A gun holster vest, sometimes also known as a concealed carry vest looks like a simple, plain jacket from the outside, but it helps you carry firearms and extra accessories. The concept of these vests or jackets among civilians took flight within the past two decades, especially after the gun community pushed for easier concealed carry laws in the USA.
As of now, there are no no-issue states in the USA, and every state issues a concealed carry permit. This means that carrying a firearm in public is legal across the country, and when you have to concealed carry a weapon, you need appropriate solutions for it.
Types of Gun Holster Vests
The design of gun holster vests can be classified into two types, tactical vests, and concealed carry vests. As their name already suggests, these vests serve somewhat similar purposes, but in different situations.
A tactical vest is mostly used by active law enforcement officers, soldiers, and people involved in any tactical situation. These vests allow the user to openly carry any firearms or tactical gear and focus on factors like durability, easy access, and modularity.
A concealed carry vest mostly focuses on everyday carry needs and is very inconspicuous and comfortable. These vests are seen as a great alternative to dedicated gun holsters like belt holsters, shoulder holsters, and other designs.
Factors to Look For in a Tactical Vest
Now, if you need the best tactical vest to carry your firearm, take a look at these factors mentioned below to make a well-informed decision prior to your purchase.
The Threat Level
The fact that is clearly evident from the design of a tactical vest is that they are only meant for combat and tactical applications. So if you are looking to buy one, it is quite clear that your intended purpose means serious life or death business.
Starting from punches and flimsy knives, and all the way up to AP rounds, evaluate what kind of body armor plates you need, and what type of threat you will be dealing with. Make sure you understand how much and what type of gear you will be carrying, and if the vest is suitable for your needs.
The most easily visible exterior pockets on a tactical vest are intended for carrying backup magazines and magazine pouches. These chest pockets can have different retention mechanisms (bungee cord, velcro strap, elasticity, etc.), and the number of pockets can differ.
Size and Adjustability
The size of a tactical vest matters a lot because it will ensure a proper fit and comfort while you wear it. It is also imperative to remember that tactical operations can last from a few minutes to hours, so it is essential to find the right size for your vest, and it is even better if it offers a significant level of adjustability.
Level of Modularity
Another important feature to look out for in these vests is the level of modularity. This refers to the ability to attach or detach accessories like magazine pouches, detachable holsters, the presence of MOLLE webbing, and any other modular facilities.
Most tactical vests offer this feature to ensure that the user gets the maximum level of adaptability with the type of gear he/she wants to carry. It is always better to opt for a modular vest instead of fixed layout tactical vests because of the added versatility.
Since the vest is going to be used in rugged environments and unforgiving situations like combat, it must be durable enough to withstand harsh treatment. Additionally, most of these vests are designed to house an armor plate, so it must be capable of bearing extra weight and stress.
Factors to Look For in a CCW Vest
Moving on to the civilian version of these vests, let us now understand the most desirable and ideal qualities of a CCW vest.
Type of Material
Since these CCW vests will be worn around all day long, and among the general public, it is important that these are comfortable and also conform to the fashion trends. Most CCW vests are manufactured using common clothing materials like cotton and with an inner polyester lining. Additionally, leather vests for concealed carry are also a thing and are quite popular among some people during the winter season.
Number and Type of Holsters
Most of these vests offer normal exterior pockets like in any other jacket, and a wide range of designs also offer a dedicated holster pocket. Some vests offer more than one holster, hence, allowing you to carry two handguns (like a backup gun) at the same time.
These holsters can have an active or passive retention mechanism, but most of them come with strap-based retention which is lightweight and also easy to access. Opting for more than one holster is generally suitable when you want to carry a backup firearm. Additionally, many CCW vest designs also offer adjustable holsters, so you can carry a wide range of handguns ranging from sub-compact to full size, and also do not have to worry about getting the correct holster.
The position of the holster inside your vest is an important factor that will decide the ease of accessibility. Some vests offer more than one holster, mounted at different carry positions to create a more versatile solution. In fact, these vests can prove to be an effective alternative for concealed carry holsters.
Some people prefer a high carry profile, whereas others do not, so make sure to properly check the vest, and if you are comfortable with the holster placement options. The position of a holster can match that of an IWB holster, pocket holster, shoulder holster, and even allow you to carry in a cross draw position.
Some cargo-style CCW vests can offer up to 20 pockets, whereas some plaid designs can have only a couple of pockets with an internal holster. In my opinion, having a few extra pockets will not hurt, unless you do not need them, or the vest starts looking too outdoorsy. It is better to look out for multiple zippered pockets if you are planning to carry some extra items (maybe even pocket holsters), and do not want them to fall off.
Some vests also offer special pockets designed to carry specific accessories like knives, flashlights, spare magazines, laser range finders, radio, and other gear. Additionally, these vests are not only useful for daily CCW activities, but you can also use them on hunting trips for carrying extra items (like medical emergency kits) with minimal difficulty.
An important function of such vests is to offer concealability for the firearm when you are carrying it around in public places. Before you choose a vest, make sure the material is good enough to offer concealment and it does not promote printing. Vest designs with a lot of extra pockets, or any unusual external pockets may arouse suspicion, and a normal-looking design generally works best when you move around people a lot.
Fashion and Comfort
Many people use the CCW vests as two-in-one clothing that serves the purpose of daywear, and also as a setup to carry firearms and other accessories. There are tons of vest options out there on the market that look just like normal jackets but have a lot of carrying features on the inside.
A gun-carrying vest can be an inconspicuous solution to concealed carry a firearm in daily life, or it can be a piece of tactical gear allowing the user to quickly access weapons, ammo, and equipment in combat. While tactical vests are more suitable for active-duty personnel, the CCW vests are for civilians using them for EDC and CCW.