Best Tactical Vests For the Money in 2018: Cross Draw & Chest Rig Reviews

Tactical vests are one of the handiest pieces of gear a shooter can have. From actual firearm users to Airsoft mil sim players, the tactical vest is a valuable piece of gear. It allows easy access to your ammunition and kit in the middle of an engagement.

If you are a serious shooter, you’ll want to own a tactical vest whether it’s for paintball fun, tactical training or for a survival scenario.  How you plan to use it will determine the best tactical vest for your circumstances, but not owning one really shouldn’t be an option if you are a serious shooter.

With that being said, here are 10 of our favorites.  In the article below we’ve provided you with our Top 10, some tactical vest basics, as well as an in-depth look at each vest.

Tactical Vest Comparison Chart:

UTG 547 Tactical VestCross Draw4
Leapers Sportsmans Tactical VestCross Draw4
Condor Cross Draw VestCross Draw3
Modern Warrior Tactical VestCross Draw4
NorthStar Tactical Assault VestCross Draw3
NC Star Tactical VestCross Draw3
Voodoo Tactical Entry Assault VestCross Draw3
Condor EliteTactical (Pistol on Belt)6
NCStar Molle VISMTactical (You Choose Specs)N/A
UTG Swat VestTactical (Holster is not Cross Draw)3

Now that you’ve seen our top 10 picks, let’s dive into some tactical vest basics, and then look at each vest in more detail.

Tactical Vest Basics:

Tactical Vest With AR-15Tactical vests are vests that are outfitted to carry and store tactical gear. This includes ammunition, magazines, flashlights, handcuffs, and other assorted gear.

Military and law enforcement often use tactical vests to conveniently carry mission essential gear.  The overall goal of a tactical vest is to give you easy access to your gear while carrying it comfortably.

Different individuals and their loadouts will have different needs for their tactical vests.The vest should position your necessary gear in such a way that it is organized and easy to reach. Gear like extra ammo and magazines should be prioritized in terms of easy access because in a firefight, reloading needs to be done as quickly as possible.

When choosing a tactical vest, the user should consider the weapon or weapons they are carrying. This includes their ammunition and magazine type, the presence of a handgun, and the presumed mission of the user. Tactical vests are not designed to be a one size fit all unit and should be tailored specifically for loadout and mission.

Tactical vests come in a wide variety of styles and layouts. The two options tend to fall into customizable and fixed layouts. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.

1. Fixed Layout Vests

Fixed layout vests come pre equipped with tactical pouches. These kits are generally arranged for right handed operators. These pre built kits are often more affordable when you factor in the included pouches.

Fixed layout tactical vests are generally designed to outfit a single rifleman. They have enough pouches and space for the modern tactical gear that shooters, police, and soldiers need.

2. Customizable Layout Vests

Customizable layouts give the user the ultimate control of their layout. There vests utilize MOLLE or PALS webbing to allow the attachment of different tactical pouches. Custom layout tactical vests are more friendly for left handed shooters, or for shooters who require special considerations.

The customization of these vests does bring their costs slightly higher. This is due to the need to purchase pouches. There is also considerable time required to weave the pouches in and out of the webbing.

3. Are Tactical Vests Considered Body Armor?

Tactical vests can be body armor, but they often aren’t. Certain tactical vests will have accommodations for hard plates, or soft Kevlar armor. These tactical vests are sometimes known as plate carriers.

Most tactical vests are designed to be load bearing equipment, and not body armor. This simplifies the system, and often makes it more affordable. Tactical vests can be worn over body armor in most cases and is the preferred method for police.

Wearing body armor throughout the day is quite common with police, but a tactical vest would not be needed most of the day. If a user chooses to wear a tactical vest over body armor it is wise to go with a size up from your normal sized clothes.

Tactical Vest Buyer’s Guide

AR 15 Tactical Vest

There are some important things to consider when purchasing a tactical vest.  Let’s look at the three primary issues (Capacity, Size, Weapon Choice) that you will need to address when picking out the perfect tactical vest to ensure you are mission ready.

Capacity: What is the goal of your mission? This is a major consideration when considering the capacity of your tactical vest. An overnight or expanded mission will require more capacity than a daylight raid. Ask the serious questions.  How much ammo do you need? How much water will you need? Do you need extra gear like maps, compasses, medical kits, or flashlights? Consider all these factors when purchasing, and shopping for a vest.

