When it comes down to it, most of us are always looking for a way to cram more gear into our backpack or in our pockets to help us gain some advantage, even if it’s the most minuscule advantage in history.
There are a few ways to do this while shooting, but none are more effective than a tactical vest, especially if we have a reason to use one. But even without a reason to use one often, we can still justify buying a good quality tactical vest.
The utility and mobility of using a tactical vest as opposed to a large backpack or another solution is seriously skewed towards the vest.
The way that weight is distributed and carried; the way that everything is within reach and the way that things are secured makes it a no-brainer type of purchase for anyone looking to plan for the worst, or someone who is using a lot of equipment when they shoot.
Admittedly, most people would laugh at the idea of using a tactical vest in a normal shooting environment (say shooting at the range or in the woods hunting), but the modularity of modern tactical vests give a lot of customization options and the ability to drop down the weight of the rig and get back to basics as needed. With the ability to ramp up storage and pack on the weight if needed as well.
The point of this article is really that we all can justify a better way to carry gear, especially for situations where we would want quick access to that gear. It doesn’t mean we all want a job as a tactical mall cop, just because we want a little utility with our shooting accessories.
It’s not up to us how you use your tactical vest, just that you understand what you are buying before you buy one.
This is an article with a list of the best tactical vest candidates. We will cover utility, materials, modularity, storage capacity and the intangibles that must be considered before you buy. If you have ever considered getting a tactical vest for whatever reason, we invite you to keep reading for some great in-depth analysis.
The 12 Best Tactical Vests
- Equipped with 3 dual magazine pouches that can accommodate two standard 30 round magazines each, providing space for 6 magazines total
- Can be adjusted to fit most adult sizes and features padded shoulder straps to maximize comfort.
- Quick-Release Buckles for Easy Use
- 600 Denier Light Weight Ballistic Polyester, High Tensile Strength Composite Polyester Thread
- Weight: 1.95 lb
Loaded Gear is not a top tier producer from a marketing and branding perspective but they are a volume producer with a pretty good reputation for producing nice gear at a good price point.
This particular chest rig is very good at keeping it on point for a chest rig’s initial design and application. It’s got utility without being frivolous or voluminous.
- Easy to justify for most shooters in most situations where convenience outweighs other aspects
- Less storage and customization options than some items on this list
Why It’s Recommended
The gateway drug of the tactical vest offerings, this is the easiest gear to rationalize for most shooters. Loaded Gear is comfortable, inexpensive and utilitarian without looking like you want to try out for jump school.
- Quality tested in the field, made of quality materials
- Built to withstand the toughest terrain and environments
- Don't sacrifice price for quality, with Blackhawk you get what you pay for
Blackhawk Commando is an O.D. green full carrying rig. And nothing else. So, don’t let the sticker shock stay with you too long. You are buying a premium base layer.
Just like you’d buy a great set of wool underwear for cold weather camping. What you put on top of it completes the ensemble this is just the starting point. It’s a carrier with MOLLE. Nothing more, nothing less. Made from a good quality company.
- A great base rig
- Top-quality producer
- A ton of versatility, without locking you into anything (except color)
- Expensive for such a basic rig – you’re paying for construction quality and brand name – view that however you may
Why It’s Recommended
If you have to pick a base rig, you want it to be from a top name in the industry. That’s exactly what the Blackhawk Commando is.
|EAN List||EAN List Element: 0643217088494|
|Product Type Name||SPORTING_GOODS|
|Title||BA8029 Amran Tactical Semi Modular Vest made by Marom Dolphin|
|UPC List||UPC List Element: 643217088494|
The big daddy of tactical vests ensures you won’t leave home without the kitchen sink included if you don’t want to. Yes, it’s modular; yes, it’s possible to construct a rig without buying an all-inclusive. Yes, this may be overkill for some.
