Of all the tactical outfits associated with the primary use of firearms, tactical vests tend to slip under the radar of gun enthusiasts and hobbyists who haven’t really seen the need for them. The best tactical vests, however, give firearm enthusiasts a taste of what they’ve been missing out on all this time, leaving them wondering just how they survived without this essential accessory all this time. We’ve assembled a list of some tactical vest reviews which will hopefully help gun enthusiasts make the best choice in purchasing a tactical vest to meet their specific needs, otherwise, there are a plethora of reasons why professional law enforcement officials have them as an important part of their gear.
UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest
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|Nc Star Children’s Vest||View On Amazon|
Hunter Safety System Elite Vest
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Lancer Tactical Cross Draw Magazine and Pistol Holster Adjustable Vest
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Condor MCR5 Recon Chest Rig
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Best Tactical Vest Reviews
1. UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest
This tactical vest weighs 4.5 pounds and it really is a law enforcement standard vest in terms of its use. It’s durable and adjustable, but the way in which the pouches are designed and positioned makes it easy for trained officials to switch up their shells and magazines very quickly.
- The material made to construct the mesh is thick and sturdy, forming part of an overall tough, heavy-duty tactical vest
- The left side of the collarbone region features a pocket which can house a walkie-talkie
- Nice variation in what you can fit – either a P2220 (or M1911/Glock 17) or a couple of extra mags if you rather want to house six rifle mags
- Lots of space in a total of seven pockets which can effectively be reconfigured to store a range of items
- Some areas of the vest are a little uneven
- It is quite stiff
- The black-colored bit on the rifle stock’s grip sort of takes away from the whole idea of the vest being camouflage
This is indeed a tactical vest military personnel love because of a design that allows you to easily change over to breaching shells and other specialty shells.
2. Nc Star Children’s Vest
This is a vest for which its use you might be able to extend beyond the indicated 8-13 year age range, which is a good thing because it can store one 30-round AR magazine in each pocket and is made of durable material.
- The included pistol belt works very well to secure everything properly in its place
- The size is adjustable, so it fits a lot of different sized kids
- Very durable children’s vest which is made of heavy-duty material (PVC)
- Kids will outgrow this vest very quickly
- It really does seem like it was built for children because even if you’re small enough to fit into it, it won’t really hold your magazines, although it does fit a pistol nicely in the holster
This vest is indicated to fit children of ages 8-13 years, but in truth, it can go right down to fitting kids aged 6 years, depending on their size of course. Smallish adults will also fit into it, for instance, if you’re about 5’7 and weigh around 130 lbs. A well-made vest that might surprise you if you’re not expecting too much from what is essentially labeled a kids’ vest.
3. Hunter Safety System Elite Vest
A mere 5.4 pounds is a good base weight to have you feeling like you’re just wearing another one of your regular t-shirts, except you get an array of pockets that run very deep, lots of comforts and a very well built tactical vest.
- A super vest that offers great comfort in its lightweight
- Plenty of room to store a plethora of accessories
- This vest’s buckles are rubber-coated which is a great design feature to cut down noise, but since they’re a bit smaller than the matching harness, this makes for a great fit
- Soft fleecing used in the vest makes it nice and quiet
- It looks great in summer and offers very good camouflage, but it’s a dead giveaway in winter when the trees have bare trunks on them
This is a rather specific tactical vest that works well for those who are looking for something of this variety, otherwise, if you’re more of an outdoors, muddy-harness design type of guy, it may appear a bit too much. It has a super safety system, though.
4. Lancer Tactical Cross Draw Magazine and Pistol Holster Adjustable Vest
The base weight of only 3.8 pounds is a great starting point for this tactical vest because you’ll probably be storing and carrying some heavy artillery here! With a bit of adjustment in some instances, it’ll fit very snugly and it’s very comfortable too.
- Since the pistol holster is strapped on with Velcro, it’s conveniently removable
- The stitching is decent and the overall vest is quite sturdy, especially for its price
- You can hold guns that are pretty large as a result of how the holster is designed and you can also store shotgun rounds in the pouch to the upper-right
- Inserting your pistol into the holster will require an additional strap since the Velcro holding the holster in place doesn’t appear strong enough
- The belt’s Velcro’s must be adjusted on both sides, so you’ll have a problem making changes while in motion.
