How to Wear Army Tactical Vests

Wearing army tactical vests correctly may save your life.
Wearing army tactical vests correctly may save your life. (Image: target image by Andrey Kiselev from

The army tactical vest is camouflage-hued protective armor coverage for a soldier’s torso in combat events. The bulletproof, waterproof polyester mesh or nylon vests’ innumerable pockets store arms and ammunition, water canteens, flashlights, cell phones and documents. Civilians use such vests during attempts at a home break-in, during camping or hunting in the wilderness for self-defense and carrying essential tools and guns.

Things You'll Need

  • Army modular tactical vest
  • Hard ESAPI inserts
  • Soft inserts
  • Cummerbund
  • Cummerbund adapter
  • Bungee cord
  • Side plate pouch
  • Side hard ESAPI inserts
  • Side soft inserts
  • Front and rear collar assembly
  • Throat guard
  • Groin ballistic protector
  • Deltoid protectors
  • Lower back protectors
  • MOLLE pouches
  • Rifle bolster

Insert the soft ballistic Kevlar fabric plates into the front and back vest panel’s inner lining. Ensure that the hook-and-loop fasteners holds them in place. Close the front and back openings of the hook-and-loop fasteners.

Insert the hard Enhanced Small Arms Protection Inserts (ESAPI) plates into the vest’s front and rear exterior pockets.

Fasten the buckles of both vest shoulder sides. Realign the shoulder's hook-and-loop fasteners.

Cummerbund Preparation

Lay the cummerbund, or sash, on a table with the outer side face-down on the table and the opening of the side plate channel facing up. Pass the three cummerbund-end nylon tabs through cummerbund adapter eyelets. Interlace the cable and three tabs.

Lodge the cable handle that helps emergency vest doffing at the cummerbund top or bottom by manipulating the cable through the eyelets and exiting it through the eyelet near the cummerbund-end tab. Lace excess cable through the eyelets.

Thread the bungee cord through the cummerbund and adapter eyelets.

Place the hard ESAPI side plate over the soft side plate and insert both into the pouch. Hook the pouch closed. Insert the side plate pouch into the cummerbund’s channel so that the hard cover will face an incoming bullet and the soft plate will face the body. Close the channel to hook it.

Wear the Vest

Wear the vest over a shirt. Position the base vest’s front and back section as high as possible. The vest neckline should fit the collarbone by adjusting the shoulder straps’ hook-and-loop fastener tab hooks; ensure both panels are aligned from side view. Zip closed the vest’s side opening.

Attach the front and back collar assemblies into the vest’s neck space, centering the back assembly with the adjustment tabs. Affix the collar’s throat guard.

Adjust the comfort fit systems for the shoulder and waist.

Wear the Cummerbund

Snap open the vest’s rear flap to expose the cummerbund pocket. Lift the top and bottom pocket flaps. Place the cummerbund over the opened pocket, the side plate pouch pointing upwards. Wrap the bottom flap over the cummerbund. Snap close the top flap. Close the cummerbund. Adjust tightness using the bungee cord. Affix the cummerbund’s stability stops.

Adjust the side plate pouch’s position until the plate reaches the armpit covering your torso’s side entirely.

Lift open the front panel’s flap by pulling the flap’s tab. Fasten the side plate pouch to the vest using the hook and loop tapes under the flap.

Wear the cummerbund’s cable release handle to your left or right.

Attaching Extra Equipment

Secure the vest’s ballistic groin protector to the front panel’s inner webbing at chest height.

Attach the Modular lightweight load carrying equipment MOLLE pouches to the vest’s MOLLE webbing; affix deltoid shoulder and arm ballistic protectors to vest shoulder webbing. Attach lower back protectors to rear panel inner nylon fasteners.

Affix the rifle bolster to any location on the vest.

Tips & Warnings

  • The vests’ shoulder straps’ and cummerbund channels’ position adjustable “stop” feature prevents front and rear or side panel maladjustment.

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