But, if you are committed to the style, the comfort and the balance of this rig it’s worth the money because it is relatively good looking, it is comfortable, and it is balanced thanks to the backpack and hip points/harness.
- Tons of carrying capacity
- Good quality
- You have to be committed to the concept of tactical vests and other gear, and be willing to stay committed with the price tag and the size
Why It’s Recommended
If you want an out of the box all-inclusive and price tag doesn’t scare you off, this is probably your top choice. You get a lot for the money if you can handle the total price tag of the BA8029 Amran.
- Heavyweight webbing for modular attachment
- Swivi-Lockster - Swivel push release buckles
- Padded H-Harness with hook & loop, D-rings, and webbing
- Two mesh map pockets (one on each side)
The Condor is likely to be the most popular item on this list with the mainstream shooting crowd as it ticks all the boxes for a basic piece of tactical vest equipment.
It is simple, modular can be built out and is reasonably priced in a good color. It also happens to be made very well by a reputable company.
- Great company
- Simple and versatile
- Maybe too spartan. It includes no accessories at all
Why It’s Recommended
This is the easiest way to get into the game with your own fully customized Condor Tactical Ronin Chest Rig.
1 used from $44.91
- TACTICAL GEAR, HOLSTERS, MAGAZINE POUCHES
We aren’t sure the origin of this vest, but it sure looks like UTG/Leaper’s has a very legitimate claim to the design. It certainly seems they have been knocked off by many other manufacturers, or maybe they had some corporate espionage issues in their overseas facilities.
Either way, there are a ton of SUBSTANTIALLY SIMILAR (all caps for emphasis) tactical vests to this one. Here is the bottom line: this is a fantastic vest from practicality and a utility perspective, but also from a cost perspective.
When you are working with UTG Leapers you get a 100% warranted product. That’s the beauty of the customer service aspect of the gear industry.
- Great design if even a bit bulky
- Great warranty
- Knocked off by many companies
Why It’s Recommended
The warranty mostly, oh and the good underlying quality and utility. Beware of knock-offs with the UTG 547, even with great amazon ratings or otherwise solid background supporting information.
- SIZE: 57*44cm/22.5 *17.5inch, adjustable for adults, S-XXL: the maximum length waist is 53 inches (135cm), the smallest waist is 33 inches (85CM), it is adjusted to the maximum can be adjusted to fit the shoulder and waist size, please pay attention to the size of the information before ordering
- MATERIAL: 600D high-density Oxford fabric, features with a soft touch, waterproof etc. Veil breathable compartment gives you well-ventilated
- ACCESSORY: Numerous pockets give you more storage capacity. Left with detachable shotgun shell holder, utility pouch, 3 magazine pouches; Right with 3 Gadget pouch, Detachable gun pouch, Flashlight tactical pouch. Suitable for Special Mission, Combat Training, Field Operations and Cycling, Shooting, Hiking, Camping, Extreme Challenges, especially for the Military Fans
- SPECIAL DESIGN: Reinforced rescue pull handle is convenient for your carry; internal compartment allows you to put some more important item; equipped with a zipper, easy for your using and wearing; detachable velcro for personalized label
- RISK-FREE PURCHASE: You get a Black Combat Training Vest and our worry-free 18-month warranty and friendly customer service
We aren’t sure the origin of this design but REEHUT is one of the companies that utilize it. No recommendation here because we aren’t sure of the origin, but we cannot accuse REEHUT of stealing the design because we aren’t sure of the facts.
- A good design even if it seems like it might be a counterfeit
- Low price leader
- Still has a good warranty – but can you trust a company to honor a warranty if they steal designs? By the way, we aren’t sure that this is a STOLEN design, it could be licensed, it may be changed enough to be outside of protection – we just think it’s suspiciously close to the immediately above item
- Maybe a stolen design – we are unsure of this
Why It’s Recommended
We cannot recommend the REEHUT because we aren’t sure who owns the original design or what they have allowed license wise, but we will acknowledge that it has a good following and the design is legit from a functionality perspective.
