Tactical gear is an essential part to your effectiveness in the airsoft world. It provides an easy way to transport magazines, BBs, radios, and any other essential equipment on the field. Tactical gear comes in many different types, models, designs, and colors, but there are three main categories that provide the most out of load bearing and protection: vests, belts, and helmets.
The two most popular styles of vests available today are dedicated vests and MOLLE vests / plate carriers. Dedicated vests (also known as Crossdraw vests) have integrated magazine pouches, admin pouches, and sometimes holsters & is the number one choice for those just getting into airsoft. These pouches are not removable; however, they provide a sturdy and reliable way to transport the essentials in an airsoft event. Most dedicated vests have 3 dual M4-style magazine pouches (holds 6 magazines total), a small admin pouch for miscellaneous items, and a universal pistol holster. Some have MOLLE / PALS webbing (explained below) that allows other pouches to be attached such as hydration packs, buddy magazine pouches, medical pouches, and more. MOLLE vests (often referred to as “Plate Carriers” for their ability to carry ballistic body armor plates) have webbing sewn in throughout the vest. This webbing is known by the name of “PALS.” This system incorporates a loop sewn into the vest that a strap from a pouch is routed through and then secured by either Velcro or buttons. MOLLE vests typically do not come with any integrated pouches. This allows many different pouches, packs, etc. to be attached in any way desired by the operator. Users can then manage vest space and layout pouches as they see fit; for example, a left-handed shooter can place their magazine pouches on the right side of the vest for the fastest and most natural magazine draw possible, or if a support gunner does not need a radio or admin pouch, he can then replace those with extra box magazine pouches.
Belts serve an important role for carrying a secondary or back-up airsoft gun such as an airsoft pistol or small PDW. Many users prefer a holster to be mounted on the belt rather than on a vest for a quicker pistol draw. MOLLE belts provide additional mounting options for other various pouches, such as a magazine dump-pouch, pistol magazine pouches, grenade pouches, and more. MOLLE belts also help keep down the weight and stress on the wearer’s shoulders & back which can cause exhaustion. Instead, equipping as much gear as possible on a MOLLE belt helps to reduce the strain on the upper body & shoulders and transfers the weight to a much more natural position located on the hips.
Helmets are incredibly popular in the airsoft world. They serve numerous purposes, but the #1 purpose they serve is protection. The priority at every airsoft event is safety. Helmets help accomplish this by providing the essential protection from impacts. Many fields have buildings with low-lying doorways, indoor structures, and even outdoor obstacles that can be a hazard. Helmets help protect the most vital and often most exposed part of the body: the head. They also serve tactical purposes as well, such as a secure mounting platform for goggles, night vision equipment, and strobe lights/ID patches. Finding the right helmet can sometimes prove to be difficult. For example, currently the most popular styles are the MICH series and FAST series helmets. MICH helmets have been issued to military forces around the world and provide maximum protection without getting in the way. FAST helmets are designed to be a low-profile mounting platform for night vision, flashlights, cameras, and more, however they are a lighter-weight helmet and do not have as much overall coverage.
While tactical gear is not needed to play airsoft, users benefit greatly if it is used effectively. Finding the right vest, belt, and helmet should be the priorities when building your kit. Take into consideration your primary airsoft gun, your role in the field, your play style, and what you need to carry without bogging yourself down. With all of that information, you’ll easily be able to conclude exactly which pieces of gear you need.