Size: Are you utilizing your tactical vest in a vehicle? If so you need to consider the overall size of the vest. A large vest will make climbing in and out of a vehicle difficult. Gear pouches are easily caught on in vehicles, doorways, and on things you’ve never considered.  A larger vest with a lot of pouches tended to get caught on the most random of gear. When operating out of a vehicle or in tight quarters, a minimalist approach should be taken with your kit.

Weapon Choice: Different weapons will require different gear to accommodate their ammunition source. A shotgun needs bandoliers to hold shells, and an AR 15 uses magazines. There is no universal ammunition pouch that works for every weapon. Even magazines are not the same size. An AR 15 magazine is much smaller than an AK 47 magazine. This means the same magazine pouches are not compatible with each other. If a pouch is too big magazines may bounce around, causing ammunition to become loose in the magazine.

Loose ammunition can fall out of the magazine, or get in the way of loading the magazine into the weapon. A secondary weapon like a handgun is going to be another consideration. Does your tactical vest have a space to mount a handgun? Are there any magazine pouches to accommodate extra pistol magazines?

If your tactical vest cannot accommodate a handgun, does it have a belt to accommodate a holster? A secondary weapon is almost always a necessity in tactical operations.

What’s the Purpose of a Tactical Vest?

Man Wearing Tactical VestTactical vests are used for a variety of different applications. There is always the need for police to be capable of quickly donning tactical gear for violent situations. The military basically invented the tactical vest and have been issuing one to soldiers for decades.

These days a wide variety of civilians utilize tactical vests for a variety of purposes. In home defense situations the tactical vest is an easy, and rapid to don tool that provides a home defender with ammunition on tap.

Hunters can utilize a tactical vest to carry a variety of gear as well. This allows them to avoid carrying a backpack. It also gives hunters the gear they need at their fingertips. They can access binoculars, maps, compasses, flashlights, laser range finders, and game calls in a flash.

Action sports like airsoft can make the same use of a tactical vest as a soldier or police officer can, although in a much less violent role. Airsofters in competition need to have immediate access to their gear and ammunition when playing.

The tactical vest is a great piece of gear for someone who needs to carry a wide variety of gear and needs it on hand. The applications of a vest go about as far as an individual’s imagination.

Top 10 Tactical Vests:

Now that you have the foundation for picking the best tactical vest for your application, let’s take a look at our Top 10 picks in much greater detail.  There are many vests you can choose from, but as discussed earlier, what you choose will largely depend on your application, mission requirements and/or aesthetic preferences.

We also want to say that this list isn’t all inclusive.  While we have done our best to pick our favorites, there are vests out there that are not sold for public use.  The vests we look at below are readily available for purchase and are a great compliment to any survivalist or firearms enthusiast.

1. UTG Law Enforcement Tactical Vest

UTG Tactical Law Enforcement VestThe UTG Law Enforcement Tactical Vest is designed as an entry level tactical vest. It’s outfitted with a wide variety of tactical pouches to suit most operator’s needs. The UTG Law Enforcement Tactical vest is designed to be completely adjustable and will fit most people.

The UTG Law Enforcement tactical vest is outfitted and designed to be used with a rifle based system. The layout is part fixed and part customizable. The fixed portion includes three double magazine pouches.

These double magazine pouches can hold up to 6 30 round AR 15 magazines. On the left side is a cross draw holster. Directly above the holster is three pistol pouches that can fit three double or single stack magazines.

There is also a belt that is attached to the vest that is designed as a heavy duty pistol belt. There are two horizontal magazine pouches on the belt for additional pistol ammunition. The back of the vest is covered with MOLLE webbing that makes the vest somewhat customizable.

Design – Customizable / Fixed Layout
Magazine Pouches – 3 Rifle – 5 Handgun
Vest Material Type – Mesh
Size – One Size Fits Most

2. Leapers Sportsman Tactical Scenario Vest

Leapers Sportsman Tactical VestThe Tactical Scenario vest by Leapers is mostly a fixed layout design that does incorporate some customizable options. The Leapers vest is set up with three double magazine pouches on the right hand side allowing the carry of up to six magazines. The Tactical Scenario vest has the option to add an additional magazine pouch on the left hand side.

