One thing that a lot of people just getting into the tactical shooting community generally struggle with is the selection of kit or gear setup (plate carriers, chest rigs, holsters, etc.) that is right for them. If you’re like me, you’ll go through a wide array of gear before you settle on something or maybe multiple things that fit your needs. This is an understandable process because there are a lot of options out there to choose from. Hopefully some of the things I bring up in this piece will help narrow down your options while giving you some things to consider when making your selection and more importantly, saving you some money because quality gear is not cheap.

The first thing you need to address is: who are you? Consider the following:

  • What do you do for a living?
  • What will the kit will be used for?
  • When and how will it be used?
  • What kind of duration will it be used for?
  • Do you have any specialized requirements?
  • What kind of tactics do you use and does the kit facilitate them?

Getting past the existential stuff and seriously evaluating the situation at hand will save you a lot of trial and error in the long run. These are the types of things that will determine the minor details as well as the big things in your setup. A law enforcement officer does not utilize the same equipment as a Green Beret and a SWAT officer doesn’t carry the same stuff as a beat cop. As usual, everything is incredibly situationally dependent.

There are hundreds of brands out there to choose from and there’s no way I can cover them all so I’m only going to say a few things in that regard. Just because special operations get issued it doesn’t make it right for you or worth the cost. There are plenty of good brands who produce quality made products out there and are usually a fraction of the price of a big name company, so do your research. That being said, don’t skimp when it comes to gear; you will get what you pay for. If it’s a super cheap plate-carrier from some weird off-the-wall brand, it’s probably made in China and will fall apart with light use.

Plate carrier, chest rig, battle belt, load barring vest? This is where you have to really look at what the kit is going to be for. If my “shit hit the fan” plan is to bug out on foot or I’m part of a long-range reconnaissance patrol, a plate carrier with 12 magazines is not what I want or need. Conversely, if I plan to bunker up and wait out the apocalypse or if I’m going to take part in a direct action CQB raid, I’m definitely going to want some form of armor and not a chest rig. Everything is subjective and can primarily be categorized as covert or overt at their respective starting points. From there, we break everything down into sub categories and individual needs. Just remember that situation always dictates the specifics.

Once you have a system selected, you need to prioritize your equipment based on your situational needs and/or requirements. Are you seeing the trend here? A good place to start is primary weapon magazines up front where they are easily accessible followed by secondary magazines at either the immediate side or on top of the primary mags. From there, medical gear and any other high priority tools go as far forward as possible, toward the center of your chest; stuff like multi-tools, communication equipment, grenades of various types, handcuffs, navigation tools can be treated similarly.

This basic system is a great way to get started and allows accessibility to equipment based on priority. This list could go on forever but hopefully you get the idea. Just be sure you don’t carry what you likely won’t need — over-encumbering yourself with gear that won’t see use is detrimental and those kinds of things should be kept in a tertiary storage source.

Just remember that kit should cater to the individual’s needs and that no two people are exactly alike. If it looks stupid but works then it’s not stupid, you don’t have to follow the most current trends or look exactly like the operator you saw on Instagram in order to have a successful gear setup. This method of gear selection and prioritization may be applied to many things, just remember to stop and ask yourself the “who, what, when, where, and why?” when addressing your needs.