Tactical Vest Ultimate Guide: Top 5 Picks for 2023

Whether it's special forces in covert operations, outdoor enthusiasts prepping for an adventure, or marksmen at the shooting range, the tactical vest stands out as a hallmark of readiness and rugged efficiency.

This guide promises a deep exploration into the significance and versatility of tactical vests and the nuances of picking the right one for your needs. Whether you're well-acquainted with tactical gear or just dipping your toes, we're here to equip you with knowledge. Let's get started!

tactical vest

What Is a Tactical Vest?

A tactical vest, at its core, is a piece of gear designed to provide the wearer with the capability to carry and quickly access essential equipment, be it ammunition, communication devices, medical supplies, or other vital tools.

Made with functionality as a prime focus, these vests often come with a plethora of pockets, pouches, and modular attachments, catering to the unique needs of the user.

The history of the tactical vest traces back to the mid-20th century, a time when military engagements across the globe demanded more efficient gear for soldiers on the front lines.

Though the earliest forms of these vests were rudimentary and focused mainly on carrying ammunition, they evolved rapidly in response to changing warfare dynamics. As conflicts grew more complex, so did the vest's design, accommodating a wider range of tools and ensuring that a soldier's necessities remained within arm's reach.

Fast forward to today, the tactical vest isn't solely confined to military applications. It has found a place in various sectors, highlighting its versatility:


Beyond carrying ammunition, modern tactical vests in the military realm also accommodate communication gear, night vision equipment, and even hydration systems. They are vital for soldiers, providing both functionality and a degree of protection.


For hunters, a tactical vest can be a game-changer. It aids in organizing hunting gear, from ammunition to binoculars, ensuring everything is accessible during those critical moments when the game is in sight.

Outdoor Activities

Be it hiking, camping, or even paintballing, tactical vests offer a hands-free solution to carry essential items. They distribute the weight of the gear across the torso, making it easier for outdoor enthusiasts to move freely and comfortably.

Types of Tactical Vests

While all tactical vests serve the fundamental purpose of carrying equipment, the design and functionality differ based on specific needs and scenarios. Let's get into the various types, shedding light on their unique features and uses.

Carrier Vest

Also known as plate carrier vests, these are designed to hold ballistic plates, offering protection against gunfire. The emphasis here is on defense without compromising too much on mobility.

These vests often come with MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) webbing, allowing users to customize their gear layout.

Bulletproof Vest

As the name suggests, these vests prioritize protection. Made with layers of strong fabric that can absorb the impact of bullets, they can be lifesavers in direct combat scenarios. While they offer paramount security, they might be bulkier and less versatile in terms of gear storage compared to other types.

Cross Draw Vest

Designed with the firearm enthusiast in mind, these vests come equipped with a built-in holster and multiple pouches for magazines and other essentials. They're structured for quick access to weapons and are often used in shooting ranges and tactical training scenarios.

In addition to firearm essentials, the vest's pouches are versatile enough to accommodate other gear, such as various tactical knives, enhancing its utility in diverse scenarios.

Tactical Molle Vest

Emphasizing modularity, these vests use the MOLLE system to allow users to attach a wide variety of pouches, holsters, and other gear, tailoring the layout to their specific needs. It’s a versatile pick, suitable for multiple scenarios, from military operations to outdoor adventures.

Choosing the right tactical vest is imperative. The right vest can enhance mobility, provide protection, and offer quick access to gear, making tasks more efficient and safer.

Thus, when deciding on a vest, it's crucial to consider the specific demands of the activity you're engaging in. A vest that's perfect for a shooting range might not be the best for a multi-day hiking trip.

Always align the choice with the mission at hand, ensuring the tactical vest serves as a true extension of your intent and needs.

For those who use tactical vests as part of their concealed carry strategy, understanding the legal requirements is crucial. Learn more about how to get a concealed carry permit for all states, ensuring you're well-informed and compliant with the law.

Tactical Vest - Top 5 Picks for 2023

In order to help you find a perfect tactical vest for men or women, we've sifted through the vast array and handpicked a few that stand out for their features and overall performance.

Tactical Vest #1 - Tasmanian Tiger Chest Rig MKII M4

The Tasmanian Tiger Chest Rig MKII M4 is a lightweight tactical vest that distinguishes itself with a universal harness design, aiming for adaptability and functionality.

