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.