- ADJUSTABLE & FIT ADULT from S-XXL: Adjustable shoulder and waist side straps, free size range from S to XXL.
- NUMEROUS POCKETS: The tactical vest come with a lot of useful pockets with zippers or buckles, provides large and secure storage.
- HEAVY DUTY: Heavy duty back loop system to carry additional outdoor gear and tools.
- BREATHABLE MESH: Tactical vest is mounted on tough nylon mesh material, more ventilative.
- HIGH QUALITY & DURABLE: Made of high-quality Polyester, strong and durable enough for long time use.
Great design, but by manufacturers’ marketing copy we are led to believe that they prefer the Lixada stays out of hardcore tactical use and be used for airsoft, etc.
We will follow their lead and say this is maybe best left to airsoft players, and not necessarily used by those who want it for real-world tactical use.
That’s not a knock, it probably works just fine for most civilian uses, but the manufacturer seems most comfortable recommending it for that use, so we do too.
- Huge size variability for big shooters
- Seems like it could be uncomfortably hot under most conditions
Why It’s Recommended
For the hardcore airsoft guys or for larger shooters the Lixada seems like a very good option.
- Adjustable sizing S-XXL for US Men's clothing size.For airsoft & paintball & cosplay. Only for game
- DURABLE & COMFORTABLE: Well made of 900D high density nylon,well constructed, strong tensile wear-resisting ability.
- ADJUSTABLE S-XXL: maximum chest size is 50 inches. be adjusted to fit max be adjusted to fit shoulder and waist size.
- Carry 3 standard magazine pouches ,1 map and flashlight pouch, 2 communication pouches and 1 medic pouch,all bags are removable.
- 30-Days NO RISK 100% Full Refund Assurance for any reason - The best and only vest you'll ever need. If you are not satisfied for any reason,such as size and any other reason, money back guarantee!
The GZ XINXING is a straightforward vest with good construction and offers a very strategic blank canvas with a nice selection of component spaces.
The company states that they are knocked-off often. This can cause some concerns with buying it originally, but the design is solid.
- Modular but not predetermined for you
- The vest is knocked off frequently – so make sure you are getting this version
Why It’s Recommended
The GZ XINXING is good enough to be heavily knocked off. That says a lot about the viability of this vest commercially. It also offers a lot for the price, considering you get a blank canvas.
The Condor Outdoor is where it starts to get into a bit much for a standard chest rig. Sure, we get the whole modularity thing: who are we to judge? But is it a chest rig or a full-on Tactical vest? We aren’t sure. Either way, it gets good reviews and we like many aspects of the build quality and the provenance.
- Good modularity and potential for expansion
- May not be a chest rig anymore, it’s got a lot going on for something that’s supposed to be very simple as a baseline.
Why It’s Recommended
The Condor Outdoor offers good quality from a good brand. Decent color choices.
- Fits AR-15 and AK Magazine Sizes up to 30 Rounds
- Adjustable to Most Adult Body Sizes (S - XXL)
- Two Pistol Magazine Pouches, fully Adjustable Belt
- Detachable Drop Leg Holster and Dump Pouch
- Emergency Drag Handle
Loaded gear offers a lot for the under $100 (at the time of writing) price point. The gear is quality, they do a good job at offering relevant items.
- The full get-up
- Good quality
- Decent color options
- Maybe a bit overkill for most users
Why It’s Recommended
This tactical vest is for full-on mode. If you need all this stuff, the price point is exceptional for what you get.
- YAKEDA KF-099 Chest vest is a versatile and multi-use platform. This system allows you to adjust the height to where you require the much needed.- 1000D nylon fabric excellent wear resistance, strength, light weight, waterproof.
