While you are rushing out to find those red-hot after-Christmas deals, negotiating all those crowds of rabid shoppers, consider this rather unorthodox gift idea for all your loved ones: tactical vests. Lost you? Last thing you would buy? Well that may soon change.

There soon may be a whole new market of vests flying off shelves. Don’t believe me? Think that tactical vests are just for the military and law enforcement? Fine. Just wait, and you may be the last on your block to be vested and protected. Still don’t believe me? Read on. This article will trace the historical roots of the tactical vest and what forces are driving it from the military and law enforcement arenas into civilian markets.

Some protection is better than no protection

Since the dawn of warfare, man has dreamed of armoring himself against the missiles of his enemy—spear, arrow, or bullet—because no matter how well trained or prepared you are, you cannot always see where attacks are coming from, cannot premeditate, identify, and deflect all attacks, regardless of how good you are with your lightsaber.


Body armor was first made of bark and bamboo, then later animal hides and leather. Then came shields, which first were made of wood, later of metal. Suits of armor came later, and were great unless you got knocked down or your enemy knew its weak spots—under the arm, between plates and sections, etc. Arrows were the killing blow to suits of armor long before bullets.

Even in World War I, they tried steel chest plates, face masks, and various other ingenious inventions that offered trench-bound soldiers some degree of protection from the random—and not so random—bullets sent from the enemy, the likes of whom were often a fair distance away and came to be known as snipers.


Flak vests were first developed in World War II for bomber crews and other personnel. They were intended to protect crewmen against the shrapnel of flak, anti-aircraft fire sent aloft to blow aircraft from the skies, often at high altitudes, especially on bombing runs. Even when flak fire did not bring down aircraft, it played havoc with bombers. But flak vests were not good at stopping bullets.