Anything which you plan to store in the pockets located in the interior must perhaps be wrapped in plastic or any waterproof covering, quite simply because sweat will seep right through the mesh. A very useful adjustable tactical vest otherwise.
5. Condor MCR5 Recon Chest Rig
If you’re a big bloke of around 310 pounds and 6’2, this is a chest rig you might at first hesitate to consider, but it fits well if you loosen the straps completely. It is one of the best plate carrier vests. This rig is made of high-quality material and its use can be extended by adding an EMT pouch along with a pistol holster.
- The stitching is impressively assembled and very strong, making for a chest rig that’s very well put-together for heavy-duty use
- It fits well and is surprisingly comfortable
- Surprisingly flexible as well in the mobility it offers the wearer
- Very customizable with the mag pockets that are removable
- The plastic buckles seem to suggest a weak point in the rig’s overall durability
- It’s a bit of a stiff rig but loosens up a bit with extended use
- When you open the Velcro seals they make quite a lot of noise
- Molle ladders are also quite tight and take some getting used to
Great rig overall which will do a good job used alongside your Condor gun cases. It meanders past the level of the waist, though it’s perhaps not entirely a true plate-pocketed chest rig.
Rapid Assault Chest Rig
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|5.11 Tactical PolyCotton TacLite Pro Vest||View On Amazon|
VISM by NcStar Molle Pals Vest
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Rothco Plainclothes Concealed Carry Vest
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Firepower Deluxe Tactical Vest Black
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6. Rapid Assault Chest Rig
This chest rig comes in a nice tan color, with the minimalist and unique design topped-off with a webbed strap. Half a dozen open pouches are held up by some swivel locking, making for great storage space for M4 magazines. In fact, we’d say this is a chest rig dedicated to storing M4 mags. There’s an extra pocket (mesh) on the rear as well.
- Very adjustable chest rig
- Fits tightly and appear to be very durable. You might even be able to use it without the retainers
- It’ll fit your AR-15 magazines very well
- Very clever design, especially if you’re an average-sized user who’s bigger than 5’10. It fits quite comfortably
- It won’t go beyond accommodating M4 mags though, so you won’t be able to fit AK-47 mags. So it’s perhaps a bit “too purpose-built”
- The mag pouches cannot be removed
This is a good chest rig which can become a great one if you take the time to do some modifications if required. Snip the excess straps off and seal the edges by burning them a bit. Otherwise, a great quality which you can get without having to clean out your bank account.
7. 5.11 Tactical PolyCotton TacLite Pro Vest
This 5.11 Tactical Vest is one which you’d consider if you were looking for concealment which comes with convenience. You’ll invariably need a holster, though (hook-and-loop, Velcro) to get the most out of it.
- A lot of pockets means LOTS of storage
- Accessories and handguns can be concealed in two quick-access compartments which are well-hidden
- It’s a light vest, but still covers the body well, while you can also wear it during hot summers
- Depending on its shape, you could easily fit a water bottle of up to 32 oz, perhaps even one which is a little bigger
- It’s kind of a must for you to purchase a 5.11 belt backup system holster otherwise you really won’t be able to use this vest properly. Your firearm will otherwise just flap around all over the place, which is not safe and is irritating too, so this means more costs
Military forces, law enforcement officials, and security personnel have all really taken to this 5.11 Tactical Vest, at more of a managerial level and it’s easy to see why. It serves many different requirements very well and aids the tactical process in different ways.
8. VISM by NcStar Molle Pals Vest
A nice weight of 2.2 pounds makes this a good vest to hold a selection of some basic survival gizmos and gadgets. The heavy-duty pistol belt ensures all your utilities such as binoculars, water bottles, radio, light ammunition clips, etc. are kept in place securely.
