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I'd been eyeing a 5.11 Tactical Vest for a while now, so yesterday morning I took a trip down to the local Saint Paul police supply store Keeprs to pick up a 5.11 Tactical Vest and a few accessories for it. Before I get to the actual review I'll say right off the bat that this an absolutely excellent vest for almost any airsofter, outdoorsman, or person with a conceal carry permit. There is a lot to love about this vest and the biggest problem with it is that there just arn't any reviews of it and I've never seen another airsofter using one!


Because of that I thought it would be a good idea to write my own little review to shed some light on this often overlooked piece of gear. That said, onto the review!







The first thing you'll notice about the vest is the color, olive drab. It comes in 3 different colors (OD, Khaki, and Black) but I just like OD so thats the color I went with. There are a few other companies out there that 5.11 has contracted with to make the vest in Digital Urban and Digital Woodland as well, but those can be a bit trickier to find.


The vest itself is made out of a very tough yet quite soft canvas material that should last quite a long time. All the seams are double, triple, and sometimes quadruple stitched and everything about the construction of the vest feels really high quality and durable. I have no doubt that this vest could take many years of abuse and just keep coming back for more.


I paid $70 for the vest and spent a little extra on a few pouches, so the price was pretty reasonable.



Now lets move onto the pockets, pouches, and features on the front of the vest...



Starting in the upper left you have a large open topped pocket that will fit most small radios, cameras, and cell phones. On the adjacent side of the vest you have a pannel for a nametape with a little velcro backing on it so it can be folded or moved out of the way if not needed.


Underneath the nametape pannel there is a pen pocket (which would also hold a glow stick quite well) and a open topped pocket for a small notebook and misc. items. This pouch also has a medium sized D ring directly underneath it for attaching, well, whatever you might need to attach to it! :lol:







Back on the left side there is another medium sized utility pouch with a velcro flap closure. Underneath the top flap for this pouch is a brass key hook to keep you from losing your keys on the field, but it also works nicely to secure a pair of goggles if you're feeling too lazy to carry them around.

On the right side of the vest across from this pouch is another utility pouch, this one slightly smaller with a zippered top. Works well for holding a pack of smokes and a zippo, but I'm sure you could use it for all sorts of things.







On the left side towards the bottom of the vest you have two M4/M16 pouches (with velcro top closures) made quite descreetly to look like regular utility pouches, but sized perfectly to fit 30 round AR mags. The pouches were made to each hold a single M4 mag very loosely so that the outline of the mags could not be seen, but if you don't mind having your mag outlines seen through your vest than each pouch can hold two M4 mags (or a single AK/G3/G36/M14/etc. mag) quite comfortably. As you can see I'm using them to hold a speed loader and a portable gas charger for a pistols only loadout, and they could even be used to hold large radios, but I imagine most people will want to use these pouches for AEG mags.


On the right side across from the M4 pouches you have a semi-large utility pouch with a velcro top closure as well, but this pouch has three elastic loops on the inside to secure things like flashlights, pistol magazines, and other such kit. This pouch is also sized perfectly to hold four M4 mags if you'd rather use it for that instead of pistol mags, which would bring your carrying capacity up to eight M4 mags.


One thing you can't see from the pictures is that underneath both the M4 mag pouches and the large utility pouch there are actually pockets designed to allow you to put your hands in to keep them warm on the colder days, which is quite a nice touch I think.


The last thing worth mentioning about the front of the vest is the YKK zipper and snap closure. The zipper can be unzipped from the top or the bottom for easy access to the inside pockets, or you can just use the snap closure to keep the two halves of the vest together if you'd rather not zip it up.







Moving onto the back of the vest you have a loop to hang the vest, a reinforced vented section to help keep you cool, and 3 more pouches.


2 of the pouches are open top with bunched up elastic bands to secure a water bottle up to 1 liter in size, but they also work nicely for BB bottles or cans of duster gas if you don't feel the need to carry that much water. The pouch in the middle is a nice large utility pouch to hold all sorts of stuff. I have a pair of gloves, a dead rag, and a personal medical kit in there with plenty of room to spare.


Also, you can see in the picture that there are two little straps with snap closures on the sides of the vest that can narrow the waistline by 1" on each side if it's a little loose around the waist for your liking.










Now to the inside of the vest!


In the middle of the vest on the inside back there is a very large utility pouch that I have yet to find a use for, but I think it would make a good pouch for holding non-perishable food items for extended ops. You cant see it in the picture, but directly behind this pouch there is a equally large pocket for holding maps and other such items.


To the right of this pouch (which would be on the left side of the vest if you were wearing it) there is another very large utility pouch which I think would make a fine dump pouch for spent mags. It's big, easy to access even with the vest zipped up, and could hold a good 7 or 8 M4 mags. It also makes a good holster for large frame handguns or revolvers if you'd rather use it that way.


