks to a tactical vest. With the right vest, hikers or climbers can distribute the weight of energy bars, water, first aid gear, and other sundries across their torso, making mobility easier and reducing fatigue. As for the construction professional, a vest distributing tools and hardware across the body means freedom from that cumbersome tool belt.
Choosing A Tactical Vest
When choosing a tactical vest, always look first at the gear, medical supplies, weaponry, and/or other equipment you are likely to need in the course of your work or hobbies. Choosing a vest based on its own merits and without thinking of how it suits you will invariably lead to choosing the wrong option.
While tactical vests can vary considerably in cost, you can't well put a price on safety and performance, so be ready to spend the cash for the right unit.
Once you know everything you need to carry, next consider the fit and adjustment potential of any vest that seems like it will serve you. An ill-fitting tactical vest might do more harm than good, hampering your ability to move quickly and safely. If a vest can't be made to properly fit your body, then it won't be the right choice for you no matter how much its layout appeals to you.
Next consider what additional attributes are important to you; consider elements like breathability, hydration system incorporation, modular customization options, and even color and appearance.
Only once you have identified which tactical vests will adequately house your gear and will properly fit your body should you consider price. While tactical vests can vary considerably in cost, you can't well put a price on safety and performance, so be ready to spend the cash for the right unit.
Tactical Vest Use And Maintenance
Unlike that favorite pair of blue jeans or your old baseball cap, a tactical vest does not improve with age and wear. Especially if you are an active duty professional soldier or law enforcement officer using a tactical vest in the line of duty, it's important to replace your vest frequently.
As for the proper use of your vest, make sure to load and wear your vest exactly as you would in the field many times before you ever bring it along for the real deal.
In fact, a tactical vest should be replaced as soon as it shows any sign of being compromised, from a zipper that sticks to a tear in a panel of fabric to something as seemly mundane as velcro that has worn down a bit. The first time your vest hampers rather than heightens your ability to perform in the field may well be the first time you find yourself in a seriously dangerous situation.
While your tactical vest is still in good working order, though, its upkeep and general maintenance should be relatively simple. Clean the vest regularly, especially when it comes into frequent contact with the oils and residue associated with proper gun care or with fluids leaked from medicines or antiseptics. Even mundane substances like sun block and insect repellent can seep into a vest and impact the way it performs, so keeping the vest clean is part of keeping it in good working order.
As for the proper use of your vest, make sure to load and wear your vest exactly as you would in the field many times before you ever bring it along for the real deal. You should know where each item is housed as second nature before the first time a given item is ever needed in action.