- It’s a very adjustable vest which doesn’t need any modifications to adjust to a perfect fit
- For the price it comes at, it’s a good product which has quite a lot of different uses
- Doomsday or survival preppers love this vest and it’s also good for activities such as hiking or hunting
- The heavy-duty pistol belt fits very securely onto the vest, which keeps everything you’ll carry in its place nicely
- This isn’t a tactical vest which you’d use on a long-term basis, especially if it’s combat-quality you’re after. The durability is somewhat representative of the price at which you’ll get this vest, with tell-tale signs like flimsy stitching that we find hard to believe would remain intact under the weight of a number of rifle mags
If you’re planning the occasional weekend away hunting, this is a great civilian replica of the tactical combat version, otherwise, you’ll get good functional use that doesn’t last too long, though.
9. Rothco Plainclothes Concealed Carry Vest
1.8 pounds added to by all the things you’ll want to carry in the 17 pockets makes for a very comfortable, everyday use carry vest by Rothco Plainclothes.
- This is a very well-made carry vest which offers great comfort too
- You really do get the 17 functional pockets, as advertised by the manufacturers
- You get good air circulation via the rear-located slit which is lined with a mesh; this really comes in handy in really hot weather conditions
- One of the better carry/tactical vests you’ll get at this price
- If you assume a seated position, any pistol you may have in the holster pouch will move across your weaker side’s upper thigh region, so this kind of makes it useless/risky to carry a pistol under practical circumstances
- Two of the pockets are a bit too close to each other, like the two front pockets towards the bottom
If you’ve previously had a lot of stuff to carry in your attire pockets like your jeans, etc, this carry vest will ease that burden very nicely with all the pockets. Whatever you have – keys, wallet, stationery, a 9mm firearm, etc. you’ll have plenty of space.
10. Firepower Deluxe Tactical Vest Black
One of the best tactical plate carrier. You really won’t feel the base weight of 3.2 pounds, especially considering you’ll be carrying quite a lot of stuff with the many pockets and plenty of storage space coming with this Firepower Deluxe tactical vest. The holster is Velcro mounted so you can pretty much replace it with anything else that can be mounted in the same way.
- Generally, this lightweight vest offers a great fit, but if you’re a bit smaller then you can still get a perfect fit with only a few adjustments
- For the price, this is a great tactical vest
- You can also fit AK mags, even though they’ll fit very tightly
- The stitching and materials used to produce this vest are of good quality, giving it a nice robust feel
- If we have to find something to complain about it’s the smell. This tactical vest reeks of a combination of the chemicals used to treat and manufacture plastic and nylon, and mothballs. It seems challenging to wash the smell off
Lots of pockets mean plenty of storage space for all your tactical essentials, such as rifle and handgun magazines, your radio, shells, and pretty much anything really. It appears to be very durable and is overall a pretty good tactical vest.
Tactical Vest Buying Guide
The primary reason why anyone would consider buying the best military tactical vest is indeed for some mobile and convenient on-body storage of some of the accessories used as part of a tactical exercise. The tactical exercise in question could be anything related to the shooting, but can also include outdoor activities such as hunting, hiking, camping, etc, in addition to tactical, combat-style shooting. For these and other reasons, a tactical vest isn’t only made for professional law enforcement officials such as the police, military personnel or security staff. In fact, a lot of tactical vests are produced with more of a focus on the passive side of combat situations, some of which can be used by civilians with absolutely no links to any form of shooting-related activities.
These are all the considerations we’ve taken into account when assembling our list of tactical vest reviews, which we’ve based on the collective experiences of our team of contributing shooting enthusiasts.
Why a Tactical Vest for Non-Military Users?
This is a question that often comes up among gun enthusiasts who practice shooting at the hobbyist level, with no professional links to military practices or law enforcement. While it is, by all means, a legitimate question, the answer sort of lies in the precarious position of professional law enforcement and military personnel, and perhaps even security staff. While these professionals are in a sense forced to use tactical vests as part of their professional work, they often only truly see the value of them outside of the professional work setup.