- Is a fully adjustable system for adults, S-XXL: the maximum waist is 53 inches (136cm)， allowing adjustments to be made on your shoulders and abdomen area. With the use of pull straps and UTX buckles/clips, Padded cross-back shoulder strap with webbing and D-rings.The Chest Vest can be easily adjusted to suit the needs of the operator.
- It also comes with a 3D mesh spacer to allow passage of cool air and comfort. The upper section can be folded away to allow access to uniform pockets. This foldable section gives you 3 vertical & 7 horizontal strips of MOLLE to allow the attachment of additional pouches such as a Large Admin pouch or Forward Opening Admin pouch. Elastic loops on the shoulder straps are designed to secure comm’s equipment or hydration tubes.
- Has 4 removeable, closed top or open top magazine pouches, which allows you to carry 9 magazines. These magazine pouches are adjustable using the removable velcro straps.
- This chest vest also offers you all modular panels give you 4 vertical and 16 horizontal rows of MOLLE allowing you to attach additional pouches if needed.This item include 5 magazine pouch, Dump pouch,Tactical molle pouch,Tactical double mag pouch,Admin pouch.
The exceptional price point for what you get. The YAKEDA Tactical is a very adjustable (perfect for larger shooters) and a well-built tactical vest that is halfway between a chest rig and a tactical vest.
It’s really geared towards the cosplay/airsoft crowd according to their marketing (those two groups are completely separate consumer profiles – we aren’t trying to conflate them), but we suspect it could easily be used by hardcore users without too many adversities.
- All the good stuff, none of the ridiculous stuff
- Marketed mostly to the reenactment/airsoft/cosplay crowds which are three important groups, but they may not use it as hard as other users
Why It’s Recommended
The YAKEDA Tactical is a comprehensive, but it’s not ridiculous.
Condor Hydro Harness
- Condor Hydro Harness
The Condor Hydro is one of the best entries on this entire list because it offers the one item that everyone can agree makes sense.
It has a water-carrying pouch integrated into a chest rig. Brilliant for any shooting scenario that involves heat or exertion.
We are a huge fan of the simplicity and the utility of the rig, with the potential for upgrading to a more comprehensive buildout.
- Smart use of space
- Potential for lots of customization
- Maybe too simple?
Why It’s Recommended
The Condor Hydro Harness is the obvious utility of having water near you when you are hot and working hard: it just makes sense.
Styles of Vests
Most of the style availability of the tactical vests on the market stems from the original chest rig design or the shooting vest design which kind of piggybacks onto the old school fishing vest concept.
From an aesthetic perspective, it’s not really important to us that you choose one style over another, just that you understand the reason that most vests in this lineup look “tactical”, it’s because they ARE tactical. They are purpose-built for functionality and they need to have specific aspects built into the design to make them worthwhile to actual hardcore users of the products.
Many of the earliest iterations of the tactical vest were in response to special operators needing to have extra magazines or other implements close at hand in an “entry” type of scenario. It has since evolved into a whole bunch of different need sets.
From law enforcement and military to the prepper, to an airsoft enthusiast, there are different reasons why a different buyer would choose a specific product. Not every buyer of a tactical vest needs to be a special forces guy or a SWAT team member. Just because FBI HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) uses a tactical vest it doesn’t mean that I can’t use one on the range.
What we will say is that each style serves a different purpose. Chest rigs, as a single example, are mainly used to support the heavyweight of pre-loaded magazines, so you don’t get a sore back carrying a bunch of heavy magazines, and yet, you still have access to them for remote work.
For those who want to wear full coverage vests, you need to determine your use case first. Most styles are used for either hardcore legitimate tactical needs (remote capability and backup supplies), where this type of gear has become almost mission-critical.
Some seem more like what you buy if you just like the look of the tactical design. A lot of airsoft players catch a lot of flack for “impersonating” operators; military guys or whatever, but there is a very tactical reason to have a vest on when you are actually trying to win a game. Again, they look tactical because they are tactical.
