*Tactical Vest: A Minimalist Alternative *
By Kingpin

What to wear when your money is limited


Humans only have two hands. This simple fact has forced us to design methods for carrying gear beyond what we can hold in our two paws. What you use to carry your gear is determined by how quickly you want to be able to access it.

Military web gear is designed to securely hold equipment in the various pouches, while still allowing fairly rapid access to it. This is acceptable in normal military situations, because typical military engagements occur beyond 2-3 meters.

Law enforcement, SWAT teams, and certain military Special Forces units, tend to operate at much closer quarters. In a dynamic house entry, the ranges are short, the pace is high, and the gear must be immediately accessible. In most of these situations, the operators are not traveling far, and speed of access to the equipment takes priority over security of attachment. While it is necessary for a soldier to have his pistol secure under a flap, or for a policeman to have his gun clipped in to his holster to avoid it being stolen from him; in a close-quarters combat situation, the transition from a primary to a secondary weapon must be almost instantaneous. This requires that a handgun in a holster on a tactical vest must be immediately accessible.

Special purpose tactical vests, like those manufactured by Blackhawk, are designed for use for entry teams. They have all the pockets necessary to hold spare magazines, grenades, handcuffs, comms gear, medical kits, and other specialized tools.

Tactical vests can also be very useful to other people, such as a homeowner on a farm or smallholding who might need to respond to things going bump in the night. When you are awoken from a deep sleep, it is difficult enough to figure what is happening. To have to run around the room collecting your guns, torches and spare ammo supplies, before you can respond to your daughter screaming at the other end of the house, would not be a good thing! In this situation, having all of your gear in one easily grabbed package would significantly decrease your response time.

The chief disadvantage of the commercially available tactical gear is the price. For those of us who would like to have all of our tactical gear in one easy to grab package, an affordable alternative is to make your own from improvised gear.

A tactical vest must provide enough pockets to carry the various pieces of ordinance and other gear that entry teams need, but for the typical household-defender, all that is needed is space for spare magazines, a torch, a knife and a holster. The tactical rig must securely hold these items, while still giving quick, silent access without complex buckles. For just these few items, it is hardly necessary to buy Blackhawk’s top of the line vest. Yes, it might be nice to have, but unless you have the money lying around, a cheaper alternative would be nice.


I purchased a shoulder holster for my Hi-Power last year. It fitted well, but wasn’t nearly as comfortable as my IWB holster, so I hardly used it. One day I got a bright idea, and fitted my Scorpion torch into one of the magazine pouches.

A friend who designs tactical gear had made a sheath for my Cold Steel Tanto. It had loops that I could fit to the straps on the shoulder holster, so I slotted it in.

If I wake up in the middle of the night, I can just reach over and grab my shoulder holster. That gives me my pistol, a spare magazine, a knife, and a torch, immediately available and securely attached.

This is obviously not the gear to use if you are expecting an extended firefight, but it fits my needs perfectly. It is light, easily portable, and groups the few items I really need together. If I have to go running down the passage in the middle of the night, my gear is available.


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