Most military officials, policemen, and security staff inevitably develop a love for shooting, with the shooting range and hunting fields serving as the only place where they can really go all out and actually use their firearms to their full effects. These professionals would naturally love to avoid real-life in combat situations which call for them to deploy their weapons, but on a hobbyist-level shooting becomes much more fun, even for them. This is where the importance of a tactical vest truly comes to the fore and tactical vests usually form just one part of four essentials shooting enthusiasts cannot do without, with the other three including shooting glasses, hearing protection (such as earmuffs or earplugs), and gloves. Those shooters who specialize in shooting activities such as outdoor hunting may also accessorize with hunting binoculars and rifle scopes or sights, otherwise, the gloves offer a good grip on the firearm, while the shooting glasses and hearing protection offer eye and ear protection, respectively.
The tactical vest comes into play to complete the shooting enthusiast’s selection of accessories by offering convenient mobile storage of even some everyday items such as lighters, maps, keys, spare change, wallets, etc. To the shooter, though, tactical vests are mounted with pouches useful for storing items such as a radio (or walkie-talkie), spare gun magazines and even pistols and firearms themselves. Things can go even further than that because some tactical vests have storage pouches specifically designed to conceal carried firearms, as can very easily be the case for a civilian just going about their everyday life in a state that has gun laws which make provision for such practices.
Perhaps the biggest reason for investing in a tactical vest becomes apparent when you’re out at the shooting range, however, because the way in which most good tactical vests are designed allows for very quick and easy access to your spare mags, offering a smooth and quick transition between shooting and reloading. Tactical vests offer continuity if we had to sum it up in one short sentence.
Different Types of Tactical Vests
Essentially there are three different types of tactical vests you’ll find on the market, which it must be said aren’t really explicitly classified by manufacturers when they sell them. The only real reason why you might want to know the difference again comes down to what you’re going to be using your tactical vest for. So the three main tactical vest types include:
- Chest Rig
- Cross Draw, and
- Plate Carrier
Knowing the differences between the different tactical vest types is essentially where your buying decision starts because this is what effectively dictates exactly what you’ll be using your particular tactical vest for.
Chest Rigs & Cross Draws
We grouped Chest Rigs together with Cross Draws because these are the most common types of tactical vests anyone would want to buy. In fact, when people talk about tactical vests in general, they’re often interchangeably referring to either Chest Rigs or Cross Draws, as opposed to Plate Carriers and this is where the discussion of Tactical Vests vs. Plate Carriers often comes into focus. We have indeed featured one or more tactical vests which would fall more under the Plate Carriers category as opposed to Chest Rigs & Cross Draws in our reviews, but that’s only because some users will indeed require the versatility and extensibility offered by Plate Carriers. Chest Rigs & Cross Draws, on the other hand, are mainly those types of tactical vests which normally have pouches that are attached to the main garment structure via Velcro strips or other equivalents, but the main defining factor is that these tactical vests are attached to some sort of belt-like structure as well.
Plate Carriers, on the other hand, don’t really have a belt attached to the plate carrier, making them appear as if you’re looking at more of a bulletproof vest than a tactical vest for carrying accessories. Plate carriers do tend to offer a bit more versatility than Chest Rigs and Cross Draws, particularly if you want to modify it to exactly suit your needs from a vest right down to the finest detail.
What to Look for in a Tactical Vest?
Now when choosing a tactical vest to purchase, there are essentially three things to look out for, namely:
- Comfort & Fit
- What you can carry in it
- How it’ll affect your performance
Comfort & Fit
There’s nothing worse than wearing a tactical vest which you can’t wait to get home and take off again because this takes a lot away from the actual experience of what you’re doing, such as shooting, hunting, camping, hiking, etc. While tactical vests are made to improve your experience, the one you pick has to fit you almost perfectly, otherwise, it’ll act as more of a hindrance than anything else. You can have all the pouches and hidden compartments your heart desires, but if your tactical vest doesn’t fit properly then it all becomes rather pointless because you’ll seldom use it. Fortunately, though a good few tactical vests come with the adjustability factor and can be adjusted and even modified for a perfect fit.
- What you can carry in it
This really is a no-brainer because you essentially buy a tactical vest based on what you want to carry. Different vests offer different pouches to carry all sorts of different stuff. Some even have pouches for water bottles, while others have holsters and pouches which can be removed and replaced.