You’ll also get differences in style based on materials used. We recommend having a combination of materials to alleviate different concerns. Webbing for lightweight strength; mesh for breathability and weight reduction; and heavy-duty fabrics for durability. Reinforcement can come in the form of specialty plastics or more fabrics, but we like the combination of the two if you have heavy loads you’re carrying.
Every one of these best tactical vest entries has a different look (although we did pick two of the exact same style to discuss the customer service aspects below), but all have some of the features as listed below. If you took a cross-section of the market offerings, you would find that these aspects are a good indicator of what’s available from a feature set perspective.
Features of the Best Tactical Vests
Some features that might be on the best tactical vest contenders from a functionality perspective:
- MOLLE webbing
- High-end hardware including buckles and strap tensioners
- Q/D (Quick detachable) hardware
- The ability to carry multiple magazines
- Good adjustment of the fit and load balancing
- Quick-release buckles and clips
- Color options
- Multiple materials to allow for balance and comfort
- The ability to carry hydration pack/camelback
- The ability to carry a ballistic plate
- Good padding
- Adequate ventilation
- High end elastic
- High-end mesh
- Heavy reinforcement of joints, seams and strap placements
- Something that can be washed to get rid of sweat and funk
The trend nowadays in the industry is towards modularity. Modularity is the way us shooters get to make something our own and the way that gear manufacturers can easily convince us to buy more stuff. It’s a win-win for the industry and the consumers.
Customization of anything involved in the shooting sports or for tactical needs is going to be important. It’s why the AR15 is such a popular gun. You don’t have to have it just like the next guy, you can get what works for you.
The modularity of most vests is what makes this such a hot market right now too. The concept, of being able to not only customize a tactical vest for looks, fit, weight or some other aspect but to be able to remove things that don’t make sense for your use case or to never have to buy the add-on in the first place if it doesn’t make sense for you, is a huge benefit.
The modularity is very important because we don’t need the same size mag pouches for our AR as we do for our HK pistol. We need to be able to adapt our gear to suit the need.
Admittedly, civilian guys who wear tactical vests have been at some points the brunt of a lot of jokes in different internet forums and even amongst peer groups, but the modularity and utility of the modern tactical vest take it from “wannabe” purchase to a legitimate usable item.
With the modular builds, you don’t need to be outfitted in your ballistic plate, to have a plate carrying capacity. You don’t need to have 24 mag pouches if you only need 2. You don’t have to have a connected lanyard if you aren’t going to risk having your gun stripped from you during heavy movement.
How you use it is up to you and up to how you buy the accessories of the system. And with MOLLE, you can get standardized pieces to fit onto your modular base unit which makes customization cheaper and less of a headache.
What is MOLLE
MOLLE is an acronym for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. Generally, it’s a Velcro and webbing/webbing strap mashup that offers lightweight add on the flexibility that we didn’t have before.
The ability to use daisy chains to add on pieces of equipment or use more modern clips, Velcro or web strapping means we can add a lot of functionality without having to build in it at the factory for every potential configuration.
MOLLE allows you to build as you go, with standardized products that all fit onto a system that allows for an incredible amount of customization. It’s like the workshop pegboard, with the specialized hooks and add-ons being the modular buildout components and the base vest being a (MOLLE CAPABLE) blank canvas of a pegboard.
Materials and Fabrics; Build Quality
Nylon Cordura is about the most popular material and it is used in heavy rotation with the tactical vest community. It’s relatively breathable considering it’s a synthetic fabric, and it’s very tough. Most people won’t be able to hurt it too badly under normal use cases.
We also see a lot of Velcro and polyester. There is a renewed interest in ripstop and cotton blends for certain aspects because of the breathability too.
We see a ton of mesh fabrics now integrated into tactical vests also because, for those that are wearing the equipment a lot, it gets hot and we want something lighter weight and with more airflow. Mesh, if reinforced properly can be lightweight durable, airy and comfortable.