Made of durable CORDURA 700 den, it balances weight at 39oz / 1.1kg, ensuring users don't feel bogged down. The five magazine pouches at the front emphasize utility, ensuring ammunition is always within grasp.

This lightweight tactical vest also comes equipped with two versatile side pockets, perfect for a US 1-liter water bottle, and a fold-out pocket designed explicitly for armor plates.

User comfort is prioritized with adjustable padded straps, while the MOLLE System on essential areas guarantees customization.

Tasmanian Tiger Chest Rig MKII M4

Tactical Vest #2 - Emerson LAVC Assault Tactical Vest MOLLE Quick Release Plate Carrier Body Armor

Craftsmanship meets innovation in the Emerson LAVC Assault Vest. With material options ranging from US Crye Precision Multicam Cordura 500D Nylon Fabric to others, it offers diversity in appearance while maintaining quality.

The vest, while being durable and water-resistant, emphasizes user comfort with its interior air mesh padding, ensuring ventilation and protection.

Usability stands out with features like a quick-release cummerbund, laser-cut MOLLE, and an essential emergency drag handle, all testifying to its design thoughtfulness.

#CommissionsEarnedEmerson LAVC Assault Tactical Vest

Tactical Vest #3 - GFIRE Tactical Vest

A fusion of elegance and efficiency, the GFIRE Tactical Vest is a testament to detailed craftsmanship. Composed of high-quality 1000D fabric paired with high-tensile strength thread, it promises durability.

Comfort remains at the forefront with its breathable 3D mesh padding, ensuring a pleasant wearing experience. What adds to its appeal is the MOLLE system, rapid-open connectors, and a distinctive cummerbund design, enhancing both utility and protection.

Moreover, its adjustability from sizes S to XXXL ensures a broad spectrum of users find their perfect fit.

#CommissionsEarnedGFIRE Tactical Vest

Tactical Vest #4 - Omega Elite™ Tactical Vest #1

With the insights and recommendations of elite operators, the Omega Elite Tactical Vest #1 exudes confidence in its utility and resilience. Its nylon mesh construction promises durability without compromising breathability.

Features like the adjustable length and girth, heavy-duty YKK® zipper, and reinforced drag handle underline its premium nature. The vest also boasts two sizable internal accessory pockets, diverse mag pouches, and the innovative S.T.R.I.K.E.® webbing, promising versatility in storage and customization.

#CommissionsEarnedOmega Elite™ Tactical Vest #1

Tactical Vest #5 - HUNTVP Military Tactical Vest Outdoor Army Molle Combat Assault Plate Carrier

HUNTVP’s offering is not just a military vest but an emblem of style blended with robustness. Made from 600D nylon, it vouches for longevity. Its unique selling points include four detachable pouches, an efficient MOLLE system, and plate accommodations.

Furthermore, safety is amplified with a quick-release cable, ensuring emergency removals are seamless. This military vest stands as a versatile piece, catering to activities spanning from shooting to mountaineering.

HUNTVP Military Tactical Vest

What To Look For When Buying a Tactical Vest

Now, to simplify the process of finding and purchasing the best tactical vest, we’ve broken down the key elements you should consider before making that all-important decision.

Material and Durability

At the core of any tactical vest lies its material. The durability and longevity of a vest predominantly depend on the quality of the fabric used. It's not just about buying a tactical vest; it's about investing in one.

High-quality materials, such as Cordura or 1000D nylon, ensure the vest withstands rigorous conditions, making it imperative to prioritize the vest's material and stitching quality.


The best tactical vest isn’t just about its standalone features but its adaptability across diverse situations. Whether it's for outdoor exploration, hunting expeditions, or military endeavors, your vest should seamlessly fit the requirements.

It's worthwhile to consider if the vest comes with modularity features or if it is specially tailored for specific scenarios.

Size and Fit

A tactical vest’s utility is significantly hampered if it doesn't fit right. Especially when considering tactical vests for men, it's vital to remember that male vests might be designed differently, taking into account broader shoulders or torso lengths.

Ensure the vest is adjustable, catering to both girth and length, guaranteeing a snug fit. Remember, a well-fitting vest aids mobility and ensures the gear stays in place.

