If you are looking for information about the best airsoft plate carriers and tactical vests, you are in the right place! Carrying all of your airsoft gear on the battlefield is tough. You need the right loadbearing platform which makes it easy to move while holding everything you need to play airsoft. This gear includes your extra airsoft gun magazines, spare airsoft BBs for reloading your magazines in the field as well as your red rag (dead rag), communications equipment, snacks, and water. Learn more about the best tactical vests and plate carriers below.
About Tactical Airsoft Vests
As airsoft evolved into more of a milsim (military simulation) sport, airsoft vests, plate carriers, and tactical loadout equipment have become the standard for carrying gear on the airsoft field. These vests and carriers make it easy for players to maintain control of their gear and quickly move around the combat zone while having everything they need to achieve winning more games. They also have a super cool "operator" status look to them and protect player's bodies from incoming airsoft BBs.
Storing Gear in Tactical Vests
Airsoft tactical vests usually have many pockets, pouches, MOLLE attachment points (for more pouches), and other ways to carry large amounts of gear. This is a balancing act since it is a mix of carrying what you need but not too much. Avoid carrying so that it weighs you down or prevents you from moving quickly across the airsoft field. You can optimize your airsoft gear loadout with the best tactical pouches. Some commonly found items in a standard airsoft tactical vest loadout include the following.
Tactical Vest Loadout Gear:
- Spare airsoft gun magazines
- Sidearms like pistols (carried in holsters) or shotguns (carried in scabbards)
- Extra airsoft BBs
- Red “dead” rags
- Navigation items like pens, maps, and compasses (for larger open fields)
- Food: powerbars, trail mix, beef jerky, and other snacks
- Hydration: water and electrolytes
- Radios and communications gear
- Airsoft gun tools: multitools, field repair kits, and silicone spray
- Gear stored in tactical pouches
- Other equipment as needed by airsoft players
Vest Protection Levels
Tactical airsoft vests provide a few layers of extra material to help cushion the impact of incoming airsoft BBs. Some vests have more than others and some vests include hardened armor plates or ABS plastic scales. These airsoft vests have extra padding and protection, but almost every vest will offer some protection from incoming airsoft BBs.
One challenge encountered by wearing thick vests with rows of magazine pouches and a lot of gear attached to them is that players cannot feel their hits very well. In these cases, players need to listen for their hits and call themselves out as "hit" if their vest or gear is hit by incoming airsoft BBs based on the airsoft field or game rules.
Types and Styles of Airsoft Vests
There are several different types of vests and load bearing equipment used in airsoft. As a definition, an “airsoft vest” is a general term used to describe anything players tactically wear on the upper half of their bodies and holds airsoft gear. Keep in mind there are specific styles of airsoft vests and they are similar but different. Each vest presents different advantages and disadvantages depending on what airsoft players need or are specifically looking for in their gear. We will discuss the following types of these best airsoft vests.
Airsoft Vest Types:
- Pre-made tactical airsoft vests
- Tactical MOLLE vests platforms
- Airsoft plate carriers and armor holders
- Modular chest rigs and tactical half vests
- Tactical load-bearing vests (LBV)
Pre-Made Tactical Airsoft Vests
Pre-made airsoft vests are one of the most basic forms of airsoft vests. These vests come ready-to-play out of the box and are also some of the cheaper vests available while still maintaining good quality and durability. Many brands manufacture pre-made vests including Condor with their Elite Tactical Vest, BLACKHAWK! with their Omega Tactical Vest, and Classic Army with their Tactical Cross Draw Vest. If you are playing airsoft on a budget, pre-made tactical airsoft vests are great because they usually cost about $35 to $100 USD.
These vests are immediately usable and come with sewn in magazine pouches, pouches which hold airsoft BBs, and other pockets. The magazine pouches are specific to the vest models and usually come in M4 or AK47 styles. With pre-made vests like Condors Elite, players can attach a U.S. GI military web belt to the bottom of the vest. Here they can add things like dump pouches, drop leg holsters, and other belt pouches and accessories. The Elite airsoft vest back has MOLLE loop attachments for a CamelBak or other things like glow sticks or a shotgun scabbard.