Build quality varies, but every item on this “best of” list has the exceptional build quality, relevant to their useful feature set and the price point.
That is, most $45 vests aren’t competing with the $200+ vests, but they are all built with reinforcement in mind and the stitching, weight carrying ability, and distribution layout will be similar item to item within their price range. In short: a $45 vest is going to be similarly built to a different $45 vest when speaking strictly about the reinforcement, fabric choices, and materials used.
Capacity and Storage
This is a big concern. Many vests come overloaded from the factory – we tried to minimize the picks on this list when it comes to overkill. Ideally, a smart tactician is someone who optimizes their gear to the needs at hand. Running lean is a priority as long as you have what you need.
We view tactical shooting gear like we view ultra-lightweight backpacking, not like we view car camping or glamping.
Carrying less is usually more, as long as you have what you need. So, having a spartan vest rather than an overtly detailed and inclusive vest makes more sense more often.
That doesn’t mean you have to compromise on gear, it just means you shouldn’t be carrying everything you need to survive in the wilderness for 10 days if you’re using your tactical vest for a tactical carbine training course at a downtown Phoenix gun range. The probability of needing a cord saw to take down a tree limb is negligible in that setting.
So, this is where modularity factors heavily: use what you need. Don’t bring what you don’t. If you’re worried about when SHTF, bring it in your trunk. You can always plug it into the modular build later.
On the other hand, if you are reasonably expecting to be a cop in 12 months after you go through the academy and your beat will be southside Chicago, it might be smart to train in your body armor with a plate for obvious reasons. You’ll need to decide what makes sense for you.
Benefits of a Tactical Vest
The benefits of a tactical vest are pretty simple: you get what you need right at your fingertips and it’s in a comfortable load carrying “vehicle” that gives you good weight distribution. It is for ease of access, customization of gear and quick muscle memory work during stressful situations.
Note the tactical vest is not a tactical rifle case. Each piece of gear has its place. A tactical rifle case might be used in conjunction with the tactical vest but they each have their own purposes. So, make sure you are buying a piece of gear for the use case it was designed to do, or you risk being disappointed when reality sets in as to the capabilities of a specific given piece of gear.
Tactical vests offer many benefits: the best of which center around getting necessary items quickly without having to move to a different position. That’s what they were made for. You don’t have to be a Miami Dade SWAT guy to want that kind of utility. But be realistic about your buildout, because some things just don’t make sense for most shooters.
A note about Customer service
Customer service is very important in a market segment like vests – for several reasons. The most important is that many vests are substantially similar, in fact, some of them are the exact same. Some items like tactical vests come from vendors in foreign countries that sell to multiple resellers, who each have different customer service policies and different reputations.
We picked a couple of vests that are almost EXACTLY the same vest, for a reason: to show how important reputation and follow-through of the vendor can be when you are purchasing legitimate gear that will actually be used.
It’s important to know if the company will stand behind the commodity product. Like when you need to return a pair of jeans because they don’t exactly fit right, or when you need to return a computer because it doesn’t have fast enough RAM. You need to know that you can count on the vendor to help you through the process.
A good tactical vest can be quite a help in certain situations, though we admit it’s a specialty piece of equipment for most people. The list items here are easily the best tactical vest candidates and we think between them, you should easily be able to do two things: 1. Decide if a tactical vest or chest rig is for you and 2. Determine which one has the kind of utility you are looking for.
In closing, we will reiterate something we said a few times already: they look tactical because they are tactical. If you have a need from a tactical perspective to have a top-quality tactical vest or chest rig, we invite you to choose from the above list as we have already done the research for you.
Check out all the other tactical gear articles put together by the expert team at Guns & Safety Reviews below;
Best Tactical Vest
A tactical vest is a smart way to carry gear, especially in situations where you want quick access to said gear. Save time spent fumbling around in a backpack and take a look through our comprehensive list.
Condor Hydro Harness