Additional Features

Features such as pocket placements, the extent of the MOLLE system, and compatibility with other gear are essential considerations. Whether it's a pouch for your map, space for armor plates, or an efficient quick-release system, the tiny details in a vest's design can enhance its overall functionality.

What Is the Difference between a Tactical Vest and Plate Carrier?

Tactical vest is primarily designed for gear storage. It offers multiple pouches and compartments for items like ammunition and radios. Made from durable materials, they emphasize utility and accessibility.

On the other hand, plate carriers - as the name implies, are crafted to house ballistic plates, offering protection against gunfire. While they can carry gear, their main focus is safety. They're typically more robust and heavier than tactical vests due to the protective plates.

Unlike the ability to customize your plate carrier to suit specific needs, tactical vests often come with predefined pouch placements and storage options, catering to a range of standard operational requirements.

In essence, while tactical vests prioritize carrying capacity, plate carriers emphasize ballistic protection.

What Is the Difference between a Tactical Vest and Body Armor?

The difference between a tactical vest and a body armor is that body armor emphasizes personal protection (protects wearers from physical harm, especially ballistic threats), whereas tactical vests prioritize utility and gear organization.

What Goes Well With Tactical Vest?

Once you've selected the ideal tactical vest to suit your specific needs and scenarios, whether it's the mobility-focused Chest Rig or another type, the next step is to complete your tactical look. You can start with selecting your tactical hat or other complementary accessories that enhance both functionality and style.

TradeSmart Tactical Hat combines utility with comfort. Made from 100% cotton, it ensures a breathable fit, warding off itchiness and discomfort, making it suitable for prolonged wear.

The unique easy-clip closure, featuring a 3/4" buckle, not only assures a snug fit but also allows the hat to be attached to belts, backpacks, or tactical vests, always keeping it within reach.


TradeSmart Tactical Hat

TradeSmart Tactical Hat

With outdoor activities often leading to perspiration, the hat's moisture-wicking sweatband becomes invaluable, soaking up sweat and drying swiftly to minimize discomfort. This extremely thin sweatband, made from high-quality materials, ensures the hat can be comfortably worn with TradeSmart earmuffs, and still maintain a strong seal against noise leaks.

Durability is a hallmark of the TradeSmart hat; it's built to retain its shape and hue even after repeated washing.

Furthermore, it addresses a common grievance of many shooting enthusiasts – the pesky top button. Its ‘no-top-button design’ ensures you won’t feel any pain or discomfort caused by the button pushing into top of your head from the headband while wearing over-the-ear hearing protection. 

A boon for safety-conscious individuals, the hat is designed to be seamlessly paired with safety glasses. Plus, its ponytail-friendly architecture caters to a plethora of hairstyles, ensuring everyone gets a perfect fit.

For those wishing to personalize their hat, added Velcro patches enable customization.

Rounding it all off, a 2-year warranty signifies not just the product's quality but the brand's confidence in its offering.

Prime Try Before You Buy

Firearm Safety Course

Dovetailing with TradeSmart's commitment to safety and proficiency, our brand, renowned for its tactical gear, has introduced an innovative firearm training program – the TradeSmart Firearm Confidence Course.

Developed in collaboration with eminent industry specialists, this premium course is meticulously curated to offer an unparalleled understanding of firearms.

Spanning 10 exhaustive modules, each containing over 15 detailed lessons, participants receive over an hour of expert instruction. Esteemed gun safety instructors like Candy Sugarman, the powerhouse behind Gun Powder Gals, and Hunter Elliott of RangeHot.com, ensure a well-rounded and comprehensive learning experience.

From the foundational aspects to an all-encompassing 'Course Recap', the curriculum delves deep into topics like firearms classification, handgun operations, gun safety, ammunition intricacies, and special licenses, among others.

Firearm Confidence Course

This course doesn't just aim to educate but to instill confidence in firearm handling, reinforcing TradeSmart's unwavering dedication to safety and expertise.


In summary, the tactical vest remains an indispensable tool for individuals across various professions and passions. From military operatives to outdoor aficionados, the vest's blend of functionality and adaptability makes it a prime choice for those keen on efficiency and preparedness.

As with any piece of tactical gear, the key lies in understanding one's specific needs and ensuring the chosen vest aligns seamlessly with those requirements. The right vest, crafted from durable materials and tailored for the intended purpose, not only enhances the user's efficiency but can also provide an added layer of safety.

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