The last thing worth noting on the inside of the vest are two vertical straps with snap closures that I can only guess are designed to secure the waistline of the vest to your belt. These would also help hold up a wide web belt if you wanted to wear one in conjunction with the vest.



And now comes the really cool and unique part of this vest...

Notice those velcro closures next to the zipper on each side of the vest? Those are for access to two very special pockets on the inside of the vest. First the right side...









As you can see I've had a Western Arms 6" SV Infinity holstered inside the vest the entire time I've been taking these pictures and had I not shown you than you probably would have been none the wiser. I chose a 6" SV Infinty for these pictures to demonstrate that even the largest handguns can be holstered inside this vest and still not be noticable in any way when viewed from the outside. I've also holstered a Desert Eagle inside it and the result was the same, completely invisible from the outside of the vest with no indications at all that there was a large pistol being concealed inside.


This feature is probably the biggest selling point of the vest for non-airsofters who buy it, but I think this will be an extremely handy feature for carrying a sidearm in an airsoft game.


All that is needed to draw the pistol is to unzip the vest (or just leave the vest closed with the snap closure) and when you reach under your arm to draw the pistol the 3 velcro tabs that conceal the hidden pocket will easily break away. Then just grab the pistol, hit the thumbrake with your thumb, and out the pistol comes! With a little practice you can go from standing casually with your arms at your side to having the pistol drawn and pointed in about 1.5 seconds.


Now onto the left side...






On the left side there is a hidden pocket of the same size that can hold a holster or a variety of pouches as well. In my case I chose to use it to hold a double pistol mag pouch.


Neither the holster nor the double mag pouch came with the vest, but both are made by 5.11 and were purchased seperately for $10 each from the same store I bought the vest from. They're part of 5.11's "Backup Belt System" line of pouches that have a velcro backing to attach to velcro pannels inside the hidden pockets of this vest and 5.11's other tactical clothing.


When I bought all this I actually bought 2 holsters and 2 double mag pouches so I could carry a pistol and two spare mags on each side, and the hidden pouches certainly will fit a big pistol holstered and 2 spare mags, but I found it to be a little bulkier and heavier than i would like with a pistol and two mags stashed on each side so for now I think I'll stick with the current setup. But it is worth knowing though that you could conceal a total of 2 holstered pistols and 4 spare mags inside these hidden pockets if you wanted and didn't mind the extra bulk/weight.










Whew! Thats pretty much every feature I think!


Now that you know everything this vest can do, I'll wrap up this review with the pro's and cons of the vest from my point of view...







- High quality construction

- Very comfortable

- Inexpensive price ($70 for the vest + $10 each BBS holster & double pistol mag pouch)

- Huge carrying capacity that can carry all the kit you could need for everything from short skirmishes to multi-day Ops

- Excellent concealed carry system for those with permits to do so

- Perfect vest for those going for the Contractor look

- Much lighter in weight and way less bulky than most MOLLE rigs

- Casual enough to be worn in public or used for other outdoor activities when not airsofting








- Gigantic carrying capacity gives you the temptation to load up the vest with 25 lbs. worth of stuff you probably don't need on the field

- Loading up the vest to it's full capacity can make it quite heavy and put a bit of strain on your shoulders

- No MOLLE compatible webbing

- While easy and effective to use, the internal concealed BBS holster system is a bit slower to draw from than a SERPA holster

- Rifle magazine carrying capacity of four to eight M4 mags may be a little too low for lowcap/realcap users






Well, that about sums it up! For me the pros of this vest far outweigh the cons and I'm very happy I purchased it. All thats left is to add a nametape to the nametape pannel and it will be ready to rock for skirmishing. I'll report back with more info on the vest's preformance after I play in a few skirmishes with it, but after having a day to wear it around the house and configure it to my liking I am absolutely certain that it will preform brilliantly.


So for the price of $90 for the full loadout I would definately ecourage anyone looking for a good high quality all purpose vest to take a look at 5.11s Tactical Vest. The build quality is top notch, it's got more pouches and pockets than you'll know what to do with, and can hold enough kit for any skirmish or Op you might want to attend.



Thanks for taking the time to read my review and I hope this will inspire more people to take a look at these very nice but often overlooked vests! ^_^

Edited by Jin15
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Thanks for the replies guys! ^_^

Yeah, at first glance it really does look like a fisherman's or photographer's vest and nothing suitable for airsoft, but I think that was the point when 5.11 designed it. It's supposed to look totally normal and non-tactical so it wouldn't draw attention of worn in public and yet be crammed full of useful tactical features and the abillity to carry pistols and all kinds of magazines.


Anyhoo, there was one thign I wanted to add to the review but it's a little late to edit it so I'll just add it in here...


The last thing I would note about the vest is if you plan to use the concealed holster/pouch system than you should get the vest one size larger than what you would normally wear, since the addition of the internal pouches will narrow the vest a bit around the midsection.




Thanks again for the comments guys!

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