Durability and Vest Types
Since these airsoft vests are factory constructed, they are very well made with solid stitching and will usually last for a long time. We've seen a few of these vests worn for so long the colors start to fade, but they still serve their gear carrying purpose very well. Many airsoft players start out with one of these vests, sell it later on, and upgrade to a more custom vest solution.
Pre-Made Vest Types
Look for the right type of pre-made vest you need. Some have built-in magazine pouches for AR-15/M4 magazines others have AK-47 magazine sizing. Make sure the vest you are buying will work for holding your specific airsoft gun type magazines. Different styles of pre-made airsoft vests are also available. They include:
- Magazine carrier vest setups which feature 6x AK-47 to 12x M4 magazine slots (depending on size of magazine inserted)
- Cross-draw pistol holster combinations with a 3x or 6x magazine pouch on the opposite side
- Rifle shotgun tactical vest pouch setups with shotgun shell loops inside pouches
- EOD vests (explosives ordnance detection) with many admin pouches
- Grenadier vests with many grenade pockets for M203 shells
Pre-Made Vests Pros
Pre-Made Vests Cons
This tactical airsoft vest is pre-made by Condor. It is a good example of a basic airsoft vest and comes ready to play with:
- 6 built-in M4 magazine pouches
- 2 utility pouches
- 2 internal pockets
- A zipper front for secure closure
- Adjustable side and shoulder areas
- Attachable USGI pistol belt for add-on pouches
- Mesh back with MOLLE loops
Like pre-made airsoft vests?
Get The Condor Elite Airsoft Vest
See below for pre-made tactical vest categories.
Other Pre-Made Tactical Vests by Condor
Last update on September 25, 2023 // Source: Amazon API
Other Styles of BLACKHAWK! Pre-Made Tactical Vests
Airsoft MOLLE Tactical Vests
A more advanced and customizable airsoft vest is the tactical MOLLE airsoft vest style. These modular vests allow each pouch to be moved and positioned independently based on the specific setup airsoft players and tactical operators need. The MOLLE webbing uses a hook and loop strap system which allows gun magazine pouches, radio pouches, medical IAK pouches, utility pouches, and weapon holsters to be mounted anywhere on the vest where the MOLLE panels are located. The resulting hundreds of different combinations, positions, and orientations means tactical operators can pick and choose the customized MOLLE pouch setup for the specific role they are playing (like breacher, grenadier, SAW gunner, etc) or mission they are running.
The customized look and feel of MOLLE airsoft vests are great. However, the tactical vest platform and pouches are usually sold separately or in kits which makes them more expensive than pre-made airsoft vests. A basic MOLLE vest can run about $40 to $160 USD while the pouches are usually around $20 USD each. A fully loaded MOLLE tactical loadout can run about $200 to $500 USD depending on how many pouches and different types of MOLLE pouches are needed. If you have decided to go the MOLLE vest route, check out the best tactical MOLLE pouches to get your loadout set up.
Airsoft Versus Real World MOLLE Gear
When shopping for MOLLE vests, keep in mind airsoft companies make replicas of "real world" tactical vests. These airsoft "knock off" vests and pouches run a fraction of the prices of the real gear used by militaries, Special Forces (like Rangers, Naval Special Warfare Development 'Dev Group', and MARSOC) and other special ops units. For example, a London Bridge Trading Company (LBT Inc.) MOLLE vest can cost as much as +$700 USD while airsoft versions (which are made in China) usually cost under $70 USD.
How MOLLE Attachments Work
The "MOLLE" system is an acronym meaning "Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment". This tactical equipment system describes pouches, panels, and straps which use MOLLE mounts. The three parts of the system are MOLLE pouches, straps, and panels which are put together to create the MOLLE airsoft loadout.
MOLLE panels are the "base" found on airsoft vests. They feature a series of loops which are used to secure pouches to the vest with straps.
The MOLLE straps are usually made of nylon with a snap and are threaded through the MOLLE panel loops and the similarly found loops on pouches.
The MOLLE pouches have a MOLLE loop panel on the back of the pouch which allows straps to be securely connected to MOLLE panel loops.