- How it will affect your performance
This goes back to the comfort and fits and basically, a well-fitting tactical vest enhances your performance by allowing you to easily carry all which you want to carry, while one which doesn’t fit too well will only slow you down and perhaps even distract you if it serves as a constant irritation.
Buying Guide Summary
It’s all good and well to point to comfort/fit, what you can carry, and how your performance is affected when discussing how to choose the right tactical vest. Without trying it on and essentially testing it, however, this can prove to be a very difficult task. So to sum up the vest buying guide, here’s how to choose a tactical vest based on these three important considerations.
- To ensure comfort and fit, first narrow the search down to a size you normally buy in other garments, such as Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, etc. Next, look for the adjustability factor, which is often presented in how you can extend or shorten the straps and harnesses.
- With regards to what you can carry in your tactical vest, it usually just comes down to the number of pouches it offers and how big each of them is. You might be able to fit M-4 magazines for example, but then not be able to fit AK mags in the same pouches. Perhaps the AK mags might fit, but then that would likely make for a very tight fit which affects your mobility and performance.
- We’ve touched on how your performance could be affected in the previous point, but it can go a bit further than that with considerations such as where your pistol points if you insert it in a specific holster. Does it point in a safe direction when you sit down for instance or do you perhaps have to position your firearm for quick-drawing in what is essentially your weaker side?
Tactical Vest Modding Check-List
Naturally, there may be a tactical vest that is just a tiny bit out of the reach of being a perfect fit for you and that’s essentially where the effectiveness of a tactical vest lies (fit). It simply has to be a perfect fit, otherwise, it can just very easily turn into a worthless investment because it becomes more of a hindrance than the enhancement it was originally meant to be. Even with all the built-in adjustments, however, sometimes getting your tactical vest to fit just right requires a little more tweaking and modding beyond the built-in adjustment mechanisms such as loosening or tightening the harnesses, attachments, belts and Velcro strips. Here’s a check-list of some mods you could do if you don’t want to toss your tactical vest aside because of fitment issues:
- Machine-wash the vest on the “heavy” setting to loosen up stiffness
- Cut the Velcro to make the sharp edges and corners round, to eliminate some weight and possible irritations
- “Break-in” the Velcro noise by attaching and detaching any chance you get
- Snip off any protruding threads, but don’t yank them off because this might lead to some un-stitching
- If the pockets and holsters come off completely, you can replace and rearrange them with others that also attach via Velcro
Once your tactical vest fits you perfectly, all the features it has to offer will be enjoyed much more comfortable and you can then get the most out of it.
Best Tactical Vests Comparison Chart
|UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest||$$||Army Digital||Velcro Closure, Drain Holes and Elastic|
|Nc Star Children's Vest||$||Black||For 8-13 year olds|
|Hunter Safety System Elite Vest||$$$||Realtree Xtra||Weather resistant Removable accessory straps|
|Lancer Tactical Cross Draw Magazine and Pistol Holster Adjustable Vest with Belt||$$||Black||Fully adjustable 4 panels|
|CONDOR MCR5: RECON CHEST RIG||$||Tan||3 built in Padded cross|
|Rapid Assault Chest Rig||$$||Tan||Padded cross-back shoulder strap Heavyweight webbing|
|5.11 Tactical #80008 Poly/Cotton TacLite Pro Vest||$$$||TDU Khaki||Polyester 65% / Cotton 35% Two concealed carry compartments|
|VISM by NcStar Molle Pals Vest||$||Black||Heavy Duty Pistol Belt 6 Side Adjustment Straps|
|Rothco Plainclothes Concealed Carry Vest||$$||Khaki||16 front pockets 100% Polyester|
|Firepower Deluxe Tactical Vest Black||$$||Black||Fully adjustable Rifle and pistol mag pouches|
If you haven’t owned or used a tactical vest before, we sincerely hope we’ve made the process of possibly choosing your first of many to come much easier, as it can get rather confusing to choose the right one for you. Hopefully, our efforts in putting together these featured tactical vest reviews have highlighted the important features to look out for in the best tactical vests. Remember that it ultimately comes down to your specific needs, which in a sense should guide your hand in picking out a tactical vest that’s just right for you, whether you’re a hunter, hiker, competitive game shooter, etc.