The Tactical Scenario vest also features a universal holster on the left hand side. This holster attaches to the vest via hook and loop. The holster can be removed and replaced with rifle magazine pouches.

The holster also has an additional magazine pouch attached to it. The holster also uses an active retention device that clips into a buckle. The holster will fit most full sized pistols like the 1911 and Glock 17.

There are also three pistol magazine pouches above the holster, and an additional two that are included with a belt on the vest. This gives users the ability to carry 6 pistol magazines and up to 10 rifle magazines. This allows the vest to take on a sustained mission as well as a short one.

With a sustained mission in mind the vest has 2 internal pouches that can hold maps, and other documents that are mission necessary.

Design – Customizable / Fixed Layout
Magazine Pouches – 5 Rifle – 6 Handgun
Vest Material Type – Mesh
Size – One Size Fits Most

3. Condor Cross Draw Tactical Vest

Condor Cross Daw VestThe Condor Cross Draw Tactical Vest is a fixed layout vest that is complete for short, quick, and dynamic actions. The Condor Cross Draw is equipped with a cross draw holster on the left side of the vest. This holster is designed for duty sized firearms and uses active retention device to hold the weapon in place.

The Condor Tactical Vest is also fitted with a magazine pouch that is attached to the holster. Right above the holster is three additional pistol magazines. On the opposite side of the vest is three rifle magazine pouches.

These three pouches are single magazine pouches that hold only one rifle magazine. This slimline design is easier to use in and out of vehicles, and makes it easier to move in the tight quarters of a building or home. The magazine pouches are slightly adjustable and can fit both AR 15 and AK 47 magazine pouches.

The Condor Cross Draw vest is lightweight, and quite versatile. Above the rifle pouches sits a large shell pouch that is perfect for carrying shotgun shells. The pouch can also be used to store batteries, a small flashlight, or other utility gear.

Design – Fixed Layout
Magazine Pouches – 3 Rifle – 6 Handgun
Vest Material Type – Nylon
Size – One Size Fits Most

4. Modern Warrior Tactical Vest

The Modern Warrior Tactical Vest is an excellent vest for hard hitting, rapid fire mission, or for sustained missions. This vest would work well in hot environments. The mesh design of the Modern Warrior Tactical Vest allows the vest to breathe and remain cool regardless of the environment.

The mesh design also keeps the vest lightweight, and allows it to easily fit over body armor. The vest is also very adjustable and this also makes it easier to wrap around hard armor. The Modern Warrior tactical vest is aptly named since it can be used over modern hard armor.

The Modern Warrior vest features 4 large magazine pouches, three on the left side and one on the right side. These pouches can contain AR 15, AK 47, and even M1A, G3, and FN FAL magazines.

There is also a handgun holster that functions as a cross draw holster. The holster is designed for full size and compact firearms. There are three magazine pouches above the holster for extra pistol mags.

The included belt has two utility pouches. These pouches could be used for holding pistol magazines, but are quite long. They are better suited for a flashlight and pepper spray. The Modern Warrior Tactical vest is a solid choice.

Design – Fixed Layout
Magazine Pouches – 3 Rifle – 3 Handgun
Vest Material Type – Mesh
Size – One Size Fits Most

5. Northstar Tactical Assault Vest

Northstar Tactical Assault VestThe Northstar Tactical Assault vest is a good vest for both the rifleman and shotgunner. The vest features three magazines pouches that can fit a single magazine per pouch. This gives the user 90 rounds on tap for an AR 15.

The upper chest and shoulder portion of the vest are padded to protect the shooter from recoil. These recoil reducing pads are not needed with light recoiling rifles, but for a shotgun the shoulder pads really helps eliminate felt recoil.

There is a pocket above the rifle mag pouches for shotgun ammo. The Northstar Tactical Assault vest is outfitted with a cross draw pistol holster and the ability to hold 4 pistol magazines. Beside the holster is MOLLE webbing to attach some small pouches as well.

Design – Fixed Layout
Magazine Pouches – 3 Rifle – 4 Handgun
Vest Material Type – Nylon and mesh
Size – One Size Fits Most

6. NC Star Vest

NCStar Tactical VestThe NC Star Vest is another good option for those on a tight budget. It’s one of the few vests to offer a small size for kids and teenagers. It would be a perfect vest for airsofters or paintballers.