Putting It Together: Connecting Tactical MOLLE System
The whole MOLLE system comes together as operators select the pouches they need for a an airsoft vest loadout or mission, weave the MOLLE straps through the loops on the pouches and vest panels, and secure the snaps on the straps to keep the pouches in place. The result is a super customized airsoft vest with the look and feel of "operator status".
MOLLE Vests Pros
MOLLE Vests Cons
Condor makes a good standard MOLLE vest for airsoft. This tactical vest is a great platform for customizing your loadout:
- Front and back MOLLE attachment areas
- Durable stitching on the hook and loop webbing
- Zipper front attachment
- Double securing buckles for added security
- Tactical belt loops for attaching a U.S. GI military web belt or tactical pistol belt
- Padded shoulders with rubberized exterior
- Internal mesh liner for airflow ventilation
- Adjustable sides (girth straps on sides of vest snug up to fit airsoft players well)
Want to setup a MOLLE vest airsoft loadout?
Check Out The MOLLE Airsoft Vests Below
See below for MOLLE tactical vest categories.
- Quality tested and ensured for maximum durability
- Designed with only the toughest, roughest users in mind
- Comfort and performance come hand in hand with Rothko
Last update on September 24, 2023 // Source: Amazon API
Other MOLLE Tactical Vests
Last update on September 25, 2023 // Source: Amazon API
Other MOLLE Tactical Vest and Pouch Kits
Airsoft Tactical Vest Plate Carriers
Airsoft tactical vest plate carriers resemble basic MOLLE vests and many MOLLE vests also have plate carrier compartments and features. This makes it simple to use and switch MOLLE pouches between vest plate carriers and standard MOLLE vests These tactical vests have internal pouches to hold real or replica ballistic level III3A plates or rifle plates. Special operations units in the military and law enforcement SWAT teams will frequently use these kinds of tactical plate carriers for added protection when facing the possibility of real bullets. Airsoft players use these plate carrier vests for an added "coolness" element and can even run real or imitation ballistic plates and panels to mimic a functional load out or battle kit. TIP: Do not use real rifle ballistic plates in your airsoft plate carrier vest unless you want a workout! These plates can weigh over +20 pounds!
Check Out These Tactical Plate Carriers
Airsoft Modular Chest Rigs and “Slicks”
Tactical modular chest rig vests normally just have front and back panels which can hold rifle plates. They resemble plate carrier vests and similarly have MOLLE panels on the front and back for MOLLE pouches. These tactical vests are different from MOLLE vests because they are more low-profile and can be used over or under other clothing items like jackets, uniforms, vests, and bulky apparel relatively easily. The side straps on modular chest rigs also adjust more than basic plate carrier vests. Slicks are simply modular chest rig vests but without the MOLLE attachments which makes them "slick" or smooth. These kinds of airsoft vests are less useful for carrying gear since they do not have pouches. They are often used for props as civilian role players or uniform builds for a particular era modeled after a historic military unit which used them like the Navy Seals.
Check Out These Slick Vests
Tactical Half Vests and “Gun Fighter” Harnesses
Airsoft half vests or "gun fighter" vests also fall into this category. Half vests are half of a vest with a row of internal pouches in the front. They are handy to use and can be put on quickly in the course of a "gun fight" hence the namesake. They usually have capacities for 6 M4 magazines in the front (or comparable sized weapon magazines) with MOLLE or taco pouches in the front for handgun magazines, utility pouches, medical equipment, and other add-on pouches. The harness is held in position by pair of shoulder straps and the back of the vest is open. This type of airsoft vest can also be worn over top of other types of gear and vests.
Check Out These Half Vests
Tactical Load-Bearing Vests (LBVs)
Tactical load-bearing vests are a few of the most traditional vests to use for airsoft. These vest styles were used throughout battlegrounds like Vietnam and Desert Storm. They hold a place in military history and now are used on lots of airsoft battlefields. These airsoft tactical vests feature 6 integrated M4 magazine pouches with 2 grenade pouches. They have loops to connect a U.S. G.I. web belt where airsoft players can include more pouches and ammo dump bags if needed. The back of the vest has connections for a buttpack. The vest straps for the sides and shoulders adapt to big and small sized airsoft players which make this vest really flexible.
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