The vest features three large magazine pouches that can fit AK or AR 15 mags quite easily. The vest is also outfitted with a removable cross draw holster. If the holster is removed, you have a section to weave in any MOLLE or PALs accessory.

The NC Star vest also features a hydration bladder in a rear compartment of the vest. This is a unique feature that gives the user a good option for extended missions. The unit also has four magazine pouches and a rigid pistol belt attached to it.

Design – Fixed Layout / Customizable
Magazine Pouches – 3 Rifle – 4 Handgun
Vest Material Type – Nylon, mesh, and PVC
Size – Small to Extra Large

7. Voodoo Tactical Entry Assault Vest

VooDoo Tactical Assault VestThe Voodoo Entry Assault vest is a slim, and maneuverable vest that excels in close combat and vehicle borne operations. This vest is well designed to be used with the modern tactical rifle. The vest features three slim magazine pouches that can fit AR 15 or other 5.56 magazine pouches.

The left side of the Entry Assault vest has a section of MOLLE webbing that can fit a variety of pouches. The vest includes a cross draw holster that can be mounted on this section of webbing. The holster features a mag pouch on the holster and three additional pistol mag pouches.

The vest is very lightweight, and makes heavy use of mesh to keep the user nice and cool. The Voodoo tactical vest covers both shoulders with stabilizing ribs to ensure a solid fit between the rifle butt and your shoulder.

Design – Fixed Layout / Customizable
Magazine Pouches – 3 Rifle – 4 Handgun
Vest Material Type – Nylon and mesh
Size – Medium to 5 XL

8. Condor Elite Tactical Vest

Condor Elite Tactical VestFor the dedicated rifleman the Condor Elite Tactical is the go to Tactical vest. What designates the Elite Tactical vest as rifleman’s vest is the magazine pouches. It’s outfitted with 6 adjustable magazine pouches.

You can fit 12 AR 15 magazines, or 6 AK 47 magazines in the pouches. The pouches are set with elastic bands on both sides that allows the pouches to adapt to different size magazines. These bands hold the magazines nice and tight.

The vest is also outfitted with two accessory pouches above the magazine pouches. The back of the vest features a section of MOLLE so you can attach a hydration pack if desired. The Condor Elite Tactical is an excellent vest for serious shooters.

Design – Fixed Layout / Customizable
Magazine Pouches – 6 Rifle
Vest Material Type – Nylon and mesh
Size – One size fits most

9. NC Star VISM

The VISM vest is the lightest weight vest on this list. This is primarily due to the fact this vest is designed to be fully customizable. The vest is covered entirely by MOLLE webbing. The end user has the ability to completely customize this vest to their liking.

This is the perfect vest for a user who could fill a variety of roles at any given time. The VISM’s MOLLE system allows the attachment of tons of different pouches and gear. A use could run this vest for an AR 15 and instantly swap out for a shotgun or SMG configuration.

The NC Star VISM vest is simple and lightweight. The mesh material used keeps this vest light and breathable. The rear of the vest has a pouch for a hydration bladder and the vest is complete with a pistol belt.

Design – Customizable
Magazine Pouches – None included
Vest Material Type – Mesh
Size – Medium to XXL

10. Leapers Law Enforcement SWAT Vest

The Leapers Law Enforcement SWAT vest is a modern take on a classic vest. SWAT teams were some of the first to adopt the tactical vest concept. Their vests were surprisingly like the Leapers Law Enforcement SWAT vest.

This SWAT vest is a throwback, but is still very modern.  The vest is complete with three large rifle magazine pouches and two small pistol pouches. The vest has a cross draw holster to accommodate most duty sized pistols.

These is a large main pouch that can fit several 12 gauge shells. On the outside of that pouch is four fast access elastic bands for shotgun shells on hand at any time. The Leapers Law Enforcement vest is the best choice for those in the security and law enforcement realms who want to maintain a traditional appearance.

Design –
Magazine Pouches –
Vest Material Type –
Size –

Parting Shots

Tactical Vest are the most modern method of carrying the necessary gear into combat, into the arena, or into the field. These vests have come a long way in the last few years and now offer a wide variety of different configurations for different shooters. The law enforcement and military communities have widely embraced these vests.

They are a convenient method to carry gear, and at the same time place it right at your fingertips. Just remember when choosing a tac vest remember your mission, your gear, and how the vest can work for you.

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